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Mayor Adams Announces New Investment to Support Career Advancement for People With Disabilities

July 26, 2023

Plan Includes $8.8 Million Investment in Center for Workplace Accessibility and Inclusion, Direct Employment Services

Investment Will Help 2,500 New Yorkers with Disabilities Find Career-Track Employment Over Next Three Years

Mayor Adams Appoints Martha Jackson as Interim Executive Director of Center for Workplace Accessibility and Inclusion

NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Eric Adams today announced a new, two-part investment to support career advancement for people with disabilities and expand access to internships, training seminars, jobs, future careers, and financial counseling. The announcement includes launching a Center for Workplace Accessibility and Inclusion that will address the structural challenges many people with disabilities face when pursuing a career. It will also increase the city’s investment in direct employment services that help people with disabilities prepare for and connect to jobs and careers. The $8.8 million plan will help 2,500 New Yorkers with disabilities find career-track employment over the next three years.

According to American Community Survey data, two-thirds of adult New Yorkers with disabilities are jobless — being either unemployed or not in the labor market. Additionally, those living with disabilities experience poverty at a much higher rate than adults without disabilities: nearly 30 percent compared to 17 percent. The city’s investment today will address these challenges head-on.

“It is estimated that around two-thirds of working-age New Yorkers with disabilities are jobless — either unemployed or not in the labor market — not because they are unable to work, but because they have so often been denied the supports necessary to access and sustain employment, but I am committed to being the mayor for all New Yorkers, including those living with disabilities,” said Mayor Adams. “Today, I am proud to announce a new, two-part plan designed to champion career advancement for people with disabilities and create a more equitable and inclusive economy for all. The first part includes launching a Center for Workplace Accessibility and Inclusion that will that help people with disabilities prepare for and connect to jobs and careers. The second part of our plan is expanding NYC: ATWORK, our program to help people with disabilities connect with the jobs and careers that work for them. These changes will help remove some of the barriers to career success among people with disabilities and ensure that every New Yorker can make it here, not just anywhere. New York City has always been at the forefront of accessibility and inclusion. We want to empower individuals with disabilities, ensuring they have equal access to meaningful and fulfilling careers, while helping every New Yorker reach their full potential.”

“I firmly believe that talent exists in every corner of every neighborhood in this city,” said Deputy Mayor for Housing, Economic Development, and Workforce Maria Torres-Springer. “Today’s announcement of the Center for Workplace Accessibility and Inclusion represents a major milestone — one that cements the city’s position as a leader in developing talent of all abilities as well as providing our employers with increased access to our diverse workforce.”

“This administration is investing in connecting New Yorkers in the disability community with meaningful work opportunities,” said Chief Counsel to City Hall, Brendan McGuire. “It’s only fitting that this announcement arrives as we celebrate the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into law 33 years ago today. I commend the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, the Mayor’s Office of Talent and Workforce Development, and all of the agencies, partners, advocates, and participants for their tireless efforts to ensure that all New Yorkers are able to build careers in the city.”

“New York City is proud to be a national leader on accessibility and inclusion, and with today's announcement, we take another significant step forward in ensuring that our city is open to everyone,” said Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) Commissioner Christina Curry. “These expanded investments in our direct employment services will help more New Yorkers with disabilities access the job opportunities they deserve. Together, we will support the career advancement of individuals with disabilities, making a lasting impact on their lives and our city’s workforce.”

“Talent is New York City’s most important asset, and today’s announcement underscores the city’s commitment to addressing the stubborn, structural employment disparities that people with disabilities too often face,” said Mayor’s Office of Talent and Workforce Development Executive Director Abby Jo Sigal. “These investments not only support individual jobseekers and employers seeking talent, but also help to tackle the policies and practices that stand in their way.”

“This is an unprecedented moment for MOPD,” said MOPD Assistant Commissioner Martha Jackson, interim executive director, Center for Workplace Accessibility and Inclusion. “We would not be here without the determination, creativity, and resilience of the NYC: ATWORK team, our original private and state funders, and the leadership of MOPD and the Mayor’s Office of Talent and Workforce Development. Our community is receiving the investment we need to gain access to jobs and careers for which we are qualified, proving at work, it’s what you can do that matters.”

“We are thrilled to be a part of this critical systems change effort to better meet the workforce needs of people with disabilities,” said Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity Acting Executive Director Carson Hicks. “Most excitingly, we will be partnering with people with disabilities to co-design new initiatives, improve programs and employer practices, and build evidence for what works in achieving success in the labor market.”

“Today’s announcement exemplifies our commitment to making sure that the services provided by SBS and our Workforce1 Career Centers are inclusive and accessible to everyone in our city,” said New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) Commissioner Kevin D. Kim. “This investment represents a major milestone on the road to making sure that all New Yorkers with disabilities can develop their skills and lend their talents to New York City’s world-class workforce.”

