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Heath, K. L., Ward, K. M., & Reed, D. L. (2013). Customized self-employment and the use of Discovery for entrepreneurs with disabilities. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 39(1), 23–27. https://doi.org/10.3233/JVR-130639
Abstract: Discovery, a key component of the customized employment model, is a method to identify an individual's connections and supports, skills and interests through a series of interviews, conversations, and observations. The purpose of the StartUp Alaska research-demonstration project was to identify promising practices in the self-employment realm. The study included 71 participants with disabilities who were interested in or pursuing self-employment. Of the 71 participants, 33 individuals launched their business during the four-year project. Results based on a self-employment facilitator generated database and survey on individual participants indicated an association between successful business launch and the use of Discovery. While findings suggest an association, further research on all of the model components, including Discovery, Business Planning, and Virtual Incubator should be conducted.
Abstract: BACKGROUND: Customized employment opportunities are successful ways to employ individuals with disabilities because there is a specific match between the needs of an employer and the strengths and preferences of an individual with a disability. OBJECTIVE: This article describes one non-profit's success in meeting the goals of Employment First initiatives for individuals with significant disabilities through entrepreneurship as a means of customized employment. CONCLUSION: Successful opportunities and innovations include the "right kind" of social enterprise, entrepreneurship through self-employment and micro-enterprises and other entrepreneurial models. Strategies for resolving the real and perceived conflicts between entrepreneurial and non-profit business models, as well as lessons learned during our own transformation, are discussed for other organizations wishing to reorganize their missions and operations from traditional (pre)vocational providers to ones that truly support integrated, competitive employment for all.
Svidron, L. M. (in press). Entrepreneurship as an employment option for people with disabilities: Adding information to your job development toolkit. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation. https://doi.org/10.3233/JVR-211138
Abstract: BACKGROUND: Traditional job development for people with disabilities involves placement of individuals into currently open community-based positions or customized positions in the community. OBJECTIVE: When an individual expresses the desire to be self-employed and grow their own business, job developers are unaware of the opportunities available to assist in the process. Entrepreneurship or self-employment has been achieved by many notorious businessmen throughout time. These businessmen all have a disability in which they have learned to embrace their strengths and receive assistance for their weaknesses. CONCLUSIONS: Lessons can be learned from the top businessmen to assist job developers in developing self-employment and entrepreneurship for their individuals to build a better job development toolbox.
Abstract: In the last twelve years, interest has steadily grown in self-employment for people with disabilities. In part, this is due to research showing that people with disabilities report self-employment at a higher rate than the general population, and that 20-25 percent of participants in special “Choices” demonstration projects funded by the Rehabilitation Services Administration were interested in starting businesses. In light of persistently high unemployment rates among people with disabilities, it appears that many have chosen to pursue self-employment. RTC: Rural researchers exploring self-employment as a rural employment option frequently field questions about business owners with disabilities: How many people with disabilities are self-employed? Is it risky? What kinds of work do they do? How much money do they make? How did they get started and what was the initial investment? Are they satisfied with self-employment? Do they get benefits? How long have they had these businesses? How many hours do they typically work each week? To answer these and other questions, we conducted a national survey of business owners with disabilities.
Klimkina, D., Silverstein, B., & Croteau, A. (2020). The future of the workforce: Approaches to increasing access and inclusion. Options for state policymakers across three emerging issues. The Council of State Governments. https://seed.csg.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/SEED_2020_ACCESSIBLE-1.pdf
Excerpt from Executive Summary: It is undisputable that the nature of work has changed and continues to change at a rapid rate. What is less certain is how the American workplace can ensure that it is accessible to all—including people with disabilities and others who have traditionally faced barriers to employment—in the context of these dramatic shifts. Yet, determining how to ensure access has never been more imperative. Today, a combination of historically low unemployment and heightened global competition is creating a high demand for skilled workers. Increasing access to employment and training services for people with disabilities and other underrepresented populations is key to making America’s strong economy even stronger. It is also key to delivering on America’s promise of opportunity for all.
