Image of man’s arm and hand drawing puzzle pieces with a marker. There are two puzzles pieces joined together to make the word “partnership.”Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” It’s a sentiment that undoubtedly rings true in the area of workforce development, where strong community partnerships can be the key to helping small businesses recruit and hire people with disabilities.

Business associations are in a powerful position to help their small business members learn about exemplary disability employment practices and take steps toward hiring qualified individuals, especially at the local level. And partnerships and alliances often hold the key to success. For example, some business associations partner with other like-minded business groups (e.g., some chambers of commerce choose to partner with local Business Leadership Network chapters, which are non-profits that help businesses leverage disability inclusion in the workplace, supply chain and marketplace). Business groups can also form alliances with disability service providers, independent living centers or American Job Centers within their communities, which can serve as fruitful recruitment resources.

Once these partnerships are formed, business associations can perform a range of activities to promote disability inclusion by their members—from formal job placement programs to simple educational events and awareness building campaigns about disability inclusion.

Want to Learn More?
There are a number of resources business associations can use to find potential partners, such as:

In Action

Collaborative partnerships were the cornerstones of the consortia that participated in Add Us In, an initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy to identify and develop strategies to increase employment opportunities within the small business community for individuals with disabilities. The organizations involved found new ways to partner around workforce development for people with disabilities. Examples include a partnership between the nonprofit TransCen, Inc. and the Montgomery County, Maryland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and a consortium in Chicago that forged partnerships between local businesses and the city’s Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital and Youth Connection Charter School. Another alliance between local chambers of commerce, workforce development groups and the Business Leadership Network in Kansas City led to the development of the Urban Career Academy, a soft skills and job preparation curriculum for youth with disabilities. All of these relationships yielded disability-related recruitment, skills training and job placement success for the groups involved.