Cornell University

July 2 2010

Landmark Legislation

Federal law helps youth with disabilities pursue careers

David BrewerFewer barriers stand between students with disabilities and their career paths, thanks to a federal law turning 20 this month, according to Senior Extension Associate David Brewer of ILR's Employment and Disability Institute.

Teens and young adults "can now attend college, apply for jobs and access community employment agencies on an equal basis" because of the legislation, he said.

July 26 is the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It dramatically influenced the physical configurations and philosophical outlooks at thousands of workplaces and other sites across the nation.

Government-sponsored work force development centers are now required -- due to the legislation -- to be accessible to all job seekers, Brewer said.

The law has also influenced the way information is presented. Large-print publications, audio recordings and Braille versions of registration forms and pamphlets for the public are now offered to meet the needs of people with visual impairments.

"The ADA is not about creating an unfair advantage for people with disabilities; it is about leveling the playing field," he said.

In New York state alone, more than 90,000 of the 1.4 million people ages 16 to 20 report one or more disabilities, according to www.disabilitystatistics.org.

One of the Employment and Disability Institute projects which helps facilitate employment opportunities for teens and young adults is the Model Transition Program evaluation led by Brewer.

It tracked the progress of 16,000 students with disabilities during a three-year period through funding provided by the New York State Education Department’s Vocational Rehabilitation Agency.

Data about the students, from 150 high schools statewide, is being used by policymakers, teachers, vocational rehabilitation counselors and others to learn from patterns that lead to successful transitions after high school.

Information about the project is available at www.TransitionSource.org.