Commission Meeting on the Employment of Individuals with Disabilities in the Federal Government - June 28, 2006
June 28, 2006
Chair Cari Dominguez, Commissioner Griffin and other EEOC Commissioners
Thank you for asking me to be here today to discuss the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) efforts to hire and retain individuals with disabilities in its workforce. I am pleased to have the opportunity to tell you about the efforts that SSA has made to increase the employment of individuals with disabilities in the Federal government.
Who we are
SSA is an agency of 64,000 employees working in 1,500 installations nationwide. We are a workforce that is highly committed to the Agency’s mission and values. Our overarching goal is to provide the American people with the service they expect and deserve. To do this, we must understand and meet our diverse public’s needs. And, if we are to accomplish that, we need a high performing, well trained, and well-equipped staff, from the front line field office workers to the highest executives.
SSA’s workforce is a diverse group—70 percent of our employees are women and 46 percent are members of minority groups. Diversity is reflected in all of the major components and at all levels, including our Deputy Commissioners, Regional Commissioners, and Associate Commissioners.
There is another important characteristic of the SSA workforce. We are also a very experienced group, with an average of 16 years of service and an average age of 46.
SSA’s Commitment to Diversity
SSA is committed to having a workforce that reflects the American public it serves and is recognized as one of the most diverse agencies in the Federal government. We have developed a business case for diversity in SSA and established an organizational culture that believes that diversity strengthens our organization and enhances the quality of service we deliver to the American public.
By comparison to the 46 percent of our employees who are members of minority groups, minorities comprise 27 percent in the National Civilian Labor Force and 32 percent in the rest of government.
Employees with disabilities represent 7.9 percent of SSA’s workforce compared to 7.1 percent in the Federal workforce. I am pleased to report that SSA employs approximately 1,500 individuals with targeted disabilities. As a result, SSA ranks second among Federal agencies with 2.1 percent of its employees with targeted disabilities.
Recruiting Individuals with a Disability
SSA has a comprehensive recruitment plan administered by a National Recruitment Coordinator. We filled the position with a career human resources professional who has worked continually with our components and regions, lending consistency and professionalism to the recruitment process.
We continually educate our managers on modern, effective recruitment practices. Under the guidance of our Recruitment Coordinator, we have developed a professional marketing strategy that enables us to compete effectively with government and private organizations.
SSA’s Office of Human Resources produces a monthly hiring report that cumulatively tracks fiscal year hires on a monthly basis for all EEO groups both at the agency and Deputy Commissioner level.
We have established partnerships with national organizations with ties to colleges and universities to help us attract individuals with disabilities. Such organizations include the National Association of Colleges and Employers and the Association on Higher Education and Disability.
SSA has a proactive Selective Placement Program that provides guidance to selective placement coordinators in each region of the country. The special placement coordinators work with the local Vocational Rehabilitation Services and the Veterans Administration (VA) to match qualified disabled persons with suitable positions based on their skills and abilities.
We also have a partnership with the Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) to provide work experience under the volunteer intern program. The internship allows students to gain work experience, build confidence and gain exposure that may lead to paid federal employment. SSA also holds an annual “shadowing day” with BISM to provide training for the Summer Youth Transition Program and the Adult Rehabilitation Training Program. The training focuses on employment opportunities, reasonable accommodation, assistive technology, and other services for employees with disabilities.
SSA staff attends career fairs to advertise SSA’s programs and career opportunities. SSA also markets its career opportunities in disability-related publications and web sites. For example, SSA advertises in “CAREERS & the disABLED,” “Quest” and “Equal Opportunity” publications. In March 2006, the readers of CAREERS & the disABLED magazine ranked SSA as the second best agency, among the top 20 Federal government agencies, for whom they would most like to work or they believe would provide a positive work environment for people with disabilities.
SSA’s six Equal Employment Opportunity advisory groups assist the Agency in its recruitment initiatives in addition to their primary role of assisting our Agency to better address our employee’s concerns and to better serve persons with disabilities, women, minorities and the non-English speaking public. The six employee advisory groups are:
Support for Employees with a Disability
SSA continually strives to be a model employer for employees with a disability and is proactive in its approach to providing an inclusive and supportive work environment. SSA established a Center for Disability Services (CDS), in the Office of Civil Rights and Equal Opportunity, to provide a single point of contact for Agency managers and employees seeking advice and information on the effective and appropriate forms of reasonable accommodation (i.e., specific adaptive devices, assistive software applications, etc.)
We also developed a web-based application called the Reasonable Accommodation Wizard to automate the process for employees with disabilities to request reasonable accommodation. The Wizard offers several advantages:
With the Wizard, SSA maintains an electronic database of employee requests for accommodation that ensures the timely processing of these requests for adaptive equipment, personal assistants, and assistive software applications.
Requests for assistive technology, training on assistive technology, specialized equipment and reasonable accommodation services are directed to CDS. The trained staff conducts a needs assessment to identify effective accommodations and training solutions.
CDS manages a centralized fund for use in providing reasonable accommodation for SSA employees. SSA spends approximately $4 million dollars each fiscal year on assistive technology, training on assistive technology and help desk services.
SSA uses several strategies to ensure that employees with disabilities achieve and maintain a high level of proficiency in the use of their assistive devices and software:
When employees with disabilities initially receive assistive technology, they are provided expert training in the use of the equipment under training contracts the Agency maintains. New employees receive their assistive computer workstation and training shortly after they arrive, so they know how to use the assistive technology before they began their specific job training.
Later in their career, employees can request “refresher” training in the use of assistive technologies from the training vendor.
SSA also trains an in-house cadre of volunteers who are experienced in providing employees with disabilities instruction on both new and revised Agency programs and how they work with assistive technology.
SSA maintains a nationwide “full-time equivalent (FTE) pool” and spends an average of $5.8 million annually to provide readers, personal assistants, and sign language interpreters as a reasonable accommodation. The “FTE pool” is used to provide assistant services to help employees with disabilities perform more effectively in the workplace. The assistants are employed nationwide through the centralized fund. The FTE pool currently provides 209 assistants for 414 employees with targeted disabilities.
We also spend approximately $2.5 million annually to provide daily on-site interpreters at SSA headquarters and, by request, provides hourly interpreter services to all SSA offices. These services are available for meetings, training classes, commemorative programs, progress reviews and other events where interpreters are needed to facilitate communication. In addition, we use the centralized funding to provide Computer Assisted Real-time Transcription (CART) services for deaf or hard of hearing employees who are not fluent in American Sign Language.
In addition, SSA has an intercomponent workgroup comprised of representatives from all SSA components which meets monthly to focus on disability issues and concerns. The workgroup:
Keys to Success in Employing and Retaining Individuals with Disabilities
In closing, I’d like to emphasize SSA’s pride in its workforce and its efforts to promote diversity among its employees and creating an environment where we capitalize on our diversity and where our service is the best in business. Thank you and I will be glad to answer any questions you may have.
This page was last modified on June 28, 2006.
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