Jobs For People With Disabilities in the
Federal Government

On March 13, 1998, President Clinton addressed the underemployment of people with disabilities by signing Executive Order 13078 establishing the Presidential Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities. The Task Force was charged with creating a coordinated and aggressive national policy to bring working-age individuals with disabilities into gainful employment at a rate approaching that of the general adult population.

Currently, over 209,284 people with disabilities, seven percent of the total federal civilian workforce, work for the federal government. Opportunities exist at all levels of government and in hundreds of occupations. Total disabled federal employment has remained constant at seven percent since 1980. Executive Order 13078 and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) has increase awareness of hiring options by federal managers. These initiatives should expand total disabled employment opportunities throughout government. All agencies are required by law to develop outreach efforts to identify qualified candidates to meet agency workforce diversity goals.

This section explains the various hiring options for people with disabilities. Individuals seeking appointments with the federal government must be proactive and begin networking with local agencies, contacting listed resources, and aggressively seeking out all available federal employment opportunities. Agencies have direct hire authority for Schedule A appointments presented in this section.

The Book of U.S. Government Jobs - 8th edition, describes the entire federal employment process and includes easy to use checklists with sample applications and over 1,000 references. Recommended by LIBRARY JOURNAL - September 2002.

Hiring Options
Agency personnel offices work with State vocational rehabilitation agencies (SVRAs), the Department of Veterans Affairs, colleges and universities (e.g., Gallaudet University) and other various organizations to locate and identify qualified people with disabilities. In addition, many Federal employers participate in focused job fairs and campus recruitment visits to identify qualified people with disabilities. Hiring may be accomplished through the competitive hiring process or, if the qualifications are met, through the use of excepted service appointment authorities.

Federal employers may use a variety of hiring options to bring people with disabilities into their workforce. Descriptions of key options are listed below.

Competitive Appointments
Most Federal employees obtain jobs competitively. Applicants apply directly to the hiring departments and agencies for most positions. Federal employers use a variety of assessment tools in evaluating applicants and conducting hiring. If passing a written test is required, testing accommodations are available, if requested. Once this process is completed, an agency may select from a list of qualified applicants.

You can use to research job options and to locate information on many agencies including direct links to agency recruitment web sites and telephone contact information. OPM has developed USAJOBS which provides worldwide job vacancy information, employment information fact sheets, job applications and forms, and has on-line resume development and electronic transmission capabilities. In many instances, job seekers can apply for positions on-line. USAJOBS is available to job seekers in a variety of formats, ensuring access for customers with differing physical and technological capabilities. It is convenient, user friendly, accessible through the computer or telephone and available 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week. The official web site for Federal jobs and employment information may be accessed at . An interactive voice response telephone system can be reached at (912) 757-3000 or TDD (912) 744-2299 or at 17 OPM Service Centers located throughout the country (local numbers listed in the blue pages).

Time-limited Appointments
An agency may fill a position using a temporary or term appointment when the need for an employee’s services is not permanent. Temporary appointments are made not to exceed one year, with one 1-year extension. The work must not be permanent in nature. In contrast, term appointments are made for a period of more than one year but not to exceed four years.

Term appointments are appropriate when there is project work, extraordinary workload, scheduled abolishment, reorganization, contracting out of the function, uncertainty of future funding, or the need to maintain permanent positions for placement of employees who would otherwise be displaced from other parts of the organization.

Student Employment Programs
Review the Student Educational Employment Programs page on this service for student employment options. 

Appointment Under Special Authorities
The Federal Government’s hiring options include excepted service special appointing authorities for people with disabilities. Federal employers are authorized to use these authorities when considering certain people with disabilities (those who have severe physical, cognitive, or psychiatric disabilities or who have a history of or who are regarded as having such disabilities). The authorities provide a unique opportunity to demonstrate the potential to successfully perform the essential duties of a position with or without reasonable accommodation in the workplace.

  • Schedule A, 5 CFR 213.3102(t) for Hiring People with Mental Retardation. This authority is used to appoint persons with cognitive disabilities (mental retardation) who meet the eligibility requirements. Upon completion of 2 years of satisfactory performance the employee may qualify for conversion to the competitive service.
  • Schedule A, 5 CFR 213.3102(u) for Hiring People With Severe Physical Disabilities. This authority is used to appoint persons with severe physical disabilities who: (1) under a temporary appointment have demonstrated their ability to perform duties satisfactorily; or (2) have been certified by a counselor from a State vocational rehabilitation agency (SVRA) or the Department of Veterans Affair’s Vocational Rehabilitation Office as likely to succeed in performance of duties. Upon completion of two years of satisfactory service under this authority, the employee may qualify for conversion to the competitive service.
  • Schedule B, 5 CFR 213.3202(k) for Hiring People Who Have Recovered from Mental Illness. This authority permits appointments at Grades GS-15 and below when filled by individuals who: (1) are placed at a severe disadvantage in obtaining employment because of a psychiatric disability evidenced by hospitalization or outpatient treatment and have had a significant period of substantially disrupted employment because of the disability; and (2) are certified to a specific position by a State vocational rehabilitation counselor or a Department of Veterans Affairs counseling psychologist (or psychiatrist) who indicates that they meet the severe disadvantage criteria stated above, that they are capable of functioning in the position to which they will be appointed, and that any residual disability is not job related. Employment under this authority may not exceed two years following each significant period of mental illness.

