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Section 188 and AJC Certification: Achieving Compliance, Expanding Access, and Increasing Outcomes

September 27, 2017

The LEAD Center has been providing training nationwide on how all programs and activities that are part of the One-Stop delivery system, including workforce partners, must comply with Section 188, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act’s (WIOA’s) equal opportunity and non-discrimination provisions. Section 188 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, political affiliation or belief, among other bases, and requires reasonable accommodations be provided to people with disabilities. Under WIOA, all core programs in Titles I, II, III, and IV are working to align and coordinate their services. This is reflected in each state’s four-year plan, which includes all four titles and establishes a common performance accountability system, with efforts to coordinate activities like intake, case management, and reporting systems.

Each state submitted Certification Criteria in July 2017 that identifies benchmarks for developing a certification process to address overall effectiveness of the workforce delivery system. As part of the criteria, states must evaluate and improve physical, communication, and programmatic access within job centers. With technical assistance and support from the LEAD Center, many states have begun to assess physical accessibility by deploying ADA surveying teams using trusted partners, such as state/local Centers for Independent Living, vocational rehabilitation, or Regional ADA Centers.

In Virginia, ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) are often used by ADA subject matter teams to assess physical access of workforce centers in parking, entrances, buildings, bathrooms, internal space, and other essential areas outlined in the guidelines. For communication access, LEAD recommends that workforce coordinate with potential service users, such as deaf and hard of hearing partners.  This level of coordination is currently taking place in Virginia, Missouri, and other states. States are encouraged to ensure AJCs are implementing effective policies and procedures for communication access, including awareness and use of assistive technology, support to increase staff knowledge, information about accommodating diverse communication needs, and knowing when/how to hire sign language interpreters or other who can support someone’s ability to communicate.

The third major area of accessibility, outlined in AJC/One-Stop Certification, is programmatic access. Under WIOA Section 188, One-Stops must assess programmatic accessibility for which, “policies, practices, and procedures must provide effective and meaningful opportunity for persons with disabilities to participate in or benefit from aid, benefit, service, and training.” LEAD Center staff are providing training across the country to clarify how this definition is different from “program accessibility” in ADA Title II, which refers to accessibility of facilities, programs, services, technology, and materials for individuals with disabilities. The Section 188 definition is more encompassing, requiring workforce centers to ensure full and meaningful participation of people with disabilities in all of their services. In order to assess programmatic access in Virginia, LEAD is working with their cross-agency taskforce to examine procedures and policies, as well as learning about experiences of customers and overall job center culture. Both states are using the Promising Practices in Achieving Universal Access and Equal Opportunity: A Section 188 Disability Reference Guide, developed through the LEAD Center with the Department of Labor’s Civil Rights Center, Employment and Training Administration (ETA), and Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).

LEAD is also learning from others states, like California and Iowa, about how cross-Title and cross-partner action committees are critical in setting standards and implementing procedures and strategies around Section 188, as part of the AJC certification process.

LEAD continues to support collaborations that include both workforce and disability partners.  In Missouri, the State Equal Opportunity Officer works hand-in-hand with the State Vocational Rehabilitation Director. In Virginia, the WIOA Policy Administrators are at the table to ensure that language within policies across workforce programs, titles, and partners are consistent around ADA and Section 188.  In Iowa, California, and other states, there is active representation across all WIOA Titles, as well as across the spectrum of disabilities.

The foundation of cross-partner taskforces is their diverse representation of both workforce and disability partners, shared leadership, and a commitment to action. Representation from all WIOA Titles, state/local Workforce Development Boards (WDBs), WIOA Administrators, Policy Administrators, and Equal Opportunity Officers are all critical to coordinated efforts, as well as leadership from Vocational Rehabilitation, Deaf & Hard of Hearing Agencies, Blind & Visually Impaired Agencies, Centers for Independent Living, and other key partners. The varying perspectives and vast subject matter expertise of these taskforces has led states to take on challenging areas of access in their workforce systems. Critical recommendations are being made to state WDBs in all areas of physical, communication, and programmatic accessibility, including the need for statewide training using Section 188 and the ADA as the framework.

Additionally, LEAD Center staff are partnering with Disability Employment Initiative (DEI) staff to support activities related to AJC certification in Virginia.

For more information on Section 188, visit the LEAD Center website.