Bill breaks down barriers for individuals with disabilities to enter workforce

Senator Amanda Shelton (file photo)

Senator Amanda L. Shelton has introduced Bill No. 219-36 (LS) to increase access to employment for individuals with disabilities in support of National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month celebrated every year throughout the month of October.

The bill amends the current law requiring that two percent (2%) of GovGuam’s workforce be individuals with disabilities by giving the responsibility of certifying a disability of an individual to a qualified, licensed medical professional set by Guam law and providing a mechanism to ensure compliance with the law.

“It is my hope that GovGuam will be the model of inclusivity and diversity for our entire island workforce. Bill 219 will allow individuals with disabilities to apply and be considered for jobs within GovGuam with greater ease,” said Senator Shelton. “We must break down unnecessary barriers for qualified individuals to access opportunity and employment.”

Bill No. 219-36 (LS) gives responsibility of certifying a disability of an individual to a qualified, licensed medical professional. The current law requires an applicant to be registered with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) of the Department of Integrated Services for Individuals with Disabilities (DISID) and be certified by a counselor at DVR. The bill will allow them to certify with their trusted doctor without being a consumer of DISID, and allow the department to focus its limited resources on other services.

This certification of disability will address the applicant and knowledge of the job site, job description, workplace disability safety, and knowledge, abilities, and skills required to perform the job. The medical professional will also be responsible for making recommendations to modifications to the job or job site, and other accommodations that can be helpful to ensure successful placement and support of an individual with disabilities in the workplace.

Bill No. 219-36 (LS) comes as a result of Shelton’s conversations with DISID and concerns they shared with the legislature during an oversight hearing at the beginning of October. DISID currently has no mechanism to ensure compliance with the current law requiring 2% of GovGuam’s workforce to be individuals with disabilities. Bill 219 addresses this concern of DISID by requiring GovGuam agencies to submit an annual report to the Department of Administration (DOA). The report shall be made in consultation with DISID and shall also include, but not be limited to:

= the number of individuals with severe disabilities employed by the agency;
= the total number of employees employed by the agency;
= the number of individuals with severe disability hired by the agency within the year;
= the types of jobs these individuals perform; and,
= the length of time these individuals were employed in each agency.

“We are giving more individuals the opportunity to use and develop skills, and providing the resources needed to assert independence. By building a workforce that is representative and inclusive, we can better serve everyone in our community,” said Senator Shelton.

Bill No. 219-36 (LS) is cosponsored by Vice Speaker Tina Rose Muña Barnes, Senators Telena Cruz Nelson, Mary Camacho Torres, Telo T. Taitague, Frank F. Blas, Jr., Joanne M. Brown, and V. Anthony Ada.