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Disability Employment App Challenge: Educating Employers and Job Seekers with Disabilities

The Department of Labor is challenging entrepreneurs and developers to create apps, using government data, that improve access to job training and transportation resources for those with disabilities.

Nearly 22 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act became law and 39 years after the passage of the Rehabilitation Act, employment outcomes for people with disabilities still lag far behind their non-disabled peers. According to the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (April 2012), individuals with disabilities have an unemployment rate of 12.5%, compared to 7.6% for those without disabilities. And those numbers don’t even tell the whole story: currently 8 in 10 Americans with disabilities aren’t even part of the labor force. 

But the continued expansion of accessible technology can play a critical role in enabling Americans with disabilities to gain access to the labor force and ultimately find jobs that match their interests and skills.  Technology can make jobs that were once impossible for an individual with a disability accessible, and it can be used to educate employers about the value people with disabilities can bring to the workplace.

That’s why the Labor Department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) recently launched the Disability Employment App Challenge.

DOL is challenging entrepreneurs and developers to use the information ODEP already produces for the public to create apps that package those data for job seekers and employers. The goal of the challenge is to improve access to job training and transportation resources for those with disabilities. At the same time, the challenge aims to support employers with the recruitment, accommodation, and retention of workers while educating them on the value these individuals can bring to their businesses.

Take a look at the resources at Career One-Stop Centers, state Vocational Rehabilitation agencies or non-profit organizations. Is there a great way to combine these resources into an app that shows the impact an employer can make by more actively recruiting individuals with disabilities? How can your app make it easier for employers to recruit people with disabilities?

Apps can also focus on improving access to job training resources for individuals with disabilities. There are effective job training and skill-building resources provided by the Labor Department that help people prepare for their next job. Can your app make these resources easier to use for individuals with disabilities?  There also are barriers for getting to work; what if your app ranked job opportunities by ease of transportation?

Do you have an innovative app for the web, smart phones, tablets, feature phones or social networking platforms that addresses these issues? Are you inspired to build a new tool that will reduce the unemployment gap between people with disabilities and their non-disabled peers? Visit to enter the Department of Labor’s Employment App Challenge. You could win up to $5,000 for building the most innovative app and be prominently showcased at the upcoming FCC Developing with Accessibility event in Washington DC, September 6 – 7th, 2012.

Kareem Dale is Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy, and Brian Forde is Advisor to the CTO on Mobile and Data Innovation.