This project addresses the challenges persons with physical disabilities face in maintaining long-term employment. While considerable research and vocational rehabilitation efforts have been directed towards return to work after the onset of a disability, the likelihood of retaining employment decreases the longer a person has been unemployed or off work. A critical target population is employed individuals with physical disabilities who are at risk of job loss due to progression of an underlying condition, changing job demands, new work supervisors, or aging processes. This population faces a serious risk of under and unemployment. Employees with disabilities often do not realize that they can advocate for accommodations, including workplace modifications, assistive technology, and flexible working conditions. Employers may not realize that a job can be performed flexibly and that accommodations may impose minimal or no cost. We will conduct a local pilot survey to determine which factors are critical to long-term job retention, and validate these results through a national survey of employed persons with disabilities.
This project will benefit people with disabilities by identifying factors affecting job retention. Employers and employees with disabilities can use this information to negotiate accommodations and other strategies that support long-term job retention. Identification of barriers may lead to development or application of accommodations or assistive technology. Maintaining employment provides economic self-sufficiency and enhances quality of life, minimizes the societal burden of forced early retirement or unemployment, and reduces the need for disability benefits. Employers also benefit through retention of valued, trained employees at minimal cost.
The project is part two of a four part Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers (RRTC) grant sponsored by NIDILRR. Dr. Allen Heinmann serves as project director on this RRTC.