“Inclusivity is at the heart of our mission to make city government work for all New Yorkers, and with this investment we can increase access and equity for countless people living with disabilities,” said New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) Commissioner Dawn M. Pinnock. “Through this plan, we’ll be able to provide more resources for the 55-a program and do more to ensure our workforce is as diverse as the city we serve.”

“Getting the help and counseling you need to strengthen your financial health can set you on the path to success,” said New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) Commissioner Vilda Vera Mayuga. “Thank you to Mayor Adams and Commissioner Curry and all our partners for helping us expand our services to help even more New Yorkers achieve their goals and attain financial stability.”

Since taking office, Mayor Adams has made building a more inclusive economy a priority as highlighted in both his “Blueprint for New York City’s Economic Recovery” and this year’s “Working People’s Agenda.” Today’s announcement reaffirms the commitment to the goals previously laid out as the city celebrates the 33rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as Disability Pride Month.

The Center for Workplace Accessibility and Inclusion, located within the Office of Talent and Workforce Development, will be led by Interim Executive Director Martha Jackson. A public-private partnership, the Center will tackle structural challenges that have impeded New Yorkers with disabilities from entering the workforce. To do so, the Center for Workplace Accessibility and Inclusion will:

  • Establish an advisory council comprised of employers, providers, funders, government agencies, advocates, members of the disability community, and others.
  • Partner with key stakeholders to identify the most pressing challenges, align public and private funding, and advance a shared agenda for policy change.
  • Centralize data tracking and identify, promote, and scale best practices.
  • Partner with a service design firm and community-based organizations serving individuals with disabilities to co-design innovative new workforce programs, or improve existing programs, to be piloted and evaluated for three years.
  • Infuse accessibility design into computer science courses across The City University of New York curriculum to ensure that the next generation of technologists understands why — and how — to design software and hardware products that are “born” accessible.

A number of major employers join the Center’s advisory council, including Microsoft, Ernst & Young, Wells Fargo, The Frick Collection, CVS Health, TSINY, and the Slatin Group. These employers have partnered with NYC: ATWORK — a program sponsored by MOPD that helps people with disabilities prepare for and connect with jobs and careers — to recruit and hire people with disabilities served by the program, in addition to committing to continue to use NYC: ATWORK as a source of talent. Additionally, they will help champion the program to other employers who have a need to find qualified talent.

NYC: ATWORK staff have developed strong relationships with employers in in-demand sectors to identify their talent needs. At the same time, NYC: ATWORK staff help jobseekers build their confidence, refine their resumes and interview skills, connect to internships, and land full-time jobs that pay well. NYC: ATWORK staff also help people with disabilities connect to jobs with the City of New York through the 55-a program, which allows qualified individuals with disabilities to obtain city positions without taking the relevant civil service exam.

As a result of the city’s increased investment, MOPD will:

  • Embed additional NYC: ATWORK staff with SBS at some of its 18 Workforce1 Career Centers, beginning with the Brooklyn Workforce1 Career Center on Bond Street, and provide substantial training to staff at all centers.
  • Make Workforce1 Career Centers more accessible by leveraging a New York state Department of Labor initiative to assist workers with disabilities.
  • Increase staff for the 55-a program to help the city lead by example and hire qualified individuals with disabilities for city jobs who have not taken the relevant civil service exam, in partnership with DCAS.
  • Provide training to Workforce1 staff, workforce providers, and employers on disability etiquette and awareness.
  • Expand financial counseling tailored to people with disabilities through DCWP at multiple Workforce1 Career Center locations.

“I applaud today’s announcement, which will connect people with disabilities to new career opportunities and facilitate their workplace development through training, internships, and more,” said U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler. “This initiative will help New Yorkers with disabilities stay engaged in their local communities and address the disproportionate rates at which people with disabilities experience poverty.”

“This investment in the future of New Yorkers with Disabilities is a benefit for all New Yorkers,” said New York State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud. “The launch of the Center for Workplace Accessibility and Inclusion and the $8.8 million investment will provide career-track employment to 2,500 differently abled New Yorkers during the next three years. Because data shows that people with disabilities experience a poverty rate far greater than the average, today, the administration is investing significantly in enhancing the lives of extraordinary New Yorkers who only ask for an opportunity. As the chairperson of the Senate Social Services Committee, I look forward to this initiative’s impact on reducing poverty in my Senate district.”

“Investing in the resources New Yorkers with disabilities need to succeed is a crucial part of ensuring they are able to fully participate in our city’s workforce and economy,” said New York State Senator Andrew Gounardes. “That’s why I was proud to sponsor a resolution and lead a push for full funding for students in higher education with disabilities this year in Albany, and why I applaud the Mayor for these new initiatives announced today.”