Abstract: Purpose This article examines gig work—typified by technologically-based, on-demand, independent contractor arrangements—for people with disabilities. Methods To do so, it draws upon prior and current research to describe the nature of gig work for people with disabilities, as well as the challenges and new prospects that such work presents. It also discusses recent regulatory reforms and proposes improvements, particularly in light of the current pandemic. Results Participation in the traditional employment market for people with disabilities who can and wish to work remains limited, even when workplace accommodations and individualized adjustments are possible. Increasingly, though, self-directed or independently contracted work is a way for people with disabilities to participate in the mainstream economy. The “gig economy,” in particular, has provided additional opportunities for self-directed work, although the novel coronavirus pandemic has required existing approaches to be reconceived. Conclusions The gig economy provides new prospects, as well as challenges, for people with disabilities to engage in meaningful work. It also requires innovative regulatory responses to the gig work relationship, especially during the pandemic era.
Yamamoto, S. H. (2011). Individuals with disabilities in self-employment through vocational rehabilitation agencies across the United States. Dissertation. University of Oregon, Department of Special Education and Clinical Sciences.
Abstract: Despite numerous legislative and programmatic efforts, individuals with disabilities continue to experience greater difficulties gaining employment and poorer outcomes of employment than individuals without disabilities. These disparitiesnegatively impact society. My review of the U.S. empirical research literature suggests, however, that self-employment could improve employment opportunities and outcomes for individuals with disabilities, and their success is most influenced by individual characteristics, level of supports, and accountability systems. In this dissertation study, I used a nonexperimental research design to investigate six research questions with Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM) and Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) statistical analyses. Extant data on more than a million clients of vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies from the 50 states and District of Columbia for fiscal years 2003 to 2007 were obtained from the Rehabilitation Services Administration. Results of the HLM analysis indicated that among the significant (p<.001) predictors of self-employment closure across the fiscal years, ethnicity had the strongest
v effect. The initial SEM analysis produced an inadmissible solution; the respecified model of individual characteristics, level of supports, and accountability systems produced a reasonable model fit in each fiscal year. The model invariance testing across the four U.S. Census Regions indicated a reasonable fit in each fiscal year when model parameters were freely estimated for each region, but very poor fit and significant differences were indicated when some parameters were fixed to be equal across the regions. The major limitations of this dissertation study are model misspecification in HLM and SEM and the small number of RSA fiscal years that were analyzed; causal inferences cannot be made. The primary implication of this study for researchers is using the results of the statistical analyses to develop and test theories about self-employment of individuals with disabilities through VR. The primary implication for VR is using the results to make decisions about services and agency policies. Recommendations for further research include (a) using Laplace estimation in HLM, (b) analyzing other HLM random effects and predictors, (c) testing a SEM model of different indicators and factor structure with Bayesian estimation, and (d) conducting empirical longitudinal studies given the complex developmental processes of self-employment.
Heath, K. L., & Reed, D. L. (2013). Industry-Driven Support (IDS) model to build social capital and business skills of low-income entrepreneurs with disabilities. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 38(2), 139–148. https://doi.org/10.3233/jvr-130627
Abstract: Self-employment is a viable option for individuals with disabilities; however traditional self-employment services typically do not meet the needs of entrepreneurs with disabilities. Further, social capital is important for starting and maintaining a business; yet individuals with disabilities are considered to have low social capital. As a result, low-income entrepreneurs with disabilities often experience difficulties finding adequate resources to start and maintain a business. The Industry-Driven Support (IDS) model, developed over a two year period with a Participatory Action Research team, was designed to increase business skills and social capital of low-income entrepreneurs with disabilities. The program offers training sessions on a specific business topic (e.g., marketing), networking sessions on building social capital, and one-on-one business support to a cohort of entrepreneurs in a specific industry (e.g., Arts and Crafts). Sessions were provided using web-conferencing technology. The model has been piloted with 38 low-income Alaskan entrepreneurs with disabilities, including those living in rural areas. The IDS model demonstrates promise as a cost-effective method for delivering training, providing needed supports, and connecting low-income entrepreneurs with disabilities to each other and needed resources.
