Day 1: Employment and Economic Self-Sufficiency

Welcome to the first day of the ADA State of the Science Virtual Conference, examining the theme of "Employment and Economic Self-Sufficiency." Hear about research from our nationwide regional centers and partner researchers on a range of topics, including disability and implicit bias, youth and employment, small organizations and Title I, and financial inclusion for people with disabilities. Join our keynote speaker Maria Town, president and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and closing speaker John Tschida, executive director of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) — together we will explore how the ADA can better improve employment practices, employment opportunities, and economic self-sufficiency for all.

Transcripts and videos will be available soon.

Keynote Speaker

Maria Town

Maria Town

President and CEO, American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)

Maria Town is the President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities. In this role, she works to increase the political and economic power of people with disabilities.

Prior to this she served as the Director of the City of Houston Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities where she advocated for the rights and needs of citizens with disabilities, served as a liaison between the mayor, city council, city departments and other public and private entities on matters pertaining to people with disabilities in Houston, and established local and national partnerships to advance inclusion.

Town is the former senior associate director in the Obama White House Office of Public Engagement where she managed the White House's engagement with the disability community and older Americans. She also managed the place-based portfolio and coordinated engagement across Federal agencies. While at the White House, Town hosted an inclusive fashion show that highlighted the efforts of makers and designers to enhance disability integration. Prior to this, Town was a policy advisor at the Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy. While at ODEP, Town led and coordinated numerous efforts to improve employment outcomes for youth and young adults with disabilities. She has particular expertise in areas of youth development and leadership and promoting college and career readiness for all youth. In addition to her disability policy work, Town is the creator of the popular CP Shoes blog where she writes about fashion, design, and disability. She was recently named to the Susan Daniel’s Disability Mentoring Hall of Fame and to the inaugural class of Emory University’s 40 Under 40. She hails from Louisiana, where her family still resides.

Closing Speaker

John Tschida

John Tschida

Executive Director, Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD)

John Tschida has spent more than 20 years using data and research to drive policy change and service development for individuals with disabilities. Before joining AUCD in February of 2017 as associate executive director, he was appointed as director if the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. NIDILRR is the federal government's premier applied research agency impacting individuals with disabilities.

Scheduled Presentations

** All times shown in Pacific timezone.
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TimePresentation TitlePresenter(s)
9:00 AM**Opening RemarksADA Knowledge Translation Center
9:05 AMKeynote PresentationMaria Town, American Association of People with Disabilities
9:50 AMBreak
10:05 AMDisability and Implicit BiasJill Bezyak and Emily Shuman, Rocky Mountain ADA Center
10:20 AMThe Road to Work: Youth With Disabilities and Their Perspectives on Employment and the ADADr. Ann Deschamps and Dr. Ellen Fabian, Mid-Atlantic ADA Center
10:35 AMSupporting Small Organizations in Title I Implementation: An Intervention Development StudyDr. Hsiao-Ying (Vicki) Chang, Dr. Sarah von Schrader, and Wendy Strobel Gower, Northeast ADA Center
10:50 AMThe National Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Americans With Disabilities Act Research Project (NEARP): Key Findings and Ongoing Studies Related to Workplace DiscriminationPhillip Rumrill, University of Kentucky Human Development Institute
11:05 AMUnderstanding and Improving Financial Inclusion Through Participatory Action ResearchDr. Meera Adya and Barry Whaley, Southeast ADA Center
11:20 AMADA Research Q&AADA Knowledge Translation Center
11:40 AMBreak
11:55 AMClosing SpeakerJohn Tschida, Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD)
12:25 PMClosing StatementsADA Knowledge Translation Center

