Virginia Equal Opportunity Pilot – COVID-19 Related Learnings
The LEAD Center works in partnership with DOL’s Civil Rights Center and Office of Disability Employment Policy on equal opportunity and nondiscrimination projects. COVID-19 has required services to shift to a virtual format across the country, which is impacting how providers serve people with disabilities. The LEAD team is conducting statewide, cross-system replicable training on effective Section 188 implementation in the Virginia workforce system that engages all Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) programs and their partners. The three-part training series aims to help Virginia build the capacity of their 15 workforce regions to broaden access to services and employment for people with disabilities and other challenges to employment through the implementation of WIOA Section 188 equal opportunity and non-discrimination provisions.
In addition to providing Section 188 and U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic, the training emphasizes a wide range of promising practices and action planning strategies from the Section 188 Disability Reference Guide. Specifically, the trainings highlight effective strategies for discussing disability, implementing accommodation processes, strengthening workforce partnerships to collaboratively serve customers with disabilities and other challenges to employment, and increasing knowledge of key national/state/local resources to provide more effective workforce services to individuals with disabilities.
What have we learned? It is essential to:
- Have strong, committed leadership across workforce-related systems and initiatives, which has ensured high attendance at trainings and is a reflection of the cross-agency trust that has been built.
- Meet people where they are in terms of their knowledge of Section 188 requirements, best practices, and the impact of the pandemic on their own lives and the lives of job seekers with disabilities.
- Teach staff how to use existing resources and scenarios to ground the content. Resources include the Job Accommodation Network, their Equal Employment Officer, disability partners such as Centers for Independent Living, and more.
- Learn information directly from Equal Employment Officers. This allows the information shared to include real and current examples they are addressing, requests for accommodations they are implementing, and how they can support managers and staff to address issues as they come up.