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Workforce Development and AEM

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The AEM Center’s resource development activities now include promoting and increasing the availability and use of accessible technologies and materials in order to advance and expand opportunities for individuals with disabilities in workplace settings.  In collaboration with other federally-funded centers, with existing and emerging workforce initiatives, and with industry, the AEM Center will work to facilitate accessible technology-related information and expertise in the employment sector.

Accessible Educational Materials (AEM)

Print- and technology-based educational materials designed to be usable across the widest range of individual variability.

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Accessible Technology

Technology that can be used by people with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. Incorporates the principles of universal design.

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Equipment or system where principal function is creation, conversion, duplication, control, display, interchange, transmission, reception, or broadcast of data.

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Work performed for compensation, at location, and with opportunities for advancement similar to those who are not individuals with disabilities.

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Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

The US Department of Labor and the US Department of Education have several responsibilities to ensure equal access to workforce development for individuals with disabilities who may require AEM. The Department of Labor and Department of Education create legislation, issue guidance and provide funding to structure the workforce development system and monitor adherence to that legislation. These two entities jointly oversee the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) which became law on July 22, 2014. All states were required to submit a WIOA State Plan by April 16th 2016.

WIOA brings together the core programs of federal investment in skill development:

  • Employment and training services for adults, dislocated workers, and youth and Wagner-Peyser employment services; and
  • Adult education and literacy programs and Vocational Rehabilitation state grant programs that assist individuals with disabilities in obtaining employment.

WIOA shifts emphasis toward more education and training, a departure from the work first emphasis of the prior Workforce Investment Act (WIA).

Final Rule: Section 188 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act

On December 2, 2016, the Department of Labor published a final rule revising the regulations implementing the nondiscrimination and equal opportunity provisions of Section 188 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The provision of accessible materials and technologies for job seekers and employees who need them is required under Section 188 of WIOA.

Read more about the revised Section 188 regulations.

Learn what you can do to improve your job training program’s accessibility to customers with disabilities by meeting the programmatic accessibility requirements of the revised Section 188 regulations.

American Job Centers

Section 188 of WIOA

Prohibits discrimination against people who apply, participate, work, or come into contract with programs and activities of the workforce development system.

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Access for all people, including people with disabilities, to web environments.

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A 2017 DOL-commissioned report by IMPAQ International, LLC found that only 37% of AJCs were rated as accessible in the programmatic accessibility domain of the WIOA requirements. Specific areas for improvement and recommendations are provided.

The US Department of Labor oversees more than 3000 American Job Centers, also known as One Stop Career Centers. These Centers serve job seekers such as recently unemployed receiving unemployment insurance, youth, adults and dislocated workers. Services include information on the labor market, job openings, job search assistance, career advising, support for education and training (both basic skills and occupational training are provided for a subset of clients that cannot obtain a job with less intensive support).

All American Job Centers are required to provide physical and programmatic accessibility to employment and training services for individuals with disabilities, which includes the provision of AEM. Annual assessment of physical and programmatic access of American Job Centers for people with disabilities is now required by federal statute.

American Job Centers are also subject to the equal opportunity provisions of the current Section 188 regulations ensuring equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities. Many American Job Centers are also subject to the requirements of:

  1. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities by recipients of Federal financial assistance,
  2. Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended, prohibiting discrimination in employment based on disability, and
  3. Title II of the ADA prohibiting public entities, including State and local governments and their departments, agencies, and instrumentalities, from discriminating on the basis of disability.

Disability Employment Initiative (DEI)

Several efforts within the Department of Labor are aimed at improving WIOA service delivery for job seekers with disabilities. The Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration and the Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy jointly run the Disability Employment Initiative. DEI grants are funded to state workforce agencies who identify local areas to implement proven workforce development strategies developed through the Employment and Training Administration and the Office of Disability Employment Policy (e.g., customized employment principles). DEI grantees have moved to a career pathways process with a focus on having individuals with disabilities access career pathways, and many are using Universal Design for Learning as a framework for inclusion.

Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)

Another important office within the Department of Labor is the Office of Disability Employment Policy. ODEP's mission is to develop and influence policies and practices that increase the number and quality of employment opportunities for people with disabilities. To fulfill this mission, ODEP promotes the adoption and implementation of ODEP policy strategies and effective practices — meaning those that ODEP has developed and/or validated — that will impact the employment of people with disabilities.

To develop and influence disability employment-related policies and practices, ODEP sponsors five policy and technical assistance resources, including:

Section 504

Prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. Written 504 plan used to guide provision of instructional services.

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US Department of Education Office of Special Education & Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)

OSERS oversees the Rehabilitation Services Administration which is also responsible for overseeing the implementation of WIOA. The Rehabilitation Services Administration’s mission is to provide leadership and resources to assist state and other agencies in providing vocational rehabilitation and other services to individuals with disabilities to maximize their employment, independence and integration into the community and the competitive labor market.

Vocational Rehabilitation State Grant Programs

Vocational Rehabilitation state grant programs are to engage employers to improve participant employment outcomes. State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies assist people with disabilities in choosing, obtaining, and maintaining competitive employment by providing:

  • Pre-employment transition services to students with disabilities.
  • Vocational and post-secondary counseling, assessments and testing, guidance, and career development.
  • Provision of assistive technology and medical and therapeutic services to assist in obtaining and maintaining competitive employment.
  • Consultation with employers about the Americans with Disabilities Act, employment tax credits, and accommodations to assist individuals with disabilities at work.
  • Employment support services, including job coaching and counseling support.
  • Supported Employment Services to individuals with the most significant disabilities.

WIOA requires state vocational rehabilitation agencies to set aside at least 15 percent of their funding to provide transition services to youth with disabilities. Youth with disabilities receive extensive pre-employment transition services so they can successfully obtain competitive integrated employment. A committee advises the Secretary of Labor on strategies to increase competitive integrated employment for individuals with disabilities. Without the provision of AEM, youth with disabilities and others accessing American Job Center and State Vocational Rehabilitation agency services experience barriers to employment preparation services and training and may ultimately experience barriers to employment.

Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS)

Supports programs and research that help educate and improve lives of individuals with disabilities, and provides for rehabilitation.

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Other Workforce Development Initiatives

Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended

The new Section 503 regulations establish a nationwide 7% utilization goal for qualified individuals with disabilities. All federal contractors and sub-contractors must apply the goal to each of their job groups, or to their entire workforce if the contractor has 100 or fewer employees. Contractors must conduct an annual utilization analysis and assessment of problem areas, and establish specific action-oriented programs to address any identified problems.

Section 503 requires the provision of AEM because many workers with disabilities will require AEM and are legally entitled to AEM in order to fulfill job functions. If these employers are to reach the 7% utilization goal, they will need a strategy to ensure AEM is provided to those that need it.

Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TAACCCT) Program

All online and technology-enabled content and courses developed under the TAACCCT grant funding must incorporate the principles of Universal Design for Learning in order to ensure that they are readily accessible to qualified individuals with disabilities. The content and courses must be in full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA.

Skills Commons houses all of the Open Educational Resources created with TAACCCT funds.  Anyone can start browsing and downloading materials that can be remixed, repurposed and reused.

Accessibility information should be provided with the general information for each resource. For example, Colorado Community College’s TAACCCT grant information on accessibility is contained on the Skills Commons website.

RESNA Catalyst Project

The RESNA Catalyst Project is a sponsored project of RESNA, the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America. RESNA operates the Catalyst Project under a new grant from the Administration for Community Living, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.