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.