New Rules Equal Greater Equal Employment Opportunities for You!
By David A. Weaver, Associate Commissioner for the Social Security Office of Research, Demonstration, and Employment Support
I am pleased to share with you some exciting updates to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that may greatly benefit you on your journey to financial independence!
For more than 40 years, the Rehabilitation Act has advanced employment opportunities, offered extensive services, and promoted accessibility for people with disabilities around the country. The law works to provide a fair shot for all to live the American dream, and to break down barriers to equality. This week, changes to this law went into effect that will greatly enhance employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that federal contractors – companies doing business with the federal government – take affirmative action to recruit, hire, employ, promote, train and retain employees with disabilities. Updates to the Section 503 rules that went into effect on March 24th include:
- Setting a goal for federal contractors to strive to ensure at least 7% of their job groups, or workforce depending on the size of the employer, consist of employees with disabilities over coming years.
- Requiring federal contractors to invite job applicants and new and current employers to voluntarily self-identify as having a disability so contractors can assess their outreach and recruitment efforts, and their progress toward the aspirational utilization goal.
- Requiring federal contractors to provide individuals with disabilities with reasonable accommodations needed to perform a job.
- Extending protections to individuals with disabilities that have long been required to promote workplace equality for women and minorities.
- Issuing new regulations that establish similar workplace protections for veterans, including those with disabilities, also have taken effect.
- These rules are important because, as a group, federal contractors employ more than one out of every five workers in the U.S., are located in every state, and offer career employment in most fields and professions.
We know that more people with disabilities want to and can succeed in employment. Yet, when asked, many point to workplace discrimination as a major hurdle they face in seeking and gaining employment. The new rules will help level the playing field.
These updates mean that employers across the country are looking for you! If you are considering work, there are more opportunities than ever to find good jobs. Many federal contractors will advertise their job openings with the American Job Centers. If you receive disability benefits and you are looking for work, the Ticket to Work program can help you find these opportunities.
The Ticket program connects you with organizations that provide services such as career planning, job placement and ongoing employment support. Your Ticket to Work service provider will work with you to help you achieve your work goals. Since its inception, the program has equipped more than a quarter of a million Americans with disabilities with the opportunities, life choices, services and support they need to become and remain competitively employed.
Thousands have earned their way off Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, and created better lives and futures for themselves and their families. If you already are receiving services from an Employment Network, your state Vocational Rehabilitation agency or an American Job Center, your service provider may be able to help you find employment opportunities with federal contractors in your area.
To learn more about how Ticket to Work and Work Incentives can help you or someone you know to find opportunities to be successful, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/work for more information about the program, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 1-866-968-7842 (V) or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY). Start today to make Section 503 work for you.