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ODEP - Office of Disability Employment Policy - Driving Change Creating Opportunity


Disability Inclusion and Business

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Business Survey Results (2011)


Historically, most employment and disability programs, projects, and outreach have focused on larger, national businesses. However, small businesses represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms and employ half of all private sector employees. Small business generated 60 to 80 percent of net new jobs annually over the last decade. In addition, over the past 10 years, minority-owned businesses have grown at approximately double the rate of all firms in the U.S. economy.

Add Us In (AUI) is a demonstration project designed to identify and develop strategies to increase the capacity of small businesses, including those in underserved and historically excluded communities, to employ adults and youth with disabilities. The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) funds eight consortia to explore the intersection of disability with race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, class, and gender; factors that can influence employment disparities. Consortia are led by regional grantees and are comprised of representatives from small businesses; the workforce development system; and diversity, disability and youth organizations.

Kansas City

The Add Us In - Kansas City consortium seeks “to provide a continuum of career opportunities for urban youth with disabilities within the greater Kansas City area through a business led network that creates jobs and markets workforce training and services to prospective employers.” This urban network, led by area business associations, works collaboratively with key workforce, youth-serving, and disability-serving organizations to develop, evaluate, and disseminate a replicable model that is driven by workforce needs and provides a continuum of employment related experiences and opportunities for youth with disabilities.

Many youth with disabilities lack a vision for their future and a network of employment supports to assist them in creating and navigating toward career goals. The project will address this need through business and youth initiatives designed to increase job opportunities within prospective businesses and improve employment outcomes for youth (ages 16-24).


In 2011, Add Us In – Kansas City conducted an online employer assessment survey. In addition to the survey, the consortium hosted a focus group to help the consortium better recruit business partners, and to aid in developing a business led-network. The business lead network would be responsible for the development of a number of opportunities related to education, training, and peer to peer mentoring for business partners. Add Us In – Kansas City sought to recruit two hundred businesses and employers to complete an online employer assessment survey. A total of 140 local businesses completed the online survey. Consortia members worked to engage local businesses and get them to complete the survey. Both small businesses and large corporations from a variety of industries responded.


Inclusion and Disability Employment Awareness

Several respondents had no goals or formal efforts in place to recruit diverse candidates (40.4%); and when asked if senior management had set goals to promote disability inclusion in the workplace, more than half stated that they had no goals or formal efforts in place (58.7%). In addition, 55.6 % of the respondents reported that their level of awareness of federal, state and local resources to help them in their efforts related to disability inclusion was low.

Comments from the focus group included:

  • “With the pressure for companies to run economically lean, this would be seen as outside the box, and currently they do not have time to think about expanding.”<
  • “Organizations are nervous about not hiring the best employees and disabilities can be an “unknown.””
  • “There is a considerable amount of education that needs to be done because “you're scared of what you don't know.””

Challenges in Promoting Disability Inclusion

The major challenges reported by employers in promoting disability inclusion and employing people with disabilities were: availability of qualified applicants (65%), concerns regarding accommodation requests and the costs of accommodations (52.8%), lack of knowledge regarding impacts of disability on the job (17.8%), and concerns regarding productivity of employees with disabilities (16.3%).

Comments from the focus group included:

  • “Where does an employer look for the pool of candidates?”<
  • “[There is] Anxiety to hire someone with disabilities because they fear repercussions if they ever were in a position to terminate that particular position.”
  • “Costs are a concern especially in this economic environment. There is a fear that specialty equipment will be needed such as a larger computer screen or that printers, etc. will have to be moved to be more accessible.”

Most Effective Practices that Enhance an Inclusive Workplace

Employers reported that the most effective business employment policies and practices in their industry (that they were aware of) that enhanced an inclusive workplace were: training and education for staff and management (57.6%), availability of part-time work (34.8%), employee networks promoting inclusion such as a disability network group and supports (33.3%), participation in a diversity/inclusion campaign (31.8%), and targeted recruitment efforts (25.8%). Of the businesses, 67% stated they their company would participate in workshops regarding disability inclusion, and 84.3% affirmed that, if available, they would utilize resources to aid in efforts related to disability inclusion.

Comments from the focus group included:

  • “Increase training and education”
  • “Need to locate and know about resources available”
  • “Create a business case of “what's in it for me.””


I am not sure what to say here. In my head, it is a clear and easy step to actions and recommendations to address what was learned.


Based on the results of the Employer Assessment Survey and focus groups, Add Us In – Kansas City's Business/Employer Workgroup met and developed recommendations for action. The Business/Employer Workgroup consists of representatives from businesses, chambers of commerce, disability provider, and youth service organizations. Some of the recommendations they identified included:

  • Development of succinct talking points to help business understand some of the benefits of disability inclusion<
  • Identification of key partners who are a “trusted resource” for the business community such as the Black Chamber and the Greater Kansas City Chamber as a means to promote opportunities, and enhance outreach.
  • Use of connections with an organization or agency whose purpose is connecting with businesses such as the Business Leadership Network, or a local Vocational Rehabilitation's Business Outreach Specialist
  • Asking to present at conferences, meetings, and events that target recruitment and hiring such as the Society for Human Resource Management and other networks.
  • Identification of organizations that advocate and support small business owners and making presentations at their meetings
  • Working to establish formal agreements with small and large businesses
  • With small and large businesses as partners create disability inclusion training relevant to business-need (e.g. a business case)
  • Business-to-business mentoring


Business Strategies that Work: A Framework for Disability Inclusion — Identifies promising employment policies and practices for recruiting, hiring, retaining and advancing qualified individuals with disabilities. Office of Disability Employment Policy. Department of Labor. - October 2012 - JAN provides free, confidential consulting services for all employers, regardless of the size of an employer's workforce. Services include one-on-one consultation about all aspects of disability employment, job accommodations, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

JAN also has resources specific to small business -

The Business Case from – EARN empowers employer talent acquisition and competitiveness through the hiring, retition, and advancement of qualified individuals with disabilities. With their Business Case, hear what businesses have to say about the value of employees with disabilities.

Test Your Basic Knowledge of the ADA - Employers have heard about the Americans with Disabilities Act. In a recent survey to the KC Business Community, Add Us In – Kansas City learned that many employers did not consider themselves knowledgeable about disability law. Add Us In put together a series of short quizzes and (more importantly) answers with resources - November, 2013


An Analysis of Small Businesses and Job Creation. Bryan Headd - March, 2010

2007 Survey of Business Owners - July 5, 2011

Add Us In – Kansas City Employer Assessment Survey, May 2011

Add Us In – Kansas City Quarterly Report, Q3, FY2011

Add Us In Kansas City Partners

Business Partners
Boysen Companies
Kansas City Black Chamber of Commerce
Kansas Black Chamber of Commerce
Greater Kansas City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Greater Kansas City Business Leadership Network

Workforce partners
Vocational Rehabilitation
Goodwill of Western MO & Eastern KS

Disability and Youth Partners
The Whole Person
Greater Kansas City YMCA
UMKC- Institute for Human Development

For more information, please contact Derrick Willis, MPA, Research Associate, Institute for Human Development, AUI-Kansas City, MO -