AGENCY ADA COORDINATOR
John Schomberg, General Counsel
Bureau of Accessibility and Job Accommodation
401 South Clinton, 6th Floor
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 793-0034 (Voice)
(888) 614-2385 (TTY/Nextalk)
(312) 793-2406 (FAX)
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) program is coordinated through the Bureau of Accessibility and Job Accommodation (BAJA). The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) has designated BAJA as the ADA Coordinator to monitor compliance with Titles I and II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended (ADA), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended (Section 504). The ADA Coordinator is responsible for investigating ADA/Section 504 grievances, and provides information, training and technical assistance to entities on accessibility related Standards, Codes, Acts and provisions. The Chief of the Bureau of Accessibility and Job Accommodation (BAJA) serves as the IDHS ADA/Section 504 Coordinator.
BAJA collaborates with other IDHS units to:
- Establish policies and procedures that implement provisions of the ADA.
- Manage the Reasonable Accommodation process for employees as specified under Title I of the ADA.
- Investigate ADA/Section 504 grievances/complaints.
- Follow-up on complaints and inquiries from outside entities, including the Illinois Attorney General's Office.
- Evaluate, coordinate, and assist with program accessibility and modification for customers in the Department's service areas.
- Conduct surveys and evaluations of physical/environmental accessibility at sites and facilities owned/leased by IDHS, as well as public sites frequently used by IDHS for services, activities, programs, or meetings.
- Promote public awareness of and provide education about the ADA.
Title II of the ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act require a procedure for prompt and equitable resolution of grievances alleged by qualified individuals with disabilities. In compliance, IDHS adopted ADA/Section 504 Administrative Rules (4 Illinois Administrative Code Section 300) to provide for the review of grievances alleged by qualified individuals with disabilities concerning IDHS programs, services, or activities. The ADA Coordinator, directly or via designee, is designated to investigate grievances or complaints from IDHS customers and employees related to provisions of the ADA/Section 504, and to issue a decision.
ADA / Accessibility training is an ongoing process. Updates to training will be made periodically to assure coverage of ADA on issues of environmental and program accessibility, meeting site planning, and resources for addressing program access and accommodation needs.
The Bureau of Accessibility and Job Accommodation (BAJA) developed and delivers a "Communication Access" orientation and training curriculum. This training curriculum provides IDHS personnel with information on effective communication strategies for working with persons who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or blind. Reference materials on "Communication Access" are also posted on the IDHS Intranet and Internet.
PowerPoint training on "Evaluating Physical Accessibility" and an at-a-glance site accessibility guide sheet have been developed and shared with appropriate IDHS and Illinois Department of Central Management Services staff and is available to interested parties upon request.
BAJA staff periodically reviews and revises the "Meeting the Challenge of Inclusion" curriculum, a training guide for supervisors and managers. BAJA has taken a more proactive approach with the "Meeting the Challenge of Inclusion" training because there were a number of new Administrators and Managers at all levels within the Division of Family and Community Services (DFCS). DFCS Management supported BAJA's proposal to conduct training at standing Regional Meetings with Regional and Local Office Administrators, with FCS Managers in attendance. Training is available via telephone, videoconference, and face-to-face sessions when feasible. BAJA has conducted training for staff located in Regions I Central, I South, II, III, IV and V. BAJA continues to look at new ways to deliver the "Meeting the Challenge of Inclusion" curriculum in the most timely and effective manner possible. Use of WebEx provides an accessible platform for BAJA to achieve the training goals for the targeted audience. Future training sessions for the identified participants at all management/supervisory levels will be predicated on implementation of this updated training module. This training is also available to interested parties upon request.
BAJA staff host periodic meetings and trainings for the Divisional Reasonable Accommodation Liaisons on an individual or as-needed basis. The meetings provide a forum for education and discussion of emerging issues related to disability, the ADA and reasonable accommodation. As new Reasonable Accommodation Liaisons are identified, BAJA staff provide one-on-one training to familiarize them with their responsibilities related to Title I of the ADA. In addition, BAJA accommodates special training requests from Divisional/Regional Directors, Local Office Administrators and other Management staff. At the requests of the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) Management personnel and Office of Mental Health (OMH) staff, BAJA provided Reasonable Accommodation training to specific Facility and Division Directors during Fiscal Year 2021. A specific focus of the DDD training was review of the Alternative Employment Program (AEP).
