Despite decades of regulations and initiatives designed to promote the hiring of people with disabilities in the federal government, the number of such employees remains low and is shrinking, a new report says.

The report titled Federal Employment of People with Disabilities was released Tuesday by the National Council on Disability. It indicates that federal employment of people with disabilities dropped 14.42 percent between 1998 and 2007 despite an executive order in 2000 to promote the hiring of 100,000 people with disabilities.

As of 2007, just 23,969 people with disabilities were employed by the federal government, representing just 0.92 percent of all federal employment.

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Meanwhile, people with disabilities are leaving government jobs at twice the rate they’re hired. And these numbers only tell part of the story. Statistics are based on employees with disabilities self identifying, which is entirely voluntary. Many people who have less obvious disabilities do not choose to identify themselves.

“People do not want to report it. Why is that? Because not all individuals in supervisory positions are prepared to take that information in confidence and use it as an advantage instead of a disadvantage,” said Susan Parker, director of policy development at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).

Top federal management is largely uncommitted to hiring people with disabilities, the report says. And the federal Schedule A program, which allows for the noncompetitive appointment of people with disabilities, is underutilized.

In order to change the status quo, the report recommends that job seekers with disabilities target high need fields such as security, medical and public health, accounting, engineering and program management. Further, it recommends focusing on federal agencies with stronger track records of hiring people with disabilities including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Social Security Administration and the Department of the Treasury.

Other recommendations include:

  • Reduce the probationary period for people hired through Schedule A.
  • Increase data collection on employees with disabilities.
  • Require training for federal supervisors about hiring people with disabilities.
  • Launch a marketing campaign to encourage applicants with disabilities.
  • Identify practices within government that are successful in terms of hiring and advancing employees with disabilities in order to develop a model for all agencies.

To read the full report click here.