NIDILRR Grantees Highlighted at ACL National Disability Employment Awareness Month Event

On Wednesday, October 28th, New Editions supported the Administration for Community Living (ACL) National Disability Employment Awareness Month Virtual Event (NDEAM) through our Management Support contract with the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR). The theme of the event wasEmployment Innovation: Improving Work for People with Disabilities” and the agenda highlighted the past, present and future of research to advance employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The event featured remarks from ACL Administrator Lance Robertson, NIDILRR Acting Director Kristi Hill, and presentations and panel discussions with NIDILRR grantees.

NIDILRR’s mission is to generate new knowledge and to promote its effective use to improve the abilities of individuals with disabilities to perform activities of their choice in the community, and to expand society’s capacity to provide full opportunities and accommodations for its citizens with disabilities.[1]  Employment is a key component of NIDILRR’s mission, long-range plan and research portfolio, as well as ACL’s vision for all people, regardless of age and disability, to live with dignity, make their own choices, and participate fully in society.[2] NIDILRR has 47 research projects focusing on employment as an outcome domain across several funding mechanisms, as well as projects in other outcome domains that include elements of employment research. For a complete list of NIDILRR’s current projects focusing on employment outcomes, including newly funded projects, visit the National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC).

The NDEAM event explored the impact of past NIDILRR research and how it has informed the current state of the science of disability employment policies and programs and also offered a look forward at current research innovations and opportunities for future study and growth. Panel discussions explored the current state of employment for people with disabilities, including changes in employment opportunities and outcomes in light of COVID-19. While there are potential benefits for people with disabilities resulting from a change in employer attitudes on telework, there are also new challenges and barriers to examine. According to a 2017 study by the Pew Research Center, only one-in-four adults with a disability say they have high-speed internet at home, a smartphone, a desktop or laptop computer and a tablet, compared with 42% of those who report not having a disability.[3]  In addition to addressing disparities in access to high-speed internet and technology, including assistive technology, there will also need to be a focus on developing and testing virtual trainings, services and supports that have previously been provided in-person. It is important that an evolving employment landscape include targeted research addressing the employment needs of people with disabilities to ensure there are appropriate infrastructures and tools in place.

The NDEAM event was a timely bookend to the 75th annual observation of NDEAM, as well as a fitting celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Participants were able to hear directly from NIDILRR grantees about their accomplishments and learn more about how their research has improved employment opportunities and outcomes for people with disabilities, including individual success stories showing the outputs and outcomes of these projects at work. NIDILRR research has helped to change employer attitudes about people with disabilities, demonstrate innovative training and support services, establish best practices and evidence-based strategies for success, and identify proven pathways to diverse forms of employment – including self-employment and entrepreneurship. Interested in learning more about the work of NIDILRR grantees? Connect with them on social media.