Abstracts and Bios

Disability and Implicit Bias

Dr. Jill Bezyak and Emily Shuman

Previous research indicates that negative attitudes toward individuals with disabilities are the largest impediment to full inclusion of individuals with disabilities. In order to improve understanding of negative attitudes towards individuals with disabilities, the Rocky Mountain ADA Center used the Implicit Association Test to fully examine how attention to implicit bias can be used to address attitudinal barriers towards individuals with disabilities. In the first stage of the project, as part of the Disability Implicit Association Test (D-IAT), over 41,000 participants answered questions aimed at identifying the effects of demographic characteristics on implicit bias towards individuals with disabilities. In the second stage, 200 employers and HR professionals completed implicit bias trainings and provided information on stigma, disability inclusion practices, hiring intention, and recruitment efforts. Results support the use of the IAT to assess attitudes toward people with disabilities. Higher levels of employer bias were related to negative attitudes toward disability, decreased support of recruitment efforts, as well as decreased intentions of hiring people with disabilities. Increased use of disability inclusion efforts was also positively related to intention to hire individuals with disabilities. Future trainings targeting HR professionals, employers, small business owners, along with other key stakeholders, is a crucial tool needed to continue to raise awareness regarding implicit bias towards individuals with disabilities.

Jill L. Bezyak, Ph.D., LP, CRC

Jill L. Bezyak, Ph.D., LP, CRC

Dr. Jill Bezyak is a Professor of Rehabilitation Counseling and Sciences in the Department of Human Services at the University of Northern Colorado. Dr. Bezyak received her doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Rehabilitation Psychology. She serves as a rehabilitation educator to both undergraduate and graduate students with instructional expertise in the areas of research methods, psychiatric rehabilitation, group counseling, and psychological aspects of disability. She is the Principal Investigator of the Rehabilitation Services Administration Long-Term Training Grant in Rehabilitation Counseling at the University of Northern Colorado. Dr. Bezyak is also a licensed psychologist and a certified rehabilitation counselor with clinical experience in the areas of psychiatric rehabilitation, substance abuse counseling, and counseling of individuals with chronic illnesses. Her research areas include education and implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, attitudinal barriers towards individuals with disabilities, health promotion of individuals with disabilities, and evidence-based practice in rehabilitation counseling. Dr. Bezyak has served as the Principal Investigator for the Rocky Mountain ADA Center since 2013, and in this role, she coordinates multiple research partners and projects focused on ADA implementation.

Emily Shuman

Emily Shuman

Emily Shuman is the project director for the Rocky Mountain ADA Center. As director, Emily leads the Rocky Mountain ADA Center’s staff and the organization’s daily operations including technical assistance calls, regional training coordination, information dissemination and more. Shuman also works closely with center directors from across the national network to improve operational practices and program expansion. Emily has passion for empowering and working with businesses and individuals so they can obtain a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities under the ADA. She is the center’s spokesperson and regularly works with local, regional, and national media. A highly regarded Young Professional, Emily is one of the youngest directors in the 30-year history of the ADA National Network.

The Road to Work: Youth With Disabilities and Their Perspectives on Employment and the ADA

Dr. Ann Deschamps and Dr. Ellen Fabian

Research indicates that transition-age youth with disabilities face several obstacles with regard to finding employment. However, research on the extent to which barriers and facilitators differ across disability types and contexts is lacking. This qualitative study used a focus group approach in order to understand employment-related challenges faced by a cross-section of transition-age youth with disabilities across multiple settings. The study also examined transition-aged youth’s knowledge and use of rights under the ADA. Findings indicate that youth with disabilities faced several barriers in the form of stigma, lack of workplace supports and accommodations, specific disability condition, and anxiety. In addition, given the economic forecasts resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, we can anticipate that employment of youth with disabilities, which already lags behind that of their peers, will be further depressed, particularly given their experiences with negative stereotypes on the part of businesses, and the dramatic unemployment of people with disabilities that occurred during the Great Recession of 2007-2009.

Ann Deschamps, Ed.D.

Ann Deschamps, Ed.D.

Dr. Ann Deschamps is Vice President of TransCen Inc. whose mission is meaning work and community inclusion of people with disabilities. In this role, she directs the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center focusing on operations, training and research. A top priority throughout her career has been translating research to practice particularly for educators. Dr. Deschamps is responsible for implementation and coordination of the Mid-Atlantic ADA Center’s ADA Trainer Leadership Network (ADA-TLN), a multi-year capacity building initiative that trains trainers on basic ADA and disability awareness curriculum to implement throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. She has a long history of consulting with schools systems and others on best practices in transition and employment for youth with disabilities. Her 27 year career has focused on full implementation of the ADA and successful school to work transition for youth with disabilities.

