A New Day We are listening: Federal Listening Tour aims to improve economic outlook for people with disabilities

Rene David. Luna, Community Development Organizer – Employment, Amber Smock, Director of Advocacy
On January 21 in Dallas Texas, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) launched a six city listening tour. In this period of global recession, people with disabilities, along with many other groups, are struggling economically. People with disabilities suffer some of the highest unemployment rates of all communities. The goal is to use the ODEP Listening Tour as a launching pad to improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities.

The Listening Tour, which comes to Chicago and Access Living on February 11, fits in well with the goals of Disabled Americans Want Work Now (DAWWN), an Access Living advocacy group working locally to increase economic opportunities and jobs for people with disabilities.

The ODEP Listening Tour is designed to offer three key constituencies the opportunity to provide input on what is working and what is not working regarding employment of people with disabilities. The tour is geared toward: public and private employers; individuals and consumers with disabilities; and advocacy organizations and service providers.

From these groups, ODEP hopes to gain insight into: Effective ways to increase employment of women, Veterans and minorities with disabilities; Identification of Federal and state systems that are collaborating to achieve successful employment outcomes; and the top issues on which the Federal government should focus to support an increase in employment of people with disabilities.

In a news release announcing the tour, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Assistant Secretary Kathleen Martinez said, “The employment figures for people with disabilities are way too low. Because these figures are not acceptable, I am pleased to announce that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is working in tandem with other Federal agencies to change this picture as we strive for good jobs for everyone, including those of us with disabilities. As we proceed, we need to learn from local stakeholders, so we are issuing this invitation and want to hear from you.”

Access Living is proud to host the February 11 listening event in Chicago. Residents of Chicago, residents of Illinois and residents of surrounding Midwestern States are encouraged to participate and share concerns and suggestions. If you’d like to testify in front of the Listening Panel, advance registration is required. For more information about registration and the 2010 ODEP Listening Tour, visit http://www.disabilitylisteningtour.com/. If you don’t have access to internet, but would like to participate, contact Rene David Luna at Access Living, 312-640-2108 voice, rluna@accessliving.org

A variety of Federal Officials are participating in the tour. The listeners include Federal officials within the U.S. Department of Labor from the Employment and Training Administration, the Veterans Employment and Training Service, the Woman’s Bureau and Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. Within the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will participate and from the U.S. Department of Education, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services will be present.

ODEP is a Federal Agency within the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) that provides national leadership to increase employment opportunities for adults and youth with disabilities while striving to eliminate barriers to employment.