Oct. 6, 2009

Federal grant funds labor consortium based at ILR School

The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy has awarded a $1.6 million grant to the ILR School's Employment and Disability Institute (EDI).

EDI will establish a federal technical assistance center for employers on employment of people with disabilities and lead a consortium that includes the AFL-CIO Center for Green Jobs, the Altarum Institute, the Cornell Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies, the Conference Board, the Institute of Educational Leadership, the National Business and Disability Council, Rutgers University's Heldrich Center and the U.S. Business Leadership Network.

The center will conduct research, assist the labor department in developing demand-side policy and share best practices with employers on the recruitment, hiring, retention and advancement of people with disabilities, according to the federal agency.

The grant, announced Sept. 30 in Washington, D.C., by the U.S. Department of Labor, was awarded through a competitive process. EDI has been involved in employer-related initiatives to promote employment of people with disabilities for nearly 20 years.

Susanne Bruyère, director of EDI and the ILR School's associate dean of outreach, said, "This newly funded center at Cornell University is a wonderful opportunity to bring all of the resources and learning from our prior efforts to fruition in one focused effort. These efforts are targeted at improving hiring and workplace retention of the more than 50 million Americans with disabilities."

EDI conducts research and provides continuing education and technical assistance on many aspects of disability in the workplace and consults with policymakers, disability advocates and rehabilitation program professionals. About 20 ILR School faculty, staff and students will be involved in the new center, Bruyère said.

Since 1968, researchers and practitioners at the ILR School with expertise in disability have helped companies, labor organizations, government agencies, schools and communities throughout the United States and abroad to accommodate and integrate individuals with disabilities in the workplace.

Kathy Martinez, assistant secretary for labor for disability employment policy, said, "Employers must create workplace cultures in which employees with disabilities are as fully integrated and valued as those without disabilities. The national technical assistance center will be designed to identify how employers can change expectations and open the path to good jobs for people with disabilities."

Mary Catt is a staff writer at the ILR School.