Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on the Employment of People with Physical Disabilities

    The RRTC-PD conducts advanced research, training, technical assistance, and dissemination activities specifically to improve the employment outcomes of individuals with physical disabilities. Researchers examine several clinical interventions and their effect on employment outcomes.

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    Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Employer Practices for Individuals with Disabilities

    The RRTC-EP investigates the most successful business practices which companies utilize to hire and retain workers with disabilities. The project includes four studies, the largest takes place in partnership with Bon Secours Virginia Health System, a long term leader in diversity and hiring of persons with disabilities.

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    Disability and Rehabilitation Research Project on Customized Employment

    The VCU-DRRP helps young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder, to achieve competitive employment based on the individual's choices, interests and skills. The project's overall objective is to test the effectiveness of customized employment as an intervention to facilitate employment for youth with disabilities.

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    VCU Autism Center for Excellence

    VCU-ACE is a university-based technical assistance, professional development, and educational research center for Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Commonwealth of Virginia. VCU-ACE improves services and supports for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by promoting the implementation of research-based practices in schools and the community through training, technical assistance, research, and collaboration.

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    Center on Transition Innovations

    The Center on Transition Innovations (CTI) at Virginia Commonwealth University is a centralized statewide portal for information, resources, demonstration, and research for educators and other stakeholders in the transition of youth with disabilities. CTI provides evidence-based resources and information along with emerging practices in the field. The results of research studies and demonstration projects conducted here in Virginia help us shape the ongoing work of CTI.

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    Work Incentives Planning & Assistance National Training and Data Center

    The Virginia Commonwealth University National Training and Data Center (NTDC) provides comprehensive training and technical assistance to Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) projects, the Ticket to Work Help Line, and community partners to ensure accurate and timely support for beneficiaries on the road to employment and financial independence.

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State of the Science Conference Proceedings:
Read the Papers from the State of the Science Conference on the Employment of People with Physical Disabilities
Latest news

Michael's Case Study

Michael working at Planet Fitness

Customized Employment as an Evidence-based Practice to Improve the Employment Outcomes of Transition-age Youth with Physical Disabilities - Who is Michael? What are his strengths, interests, and job preferences? When Michael graduated from high school, he began attending a day support program. While he enjoyed the program, he wanted to pursue employment in the community. During an appointment at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), Michael learned about a research study on customized employment. Michael expressed his interest, since he enjoys staying busy, wants to feel that he is contributing, and wants a greater sense of purpose to each day. During Discovery, the employment specialist learned more about what Michael is passionate about. Michael discussed how he enjoys interacting with people, and he wanted to work where he could contribute to a business.

Article Summary

Businessman with laptop computer working at office

Disclosing Disability in the Employment Setting: Perspectives from Workers with Multiple Sclerosis - A 22-year old, fresh out of college, has just been hired to a company. Their professional career is just beginning when, even with few symptoms, the new employee is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Among the many decisions the young professional must make, is whether or not to disclose the disability to their employer. In this hypothetical scenario, what impact will this have on their career? Do the benefits of disclosing the information, such as accommodations, outweigh the perceived risks, such as termination of employment. This article explores and analyzes the decisions made by people with MS to disclose or not to disclose their disability and what considerations are made when making those decisions.

Journal Article

Employee working in movie theater

Defining customized employment as an evidence-based practice: The results of a focus group study - Customized employment has generated support at the national, state, and individual participant levels to expand employment for people with significant disabilities. The next step is movement from practitioner-based descriptions to evidenced-based practices that can be consistently replicated. The objective of this qualitative research study was to begin the development of a research-based description that agencies can use to replicate customized employment when supporting individuals with significant disabilities.

