Improving employment outcomes for people with disabilities requires overcoming persistent rural conditions and barriers
Using data from the American Community Survey, RTC:Rural researchers created three maps to explore disability and employment. The three maps are:
- Disability in America: Employment Rates
- Disability in America: Unemployment Rates
- Disability in America: Out of Labor Force
Full size images of these maps, and further analysis and text description of them, can be found on the RTC:Rural website at this link: Maps of Disability and Employment.
Overall, employment rates for people with disabilities are lower in rural areas, which follows the national trend of lower employment rates in rural areas. However, RTC:Rural Project Director Andrew Myers states “It would be misleading to say that rates of employment [for people with disabilities] always go down as you get more rural. In fact, in some rural communities employment rates of people with disabilities are higher than the national average of 33%.”
Myers and colleagues have a number of hypotheses they are investigating regarding these data, and are currently writing up their findings for publication. Additionally, RTC:Rural Employment Research Director Catherine Ipsen, PhD., has further insight into employment outcomes for rural people with disabilities through her current projects that focus on Vocational Rehabilitation services including: Rural Contracted Services; Rural Self-Employment Opportunities; and Use of Social Media for Employment.
The rural/urban disparity in employment rates can be explained in part by lack of infrastructure and limited access to programs and specialists, which makes the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies that serve rural communities especially important. In fact, there are slightly higher numbers of employment outcomes in rural than urban areas, though past RTC:Rural research on consumer engagement with VR services has shown that many consumers exit the VR system before achieving employment goals, and many cases do not end in employment outcomes.
This research, along with current RTC:Rural VR studies, will be discussed during RTC:Rural’s State of the Science webinar on June 22, 2017, at 10:00 am MDT. The webinar will explore how VR payment models influence the availability of job development services in rural areas. The webinar will help participants understand which models may facilitate better VR outcomes in rural areas, and encourage conversation between VR and providers about how payment models impact job development services.
The webinar is free, but registration is required. State VR staff and administrators, researchers, job development providers, and other interested parties are encouraged to participate.