Know It 2 Own It: Helping People with Disabilities Access Middle Class Careers

March is National Disability Awareness Month, a month dedicated to promoting awareness of the strengths and achievements of Americans with disabilities. Today, many people with disabilities are living and working in the community and pursuing higher education. Yet, even now folks with significant disabilities often face additional barriers when trying to find jobs.

Robert Williams understands exactly what it takes to pursue and advance in one’s career as an individual with a significant disability. He’s currently Senior Advisor to the Deputy Commissioner for Retirement and Disability Policy at the Social Security Administration. He’s been working for over 20 years to raise awareness about the significantly disabled community in the workplace. He also worked tirelessly to ensure the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Learn more about his incredible journey by watching the video below:

Williams’ story, combined with those of others, is one of the many reasons the Department of Education has joined with leaders from 10 other agencies to develop the Curb Cuts to the Middle Class Initiative.

Announced at a Champions of Change last October, this Initiative brings ingenuity and common sense solutions to ensure that workers with disabilities, like all Americans, have opportunities to obtain and succeed at work. This month, officials from both the Initiative and the White House hosted a Summit on Disability and Employment, bringing together federal agencies, disability groups, philanthropic organizations, and employers. Participants heard from Department of Education Senior Advisor to the Secretary Michael Yudin; RSA Commissioner Janet LaBreck; Labor Secretary Tom Perez; and Senior Advisor to the President, Valerie Jarrett, about federal programs supporting employment of people with disabilities. Attendees also worked together to generate creative solutions and develop partnership projects to increase employment of people with disabilities.

This year, as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ADA, partners will work together to build and strengthen cooperation and collaboration between education, public benefits, health care, and employment. Already the value of these partnerships has been realized in the posting of the Initiative’s Resource Guide for Employers, the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) expanded Ticket-to-Work Call Center, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) revised ABC’s of Schedule A for Applicants with Disabilities, and a partnership between the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and SSA to recruit SSDI beneficiaries into federal careers.

Over the coming year, these agencies will continue to work together in a Year of Action to Expand Equal Employment Opportunities and Economic Mobility for Individuals with Disabilities.

Together, we will:

  • Develop a user-friendly portal to connect job seekers with disabilities to employers
  • Expand and share OPM’s screened list of job seekers with disabilities with federal contractors
  • The EEOC will issue proposed rules updating its regulations for federal employment under Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act
  • The Department of Labor will train federal contracting officers on Section 503 requirements
  • Through the Pathways to Careers: Community Colleges for Youth and Young Adults with Disabilities Demonstration Project, the Department of Labor is helping community colleges to equip students with disabilities with skills and credentials for high-skill careers
  • The Department of Education will ensure that VR counselors have the knowledge and skills to meet the demands of employers and to promote employment of individuals with disabilities

Chai Feldblum is Commissioner of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

Robert Williams is Senior Advisor to the Deputy Commissioner for Retirement and Disability Policy at the Social Security Administration.

Eve Hill is Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. 

All are co-chairs of the Curb Cuts to the Middle Class Initiative.


  1. Hello, I’m a disabled,single Mother,been trying to find a job that can accommodate me,I’m having no luck. See I’m not able to sit or stand in one place,longer than 20 mins without pain. I am able to work no more than 20 hours a week. And despite losing 250lbs,I get in excruciating pain,while washing my dishes for 30 mins. I believe I can stand and sit and walk,for two hours a day. I’m scared I find something and my disabilities get in my way of functioning.

  2. What an amazing and exciting initiative. It is long overdue for those who have disabilities. Thank you for taking this on as a joint effort.

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