BAJA promotes and facilitates a monthly ADA Teleconference series in conjunction with the Illinois ADA Project to provide updated information on various ADA and disability-related topics presented by prominent guest speakers. In addition, BAJA staff participates in the Legal Update Webinars hosted by the Illinois ADA project and facilitated by Equip for Equality Legal staff and Senior Attorneys, and other external training sources. These webinars highlight prominent ADA cases that have been decided by the high court at the Federal and State levels. IDHS hosted an ADA Celebration to increase awareness of and educate the public about the ADA. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the July 30, 2020 event was held virtually via the WebEx platform to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This was a half-day event that featured special guests and presentations from civic leaders within State and Local Government and not for profit organizations that provide services to individuals with disabilities. BAJA also commemorates the National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) in October, organized by the American Association of People with Disabilities, and regularly participates in the IDHS "Deaf Awareness Day" in September. BAJA routinely plans and organizes an annual Job Shadow event for students with disabilities from the Chicago Public School's Diverse Learners Program. The annual event for high school students was not held in FY 2021 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
BAJA developed, updates and distributes an "ADA Resource Guide" which explains the various ADA titles, enforcement entities and provides resource information. In addition, BAJA posted its brochure entitled "Handicapping Language" that gives staff appropriate terms and etiquette when referring to persons with disabilities. IDHS developed and issued a brochure entitled "Tips on Planning Accessible Meetings", which is available upon request. This document communicates guidelines for inclusion of persons with disabilities in planning for accessible meetings. BAJA has also made available "A Guide to Meeting and Lodging Accommodations for Persons with Disabilities" which summarizes survey information on over 100 meeting sites throughout Illinois that are useable by persons with disabilities.
NON-DISCRIMINATION IN DELIVERY OF SERVICES
IDHS has updated Administrative Directive 01.08.01.030, entitled "Nondiscrimination in Service Delivery for Persons With Disabilities" to reflect changes in "terms and definitions" in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act, which took effect on January 1, 2009. The Administrative Directive provides that it is the policy of the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) to comply with all appropriate provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), and Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and applicable laws and statutes. Title II of the ADA states in part that: "…no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity." 42 U.S.C. § 12132. Accordingly, IDHS shall make reasonable modifications in policies, practices or procedures when necessary to avoid discrimination on the basis of Disability, unless it can be demonstrated that making the modifications would fundamentally alter the nature of the service, program or activity. IDHS shall communicate this policy to visitors, recipients of services, potential recipients of services, applicants and/or employees. IDHS shall administer services, programs, or activities in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities. Additional Administrative Directives (ADs) which provide access within IDHS as required by the provisions of ADA Title II and III include: "Service Animals" (AD 01.08.01.080 - updated November 2014); as well as "Qualified Interpreter, Auxiliary Aids and Services and CART Services," (AD 01.08.01.040) and "Alternative Formats," (AD 01.08.01.070) both of which have been updated for Executive review.
According to Administrative Directive, IDHS in collaboration with the Department of Central Management Services (CMS) makes every effort to ensure each facility or part of a facility constructed by, on behalf of, or for the use of IDHS (a public entity) should be designed and constructed in a manner that ensures the site or facility is readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. In determining the site or location of a facility, and when entering into new leases or renewing leases, IDHS shall not make selections that have the effect of excluding individuals with disabilities from or denying them the benefits of programs, activities and services, or otherwise subjecting them to discrimination.
The IDHS has an ongoing program dedicated to reducing physical/environmental barriers in the workplace for employees, applicants, customers, and clients. Accessibility staff within BAJA work collaboratively with designated personnel within CMS and the IDHS Office of Business Services (OBS) who have the responsibility of overseeing agency facilities and offices statewide, and Program divisions to ensure accessibility provisions are incorporated during the site planning and build-out process. BAJA evaluates IDHS facilities and sites for compliance with accessibility requirements established by the Department of Justice (DOJ) ADA Standards for Accessible Design, the Environmental Barriers Act (EBA), and Illinois Accessibility Code, as well as referenced standards and Codes. Leasing of all facilities is negotiated through the Real Estate Section of the Department of Central Management Services (CMS). BAJA personnel have accompanied CMS leasing agents in reviewing IDHS sites for accessibility of features for individuals with disabilities. Standard CMS lease documents used include a section on facility requirements to comply with all applicable accessibility standards. When a lease is renewed, a new facility is leased, or any renovation is to be done within an IDHS facility, the appropriate section of the lease is prepared and should be adhered to for compliance with accessibility standards. BAJA Accessibility personnel collaborate with municipal and county representatives to assure accessible public rights of way, access to public transportation routes and increased designated on-street parking for individuals with disabilities. BAJA has provided technical assistance, reviewed and provided specific and extensive feedback on the accessibility checklist proposed for use by CMS Facilities personnel during site identification, maintenance of accessible features, and leasing. BAJA developed an "Initial Accessibility Review - Priority Usability Checklist" to be used by OBS and CMS for initial site visits in planning relocations and moves of IDHS offices. The goal is to review proposed sites for baseline accessibility standards to determine potential impact on customer and employee access.
