The Northeast ADA Center, located at Cornell University, serves New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
The Northeast ADA Center is a program of the K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability, which is housed in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University. The goal of the Center is to increase ADA implementation in New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands by educating and empowering the diverse range of ADA stakeholders in order to increase their knowledge of the ADA and to make better decisions regarding disability inclusiveness. We also help stakeholders implement the ADA in their own lives, workplaces, businesses, and communities. As part of our outreach efforts, we provide training, technical assistance, and information on the ADA.
Building Capacity through Partnership
The concept of capacity building emphasizes how educating and empowering individuals and institutions can lead to stronger governments and more viable businesses, ultimately strengthening communities. The purpose of the Northeast ADA Center’s capacity-building efforts is to assist in ADA implementation and to facilitate change in behavior, policy, and practice within communities. The Center offers two capacity building programs during this funding cycle: (1) Customized Service Agreements (CSAs) and (2) the ADA Trainer Leadership Network.
Customized Service Agreements
CSAs are designed to provide intensive, sustained support toward improved implementation of the ADA. The Northeast ADA Center is partnering with health care facilities to improve access for customers with disabilities; small employers (including state and local governments as employers) to better implement the employment provisions of the ADA, and facility access professionals to increase physical access to buildings within our region. CSAs include needs assessment, identification of organization-specific ADA implementation goals, and a collaborative work plan to support goal achievement. The Center provides consultation, training, and ongoing technical assistance in support of goal attainment for each of our partners.
For example, the Northeast ADA partnered with the South Brunswick Public Library to assist in its efforts to improve physical access for patrons. The Center conducted a physical access survey and provided additional technical assistance that was used by the Library to apply for grant funding to improve their accessibility. Subsequently, the Library was successful in receiving the matching grant from the New Jersey State Construction Bond Act to improve accessibility at the library. The local town council agreed to bond for its matching half of the grant, so the library will have its full renovation needs met. Renovations, among other items, includes the removal of an existing noncompliant ramp and having the entrance to the library be on the ground level where they will have a new meeting room and auditorium for improved programming space along with ADA accessible bathrooms. The partnership continues with plans for the Northeast ADA to consult on future ADA related issues and concerns.
Empowering Individuals through the ADA Trainer Leadership Network
The Northeast ADA Center’s ADA Trainer Leadership Network (TLN) is a capacity building initiative aimed at helping members implement the ADA in their local communities. This project is also actively implemented in the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, Pacific, and Northwest ADA Centers. Our more than 125 active members come from all walks of life—they are professionals, disability service providers, individuals with disabilities, and allies. After attending an orientation training, TLN members get access to an expertly designed and easy-to-use curriculum of materials so they can develop and deliver trainings in their communities. Nearly ninety percent of surveyed members agree or strongly agree that TLN membership has provided them with professional development opportunities that have prepared them to be seen as a key resource for ADA and disability related issues in their local communities.
The ADA Trainer Leadership Network curriculum is used extensively by over 40 counselors in the New York State Vocational Rehabilitation System - ACCES-VR - to train their community stakeholders on the basics of the ADA. ACCES-VR transition specialists implement this training with the Workforce Development System. The intervention is especially helpful in implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which requires the state workforce development system to actively include people with disabilities in their vocational services. The ACCES-VR Business Service Specialists, are actively using the curriculum to reach out to the employer community and help them better understand the ADA. Many more VR counselors across the country use the ADA TLN in similar ways in their local communities.
Title I Research: Increasing Understanding of ADA Implementation among Small Employers
The purpose of the Center’s research efforts is to identify region-specific barriers, facilitators, and best practices for implementing Title I of the ADA in small private and public sector organizations (15-500 employees), in order to identify a package of innovative approaches that mitigate barriers to ADA compliance. As a result of this project, small business and public-sector employers will enhance their capacity to implement Title I of the ADA in ways that will result in improved hiring, retention, and experiences of individuals with disabilities in these workplaces. The focus on small employers was determined based on small business' role as an important driver of the economy in Region 2. More than half of all workers in NY and NJ are employed in small businesses. These rates are even higher in the territories: 80% of employees in PR and 91% of employees in the USVI work for small businesses (U.S. Small Business Administration, 2014). Though the employment rate for individuals with disabilities is less than half that of individuals without disabilities (Erickson, Lee & von Schrader, 2014), small business employment remains an attractive option for individuals with disabilities. Over 70% of people with disabilities prefer working for a small firm as opposed to a large firm (Ali, Schur, & Blanck, 2011). While both small and large employers cite barriers to employing and advancing individuals with disabilities, some issues are more common among smaller employers. To help small businesses and our CSA partners implement Title I, we have used our research and knowledge gained from CSA partnerships to develop the Small Business at Work toolkit. This website provides curated information and essential resources about how (and why!) small businesses can successfully hire and retain employees with disabilities. It has easy-to-understand, practical advice, along with expert guidance on following Title I of the ADA.