October 24, 2010

ILR Uses Grant for Disability Studies

Print More

The Employment Disability Institute at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations will be exploring 13 research projects and 13 outreach projects with a $4 million grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. The projects are designed to provide more in-depth research and assist companies develop effective employment policies for people with disabilities. It has been 20 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act passed, yet employment opportunities and career development are still issues for people with disabilities across the nation. According to data from the 2008 American Community Survey, households of working-age people with disabilities had a median annual income of $39,600, while households without people with disabilities had a median of $61,200. EDI’s entire project is titled “Employer Practices Related to Employment Outcomes Among Individuals with Disabilities,” and will include the help of six other Cornell organizations related to business and human resources. According to Susanne Bruyère, director of EDI, there are also ten external partners, five of which are national and international business associations or networks who represent hundreds of thousands of employers. Data will come directly from companies themselves or surveys via representatives and individuals. “[The overall project] will help us understand how company policies and practices, and attitudes of hiring managers, supervisors and co-workers affect employment opportunities for people with disabilities, and how to enhance these employment outcomes,” Bruyère said. “A part of [EDI’s concern] is to make sure workplaces … give people with disabilities equitable access as applicants, but also, once people [with disabilities] are in the workplace, they have opportunities to advance like everyone else does in their career progression.” Bruyère cited the unique research resources that the University offers as a major factor for receiving the grant. She said the combination of legal, economics, disability rehabilitation, psychology and other areas of expertise is rare among other higher education institutions.Linda Barrington, managing director of the Institute for Compensation Studies, will be coordinating and integrating the smaller projects so that findings from one could be applied to supplement the others. “We have 13 different research projects … [so] as we learn from the first project, we need to tell the rest of the team how to learn from [the first],” Barrington said. “Over the five years of the grant, instead … of doing separate things, [we need to] make sure the earliest learnings will inform the later learnings, and [apply] later learnings to dissemination and training projects.” According to Barrington, there is not enough research that delves into practical questions involving employment for people with disabilities, such as which kind of jobs they are more likely to have and what are the different employment practices that companies apply. Prof. Lisa Nishii, human resources, will be leading some of the projects that specifically involve case studies with individual companies. Her research examines the differences between disability policies and how these differences affect their enforcement and outcomes. “A lot of existing research on people with disabilities are focused on data collected at a national level, such as firing rates, but have not looked as much at within-organization factors once somebody is hired,” Nishii said. “Once you’re hired, what happens? What do people experience and how effective are organizations at removing obstacles that people with disabilities might face to their inclusion, advancement and success?”According to Nishii, the 150-page grant proposal was written in July, which took several weeks to complete because there was a lot of brainstorming and the team needed to show that other organizations were willing to collaborate. “It takes a lot of effort to line up all the information that you need to give the [Department of Education] the confidence so that should they give us four million dollars, we can actually do what we propose to do,” Nishii said.

Original Author: Andrew Hu