BAJA regularly provides consultation and technical assistance, and collaborates with internal as well as external municipalities, entities, organizations and Agencies to promote physical access for the public in various settings.
In capital improvement projects undertaken at IDHS owned facilities, accessibility features are included that promote/facilitate the usability of the space being modified, altered, or remodeled. Any new construction or alteration is expected to be accessible to persons with disabilities.
BAJA maintains a list of sites which have been evaluated, and continues to work with Management Information Systems to establish a computerized database on accessibility surveys performed that will facilitate standard formatted reports, including recommended improvements for consideration by IDHS Office of Business Services. In any sites where access remains an issue, applicants, customers, and clients will continue to be accommodated by measures necessary to achieve program accessibility.
BAJA is responsible for follow up on physical access concerns identified via regulatory agency queries and coordinates corrective plans and actions needed to ensure compliance with Standards and Codes.
IDHS has an Administrative Directive related to communication access: "Sign Language Interpreter and CART Services" (AD 01.08.01.040), which states that persons who are deaf, hard-of-hearing or deaf/blind who seek or receive services from IDHS will have the same access to communication as any other persons seeking or receiving IDHS services provided through the use of appropriate auxiliary aids and services. BAJA coordinates sign language interpreter requests made by or on behalf of customers within IDHS Facilities and Offices. Based on identified need and/or customer requests, employees within the IDHS office site may contact BAJA for assistance with identifying and scheduling a qualified sign language or tri-lingual interpreter for persons who are Deaf, hard-of-hearing and/or deaf/blind. BAJA has provided staff with the e-mail address DHS.AuxiliaryAids@illinois.gov to forward requests for auxiliary aids and services.
IDHS will make its printed and audiovisual materials available to individuals with disabilities in a format that will enable them to have equivalent access to the information. These individuals include, but are not limited to, employees, applicants, program participants, personnel of other State agencies and members of the public who have disabilities. BAJA also issued an Administrative Directive entitled "Alternative Formats" (AD 01.08.01.070) to assure a process by which printed materials may be requested in Braille, large print, audio recordings and via electronic formats based on customer or employee requests. BAJA has produced Braille versions of documents for various IDHS Divisions based on customer or employee requests to assure equal access to printed materials. Additionally, various internal resources for production of Braille materials have been identified to increase the Department's capability to deliver formats based on customer needs. This information is posted for reference on the IDHS Intranet and Internet.
The IDHS Help Line, a toll-free number that provides critical case intervention when client benefits or services are interrupted, is available in English and Spanish voice as well as Nextalk/TTY. This availability assures equal access to the agency by persons who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or have speech-related disabilities. Nextalk, a system that facilitates communication access, has been installed for use by the IDHS Help Line and in Division of Family and Community Services Local Offices across the state. In addition, the Bureau of Administrative Hearings and Appeals has added Nextalk to its toll-free telephone access. Each office of the IDHS Secretary is equipped with Nextalk/TTY technology. All offices within the Division of Rehabilitation Services (including Administrative and Direct services offices) have Nextalk access. Facilities within the Divisions of Mental Health and of Developmental Disabilities are equipped with Nextalk/TTY technology. BAJA worked to ensure implementation of a toll-free Nextalk/TTY technology phone line to address public inquiries about the Department's LINK for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Nextalk/TTY training is available to all areas of IDHS based upon request. "Communication Access" training was delivered to local IDHS office staff in each of the 5 regions. Instructions on using Nextalk/TTY were posted to the IDHS Intranet for staff reference.
The Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) has Videophones (VP) available in local offices where Rehabilitation Counselors for the Deaf are located. The VPs are used to communicate directly with individual customers who use sign language. In addition, through the use of Video Relay Services (VRS), DRS employees who are deaf are able to call individuals who are hearing. VRS is a no-cost service. Working in tandem with CMS, BAJA has also introduced Caption Call services to assist employees who are hard-of-hearing to access telephone communication.
When purchasing equipment and technology for IDHS, every effort will be made to ensure that the equipment purchased is accessible to individuals with disabilities and complies with the Illinois Information Technology Accessibility Act (IITAA) to the greatest extent possible. The IITAA requires the State to review and update its accessibility standards to reflect advances and changes in information technology. As of July 18, 2017, the IITAA Standards Workgroup published updated standards that harmonize Illinois' requirements with the revised Federal Section 508 Standards and the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. In accordance with the Act, the updated IITAA Standards will apply to information technology developed, procured, or substantially modified after January 18, 2018.
IDHS has issued and collaborates on review of a comprehensive emergency plan which encompasses:
- General disasters (e.g. tornado, fire, explosion).
- Individual emergencies (e.g. injury, illness, drug reaction).
- Civil disorders (e.g. bomb threat, public demonstration).
- Fire Safety Education for in-house personnel.
- Inclusion of persons with disabilities within Emergency Preparedness Plans.
Identification of a disability is on a voluntary basis via the online Disability Survey. The disability survey can be completed, or the information updated from any home or office computer with Internet access 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. The information collected includes employee needs prior to, and during, emergency fire evacuations.
This emergency plan serves as a model and incorporates a "buddy system" for assuring evacuation of all employees with disabilities who have expressed the need for assistance during such emergencies. The plan received input from safety organizations as well as persons with disabilities and instructs staff on appropriate procedures for office evacuation of clients, consumers, or customers with disabilities. A training curriculum was developed for Safety Coordinators which instructs those responsible for evacuation within the department about the importance of including persons with disabilities in emergency plans. Based on an employee survey, IDHS purchased evacuation chairs for several multi-story office locations to provide evacuation alternatives for those who require assistance. An IDHS designee obtains information from the on-line Disability Survey about the evacuation needs of employees with disabilities, which is then shared with Safety Coordinators at the various IDHS Office locations.
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION FOR EMPLOYING PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
It is the policy of IDHS to ensure against discrimination of a qualified individual with a disability because of his/her disability in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, the advancement or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment.
It is the policy of IDHS to ensure that reasonable accommodation is provided to an otherwise qualified person with a disability to enable that employee or applicant to perform essential job functions. This mandated policy is carried out through the work of the Bureau of Accessibility and Job Accommodation (BAJA).
BJA's responsibilities include:
- Determining the job-related duties impacted by the applicant/employee's disability,
- Investigating how these essential job functions can be performed with reasonable accommodation(s),
- Identifying and assessing the effectiveness of potential accommodations that allow the applicant/employee to perform the essential functions of the position.
Employees and supervisors work collaboratively to evaluate and monitor ongoing success of the provided accommodation in support of the individual with the disability.
IDHS has updated Administrative Directive AD 01.08.01.010, entitled "Reasonable Accommodation," () to reflect changes in "terms and definitions" in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act that took effect on January 1, 2009. This Administrative Directive informs IDHS staff and applicants about the process to initiate a reasonable accommodation request. The Administrative Directive states in part: "the Department of Human Services shall inform employees and prospective employees about DHS directives and rights to reasonable accommodation. DHS will make reasonable accommodation to an individual with a disability who is qualified and who makes a request, unless, provision of such accommodations would create an undue hardship on DHS" or is "a direct threat to the safety, security, or health of any persons, or which would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business of DHS business."
Effective January 1, 2015, Public Act 98-1050 amended the Illinois Human Rights Act (775 ILCS 5/1 et seq.) to create additional protections for pregnant employees. In accordance, IDHS issued Administrative Directive 01.08.01.090, entitled "Accommodation for Pregnancy, Childbirth, or Medical or Common Conditions Related to Pregnancy or Childbirth." This Administrative Directive informs IDHS staff and applicants about the process to initiate a reasonable accommodation due to pregnancy. This Directive states in part: "The Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) will not discriminate against job applicants or employees based on pregnancy, childbirth, or medical or common conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth." IDHS will make reasonable accommodation to an individual on the basis of pregnancy, having recently given birth, or having a medical or common condition related to their pregnancy or childbirth.
