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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 16, 1999

October 16, 1999


SUBJECT:        Hiring People with Disabilities in the Federal 

Since I became President, we have created over 19 million new jobs and unemployment is as low as it has been in 29 years. Still, almost 75 percent of working-age Americans with severe disabilities remain unemployed. If this Nation is to live up to its promise of equal opportunity, and our economy is to continue to strengthen and expand, we must draw on the untapped energy and creativity of these millions of capable Americans.

One of the most glaring barriers to work for people with disabilities is that they frequently become ineligible for Medicaid or Medicare if they go back to work, putting them in the untenable position of choosing between health care coverage and employment. That is why my budget fully funds the Work Incentives Improvement Act, investing $1.2 billion over 5 years in health care and employment services so that people with disabilities can work. This legislation was unanimously endorsed by the House Commerce Committee on May 19 and has been cosponsored by a majority of the House of Representatives; it passed the Senate 99-0 on June 16. It is time for the Congress to finish the job and pass the Work Incentives Improvement Act immediately. People with disabilities who want to work should not have to wait one more day.

Vice President Gore and I have already taken a number of steps to increase the employment of people with disabilities. On March 13, 1998, I signed Executive Order 13078 establishing the National Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities to create a coordinated national policy to bring working-age individuals with disabilities into gainful employment. In December, the Task Force presented the Vice President with its first report, and I am proud to say we have taken action on all the Task Force's formal recommendations.

As we fight to ensure that all people with disabilities have the health care and other assistance they need to go to work, we must also lead by example and make the Federal Government a model employer of people with disabilities. On June 4, 1999, I signed an Executive order eliminating the Federal Government's stricter hiring standards for people with psychia-tric disabilities, an issue highlighted by Mrs. Gore earlier in the year. And last December, the Vice President asked the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to develop a plan to increase the representation of adults with disabilities in the Federal workforce.

Today I am pleased to release that plan, Accessing Opportunity: The Plan for Employment of People with Disabilities in the Federal Government, and the companion employment guide prepared by OPM. These documents give agencies detailed and practical information on ways to recruit people with disabilities for positions at all levels of government; provide opportunities for students with disabilities; ensure career opportunities for people with disabilities; collect and maintain data to monitor their success; and provide reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees with disabilities.

I therefore direct you to implement this plan immediately within your departments and agencies and to bring qualified people with disabilities into the Federal workforce. This plan is proof of the Federal Government's commitment to empowering people with disabilities; now is the time for us to fulfill that commitment.


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