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There are two types of hiring processes. In the non-competitive hiring process, agencies use a special authority (Schedule A) to hire persons with disabilities without requiring them to compete for the job. In the competitive process, applicants compete with each other through a structured process.

Steps to Increase Hiring

Advice to increase hiring and retention of employees with disabilities.

Schedule A Hiring Authority

Excepted service appointing authorities are critical tools for increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities in the Federal Government.

Interview Process

During the interview process, the hiring official should ask an applicant questions about your job qualifications and how the applicant would perform the essential functions of the job. Applicants are encouraged to present their qualifications in a positive manner which emphasizes abilities and assets. Sometimes an applicant will choose to anticipate and address job related questions about ways his or her disability may affect performance of critical duties, roles and responsibilities of the job.

Hiring officials are prohibited from asking questions about an applicant's disability unless the questions are related to functioning on the job and consistent with the business needs of the position. To review the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's guidance about questions agencies can ask about an applicant's disability, please see the Enforcement Guidance: Pre-employment Disability-Related Questions and Medical Examinations.

Steps to Increase Hiring

Basic steps to increase hiring:

  • At the agency headquarters level, ensure that a full-time Selective Placement Program Coordinator is in place to recruit individuals with disabilities. This individual should be sufficiently senior (i.e., GS-13/14) to advise management on disability recruitment, hiring, advancement and retention. Ensure that the Coordinator is trained in Schedule A for people with disabilities and other excepted hiring authorities, the Rehabilitation Act, Reasonable Accommodation requirements and responsibilities, how to conduct workforce representation analysis, developing recruitment strategies, and establishing contacts with external recruitment sources to reach individuals with disabilities. This training is currently offered by EEOC and DOD.
  • Review and update all employment information and recruitment materials to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities.. Ensure that all information posted on the agency's Internet and Intranet sites is reviewed for Section 508 compliance and, in particular, screen-reader compatibility. Employment information should also be made available in alternate formats such as large print, Braille, and CD.
  • When conducting a job analysis, review the agency's eligibility criteria and any agency-specific qualification standards for positions. Identify and revise criteria and standards that are unnecessarily restrictive and potentially exclude people with disabilities. Examples of potentially problematic standards may include blanket rules requiring certain levels of unaided hearing or unaided vision.
  • Consistent with the President's Hiring Reform initiative, draft clear, understandable job announcements that explain in plain language the required qualifications and the duties of the job. This is key to any successful recruiting effort, as the job announcement itself can be a barrier for any applicant, including applicants with disabilities, who are interested in Federal employment. In addition to being clear and understandable, every job announcement must communicate the agency's intent to make reasonable accommodations for qualified job applicants and employees with disabilities. All job announcements should also state that the agency is an equal opportunity employer and should encourage candidates with disabilities to apply.
  • Proactively use Schedule A for people with disabilities, as well as other excepted service hiring authorities, to hire people with disabilities expeditiously. Make sure job announcements contain information explaining how to apply under Schedule A.
  • In accordance with EEOC Management Directive (MD)715, work with your EEO/Civil Rights office to collect, maintain, and analyze applicant flow data and to examine existing recruitment programs and hiring practices to identify and eliminate any barriers to recruiting/hiring individuals with disabilities and, in particular, individuals with targeted disabilities.
  • Employers can reach out to the U.S. Department of Labor's Employer Assistance Referral Network (EARN) to get assistance in locating, hiring and retaining people with disabilities.

Schedule A Hiring Authority

Excepted Service Appointing Authorities

Excepted service appointing authorities are critical tools for increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities in the Federal Government. Two of these authorities are particularly relevant:

  • Schedule A, 5 CFR 213.3102(u), for hiring people with severe physical disabilities, psychiatric disabilities, and intellectual disabilities. This excepted authority is used to appoint persons with severe physical disabilities, psychiatric disabilities, and intellectual disabilities. Such individuals may qualify for conversion to permanent status after two years of satisfactory service. Severe physical disabilities include but are not limited to blindness, deafness, paralysis, missing limbs, epilepsy, dwarfism, and more.
  • Schedule A, 5 CFR 213.3102(ll) for hiring readers, interpreters, and personal assistants. This excepted authority is used to appoint readers, interpreters, and personal assistants for employees with severe disabilities as reasonable accommodations.


In order to be eligible for employment through the Schedule A non-competitive process, documentation of the disability is required. Such documentation is used to verify that the individual being hired is indeed a person with an intellectual disability, severe physical disability, or psychiatric disability. This documentation must be provided to the hiring agency before an individual can be hired. Documentation of eligibility for employment under Schedule A can be obtained from a licensed medical professional (e.g., a physician or other medical professional certified by a state, the District of Columbia, or a U.S. territory to practice medicine); a licensed vocational rehabilitation specialist (i.e., state or private); or any Federal agency, state agency, or agency of the District of Columbia or a U.S. territory that issues or provides disability benefits.

In addition, upon hiring, the individual with a disability or the agency Human Resource office should complete the Standard Form 256. The SF-256 includes the legal definition of disability and lists various disabilities, including several that are considered targeted disabilities.

Applicants and employees with disabilities may also use the SF-256 to voluntarily identify their particular disability for data collection purposes only, even if they are not seeking to establish eligibility under Schedule A. Data captured from the SF-526 is used to compile the disability demographics of Federal agencies. This data is crucial for agencies to determine how well or poorly they are achieving their disability hiring goals.

OPM updated the SF-256 to better reflect current definitional language with respect to the disability community. Agencies should use the version of the SF-256 posted on the OPM website.

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