Effective July 2020, BAJA was designated responsibility to respond to COVID-related requests from employees for Modified Work or Alternative Work (MAW). Based upon medical documentation received and in accordance with CMS Policy and Guidelines, BAJA staff reviews information and issues decisions to managers and employees via Division FMLA Coordinators.
BAJA is also responsible for reviewing requests for Religious Workplace Accommodations according to Administrative Directive 01.02.01.040, entitled "Hiring and Interview Process." The Request for Religious Workplace Accommodation Form (IL444-0955) allows applicants or employees to identify religious accommodation requests that undergo an Administrative Review Process.
The Bureau of Accessibility and Job Accommodation has primary responsibility, with the involvement of the individual supervisors and Reasonable Accommodation Liaisons in various Divisions, to ensure timely and thorough review and implementation of approved requests for reasonable accommodation. It is the responsibility of BAJA to ensure that each request is appropriately documented, and all information is treated as a confidential medical record, maintained in a secure manner apart from personnel files with restricted access. IDHS will inform employees and applicants about its directives and right to reasonable accommodation as listed in the Employee Handbook under Section VI - Mandated Policies. IDHS will provide any and all such reasonable accommodation in the most cost-effective manner available. The determination of what accommodation, if any, is appropriate shall be made on a case-by-case basis. Reasonable accommodation may include:
- Making facilities used by employees and applicants readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.
- Job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules.
- Acquisition or modification of equipment or devices, the provision of readers or interpreters, and other similar actions. and
- Auxiliary aids of a non-personal nature.
Additional pregnancy related reasonable accommodations may include:
- More frequent or longer bathroom breaks.
- Light duty.
- Temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position. and
- Leave necessitated by pregnancy, childbirth, or medical or common conditions resulting from pregnancy or childbirth.
The applicant or employee is responsible for initiating a request for reasonable accommodation through their interviewing officer or supervisor to be reviewed by the Division Reasonable Accommodation Liaisons who make an initial recommendation to BAJA. If an applicant or employee requests an accommodation and the need for the accommodation is not obvious, BAJA may request additional documentation of the individual's functional limitations to support the request. Upon receipt of the request and recommendation, BAJA makes the final determination and notifies the employee, their supervisor, and Reasonable Accommodation Liaison of the decision in writing. BAJA has provided staff with an email address to forward requests for Reasonable Accommodation: DHS.JobAccommodation@illinois.gov.
Information indicating the Agency's commitment to equitable hiring and employment practices is provided on the IDHS website.
In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Illinois Human Rights Act, State agencies must ensure that the employment process is accessible to persons with disabilities. Specifically, these laws require that the State provide reasonable accommodations upon request by individuals participating in all steps of the employment process. This includes the initial testing phases of the candidate selection process for state positions as well as the subsequent employment interview process. Any and all accommodation requests by applicants throughout the State employment process should be appropriately reviewed and considered by the ADA Coordinator and human resources staff in state hiring agencies.
In addition, BAJA was asked to modify the existing request form to include a heading that clearly stated that the form was for both Applicants and Employees. Based on feedback given, BAJA developed two separate forms: one for an Applicant and one for an Employee. Final copies of revised forms can be accessed on IDHS Intranet and via the Internet for job applicants.
BAJA created an on-line "Reasonable Accommodation Guidebook Provision of Auxiliary Services" available to employees to assist in defining the functions performed by auxiliary providers. It provides a ready resource to assist employees in the management of auxiliary services as an accommodation.
For appeals of the denial of a reasonable accommodation request, IDHS' "Reasonable Accommodation" Administrative Directive (No. 01.08.01.010) designates the IDHS Secretary and the Secretary's designee to investigate and make final determinations on reasonable accommodation appeals. The IDHS Secretary's decision is the last step in the administrative remedies process, and all Administrative remedies through the Reasonable Accommodation process within IDHS are exhausted.
Bureau of Accessibility and Job Accommodation
401 South Clinton, 6th Floor
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 793-0034 (Voice)
(888) 614-2387 (Nextalk/TTY)
(312) 793-2406 (FAX)
Note: Email is the preferred method of contact.
