On July 26, 2015 we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – the landmark civil rights law that broke down barriers to access and equality for individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. The ADA’s impact is far reaching and extends to employment, schools, transportation, and a range of public and private services and programs.
At the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), equal opportunity and full inclusion is critical to fulfilling our core missions. Whether traveling through an airport, crossing into our country at a border, becoming a naturalized citizen, or rebuilding following a disaster, DHS is committed to providing equal access for individuals with disabilities in our workforce and our programs and activities. The Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) leads our efforts with a focus on:
- Recruitment – We utilize Schedule A Hiring Authority, the Operation Warfighter program, and the Wounded Warrior program, among others, to assist in recruiting and hiring individuals and veterans with disabilities. We are pleased to have more than 11,000 employees with disabilities contributing to the homeland security mission each day.
- Accessibility – The DHS Disability Access Working Group shares and coordinates strategies for effective communication, program and physical accessibility, and reasonable accommodations. Accessibility improvements are underway at the DHS headquarters, which include installing additional ramps and curb cuts, enhancing automatic doors, and improving lighting and signage in buildings and on the grounds.
- Integration – DHS policy and implementing mechanisms ensure nondiscrimination for individuals with disabilities served by our programs. With guidance and oversight from CRCL, this year each DHS component will designate a disability access coordinator; initiate a self-evaluation of their programs and activities; and develop and implement a plan to strengthen integration and compliance with disability laws.
Additionally, we are proud of the work that is being accomplished across DHS components that include but are not limited to:
- FEMA’s Ready Campaign and the Ad Council have launched a new PSA showing people with disabilities taking charge to prepare for disasters. FEMA also leads the Interagency Coordinating Council on Emergency Preparedness and Individuals with Disabilities.
- TSA provides information and resources on screening to assist travelers with disabilities through its TSA Careers program. TSA also delivers training and technical assistance to its frontline workforce on successful interactions with individuals with disabilities.
- CRCL offers resources to assist personnel, contractors, and grantees in their interactions with individuals with disabilities that include the DHS Guide to Interacting with People Who Have Disabilities and Tips for Effectively Communicating with Protected Populations During Preparedness, Response, and Recovery.
- The DHS Office of Accessible Systems and Technology provides IT-related reasonable accommodations and support for DHS employees with disabilities and the public. It also operates the DHS Accessibility Helpdesk, which provides technical assistance to employees and customers.
Learn more about the Department’s work and progress by visiting our Disability Access webpage.