You cannot break down barriers that impede employment of people with disabilities until you start hiring!

It was a beautiful day on the South Lawn of the White House, in July 2010, much like the day the ADA was signed, when I witnessed seeing President Barack Obama sign executive order 13548. This executive order charged the federal government with hiring 100,000 people with disabilities over the next five years. People with disabilities have faced barriers to employment for so long and even the Americans with Disabilities Act did not succeed in moving that needle.

President Obama wanted to make the federal government a model employer of people with disabilities, to serve as an example for the rest of America; he took action by signing this executive order, at the 20th anniversary celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The event at the White House was organized by the Office of Personnel Management, The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Department of Labor. Bender Consulting Services was excited for the opportunity to work with OPM on this project to create the OPM Shared List, a database of people with disabilities.  This database includes people with disabilities, who are vetted by our company. Federal agencies access this database to find candidates they would like to interview and plan to hire. This was so exciting for all of us to help see the federal government pledge to increase employment and work with us. We had the great honor to work under the leadership of the deputy director of OPM, Christine Griffin, the catalyst and champion for employment of people with disabilities. I credit her for being the advocate for change in leading the development of this executive order.

In 2016, once again I was invited to the White House as we celebrated President Obama's executive order not only achieving his original goal, but seeing the federal government exceed this goal by hiring 109,000 employees with disabilities! More people with disabilities now work at the nation's largest employer than anytime over the last 35 years!

It is amazing that after hiring managers in the federal or private sector start hiring people with disabilities, the growth of hiring is exponential. You cannot break down barriers that impede employment of people with disabilities until you start hiring! People with disabilities working at your site, side-by-side with non-disabled employees, is what really increases employment.

I am so proud of President Obama and the powerful change he created by signing this executive order.  His pen increased the employment of people with disabilities in the federal government as never before. It will always be a cherished memory and one of the highlights of my life when I remember being at the White House and seeing President Obama sign this executive order.

President Obama, thank you for successfully making the dream for Americans with disabilities real, by successfully breaking down the barriers of employment for people with disabilities in the federal government.

You always included all of us, not some of us, and we will never forget!

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