Submissions List TBI Interagency Conference

Interacting With State And Local Policy Makers To Translate Disability Statistics

  • Lauer, Eric
  • Houtenville, Andrew
  • Ruiz, Tony


Knowledge Translation of disability and rehabilitation research to practice, consumers, and policy


Although health literature is replete with relationships between analytic providers and client groups, there is little in the way of empirical analysis of their interaction and even less knowledge of their utilization of data.  Our paper summarizes these interactions in an iterative model with a focus on data utilization methods.


High quality knowledge translation is one of two necessary conditions for the fulfillment of NIDRR’s mission to support research that positively impacts the lives of people with disabilities.  (Supporting high quality research - which includes relevance - is the other necessary condition.)  However, there is less information about the interaction of disability-related researchers and the policymakers, practitioners, and advocates that impact people with disabilities.  The purpose of this paper is to describe an iterative technical assistance approach to the translation of disability statistics to state-level vocational rehabilitation (VR) and independent living (IL) policymakers, administrators, and advocate rehabilitation.  This approach includes a needs assessment, a feasibility stage, prioritization, and a final agreement.


From the perspective of the provider (e.g., researcher, technical assistance coordinator), the process of discussing statistics and data usage with clients (e.g., state-level VR and IL policymakers, administrators, and advocates) is best described as iterative.  When a client first brings a request to the provider, an interactive needs assessment takes place.  Examples of the needs assessments includes an evaluation by the provider of the comfort level of the client with statistics, and an evaluation by the client of the provider’s capability of meeting their needs. During this process, based on the results of the assessment, the initial request is modified.  With each modification, a discussion is necessary to realign the provider-client relationship with the project goal. 


The evaluative stage of the discussion parallels the needs assessment.  However, the focus of this stage is more practical.  This stage is an iterative discussion of where the provider and the client evaluate the feasibility and logistics of the project.  Examples of this include reviewing faculty and staff availabilities and reviewing ongoing projects which compete for finances and other resources.  As the feasibility stage contributes to and changes the initial request, the entire project matures towards the final agreement.  With each change, comes another assessment and feasibility discussion.  As a final agreement forms between the provider and client, the focus shifts to a prioritization stage where agreed upon work is organized into an executable plan.


Analogous to the discussion by Lien et al (2004) of health care use, data usage is a function of client demand and provider’s supply.  Further, the utilization is strongly dependent on the provider willingness to change their supply as well as influencing the client demand.  This compromise is at the core of a provider-client interaction about data usage.  The provider’s role is to deliver options to clients that best meets their requests, using the data that is available in the field.  Providers utilize their access to the most recent disability data and derive statistics for clients, advocates and individuals to communicate and contribute effectively in their fields.