Record number of people with disabilities in federal workforce

More people with disabilities are working for the federal government than ever before, according to the latest report from the Office of Personnel Management.

In a memo from OPM’s acting Director Beth Cobert, at the end of fiscal 2014 more than 247,600 people with disabilities were non-seasonal full-time permanent employees for Uncle Sam, meaning  “there were more people with disabilities working in the federal government — by percentage share and by real numbers — than at any time since we started record-keeping 34 years ago.”

The 247,608 people with disabilities working for the federal government in fiscal 2014 represent a 0.76 percent increase in the workforce from 2013, when 234,395 full-time, permanent employees with disabilities worked for the government.disability_infographic_10.13.15

“I’m proud of the work we have done with agencies across government to help make this happen,” Cobert said. “We are also looking to improve on these totals.”

More than numbers

The steady progress is the product of President Barack Obama’s 2010 initiative to hire 100,000 people with disabilities by 2015.

According to the federal Standard Form (SF) 256-Self-Identification of Disability, a person with a disability is someone who:

  • Has a physical impairment or mental impairment (psychiatric disability) that substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities.
  • Has a record of such impairment.
  • Is regarded as having such an impairment.

Targeted disabilities outlined in the form include deafness, blindness, missing extremities, partial paralysis, complete paralysis, epilepsy, intellectual disabilities, psychiatric disabilities and dwarfism.

In her memo, Cobert said roughly 72,000 full-time permanent employees with disabilities have been hired between 2011 and 2014. Adding in part-time employees, that number increases to roughly 80,500 people and more than 115,000 workers when all permanent and temporary employees with disabilities are counted.

“This important story is about more than numbers,” Cobert said. “By demonstrating our commitment to providing equal employment opportunities for Americans with disabilities, we are also tapping into a talent pool that enriches the 2-million strong federal workforce.”

Veterans Affairs leads in new hires with disabilities

The agency with the highest percentage of new hires in 2014 was the Department of Veterans Affairs, with 6,680 All Disability workers, which is about 23.6 percent of its workforce.

The Social Security Administration hired 805 workers, or 13.5 percent of its workforce.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors did not hire anyone under the All Disability category, while the Consumer Product Safety Commission hired a single person within that group. Both agencies respectively did hire on two and three employees that fell under the label of All Disability including 30 percent or more veterans with disabilities.

“In my view, we need people with disabilities in every agency and at every level of federal service if the government is going to provide the excellent service that the American people expect and deserve,” Cobert said. “We cannot fulfill our mission without such diversity.”

In the years since the presidential challenge, OPM has developed an online course called “A Roadmap to Success: Hiring, Retaining and Including People with Disabilities,” and each agency has outlined goals and strategies in its respective disability plans, according to OPM’s report.

OPM and the Chief Human Capital Officers Council have also worked to provide resources for people with disabilities who are looking for federal work.

“As encouraging as the numbers are, our work is not done,” Cobert said. “We need to make sure that after we hire these accomplished and motivated employees, they have opportunities for advancement. We need to do more to provide them with training and mentoring. We need to focus on retaining them in federal service. We’re holding leaders accountable. We’re working with agencies and affinity groups to build mentoring programs, because we know how important great mentors are to fostering confidence and success. And we are committed to working with agencies in an effort to provide people with disabilities the reasonable accommodations they need to do their jobs.”