The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act was intended to break down siloes within the workforce system and to help lift people with significant barriers to employment. WIOA also put a high priority on serving at-risk youth including foster care youth, justice-involved youth, and youth with disabilities. 7 years after WIOA was passed by Congress, many American Job Centers remain physically or programmatically inaccessible to job seekers with disabilities. A 2017 study by IMPAQ found that "63 percent of centers were partially accessible" and only "37 percent of the AJCs achieved a rating of fully accessible." ( https://impaqint.com/sites/default/files/project-reports/AJC-Accessibility-Study.pdf )
Such findings speak to the fact that significant disparities exist in how far the workforce system has embraced the transformative possibilities of serving more and more people with disabilities. Many workforce boards do not yet have representatives from the disability community, nor do they have subject matter experts who are the proven allies of people with disabilities. As such, significant enforcement actions are needed across a spectrum of challenges in order to make the workforce system more accessible and more equitable.
There is no excuse for why any website receiving WIOA dollars is inaccessible, or any training video lacks captioning. Likewise, the ADA is more than 30 years old now, physical inaccessible should be the exception, not the rule. Especially for American Job Centers, serving diverse communities. As such, DOL needs to take a more aggressive stance on enforcement actions against inaccessible website, programs, and agencies. We also hope that further guidance can be issued to encourage workforce development boards to formally or informally formally or informally adopt policies to create board space for people with disabilities or their proven allies. By leveraging such lived experience and subject matter expertise, any board, program, or agency can achieve even more with their existing resources.
We recommend that DOL and ODEP call for increased training in everything from workplace accommodation to employment opportunities for people with disabilities, self-employment opportunities for people with disabilities, and digital accessibility for people with disabilities. To be clear, there is no need to reinvent the wheel on this type of training, as the information is readily available from the Job Accommodation Network and Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion, and is also a topic on which we offer training at RespectAbility.