KU Center for Research on Learning

KU Center for Research on Learning

Improving Employment Outcomes by Providing High-Quality Literacy Instruction to Vocational Rehabilitation Consumers

About the Project

Kansas Rehabilitation Services, the state vocational rehabilitation agency, sponsored this five-year project to demonstrate the effectiveness of literacy instruction for Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) consumers for increased employment outcomes.

Individuals with disabilities frequently encounter roadblocks to successful and meaningful employment. Research indicated that shortfalls in education, namely literacy and math proficiency, can have serious effects on the employment and earning potential of people with disabilities. Findings of the Longitudinal Study of the Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program (Hayward, Schmidt-Davis, 2003) illustrate that compared to other VR consumers who are competitively employed, those with learning disabilities earn a lower than average hourly wage, have fewer than average years of education, and their level of reading and math achievement are also lower.

This project demonstrated the effects of literacy services and instruction on the employment and earnings of VR consumers in comparison with those receiving traditional VR services. The project also demonstrated how VR offices can effectively integrate literacy services into their service delivery system.

Kansas Rehabilitation Services collaborated with the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning-Division of Adult Studies to work in the local area VR office in Kansas City, Kansas to offer literacy courses using the Wilson Reading System. The VR consumers targeted for this effort were screened to determine (a) their literacy level and (b) their potential for having a learning disability. Half of the clients determined to be appropriate referrals for the literacy services are offered the Wilson Reading System courses and half receive traditional services.

This five-year project allowed for critical longitudinal research that is often lacking in funded social science. Assenting participants were assessed by pre and post questionnaires; follow-up survey instruments were sent to them over extended periods of time. Some participants were recruited to participate in more in-depth extended case studies as they progressed through the experience of their disabling condition. Data records of VR consumers/literacy project participants across the research period were assessed to augment the survey and interview data. The qualitative narratives that emerge were combined with the quantitative measures in annual formative reviews. Consumer participation in completing surveys and qualitative interviews/observations was strictly voluntary and did not effect any services they receive from VR or this literacy project.

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