An Overview

The Alabama Business Leadership Network is a business-to-business entity that addresses disability in the workplace. Through the Alabama BLN, Alabama employers from the private and public sector are linked to each other with a common focus: addressing disability issues in a proactive way. This is done by sharing best practices, networking on problem solving, sponsoring relevant training, and creating or linking to resources that are most effective in meeting the needs of business. 

Affiliations

As a chapter of the U.S. Business Leadership Network (BLN), members have access to the USBLN national conferences, resources, executive leadership and disability organizations throughout the country.

ABLN began its work in the 1990's partnering with the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services and its business relations program to readily access services to meet the needs of Alabama's employers. Through this partnership, Alabama businesses are readily linked to reliable resources needed to conduct their business. One of the joint ventures with ADRS is this web site, designed by business, but developed and maintained through the resources of that department.

Over the years ABLN has connected with state and local chapters of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) for both outreach and collaborative activities.

As ABLN has developed its on-line, real time pool of potential job candidates (sourced to the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services), it has partnered with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) for guidance and direction. 

Membership

Any public or private sector business in the state of Alabama interested in expanding or sharing their expertise on disability issues is a welcome candidate for membership with ABLN.

Membership in ABLN is comprised of Private Companies/Businesses with a desire to network with other companies finding information and solutions on disability issues such as:

  • žRecruiting and Hiring People with Disabilities
  • žRetaining Workers whose job is affected by illness, injury or disability
  • žAccessibility for customers or employers
  • žResources and website links to educate staff

Services

The ABLN utilizes a business-to-business approach in providing its members with disability-related information, resources, and expertise.  In order to ensure that the most current information is being provided to and amongst its members, the ABLN members rely on services and information provided by Alabama's Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS), a division of the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services.

Alabama's VRS program is recognized nationally for its cutting-edge services to businesses.  For more than 25 years, Alabama's VRS program has operated a Business Relations Program based on the philosophy of "business-as-customer."  Acting on this philosophy, the VRS program provides businesses with the latest, most cutting-edge disability-related information, expertise and resources.  In turn, business partners advise VRS on the design and implementation of current and future services which ensure that businesses' disability-related and employment needs are, and will continue to be, met through the VRS Business Relations Program.

With ABLN's business-to-business approach in providing its members with disability-related information and through access to cutting-edge services and information from Alabama's Vocational Rehabilitation Services program, your business can receive assistance in the following areas:

Disability Management

Managing disability in the workplace is literally costing businesses millions of dollars each year.  VRS can assist businesses in minimizing those costs while retaining valued workers.  The VRS Retaining A Valued Employee (RAVE) program, is a unique program of the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services that assists businesses in finding solutions to issues involving employees injured on or off the job, or employees whose job performance is affected by a disabling condition.  The program works by providing the employer with a disability management team consisting of a rehabilitation counselor, a rehabilitation engineer and a business relations specialist.  This team works in conjunction with the supervisor, employee, and human resources personnel to facilitate the coordination of information and return-to-work strategies so that the valued employee is retained, costs involved in replacing personnel are decreased and, in some cases, years of irreplaceable knowledge, skills and ability are saved.

ADA Resources

When it comes to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), VRS is a valuable education and resource link.  Neither a compliance nor enforcement agency, VRS provides companies with technical assistance and training on the ADA.  VRS' expertise covers a variety of ADA topics including:  Employment Mandates, Interviewing issues, Reasonable Accommodations, Undue Burden, and Architectural Accessibility.  In addition to in-service training for companies, VRS is also available for one-on-one consulting.  VRS can also serve as a link to accommodation resources for disability-related needs such as brailing printed materials, finding a qualified interpreter for an individual who is deaf, or making a meeting room accessible.  As part of their ADA services, VRS also provides an on-site accessibility review and offers solutions for improvements.  Whether a company needs a refresher course on accessibility and accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act or is in need of an examination of a jobsite to determine potential trouble spots, VRS is a wonderful resource for your business.

Training

VRS offers exceptional training and one-on-one consultant services on disability issues in the workplace.  VRS will design and implement training programs focused on the specific needs of a business.  Here's a quick list of some of the training programs VRS offers:

Accommodation Options in the Workplace
Interviewing Do's and Don'ts
How to Identify the Essential Functions of a Job
How to Develop an Accurate Job Description
Disability Etiquette in the Workplace
Disability Awareness Training
Emergency Preparedness for Customers and Employees with Disabilities

VRS has one of the most valuable resources for any business---employees.  As the numbers of qualified job applicants shrink, ABLN members have a market advantage by being able to access one of the largest pools of untapped employees-qualified applicants with disabilities.  As a recruiting source, VRS can match your job requirements and workforce needs with a qualified job applicant.