IDHS does not conduct any pre-employment screening that would eliminate or tend to eliminate persons with disabilities. Employment applications are prepared and utilized by Central Management Services, and all pre-employment testing is handled by Central Management Services. The only exception is with the job title of Mental Health Technician. IDHS conducts testing for this job category. BAJA assists applicants who are persons with disabilities and require accommodations with the pre-employment test. Efforts have been undertaken to ensure that the testing is done in a manner consistent with provisions that guarantee equal opportunities for persons with disabilities.
EMPLOYMENT CRITERIA AND JOB DESCRIPTIONS REVIEW
Internally, all job postings specify the essential duties of the position and are reviewed prior to posting. Personnel in the Office of Human Resources, Bureau of Recruitment and Selection review position descriptions, interview questions and criteria for specific positions regularly. Disability and worker's compensation questions are not included in pre-employment interviews. Any pre-employment physical examination shall be in compliance with IDHS policy under the ADA, as amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Sections, 501 and 504, as amended, and the Illinois Human Rights Act.
Recruitment of employees with disabilities is a continuous effort by IDHS. Recruitment sources include the Department of Central Management Services, Divisions of Rehabilitation Services, Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and various advocacy groups such as: Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind/Visually Impaired, Chicago Hearing Society, Centers for Independent Living, Chicago Association for Retarded Citizens, Lincoln Land Epilepsy Foundation, and United Cerebral Palsy. Recruitment and Selection staff have actively participated in job fairs related to recruitment efforts of qualified persons with disabilities for IDHS positions through the Disability Hiring Initiative under the Bureau of Recruitment and Selection.
BAJA staff serve on an internal Recruitment, Hiring and Retention Committee, which meets quarterly to discuss affirmative action goals, hiring issues and recruitment opportunities of persons with disabilities in tandem with the Office of Human Resources (OHR), Bureau of Recruitment and Selection (BRS) and Bureau of Civil Affairs (BCA).
Persons with disabilities who have an interest in state employment can apply through the Department of Central Management Services (CMS). CMS also affords persons with disabilities access to state employment through the open competitive hiring process also referred to as the Successful Disability Opportunities Program (SD). IDHS's Bureau of Accessibility and Job Accommodation serves as a resource to CMS personnel who work with the SD and the Alternative Employment Program (AEP). AEP is available to an employee who can no longer perform the essential functions of their job description due to severe disability, yet has skill sets that could qualify them for other positions in State government.
IDHS has instituted the "Disability Hiring Initiative" with a Disability Recruitment Program Manager to address the underutilization of people with disabilities in state employment. The Division of Rehabilitation Services' vocational counselors are working closely with this initiative to help customers with disabilities that are pursuing a career in state government. Applicants with a disability, having a Certificate of Eligibility submitted by a Division of Rehabilitation Services counselor, can receive a "Successful Disability Grade" which is awarded only to applicants with a disability who select the SD program. In addition to the open competitive list for hiring, the SD grade will allow these customers to appear on a separate hiring list consisting only of candidates with disabilities.
As a matter of policy, IDHS uses the following practice when vacancies are being filled by open competitive means:
For all vacancies, the Successful Disability Opportunities Program (SD) list will be called first. If there are multiple vacancies and enough candidates on the SD list to cover said vacancies, then that list will be used to fill the vacancy. However, in order to ensure a sufficient candidate pool, if there are 3 or less candidates for only one vacancy on the SD list, the regular Open Competitive list will also be requested.
In all hiring situations, IDHS will invite candidates to interview who can address underutilization in the workforce.
IDHS is also working to implement "Employment First" legislation which recognizes that employment in the general workforce is the first and preferred outcome when exploring goals and a life path for people with disabilities, and in the provision of publicly funded services for all working age citizens with disabilities, regardless of the level of disability. BAJA reviews and comments on proposed legislation impacting the employment and access to services by persons with disabilities. In 2018, BAJA reviewed and commented on legislation that was enacted as Public Act 100-866, amending the Employment and Economic Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities Task Force Act. Public Act 100-866 provides for additional members to this task force and additional responsibilities regarding the post-secondary transition of youth with disabilities to employment, post-secondary education and training, community living, and other adult activities.
BAJA continues to foster a relationship with the PACE Program at National Louis University to include placement of additional students with disabilities. BAJA has been successful in securing placement of a student with a disability throughout the school year for a 10-month work experience at IDHS through the PACE Program at National Louis University. BAJA staff host mentees with disabilities as part of the Department's Disability Mentoring Day activities.