October 11, 2019

RTC:Rural celebrates Disability Employment Month

The right talent, right now. National Disability Employment Awareness Month. #NDEAM. dol.gov/odep

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month! RTC:Rural joins with many others to celebrate the contributions of workers with disabilities. We are pleased to highlight the work being done to support people with disabilities in rural communities as they work towards achieving their employment goals.

Barriers to Rural Employment

A man using a wheelchair working at a grocery store.

For people with disabilities who live in rural areas, job opportunities are limited. There are physical barriers, such as inaccessible buildings and no accessible transportation, and also attitudinal barriers, such as negative stereotypes and discrimination. These barriers often keep people with disabilities from participating how they want in work, school, and community life. These barriers also contribute to increased social and economic inequality between people with and without disabilities.

Benefits of Employment

Employment has obvious economic benefits, but it also is important because it helps people participate in their communities and increases their overall well-being. Research shows that people with disabilities who are employed report that they participate more in their communities. They also feel more socially connected to other people.

For more on RTC:Rural’s recent research in this topic area, see “RTC:Rural researchers publish paper on rural/urban differences in social connectedness and perceived isolation for people with disabilities.”


RTC:Rural Employment Research

Working Well with a Disability

Working Well with a Disability

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 helps people with disabilities learn healthy ways of living to support being employed. Participants learn skills to maintain life balance, manage stress, and improve their health.



Employment disparity fact sheet

screen shot of the first page of the fact sheet.

In December 2018, the U.S. Census Bureau released the 2013-2017 American Community Survey summary data. RTC:Rural researchers used this data to explore how employment rates have changed for people with disabilities over time. They found growing disparities between people with and without disabilities across the country and particularly in rural areas.

Read the fact sheet here: “Employment disparity grows for rural Americans with disability.”





Maps of Disability and Employment

This is a map of the United States which depicts employment rates among people with disabilities by county. A text description of this map is included in the webpage content.

These national maps show rates of people with disabilities who are employed, unemployed, and out of the labor force for every county in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

View and download the maps here: Maps of Disability and Employment- Disability in America Map Series 






Rural Self-Employment

Screenshot of the Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation Self-Employment Toolkit homepage

Self-employment is an important option for people with disabilities, especially in rural areas. Unfortunately, Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies often don’t have the capacity to support self-employment. To address this, RTC:Rural developed the VR Self-Employment Guide. The Guide is a self-directed, multi-media website that provides a way for VR consumers and counselors to work from the same material while assessing self-employment readiness and developing a business plan.

Currently, the Rural Self-Employment project is piloting and evaluating the existing VR Self-Employment Guide. The project is also working with tribal VR advisors to create, pilot, and evaluate a translation of the guide for use within the tribal VR system, called the Tribal VR Self-Employment Toolkit.

Learn more on the Rural Self-Employment project page.



Telecom Toolbox

Telecom Toolbox logo

The Telecom Toolbox is an online resource for both job seekers and service providers. The website includes career development ideas and tools that help people with disabilities find employment. It also provides resources for VR agencies and service providers who help people develop job seeking skills. There are tips on writing cover letters and resumes, using social media, online job search boards, ethics of telecommunications use for VR, and more.

Check out our recent Steps of a Job Search Series, which breaks down the process of searching and applying for jobs into more manageable steps.


More Employment Resources

Rural Disability Resource Library. RuralDisabilityLibrary.org

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: