HOMEPAGE: www.danieljvance.com




By Daniel J. Vance


  Dr. Roy Grizzard is Assistant Secretary of Labor for the new Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), making him the nation's first-ever Assistant Secretary for disability issues. This also means he's the nation's highest-ranking government official specific to disabilities. Grizzard has a disability: retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited eye disease causing degeneration of rod and cone cells, leading to severe peripheral vision loss.

  And he has important news.

  Grizzard has told this columnist that ODEP and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) now are field-testing a new measurement tool that when ready should provide accurate and reliable information on the demographics and number of unemployed people with disabilities. After clearance from the Office of Management and Budget, "(this information) will then become part of the monthly unemployment statistics released by BLS, hopefully starting early 2005," Grizzard said.

  So when releasing unemployment information, the U.S. government soon will break it out for people with disabilities.

  "Some people think there's 70 percent unemployment among people with disabilities," Grizzard said, "but that could be high or low. We don't know exactly." ODEP until now has used Census Bureau figures showing different numbers: 60 percent of men and 51 percent of working-age women with disabilities employed in 2000, which translates to 18.6 million employed people with disabilities.

  These new monthly unemployment releases should improve federal, state and local governments' abilities to run programs more efficiently and with better results. "You shouldn't give money out to a program unless you know its stakeholders," Grizzard said. "If we spend money wisely, it will go a lot farther and I have a responsibility to the American people and taxpayer to see that happen."

  In President Bush's proposed 2005 budget ODEP receives $47 million, a slight increase. Among other services, ODEP recruits at 169 colleges to provide internships for "cream of the crop" college seniors with disabilities, partners with HUD for grants to employ and house homeless people with disabilities, and encourages business hiring of people with disabilities. ODEP's information website www.disabilityinfo.gov, which President Bush initiated, had over 31 million hits and 1.5 million visitors its first 11 months.

  Grizzard already runs a tight ship: ODEP spends just 19 percent of its budget on administrative costs, less than most agencies. It's a relatively new branch of government. "Though operational only 18 months, we have made great strides for people with disabilities," he said.

  For more, see www.danieljvance.com or www.disabilityinfo.gov.