In 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) launched an online resource for small businesses and business associations focused on promoting effective disability employment practices. Titled Small Business & Disability Employment: Steps to Success, this free, web-based toolkit provides practical guidance for small businesses on how to recruit and retain qualified people with disabilities. It also describes approaches that business associations—including local chambers of commerce and business leadership networks—can use to educate their members on the issue and raise awareness in their communities.
Despite being the nation’s major drivers of job growth, small businesses employ people with disabilities at a much lower rate than large businesses. Initiated in 2010, ODEP’s Add Us In (AUI) grant program set out to identify and develop sustainable strategies for narrowing this gap.
Reflecting this, cooperative agreements were awarded under the program to identify replicable strategies for increasing the employment of people with disabilities within small businesses, especially those in historically excluded communities.
As the AUI program concluded, attention turned to the sustainability of knowledge gained through the research, which brought to light many innovative approaches. So in fall 2014, ODEP partnered with Concepts, Inc. to develop an online toolkit to carry the work of AUI forward by educating business associations and individual small businesses on ways they can apply the lessons learned through the program in their communities and workplaces.
Concepts began by reviewing and analyzing best practices compiled from AUI, and developing a high level report of these effective practices. We then sourced and drafted content for the tool, created its information architecture and visual design, programmed the toolkit, tested it, and developed a launch plan with accompanying promotional materials for ODEP to use.
Simple and easy-to-navigate, Steps to Success uses real-life examples from small businesses across the nation to illustrate a range of exemplary disability inclusion practices, ranging from internships and mentorships to accommodations to accessibility.