August 1, 2003
National Council on Disability Says Employment for People with Disabilities Remains Far Too Low
From: U.S. Newswire (press release), DC - Aug 1, 2003
To: National Desk
Contact: Mark S. Quigley of the National Council on Disability, 202-272-2004 or 202-272-2074 TTY
WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The National Council on Disability (NCD) today released an excerpt from its annual report, National Disability Policy: A Progress Report ( http://www.ncd.gov/newsroom/publications/progressreport_final.html ), which highlights a number of issues related to the challenges for advancing employment opportunities across the nation for people with disabilities.
According to NCD second vice chairperson Glenn Anderson, Ph.D., of Little Rock, Arkansas, "For Americans with disabilities, no less than for all other citizens, the opportunity to earn a living and be self-supporting is a universally held goal. Yet in perhaps no area of public policy has the expectations gap so stubbornly resisted our efforts to achieve equality. For Americans with disabilities, the rate and level of employment is far too low."
Reauthorization of Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and the Rehabilitation Act: Congress is currently considering reauthorizing legislation for the Workforce Investment Act, including the federal Rehabilitation Act. Any successful approach to employment for people with disabilities must ensure that our nation's mainstream labor force development and job placement system has the capacity and the motivation to serve people with disabilities on the same basis as everyone else, and must ensure the availability of specialized resources and technical expertise to assist and to supplement the work of the mainstream system. NCD recommends the reauthorization include provisions that (1) require and encourage the fullest possible mix of timely and appropriate supports and services for job seekers with disabilities; (2) continue to emphasize consumer choice and input; (3) ensure the incorporation of the concerns of people with disabilities into overall policy decisions; and, (4) reward cooperation among agencies as particularly essential to bringing these results about. Accountability requirements for the vocational rehabilitation (VR) program should reflect the real opportunities afforded to people with disabilities, including considerations of job quality, potential for upward mobility and tenure, and availability of technological and other supports customized to meet the unique needs of the individual job seeker with a disability. In this connection, NCD suggests federal agencies offer state VR agencies guidance in identifying training resources, employment categories, and work place supports to be pursued and encouraged on behalf of their service recipients. NCD also recommends that Congress seek testimony on the extent to which state VR agencies obtain and utilize labor market information and labor-demand forecasts, and how such data are used in fashioning their services, outreach and programs. And finally, in a separate communications to Congress ( http://www.ncd.gov/newsroom/correspondence/chair_04-16-03.html ), NCD cautioned lawmakers about the negative impact on the state vocational rehabilitation systems of proposals to take funding from specific disability employment services to support the infrastructure of the One Stop system.
Tax Incentives: The three major Internal Revenue Code provisions aimed at enhancing the employment of persons with disabilities-the disabled access credit, the work opportunity credit, and the architectural and transportation barriers deduction-have not demonstrated significant effect, according to a General Accounting Office (GAO) study completed in late 2002. GAO attributes this to several possible factors, including: language limitations and anomalies in the tax codes, undue Internal Revenue Service rigidity, and inadequate effort in publicizing and explaining the incentives to the accounting, business and taxpaying communities. Pointing to the fact that historically people with disabilities have not been involved in the development of these proposals, NCD offers its resources and expertise to the Administration and Congress in developing tax incentive proposals that will reach the greatest number of intended beneficiaries.
Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act: Implementation of the Ticket to Work and Self-sufficiency program under the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 (TWWIIA), picked up steam in 2002 as more states entered the "ticket" program. (Tickets are slated to be available in all states by the end of 2003.) For Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance recipients, TWWIIA was intended to reduce disincentives to working in at least two major ways: by providing new opportunities for obtaining vocational services, through the issuance of the "ticket to work," and by creating new methods for retaining health insurance after leaving the benefit rolls. NCD reports that the new law has reduced some major disincentives to work. However, despite significant new advisory, educational, and technical assistance resources, the complexity of the law strongly suggests that explaining it and empowering people to use it remains daunting. Accordingly, NCD recommends that the Social Security Administration consult with the various advisory and outreach groups created around the ticket program, as well as TWWIIA employment networks and Social Security beneficiaries who have attempted to use the new law, to determine whether its complexity is indeed a barrier to effective utilization, and, if so, to identify technical assistance tools or regulatory or statutory changes to make the program more accessible and user-friendly. As part of the TWWIIA Advisory Panel's research agenda, measures should be taken to ensure that this underlying concern is fully studied and discussed.
In reporting on the statutory promise of health care in TWWIIA, most especially for people depending on Medicaid through SSI eligibility, NCD cautions that budgetary deficits at federal and state level threaten the funding for these programs. For example, if states decide to save Medicaid funds by eliminating or foregoing buy-in programs under TWWIIA, then the availability of one of the principal work incentives in the new law will be seriously compromised. Faced with this risk, the NCD recommendation is for the Administration and Congress to speedily address the question of whether Medicaid cuts are jeopardizing the success of work incentive provisions in TWWIIA aimed at preserving health insurance for Medicaid recipients who return to work, and if so to devise means for restoring the ability of the states to participate fully.
Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor: NCD has applauded the Administration and Congress for creating and supporting the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) within the Department of Labor (DOL). ODEP has been assigned a crucial role of coordination within DOL, as well as with the Department of Education and other agencies providing employment-related services for people with disabilities. NCD makes several recommendations to ODEP on a number of areas in need of public inquiries or targeted research, including: the extent that one stop centers serve job seekers with disabilities; a comprehensive assessment of the physical and programmatic accessibility of one stop centers; and, an evaluation of the incorporation and enforcement of nondiscrimination requirements in other federally supported or operated job training and employment development programs. The report points to a new OPM requirement that federal job vacancy announcements be posted with a notice of availability of reasonable accommodations to federal employees with disabilities, and recommends that ODEP work with the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget on other such federal internal workforce development practices to improve access for persons with disabilities.
For more information, contact Mark Quigley or Martin Gould at 202-272-2004.
Glenn B. Anderson, Ph.D., Little Rock, Arkansas, NCD second vice chairperson. Dr. Anderson is director of training at the University of Arkansas Rehabilitation and Training Center for Persons who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. In addition, he is a professor in the Department of Rehabilitation, Human Resources, and Communications Disorders. He also serves as chair of the Board of Trustees at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.
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