Submissions List TBI Interagency Conference

Rural Vocational Rehabilitation Practices

  • Seekins, Tom
  • Arnold, Nancy
  • Ipsen, Catherine
  • Goe, Rebecca


Vocational Rehabilitation


This panel presentation reports on rural research conducted with State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies. Panelists will provide an overview of the rural context, associated barriers, and on the results of qualitative and quantitative research to identify rural job development strategies, unique rural VR service delivery approaches, and rural VR outcomes.



The rural context provides unique barriers for people with disabilities in the areas of transportation, employment, and access to needed social and medical services.  Despite these limitations, many people with disabilities prefer living in rural settings for a variety of reasons, including family, community supports, and quality of life.  To address the needs of rural people with disabilities, agencies often rely on different approaches than used in urban settings to deliver quality services.  Dr. Seekins will set the stage of this panel presentation by describing issues faced by rural people with disabilities and service providers.  Subsequent panelists will report on findings from three research projects conducted by RTC:Rural. 

Study 1: RTC:Rural partnered with the Counsel of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation to identify strategies states might use to develop business relations in rural and remote communities.  Qualitative interviews, representing 10 state VR agencies, explored the types of businesses available in rural communities, various approaches for connecting with rural businesses, and how VR agencies have worked with franchises, buying groups, or branches of larger businesses to develop jobs.  Dr. Arnold will provide an overview of these findings and implications for best practice. 

Study 2:  Each year the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) collects case data from 82 blind, general, and combined VR agencies to learn about VR services outcomes. Unfortunately, the RSA 911 dataset does not contain geographic codes for identifying rural versus urban cases. Over the past year, RTC:Rural worked with 48 separate VR agencies to secure 911 case data for 2008 and 2009  that includes  a county descriptor to identify if the person was a rural or urban client.  Using this variable, researchers explored differences in the types of services rural and urban consumers receive and compared their outcomes. Dr. Ipsen will report on preliminary findings from this unique dataset.

Study 3. In addition to collecting quantitative data, we conducted 82 qualitative interviews with informants from the 48 participating agencies in Study 2 to learn about rural outreach, job development, and best practices.  Ms. Goe will report on rural practices and strategies for serving clients who live at a distance from the VR office.