Personal Characteristics of Vocational Rehabilitation Applicants: Findings from the Survey of Disability and Employment

Publisher: Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, vol. 46, no. 2, How Individual and Environmental Factors affect Employment Outcomes, edited by Purvi Sevak, David C. Stapleton and John O’Neill
Feb 21, 2017
Angela Eckstein, Purvi Sevak, and Debra Wright

Background. Existing survey and administrative data provide little information on why individuals with disabilities have had persistently low employment rates and why some groups of individuals fare better in the labor market than others.

Objective. Our goal is to provide new insights into the barriers and facilitators to employment among individuals with disabilities.

Methods. We designed the Survey of Disability and Employment, a 30-minute telephone survey, to collect information on health conditions, employment history and barriers, and workplace and social supports for 2,804 vocational rehabilitation (VR) applicants in 2014.

Results. In addition to citing health issues, VR applicants cite many barriers to employment, including difficulty finding a job, lack of skills, and accessibility. Health presents as a barrier due to unpredictability of symptoms, pain, and lack of physical energy and adequate time. Despite these barriers, the majority of VR applicants state it is extremely important that they work and most have high self-perceptions of executive functioning.

Conclusion. A richer understanding of the resources and needs of individuals with disabilities can help counselors and policymakers better tailor services to support their employment goals.