WASHINGTON ‒ The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy today announced the launch of its first disability-related application challenge, which is designed to generate innovative tools that will improve employment opportunities and outcomes for people with disabilities.

Nearly 22 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and 39 years after the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, people with disabilities continue to be employed at much lower levels than those without disabilities. The goal of the app challenge is to promote recruitment resources for employers, develop job training and skill-building tools for job seekers, facilitate employment-related transportation options and expand information communication technology accessibility.

Submissions should provide access to important data and resources; attract users with different skill sets and language preferences; be accessible (that is, compatible and interoperable with assistive technology commonly used by individuals with disabilities, such as screen reading and speech recognition software); and consider partnerships that will ensure sustainability of the app.

In addition, they should be targeted toward a variety of audiences such as students, teachers, employers, career counselors and workforce professionals, as well as individuals with disabilities working or seeking work at all levels in a variety of salaried and hourly jobs.

 Awards with cash prizes – totaling $10,000 – will be given to the top three submissions, including the grand prize Innovation Award, the second prize People’s Choice Award, and the third prize Above and Beyond Accessibility Award. The winners will be featured prominently on ODEP’s website, http://www.dol.gov/odep, as well as at http://www.disability.gov and through other public outreach vehicles.

 Contestants must register for the contest on the Challenge.gov website by creating an account at http://challenge.gov/users/login. Each registrant will receive a confirmation email and may then enter a submission via the “Post a Submission” tab at http://www.disability.challenge.gov. Submissions must be entered between May 23 at 12 a.m. EDT and Aug. 23 at 11:59 p.m. EDT. Late entries will not be eligible for prizes.