Ellen Fabian, Ph.D.

Ellen Fabian, Ph.D.

Dr. Ellen Fabian is Co-Director of the Center for Transition and Career Innovation for Youth with Disabilities, and a professor in the Department of Counseling, Higher Education & Special Education in the College of Education.  She is also the co-principal investigator and co-project director of the Way2Work and PROMISE research and evaluation projects at the Center of Transition & Career Innovation at the University of Maryland. Dr. Fabian has worked in the field of disability in various capacities for over 30 years; most recently her research has been in the area of transition from school to work for students and youth with disabilities. Over the past 30 years, she has developed, taught and managed academic and research projects related to disability issues, including transition for youth with disabilities. She is pleased that the Center on Transition & Career Innovation will be at the forefront in the design and dissemination of effective and evidence-based practices to improve the lives of youth with disabilities.

The National Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Americans With Disabilities Act Research Project (NEARP): Key Findings and Ongoing Studies Related to Workplace Discrimination

Dr. Phillip Rumrill

This presentation focuses on the National Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Americans with Disabilities Act Research Project (NEARP), which was begun in 2003 at Virginia Commonwealth University and which is currently housed at the University of Kentucky. Viewing the employment of Americans with disabilities as a national public health concern and workplace discrimination against people with disabilities as an insidious and un-American virus, NEARP researchers have applied a wide variety of scientific methods to understand the etiology, symptoms, risk factors, incidence and prevalence, and consequences of workplace discrimination, all in an effort to develop interventions to make American workplaces equitable, accessible, and inclusive for all workers. The presenter will overview the Integrated Mission System (IMS) database that serves as the vehicle for NEARP analyses, describe key findings from recent studies, and report the progress of ongoing research activities.

Dr. Phillip Rumrill

Dr. Phillip Rumrill

Dr. Phillip Rumrill is a Professor in the Department of Early Childhood, Special Education, and Counselor Education at the University of Kentucky (UK) in Lexington. He also serves as Director of Research and Training in the UK Human Development Institute, which is Kentucky’s Center of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Keene State College in New Hampshire and his doctorate from the University of Arkansas. Dr. Rumrill has published widely in content areas such as aging and disability, issues facing students with disabilities in higher education, assistive technology and reasonable accommodations, chronic illness, the career development implications of disability, workplace discrimination, program evaluation, research design and methodology, and self-advocacy strategies for people with disabilities.

Supporting Small Organizations in Title I Implementation: An Intervention Development Study

Dr. Hsiao-Ying (Vicki) Chang, Dr. Sarah von Schrader, and Wendy Strobel Gower

Previous research has identified a range of factors that influence an employers' decisions related to hiring and accommodating qualified workers with disabilities. However, little of this research focuses on the experiences of small businesses. In our study, we aimed to understand the implementation of Title I of the ADA in small businesses. This study used qualitative and quantitative research methods to build an understanding of (1) how the decisions related to disability are made in the small business context, (2) factors that influence attitudes around disability, (3) specific practices of implementing accommodations, and (4) how small businesses learn about and incorporate information about the ADA into their work. We used the findings of this investigation to design tools to support Title I implementation in small businesses, including the “Small Business at Work Toolkit”.  Based on recommendations of employers who participated in the study, the toolkit includes real examples and practical information written in plain language. The toolkit delivers information in a microlearning (short, interactive, contextually-relevant nugget) format about topics, including COVID-19, that reflect small businesses’ needs. We are currently conducting a pilot study, obtaining users' feedback, and will share preliminary findings.

Hsiao-Ying (Vicki) Chang, Ph.D., CRC

Dr. Chang, Project Evaluation Specialist, will lead the Northeast ADA Center's evaluation activities and collaborate with Dr. von Schrader and Dr. Cook on the Center's research projects. She joined the Northeast ADA Center as a Research Support Specialist and is now a Research Associate providing evaluation support to ensure fidelity, relevance, sustainability, and quality of the service delivery. Her current research focuses on examining the experience of employers, employees with disabilities, and service providers in recruitment, selection and retention, and identifying strategies to promote successful employment. Dr. Chang received her Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision from Pennsylvania State University and has a master's degree in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling and a bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of Iowa. She is also a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC).

