The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) today kicked off its "Transforming the American Workplace: A 21st Century Vision" summit, which focuses on including people with disabilities in the American workforce and reduced barriers to employment. The invitation-only summit continues through tomorrow at Gallaudet University's Kellogg Conference Center in Washington, D.C.
"Our mission is to continue to promote a culture of inclusiveness in the best tradition of our nation," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao in her keynote speech today to summit attendees. "Hiring Americans with disabilities is not only the right thing to do — it is the smart thing to do. And the technological revolution of the last fifteen years has given us unprecedented ways to incorporate the talents of all members of our society into the workforce."
The inaugural summit has attracted representatives of corporations, universities, interest groups and government. Some of the workshops they attended today included "Transforming the Workplace with New Technologies," "Universal Design/Accessibility" and "Self-Employment and Entrepreneurship."
In addition to workshops, Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy Neil Romano and decorated disabled veteran and entrepreneur Dawn Halfaker made presentations. Halfaker discussed her transition from the combat zone to civilian life and described her experiences as the chief executive officer of Halfaker and Associates, a small business.
Tomorrow's featured events are stakeholder meetings, where employers, government agencies, university officials and interest groups will discuss how to expand access to the talent pool of workers with disabilities.
"People with disabilities are a great, largely untapped resource for our nation," said Romano. "This summit brings together the national leaders of business, academia, the government and interest groups to continue progress toward people being hired and promoted based upon their abilities, not their disabilities."
The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) is leading a 21st century federal response to the historic underemployment of people with disabilities. In collaboration with other government agencies, public and private employers, and additional stakeholders, ODEP facilitates the development and implementation of innovative policies and practices necessary to achieve a fully inclusive workplace. ODEP's work primarily falls into three categories: employers and the workplace; workforce systems; and employment-related supports, which include education and training, health care, reliable transportation, affordable housing and assistive technology.