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

Add Us In

Add Us In Initiative

Add Us In logo


Add Us In (AUI) was a demonstration project designed to identify and develop strategies to connect the underutilized labor supply of youth and adults with disabilities, with demand from small business entrepreneurs, particularly businesses in underrepresented and historically excluded communities. The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) awarded competitive cooperative agreements to eight AUI grantees (four in 2010 and four in 2011) to explore the intersection of disability with race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, class, and gender; factors that can influence employment disparities. Consortia were led by regional grantees and comprised of representatives from small businesses; the workforce development system; and diversity, disability, and youth organizations


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. AUI tapped the traditional engine of U.S. economic growth - small businesses - to improve the labor force participation of people with disabilities.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), small businesses are responsible for half of the employment in the United States: "While small and large firms provide roughly equivalent shares of jobs, the major part of job generation and destruction takes place in the small firm sector, and small firms provide the greater share of net new jobs." (Headd, Brian. "An Analysis of Small Business and Jobs." U.S. Small Business Administration, Washington, D.C. March 2010. p.3. Accessed 10/31/2011) In fact, small business generated 60 to 80 percent of net new jobs annually over the last decade. Further, according to the SBA report, small firms tend to fill niches in the labor market that are underserved, giving added importance to the role of small businesses in the employment of persons with disabilities.

According to the American Community Survey (ACS), more than 10 million civilian, non-institutionalized Americans from ethnic and racial minorities have long-lasting disabling conditions or impairments. Connect that to the labor force participation rate for people with severe disabilities which was about 30 percent for whites, 21.2 percent for Latinos or Hispanics, and 17.8 percent for Blacks or African Americans, and the critical need for AUI becomes more clear. In short, AUI sought innovative solutions to address employment disparities for people with disabilities.

AUI represented the first major initiative aimed at linking demand from targeted small businesses with the supply of underrepresented and underserved individuals with disabilities. Despite the growth of minority-owned small businesses in recent years, large businesses have a better record of hiring people with disabilities than small businesses. Increasing the capacity of small businesses to recruit, hire and retain people with disabilities has the potential to substantially boost the rate of employment for persons with disabilities. Add Us In consortia tackled this unique challenge through a consortium-based systems change approach.

Add Us In Consortia

Add Us In Reports and Briefs (Selected)


The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is the leading source of free, expert and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations. Contact JAN via phone at (800) 526-7234 or (877) 781-9403 (TTY) or online at Specific online resources include Start with JAN: Resources for Small Business

DOL's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) also offers a range of resources to assist employees and employers in learning about work issues. These include:

Add Us In Consortia

The ODEP-funded eight Add Us In consortia were led by the University of Missouri-Kansas City in Kansas City, Mo.; the Integrated Recovery Network in Los Angeles, Calif.; the Workplace Inc. in Bridgeport, Conn.; the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Okla.; the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois in Chicago, Ill.; the National Organization on Disability in New York, N.Y.; the World Institute on Disability in Oakland, Calif.; and TransCen, Inc. in Rockville, Md.

Each AUI consortium was unique in structure and focus, according to the needs of each community, and leadership. AUI consortia varied in size from 4 to 17 members and the composition included universities, vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies, business organizations, disability organizations, LGBTQ organizations, juvenile justice, workforce, and other government agencies. Consortia employment outcomes encompassed internships or summer jobs, customized employment, competitive employment, and entrepreneurship.

Most grantees were implementing a general model that had parallel tracks in engaging businesses and preparing clients, culminating in matching client skills to employer needs. However, AUI outcomes were not only jobs and employment, but also increased awareness, capacity, and systems change. ODEP was particularly interested in capturing effective practices and strategies.

Each consortium explored different elements and approaches to determine the best way to increase the capacity of small businesses (resulting in changes in awareness, policy, or practices around disability hiring): Improving approaches made by business/job development professionals operating in the workforce system for employment of people with disabilities, influencing business and industry associations and co-opting them into the mission of viewing people with disabilities as potential valuable talent, and providing candidates with disabilities access to additional specific housing, health, support, education, and employment program resources to secure employment.

Individual Consortia Descriptions