Section 503 Best Practices for Federal Contractors

Centralized Accommodation System – Centralized accommodation systems are a best practice in hiring and retaining employees with disabilities. With centralized accommodation systems, contractors can improve and streamline the accommodation process making it more efficient for employees with disabilities. A centralized accommodation system also helps ensure that contractors have sufficient expertise and funds in place to ensure accommodations requests are being appropriately reviewed and accommodations appropriately provided throughout the company. This is an efficient, high-impact approach for contractors to better serve their employees.

Accessible Online Recruiting Tools – In today’s technology-centric business environment, online application systems are commonplace. Contractors and individuals with disabilities lose when barriers to accessibility exist. Contractors are encouraged to utilize all avenues, including those provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), to make their systems accessible to individuals with disabilities.

CEO Leadership through Correspondence and Video – Support from senior leadership is crucial for workforce programs to be effective. Contractors are encouraged to support their disability inclusion programs via various internal and external communications.

Coordinate with State or Local Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies – Vocational rehabilitation agencies are available to individuals with disabilities to help find and retain jobs. These organizations have relationships with individuals and their qualifications and are an invaluable resource for matching an individual’s skills with jobs.

Comprehensive and Welcoming Self-Id Program – Persons who self-identify as an individual with a disability often feel as though they are stigmatized. It is critical that employers create an environment in which applicants and employees are comfortable identifying that they have a disability even when it is not apparent.

Disability Inclusion Programs – Disability inclusion programs help establish a pipeline of skilled applicants with disabilities for companies. They also ensure that employees with disabilities are fully included in all aspects of employment, and let employees and potential employees know that the contractor is a welcoming place for individuals with disabilities.

EARN’s Mental Health Toolkit – Resources for fostering a mental health-friendly workplace.

  • Build Awareness and a Supportive Culture – (e.g., Promising practices include offering employees stress management training to develop relaxation, mindfulness and resiliency skills to manage workplace stressors and enhance mental well-being, involving employees in decision-making and problem-solving processes, to the extent possible, creating a work environment that connects with the outside world through natural light, plants, etc., developing and implementing anti-bullying policies.)
  • Provide Accommodations to Employees – (e.g., Accommodations that have proved effective in helping employees with psychiatric disabilities more effectively perform their jobs include:
    • Flexible Workplaces
    • Scheduling
    • Leave
    • Breaks
    • Other Policies)
  • Offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) – (i.e., Research conducted over the years has affirmed the effectiveness of EAPs for both employers and employees on multiple levels. In addition to increased employee productivity, these benefits include reduced medical costs, turnover, and absences.)
  • Ensure Access to Treatment – (e.g., Ensuring your healthcare plan covers effective prescription medications for mental health conditions at a level that encourages their appropriate regular use.)
Employee Resource Groups – Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) offer employees an opportunity to network, address shared issues and concerns and receive support from similarly situated individuals.

Chief Accessibility Officer – Chief Accessibility Officers (CAOs) are key leaders who guide contractors’ policies and practices to ensure accessible work environments and full engagement and utilization of individuals with disabilities in all aspects of employment. CAOs facilitate Section 503 compliance and ensure the use of accessible practices and technologies in the workforce.

Evaluate Personnel Data – Proactively evaluate personnel data of individuals with disabilities – including, hiring, promotions, and compensation data – to determine if any unlawful disparities exist.

The contents of this document do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. This document is intended only to provide ideas that may help federal contractors meet their equal employment opportunity obligations.