Effecting Policy Change Through Crowdsourcing: ePolicyWorks National Online Dialogues

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy’s (ODEP) ePolicyWorks initiative is pleased to be the host of an important series of online dialogues. Brought to you through the use of leading-edge crowdsourcing tools, these online dialogues are interactive platforms of collaboration. They enable ODEP to work with their partners to enlist the public’s input on key policy issues related to the employment of people with disabilities by channeling the brainpower of our federal partners, nonprofits, NGOs and other stakeholders.

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Dialogues

Please check back soon for updates on new dialogues.

Past National Dialogues

Building a Disability-Inclusive Talent Pipeline: Ideas for Effective Outreach and Recruitment Strategies

Competence and flexibility…they are vital skills that employers seek. Today more than ever, businesses need people with the ability to adapt to different situations and circumstances, and perhaps more than any other group, people with disabilities possess precisely these attributes. But while many employers recognize the value of a disability-inclusive workforce, not all may know how to effectively recruit and hire qualified people with disabilities. Moreover, for federal contractors, important updates to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act that took effect in 2014 have created an additional motivation to build a disability-inclusive talent pipeline.

In this spirit, our current online dialogue, hosted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and its Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN), will gather insight into successful strategies federal contractors are using to recruit and hire people with disabilities. Information gleaned will in turn be used to develop technical assistance materials to help more covered employers ensure their doors are open to all qualified individuals. Specific topics we’re interested in hearing about include sources for recruiting qualified individuals with disabilities and strategies for encouraging self-identification, as well as bottlenecks companies have encountered and how they’ve overcome them.


Promoting Inclusive Career Pathways Online Dialogue

The LEAD Center, a U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy technical assistance center, is a collaborative of disability, workforce and economic empowerment organizations dedicated to advancing sustainable individual and systems level change to improve competitive, integrated employment and economic self-sufficiency for all people across the spectrum of disability.

As such, through this online dialogue, the LEAD Center sought to gather ideas and insights on how best to improve upon the effectiveness of Inclusive Career Pathways programs in order to provide career support for people whose options may be otherwise limited. Insights gathered during this dialogue will be used by the LEAD Center to help shape their work around inclusive career pathways initiatives and full workplace inclusion.

A summary report, Promoting Inclusive Career Pathways National Online Dialogue Final Report, was developed at the end of the event to summarize the dialogue’s overall participation and highlight the most popular ideas.


Making it Happen: Increasing Awareness of Accessible Workplace Technology Online Dialogue

For today’s workers and job seekers, information and communication technologies are essential to getting a job and performing in the workplace. But numerous systemic barriers still prevent the development and adoption of technology that is accessible to many job applicants and employees with disabilities. As the next step in a series of stakeholder dialogues and listening sessions, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT) hosted an online dialogue  in honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM): Making It Happen: Increasing Awareness of Accessible Workplace Technology.

Through this virtual discussion, which took place between October 11 and October 21, 2016, participants expanded upon the ideas PEAT has already collected, and shared new ideas about the kinds of policies, programs, and structures that need to be in place to advance accessible workplace technology, along with ways that PEAT and the U.S. Department of Labor can support them.


What Can States Do? Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work Online Dialogue

Each year, millions of workers across the nation develop a chronic illness or sustain an injury that significantly reduces their productivity, at least temporarily. Many lose their jobs as a result. Carefully designed policies and practices, especially those that target lower-skilled workers, may promote retention and re-employment after an injury or an illness—job-related or not.

As part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy’s Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work (SAW/RTW) Policy Collaborative, an effort is underway to develop actionable policy steps to promote positive SAW/RTW outcomes. As part of this important initiative, this ePolicyWorks dialogue, which took place from July 18 through August 12, 2016, sought to obtain feedback from a wide array of stakeholders on policy recommendations intended to increase retention and re-employment among workers whose productivity declines because of illness or injury. The input gathered from this dialogue will be used to fine-tune the collaborative’s recommendations for action.


