Debra A. CarrDirector,Division of Policy, Planning, and Program Development
Office of Federal Contract Compliance ProgramsRoom C-3325200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.Washington, D.C. 20210February 20, 2012

Dear Director Carr:The Autistic Self Advocacy Network appreciates this opportunity to comment on the proposedrulemaking implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; these regulations will strengthenemployment protections and require affirmative action for individuals with disabilities seekingemployment with federal contractors. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is the nation’s leadingadvocacy organization run by and for autistic adults. We would like to note that we also support thecomments provided by the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and the NationalDisability Leadership Alliance.First, it is our pleasure to support strongly the Office of Federal Contract

CompliancePrograms’ Noticeof Proposed Rulemaking with regards to Section 503. In particular, we commend OFCCP’s identificationof a utilization goal for the hiring of people with disabilities by federal contractors and its requirement fordata collection to ensure effective monitoring of progress. These provisions would bring federalcontractors’ disability-based affirmative action obligations in line with historically successfulrequirements to conduct affirmative action programs for race and gender.Second, we a pplaud OFCCP’s consideration of a sub-goal for individuals within targeted disabilitycategories. OFCCP’s broader utilization goal adopts the definition of disability set forward by the ADAAmendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008. It is worth noting that the ADAAA’s definition of disability isdesigned to be very broad. Such a broad definition is necessary and appropriate in the context of an anti-discrimination law. However, given Section 503’s more narrow purpose of rectifying past discriminationagainst people with disabilities with the greatest history of exclusion from the workforce, we believe thata sub-goal of five to six percent for individuals from targeted disability categories is appropriate. Aprogram of affirmative action must be more narrowly tailored to meet the needs of those whosedisabilities are most likely to lead to exclusion from the workforce.

We note that the ADAAA definition of disability covers well over seven percent of the population. It isquite likely that most employers already possess people with disabilities as seven percent of theirworkforce (OFCCP’s proposed utilization goal) under the ADAAA definition. Furthermore, manyemployers who do undertake efforts to ensure they meet the broader utilization goal may attempt to do so

by “creaming the crop” and only employing individuals with the least stigmatized and easiest toaccommodate disabilities — rather than those with the greatest history of workforce exclusion. Thus, asub-goal is critical to ensure that affirmative action efforts incorporate people with the greatest history of exclusion from the workforce.Furthermore, in light of current employment data, the definition of targeted disabilities should incorporateAutism Spectrum Disorder (including Asperger’s Syndrome and PDD-NOS).

According to the NationalLongitudinal Transition Study (NLTS-2), the proportion of autistic young adults who had a job wasnearly half that of all young adults with disabilities (33 percent vs. 59 percent). The proportion of autisticyoung adults who had a job was comparable to that for young adults with deaf-blindness and multipledisabilities and far below the proportion of those with blindness, learning disabilities, or traumatic braininjuries (Standifer, 2011). NLTS-2 data also shows that the proportion of autistic young adults workingfull time (as defined as 35 hours or more per week) was one-third that of all young adults with disabilitieswho were employed (26 percent vs. 71 percent). Given the fact that autistic adults face greater exclusionfrom the workforce than most groups of people with disabilities, including several already incorporatedwithin the targeted disability definition, we believe that the inclusion of Autism Spectrum Disorder withinthe targeted disability category is appropriate.OFCCP’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking notes the possibility of a 2 percent sub-goal for individualswith targeted disabilities. We believe that such a sub-goal is set too low.

According to the SubstanceAbuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s National Survey on Drug Use andHealth, 4.5 percent of the population has a serious mental illness (NIMH, 2012). According to researchfunded by the National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), 2.7 percent of thepopulation has a severe cognitive impairment (Kraus, Stoddard, & Gilmartin, 1996). These twocategories — severe intellectual disability and serious mental illness — are already covered within thedefinition of targeted disability category and already exceed the utilization goal considered by OFCCP.We urge the consideration of a utilization sub-goal for individuals with targeted disabilities in the 5-6percent range, and for OFCCP to consider revising upwards its utilization goal for the broader populationof people with disabilities accordingly.Finally, we urge OFCCP to modify the Section 503 regulation to explicitly prohibit contractors frommeeting their affirmative action obligations through sub-contracts to sheltered workshops.

Currently, theregulation states that,“Contracts with sheltered workshops may be included within an affirmative actionprogram if the sheltered workshop trains employees for the contractor and the contractor is obligated tohire trainees at full compensation when such trainees become ‘qualified individuals with disabilities.’”Research suggests that this represents a significant loophole that will be exploited — if not closed.Although this provision is not novel to the NPRM and exists within the underlying Section 503regulation, the addition of a utilization goal and other provisions aimed at meaningfully enforcing Section

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