More than half of all workers in New York and New Jersey are employed in small businesses. In the US territories covered by Region 2 these rates are even higher – 80% of employees in Puerto Rico and 91% of employees in the U.S. Virgin Islands work for small businesses (U.S. Small Business Administration, 2014). Though the employment rate for individuals with disabilities is less than half that of their peers 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). Among companies with between 15 and 249 employees, only 22.6% report that they currently have an employee with a disability, and they are less likely to actively recruit individuals with disabilities than larger companies (Domzal et al., 2008). Hence, smaller companies have less experience with accommodation (Bruyère, Erickson, & VanLooy, 2006), and have fewer resources available for making accommodations. Small employers are also less likely to have disability inclusive HR practices and policies in place (Erickson, von Schrader, Bruyère, & VanLooy, 2013). In order to support this audience around Title I implementation, the Northeast ADA Center will conduct a research and development study in four main phases, described below.
Phase 1: Target audience research. Building on the “Can’t, Won’t, Don’t Know How” (CWD) model (Rudstam, Hittleman, Pi, & Gower, 2013), a range of approaches will be used to identify small employers’ issues, needs, and barriers in addressing ADA Title I compliance. Phase 1 will begin with a synthesis of relevant literature, focusing on small employer barriers, facilitators, and best practices, as well as effective approaches to reaching and impacting the target audience. Region 2-specific research activities will be conducted to hone in on the specificities of the target population, including: 1) an EEOC employment disability discrimination charge data study, 2) focus groups/interviews with key small employer informants, and 3) ultimately, a small employer survey. The regional focus of these efforts will significantly add to the existing knowledge base. In particular, the investigation of the unique contexts of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands is anticipated to yield new, rich, and highly informative findings that will feed into Phase 2.
Phase 2: Intervention development. Beginning in project Year 2, findings from Phase 1 will be used to develop a range of innovative offerings for small employers within Region 2. Specific emphasis will be placed on context-based usability and relevance. Offerings are anticipated to include, but not be limited to, easy-to-use needs assessment inventories, best-practice checklists, how-to-guides, and fact-sheets. The Northeast ADA Center’s knowledge translation approach to development will take into consideration existing research about the importance of segmentation to specific audiences, engaging organizational leadership, and peer-to-peer learning. Phase 2 will also involve the recruitment of small employer sites at which to test and refine the intervention in Phase 3.
Phase 3: Workplace pilots. In Years 3 and 4, the different aspects of the developing intervention will be systematically tested, evaluated, and refined through collaboration with at least eight small employer partners across Region 2. By the end of Year 4, a comprehensive and effective package of products and services for small employers will be ready to be shared with broader audiences in Phase 4.
Phase 4: Dissemination. Throughout Year 5, the fully developed intervention will be disseminated broadly across Region 2. Relevant data on use and outcomes will be documented and reported. Findings about the intervention will be shared with the ADA National Network and other interested parties beyond Region 2.
Ali, M., Schur, L., & Blanck, P. (2011). What types of jobs do people with disabilities want? Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 21(2), 199–210. 10.1007/s10926-010-9266-0
Bruyère, S. M., Erickson, W. A., & VanLooy, S. A. (2006). The impact of business size on employer ADA response. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 49(4), 194–206.
Domzal, C., Houtenville, A., & Sharma, R. (2008). Survey of employer perspectives on the employment of people with disabilities: Technical report. (Prepared under contract to the Office of Disability and Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor). McLean, VA: CESSI.
Erickson, W. A., Von Schrader, S., Bruyère, S. M., & VanLooy, S. A. (2013). The employment environment: Employer perspectives, policies, and practices regarding the employment of persons with disabilities. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 57(4), 195–208. doi:10.1177/00343552135098
Rudstam, H., Hittleman, M., Pi, S., & Strobel Gower, W. (2013). Bridging the knowing-doing gap: Researching a new approach to disability and employment programming. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 39(1), 43–60. doi:10.3233/JVR-130641