Through its research projects, the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) seeks to promote evidence-based practices and systems change that increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities. ODEP's research is focused on both the supply (employee) and demand (employer) sides of the workforce development system. Through focusing on these systems, the Research & Evaluation Team initiatives intend to better understand what works in promoting effective practices and systems change that will increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities, and building and promoting the business case for recruiting, hiring, retaining, and promoting people with disabilities.
ODEP's Current Research Initiatives
Executive Order 13078 mandated the development of an "accurate and reliable" measure of the employment rate of people with disabilities. ODEP is collaborating with the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to develop a valid and reliable method of measuring the unemployment rate of people with disabilities through the Current Population Survey (CPS). In 2006, the BLS tested a set of 7 disability questions in the CPS. BLS will use the data from this test to assess the effectiveness of the new questions designed to identify persons with disabilities within the context of the CPS, and to evaluate the effect that adding these questions to the CPS on a monthly basis might have on the survey's response rates.
ODEP conducts research to better understand how different types of telework can promote employment opportunities for people with disabilities in the following areas: (1) Using telework as a return-to-work strategy specifically for people with disabilities receiving Federal and State Workers' Compensation; (2) Using telework as an alternative strategy for increasing competitive employment for disabled veterans returning from tours of duty; and (3) Surveying public (Federal and State agencies) and private employers to identify supporting conditions and strategies that are necessary to effectively implement and sustain telework for people with disabilities.
Since the states' initial implementation of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), One-Stop Career Centers (One-Stops) and youth services have been addressing the challenges of serving all customers, including those with disabilities. ODEP is conducting a case study of 12 WIA-assisted sites to provide the U.S. Department of Labor information that will enable practice to inform policy and improve performance results of WIA-assisted programs to serve people with disabilities. This study focuses on both impact evaluation and customer satisfaction.
ODEP has funded programs across the United States to build the capacity and change the workforce development system to better serve adults and youths with disabilities. To evaluate the effectiveness of these programs, independent evaluations are being conducted through Westat, an external contractor. The purpose of the independent evaluation is to provide ODEP with data and information about systems change that can be used to assist policy development and recommendations, as well as track progress in meeting ODEP’s goals under the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). Utilizing qualitative and quantitative data, Westat is conducting a multi-site longitudinal study describing the challenges and success of local workforce development systems in effectively serving people with disabilities.
Among its portfolio of assets to assist employers in locating, hiring, and promoting employees with disabilities, ODEP has two nationwide toll-free services: (1) The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a toll-free information and referral service on job accommodations for people with disabilities. JAN analyzes trends and statistical data related to the assistance it provides. JAN can be accessed by phone or TTY at 1-800-526-7234 or 1-800-ADA-WORK (1-800-232-9675) or via its website ; and (2) The Employer Assistance and Recruiting Network (EARN), a national toll-free telephone and electronic information referral service is designed to assist employers in locating and recruiting qualified workers with disabilities. EARN can be reached at 1-866- EARN NOW (327-6669) or via its website.
Self-Employment Technical Assistance, Resources, & Training (START-UP)
To further promote self-employment as an employment outcome for individuals with disabilities, ODEP funds Self-Employment Technical Assistance, Resources, & Training (START-UP / USA), a partnership between Virginia Commonwealth University and Griffin-Hammis and Associates, LLC. START-UP / USA provides technical assistance and disseminates resources nationally to individuals interested in pursuing self-employment. In addition, START-UP / USA provides assistance to three sub-national projects: START-UP / Alaska, START-UP / Florida, and START-UP / New York. These projects are designed to generate data and information to validate systems capacity-building strategies and systems change models for successfully increasing self-employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
Through the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University (BBI), ODEP is leading a project entitled “Disability Case Study Research Consortium on Employer Organizational Practices in Employing People with Disabilities.” With this project, ODEP is sponsoring a consortium of expert researchers from BBI and other universities, including Rutgers, Cornell, Georgia Tech, and West Virginia University, to examine “corporate culture” and its impact on employment opportunities, experiences, and engagement at work for persons with disabilities. The goal of this research project is identify how organizational structures, values, policies, and day-to-day practices affect the employment of people with disabilities (e.g., with respect to recruiting, hiring, retaining, and promoting people with and without disabilities). The study will help shape future employer policy and corporate perceptions of the ways in which organizational policies, practices, procedures, and environment affect the “inclusion” experience of individuals with disabilities in the workforce.
ODEP established the Training and Technical Assistance for Providers (T-TAP) Project in September of 2002. ODEP provided funds for the implementation of a national technical assistance and training effort designed to increase the capacity of community rehabilitation providers (CRPs) that provide services for people with disabilities. In order to better understand how to increase the number of individuals who have integrated employment outcomes, T-TAP conducted a national survey of CRPs that operate programs under the "Special Minimum Wage" program. This program established under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 214(c) authorizes employers to pay special minimum wages, which are less than the Federal minimum wage to workers with disabilities. The survey and analysis of the data was conducted by the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).