National Disability Mentoring Day
Today, President Clinton will honor National Disability Mentoring Day and National Disability Employment Awareness month by applauding the mentoring activities that the federal government and public and private employers will be conducting across the nation to help expand employment opportunities for young people with disabilities. The Clinton-Gore Administration is taking several new actions to continue its efforts to help people with disabilities enter the workforce. These steps include: grants to advance the goals of the landmark Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act (TWWIIA); partnerships to close the digital divide for persons with disabilities; and progress in both federal and private sector initiatives to hire more people with disabilities.
National Disability Mentoring Day. The Administration will be hosting a day-long program for more than 100 high school and college-age people with disabilities. The day's events will include a White House opening session followed by one-on-one mentoring with Administration volunteers in various federal agencies, concluding with a reception celebrating the potential of young people with disabilities. The President will also recognize the winners of a Disability Mentoring Day Essay Contest and the public and private partners responsible for organizing Mentoring Day activities in 14 states. These efforts will highlight the contributions and increase the employment opportunities of young people with disabilities, bringing us closer to achieving full inclusion of people with disabilities in our nation's historic economic growth and prosperity.
Grants Enhancing Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities. Today the Administration will announce grants to a range of states and community organizations to enhance employment opportunities for people with disabilities and to carry out key aspects and goals of the TWWIIA.
- The Social Security Administration is awarding $8 million in Benefit Planning Grants to 43 non-profit organizations and/or state agencies in 26 states and Puerto Rico and the Virgin Island for benefit planning, assistance and outreach for persons with disabilities who are attempting to return to work.
- The Department of Labor (DOL) is issuing $20 million in Work Incentives Grants to ensure that people with disabilities have access to the full range of employment and reemployment services under the Workforce Investment Act. Grantees will be responsible for working with One-Stop Career Centers to augment their capacity to provide the full range of effective employment and training services to people with disabilities.
- The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is releasing $17 million in Medicaid Infrastructure Grants to help 24 states and the District of Columbia improve access to personal assistance and create Medicaid buy-in programs for employed persons with disabilities. These grants encourage states to help individuals with disabilities work without fear of losing health coverage. In addition HHS is awarding its first Medicaid grants under the Demonstration to Maintain Independence and Employment program to help working individuals with chronic or progressive conditions remain competitively employed by giving them access to health benefits in order to prevent or delay further deterioration or relapse.
Public-Private Partnerships to Bridge the Digital Divide. Today's announcement builds on the President's recent visit to Flint, Michigan, where he highlighted the need to create digital opportunity for people with disabilities. These new public-private partnerships will help bridge the digital divide so that more individuals with disabilities can participate fully in the workforce and in the nation's public life.
- The Veterans Administration (VA) has formed a partnership with VERIZON and SAIC to ensure our nation's veterans, particularly disabled veterans, have the technology access and training to participate fully in this new digital economy where public services, including VA services, and private business are conducted online.
- DOL and the Bureau of Indian Affairs are launching a partnership with the Information Technology Association of America and the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute for increasing technology access for American Indians and Alaskan Natives with disabilities.
- Microsoft's Accessible Technology Group is awarding $250,000 in grants to nine programs to provide people with disabilities, especially young people, with greater access to technology, employment, and entrepreneurship. These grants include support of two newly-created High School/High Tech projects, which are sponsored by the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.
Progress in Initiatives to Increase Hiring of Persons with Disabilities. Finally the President will commend both the public and private sectors for important progress in improving opportunities for persons with disabilities to be employed in the federal government or in private companies.
- CEOs of leading companies are pledging to support the recruitment, hiring, and promotion of individuals with disabilities as part of their diversity goals. In a letter to the President, a dozen CEOs of leading American businesses identify ways to move toward full inclusion of people with disabilities including the development of policies for providing reasonable accommodations, such as assistive technology.
- The Office of Personnel Management is reporting that the Administration is on track to meet the goal of President Clinton's July 25th Executive Order calling on federal agencies to hire 100,000 more people with disabilities over a 5-year period.
Building on the Clinton-Gore Record of Expanding Economic Opportunity for Individuals with Disabilities. Today's announcements continue the Clinton-Gore Administration's strong commitment to improving employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. Key accomplishments include:
- Mobilizing public and private efforts to create digital opportunity for people with disabilities and increase their ability to participate in the workforce. Initiatives to improve technological access for persons with disabilities include securing commitments from high tech companies, research firms, and non-profit organizations to help improve the accessibility and affordability of technology for persons with disabilities. On the 10th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the President also announced a new website, www.disAbility.gov, which serves as a "one-stop" electronic link to an enormous range of useful information available throughout the Federal government for people with disabilities and their families.
- Signing the landmark bipartisan Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 which enhances employment-related services for individuals with disabilities and enables Americans with disabilities to retain their Medicare or Medicaid coverage when they go to work.
- Working with the First Lady to create a new interagency Youth to Work Initiative to help young people with disabilities successfully make the transition from school to work through an executive order to ensure that the President's Task Force on the Employment of Adults with Disabilities focuses its efforts on starting early and reaching out to youth with disabilities. This initiative will support work such as the recent Department of Education grant to provide technical assistance to programs to help youth with disabilities improve results in high school and receive the support they need to successfully transition to post-secondary education and employment.
- Increasing the Substantial Gainful Activity level to enable more individuals with disabilities to return to work without fear of losing critical Social Security Disability benefits.
- Making the federal government a model employer by directing agencies to increase efforts to recruit and hire people with disabilities, by expanding hiring opportunities for people with psychiatric disabilities, and calling for mental health parity for federal employees.
- Creating the Presidential Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities, charged with developing a coordinated and aggressive national policy to bring adults with disabilities into gainful employment at a rate that is as close as possible to that of the general adult population