Careers in the Arts National Online Dialogue

The Careers in the Arts National Online Dialogue was co-hosted by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Arts and Disability Center. The dialogue was a follow-up to two national conferences, held by the NEA in 1998 and 2009, and 28 NEA-sponsored Statewide Forums (2002 -2014). These gatherings brought together artists and arts administrators with disabilities, as well as other arts leaders to assess the training and education, employment, representation, and career trajectories of artists with disabilities.

Over a two-week period, from June 6 through June 19, 2016 the dialogue heard from an array of voices from within the disability and arts communities. The question posed by the dialogue – what ideas do you have to increase the career preparation and employment of people with disabilities in the arts? – garnered 112 ideas, 587 comments and 1,095 votes from 401 participants.

A summary report, The Careers in the Arts National Online Dialogue Final Report, was developed at the end of the event to summarize the dialogue’s overall participation and highlight the most popular ideas.


YouthACT Transitions Truths National Online Dialogue

Hosted in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) Youth Team and the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth (NCWD/Youth), this online dialogue provided a four-day period, from May 19 through May 22, 2016, for youth and young adults with disabilities to discuss an important topic — what they need in order to become successful adults. During the dialogue, 74 ideas, 347 comments and 609 votes were collected from a total of 452 very active participants.

During the dialogue young adults with disabilities shared supports and strategies they find useful in their lives. Conversation topics included actions that people have taken that helped them achieve success and what things they think could further support them as they become successful adults. These insights and perspectives will help policymakers and people who work with youth to better understand what supports youth need to become successful adults.

Following the event, the YouthACT Transition Truths Online Dialogue Final Report was prepared to summarize the dialogue’s overall participation and highlight the most popular ideas. ODEP and NCWD/Youth plan to use the ideas generated by this dialogue to inform policymaking efforts and improve supports for transitioning youth.


Advancing State Policy for a More Inclusive Workforce Online Dialogue

In preparation for the inaugural meeting of the National Task Force on Workforce Development for People with Disabilities, the Council of State Governments (CSG) and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) collaborated with the State Exchange on Disability & Employment (SEED), a U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) initiative, to host an online dialogue, “Advancing State Policy for a More Inclusive Workforce.”

This virtual event ran for a two week period, starting on February 5, 2016 and leading up to the National Task Force convening on March 19, 2016.  The purpose of the event was to gather ideas and information from individuals involved in state policymaking efforts about their experiences with state level disability employment-related policy (existing state-sponsored legislation, executive orders, regulations, programs and studies) in an effort to inform the National Task Force’s priorities and help focus policy options. Dialogue participants played a key role in helping to ensure that state policies are inclusive and that states continue to work together to move the needle when it comes to the employment of people with disabilities.

The work of the National Task Force will culminate in the development, publication and national promotion of a policy framework on “Workforce Development and Employability for People with Disabilities.” This framework will be used to plan a variety of state-focused efforts, including national and regional programming, national policy academy events and in-state technical trainings. The 2016 CSG National Conference in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, will commence with a full-day CSG Policy Academy that will serve as the national launch for the policy framework and explore state policy issues addressed in it.


Breaking Down Employment Barriers with Accessible Transportation Innovation

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Accessible Transportation Technologies Research Initiative hosted an online dialogue, Breaking Down Employment Barriers with Accessible Transportation Innovation, from November 2, 2015 through February 14, 2016. The dialogue focused on the future generation of accessible transportation solutions, including connected and automated vehicles, to further develop and enhance transportation options as an effective employment support for people with disabilities. During the dialogue ePolicyWorks gathered new and innovative ideas to help transform the future of transportation, particularly as it relates to employment.


Advancing the Conversation on Disability Inclusion: Strategies for Achieving the Goals of Section 503 Online Dialogue

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and its Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) hosted an online dialogue, “Advancing the Conversation on Disability Inclusion: Strategies for Achieving the Goals of Section 503,” from November 18 through December 18, 2015. The goal of the dialogue was to gather insight into successful strategies federal contractors are using to achieve their goals under the new Section 503 rules.

Throughout the duration of the dialogue, 15 comments were collected that garnered 44 comments and 116 votes from 183 total participants. Information gleaned will be used to develop technical assistance materials to help more covered employers foster a disability-inclusive workplace culture, one where people feel comfortable disclosing disabilities, openly without fear of discrimination.

