The Income Umbrella (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Once in awhile, I go to an event aimed at the people who sell and underwrite group or individual disability insurance policies and see an attendee in a wheelchair or with a cane.

That doesn’t happen very often, and maybe that’s a shame.

Disability insurers have the most to gain, other than people with disabilities and their loved ones, when people with disabilities who want to work return to work (RTW), and my own fantasy RTW contingency plan is to call up my disability insurer, if all else fails, and offer to to work for the disability insurer by writing, or weeding through e-mail, or something along those lines.

If someone with a disability happens to be good at sales (which, sadly, I’m not), it seems as if that individual would have a leg up on most competitors. Who better to sell disability insurance than someone who has experienced a disabling condition and, better yet, used the insurance to return to work, not just sit around learning more about the goings on of people on the Jersey Shore.

Now the federal government is going to try to act on that idea — that the best way to help people with disabilities return to work would be to provide jobs — by setting a hiring goal.

The U.S. Department of Labor is proposing a new rule that would require federal contractors and subcontractors to have at least 7% of their workers be people with disabilities.

The department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs will publish the proposed rule Friday in the Federal Register.

Affirmative action requirements in Section 503 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 already require federal contractors and subcontractors to ensure equal employment opportunities for qualified workers with disabilities, officials say.

The proposed regulations would set more detailed requirements in areas such as recruitment, training and recordkeeping.

The policies would be similar to the policies that now apply to workplace programs for women and minorities, officials say.

The proposal seems as if it could easily lead to a lot of extra paperwork without necessarily affecting who federal contractors actually hire.

The city were I live, Jersey City, often requires contractors to hire local residents for construction jobs, but it’s famous that most of the jobs seem to go to someone’s uncle’s cousin who lives far away and has proven skill with a drill, not to the unemployed guys who are living on the sidewalk next to the construction sites.

The federal H1-B visa program for highly skilled immigrants requires employers to advertise openings and make sure there are no qualified U.S. residents to fill a slot before filling the slot with a candidate from outside the United States.

Of course, in the real world, what happens is that, in New York, for example, employers that want to hire the non-U.S. people they want to hire simply run long, absurdly complicated ads for the openings in The New York Times. The advertising requirement seems to do more to help The New York Times (which is, certainly, a worthy goal, but different from the goal of requiring employers to do their best to consider U.S. residents for jobs before bringing in H1-B holders) than to help the U.S. long-term unemployed.

But it would be good if federal contractors could use the comment process to clean up the proposed regulations and make them workable, and then take them seriously, just because that’s obviously the right thing to do, and a cost-saving thing to do.

HARTFORD SKI SPECTACULAR

Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., Hartford (NYSE:HIG), is continuing to stick with the annual Hartford Ski Spectacular event it holds in Breckenrdige, Colo., to promote disability insurance and the idea that people who face physical limitations often can still do plenty.

Hartford is bringing about 700 participants to the event this week.

One guest will be Brad Humphrey, a high school senior (see video) from Indianapolis who was injured during the recent Indiana State Fair stage collapse. The collapse crushed his legs and spine, leaving him without feeling in his legs. At the Breckenridge event, he’s getting lessons in sports such as cross-country skiing and wheelchair curling, Hartford says.

THE WORKERS ARE BROKE

Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company, Columbia, S.C., a unit of Unum Group Corp., Chattanooga, Tenn. (NYSE:UNM), is trying to explain the need for disability insurance and related products to employers with a white paper explaining just how much trouble most workers would face if they suffered even a temporary disability.

Colonial Life is telling employers, for example, that 61% of U.S. workers live paycheck to paycheck.

Many employers — about 65% of those who participated in a recent Colonial Life survey, for example — know that their workers would be unable to maintain their current standard of living if they were unable to work for two or three months, but Colonial Life is trying to get through to the 35% of employers who are not as aware of how bad workers’ situation often is.