Agencies beat five-year goal on disability hiring

Federal employees with disabilities made up 14.4 percent of the workforce in fiscal 2015, an improvement over 2014's 13.6 percent. Agencies also hired more empl...

Government is hiring more people with disabilities now than at any other time within the past 35 years.

Federal employees with disabilities made up roughly 14.4 percent of the workforce — a total 264,844 people — in fiscal 2015, according to the Office of Personnel Management’s latest report on hiring individuals with disabilities in the federal government.

The federal workforce had 247,608 employees with disabilities — about 13.6 percent — in 2014.

Government also hired more people with disabilities in 2015 than in previous years, 26,466 new hires compared with 20,618 new hires in 2014.

Both the number and percentage of hires with disabilities was higher in 2015 compared with any other time in the last 35 years, OPM said. Agencies have steadily improved those numbers in recent years after President Barack Obama outlined a goal to hire 100,000 individuals with disabilities by 2015 in an executive order, which he signed in 2010.

Non-Seasonal Full Time Career Employees with Disabilities
  Total On Board New Hires
2010 187,068 18,926
2011 203,694 18,675
2012 219,975 16,653
2013 234,395 16,028
2014 247,608 20,618
2015 264,844 26,466


Agencies beat the administration’s goal this year, having hired 109,575 people with disabilities for part-time and full time positions over the last five years, OPM said, though about 98,440 of that total were non-seasonal full time career employees with disabilities.

“This administration has consistently demonstrated a commitment to providing equal employment opportunities for Americans with disabilities,” Acting OPM Director Beth Cobert said in an Oct. 27 release. “We remain committed to supporting the federal government’s efforts to be a model employer for people with disabilities, and I look forward to continue building on our progress.”

The Equal Employment Opportunity, Veterans Affairs Department and Defense Department agencies have the highest percentages of disabled employees, and all three improved on those totals in 2015 compared to previous years.

Other agencies made big improvements in hiring. More than 37 percent of the EEOC’s new hires were workers with disabilities last year. While the National Labor Relations Board hired roughly 30 percent, and the National Archives and Records Administration hired about 25 percent.

In addition, agencies slightly increased the number of employees with disabilities in upper-level spots on the General Schedule. Employees with disabilities at GS-14 and GS-15 totaled 16,596 in 2015, compared with 15,930 during the previous year.

As part of the administration’s efforts to implement the executive order, more than 56 agencies took part in a variety of training programs to learn how to better recruit and accommodate new hires with disabilities, OPM said.

OPM also worked with the Labor Department to develop online training tools, specifically on the Schedule A hiring authority for people with certain disabilities. OPM and the Chief Human Capital Officers Council kept a database of qualified candidates with disabilities who were eligible to apply for a job through the Schedule A authority.

Agencies used this authority to make 1.73 percent of their new hires in 2015.

At the White House event recognizing National Disability Employment Awareness Month, leaders at OPM and EEOC recognized that they have more to do, particularly in hiring employees with targeted disabilities.

The EEOC is now in the middle of finalizing specific regulations under Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, that would codify agencies’ roles in hiring a diverse and inclusive workforce that includes employees with disabilities, said Jenny Yang, chair of the commission,.

Those regulations are under review at the Office of Management and Budget, she said.

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