OFFICE OF DISABILITY EMPLOYMENT POLICY
Jennifer’s innovative leadership is creating systemic change to increase good, meaningful job opportunities for people with disabilities (PWD). Although she is officially the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), for more than six years and two administrations she has served as the acting Assistant Secretary. During this period Jennifer has led the agency through a great budget expansion and in bold new directions, looking beyond traditional solutions to build new pathways to employment and to help businesses understand how to gain the competitive advantages that diversity brings.
She also predicted early on how vital accessible technology would become to employment success as workplaces modernized. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jennifer has led with thoughtful vision, balancing immediate needs with the opportunity to recover through inclusion to a more equitable future of work. COVID-19 brought immediate, massive challenges for organizations seeking to support their employees while keeping their doors open. Under Jennifer’s direction, ODEP swiftly responded with resources and support. Alongside these efforts, Jennifer has simultaneously laid the strategic groundwork to redefine what a new normal could be.
Jennifer is also boldly building collaborations with technology companies to make next-generation workplace technology accessible. Through PEAT, ODEP collaborated with the American Association of People with Disabilities and Verizon to launch Start Access, a collaborative community of startups committed to accessibility and universal design as a business imperative. ODEP also amplified the growth of XR Access, a stakeholder community dedicated to creating standards to make virtual, augmented, and mixed realities accessible.
Only 33.2% of adult job seekers with disabilities are employed, compared to 76.6% of those without disabilities. Under Jennifer’s leadership, ODEP is working to change these perceptions and the stigma surrounding the abilities of PWD. The initiatives Jennifer has fostered help PWD gain access to the skills, tools, and good jobs that allow them to support themselves and their families and lead meaningful, independent lives through success in their careers. Her fresh, innovative ideas bring together government, industry, and academia through public-private partnerships and collaborative relationships to improve employment success for PWD.