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Disability Emphasis Program

Mission Statement

To address the unique concerns of persons with disabilities in achieving equal opportunity in all employment and program delivery activities. To serve the interest of all employees by addressing issues critical to increasing the productivity of a diverse workforce. To provide training to managers and outreach to customers, while working closely with agency special emphasis program managers. Various statutes, executive orders, and regulations provide authority for USDA's disabilities program.

These include Titles VI & VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, 29 C.F.R. Part 1614, and the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 which established the Federal agencies to conduct affirmative recruitment personal that are disabled. Federal agencies to conduct affirmative recruitment of people that are disabled. Section 501 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the Federal government to engage in affirmative action for people with disabilities. 

Federal Disability Emphasis Program

The Federal government strives to create and maintain a sound, diverse, and cooperative work environment. Equal Opportunity in employment for all people, regardless of race color, sex, age, religion, national origin, or disability is a common goal across government. However, persons with disabilities are often overlooked as a source of employable talent. 

On March 13, 1998, President Clinton addressed the underemployment of people with disabilities by signing executive order 13078 establishing the Presidential Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities. The task Force was charged with creating a coordinated and aggressive national policy to bring working-age individuals with disabilities into gainful employment at a rate approaching that of the general adult population. 

  • In the Task Force's first report "Recharting the Course", the Office of Personnel Management was directed to develop a plan that will help insure an increased representation of adults with disabilities in the Federal work force. The Plan will help ensure that departments and agencies:
  • Recruit widely for positions at all levels
  • Provide opportunities for students with disabilities
  • Give full consideration to employees with disabilities for inclusion in developmental opportunities
  • Collect and maintain data to monitor success
  • Provide reasonable accommodations for qualified applicants and employees with disabilities, consistent with guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

Guidelines for Communicating with People with Disabilities 

  1. When talking with a person with a disability, speak directly to that person rather than to a companion or sign language interpreter.
  2. When introduced to a person with a disability, it is appropriate to offer to shake hands. People with limited hand use or who wear an artificial limb can usually shake hands. (Shaking hands with the left hand is an acceptable greeting).
  3. When meeting people who are visually impaired, always identify yourself and others who may be with you. When conversing in a group, remember to identify the person to whom you are speaking.
  4. If you offer assistance, wait until the offer is accepted. Then listen to or ask for instructions.
  5. Treat adults like adults. Address people who have disabilities by their first names only when extending the same familiarity to all others. (Never patronize people who use wheelchairs by patting them on the head or shoulder).
  6. Leaning on or hanging onto a person's wheelchair is similar to leaning on or hanging onto a person and is generally considered annoying. The chair is part of the personal body space of the person who uses it.
  7. Listen attentively when you're talking with a person who has difficulty speaking. Be patient and wait for the person to finish, rather than correcting or speaking for the person. If necessary, ask short questions that require short answers, a nod or shake of the head. Never pretend to understand if you are having difficulty doing so. Instead, repeat what you have understood and allow the person to respond. The response will clue you in and guide your understanding.
  8. When speaking with a person who uses a wheelchair or a person who uses crutches, place yourself at eye level in front of the person to facilitate the conversation.
  9. To get the attention of a person who is deaf, tap the person on the shoulder or wave your hand. Look directly at the person and speak clearly, slowly, and expressively to determine if the person can read your lips. Not all people who are deaf can read lips. For those who do lip-read, be sensitive to their needs by placing yourself so that you face the light source and keep hands, cigarettes, and food away from your mouth when speaking.
  10. Relax. Don't be embarrassed if you happen to use accepted, common expressions such as "see you later" or "Did you hear about that?" that seem to relate to a person's disability. Don't be afraid to ask questions when you're unsure of what to do.

Related Materials


2013 Events

For more information contact:

Terry Funches
Disability Emphasis Program Manager
Phone: 601-965-5205 ext. 2185