The U.S. Labor Department and a nonprofit consortium of colleges that promotes equity in hiring announced on Monday that they would work together to improve employment opportunities in higher education for people with learning and physical disabilities.
The alliance, between the department's Office of Disability Employment Policy and the Higher Education Recruitment Consortium, is designed to increase the recruitment and hiring of disabled employees and to improve their retention and opportunities for career advancement at workplaces among the consortium's more than 600 members, according to a news release from the Labor Department. Those workplaces include colleges, hospitals, research laboratories, government agencies, and other organizations.
To do so, the groups will combine their expertise and resources, said Elena M. Brown, a spokeswoman in the communications and outreach division of the Office of Disability Employment Policy.
The alliance will spread the federal office's resources on hiring, advancing, and retaining employees with disabilities through the consortium's outreach tools, which include its Web site, blogs, member and job-seeker Webinars, and regional meetings, Ms. Brown wrote in an e-mail.
The two groups will also work to spread the word about the Workforce Recruitment Program, a federal database that operates as a pipeline for college students and recent graduates with disabilities into government and private-sector jobs, she said.
The new joint effort follows a summit on higher education held last year by the Office of Disability Employment Policy, in conjunction with the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, in which panelists and participants explored why people with disabilities are underrepresented among colleges' faculties and staffs.
People with disabilities are underrepresented across all sectors, not just higher education, Ms. Brown said.
"The labor-force participation rate for people with disabilities is 20.7 percent, compared to 68.7 percent for people without disabilities," she said.
Kathy Martinez, the assistant secretary of labor for the disability office, said it is important to correct that imbalance in higher education specifically because "students, both with and without disabilities, benefit from having teachers and mentors who reflect society's wide diversity and talent."