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Employer Assistance & Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN): A service of The Viscardi Center.
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Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities

The employment of individuals with disabilities in the federal government has been a priority for over a decade as two Executive Orders, EO 13163 signed by President Clinton on July 26, 2000 and EO 13548, signed by President Obama on July 26, 2010 demonstrate. The Executive Orders, Schedule A Hiring Authority and Veterans Hiring Preference, are creating a cultural shift in the employment of individuals with targeted disabilities in the federal workforce, as evidenced by data from the Office of Personnel Management. 

Permanent Employees with Targeted Disabilities in the Federal Workforce Furthermore, proposed changes to Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act announced in March 2016 aim to set representation rates and combine and clarify numerous existing requirements for affirmative action plans for federal agencies.

Targeted Disabilities

While there is a push to increase hiring of people with a wide range of disabilities, there is particular emphasis on increasing federal employment of individuals with targeted disabilities.

Targeted disabilities are those that the federal government, as a matter of policy, has identified for special emphasis:

  • Deafness
  • Blindness
  • Missing extremities
  • Partial or complete paralysis
  • Epilepsy
  • Severe intellectual disability
  • Psychiatric disability
  • Dwarfism

Sources: EEOC: Annual Report on the Federal Workforce for Fiscal Year 2009, Improving the Participation Rate of People with Targeted Disabilities in the Federal Work Force Government Wide Employment of Workers in the Federal Workforce

Effective Strategies

Research has identified strategies that can help improve recruitment and employment outcomes for employees with disabilities in the federal government.

Fostering an Inclusive Workplace Culture

There are many actions that leaders and staff can take to foster a workplace culture inclusive of employees with disabilities:

  • Incorporate disability into the agency's diversity statement
  • Increase supervisor knowledge of the employment of people with disabilities
  • Increase top management commitment to the employment of people with disabilities
  • Commit to accountability for recruitment and performance goals
  • Provide diversity training for all employees
  • Provide opportunities for mentoring and internships
  • Establish Employee Resource Groups dedicated to disability issues
  • Join, a community of practice to advance federal employment for persons with disabilities

Effectively Recruiting Employees with Disabilities

Recruitment of employees with disabilities is most effective when a variety of recruitment strategies are employed. This can include:

Connect with Colleagues on

The purpose of the website, designed exclusively for federal government employees, is to support the employment of individuals with disabilities within the federal government.

This free, password-protected website provides the following solutions:

  • Collaborate - find potential collaborators to discuss and share ideas and materials
  • Find Resources - links, documents, media, people at your fingertips
  • Executive Order - assistance with implementation of your agency's plan

This website contains several useful features, including:

  • web links to helpful resources;
  • interactive features for online discussions and sharing media;
  • messaging/small group formation with other members of the website;
  • easy to use planning tools. is a platform where you drive the discussions, you add information and you respond to others. It helps you be more effective, efficient, and knowledgeable. Obtain a free account for


Other Resources

Increasing Disability Employment in the Federal Government: A Toolkit for Federal Agencies on Implementing Executive Order 13548<>
This Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy toolkit provides a wide range of resources to assist federal employers increasing their employment of people with disabilities, including information on training, recruitment, hiring, creating a welcoming environment, and retention.

Promising and Emerging Practices for Enhancing the Employment of Individuals with Disabilities Included in Plans Submitted by Federal Agencies Under Executive Order 13548<>
This summary report identifies promising and emerging practices for advancing the recruitment, hiring, and retention of individuals with disabilities identified in 10 selected agency plans submitted under Executive Order 13548. This summary report may be used by Federal agencies to learn about practices that may facilitate achievement of the overarching goal of the Executive Order—to ensure that the Federal government becomes a model for the employment of individuals with disabilities.

Page last updated on Monday, February 17, 2014