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October 20, 2008    DOL Home > ODEP > Publications > Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities


Opening Remarks Prepared for Delivery for
Assistant Secretary for the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)
W. Roy Grizzard, Jr., Ed.D.
Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities:
An Interagency Seminar of Exchange for Federal Managers

U.S. Department of Labor
Tuesday, December 2, 2003

Good morning. I am Roy Grizzard, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), in the U.S. Department of Labor. It is my distinct pleasure to welcome you all here today to the Emergency Preparedness for People with Disabilities Interagency Seminar of Exchange.

This is an important event for us for several reasons, but before I get into that, I would like to share with you a little background about ODEP, its mission, and its activities.


  • ODEP is the only agency in the Federal Government led by an Assistant Secretary that deals solely with disability employment policy.
  • ODEP recommends policy.
  • ODEP does not regulate, investigate, or adjudicate.


  • ODEP’s mission is to provide leadership to increase employment opportunities for youth and adults with disabilities.
  • ODEP’s approach is market-based: demand and supply


  • ODEP’s overarching goal is to eliminate employment barriers for people with disabilities.
  • To achieve its mission, ODEP funds a variety of initiatives, then measures and analyzes the results to inform the policy development process & to share promising practices with employers, providers, and others in the workforce development system.
  • Through its Employer Assistance Recruiting Network (EARN) and its Job Accommodation Network (JAN) initiatives, ODEP provides technical assistance to private sector employers.
  • ODEP’s Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) gives employers access to a pool of talented college and university students with disabilities to fill summer or permanent positions.
  • ODEP serves as a catalyst to bring together federal agencies that address issues and policies that impact on the employment of people with disabilities. This seminar is an example of what we do.


ODEP’s goals rest on several core fundamentals. Key among these is that increased employment opportunities for people with disabilities can be best achieved through a balanced distribution of elements:

  • access to appropriate education and training,
  • affordable and decent housing,
  • reliable transportation,
  • personal and professional supports, and
  • physical safety.

Imagine if you will a balanced scale, with the elements I just mentioned distributed equally on both sides of the scale. To remove even one of the elements will throw the balance off completely, resulting in missed employment opportunities.

This seminar is important because it addresses the element of physical safety for people with disabilities while they are at work. A 2001 Harris Poll, commissioned by the National Organization on Disability (NOD) showed that among people with disabilities who are employed full- or part-time, 50% say no plans have been made to safely evacuate their workplace! With a statistic like this, is it any wonder that people with disabilities are more anxious about their personal safety post-September 11th than the general population, as the survey also indicated?

Did you know that workers with disabilities make up 7.0% or 123,000 of the 1.8 million employees in the federal workforce? Whether these figures strike you as larger or smaller than you may have expected, the point is that the Federal Government’s diverse workforce includes people with disabilities. As such, it is imperative that emergency preparedness processes and strategies address the unique needs of employees with disabilities.

You are here today because your agency or organization recognizes that emergency preparedness for employees and customers with disabilities is important. Throughout this day and into tomorrow, you will hear from some of the premier experts on issues ranging from egress to individualized emergency preparedness plans. While you are hear learn all that you can. Ask questions. Challenge the responses. Share your agency’s experiences.

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ when it comes to emergency preparedness. I am telling you now; you will hear that phrase repeatedly while you are with us. However, by sharing what we know with each other and asking the critical questions, we will be able to create thorough and comprehensive emergency preparedness plans that provide for an appropriate course of action for all employees in an emergency situation.

On behalf of my colleagues at ODEP and the Department of Labor, I wish you all a successful and engaging Seminar.

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