Hunter College has received a five-year grant for $4.25 million from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research to lead a Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) that will generate new knowledge about individual characteristics related to employment rates among people with disabilities. The evidence base built through the RRTC research activities will be used to improve strategies and interventions for attaining better employment outcomes for people with disabilities.
The investigators indicate that “despite the Americans with Disabilities Act and advances in medicine and technology, people with disabilities, as a group, have become economically less self-sufficient over the last few decades. Their employment rates have declined, their reliance on public benefits has increased, and their household incomes have fallen further behind those of other households.” In 2008, only 37.1% of individuals with disabilities were employed compared to 77.7% of nondisabled individuals.
The grant, which started on October 1, is for $850,000 a year. John O’Neill, professor of educational foundations and counseling programs at Hunter, is the principal investigator, and Purvi Sevak, Hunter professor of economics, is the co-P.I.; the two will exchange roles after the third year of the grant. Research partners include Cornell University, University of New Hampshire, Center for Essential Management Systems, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., and the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation.
The research focuses on three main issues: (1) health conditions—i.e., the physical and mental characteristics that underlie disability; (2) personal characteristics of individuals with disabilities—including demographic characteristics, education and training, and individual family, community, and employment characteristics; and (3) environmental characteristics—including accessibility, transportation, the local economy, public policies, and geography.
To gather the information needed, the center will review existing literature, estimate statistical models using administrative and national and international survey data, and collect and analyze new data by designing, implementing, and analyzing a National Survey of Disability and Employment.
To ensure that the research will lead to new strategies and interventions that will benefit people with disabilities, the new RRTC will conduct a series of dissemination and training projects designed for key organizations in the field—such as the American Association of Persons with Disabilities, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Office of Disability Employment Policy, and the Rehabilitation Services Administration.