Region 2 - Northeast ADA Center

The Northeast ADA Center, Center, located at Cornell University, serves New York, New Jersey, 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 educate and empower the diverse range of ADA stakeholders throughout our region to increase their knowledge of the ADA, to make better decisions regarding disability inclusiveness, and to implement the ADA in their own lives, workplaces, businesses and communities.

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 and (2) the ADA Trainer Leadership Network.

Customized Service Agreements

The Northeast ADA Center is partnering with health care facilities, small employers (including state and local governments as employers), and facility access professionals to provide intensive, sustained support toward improved implementation of the ADA. Support is provided to community partners in each of these areas under Customized Service Agreements (CSAs). CSAs include needs assessment, identification of specific ADA implementation goals, and a collaborative work plan to support goal achievement. The Center will provide consultation, training, and ongoing technical assistance in support of goal attainment for each of our partners. 

The foundation for this work began during our previous funding cycle with a Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Albany and the Northeast ADA Center to support implementation of Title II, including facility access. We have worked closely with the City of Albany to help them apply the ADA’s Title II regulations to their programs, policies, procedures and facility improvements. Intensive technical assistance was provided to the City related to the update of their effective communication policy, ADA reasonable accommodation procedures for employees, playground accessibility improvements, downtown parking area improvements and facility accessibility questions. This relationship has proven beneficial to the City, which has made great strides to improve ADA implementation. The City recently convened an ADA Advisory Committee that includes people with disabilities, to assist and advise city personnel with disability concerns and issues. Additional data on outcomes that resulted from this partnership will be collected in 2017.

Empowering Individuals through the ADA Trainer Network

The Northeast ADA Center’s ADA Trainer Network (TN) is a capacity building initiative aimed at helping TN members implement the ADA in their local communities. This project is also actively implemented in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic 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, TN members get access to an expertly designed and easy-to-use curriculum of materials so they can develop and deliver trainings in their communities.

It is our goal to:

  • Equip TN members with current, relevant information about the ADA and disability inclusiveness.
  • Prepare TN members to present this information in a manner that fosters change and collaboration.
  • Link TN members with others who can partner in bringing about change.
  • Engage TN members in a process of continual environmental scanning to identify emerging needs.

Nearly ninety percent of surveyed members agree or strongly agree that TN 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.

This program creates change in local communities. For example, in March of 2015, the Center presented a train-the-trainer event in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Various members of community organizations attended and subsequently held discussions with the local Center for Independent Living, The U.S. Attorneys’ Office, the Virgin Islands Developmental Disabilities Council and the Center affiliate, the Disability Rights Center of the Virgin Islands. This culminated in the formation of the Deaf Advocates of the Virgin Islands organization. This group, in collaboration with the U.S. Attorney for the Virgin Islands, was able to work with Caribbean Cinema to facilitate a fully accessible showing of Star Wars “Rogue One” in December 2016. This marked a new level of access to entertainment for the Deaf community in the Virgin Islands.

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 this population’s 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. The proposed intervention research and development study will be conducted in four main phases: 1) data collection and analysis through target audience research; 2) intervention development; 3) intervention testing through a series of workplace pilots; and 4) broad dissemination to our Region 2 target audiences.