October 26, 2018

RTC:Rural Supports Disability Employment Month

A man operates an ice cream truck at an outdoor farmers market. He is an amputee.

Picture from Healthy Community Living (www.healthycommunityliving.com).

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and RTC:Rural is celebrating efforts to support people with disabilities in rural communities as they work towards achieving their employment goals.

In addition to the economic benefits of employment, it is an important predictor of community participation and well-being. However, for people with disabilities, and especially in rural areas, employment is not always accessible. Not only are there physical barriers, such as inaccessible buildings and transportation, but there are also societal and attitudinal barriers. These barriers keep people with disabilities disconnected from important activities such as work, school, and community life, and contribute to increased social and economic inequality. Employment is one factor that helps to increase community participation. People who are employed report higher levels of community participation and feeling more socially connected than those who are not employed.


RTC:Rural has a long history of research that supports people with disabilities as they seek and maintain employment. Our Working Well with a Disability program is a 6-week peer-facilitated workshop that builds on the content of our successful Living Well with a Disability curriculum and considers health in the context of employment. Participants learn skills to maintain life balance, manage stress, and improve their health in support of looking for or maintaining employment. See How to Become a Working Well Program Provider for more information.

RTC:Rural’s other employment research explores solutions to help Vocational Rehabilitation agencies improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities in rural communities.

Rural Contracted Services

A man using a wheelchair at work at a grocery store. He's holding a box of crackers and smiling at the camera.

Picture from Healthy Community Living (www.healthycommunityliving.com).

Job placement and development activities are important predictors of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) employment outcomes and the bulk of these services are provided through purchasing agreements with external vendors. When these services are not available for purchase, VR counselors provide them. This can cause significant delay for rural consumers because many counselors are unable to provide timely services due to their large service areas. This project explores state VR agency access to job development services provided by vendors in rural communities.

Learn more on the Rural Contracted Services project page, where you can also find a recording of our July 2017 Effective Rural Vocational Rehabilitation Job Development State of the Science seminar.

Rural Self-Employment Opportunities

Self-employment is an important option for consumers with disabilities, especially in rural areas, and VR capacity to support it remains under-utilized. To address this, the Rural Self-Employment Opportunities project worked with the Utah State Office of Rehabilitative Services—Self-Employment Task Force to develop a manual that supports VR counselors in Utah to feel better prepared to understand the self-employment process. That manual has been adapted into the VR Self-Employment Guide, a self-directed, multi-media website designed to be used by individuals with or without the guidance of a VR counselor or business development mentor. It provides a way for consumers and counselors to work from the same material while assessing self-employment readiness and developing a business plan.

Currently, our Rural Self-Employment project will pilot and evaluate the existing VR Self-Employment Guide, as well as create, pilot, and evaluate a new culturally appropriate translation for use within the tribal VR system.

Learn more on the Rural Self-Employment Opportunities project page, where you can also find links to publications including “Rural and urban vocational rehabilitation self-employment outcomes,” which was published in January 2017 in the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Use of Social Media for Employment

Social media plays an increased role in VR counselor and consumer communication, job search, and advocacy. Because of this, VR policies, guidelines, and social media training will become increasingly important for supporting effective counseling practice.

The Use of Social Media for Employment project works to improve VR counselors’ social media and online job search competencies by conducting a VR social media policy analysis, from which we developed a recommended social media policy (see “Vocational Rehabilitation Agency Guidance on Social Media Use: A Policy Analysis,” which was published April 2017 in the Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, and 6 Essential Elements of Social Media Policy for VR Agencies, an infographic that shares policy recommendations from the social media policy analysis).

This project also worked to assess current use of social media and online job search strategies by VR counselors, and used this information to develop and evaluate a training intervention to address knowledge gaps. See “Developing and pilot testing an online career development training for Vocational Rehabilitation counselors” (Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, August 2016) for more.

Learn more on the Use of Social Media for Employment project page.

More Resources

Looking for more resources to help support employment for people with disabilities? Explore our Rural Disability Resource Library, where you can find resources like these:

RTC resources:

External resources: