The first workshop I attended was “Working for the Federal Government,” presented by Rebecca Cokley, LPA member and Director of Priority Placement for Public Engagement in the White House Personnel Office. Rebecca Cokley spoke eloquently about her background working in the government and non profit sector. She currently does outreach to constituency communities to find the best candidates for political appointments in all agencies of the federal government. Wherever life has taken her, she continuously emphasizes the importance of diversity and reaching out to all minority groups. One way Cokley continues to recruit and connect with people is by attending conferences, such as the LPA National Conference. Yet she discussed that it is can be difficult to recruit at LPA because it is a broad organization with no specific trade associations.
Cokley ran the workshop in a very casual manner, with most of the time devoted to question and answer sessions. After introducing herself, she explained in greater depth her role in working for President Obama and the President’s emphasis on disability. President Obama hired the Special Assistant for Disability Policy, Kareem Dale. In addition to Dale, Cokley spoke of Judy Huemann who was appointed by Secretary Clinton as the Special Advisor of International Disability Rights.
As an audience member, it was clear that the Obama Administration is working hard to represent and include people with disabilities in all areas of the government. Cokley discussed various efforts that are being made towards greater inclusion. Both employment and accessibility are two topics that are currently emphasized through the centralized accommodations funds, yet Cokley and others are trying to push agencies to better use those funds. The federal government is also focusing more on Information Technology (IT) which improves employment and accessibility for individuals with disabilities. In addition, Cokley spoke about the importance of Schedule A and its requirements. Schedule A is a hiring authority through the federal government for individuals with disabilities. It allows people with disabilities to be placed in a database, giving more individuals the opportunity to be staffed within the government. The federal government internship programs are also improving their accessibility so that all students have the equal opportunity to learn and apply for the programs.
As the efforts for inclusion continue, the White House has little to no tolerance towards any type of discrimination.