By Heidi Howland
National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is held each October to celebrate the many and varied contributions of people with disabilities to America’s workplaces and economy. The impact of the work of colleagues with disabilities should be recognized every day, and similarly, ensuring accessibility at the Department of State should become an automatic part of employees collective efforts—whether planning events, hiring new staff, or communicating with internal and external audiences.
All Department employees can help build a more accessible Department by learning about the programs, services, and resources available to enhance accessibility, and by building accessibility into everyday processes. The Bureau of Global Talent Management’s Office of Accessibility and Accommodations (OAA) provides guidance on creating accessible meetings and virtual events in quick and easy ways.
OAA’s Section 508 team ensures the Department has products accessible to all in adherence with the law. While the Section 508 team is available to help ensure the accessibility of documents, there are some easy “Do It Yourself” steps everyone can take.
Video captioning is the optimal way to ensure an inclusive experience, whether during a live event or for a recorded video. OAA’s video captioning services, live and post-production captioning for a video or event, are centrally-funded and available to all offices in the Department.
The Access Center, a 2,400-square-foot facility located in Columbia Plaza at State Annex-01B in Washington, offers centralized disability accommodations services and expertise. The center serves as a model operation for the federal government and the diplomatic community, and enables employees to test, train, and provide feedback on assistive technology solutions in an environment similar to their domestic or overseas workspace. A virtual tour of the Access Center details the assistive technology offered to Department employees and job applicants.
The Department continues to recruit, develop, promote, and retain a talented and diverse workforce—including individuals with disabilities. Schedule A, 5 CFR 213.3102(u), is an excepted hiring authority used to appoint individuals with intellectual disabilities, severe physical disabilities, and psychiatric disabilities. Selecting a Schedule A eligible candidate has many benefits including a streamlined and expedited hiring process, the flexibility of appointments (permanent or time-limited), and supporting Department hiring goals. Eligible candidates can find information about Schedule A—including how to be added to the DOS Talent Database—on the OAA SharePoint site.
Finally, to help ensure the Department continues to be a model employer for persons with disabilities, learning about the reasonable accommodations process and reaching out to OAA’s Disability and Reasonable Accommodations Division are great opportunities.
Heidi Howland is a public affairs specialist in the Office of Accessibility and Accommodations in the Bureau of Global Talent Management.