2021 GOVERNMENT INNOVATION AWARDS

Rising Star: Nathan Cunningham

Policy Adviser, Office of Disability Employment Policy Labor Department

Nathan Cunningham 2021 Rising Star 

People with disabilities have an unemployment rate nearly double the national average. Nathan Cunningham believes workplace technology has the potential to be a great equalizer, as long as it is designed with accessibility in mind.

Since 2015, he has overseen the Labor Department's Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology, which fosters collaboration between industry, government and advocacy organizations to ensure that emerging workplace technologies are accessible from the start.

In 2020, his work led to PEAT's partnership with the Start Access initiative, managed by the American Association of People with Disabilities and funded by the Verizon Foundation. It encourages start-up companies to adopt accessibility and universal design as a business imperative.

At the Labor Department, he has coordinated a cross-agency working group that focuses on Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which mandates accessibility requirements for agencies' IT systems and web content, and he has convened government and standards-setting teams to influence Section 508 policies.

Cunningham's colleagues say he has a knack for making abstract issues tangible. In all his efforts, he relies on his expertise in human-centered design and his identification as a person with a disability to show why workplace accessibility is essential.

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