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Harkin: Labor Department Rule Sets Critical Goal for Disability Employment

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, today issued the following statement in response to Vice President Joe Biden’s announcement that the Administration will implement a new rule to promote employment for individuals with disabilities.  The rule, aimed at federal contractors and subcontractors, is designed to increase the hiring, retention, and promotion of qualified individuals with disabilities.  The rule enforces Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and for the first time sets a goal that at least seven percent of the federal contractor workforce, at all levels of the workforce, should be made up of qualified individuals with disabilities. 

Harkin, as chief Senate sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has focused significant attention as HELP Committee Chairman on increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities.  In 2011, he and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce set a goal of increasing participation in the workforce by people with disabilities by more than 20 percent by 2015. 

“Since the passage of the ADA, we have seen many great improvements in the accessibility of the physical environment and of our telecommunications, technology, and transportation infrastructures.  Unfortunately, we have yet to see a real improvement in the labor force for Americans with disabilities.  Today, more than two-thirds of adults with disabilities do not have access to the labor force.  That is why I am so encouraged by today’s announcement,” said Harkin.  “This new rule will be a driving force to create new opportunities for employment of individuals with disabilities by harnessing the power of federal contractors and subcontractors, who employ more than 20 percent of the American labor force.  This historic announcement will move our country farther along the path toward equal opportunity and economic well-being that was envisioned when we passed the ADA.  I thank the Obama Administration and Secretary Perez for their attention to this important issue.”