The National Council on Disability (2007) suggests that overall employment rates for people with disabilities remain far too low, compared to those for people without disabilities. According to the Disability Status Report (2006) prepared by researchers at Cornell University, which uses data from the 2006 American Community Survey (ACS), only 38% of working-age people (ages 16 to 64) with disabilities are employed full-time or part-time, compared with 76.9% of individuals without disabilities.
In response, the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services (IDRS) has developed strategies and initiatives to increase employment opportunities and improve outcomes for individuals accessing services. IDRS collects data on many aspects of the agency’s operations, but does not always use it as a key resource in making decisions on service delivery and policy. As part of an organizational development effort, the Center for Capacity Building on Minorities with Disabilities Research (CCBMDR) has received funding from the ARRA-funded projects of the Illinois Human Services Department’s Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS), to launch a 19-month capacity-building outreach project.
The project will help the IDRS implement a strategy encouraging office supervisors to better utilize data in order to improve case management and counselors’ performance. The researchers at CCBMDR will review DRS data use capacities, and identify areas of strength and weakness, in order to remediate weaknesses; they will also provide training, consultation and technical assistance. The solutions this project implements should improve case management in the VR service delivery process, making it more efficient and effective. The findings of this project will be disseminated, both locally and nationally, to inform understanding and improvements in client-level VR data use.