“This $8.8 million investment will help usher in a new era in New York City — one filled with empowerment and opportunity for residents with disabilities,” said New York State Senator Jessica Scarcella-Spanton. “By expanding access to internships, training, jobs, and career advancement, we show that this city is committed to not just addressing, but overcoming the challenges New Yorkers with disabilities face every day. This initiative paves the way for a more inclusive New York City, and I’m excited for my constituents across Staten Island and Brooklyn to benefit from this new funding.”

“I have long believed that a disability is not an obstacle but an opportunity,” said New York State Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar. “Today, Mayor Adams unleashes opportunity for over 2,500 New Yorkers with disabilities. This plan will open the door to careers, training, and financial literacy for our fellow New Yorkers who have the desire and drive to excel but just need a little support. In addition, the historic Center for Workplace Accessibility and Inclusion will allow us to identify and tear down the barriers to employment for people with disabilities, so that all New Yorkers have the opportunity to thrive in the job market. I commend Mayor Adams for his deep commitment to a New York City that welcomes everyone’s talents to the workplace.”

“Currently, the barriers to employment for people with disabilities in New York City exclude incredibly talented, courageous, and resilient New Yorkers who would undoubtedly make significant contributions to our city’s workforce,” said New York State Assemblymember Harvey Epstein. “Every New Yorker deserves the opportunity to make a living and we must do everything we can to remove the structural barriers that lead to increased levels of poverty and unemployment among folks with disabilities. The mayor’s investment in workplace accessibility and career development will improve our entire community by inviting in folks with disabilities to join the workforce and share their talents for the benefit of our city.”

“I commend Mayor Adams’ $8.8 million career advancement plan to remove barriers to workforce participation and help people with disabilities achieve greater independence,” said New York State Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright. “As chair of the Assembly People with Disabilities Committee, I look forward to seeing the Center for Workplace Accessibility and Inclusion, along with vital investments in direct employment services, connect New Yorkers with disabilities to jobs that promote inclusion and integration for career advancement.”

“There is an abundance of opportunities within internships, training, and careers in New York City, although not all residents are able to access these opportunities due to structural challenges,” said New York State Assemblymember Alicia Hyndman. “New Yorkers with disabilities will have equal opportunity to the careers available through Mayor Adams launching the Center for Workplace Accessibility and Inclusion. The Center aims to assist individuals facing structural challenges when pursuing a career, and adequately prepare them for direct employment. Thank you to Mayor Adams as he continuously pushes for inclusivity in the employment sector.”

“I commend Mayor Adams for this plan. Many people with disabilities continue to face structural challenges when seeking educational and employment opportunities,” said New York State Assemblymember Manny De Los Santos. “The mayor’s investment is a tremendous step forward and will ensure that access to employment is equitable and that the workforce leaves nobody out.”

“We must take a focused approach as a city to correct barriers to employment for people with disabilities,” said New York City Comptroller Brad Lander. “I’m glad to see the mayor’s office address this critical issue of economic inclusion and look forward to working with the administration to ensure the success of this new program.”

“Every New Yorker deserves the opportunity to pursue a career, including and especially members of the disability community,” said New York City Council Majority Whip Selvena N. Brooks-Powers. “New Yorkers with disabilities are unemployed at higher rates and face structural barriers to joining the workforce. It is the city’s responsibility to address this problem, and I appreciate the administration’s efforts to support career advancement for people with disabilities.”

“This investment is one that will pay back dividends in the future, as it connects disabled individuals with the training, counseling, and careers that they need to succeed and thrive in this city,” said New York City Councilmember Joann Ariola. “All New Yorkers should be given the opportunity to find fulfilling careers, and this new plan represents a great step forward towards reducing unemployment in the Big Apple.”

“People with disabilities play an important role in the political and social fabric of our city, but are often left out of the workforce,” said New York City Councilmember Lynn Schulman. “This new investment by Mayor Adams is long overdue and will enable the disability community to fully contribute to New York City’s vibrant economy.”

“Launching a Center for Workplace Accessibility and Inclusion will significantly improve the lives of disabled New Yorkers eager to improve their careers. Through the center, job seekers will have access to resources, empowering them as they develop the necessary skills, knowledge, and confidence to achieve their professional goals,” said New York City Councilmember Marjorie Velázquez. “People living with disabilities have been overlooked in the workplace for far too long, and now is the time to put forth solutions that would narrow the job security gap. By removing barriers to employment, we are further promoting social equality and diversity in the workplace, benefiting both individuals and businesses. I’m excited to see our communities attain access to the resources they need in order to succeed in their careers.”

