WID Releases First of Its Kind Findings: Students with Disabilities & Internships

For Immediate Release

Berkeley, CA, USA–The World Institute on Disability, the lead partner in the California Consortium’s Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy’s ADD US IN grant, releases a five-year body of field research from the Consortium’s model “Disability Inclusive – Diversity smALL Business Initiative.”

Several different groups joined forces to recruit small businesses, in addition to veterans and college and university students with disabilities for summer internships. These groups were the Consortium’s business partner National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce; the Consortium’s youth resource partners California Department of Rehabilitation and California Foundation for Independent Living Centers’s Youth Organizing! (YO!) Disabled & Proud; along with the Consortium’s communication partner EIN SOF Communications, Inc.

The field-based evidence is discussed in the Consortium’s Disability Inclusive – Diversity smALL Business Initiative Reflections with Case Illustrations of Successes and Challenges, which can be found under “Project Findings” on the Add Us In page. The employment internship model designed, implemented, and evaluated by the Consortium produced the first of its kind findings that will significantly add to the existing body of knowledge for employing people with disabilities.

A few of the most revealing findings are as follows:

  • In-person internships were generally more mutually beneficial than remote positions. In-person internships offer an opportunity to creatively and collaboratively engender real-world “workplace accommodations” and “productivity tools.” Remote jobs don’t provide a “disability awareness” impact for the employer community; this impact benefits potential interns, as well as their co-workers who learn from real-world interaction with a colleague who has a disability. Employers that hosted in-person interns also required less technical assistance and expressed greater satisfaction with the work product and experience in general—as did the students involved in these in-person internships.
  • Disabled students generally expressed wanting jobs more closely aligned with their career goals, rather than simply seeking general employment to build their resumes. Students tend to spend no more than two or three seconds per email they receive, which limits their willingness to thoughtfully weigh the value of a $12 to $15 per hour internship versus the benefits they receive. As a result of this, they may miss the opportunity to learn soft skills in jobs not aligned with their career trajectories.
  • Word choice matters for business. Any initiative or program that intends to connect business owners to employable candidates with disabilities must be prepared to speak the language of business. Business owners generally have well-defined fears that can be triggered unintentionally by using unfamiliar, non-business oriented language. Fears and concerns must be addressed upfront in order to establish trust. Safe space conversations are critical in the process of developing a business relationship.

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Add Us In (AUI)

About the Project

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), Add Us In (AUI) is a Disability-Inclusive, Diversity smALL Business Initiative. It is designed to identify and develop strategies to increase employment opportunities within the small business community for individuals with disabilities, especially from historically-excluded communities. Included within the small business community are targeted businesses that are owned and operated by people of color; economically disadvantaged; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals; women, veterans, and people with disabilities.

One of the high-priority goals of AUI is to create business engagement models that can be replicated on a national scale. Related to this goal is the companion goal of building national and local networks of experts skilled in connecting small employers with the underutilized talent pool that is people with disabilities.

Project Findings

The employment internship model designed, implemented, and evaluated by the California Consortium (more about the Consortium below) produced the first of its kind findings that will significantly add to the existing body of knowledge for employing people with disabilities. Read about these revealing findings in the “California Consortium Disability Inclusive-Diversity smALL Business Initiative Reflections with Case Illustrations of Success and Challenges” and “Effective Engagement with the Business Community,” which are both in PDF format below.

About the California Consortium

Add Us In logo, a cross with different colored armsWID serves as Consortium program director, research analyst, fiscal agent, and disability-serving organization. Members of the consortium include: National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), business outreach ambassador and gateway to diverse chambers of commerce and minority-owned businesses, representing interests of more than 1.4 million LGBT-owned U.S. businesses; California Department of Rehabilitation (DOR), workforce partner assisting eligible Californians with disabilities to obtain and retain employment; and the California Foundation for Independent Living Center’s Youth Organizing Disabled and Proud Program, the youth serving organization.

