The Worlds Wheelchair Culture

Changes at Cornell's School of Industrial and Labor Relations 
Employment and Disability Institute raise its profile on campus & worldwide.

ITHACA, N.Y. - The Cornell University group that advocates for 
people with disabilities in the workplace has more staff, renovated 
headquarters and a new name - the Employment and Disability Institute (EDI).

The institute's mission remains the same, however: to provide
research, training materials, programs and technical assistance that
make it easier for people with disabilities to be integrated in the
workplace, schools and communities.

"EDI is a wonderful success story," said Edward Lawler, dean of
Cornell's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, where the
institute is based. "Since its beginnings in the 1960s, it has grown
to become the premier program of its kind in the United States, with
affiliations, support and praise from researchers and practitioners
around the globe."

Susanne Bruyère, director of the institute - formerly the Program on
Employment and Disability - said: "Our name change reflects our
growth and the breadth of our efforts on inclusive workplaces,
educational systems and communities. The new name better represents
our expanded mission to meet emerging and future needs both
nationally and globally." The program is still housed in the ILR
Extension Building in the center of Cornell's campus.

With 41 grants, totaling close to $27 million over 13 years and an
additional $5 million still under review, the institute has earned
the right to spread its wings. Its reach is regional, national and
international, and it has influenced policymakers and advocates for
people with disabilities worldwide. Entirely self-supporting, it has
grants and contracts with nine different state and federal
organizations, among them the U.S. Departments of Education and of
Labor and the Social Security Administration. It also is affiliated
with such groups as the Global Applied Disability Research and
Information Network on Employment and Training (GLADNET), which
Bruyère chairs, and the American Association for Persons with

The institute's groundbreaking study of selected e-recruiting Web
sites and their accessibility, or lack of it, to people with
disabilities was considered by the U.S. Equal Economic Opportunity
Commission in the framing of new guidance on Internet recruiting in
line with employment disability nondiscrimination policies and
practices, said Bruyère. She explained, "If you're blind and use a
screen reader to navigate the Web, the Web pages must be designed
using Web-accessibility guidelines so that what's visible can become
audible." Many Web site designers aren't aware of that need and don't
comply with Web-accessibility standards, she noted.

Additionally, in a new service EDI staff have helped select Fortune 500 
companies make their Web-based recruiting and job application materials 
accessible to people with vision impairments.

EDI employs 25 people, 11 of them ILR School extension faculty. It
has 15 affiliated adjunct faculty, plus links with such Cornell
faculty as Richard Burkhauser, the S.G. Blanding Professor of Policy
Analysis and Management, department chair of PAM and principal
investigator on a long-term research project funded by the National
Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

"Over the last five years Susanne and her team, together with PAM and
the Cornell Institute for Policy Research faculty in Washington,
D.C., have produced cutting-edge research on the employment of
working-age people with disabilities," said Burkhauser. "Their
efforts have had a major impact on how statistics on the population
with disabilities are used."

Who are the institute's typical clients? "We get numerous calls from
the local, state and federal government asking for statistics on the
employment rate of people with disabilities, the prevalence rate -
how many people with disabilities live in-state - and their household
income," said Bruyère. Using archived data sets on a broad range of
relevant information, the institute's staff and researchers are able
to shape the data to serve the needs of the organizations. Key
research conducted by the institute also is available to inquirers,
both public and private.

For example, when New York state wanted to compare the earnings of
residents in general with residents with disabilities who had
received vocational training in different regions, the institute was
able to supply benchmarking data to the state's Office of Vocational
and Educational Services for People with Disabilities.

Select EDI faculty have supported efforts to improve practices at
more than 350 school districts across New York state so that more
young people with disabilities make successful transitions from high
school to employment, community living and college. Faculty also have
worked to make sure programs and services that are part of workforce
development systems across the state are accessible to individuals
with disabilities.

In addition, EDI faculty are working to ensure that the special needs
of New York state prison inmates with disabilities are included in
rehabilitation, treatment and parole planning. Partners in that
endeavor - a five-year research demonstration - are the state's
Department of Corrections, Division of Parole and Developmental
Disabilities Planning Council.

For information on Cornell's Employment and Disability Institute call (607)255-7727 (voice)(607)255-2891(TTY)send e-mail to or visit Web site which is accessible to the visually impaired.

Linda Myers: Senior Writer, management, law, labor, hospitality, architecture, art & planning. Cornell News Service Surge 3 Facility Ithaca, NY 14853

Office phone: 607-255-9735
Office fax: 607-255-5373
Web site: