July 18, 2018

RTC:Rural shares Self-Employment Guide with Tribal VR

logo for Consortia of Administrators for Native American Rehabilitaiton, Inc. A bald eagle with the international symbol for disability in front of a background patterend with Native American designs. Dr. Catherine Ipsen, RTC:Rural Director of Employment Research, and Lauren Smith, Knowledge Translation Associate, recently presented at the Consortia of Administrators for Native American Rehabilitation (CANAR) 2018 Mid-Year conference held in Prior Lake, Minnesota. In their presentation, “Expanding Counselor and Consumer Capacity in Self-Employment,” Ipsen and Smith highlighted RTC:Rural’s Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Self-Employment Guide, developed as part of the Rural Self-Employment Opportunities research project. The presentation showcased the online guide, shared interactive materials, and explored strategies for using the website in the counseling process.

The VR Self-Employment Guide is a multi-media website created to help people with disabilities and vocational rehabilitation counselors better understand the self-employment process. Consumers and counselors can work from the same material to decide if self-employment is a good option, and if so, to develop a feasible business plan. The website is self-directed, and can be used by individuals on their own or with the guidance of a VR counselor or business development mentor.

The closing reception of the CANAR 2018 conference. Two people stand in the front of the room, and other people sit at tables looking at a screen.

The closing banquet at the CANAR 2018 Mid-Year Conference. The theme of the conference was “CANAR Strong,” in honor of DeLorna Strong, who passed away in January 2018. She was the Director of the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma VR program and the CANAR secretary.

The website was built from a collaboration with the Self-Employment Task Force at the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation (USOR).  RTC:Rural researchers assisted USOR in developing a Utah-specific self-employment manual that was transformed into an online format and modified to be more relevant to a national VR audience.

By sharing the website with CANAR conference attendees, Ipsen and Smith hoped to learn how the VR Self-Employment Guide could be modified for better fit or alignment with tribal VR practice.

“By sharing our website with CANAR attendees, we’re hoping to start building relationships with potential partners who will help inform and shape a future translation of the website,” said Ipsen. “For example, we heard a presentation about the importance of subsistence activities as a form of self-employment and had conversations with tribal VR counselors about how many people start their own craft businesses. We hope to develop opportunities for additional input and incorporate these concepts and ideas into a translation of online materials for tribal VR programs.”

“If we want the VR Self-Employment Guide to be relevant for people with disabilities in the tribal VR system, we need to make sure it’s translated into the appropriate cultural context,” said Smith. “When a resource reflects your own culture, values, and needs, it’s much more useful than something that’s ‘one-size-fits-all.’”

If you would like to learn more about the future tribal translation of the VR Self-Employment Guide, email Catherine Ipsen at catherine.ipsen@mso.umt.edu.