U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez recently announced the 17 public members who will serve on the new Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities, a key provision of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Among those chosen was Oswald “Oz” Mondejar, Senior Vice President of Mission and Advocacy at Spaulding Rehabilitation Network and Partners HealthCare at Home.
Oz has been recognized as a regional and national leader for his commitment to workforce development for the community with disabilities. His role in the creation of the “Working Partners Program”, a first of its kind public-private partnership between the Massachusetts Rehab Commission (MRC) and Spaulding Rehabilitation Network(SRN) which builds pathways to job opportunities through close collaboration of the career advisors, potential employers and qualified candidates has been lauded as a successful model for job creation. His work on this program as well as a lifetime of mentoring and advocacy led to his recognition as a White House “Champion of Change in Disability Employment” this past October.
“The supportive environment in Massachusetts for private business to collaborate with government agencies such as MRC is one I hope to draw from and bring to these efforts,” said Mr. Mondejar. “Its an honor to be selected for this committee and I look forward to working with my colleagues to foster awareness that hiring from the community with disabilities is more than just the right thing to do, it’s good business.”
Signed by President Obama in July 2014, WIOA helps job seekers, including those with disabilities, access services to succeed in employment and matches employers with skilled workers. Reflecting this, the committee will advise the U.S. Secretary of Labor on ways to increase competitive integrated employment opportunities for individuals with significant disabilities. This includes recommendations on the use and oversight of the certificate program under section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Integrated employment refers to jobs held by people with disabilities in workplace settings where the majority of employees do not have disabilities. In these jobs, individuals with disabilities earn wages consistent with those paid workers without disabilities performing the same or similar work, make at least minimum wage and are paid directly by their employer.
"It has been demonstrated, time and time again, that when people with disabilities have access to meaningful employment opportunities, they become some of the most productive workers and contribute in a substantial way to their workplaces and the economy. Employing people with disabilities is a win-win for workers, employers and the entire community," said Secretary Perez. "This is sound public policy, and the advisory committee will help us expand opportunities for more people with disabilities."
Selected from more than 280 nominations, the 17 members represent six groups as described in the law. Those groups represent areas from: Self-advocates for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities, Providers of employment services, including those who employ individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities in competitive integrated employment, Representatives of national disability advocacy organizations for adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities, Experts with a background in academia or research and expertise in employment and wage policy issues for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities, Representatives from the employer community or national employer organizations.
In addition to Oz those selected for the committee were: Patrick Hendry, Mental Health America , Karen McCulloh, McCulloh and Associates , Santa Perez, People First of Nevada, Brian Itzkowitz, Goodwill Industries of Arkansas Inc., Christine McMahon, Fedcap, Alison Barkoff, Bazelon Center, Ruby Moore, National Disability Rights Network, Mark Perriello, American Association of People with Disabilities, Valerie Brooke, Virginia Commonwealth University, David Mank, Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, Steve Pemberton, Walgreens, Cesilee Coulson, Washington Initiative for Supported Employment , Sharyn Hancock, Workforce Essentials, Inc., Rita Landgraf, Delaware State Department of Health and Social Services, Lisa Pugh, Disability Rights Wisconsin, Fredric Schroeder, Interwork Institute at San Diego State University.
Seven federal officials will also serve on the committee: Assistant Secretary of the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor; Assistant Secretary of the Employment and Training Administration at the U.S. Department of Labor; Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division at the U.S. Department of Labor; Commissioner of the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, or the commissioner's designee; Director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or the director's designee; Commissioner of Social Security, or the commissioner's designee; and Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, or the commissioner's designee.
The first meeting of the committee will take place Jan. 22 and 23, 2015 at the U.S. Access Board in Washington, D.C. More information about the committee, upcoming meetings and members can be found at http://www.dol.gov/odep/topics/WIOA.htm.