Following the event, the  Advancing the Conversation on Disability Inclusion Online Dialogue Summary Report was prepared to summarize the dialogue’s overall participation and highlight the most popular ideas. ODEP and EARN plan to use the ideas generated by this dialogue to inform policymaking efforts and improve technical assistance support for federal contractors.


Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work Policy Collaborative Online Dialogues

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy’s (ODEP) Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work (SAW/RTW) Policy Collaborative hosted a series of three online dialogues from June 22 through October 9, 2015. The first dialogue, “Expanding Access To Evidence-based, Early Intervention (EBEI) Stay-at-work/Return-to-work Services and Supports,” invited participants to comment on policy recommendations for expanding timely access to SAW/RTW services and supports. The second, “Establishing Work and Full Participation as Accountable Health Outcomes,” asked invited participants to provide input on how to reduce the number of working adults who lose their jobs or leave the workforce due to a health condition, and how to increase the number of people get who receive the help they need to stay employed. The final dialogue, “Promoting Retention and Re-employment Following Injury or Illness,” invited participants to suggest ways to respond to five draft policy recommendations intended to promote retention and re-employment after an injury or an illness.

The results from these dialogues were provided to the SAW/RTW Policy Collaborative to help augment, develop and further enhance the policy recommendations for the SAW/RTW effort. The information was also used to inform three policy reports on best practices for employment of people with disabilities, including “Establishing Accountability to Reduce Job Loss After Injury or Illness” by Jennifer Christian, “Promoting Retention or Reemployment of Workers after a Significant Injury or Illness” by Kevin Hollenbeck, and “Targeting Early Intervention to Workers Who Need Help to Stay in the Labor Force” by lead author David Stapleton.


Connecting with Families: Supporting Postsecondary Success of Young Adults with Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and its National Collaborative on Workforce & Disability for Youth (NCWD), hosted the Connecting Families online dialogue January 22 through February 11, 2015. The online dialogue reached out to families of young adults in postsecondary educational or technical programs and asked them to share their ideas on what postsecondary institutions and other providers could do to better assist families in supporting young adult’s educational and employment success. During the event, 431 participants submitted 499 ideas and comments and cast 557 votes. The results of this dialogue will help inform ODEP and NCWD guidance and support of postsecondary intuitions.

A report titled Connecting with Families National Online Dialogue: Supporting Postsecondary Success of Young Adults with Disabilities; Participation Metrics was developed at the end of the event to summarize the dialogue’s overall participation and highlight the most popular ideas. ODEP and NCWD will analyze these metrics to inform the development of technical assistance to help postsecondary intuitions to better assist families in supporting their youth/young adult in program completion and in successfully entering into competitive integrated employment.


CIO Council’s Accessibility Community of Practice Online Dialogues

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), in partnership with the Vendor Outreach/Acquisition Subcommittee of the CIO Council’s Accessibility Community of Practice, hosted two online dialogues October 21 through November 14, 2014. The first, Join the Conversation: Understanding and conforming with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, asked Federal Contractors for their ideas on how the Federal Government can improve communication with industry about Section 508 requirements and increase compliance. The second, Join the Conversation: Increasing communication and collaboration around Section 508 within the Federal Procurement community, sought ideas from the procurement community, as well as success stories and effective practices, in dealing with issues and roadblocks with regard to Section 508 implementation.


State Governments: What Can We Do? Join the Conversation for Change

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) hosted the ePolicyWorks online dialogue, State Governments: What Can We Do? Join the Conversation for Change,from August 4 until August 18, 2014.  The virtual event invited state government disability employment, human resources and diversity professionals, as well as all others with insight into disability employment, to share new or innovative approaches to employing individuals with disabilities.  Participants contributed ideas and best practices on hiring, retaining and advancing workers with disabilities and commented or voted on posts made by others.  During the online event, more than 1100 visitors attended the event, of which 408 completed registration, and posted 37 unique ideas, 133 comments and 335 votes. The results from this dialogue will help inform ODEP’s technical assistance to states and will be promoted to improve employment opportunities for everyone.


