November 6, 2011

Cornell Documentary Shows Interplay of Disability Issues

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A documentary film produced by Cornell’s Employment and Disability Institute premiered the night of Oct. 30 on a local television channel. The film, titled “What Works?”, addresses how young adults with disabilities can compete for jobs in a more competitive job market.

The 30-minute film — broadcast on WCNY-DT, Central New York’s public broadcasting station — shows how an EDI research project, known as the Model Transition Program, studies the interplay between schools, communities, businesses and students with disabilities. The project discovered patterns and activities that lead to a successful transition to employment for disabled youth, according to David Brewer, senior extension associate for EDI.

The EDI research, funded by the New York State Education Department’s Vocational Rehabilitation Institute, was initiated in 2008. The New York State Education Department contracted with the EDI to study various collaborations between schools and communities to improve work opportunities for New York’s disabled youth, Brewer said. The institute evaluated 60 programs that link schools with communities to further employment opportunities for these students.

Researchers collected data for 18 months beginning in 2007. They monitored the activities of 16,000 disabled high school students from 150 schools in New York. The goal was to determine what key factors drive better transitions from school to the work force.

Working with the EDI’s research results, Insights International — a research and analytical services company — prepared videos for various groups of people to highlight what drives these successful transitions. The resulting videos captured the attention of WCNY in Syracuse, which worked with both Insights International and Cornell to create a television program that told the story from students’ perspectives.

The institute found that several factors — including career development activities such as job skills training, work experience and administrative support — successfully aid the transition to employment, according to the EDI’s summary of research and recommendations.

The EDI’s research on job opportunities for disabled youth reached conclusions applicable to all job seekers, according to Brewer.

“My advice for students with disabilities on campus would be the same as for any student. Make connections with others, build on your talents [and] get real world experience,” Brewer said.

Original Author: Rebekah Foster