Upcoming Webcast - August 29

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The Effectiveness of Customized Employment for Transition-age Youth with Disabilities - Virginia Commonwealth University was awarded a five-year grant to conduct research on Customized Employment for transition-age youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder. The grant's overall objective is to test the effectiveness of customized employment as an intervention to facilitate employment for youth with disabilities through a random control trial study. This webcast will provide a brief overview of the study but focus primarily on case study examples of the individuals who have achieved customized employment outcomes. This will include information on how each person's interests and preferences were identified through discovery and how their positions were customized.

Research Brief: What are Relationships and Social Roles Worth in the Labor Market

Barista at coffee shop showing till to new employee

Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Multi-Component Demand-Side Intervention Toolkit or VR Professionals to Improve Employment Outcomes of People with Physical Disabilities: A Randomized Controlled Trial Study
What are Relationships and Social Roles Worth in the Labor Market? Disability and poverty are closely tied, with disability often increasing costs while simultaneously limiting entry to the labor market (Abidi & Sharma, 2014; Hughes, 2013; Winzer & Mazurek, 2015). As of 2016, the poverty rate for people with disabilities was 20.9% compared to 13.1% for people without disabilities (Krause, Lauer, Coleman, & Houtenville, 2018). In light of increasing wage disparities and economic instability, poverty is drawing increased attention of rehabilitation researchers (Tansey, Dutta, Kundu, & Chan, 2016). One question that has not been given enough attention in the rehabilitation literature is whether poverty could be addressed through a better understanding of factors that influence starting wage decisions.

Employer Practices Highlights

Project Search student working in a hospital

These short videos highlight employers, job coaches, and individuals with disabilities in the workplace. Each of the videos give a snapshot of adults and transition aged youth working in competitive jobs. Employers share their experiences in working with individuals with disabilities.

Employment Services

Project Search student working in a hospital

Business Connections at VCU is a supported employment service provider for individuals in the Metro Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Warsaw areas, assisting individuals with disabilities with finding employment and providing ongoing support to clients who obtain employment. Established in 1983, the Virginia Commonwealth University RRTC provides resources for professionals, individuals with disabilities, and their representatives. Our team of nationally and internationally renowned researchers is committed to developing and advancing evidence-based practices to increase the hiring and retention for individuals with disabilities.

How To Video: Incorporating Strengths and Interests

Elementary school teacher and student high five

When we think about autism, we often first think of the challenges first. Difficulty communicating with others, maybe repetitive behaviors, or even sensory challenges. Teachers and professionals are often looking for the challenges as they identify needs and supports. Parents are often discussing the challenges as they seek to understand why their child’s development is different. Sometimes we all get caught up in the challenges.

Dan's Case Study

Dan repairing power equipment

Disability and Rehabilitation Research Project on Customized Employment Customized Employment Case Study - The first step in delivering customized employment services is conducting Discovery to build rapport with and to get to know the job seeker. The focus is on the person’s strengths and interests as well as work preferences. Traditional assessments are replaced with qualitative interviewing and observations in the community. Job seekers are assisted in refining and identifying their interests for employment, and a position is negotiated that meets the person’s needs as well as a business need. Of critical importance is negotiating positions specific to job seekers’ interests and not trying to “fit” individuals into positions that are available. Trying to “fit” individuals with disabilities into existing positions has often excluded them from achieving integrated competitive employment outcomes. This case study provides details on how one young man was assisted in finding his customized position.

Center on Transition Spotlight

The Community Independence Instruction (CII) program at Cedar Lane Elementary School

Occupational therapy and elementary-age children aren’t always associated with transition. That didn’t deter Deborah Schwind, an occupational therapist in Loudoun County, from starting the Community Independence Instruction (CII) program at Cedar Lane Elementary School. Third to fifth grade students participate in CII building job skills, developing career interests, and embedding academic knowledge through hands-on learning opportunities throughout the school building.

Online Course: Get Ready for College

Students working on their laptops

"Get Ready for College: A Resource for Teens with Disabilities" is a free series of online lessons, each focusing on a different aspect in the college preparation, selection, and disability services process.