In addition, Federal employers can use the following hiring authorities to provide assistance to employees with disabilities:

  • Schedule A, 5 CFR 213.3102(ll) for Hiring Readers Interpreters, and Other Personal Assistants. This authority permits appointments of readers, interpreters, and personal assistants for employees with severe disabilities when filled on a full-time, part-time, or intermittent basis. Upon completion of at least one year of satisfactory service under this authority, the employee may qualify for conversion to the competitive service.

An individual who has a physical disability is considered to have met OPM qualification standards for either a temporary competitive service appointment or an excepted service Schedule A appointment when an appropriate certification is received from a State Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (SVRA) or the Department of Veterans Affairs. The certification is prepared by a counselor on the basis of job-site inspection, analysis of job tasks, and evaluation of the proposed appointee’s abilities and disabilities. The certification must state that in the counselor’s judgement the proposed appointee is able to perform the duties of the position and is physically qualified to do the work safely. The certification must be supported by a medical report and a narrative statement documenting the counselor’s conclusions. Factors to be discussed include training, education, work history, modification of job or worksite if needed, and limitations of the proposed appointee.

Competitive Versus Excepted Service
A good number of people with disabilities start their federal career in the excepted Service while most federal jobs are in the Competitive Service. Congress excepted certain jobs and groups from the Competitive Service. In the competitive service individuals must compete for positions through examination. The end result is that individuals are placed on a competitive register in rank order of their rating. Agencies then can select from the top three candidates on the list when vacancies arise.

Special Accomodations
When appropriate, OPM uses special examination (testing) procedures for applicants who are physically handicapped to assure that their abilities are properly and fairly assessed. Special testing arrangements are determined on an individual basis depending on the applicant's disability. For example: readers, examinations in Braille, tape, or large print for visually impaired competitors; and interpreters for test instructions and modifications of parts of tests for hearing impaired competitors.

Accommodations on the job

When federal agencies hire a person with disabilities, efforts are made to accommodate the individual to remove or modify barriers to their ability to effectively perform the essential duties of the position. Agencies may, for example: (1) provide interpreter service for the hearing impaired, (2) use readers for the visually impaired, (3) modify job duties, (4) restructure work sites, (5) alter work schedules, and (6) obtain special equipment or furniture.

Periodicals & Newspapers with Federal Job Ads

ABILITY Magazine - Jobs Information Business Service, 1001 West 17th St., Costa Mesa, CA 92627; 949-854-8700. ABILITY Magazine provides information on new technologies, the "Americans with Disability Act", travel and leisure, employment opportunities for people with disabilities, human interest stories, national and local resource centers and more. ABILITY Magazine helps remove the misunderstandings and erase the stereotypes that surround disability issues. Call or visit their web site for subscription rates. Ability also offers an electronic classified system, JobAccess, which allows employers to recruit qualified individuals with disabilities. The goal of JobAccess is to enable people with disabilities to enhance their professional lives by providing a dedicated system for finding employment. People with disabilities can locate viable employment opportunities either through their print magazine or visit their excellent internet web site at

Associations & Organizations

The following sample list of associations and organizations offer numerous services to people with physical or mental impairments. The complete list is printed in the all new 7th edition of "The Book of U.S. Government Jobs:". Many offer job placement services, provide on-site accessibility surveys, job analysis and offer advice and support to the group represented. Contact individual listings for details of services provided.

American Cancer Society - 1-800-ACS-2345; http://www.cancer. Refers employers to organizations offering help in recruiting qualified individuals with disabilities, and community programs offering consultation and technical assistance to cancer patients, survivors, and their families. Publishes information on the employment of cancer patients and survivors.

American Council of the Blind - 1155 15th St., N.W., Ste. 720, Washington, D.C. 20005; 202-467-5081 or 800-424-8666, Provides information on topics affecting the employment of individuals who are blind, including job seeking strategies, job accommodations, electronic aids, and employment discrimination. Provides information on job openings for individuals who are blind and visually impaired. Offers free legal assistance in employment discrimination cases.

Related OPM Guides/Reports People With Disabilities in the Federal Government, An Employment Guide published by OPM October 1999. This comprehensive 53 page guide can be downloaded from OPM. The guide is intended to help Federal employers and human resource personnel understand issues and programs aimed at improving the employment of people with disabilities.