2023 Paul A. Volcker Career Achievement

Michael Reardon

Successfully promoted a wide range of policies and practices to the states and businesses that have provided greater access to employment, transportation and technology for millions of people with disabilities.

Michael Reardon has been a strong advocate for people with disabilities during his 23 years of federal service, working with federal agencies, governors and state legislatures, local governments and businesses to increase employment opportunities and accessibility options.  

“Michael’s leadership has had a profound impact by making policies, practices, workplace technology and transportation more equitable, accessible and inclusive for those with disabilities—thereby advancing America’s promise of equal opportunity for all,” said Taryn Williams, an assistant secretary at the Department of Labor.  

Partnering with the states to help people with disabilities  

In his role as a Department of Labor policy advisor, Reardon has launched and led programs that worked directly with state legislatures to enact hundreds of accessibility and disability-inclusive laws. He has collaborated with private employers, including technology companies, to expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities. And he has brought in people with disabilities when crafting a range of policies to remove barriers and improve opportunities.  

Believing that sustainable change is not top down, Reardon created the State Exchange on Employment and Disability program, or SEED, in 2015 to promote inclusive policy solutions developed by the Department of Labor and help states implement them.  

“Michael really understands how the federal government can work with state legislatures to support people with disabilities,” said Jim Reed, the director of energy, environmental and transportation issues for the National Conference of State Legislatures. “He lays out policy options for accessibility changes, and the state legislatures adopt what works for their constituents.”  

In 2022 alone, SEED helped enact more than 100 disability-inclusive bills and executive orders across 36 states, Williams said.  

Promoting accessible technology for people with disabilities  

Since people with disabilities can face numerous barriers to employment, including inaccessible online job applications and workplace IT, Reardon spearheaded another initiative, the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology, or PEAT.  

PEAT educates employers on ways to build and buy accessible workplace technology, and has engaged numerous technology companies, such as Amazon, Apple, Oracle, Google and Microsoft, to ensure the accessibility of the IT products they develop. PEAT is also addressing the workplace use of artificial intelligence tools, which can be unintentionally biased against job seekers and employees with disabilities.  

“Michael has worked with the biggest technology companies on building accessibility features that can create a more successful work environment,” said Jennifer Sheehy, a deputy assistant secretary of labor. “He has demonstrated to the technology companies that supporting accessibility will mean an expanding market.”  

Reardon said working with the business community has been critical to achieving long-term change. “When we point out the inaccessibility of products or workplaces, businesses come through, in turn helping us transform biased systems into solutions that work for everyone,” he said.      

Working with stakeholders to develop accessible transportation  

Before joining the Department of Labor, Reardon worked for the Department of Transportation’s Office of Civil Rights, where he helped launch the United We Ride program, an interagency initiative to improve the availability and efficient delivery of transportation services for older adults, people with disabilities and lower-income individuals. The initiative has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in new transportation programs designed to ensure that people with disabilities have reliable and affordable access to their workplaces and their communities. 

“This program helped countless localities and states work together to build coordinated, barrier-free transportation systems for millions of Americans,’” Williams said.  

Throughout his career, one of Reardon’s biggest challenges has been working with stakeholders such as state legislatures with different resources, priorities and implementation timetables. He has dealt with these challenges by being flexible and creative, and by promoting change when the environment was right.  

Williams added that Reardon’s collaborative leadership style and entrepreneurial spirit have been key to his achievements.  

“His ability to leverage funds and cultivate relationships to achieve common goals has improved the lives of millions of individuals with disabilities,” she said.