“I am happy to hear that the Mayor’s office has announced this important investment to support career advancement for people with disabilities through the creation of a Center for Workplace Accessibility and Inclusion,” said New York City Councilmember Amanda Farias. “Our city must continue to invest in expansive workplace models that create the necessary resources to get all New Yorkers into good paying, quality jobs. Thank you to Mayor Adams and Deputy Mayor Torres-Springer for your continued dedication to creating a more equitable and inclusive workforce.”

“NYC: ATWORK is different from other programs because they have a counselor who is there for you if you need help finding a job and provide a lot of resources that are able to help you in life,” said Tyrone S., program participant, NYC: ATWORK. “The counselor helps you with your resume and cover letter and gives you feedback on how to improve it and what you need to know when it comes to interview questions. NYC: ATWORK works together with different agencies to help you find a job that you will like and enjoy for the rest of your life. Once you have a job, you are never alone because they are always there for you when you need them.”

“We are so pleased with and excited about the expansion of NYC: ATWORK and support all their efforts,” said Larry Grubler, CEO, Transitional Services for New York, Inc. “New York City’s investment in the members of our community who can transition into a more independent life, whether in living, work, or play is what we are all about and we proud to support this effort.”

“At CVS Health, we are proud to partner with NYC: ATWORK in their mission to empower New Yorkers with disabilities to secure meaningful employment opportunities,” said Greg Schmidt, lead director, Workforce Initiatives, CVS Health. “Through this partnership, we believe in the power of self-determination and the importance of providing guidance and support to jobseekers. NYC: ATWORK’s voluntary and self-driven approach aligns perfectly with our values, as we recognize that individuals have the ability to take charge of their own career journeys. Together, we strive to create a more inclusive workforce where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.”

“As one of the original funders of NYC: ATWORK, it is exciting that this groundbreaking project is being recognized and supported by the city. It is a program that met or exceeded its goals by providing career options, financial counseling, inclusive training and support for the largest untapped talent pipeline,” said Elaine Katz, senior vice president, Grants and Communications, Kessler. “The collaboration with New York City agencies and the creation of a Center for Workplace Accessibility and Inclusion is a national model for engaging the public and private sectors in addressing the challenges people with disabilities face in finding and retaining jobs and careers. Kessler Foundation applauds this administration for its commitment to a community worthy of such an investment.”

“We are thrilled that the city has prioritized supporting and empowering people with disabilities. The creation of the Center for Workplace Accessibility and Inclusion will be a gamechanger – and a catalyst to providing desperately needed opportunities to an often-underserved group of New Yorkers,” said Alysia R Steinmann, managing partner, Metro New York Office, Ernst & Young (EY). “EY and the MOPD have collaborated for more than eight years on providing career readiness workshops and events, internships for high school and college students, and professional networking opportunities for jobseekers, and look forward to continuing this collaboration as a member of the Center’s Advisory Council.”

“Microsoft is pleased to be a partner in the newly created Center for Workplace Accessibility and Inclusion. Providing trainings and tools to help city agencies create accessible documents for a truly inclusive workforce and help train jobseekers to become competitive in their careers,” said Neil Barnett, director, Accessibility, Microsoft.

“Cultural institutions can better serve New York City by having our staffs mirror the residents we serve. Towards that end, we and several peer organizations have partnered with NYC: ATWORK to help us increase employment from within the disability community, much to our profound reward,” said Dana Spencer Winfield, chief human resources officer, The Frick Collection. “I am thrilled to learn that Mayor Adams is affirming the MOPD’s commitment to this vital sector through such meaningful support as a Center for Workplace Accessibility and Inclusion. This initiative and his administration’s ongoing investment in employment services constitutes a significant next chapter in these efforts.”

“NYC: ATWORK exemplifies the power of inclusive workforce programs,” said George Gallego, managing partner, Contento NYC. “By expanding their team and establishing a Center for Workplace Accessibility and Inclusion, they are paving the way for a more diverse and talented workforce. As an employer, Contento proudly utilized their services to find exceptional talent, showcasing the success of NYC: ATWORK in connecting businesses with the right individuals. Together, we can create a thriving and inclusive work environment for all.”

New Yorkers with disabilities can already receive virtual services from NYC: ATWORK staff, including help connecting to city jobs through the 55-a program. Interested individuals should indicate their interest, after which NYC: ATWORK staff will reach out to conduct an initial screening and schedule an orientation.

Individuals can connect in a number of ways, depending on their needs by:

  • Calling 212-788-7559.
  • Visiting the NYC: ATWORK web site and completing the “Job Seeker Referral Form.”
  • Using ASL Direct by emailing or making a video phone call by calling 646-396-5830.
  • Sending a text to 311-692.

As soon as October, individuals with disabilities will be able to access services in-person or virtually from staff based at the Brooklyn Workforce1 on the 5th Floor of 9 Bond Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201.

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