Since the recession, employment rates for people with disabilities have not increased at the same rates as those for people without disabilities. In rural areas, these disparities are even more pronounced: in most rural areas, employment rates for people with disabilities decreased significantly while rates for people without disabilities in those same areas increased. See our Employment disparity grows for rural Americans with disability fact sheet, or our Jan. 28 article Rural people with disabilities are still struggling to recover from the recession in The Conversation for more information.
In working to find solutions that help increase employment for people with disabilities in rural areas, RTC:Rural research has found that telecommunication strategies could be useful ways for Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies to increase contact between counselors and consumers, and to help more consumers successfully reach their employment goals. See Use of Social Media for Employment project page for more information. Through research and conversations with partners at the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation, we found that VR counselors were not using online job search tools and social media as much as they could, partially because they felt unprepared.
While many people in rural areas may not have access to high-speed internet, online job development tools are still a way for people to overcome barriers to finding employment, such as lack of accessible transportation and lack of job opportunities.
To help VR counselors feel more prepared to share online job search tools with consumers, RTC:Rural developed the Telecom Toolbox website, which is a resource for both service providers and consumers. For service providers, the website shares information about different types of telecommunication methods (like email, texting, and video conferencing), and confidentiality and ethics concerns in using these different methods. For consumers, the site contains information about how to manage your online presence, search for a job online, and how to use different social media platforms, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, to help search for a job.
Telecom Toolbox also features a blog, which contains posts for both service providers and consumers. There are blog posts on social media strategy, career options, job application tips, apps for students with disabilities, and other online job tools, and many others. Guest blog posts feature self-employed business owners, the staff at Able South Carolina, and tips on how to create your own digital content.
We recently revised and updated the content on the Telecom Toolbox website to make sure it is relevant and useful for VR counselors and people with disabilities. Check it out and let us know what you think!