This on-site retail training area at The Viscardi Center prepares...

This on-site retail training area at The Viscardi Center prepares individuals for employment. This training occurred on Oct. 5, 2012. Credit: Viscardi Center

An Albertson group said Tuesday it has won nearly $2 million in federal funding to operate an online center aimed at increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

The Viscardi Center will receive $1.85 million from the U.S. Labor Department to take the lead in operating the National Employer Policy, Research and Technical Assistance Center. The site provides technical support to help employers recruit, hire, retain and promote workers with disabilities.

The Viscardi Center is the first group on Long Island to receive such funding, the Labor Department said. It beat out two competitors.

A high unemployment rate among workers with disabilities has long been a concern among their advocates, as it continues to far outpace that of the general population. In August, the jobless rate for people with disabilities was 12.8 percent, more than double the rate for the nation overall.

"Only by increasing employment opportunities, and providing companies with the resources they need to access, appreciate and assimilate these qualified professionals into their work forces, will we reach our goal of getting every person with a disability who wants to work a job," said Viscardi president and chief executive John D. Kemp.

Viscardi will partner with a variety of universities, business groups and other organizations nationwide that include the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Georgia Institute of Technology's Scheller College of Business and the World Institute on Disability.

The group's work will include analyzing employers' policies and practices related to disability employment. They will also develop and provide outreach and technical assistance to employers.

Viscardi is a network of nonprofit organizations that provide services to educate and employ people with disabilities. Its programs include school-to-work transition services and employment placement. It also operates the Henry Viscardi School for children with severe disabilities.

The award is for a 12-month period and is renewable based on performance and funding, according to Viscardi.

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