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OPM.gov / News / Latest News / News Archives / Releases / 2022 / December / RELEASE: OPM Hosts First Annual Government-wide Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Summit

Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, December 12, 2022
Contact: Office of Communications
Tel:

RELEASE: OPM Hosts First Annual Government-wide Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Summit

Summit included keynote remarks from top government and industry leaders, including OPM Director Kiran Ahuja and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (ODEIA) held the first government-wide summit for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) on December 6-8, 2022. The event, titled DEIA Summit 2022: A Whole-of-Government Approach to Disability Employment, was fully virtual and featured remarks and presentations from over 70 leaders and experts from the Federal Government, academia, and non-profit and private sector organizations. Leaders discussed promising practices and strategies to improve employment for people with disabilities in the Federal workforce. The summit was attended by nearly 1,700 federal employees and others in various public and private sectors.  

The three-day summit featured remarks from several government and industry leaders, including: 

  • Kiran Ahuja, Director, OPM 
  • Tammy Duckworth, U.S. Senator 
  • Judith Heumann, former Special Advisor on International Disability Rights for the U.S. State Department and Former Assistant Secretary of Education for Special Education and Rehabilitative Service 
  • Day Al-Mohammed, Director of Disability Policy, Domestic Policy Council, White House 
  • Melonie Parker, Chief Diversity Officer, Google 
  • Janice Underwood, PhD, Executive Director of ODEIA, OPM and Government-wide Chief Diversity Officer 
  • Chai Feldblum, Vice Chairperson, U.S. AbilityOne Commission 
  • Taryn Williams, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy, DOL  
  • Dr. Anjali Forber-Pratt, PhD, Director of the National Institute of Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research within the Administration for Community Living, HHS 

Remark highlights from the summit are shared below. 

In the opening keynote to all participants at the DEIA Summit, Director Kiran Ahuja shared: 

“President Biden understands how vital the contributions of people with disabilities are, which is why he signed two Executive Orders in 2021 to immediately support those with disabilities.  

The first was Executive Order 13985 that charges federal agencies with developing and implementing a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all, including individuals with disabilities, people of color, and others who have been historically underserved in our society. The second Executive Order 14035, established a whole of government approach to advancing DEIA across the Federal Government. Since the issuance of the Executive Order, agencies have completed DEIA assessments within their own organizations, the Administration released its government-wide strategic plan to advance DEIA, and in response to the strategic plan, agencies submitted their own plans to advance their DEIA initiatives.  

“According to OPM data from September 2021, 17 percent of the civilian workforce identified as having a disability, including approximately 2.6 percent who have a targeted disability such as blindness. We understand that government cannot serve our Nation without understanding the lived experience of every single group.” 

Participants heard opening remarks from Day Al-Mohamed, the White House Domestic Policy Council’s Director of Disability Policy: 

“The Domestic Policy Council is proud to work across government, that is including with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Office of Management and Budget, and the Office of Personnel Management to coordinate the implementation and shape policy that improves our practices and empowers DEIA champions.  

Last November, the White House released a first-of-its-kind government-wide strategic plan to advance DEIA. Federal agencies have followed up with their own DEIA self-assessment strategic plans. Let me be very clear about this. This is about walking the walk and recognizing to [enact this change], we as Federal Government must reflect America. 

“There cannot be equity if people with disabilities cannot get in the door and fill out a form or use platforms or digital systems. Accessibility must come first.” 

In a keynote coffee chat, Senator Tammy Duckworth and Judith Heumann discussed the summit themes, leading inclusion, owning accessibility, and driving equity. When asked about how she viewed disability as a part of DEIA and how her views have changed from being a nondisabled person to being a disabled woman, Senator Tammy Duckworth shared:   

“My views really changed because I entered and was welcomed into the disability community when I became injured. I learned about the fact that it's not about accommodating someone, it's about their right to be there. That is very different—it’s not on me to give you access. It's your right to have access. That's how my mind changed.” 

Ms. Heumann also asked Senator Duckworth what Federal agencies and departments can do to be more intersectional and actively work to reduce disparities within communities. Senator Duckworth responded:  

“Federal Government tends to work in silos. I think what the Federal Government can do better is break down the silos and work across government in a way that forces their own individual agencies to see that different perspective.”  

During the summit, Senator Duckworth shared a story regarding her participation in the Amputee Coalition of America’s Certified Peer Visitor Training Program: 

The Amputee Coalition of America has a Peer Visitor Training Program, [which at the time of my participation it was offered] online and in-person but I think [you] can do it fully online now. [The program] trains you how to visit someone who is a new amputee or about to become an amputee, and the questions that you might answer to help you be able to provide resources and basically a guide [to better understand the path] this person is about to [take] that they have never been on before. [Following the Amputee Coalition of America’s training, I saw the importance of having] picked up my life and moved on and not only returned to my life the way it was but in fact to do things I never imagined I would be able to do. I never imagined when I was a solider that I was going to become a U.S. Senator one day.”  