About the Model

Our model develops, implements, and evaluates a program that engages national, minority-focused small business associations with peer-to-peer presentations, discussions, and education to better understand rationale and process for hiring youth and veterans with disabilities; links employers, recent graduates, and college students with disabilities to create employment opportunities; adapts and expands the initiative to a model embraced and sponsored by the small and minority-owned business community. The California Consortium’s focus is on companies based in California with employees from 2 to 100 made up of diverse owners who are interested in sponsoring an intern with a disability.

Internship Success Stories Video

Funding and Disclaimer

Preparation of this item was funded by the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U. S. Department of Labor, Grant Number: OD-22554-11-75-4-6.

This document does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U. S. Department of Labor; furthermore, the mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations does not imply endorsement by the U.S. government.

For more information about AUI, contact Loretta Herrington, the Project Director, at loretta@wid.org.

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EQUITY the Videos

EQUITY offers people with disabilities a road map to financial independence and economic inclusion. Join three WID staff members, Thomas Foley, Kat Zigmont, and Alex Ghenis, in the EQUITY video series below; if you’d like to read the EQUITY book, click on the link to the EQUITY book post.

A big thanks to our sponsor, the Friedman Family Foundation.

For more information, contact Thomas Foley, WID Deputy Director/Program Director, at tom@wid.org.


It is possible for people with disabilities to work and save while retaining the benefits they need. Learn about ABLE accounts, which allow saving for the future, and Medicaid working-disabled programs that allow people with disabilities to earn money while keeping healthcare and personal attendant services. More information can be found in Chapter 1 of the EQUITY book.


The most important thing to do with money is to provide it with direction. Learn how to track where your money goes by drafting a budget that considers your expenses and your income, along with your saving, investing, and debt. More information can be found in Chapter 2 of the EQUITY book.


Having good credit is vital to everything from taking out a loan or renting an apartment to turning on utilities or even getting employed. Learn what credit is, why it matters, how to check your credit, and how to improve your credit score. More information can be found in Chapter 4 of the EQUITY book.

Identity Theft

Identity theft can negatively impact your financial reputation, including your credit score. It’s important to be aware of identity theft tactics regarding both your digital security and your paper security; learn the proactive steps you can take to increase that security. More information can be found in Chapter 5 of the EQUITY book.

Home Ownership

Home ownership is a great long-term financial investment, offering both the opportunity for stable housing costs over a 30-year period and the slow but steady capital appreciation as one’s mortgage is paid off. More information can be found in Chapter 6 of the EQUITY book.


This video offers bulletproof retirement strategies that people with disabilities can employ right now to improve economic self-sufficiency. Learn about long-term investment and taking advantage of compound interest, to different ways to save money and still keep government benefits. More information can be found in Chapter 8 of the EQUITY book.

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EQUITY the Book

For nearly a decade, WID’s EQUITY newsletters have been the voice of the asset building movement inclusive of people with disabilities. In that time, EQUITY, along with its partners, has helped direct the message of economic inclusion for people with disabilities to the asset building community, policy makers, financial industry, people with disabilities and a plethora of like-minded advocates and non-profit leaders.

EQUITY: Asset Building Strategies for People with Disabilities, A Guide to Financial Empowerment covers all topics that are important for people with disabilities in their quest for strong finances and asset building. Pulling together information from years of newsletters, the book includes chapters on benefits, home ownership, entrepreneurship, retirement, and more. Click on the image below for free access to the full book in PDF and be sure to share it with your friends!

Link to the full text of the EQUITY book; image of the front cover of the EQUITY book: a green background with "EQUITY" written in large, white letters
Read more!

We also offer a series of videos that sums up some of the most vital points of EQUITY. For example, below is a fun-spirited video on budgeting. If you’re interested in more videos, click on the link to the EQUITY videos post.

For more information about EQUITY, contact Thomas Foley, WID Deputy Director/Program Director, at tom@wid.org.

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