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.
The University of Montana Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities (RIIC) is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a five-year, $4.3 million grant to support its Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities (RTC:Rural). The grant was awarded by the National Institute on Disability Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research, and will be led by Dr. Catherine Ipsen, the project’s principal investigator. The award continues 30 years of RTC:Rural research and training to improve the lives of rural people with disabilities.
RTC:Rural staff pose for a picture at UM. Front row (left to right): Tannis Hargrove, Lillie Greiman, Justice Ender. Back row (left to right): Dr. Catherine Ipsen, Andrew Myers, Lauren Smith, Maggie Lawrence, Tracy Boehm Barrett. Not pictured: Dr. Craig Ravesloot, Dr. Meg Traci, Dr. Rayna Sage, and Dr. Bryce Ward.
“The opportunity to build on our past work and continue to conduct applied research with our stakeholders from the disability community is a great honor,” said Ipsen.
RTC:Rural research will address barriers identified by rural people with disabilities in the areas of health, community living, and employment. These barriers are often related to the limited resources available in rural environments. “Our team of researchers and knowledge translation staff have put together a portfolio of projects and activities that are responsive to, and inclusive of, people with disabilities and those who serve them,” said Tracy Boehm Barrett, RTC:Rural Director of Knowledge Translation. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
RTC:Rural’s Telecom Toolbox, a website that helps people with disabilities find employment using online career development tools, is starting a new Guest Blogger series. So far, the series features two guest bloggers: Justice Ender, RTC:Rural Communications Associate, and Molly Spence, a blogger and advocate.
Justice Ender, RTC:Rural Communications Associate, speaks at the APRIL 2017 conference.
The second post in the Telecom Toolbox Guest Blogger series was written by Molly Spence, a writer and disability advocate. Spence is a member of the West Virginia Statewide Independent Living Council, and serves on the APRIL Youth Steering Committee. In “Blog Your Way to a Successful Career—Q & A with Molly Spence,” she shares how writing her blog, Molly’s Zone, helped her to gain confidence and become a more vocal advocate. In sharing her experiences with Telecom Toolbox, she also describes how using social media and her blog have helped her to network and grow both her careers as a writer an as an advocate. Continue reading →
RTC:Rural‘s long running Employment and Vocational Rehabilitation research project explores solutions to assist rural rehabilitation service providers in helping people with disabilities achieve and maintain employment.
RTC:Rural and our partners have been working for a number of years to promote self-employment among people with disabilities in the vocational rehabilitation system, as it is an option that addresses some of the barriers to employment of living in a rural community.
Starting in 2015, in partnership with the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation (USOR) and other stakeholders, RTC:Rural researchers developed a self-employment manual, along with policies and procedures to help Utah vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselors become better prepared to guide consumers through the self-employment process.
RTC:Rural is currently working to adapt the USOR manual into an online module, incorporating direct feedback from stakeholders to make the material more applicable and accessible to a wider audience, including consumers themselves. Dr. Catherine Ipsen, Associate Director for the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities and the Director of Employment Research at RTC:Rural, is leading the project.
Previous research by RTC:Rural has shown that self-employment is a viable option for many people with disabilities, but is an underutilized option within the VR system. Reasons for this vary, but include VR counselors feeling ill equipped to help consumers determine if business ideas are feasible, and concerns over case costs, business failure, and income potential. The self-employment module aims to alleviate some of those concerns and provide VR counselors with the tools they need to help consumers achieve successful employment outcomes. Continue reading →
Dr. Ipsen is the Associate Director for the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities and the Director of Rural Employment Research at RTC:Rural. Dr. Ipsen co-authored the paper with Dr. Grant Swicegood, Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Central Methodist University.
The paper examines self-employment rates among vocational rehabilitation (VR) consumers in rural versus urban areas, noting that rates are higher in rural areas.
Dr. Ipsen and Swicegood report that VR consumers who are self-employed work fewer hours per week and earn more than those in competitive job placements. In spite of this, the study found that many VR agencies do not promote self-employment to their clients, for a variety of reasons.
Self-employment is a viable option for people with disabilities, especially in rural communities, though many VR agencies do not promote self-employment to their clients, for a variety of reasons.
Drs. Ipsen and Swicegood conclude that self-employment is a viable option for people with disabilities, especially in rural communities.