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Frequently Asked Questions Employment

Disability Employment

  • Agencies may employ personal assistants for employees with disabilities, including those with visual and hearing impairments, under authority provided by 5 U.S.C. 3102. In addition, Section 3102(d) of the law authorizes the payment of pay and allowances for an individual who accompanies an employee with a disability on official travel. Specifically, the statute provides that the head of an agency may authorize the payment to an individual to accompany or assist (or both) the employee with a disability for all or a portion of the travel period involved. The statute further provides that the accompanying individual shall be considered an employee, but only for purposes of the Federal Employees' Compensation Act and the Federal Tort Claims Act. Accordingly, 5 U.S.C. Section 3110, which provides that a public official may not appoint, employ, promote, advance or advocate for a relative (as defined in the section), does not prohibit pay to an accompanying spouse.
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  • A needs assessment may be obtained from several sources. A few are:
    • your own agency, in conjunction with its reasonable accommodation policy created in compliance with Executive Order 13164,
    • the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) in the Department of Defense,
    • State vocational rehabilitation agencies,
    • the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service of the Department of Veterans Affairs,
    • the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor or
    • the Centers for Independent Living (CILs).
    Other sources of needs assessment depend on the organization that refers or places an applicant with a disability. For example, if the applicant is referred to you by the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP), it is likely that someone from that program will arrange the needs assessment with the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) in the Department of Defense. If you are hiring a client of the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service of the Department of Veterans Affairs, those offices may perform needs assessments. Centers for Independent Living (CILs) offer information about needs assessment and accommodation services. CILs also often maintain rosters of persons available to serve as personal care attendants, interpreters for individuals who are hearing impaired, or readers for people with visual impairments. State vocational rehabilitation agencies funded under the Rehabilitation Act, private vocational rehabilitation companies, and nonprofit organizations also provide needs assessments. Federal employers also may obtain additional guidance on providing reasonable accommodation from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Free copies of the EEOC's published guidance on reasonable accommodation and other issues pertaining to non-discrimination against people with disabilities may be reviewed at EEOC’s website and obtained by calling (800) 669-3362 (voice), and (800) 800-3302 (TTY). Other resources for technology-related technical assistance and accommodation assessment are:
      • the Center for Information Technology Accommodation at the Office of Government-Wide Policy at the General Services Administration,
      • U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board ("Access Board");
      • the Assistive Technology Program at the U.S. Department of Education,
      • the TARGET Center at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and
      • the Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) at the Department of Defense.
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  •   A major life activity is a function that the average person in the general population can perform with little or no difficulty. Major life activities include activities such as caring for oneself, seeing, hearing, walking, breathing, speaking, learning, sitting, standing, lifting, reaching, and working.  
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  • The following is a list of some examples of documents agencies may accept as proof of an intellectual disability, severe physical disability or psychiatric disability. Ultimately, it is the agency's choice what type(s) of documentation will be acceptable:
    • Statements or letters on a physician's/medical professional's letterhead stationary.
    • Statements, records or letters from a Federal Government agency that issues or provides disability benefits.
    • Statements, records or letters from a State Vocational Rehabilitation Agency counselor.
    • Certification from a private Vocational Rehabilitation or other Counselor that issues or provides disability benefits.
    As the regulation is implemented and used by agencies, this list may grow to include other types of certification. OPM will issue additional guidance to agencies on what constitutes "appropriate documentation" on an "as needed" basis.
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  • All denials of reasonable accommodation requests must be made in writing, and the decision must specify the reason for the denial. The denial should be written in plain language, clearly stating the specific reasons for the denial. After denying a request, the individual must be informed that s/he has the right to file an EEO complaint, has the right to pursue any applicable union grievance and informal alternative dispute resolution.
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  • No, the new regulation does not provide for priority in Federal hiring. The regulation applies to excepted service appointments.
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  • Generally the agency (employer) must bear the costs of providing reasonable accommodation. For more information see the amended Rehabilitation Act of 1973. In addition, Federal agencies may have several resources to draw upon when seeking support for reasonable accommodation. Sometimes other agencies have a role in funding the cost of an accommodation. For example, the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service of the Department of Veterans Affairs may have funds to assist employers in providing reasonable accommodations for veterans with disabilities. The Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) in the Department of Defense provides reasonable accommodations such as assistive technology, devices and support services for free to Federal agencies who have a partnership agreement with CAP. Applicants and employees are not expected or required to bear the costs of reasonable accommodations. Check with the agency personnel office, disability coordinator, or EEO office to see how requests for accommodation are handled at a particular agency.
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  • An individual who is granted a reasonable accommodation might not receive the exact form of accommodation requested. The deciding official has the discretion to identify reasonable and appropriate alternatives.
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  • The final regulations establish a new 5 CFR appointing authority (5 CFR 213.3102(u)) that consolidates multiple excepted appointing authorities into one expanded excepted appointing authority. Impact will depend on the actual circumstances of the restructuring, and how an agency decides to effect the RIF. Agencies have discretion in determining which positions to abolish, as well as discretion to provide affected competing excepted service employees with certain assignment rights. Therefore, impact (positive, neutral, or negative) depends on the implementation of a RIF by the agency.
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  • The excepted hiring authorities referenced in question 18 create a streamlined process to hire people with disabilities. Using these excepted hiring authorities eliminates the requirement for competition which may be very time-consuming. The excepted hiring authorities may require that the disabled person have a certification from a State vocational rehabilitation agency or the Veterans Administration. Once again, consult your human resources office to ensure that you use the best hiring strategy for your specific vacancy.
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