East Hanover, NJ – January 22, 2020 – Kessler Foundation has awarded a two-year, $250,000 Signature Employment Grant to the University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability to investigate the experiences of recent college graduates with disabilities as they transitioned into the workplace, including experiences related to career planning and preparation, searching for a job, disability disclosure, onboarding, and accommodations.

The grant is part of over $2.4 million in grants awarded by Kessler Foundation in 2019 to organizations across the U.S. to support initiatives that create and expand job training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

The UNH Institute on Disability will design and field an online survey to 4,500 individuals (2,250 with disabilities and 2,250 without disabilities) to investigate the transition from higher education to employment. The participants, all of whom will have graduated college within the last five years, will answer a 15-minute survey consisting of multiple choice and open-ended questions. The results will advance knowledge of the challenges and successes faced by college graduates with disabilities when preparing for, seeking, and obtaining employment.

On July 26, 2020, it will be 30 years since the ADA was passed addressing discrimination against people with disabilities in education and employment. Individuals with disabilities now comprise about 11% of college students, which matters because educational attainment is associated with gainful employment. “Although the employment gap between people with and without disabilities persists, employment prospects are favorable for people with disabilities who have college degrees,” explained Elaine E. Katz, MS, CCC-SLP, senior vice president for grants and communications at Kessler Foundation. “Yet, research is lacking about the ways college graduates with disabilities successfully navigate barriers to find work.”

This survey will address this gap in knowledge by researching several key questions—what supports and services were most helpful to recent graduates during college, what kinds of jobs did they find, how did they decide whether or when to disclose their disabilities to employers, and what were employers’ attitudes toward them?

“Findings from this research will support the development of interventions and tools to improve employment outcomes and increase the degree to which college pays off for people with disabilities,” said Kimberly Phillips, UNH research assistant professor. “College career and vocational rehabilitation counselors will benefit from a greater understanding of the barriers and opportunities unique to people with disabilities within higher education and when seeking work after completing  a  degree.”

This survey is part of a larger effort in partnership with Kessler Foundation to generate new, actionable information to improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities. This work builds on two prior projects, in 2015 looking at workers with disabilities who were striving to work, and in 2017 where job supervisors were surveyed for their perspectives on employing workers with disabilities.