PARTNERSHIP ON EMPLOYMENT & ACCESSIBLE TECHNOLOGY (PEAT)
Michael Reardon is being recognized for his vision to create the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT) to build collaborations across industry, government, and advocacy organizations to make workplace technology accessible. He saw early on the potential of technology as an equalizer for people of all abilities, and how vital digital accessibility would become as workplaces modernized. His work focuses on ensuring that technologies of the future will be born accessible and usable by everyone in ways that help increase productivity. PEAT events have brought and continue to bring together representatives from the IT industry (including Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and others), government, and advocacy circles to dialogue and collaborate, resulting in new, innovative solutions. An example of Mike’s vision was in 2016. Mike directed PEAT to investigate the challenges PWD faced in using online job applications. PEAT published research demonstrating the problem areas and convened the creators of these solutions to find a resolution. In response to this research, in 2016, Oracle credited PEAT with spurring them to make significant accessibility improvements to Taleo, the world’s most leveraged recruiting software.
Mike has also been a champion internally at the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) where he ensured the agency is focused on promoting awareness of the potential of PWD when they are empowered with the right technology solutions. In an economy where unemployment rates are at record lows, companies are facing serious talent shortages. Further, companies are increasingly realizing the significant bottom-line benefits that diversity can bring. However, these companies often remain unaware of this untapped pool of talent. Mike and his team speak about these themes wherever they represent the Department to help raise awareness of the benefits of diversity and promote how to successfully recruit and foster an inclusive workplace. He has also launched collaborations with the State Exchange on Employment and Disability and the Society for Human Resource Management to further these messages of inclusion and diversity.
SERVICE TO THE CITIZEN AWARD WINNER
MICHAEL REARDON & TEAM
SUPERVISORY POLICY ADVISOR,
DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
Mike has worked to create access for people with disabilities (PWD) in well-paying, new collar careers such as technology, finance, and healthcare. He has led significant work in developing PWD pathways into these careers through apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeship has not traditionally been utilized for skilled jobs in the U.S., but Mike believes in the potential of these programs to match and mentor PWD directly into the positions that employers need filled. The pilot program Apprenticeship Inclusion Models that he initiated in partnership with the Employment Training Administration is specifically working to research, develop, test, and evaluate innovative strategies in existing apprenticeship programs that provide inclusive opportunities to PWD. This project is currently working with four apprenticeship programs to enhance practices, innovate supports, and expand pathways for PWD into high-demand, well-paying careers.
Mike has also brought his forwarding thinking ideas to build partnerships across government agencies. An example of this is with the Department of Transportation (DOT). A primary barrier to employment for many people with disabilities is that they lack the ability to drive or live in an area without reliable public transit. A 2017 study by the Ruderman Foundation found that accessible autonomous vehicles could open 2 million employment opportunities for PWD. In response, Mike initiated an interagency collaboration between ODEP and DOT to explore the potential of autonomous vehicles. In 2018, he spearheaded a gathering of Federal partners including DOT, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, HHS, the Access Board, NIDILRR, and Commerce. He is currently also working with the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) to help them develop accessibility standards to ensure that people with disabilities are able to operate autonomous vehicles independently. In 2019 he worked to build connections between SAE and the World Wide Web Consortium, to help SAE find meaningful models for building accessibility standards.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was signed into law in 1990, provides Americans with disabilities better access to public places, transportation, and opportunities for advancement. Thirty years later, the unemployment rate for Americans with disabilities remains double the national average. Mike Reardon is committed to closing this gap for the 53 million Americans impacted. Through fresh, innovative ideas, Mike brings together government, industry and academia through public-private partnerships and collaborative relationships that are impactful for our citizens with disabilities.
Traditionally, people with disabilities (PWD) have been underestimated, by both our society and the government. It is often assumed that PWD have limited abilities and cannot work outside of unskilled, supported employment. As a result, PWD are relegated to living off disability and are frequently denied the dignity of work. Under Mike’s leadership, The Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) is working to change the dialogue. The initiatives he has fostered are helping people with disabilities get access to the skills, tools, and jobs that allow them to support themselves and their families and lead meaningful, independent lives through employment success.
Haban Girma, the first deafblind lawyer to graduate Harvard Law School, has noted that “When you do disability accessibility you're not doing charity. You’re giving powerful work that helps your organization grow. It helps you reach more customers and it drives revenue.” Mike has done incredible work to bring this critical message to the government, and to help employers and others reframe disability access as an opportunity, rather than a charity or handout. Further, Mike continually brings forward thinking and true innovation to all of his work to break down barriers to employment for people with disabilities. His unique perspective has identified and pushed forward fresh, dynamic solutions to the employment gap for PWD, including apprenticeship and emerging technology. As we approach the 30th anniversary of the ADA this year, the collaborations Mike has built are helping to ensure that the next 30 years of the future of work will increasingly bring equal access and opportunity to each of the 1 in 4 Americans with a disability.