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Syracuse, Harvard, and Rutgers Universities received a grant to fund the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Inclusive Employment Policy. The 5 year grant by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR, grant #90RTEM0006-01-00) in the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services. The purpose of the RRTC is to investigate scientifically rigorous set of randomized control trial and quasi-experimental studies that look across the employment lifecycle: (1) enhancing employment re-engagement, (2) enhancing employment, and (3) enhancing job quality and retention. Studies examine federal, regional, state, and private industry policies and programs to identify critical outcomes and impacts that improve employment entry options, better wage and income levels, worker retention and job quality and benefits, career growth and paths to economic stability, employment reengagement in the event of job loss and reduced dependence on Social Security disability benefits.

The grant funds three streams of research which encompasses eight core projects. The grant began Oct. 1, 2020 and will run for five years. The studies’ results will be shared nationally and internationally through journal articles, online trainings, conference presentations, and social media.

Goals and Objectives

Today’s unprecedented health, social, and economic challenges raised by the coronavirus pandemic require a retrospective, present-day, and prospective view of U.S. employment policy for individuals with disabilities. Over the next five years, the goal of the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on “Disability Inclusive Employment Policy” (DIEP) will be to design and implement a series of studies that produce new data and evidence on policy levers to increase employment rates of persons with disabilities with the objective of informing current and future policy and program development.

Anticipated outcomes for the target populations over the next five years include the following:

  • Policy makers will have new evidence-based options for employment-related policy development;
  • VR and workforce development professionals will have increased strategies to support job seekers with disabilities;
  • Businesses and HR professionals will have new evidence-based practices to enhance worker retention and quality of work experience;
  • Employment service providers will have new evidence-based strategies to improve employment, job retention, and employment reengagement;
  • Individuals with disabilities will have access to new knowledge to explore alternative paths to employment and career advancement;
  • Researchers and students will have new data and evidence to support existing and next-generation research ideas; and
  • Across targeted audiences there will be a next-generation disability policy framework to advance employment and economic self-sufficiency for working-age adults with disabilities.

Significant Partnerships

From Syracuse, Harvard, and Rutgers Universities, the DIEP RRTC brings together a consortium of nationally recognized and synergized researchers from multiple disciplines including economics, psychology, law and public policy, business management and health. The research team is complemented by ten national associations with unprecedented reach to targeted audiences for knowledge translation and utilization activities: Disability:IN (employers), National Governors Association (state policy leaders), Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (state VR professionals), Association of People Supporting Employment First (employment service providers), American Association of People with Disabilities and Independent Living Research Utilization (ILRU) (independent living directors; people with disabilities), National Disability Institute (community nonprofit; financial institution executives), the Center on Women and Work (women from minority backgrounds), and the ABLE National Resource Center (ABLE account owners with disabilities).