Senator Duckworth also shared a tribute to her friend Marca Bristow, the Founder and Executive Director of Access Living in Chicago, who was also an amputee and leader, and who inspired the Senator herself: 

“(Marca) reached out to me early on when I first met with Congress, probably 18 months after I became an amputee and really educated me and was a mentor to me in terms of the disability community.  

Learning the challenges and the barriers and how to work through them and introduce me to the community was something that she was incredibly generous with. For me to see her, this incredibly powerful woman heading an agency, living this life gave me the hope and resolve to continue.  

I hope that is what I can do for other folks when they see not only is she someone who was accommodated but she is changing laws and making things better in this country because she has a disability. She is a better Senator because she uses a wheelchair. I think I am a better Senator because of it. Having these life experiences makes me a better public servant than I ever could have been without them.” 

During the DEIA Summit, Dr. Janice Underwood, Executive Director of the OPM Office of DEIA and the Government-wide Chief Diversity Officer, shared keynote remarks discussing the work ahead to advance DEIA: 

There is much to be done, and we acknowledge that there are opportunities for improvement in areas like consistent funding of DEIA initiatives, improved diversity demographic data collection and analysis, sustainability initiatives, and responsible progress across all dimensions of DEIA. We must commit to long term, continuous improvement, and prevent DEIA initiatives and programs from fizzling out.  We need our commitment to DEIA to be baked in like the ingredients of a delicious cake and not like too much icing on the cake, which can easily be scraped off. 

Is it possible to change hearts and minds to respect and elevate accessibility? The answer is yes. Together we all must expect leaders at the top, in the middle, and at the entry-level to elevate those actions within DEIA. To model this kind of leadership, we are modeling the possible.” 

In the closing session, participants heard keynote remarks from Google’s Chief Diversity Officer Melonie Parker:  

“As the Chief Diversity Officer at Google, I am a strong proponent of transforming the workplace to meet the needs of all. 

[Google] makes products used by billions of people every day. To do this successfully, we are building a world where everybody belongs in our workforce and our workplace. To help with this, the goal of my team is to build a diverse Google with an inclusive culture that delivers equitable outcomes. We focus on equity because we recognize that not everyone has an equal starting place. This allows us to have strategies and initiatives to meet people where they are. 

...Accessibility is a core value at Google. It is embedded in our mission, and we are continually engaging in conversations on how we make our work more accessible.  

Looking ahead, our goal is to maintain momentum for positive, systemic change that we have built over the last years. This really makes continuing to prioritize inclusivity and equity in everything we do, from how we hire and develop talent to how we build new products and services, and how we design our offices.  

We hold the view at Google that everyone belongs here, and the duality is there are very few spaces in our personal and professional lives where we achieve that, but we do the work, because we want to come as close to that as possible.” 

Speakers, panelists, and participants covered a number of topics, including: 

  • An overview of intersectionality and how disability is intertwined through all dimensions of diversity 
  • Digital and physical accessibility—what it means, why it matters for DEIA, and tips for integrating accessibility into day-to-day work 
  • Leveraging agency DEIA strategic plans as a force multiplier for disability employment 
  • Promising practices in the federal sector agencies have implemented to meet Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 
  • Ushering in early career talent and leveraging the AbilityOne Program, President Management Fellows Program, and Workforce Recruitment Program to build the workforce of the future 
  • Unlocking the power of neurodiversity—how agencies can hire, build a culture of belonging and inclusion, and retain individuals with neurodivergent conditions  
  • Bringing awareness to and dismantling bias around mental health, equity, and reasonable accommodation 
  • An exploration of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility data from the 2022 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) within the disability community 
  • Strategic recruitment, hiring, and retention of individuals with disabilities and how to use the USAJOBS Agency Talent Portal to widen the talent pool for targeted hiring of individuals with disabilities 
     

Executive Order 14035 on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce expanded the scope of previous work in this area, to specifically include "equity" and "accessibility," reinforcing the Federal Government's policy to be a model employer for people with disabilities and others in underserved communities. The purpose of this three-day summit was to elevate accessibility as well as to address how the other principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion impact the disability community. 

The Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (ODEIA) at OPM intends to host a summit each year to underscore the importance of a government-wide strategy for DEIA. While this year’s summit theme was on employment of people with disabilities, future summits will elevate other aspects of the E.O. 14035 and priorities identified by leaders of the Chief Diversity Officers Executive Council.   

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The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is the leader in human resource management for the federal government. Our agency builds, strengthens, and supports the 2.1 million federal employees with programs like hiring assistance, healthcare and insurance, retirement benefits, and much more. We provide agencies with best practices and strategies to serve the federal workforce so they can best serve the American people. 

For more information, visit OPM.gov or follow OPM on Twitter (external link), Facebook (external link), or LinkedIn (external link). 

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The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is the strategic human capital partner to the federal government that is recruiting, retaining, and honoring the workforce that's landing rovers on Mars, fighting climate change and cancer, and building this country back better. OPM provides leadership and support to agencies through key issues and services-including human resource policy and oversight, federal employee benefits, and retirement services- that impact more than two million people in the federal workforce. As the nation's largest employer, the federal government is the model employer across sectors.


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