A new executive order recently issued by Gov. Ralph Northam is being hailed as the most comprehensive executive actions in Virginia history to ensure inclusion and opportunity for Virginians with disabilities.
Executive Order Forty-Seven and Executive Directive Six will continue the equal employment initiatives outlined by former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in a 2015 executive order. In addition, the executive actions dramatically expand the scope of support for Virginians with disabilities to increase opportunity in higher education, improve the accessibility of state services, and ensure continued stakeholder engagement.
“Virginians with disabilities have an absolute right to the same benefits of society and freedoms of everyday life that all people enjoy,” Northam said. “These executive actions highlight our commitment to ensuring every Virginian has access to the support and opportunities they need to thrive in our Commonwealth.”
The executive order ensures employment equity for Virginians with disabilities by prioritizing hiring and workforce diversity in state government. To expand educational opportunity, it directs the Secretary of Education to explore ways to increase active participation in advanced training and higher education programs. It also directs the Virginia Information Technologies Agency to review state websites and technology services, to increase accessibility and ensure all Virginians can benefit from the state services and support they need.
“True and genuine inclusion is only achieved by addressing systems of inequity—therefore it requires intentional collaboration and comprehensive action,” said Dr. Janice Underwood, the Commonwealth’s first-ever Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. “Today’s executive actions not only facilitate opportunity for Virginians with disabilities, they represent a bold step towards a Commonwealth that is truly open, inclusive, and equitable for all.”
Virginia also continues to prioritize the mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Olmstead v. L.C. by Zimring, 527 U.S. 581 (1999) decision, and the Virginians with Disabilities Act. Executive Directive Six continues the Community Integration Implementation Team (CIIT) to ensure the Commonwealth is providing opportunities for individuals with disabilities to become fully integrated into the community if they choose.
The executive order also works to maintain a continued focus on Virginians with disabilities. It requires the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to convene regular meetings with relevant stakeholders, providing an opportunity for future feedback and ensuring Virginians with disabilities have an ongoing voice within state government.