Abstract: Business ownership is an important employment option for people with disabilities, particularly those living in rural areas with few employment opportunities (Arnold, Ravesloot, & Seekins, 1995; Arnold & Seekins, 1994). Researchers at RTC:Rural began conducting research on the use of self-employment by VR agencies in 1990. Since then RTC:Rural researchers have: developed model self-employment policies and procedures for Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) agencies (Arnold & Ipsen, 2005); developed self-employment training for VR counselors in both in-person and web-based formats (Arnold, Seekins, et. al., 1998, 1999, 2001, 2004); and explored cross-agency collaborations to support self-employment ventures (Ipsen, Arnold & Colling, 2003, 2005). This remains some of the only research on self-employment for people with disabilities. To learn about research conducted outside the disability field, we conducted a rapid review of self-employment literature to identify promising practices with application to Vocational Rehabilitation service delivery. This report highlights those findings.
Abstract: BACKGROUND: Self-employment is an attractive option for people with disabilities because it offers a means to economic independence while overcoming barriers (ODEP, 2013). Compared to national averages, however, self-employment is an underutilized employment strategy in Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). Cited reasons for this discrepancy include VR concerns about self-employment business failures and income potential. OBJECTIVE: This paper explores the viability of VR self-employment closures across geography. METHODS:We compiled 2008 and 2009 RSA-911 data with zip code and county variables from 47 VR agencies (n = 711,037 cases). We used Rural-Urban Commuting Area (RUCA2) codes matched on zip code to group cases into urban, rural, very rural, and isolated rural geography. RESULTS: Closure rates to self-employment increased as geography become more rural. Weekly earnings rates were similar across competitive and self-employment closures, but consumers closed to self-employment worked fewer hours per week (p≤0.001) and earned significantly higher hourly wages (p≤0.001). CONCLUSION: Data show that self-employment offers a viable employment option in terms of weekly earnings and hourly wages. Increased capacity in self-employment is important for rural consumers who face additional barriers to employment such as limited transportation options and a narrower range of competitive employment options.
Excerpt from Executive Summary: During periods of unemployment, whether due to economic downturns, job loss or ongoing barriers to employment, self-employment is a viable means to provide income, assets and other elements of self-sufficiency. The Workforce Investment !ct (WI!), which authorizes DOL’s American Job Centers (AJCs) (formerly known as One-Stop Career Centers), makes numerous references to self-employment and in fact lists self-employment as an exit outcome for individuals receiving services authorized by WIA. Congress provided $5,000,000 in the FY 2006 appropriation for the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) to develop research-based policy and provide technical assistance to organizations geared toward achieving sustainable self-employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities. Reflecting this, in October 2006 ODEP initiated the Self-Employment Technical Assistance, Resources and Training (START-UP) self-employment program. Four cooperative agreements were awarded to three state or local projects (START-UP/Alaska, START-UP/Florida and START-UP/New York) and one national project (START-UP/USA), which was implemented by a consortium headed by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). The goals of each of the three state consortia were to research, test and evaluate innovative models of self-employment service delivery at the sub-national level to determine if those models could be replicated across the country. The goal of the national project was to provide technical assistance to the three state grantees and individuals interested in becoming self-employed, as well as to increase other states’ capacity to support potential entrepreneurs with disabilities through information provision and research.
