Gay, blind Obama appointee kicks off 'Disability Listening Tour' in Dallas

Posted on 20 Jan 2010 at 2:51pm
Kathleen Martinez
Kathleen Martinez

Kathleen Martinez, a gay, blind, Hispanic woman who serves as assistant U.S. secretary of labor, will be in Dallas on Thursday to kick off a six-city “Disability Listening Tour.” Martinez was appointed by President Barack Obama last year to head the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.

The listening tour is designed to gather input on increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities in the face of the economic downturn. The event, which is free and open to the public, will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Westin City Center, 650 N. Pearl St. in Dallas. I’ve posted the full press release after the jump.

A New Day: We’re Listening

U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) and Federal Partners Launch Historic Six-City Listening Tour in Dallas

January 15, 2010 – During this economic downturn with record-breaking unemployment rates, ODEP and its Federal partners are launching a six-city Listening Tour in Dallas on January 21, 2010, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at The Westin City Center (650 N. Pearl Street, Dallas, TX).  Three key constituencies will provide input: employers (public and private sector); individuals and consumers; and advocacy organizations and service providers (such as Employment Services and Partners).

According to U.S. Department of Labor’s Assistant Secretary Kathleen Martinez, “The employment figures for people with disabilities are way too low. Because these figures are not acceptable, I am pleased to announce that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is working in tandem with other Federal agencies to change this picture as we strive for good jobs for everyone, including those of us with disabilities.  As we proceed, we need to learn from local stakeholders, so we are issuing this invitation and want to hear from you.”

To gain rich insights into both systemic barriers and best practices, the Listening Tour is seeking input in three key areas: (1) More effective ways to increase employment of women, Veterans and minorities with disabilities; (2) Identification of Federal and state systems that are effectively collaborating to achieve successful employment outcomes for people with disabilities; and (3) Three top issues on which the Federal government should focus to support an increase in labor force participation of people with disabilities.

Listening Session presentations on January 21 in Dallas are by the public residing in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Region IV (Texas, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming) to Federal officials from the U.S. Department of Labor and other Federal agencies, including the Employment and Training Administration, Veterans Employment and Training Service, Woman’s Bureau and Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs of the U.S. Department of Labor and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services; Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services of the U.S. Department of Education; U.S. Office of Personnel Management; and the U.S. Social Security Administration. “By holding one of its listening tours in Dallas, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office on Disability Employment Policy is offering the Region IV community an opportunity to discuss the many important issues related to the successful employment of people with disabilities, women and veterans,” stated Charlotte A. Stewart, Executive Director, REACH Resource Centers on Independent Living-Dallas, Fort Worth, Denton & Plano, TX.

As the nation gears up to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the historic Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, 2010, ODEP will focus efforts on information gathering in all six DOL regions.  In the spirit of ODEP’s new Assistant Secretary Kathleen Martinez, ODEP is aligning expectations to move its variety of stakeholders “From Assurances to Action.” ODEP 2010 Listening Tour cities include: Philadelphia (January 27), Chicago (February 11), San Francisco (February 16), Atlanta (February 24) and Boston (March 3).

ODEP is a Federal Agency within the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) that provides national leadership to increase employment opportunities for adults and youth with disabilities while striving to eliminate barriers to employment.  Through research and policy development, ODEP supports the creation of expanded work options and meaningful employment, promotes economic opportunities and independence, encourages self-determination, and supports inclusion of people with disabilities in their communities.  ODEP customers include: Federal, state, and local government agencies; Educational and training institutions; Private employers and their employees; Disability advocates; and Providers of services.

The 2010 ODEP Listening Tour is being coordinated by Event Strategies, Inc. (ESI), a Virginia-based full service production company dedicated to event-based communication and special events. For more information about ODEP and its programs, visit its Web site at http://www.dol.gov/odep/.  For more information about the 2010 ODEP Listening Tour, visit http://www.disabilitylisteningtour.com/

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