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From AAPD: White House announces groundbreaking effort to promote equal opportunity for Americans with disabilities

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Speaking before a group of veterans Tuesday (Aug. 27), Vice President Joe Biden announced the Administration's intention to move forward with a landmark effort that would require federal contractors to set a 7 percent hiring target for people with disabilities.

The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the nation’s largest disability rights organization, praises President Barack Obama for enforcing the landmark rule, which delivers on a 40 year old bipartisan promise by the federal government to require contractors to include disability as part of diversity hiring goals. Specifically, the initiative will enforce Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires federal contractors to promote equal employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

“President Obama has ended discrimination based on disability in health coverage, has signed into law rules that expand access to technology, and enforced the Supreme Court decision in Olmstead for the first time, and today's announcement could be his greatest achievement, " said Mark Perriello, the President and CEO of AAPD."Obama has once again demonstrated his historic commitment to creating equal economic opportunity for Americans with disabilities, who for too long have experienced widespread discrimination in the workplace.”

After more than twenty years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the unemployment rate of people with disabilities remains high at 14.7 percent, nearly double the rate of people without disabilities at 7.4 percent. Further, people with disabilities have a workforce participation rate of only 20.3 percent.

Although Section 503 was enacted 40 years ago, it has never been enforced or clarified to the extent necessary, requiring employers only to make a “good faith” effort to hire people with disabilities. This rule establishes an explicit benchmark of 7 percent and includes data collection and record keeping requirements that will improve employer accountability. The regulation comes after President Obama issued an Executive Order in 2010 that committed the nation's largest employer, the federal government, to become a model for the employment of Americans with disabilities. The regulation was first proposed in December, 2011.

This regulation is widely supported by businesses including two of AAPD's strongest partners, American Airlines and Amerigroup. As a result of this regulation, federal contractors will have a more diverse workforce, and will benefit from the contributions of qualified and hardworking Americans with disabilities. A survey by the National Organization on Disability has also indicated that contractors are ready to implement Section 503.

To find out more information on Section 503 and the perspective of the disability community, please go here.