  • žPrescreening – An employer’s most pressing concern is whether or not an applicant can perform the duties of the job. Each VR consumer, who has been determined to be job-ready for a particular company, has been prescreened to ensure that his or her knowledge, skills and abilities are well suited for the job vacancies in that company.
  • žJob-site Training – VRS can provide on-site trainers who work side-by-side with the newly hired worker who may need a “little extra help” to learn the tasks required on the job at no cost to the employer.
  • žPost-hire follow-up- VRS is always available to assist employers with questions or special issues related to an employee who has been hired as a result of their relationship with VRS.VRS continues to work with their employer partners to meet future needs as business demands change.
  • žNo-obligation tryout- The U.S. Department of Labor has created Pre-hire Work Options for selected VRS job applicants. If an employer has never hired a person with a disability before, or they are not sure if a particular position can be filled by someone with a disability, they can use a free, no-obligation tryout for a potential employee. During this trial period, VRS will work with the company and a potential employee to make sure that he or she can do the job required and to assess what accommodations may be needed to enable the candidate to get the job done.
  • žOutplacement Assistance- Not every job placement is a good job match. When it becomes apparent by all parties involved that the current position is not a good job match, VRS can assist individuals with disabilities in locating alternate employment.

Electronic Recruiting

In an effort to further assist an employer with their recruiting needs, ABLN members and users have access to the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services' list of employment-ready consumers with disabilities.  Through a direct upload from the VRS consumer database, employers are able to access a list of prescreened job applicants.  This access allows an employer to view a potential applicant's knowledge, skills and abilities without having personal identification information disclosed; allowing the employer to decide if they want to enter into a recruiting relationship with the individual based on their qualifications and experience.
The electronic recruiting service for ABLN members also gives employers the ability to list job vacancies within their company on the ABLN Website, free of charge.  Once a job is listed, our team of rehabilitation
professionals will seek the best match for the job and will notify the employer if potential job applicants are located.  The system is easy to use and well suited for all businesses---particularly affirmative action employers. 

Technical Assistance

The majority of people with disabilities in today's workforce do not need accommodations in order to be productive; however, for those applicants and employees who do need accommodations, VRS can provide cost-effective accommodation solutions for ABLN members.  VRS can provide rehabilitation technology services to employers who have employees with accommodation needs.  Rehabilitation technology services can include physical and functional capacity assessments, workplace modification and design, ergonomics, job task analysis, product modification and design, and accommodation implementation.

Financial Incentives

WOTC-Work Opportunities Tax Credit Program (IRS Form 8850)
This program provides federal tax credit for employers who hire employees with disabilities through VRS. The credit applies to the first $6000 of wages paid, subject to the Federal Unemployment Tax Act.

Disabled Tax Credit (IRS Form 8826---Disabled Access Credit or Form 3800--General Business)
The disabled Tax Credit is specifically geared toward eligible small businesses to meet increased expenses incurred in complying with the ADA.  To qualify, a business must have fewer than 30 employees or gross receipts of less than $1 million.  The allowable amount of tax credit is equal to 50 percent of the expenditures in excess of $250, but not more than $10,250.  In other words, the maximum that can be claimed in any tax year under this provision is $5,125.  Eligible expenditures may include removing architectural, communication or transportation barriers; providing qualified readers, taped texts, interpreters, technical assistive devices; or offsetting the purchase or modification of equipment and devices for individuals with disabilities.

Architectural and Transportation Barrier Removal Tax Deduction (Title 26, IRS, Section 190)
Any private business may claim up to $15,000 per tax year for making its premises or public transportation vehicles more accessible to persons with disabilities or the elderly.  Eligible expenditures may include installing ramps, widening doorways, modifying restrooms, or equipping a shuttle van with a lift.

On the Job Training Reimbursement
Financial reimbursement is available from VRS to offset the training costs of a newly hired employee with a disability.

Benefits of Membership
ABLN Brochure
ABLN FACT SHEET
How Are You ABLE to Get Involved
RAVE Brochure