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National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Remarks Prepared for Delivery by
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao
National Disability Employment Awareness Month
Washington, DC
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Thank you, Charles [James, Director, Departmental Office of Civil Rights], Acting FHWA Administrator Brandy Hendrickson, Kristen Poston, Alison Levy and members of the planning committee, and welcome to our special guest, Haben Girma.

On September 28th of this year, the president proclaimed October “National Disability Employment Awareness Month,” renewing the Administration’s commitment to creating greater opportunity and economic prosperity for all Americans.

Let me also recognize:

  • Brandye Hendrickson, Deputy Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, whose mode planned this year’s celebration, and everyone who helped put this event together; as well as,
  • Haben Girma [Hah-been Ger-ma], our inspiring keynote speaker.

And let me also welcome everyone watching from our field offices.

In my previous role as Secretary of Labor, I directed the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect employment data on persons with disabilities, as part of the monthly Current Population Survey. This helped the Department gain a better understanding of the labor market experience of people with disabilities.  And ultimately, it helped us understand how to best serve people with disabilities who want to fully participate in the workforce.

I also launched the annual Secretary’s New Freedom Initiative Awards. These awards highlighted individuals and employers whose exemplary efforts have broken down barriers to employment for Americans with disabilities. 

The data showed that a significant hurdle for people with disabilities is access to transportation.  Imagine a future where people with mobility issues – seniors and people with disabilities – will be free, thanks to technology, to visit loved ones, access jobs, or simply enjoy the open road.  To help this vision become a reality, the Department of Transportation has prepared guidance to safely integrate autonomous technology into our transportation networks.

I was again reminded of the disability community’s many achievements on July 19th of this year. On that day, it was my pleasure to administer the Oath of Office to long-time colleague Neil Romano, as he became Chairman of the National Council on Disability. Neil and I worked together at the Department of Labor when he was the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy. 

Thanks to the efforts of Neil – and so many other people like him – we made great strides in promoting a culture of inclusiveness and advancing the mission of hiring people with disabilities.  It’s the right thing to do.  It’s the smart thing to do, by bringing these very capable people into the workforce. 

According to the latest OPM management report, people with disabilities make up approximately 14.4 percent of the Federal workforce. The Department of Transportation is keeping pace. To date in Fiscal Year 2018, the Department employs 7,578 persons with disabilities. This represents about 14 percent of the Department’s total workforce, up from 7.75 percent of our workforce in 2010.  

So, to create the best and most inclusive workforce possible, let’s continue to recognize each other for our abilities. By working together, we can help ensure an inclusive workforce and a bright future for people with disabilities.

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Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2018
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