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 increase ADA implementation in New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands by educating and empowering the diverse range of ADA stakeholders in order 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. 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.
An example of a CSA is the Northeast ADA’s collaboration with the City of Albany to support improved implementation of Title II, including facility access. The Northwest ADA has worked closely with the City of Albany, NY 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. Since the project began, we’ve helped to draft reasonable accommodation policy and process with small employers, refined access policies for health care facilities, and assisted with facility access assessment and planning for community organizations. The Northeast ADA Center is actively seeking partners who wish to improve implementation of the ADA in all of these areas.
Empowering Individuals through the ADA Trainer 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 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, 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.
This program creates change in local communities. For example, as a result of a TLN 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 Northeast ADA 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”. 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 sector'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. At this time, we are wrapping up our research efforts and beginning intervention development. We are looking forward to identifying small business partners to aid in testing the interventions developed.