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Vocational rehabilitation services for individuals with Spinal Cord Injury

by Michelle A. Meade, Amy J. Armstrong, Kirsten Barrett, Phyllis S. Ellenbogen, M. Njeri Jackson

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Employment brings many benefits but is often unavailable, inaccessible to or underutilized by individuals with Spinal Cord Injury and other significant physical disabilities. Vocational Rehabilitation Services can provide assistance in obtaining employment, however the extent that these services are accessed, desired or valued by individuals with SCI is unknown. To begin to address this issue, a survey was distributed to individuals with SCI in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Respondents were asked to describe the types of services that they had or were interested in receiving. Information is presented on individuals with SCI between the ages of 18 and 64 years old (n=445), about 46% of whom were working for pay at the time of survey completion. Approximately 32% of respondents reported receiving at least one job-related service, the most frequent of which was vocational counseling (19.8%). No gender differences were found between individuals who did and those who did not receive services. Racial differences were found, with non-Whites more likely to have received services. The services that individuals most frequently reported an interest in receiving included assistance with developing a new job skill (24.2%), assistance with finding a job (21.3%) and retirement planning (19.3%). Once again, no gender differences were found, though significant differences did exist related to both race and employment status. The implications of these findings are discussed and recommendations are made.