Three months ago, President Obama celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act with poignant remarks, and the signing of an Executive Order on Increasing the Federal Hiring of Individuals with Disabilities. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will soon release guidance to agencies on how to meet the requirements of the Executive Order. Meanwhile, Federal agencies hosted celebrations and educational events throughout October as part of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Now, more than ever, people understand the importance of ensuring equal treatment and access for individuals with disabilities.
This understanding, however, is only part of what needs to be done to increase the employment of individuals with disabilities, as well as provide equal access to USDA customers across the country. Before we can recruit, hire, advance, and retain individuals with disabilities, we have to ensure that, among other things, the electronic workplace is accessible to everyone. We accomplish this goal by meeting Section 508 requirements and ensuring that our computers and information systems are able to be accessed by individuals using assistive technology. If a customer in Kansas needs to fill out an online form for USDA services and is using a screen reader, the web application must work with this technology. In addition, we need to make sure employees are aware of the technology that is available to help do their jobs. Most of this technology is available at no cost to qualified Federal employees with disabilities through the Computer Accommodations Program (CAP) at Department of Defense. We encourage you to visit the CAP website, where soon you will find video demonstrations of the most common assistive technology. USDA employees should request assistive technology through the TARGET Center, and in turn we procure the equipment through CAP.
At TARGET, we realize that there is new momentum towards disability employment and that we must treat every month like it is NDEAM. To that end, TARGET will post frequently throughout the year to the USDA Blog with information about technology, news, and events that have an impact on the employment of individuals with disabilities. Look for the upcoming Profiles in Technology video series on USDA YouTube, to learn first-hand about the difference that technology has made in the careers of many of our customers.