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Expanding the Job Horizon for People With Disabilities

SEDL works to improve the quality, relevance, and use of disability and rehabilitation services and research—including support systems for improving employment. We accomplish this mission through research, technical assistance, training, and information dissemination.

Maria had been at her job 18 months when her employer learned she was a cancer survivor. Despite solid performance reviews and perfect attendance, she was fired. She took her case to court and won.

After suffering a traumatic brain injury, Roger quickly returned to work. But he struggled to complete tasks he had easily done before. A year later, with his job on the line, he found help through the Veterans Benefits Administration. He is now successful again at work.

Photo of a woman with a headset working at a computer terminal. Every year, some 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer, and some 1.7 million sustain a traumatic brain injury. Many laws, accommodations, and resources are available to assist people with disabilities with employment challenges. Yet businesses and workers are not always aware of these supports. Moreover, vocational rehabilitation practitioners often cannot keep up with the research on which supports are best or how best to inform the public about them.

Through the Center on Knowledge Translation for Employment Research, SEDL and Virginia Commonwealth University are increasing the awareness and use of research-based supports to improve employment for people with disabilities. At the same time, the Center is advancing what is known about how best to communicate and apply research.

Attitudes About Research Use
92.4%
I am willing to try new ideas based on research.
84.2%
I see the value of research for practice.
Barriers To Research Use
68.5%
I do not have time to read the amount of research that is available.
62.8%
Workload requirements make it difficult to use research-based practices.
*Survey of 355 respondents
in Florida, Texas, and Virginia

In 2011, we began two systematic reviews of the research base to determine successful supports to help people with disabilities return to work and stay employed. One review focuses on cancer survivors; the other on people who sustained traumatic brain injuries. Staff also completed data collection on factors that impede or facilitate the use of research evidence among people with disabilities, businesses, policymakers, and vocational rehabilitation practitioners. Future plans include training researchers on ways to foster research use. The Center is promoting its work through social media, webcasts, conferences, and other means.

Through this work, the Center seeks to ensure that all who need it obtain the best information available on how to assist people with disabilities in reaching their employment goals. By better enabling research to shape employment policies and support systems, we better enable the millions of adults with disabilities—including survivors of cancer and traumatic brain injury—to contribute fully in the workplace.

Quote from a KTER Center focus group participant. Around 1979, I found myself in a class-action lawsuit because I was not hired by a company who stated that the reason was I have 8 fusions and rods in my back. . . . I appreciate the quality and usefulness of the work you do.  A second quote is from Paul Wehman, Professor and Director, Rehabilitation Research & Training Center, Virginia Commonwealth University. You've got all these research studies that have been done . . . but nobody really understands the process for how to translate what is sometimes very complicated or specialized research into specific practice. . . . [SEDL and VCU are seeking] the most effective ways to translate the knowledge that is coming out of these studies into useful practice.


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