Washington, August 7 – Yesterday during the Fox News “Happy Hour” Debate, several presidential candidates promised to revoke all executive orders signed by President Obama. Multiple candidates including former Virginia Gov. Gilmore, former New York Gov. George Pataki, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and former Sen. Rick Santorum expressed concern that presidential orders were costing Americans jobs.
“We’re going to suspend and repeal every executive order, every regulation that cost American jobs,” Santorum said.
During the main debate, Sen. Ted Cruz joined those calls and promised, “If I’m elected president…the first thing I intend to do is to rescind every illegal and unconstitutional executive action taken by Barack Obama.”
However, under the current Administration, an executive order has been a key tool to opening more jobs for people with disabilities. In 2010, the President signed Executive Order 13548, which committed the federal government to become “a model employer” and set a hiring goal of “100,000 individuals with disabilities.” In the past five years, the federal government has been pushing hard to meet that goal.
As reported by the Office of Personnel Management in 2012, 12 percent of federal workers are people with disabilities and accounted for 16.31 percent of all new hires. In a recent interview, Jenny Yang, the chairwoman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said that the law “requires that the federal government be a model employer, and we take that responsibility seriously.”
This executive order has been part of a larger federal push “to increase equal employment opportunities and financial independence for individuals with disabilities” called the “Curb Cuts to the Middle Class Initiative.”
Another federal effort is setting new hiring goals for federal contractors under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. These requirements, created by Congress as a part of passing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act last year, state that companies doing business with federal government now have a 7 percent hiring goal for people with disabilities in all job categories. This represents a huge chance for people with disabilities to pursue the dignity, friendships, income, and purpose that jobs and careers provide.
Executive orders that make government a model employer for people with disabilities can be a job creator. Rather than be revoked, they need to be considered part of a bigger strategy around integration and opportunity. People with disabilities want to be able to work to achieve the American dream, just like anyone else. In the debate, the candidates talked about a hand up, not a handout, and the disability community will be eager to see where they are included in this vision for the American Dream.