One in five members of the workforce in America has some form of disability. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, an annual campaign since 1945 that educates about disability employment issues and celebrates the contributions of America's workers with disabilities.
People with disabilities constitute the nation's largest minority group, and the only group any of us can become a member of at any time. Of the 69.6 million families in the United States, more than 20 million have at least one family member with a disability. According to 2005 Census data, the employment rate for people with disabilities was 38.1 percent, roughly half of that for people without disabilities, and this number has not changed significantly in the past 40 years. In addition, people with disabilities are nearly twice as likely as people without disabilities to have an annual household income of $15,000 or less.
Supporting individuals with disabilities to complete a high quality education and enter the workforce prepared for careers and independent living is critical. AIR's diverse portfolio of work in this area generates knowledge and resources to help those with disabilities pursue employment opportunities. In recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we will highlight projects that focus on education, health and rehabilitation, and job training that prepare individuals with disabilities for positive employment outcomes.
Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center
AIR operates the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC). Funded by the Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), the MSKTC summarizes research, provides knowledge translation support to model system grantees, and develops information resources to meet the needs of individuals with spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, and burn injury in the workplace or as they seek and/or return to work.
Recently, a video produced by the Center featuring the changes in relationships after incurring a brain injury was awarded a Bronze Telly Award for outstanding achievement in the category of internet/online video—education. More resources can be found at www.MSKTC.org.
Evaluation of the Professional Development Provided by Vocational Rehabilitation State Agencies
This two-year project awarded to AIR examines the current landscape of vocational rehabilitation (VR) professional development across the 80 state VR agencies, with the objectives to identify (a) effective and promising practices, (b) areas for change and/or improvement to the state VR agencies’ professional development programs, and the goal of helping to strengthen the long-term success and impact of state programs to prepare individuals with disabilities for gainful employment.
To date, the project has conducted a literature review of best practices in professional development and a fiscal analysis of state spending on professional development for VR professionals. Remaining work on the project include site visits to observe state VR agencies and interview VR agency staff in an effort to look closer at promising practices that support the professional development needs of VR professionals.
College and Career Readiness and Success Center (CCRS Center)
The CCRS Center, housed at AIR and funded by the United States Department of Education, provides technical assistance to states to help ensure that all students are ready for postsecondary success. Because college and career readiness is a vast and evolving landscape, the CCRS Center aims to serve as a dynamic and interactive hub, fostering connections between state education agencies and service providers who focus on important issues, including transition supports for youth with disabilities; multiple individualized pathways to postsecondary success; and alignment across secondary and postsecondary institutions with integrated support systems.
Most recently, the CCRS Center developed a brief entitled Improving College and Career Readiness for Students with Disabilities, designed to frame the critical issues that state policymakers must consider in their efforts to foster success for all students as well as action steps that have shown promise. Issues include defining college and career readiness for all students, developing multiple capacities essential to life success, improving access to guidance and support, and re-examining high school diploma options to ensure that all students are on a pathway to postsecondary success. More resources can be found at www.ccrscenter.org.