Encouraging People with Disabilities to Pursue Careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)

The dialogue hosted by the National Council on Disability (NCD) and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) ran from July 28 to August 8, 2014 and was the final in a series of three dialogues. This dialogue gathered ideas and recommendations on how to ensure careers in the STEM fields are open to everyone, including people with disabilities. Participants were encouraged to contribute their ideas on how to increase the number of people with disabilities pursuing STEM careers, as well as add suggestions on how to provide better support to ensure successful employment outcomes in these growing fields.

A report titled NCD-ODEP National Online Dialogue: Encouraging People with Disabilities to Pursue Careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics): Participation Metrics was developed at the end of the event to summarize the dialogue’s overall participation and highlight the most popular ideas. NCD and ODEP plan to use the ideas generated by this dialogue to improve the support and accessibility of STEM opportunities for people with disabilities.


Advancing Accessibility and Inclusion in Social Media—The Tech Experience

Co-hosted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and the National Council on Disability (NCD), this virtual event, the second in a three-part series, was held from Monday, May 12 through Friday, June 13, 2014 and was open for participation to the general public.  The dialogue invited participants to work together to improve social media accessibility by reviewing ideas from the first dialogue – “Advancing Accessibility and Inclusion in Social Media – The User Experience – and coming up with creative ways social media companies could go about integrating the ideas into the design and development of social media online tools and apps. In addition, the dialogue asked for ideas on the most effective way the social media industry could engage with the disability community for user feedback and ideas. As part of the registration process, registrants were also encouraged to answer a series of questions, including if they work in the social media industry; if universal design is more of a philosophy or a tangible goal; if universal design is applicable to social media; how important input is from users with disabilities in their work; and what is needed to facilitate greater accessibility in social media products and services.

At the end of the event, a report titled NCD-ODEP National Online Dialogue: Advancing Accessibility and Inclusion in Social Media – The Tech Experience: Participation Metrics Report was developed to summarize the dialogue’s overall participation. NCD and ODEP will continue to use the ideas generated by these dialogues to collaborate with the tech industry on solutions for improving the accessibility of online tools.


Help Shape National Disability Employment Awareness Month’s (NDEAM) 2014 Theme

Hosted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), this national dialogue took place from March 24 to March 31, 2014. Participants were asked to submit slogans or taglines that serve to remind everyone of the valuable skills and talents that people with disabilities bring to the workplace. During the online event, more than 350 participants contributed 126 ideas and posted 110 comments and 744 votes.

The ideas and comments received during this online dialogue will be used to help develop a theme for this year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).


Advancing Accessibility and Inclusion in Social Media—The User Experience

The dialogue hosted by the National Council on Disability (NCD) and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) ran from March 17 to April 4, 2014 and was the first in a series of three dialogues focusing on social media accessibility. This dialogue asked social media users for ideas on how social media can be made more accessible for everyone. The input from the dialogue helped NCD and ODEP understand the role of social media in the lives of people with disabilities and identify creative ways people with disabilities deal with a variety of accessibility issues. The information gathered from this dialogue was also used to inform the second dialogue that asked the tech industry for their input on the use of universal design in the design and development of social media tools.

At the end of the event, a report titled NCD-ODEP National Online Dialogue: Advancing Accessibility and Inclusion in Social Media – The User Experience: Participation Metrics Report was developed to summarize the dialogue’s overall participation. The ideas and comments received during this online dialogue will be used by NCD and ODEP to collaborate with the social media industry in seeking solutions for improving the accessibility of online tools.


Join the Conversation for Change: Improving the Accessibility of Online Tools for Workers with Intellectual Disabilities

This dialogue hosted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT) and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) took place from December 30, 2013 to January 10, 2014.

During the two-week online event, 333 participants contributed 32 unique ideas and provided 132 comments and close to 350 votes. The thoughtful responses will add tremendous value and will help frame efforts moving forward to improve the accessibility of workplace technology for everyone.

