EARN Newsletter: April 2023
Accessibility at Work and More!
EARN in Action: A Focus on Accessibility
Focusing on Accessibility at Work in April
Accessibility is the foundation of an inclusive and welcoming workplace. Employees at all levels can play a role in making their organization accessible for all. There are many simple, no- or low-cost ways to ensure all employees, including those with disabilities, can fully access their workplace. Throughout April, EARN is sharing tips, advice, and best practices to help employers and others advance accessibility. Follow EARN on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter for information, tools, and resources.
Webinar on Mental Health in Skilled Trade and Industrial Occupations
Join EARN from 2-3 p.m. ET on Wednesday, May 17, 2023, for the webinar “Navigating Mental Health in Skilled Trade and Industrial Occupations.” Hear from a panel of experts about ways to support the well-being of workers in these industries. Topics include challenges surrounding promoting mental health and wellness in these fields, tactics to combat stigma, strategies to change organizational culture, and more.
EARN at the Associated General Contractors (AGC) Annual Convention
Last month, EARN attended the 2023 AGC Annual Convention and CONEXPO-CON/AGG in Las Vegas. The events attracted nearly 140,000 professionals working in the construction and contracting fields. During conference sessions and networking events, EARN representatives engaged with companies, trade organizations, union leaders, and others to share resources on workplace mental health, including the EARN Mental Health Toolkit. Mental health is an important issue for this audience. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the suicide rate of industrial workers has increased by 40% over the last two decades.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) & Workplace Mental Health
A new EARN research-to-practice brief explores how employers used EAPs to support workers’ mental health during the pandemic. “Impact of COVID-19 on Employee Mental Health and the Experiences of EAP Professionals” shares best practices developed from a series of focus groups with Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) members. The sessions discussed the use of EAP services to promote employee well-being and addressed workplace challenges related to the pandemic, including expanding the use of alternate service-delivery methods such as telehealth. The brief includes considerations for employers looking to start or enhance EAPs.
FEED Meeting Focuses on Section 508 Updates
Earlier this month, EARN hosted the second Federal Exchange on Employment and Disability (FEED) meeting of 2023. The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and its federal partners, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), collaborated to hold the virtual gathering. Representatives from the General Services Administration (GSA) and U.S. Access Board discussed recent regulatory changes to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and how these changes may impact federal agencies. In addition, guest speakers from GSA and EY gave a presentation on including assistive technology support in the IT Help Desk. An “Agency Spotlight” on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Aviation Development Program shared how the FAA is supporting federal employment of people with disabilities.
Disability Employment in the News
Women with Disabilities in Skilled Trades
ODEP recently published a data spotlight focusing on the employment of women with disabilities in skilled trades. The blog post is part of an ongoing series exploring disability employment data. It divides the employment of disabled women in skilled trades into five categories:
- Farming, fishing, and forestry,
- Construction and extraction,
- Installation, maintenance, and repair,
- Production, and
- Transportation and material moving.
Analysis of the Census Bureau’s 2017-2021 American Community Survey reveals that about 10% of employed women with disabilities work in skilled trade jobs, with the largest representation in transportation.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) 30th Anniversary
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the FMLA, which entitles eligible workers to take job-protected leave with continuation of health benefits to care for a family member or address a family member’s military service. As part of DOL’s year-long observance of the anniversary, ODEP Chief of Staff Anupa Iyer Geevarghese published a blog post exploring the important role the FMLA plays in addressing current workforce challenges, including Long COVID. “FMLA: Providing Flexibility for Changing Needs, Then and Now” discusses the interplay between the FMLA and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and how they can both support workers with Long COVID and its related conditions.
Celebrating Autism Acceptance and Awareness Month
April is Autism Acceptance and Awareness Month (AAAM)—a time to honor the many contributions of autistic people, including in the workplace. The National Institute of Mental Health’s Office of Autism Research Coordination is sharing information and resources all month to highlight how the Federal Government and others are working to support and empower autistic people at all stages of life. Autistic people and those with other types of disabilities, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and learning disabilities, are considered to be neurodivergent. Neurodiversity offers many workplace benefits, including improved creativity, innovation, and problem-solving.
Prioritizing Accessibility at Microsoft
From designing products so that everyone can use them to sharing vital data with policymakers, Microsoft is a leader in promoting accessibility for both customers and employees. Fast Company recently spoke with the tech giant’s Chief Accessibility Officer Jenny Lay-Flurrie about Microsoft’s accessibility initiatives. One of the efforts highlighted was the company’s partnership with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign on the Speech Accessibility Project, which aims to improve voice recognition technology for disabled people.
The content in this newsletter does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Labor, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.