Pennsylvania residents with disabilities face any number of employment-related obstacles. Many people who want to work have a physical or intellectual disability that prevents them from performing a job. Even those who have the ability to work, either full time or part time, have for years been required to prove to some employers that they are able to perform the duties of the job for which they are applying.

Disabled workers applying for a federal government job are required to provide a letter from a doctor, vocational rehabilitation specialist or disability benefits agency stating the prospective employee’s ability to carry out the duties of a job — that is, until last week, when a new rule was issued by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. The revised rule removes the burden for disabled workers to prove that they are capable of performing a job, making it easier for them to apply for the positions they want.

The original rule was drafted at a time when workers with disabilities were much less common. A process known as Schedule A, which still exists, allowed the government to hire disabled workers outside of a typically competitive hiring process. Today, however, there are many more disabled workers who have the education and experience necessary to compete and succeed among the general working population, making the necessity to prove “job readiness” obsolete.

The rule change is a significant step forward for those who may have physical or intellectual disabilities but are able to support themselves by working. It means that the federal government — the nation’s largest employer — is finally offering a level playing field for workers of all abilities.

Source: Disability Scoop, “Hiring Requirements Eased for Those With Disabilities,” Michelle Diament, Feb. 25, 2013