Sarah von Schrader, Ph.D.

Dr. von Schrader, Research Director, joined Cornell University's K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability (YTI) as a Research Associate in June 2009 and now serves as the Associate Director of Research.  Dr. von Schrader's research focuses on employer practices related to employer success in recruiting, hiring, and advancing individuals with disabilities. She received her doctorate in Education Measurement and Statistics from the University of Iowa. Prior to coming to YTI, she worked in the fields of health policy and management, educational testing, and evaluation.

Wendy Strobel Gower, MS

Wendy Strobel Gower, Project Director, is a Senior Extension Associate and Program Director at Cornell University's K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Institute on Employment and Disability in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. She currently leads a diverse team of professionals in the development and testing of innovative approaches to culture change in organizations as it relates to the inclusion of people with disabilities. Wendy is the project director for the Northeast ADA Center funded by the National Institute for Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research and the Co-Director of the Employer Assistance and Resource Network funded by the Office of Disability Employment Policy. Wendy holds a Master's degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from the Medical College of Virginia at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). She has worked extensively in application, training, and materials development for diversity and inclusion, employment of people with disabilities, and accommodation in schools and the workplace for people with disabilities.

Understanding and Improving Financial Inclusion Through Participatory Action Research

Dr. Meera Adya and Barry Whaley

Equitable and meaningful community participation requires access to basic life needs such as food and housing security. Adequate finances are required to purchase or secure these basic needs. Research has examined physical access of community spaces, housing and food availability in communities, and how best to support employment and provide benefits so that individuals have the economic means to provide for themselves. These elemental (though not easy or uncomplicated) issues must be addressed, but a gap in the research remains: How can individuals with disabilities use, save, and grow those funds to establish economic security, upon which other forms of security and participation are predicated?  Recent developments, notably the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act), have begun to remediate the policy gap and place a spotlight on the glaring lack of focus on supporting economic security and mobility for individuals with disabilities. Interacting with mainstream or alternative financial institutions to manage one’s money is fundamental, and during times of hardship, it is critical. In this presentation, findings will be shared from a program of participatory action research co-conceived, co-developed, and co-implemented by stakeholder researchers (community members with disabilities and finance professionals) and SEADA Center researchers. The research examined the accessibility practices of financial institutions and the financial inclusion experiences of community members.

Meera Adya, Ph.D., J.D.

Meera Adya, Ph.D., J.D.

Dr. Meera Adya has degrees in psychology and in law and conducts applied research that examines the ways laws, policies, and programs work to improve outcomes.  Dr. Adya examines factors that impact the inclusion of people with disabilities in community and employment settings, through evaluation of accessibility across settings, the use of technology-based and other accommodations, a corporate culture of inclusion, as well as citizen engagement through voting preferences and political participation.  She has over 15 years of experience in applied research, including with federal and state government agencies. Her research and evaluation studies often employ multiple research methods, including experimental (or randomized controlled) designs, field research, surveys, qualitative / interview-based studies, archival research, and meta-analyses. 

Barry Whaley

Barry Whaley

Barry Whaley works at the Burton Blatt Institute, Syracuse University.  He is the Project Director of the Southeast ADA Center, Principal Co-Collaborator with the University of Leeds (UK) Inclusive Public Spaces project, Co-Collaborator with the University of Queensland (AU) Gender, Equity, Disability, and Social Inclusion Mainstreaming Short Course, and Principal Investigator of the Mid-Atlantic Youth and Self-Advocacy project.  Previously, he was Project Director of the Supported Higher Education Project at the University of Kentucky Human Development Institute. Barry was a Consultant for Atlas Research providing technical assistance and training for the Homeless Veterans Supported Employment Project.  For many years, he was Executive Director of Community Employment, Inc. a supported employment provider.  Barry has worked for the Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. He began his career with the “New Neighbors” deinstitutionalization project, liberating people in state institutions to return to their home communities.