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Mentoring as an Inclusion Strategy

USDA's Malcom Shorter (sitting in the middle) with Alison Levy and Marsha Wiggins (standing behind) at the disability inclusion MOU signing ceremony with Derek Shields from NDMC (L) and Andy Imparato (AUCD) on the right.

USDA recognizes the importance of "connecting" with youth, applicants, and current employees with disabilities and believes these connections will be strengthened by recognizing the importance of mentoring to build talent pipelines and to promote career advancement. In order to design and implement enhanced mentoring efforts, USDA's Disability Program and Mentoring Program are working closely to create more mentoring opportunities that may lead to USDA employment for youth and adults with disabilities. USDA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the NDMC to receive guidance and information on unique mentoring models and programs to aid USDA in this effort. (The signed MOU is available for download at the bottom of this page.)

Mentoring MOU Achievements List

  • September 26, 2016:  #InclusionWorks: National Disability Employment Awareness Month Celebration and Flash Mentoring Event
  • October 26, 2016: Disabililty Mentoring Day hosted at the USDA Office of Operations TARGET Center for 12 high school and college students with disabilities
  • December 21, 2016: Memorandum of Understanding signing ceremony between USDA and NDMC
  • April 19, 2017: Joint USDA-NDMC Training Session for Members of the Federal Exchange on Employment and Disability (FEED)
  • September 28, 2017: USDA-NDMC Disability Mentoring Toolkit Launched
  • September 28, 2017: USDA-NDMC Training Webinar on Mentoring as a Disability Inclusion Strategy

Section 501 and Mentoring 

On January 3, 2017, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a final rule to amend the regulations implementing Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 501).  The final rule says that agencies of the federal government must adopt employment goals for individuals with disabilities, with sub-goals for individuals with targeted disabilities, provide personal assistance services to certain employees who need them because of a disability, and meet a number of other requirements designed to improve the recruitment, hiring, retention, and advancement of individuals with disabilities in the federal workforce.  EEOC also relesed Questions and Answers: The EEOC's Final Rule on Affirmative Action for People with Disabilities in Federal Employment to assist organizations in understanding the final rule and changes to Section 501.  Mentoring and mentoring programs were highlighted as a disability inclusion strategy in the final rule to improve retention and advancement of federal employees with disabilities, as noted in the text below (italics added for emphasis but not included in the EEOC Q&A tool).

How does the final rule improve retention and advancement of federal employees with disabilities?

The final rule requires agencies to have sufficient opportunities for employees with disabilities to advance within the agency. Such activities might include specialized training and mentoring programs and strong enforcement against disability-based harassment. The rule also includes requirements for agencies to strengthen their programs for reasonable accommodations and ensure accessibility.