HHS, NIH and other federal agencies should hire more employees with autism and other disabilities

Special Comment

The federal government’s Schedule A Programintended to facilitate the hiring of people with disabilities is severely underutilized. The hiring authority has rarely been used to hire people with cognitive, developmental or psychiatric disabilities. The federal government should develop and implement policies that ensure that people with autism and other disabilities are given an equal opportunity to contribute to the missions of government agencies.

Background

The unemployment rate of people with disabilities is approximately 70 percent. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) created the Schedule A hiring authority to allow for greater recruitment and hiring of individuals with disabilities. Schedule A allows federal agencies to “provide disabled individuals a unique opportunity to demonstrate their ability to successfully perform the essential duties of a position with or without reasonable accommodation.”

OPM states that the Schedule A certification is used to “appoint persons who are certified that they are at a severe disadvantage in obtaining employment…Certification also ensures that they are capable of functioning in the position for which they will be appointed.”

The Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health

Unfortunately, the government’s record on hiring employees with disabilities through the Schedule A program has been abysmal. The agencies that should be leading the government are among the worst offenders, starting with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), its Operating Divisions including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

To see the rest of my article on Examiner.com, click here.


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