As a result of the event, a report titled, The ASAN – PEAT National Online Dialogue: Participation Metrics, was developed to summarize the dialogue’s overall participation. The ideas and comments received during this online dialogue will be used by ASAN and PEAT to develop recommendations to help make online tools more accessible for people with intellectual disabilities who are seeking jobs or using the Internet to work.


Veterans Transportation & Community Living Initiative (VTCLI) Grantee Online Dialogue

This dialogue, coordinated by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) was limited to VTCLI grantees and asked the question, “What activities are you finding to be most beneficial in helping Veterans and Military families access transportation resources in your community?”

The online event was held from November 18 through December 20, 2013. VTCLI grantees from across the country were invited to participate and provide their input around activities they find beneficial in helping Veterans and Military families access transportation resources in their communities including ways to promote better, longer-lasting partnerships; use online and social media tools; and improve one-call centers. Ideas posted to the online dialogue were organized into topics, including: Partnerships, Social Networks & Peer-to-Peer Exchange, One-Call & Intelligent Transportation Technology. In addition to posting ideas to the dialogue, participants were given an opportunity to “vote” on each idea and submit comments.

During the online event, more than 106 grantees contributed nine unique ideas and provided 35 comments and 52 votes. This dialogue encouraged creative thinking and improved communication around local transportation efforts for Veterans and Military families. The thoughtful contributions and responses during this online dialogue will help FTA and its partners set goals and shape the direction of efforts moving forward.


Join the Conversation for Improved Transportation Services in St. Lucie County

Hosted by St. Lucie County, Florida as part of the Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative (VTCLI) and with the support of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA), its partners and the ePolicyWorks team, this virtual event was held from November 4 through December 16, 2013. Local veterans, their friends and family members, seniors, community based and military organizations, Treasure Coast residents, active duty service men/women along with transportation experts were invited to join the conversation. Participants were asked to provide their input on what could be done to improve the availability, quality and efficiency of transportation services in their community and what changes are needed to help all of those in the region, including retired and returning veterans, get where they need to go.

During the online event, 42 local citizens contributed 11 unique ideas and provided seven comments and 22 votes. Through the event, St. Lucie County, with the support of FTA, its partners and the ePolicyWorks team, successfully leveraged leading-edge crowdsourcing tools to engage local citizens in a virtual environment.

A report titled, St. Lucie County Transportation Dialogue: Participation Metrics, was developed to summarize the dialogue’s overall participation. The ideas and comments received during this online dialogue were greatly appreciated and will help St. Lucie County develop a plan to improve transportation services for those living in the Treasure Coast community.


Join the Conversation for Change: Employer Dialogue—What Can We Do?

From September 9 to 11, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), hosted its second online national dialogue, “Employers: What Can We Do? Join the Conversation for Change.” A wide range of employers, human resources and diversity professionals, and other interested stakeholders participated in the event, providing their ideas, comments and votes on responses to the question, “What services do you need to facilitate the hiring, retention and advancement of people with disabilities?”

During the three-day event, more than 1,076 participants contributed 60 unique ideas and provided more than 311 comments and close to 2,200 votes. The thoughtful contributions and responses will add tremendous value in helping develop programs, services and policies that serve to advance employment outcomes for people with disabilities.


Federal Partners in Transition National Online Dialogue

ODEP’s first national online dialogue took place from May 13 to 26, 2013. Hosted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy together with the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Social Security Administration, this national online dialogue examined the impact of existing federal regulations on the transition from school to work for youth with disabilities. The event was designed to address the reality that, compared to their peers without disabilities, youth with disabilities are twice as likely to drop out of school and half as likely to enroll in and complete post-secondary education.

During the two-week online event, more than 3,000 participants contributed 355 unique ideas and provided more than 1,600 comments and close to 10,000 votes. The thoughtful responses will add tremendous value and help the host agencies strategically work together to develop a plan to improve transition results for youth.

At the conclusion of the online event a report entitled Federal Partners in Transition National Online Dialogue: Participation Metrics was developed to summarize the dialogue’s results. The results of the dialogue shaped The 2020 Federal Youth Transition Plan: A Federal Interagency Strategy prepared by the Federal Partners in Transition Workgroup and released in February 2015.