Sec. Chertoff Reports Progress on Disability Issues

Speaking at a national conference marking the 15th anniversary of passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Secretary Chertoff […]

Speaking at a national conference marking the 15th anniversary of passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Secretary Chertoff said that the department will continue its proactive policy of hiring people with disabilities as well as leading the government-wide effort to address the needs of people with disabilities in emergency preparedness plans.

The secretary noted that over the past 18 months the department has encouraged people with disabilities to seek employment with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and has provided managers with education and training to hire these applicants. Because the homeland security effort is so vital to our country, we need the best and brightest of all Americans to join us in our work, the secretary said. We need people with excellent minds, innovative ideas, and a strong work ethic. And we cannot afford to exclude whole categories of people based on outdated and outmoded stereotypes.

DHS has made tangible progress in implementing its policy of recruiting and hiring people with disabilities, Chertoff said, noting that 4,000 managers across the department have received training sessions on the ADA and more than 150 interns with disabilities have been working on a temporary basis at various DHS offices.

In a related development, the secretary last week issued a memo to senior DHS leadership in which he said the department will redouble our efforts to offer equal employment opportunities to people classified as those with targeted disabilities, such as those with serious hearing or vision impairments, use wheelchairs, or have other significant mobility impairments. The memo builds on an earlier directive sent to DHS leadership under former Secretary Ridge in 2004.

The secretary said the department is also reaching out to disabled veterans, especially those returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. I want to pay special thanks to them for the tremendous sacrifice that they and all their colleagues have made and are continuing to make in fighting against terror, the secretary said.

The secretary said DHS is working closely with the Department of Defenses Computer/Electronic Accommodations (or CAP) Program, which provides employees with disabilities the assistive devices that they need to do their jobs. As a result, CAP awarded DHS with the Model Employer for Peoples with Disabilities Award in 2004, he said.

DHS has also taken the lead in implementing President Bush’s executive order of July 2004 that made it a national priority to include people with disabilities in the emergency preparedness effort, the secretary said. Since then, DHS convened an interagency council made up of 20 federal agencies and has produced a report to the president on the progress made to date, Chertoff said. Details of the report, which was released on July 21, can be downloaded through the DHS Web site at this address www.dhs.gov/disabilitypreparedness.

Additionally, the secretary said DHS has awarded a $1.5 million grant to a consortium of organizations that serve people who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, and deaf-blind, with the intent of better preparing this group for emergency situations. By addressing this specific population’s needs, the entire emergency preparedness effort is significantly improved and strengthened, he said. For more information contact, Tanya Cantrell, Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Department of Homeland Security at 202-692-4253-V, 202-401-0470-TTY or by email at Tanya.Cantrell@dhs.gov