Yamamoto, S. H., & Alverson, C. Y. (2013). Successful vocational outcomes: A multilevel analysis of self-employment through U.S. vocational rehabilitation agencies. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 38(1), 15–27. https://doi.org/10.3233/jvr-120617
Abstract: This study examined self-employment within the context of U.S. vocational rehabilitation (VR) to identify significant predictors of successful self-employment case closure, how these predictors changed over time, and whether there were differences in the likelihood of successful self-employment closure across states. To answer the research questions, five fiscal years (FYs) of RSA 911 data from 2003 to 2007, constituting more than a million cases, were analyzed using a two-level Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM). These years were selected because they occurred between the two most recent economic recessions. Statistically significant (p < 0.001) predictors of successful self-employment closure across the FYs were: gender, ethnicity, cost of VR services, education attainment, and public supports. The only difference occurred in FY 2004, when significant-disability status was also a significant predictor. Among the significant predictors, ethnicity had the largest effect, followed by education attainment and gender. States were significantly different in their likelihood of successful self-employment closures. Analyses of additional, more recent years of RSA data using HLM with other predictors are warranted to draw more definitive conclusions and develop substantive theoretical explanations. Limitations and implications of this study for researchers and VR agencies are discussed in conclusion.
Introduction: Bobby Silverstein of Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville, PC provided PEAT with background information that he compiled for an interview with us about the policy implications for people with disabilities participating in the gig economy.
Yamamoto, S., Unruh, D., & Bullis, M. (2012). The viability of self-employment for individuals with disabilities in the United States: A synthesis of the empirical-research literature. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 36(2), 121–134. https://doi.org/10.3233/jvr-2012-0587
Abstract: The lack of employment opportunities and stable employment for individuals with disabilities continues to pose personal and societal difficulties and challenges. Moreover, research and government statistics have consistently reported that individuals with disabilities have lower employment wages and benefits than individuals without disabilities, as well as limited opportunities for promotion and career advancement. Not surprisingly, individuals with disabilities also experience persistently higher poverty rates. While much is known in the empirical-research literature about individuals with disabilities who work for someone else, much less is known about individuals in self-employment. Some anecdotal information suggests that self-employment may be a way to improve these outcomes. In the present paper, we reviewed, analyzed, and synthesized the findings of empirical-research studies on self-employment of individuals with disabilities in the United States. We found that successful self-employment is defined in financial and non-financial terms and is largely influenced by three factors: individual characteristics, level of supports, and accountability systems. Because of the small number of U.S. research studies on self-employment, however, our conclusions are tentative. Further empirical research is needed, focusing especially on long-term outcomes. Implications for researchers, individuals with disabilities, and other stakeholders are discussed in conclusion.
Yamamoto, S. H., & Alverson, C. Y. (2018). Vocational rehabilitation and self-employment of people with disabilities: Factors of successful outcomes. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 48(2), 269–283. https://doi.org/10.3233/JVR-180937
Abstract: BACKGROUND: Many people with disabilities gain and retain paid employment through vocational rehabilitation (VR) services. Some empirical research has indicated that self-employment can be a viable employment option for people with disabilities. OBJECTIVE: We examined factors of successful self-employment of people with disabilities who had received vocational rehabilitation (VR) services across a recent five-year span. METHODS: We analyzed extant federal VR data from 2008 to 2012 from the Rehabilitation Services Administration using a special type of Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) technique known as the Multiple Indicators Multiple Causes (MIMIC) modeling to conduct validation and invariance testing. RESULTS: The national model produced reasonable fit, but there was some regional misfit in the invariance models. These results were similar to those from another similar study that used MIMIC modeling on earlier federal VR data from the RSA. CONCLUSIONS: The generalizability of the MIMIC models in this study is limited; no causal inferences were or should be drawn. Using these results, further research should examine modification indices and test alternative MIMIC models of VR self-employment. Implications of this study for VR and policymakers and recommendations include changes to service provision for clients and greater flexibility in supporting self-employment based on individualization.
The National Center on Self-Employment, Business Ownership, and Telecommuting is a national project funded in 2020 to develop and provide training for VR Counselors and professionals. The purpose of the program is for assisting and supporting individuals with disabilities pursing self-employment, business ownership, and telecommuting. The grant was funded to develop a new or substantially improved and evidence-based training program.
Project E3 is the Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center for Targeted Communities. We worked with state vocational rehabilitation agencies and their partners across the United States to help people with disabilities from underserved communities achieve their independent living and employment goals.