Illinois was chosen as a targeted community through the Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center: Targeted Communities (VR-TAC-TC) or Project E3. Project E3 partnered with State VR Agencies and local community partners to improve outreach and employment-related services to underserved people with disabilities in these communities.
Illinois is known as the “Prairie State”, as it was once covered with prairie grasses. Today, there is a combination of small industrial cities, agriculture, and natural resources like coal, timber, and petroleum. Illinois is also a major transportation hub connecting global ports from the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River.
Illinois is primarily divided into three sections. Northern Illinois is dominated by the city of Chicago and its suburbs. This area is heavily populated and industrialized. Central Illinois is mainly prairie and made up of small towns and medium cities. Agriculture and manufacturing centers are prominent. Southern Illinois has a warmer winter climate good for different varieties of crops, more rugged terrain, and small oil and coal mining operations.
The cultural diversity of Illinois can influence career participation and disability identification due to cultural backgrounds, language barriers, education levels, and lack of exposure to different types of work.
The state-federal vocational rehabilitation system in Illinois faced many challenges as it strove to serve people with significant disabilities and promote competitive integrated employment. Project E3 provided intensive technical assistance to two regions in the northeastern and northern parts of the state:
who have significantly been a part of the justice system have a significant disability.
who were formally incarcerated are receiving vocational rehabilitation services.
who have aged out of foster care have a severe disability.
who aged out of foster care is receiving vocational rehabilitation services.
National rate = 4.1%
National rate = 14.3%
Within the targeted communities, Project E3 focused on improving vocational rehabilitation service outcomes for these populations:
These populations were characterized as:
Primary Challenges for Targeted Populations
The combination of the challenges above and other factors created significant barriers for persons with disabilities living in Illinois, including:
Key Strategies to Address Barriers
Following are some of the key strategies developed and implemented to address the targeted populations’ challenges and barriers to employment.
- Employer Network: Brought local business leaders together to support the employment of people with disabilities. This network was used to establish a job fair for people with disabilities.
- Job clubs: Job clubs gave job seekers the chance to meet and share information about the job search, the application process, and interviews. Participants practiced their job and social skills with one another to gain skills and confidence.
- Transportation Services: The University of Illinois created a transportation course for people in the targeted communities. Participants learned about public transportation, getting a license to drive, and finding resources for transportation costs. Expanding accessible transportation options were considered as well.
- Counselor Motivational Interviewing (MI) Training: Provided opportunities for vocational rehabilitation counselors to access training on Motivational Interviewing. Motivational interviewing is an evidence-based counseling method used to help people resolve ambivalence and develop internal motivation to change behavior.
- Counselor Multicultural Competency: Community providers were connected with Illinois Rehabilitation Services to share why people may be resistant to using state agencies, including a lack of multicultural awareness, cultural bias, and misunderstandings. Vocational rehabilitation agencies shared information about services and the ability to meet the needs of the targeted groups.
Project E3 provided Illinois’ state Vocational Rehabilitation agencies and their partners with the skills and competencies needed to effectively and efficiently address barriers to competitive integrated employment and community integration encountered by persons with disabilities in these regions.
Our specific goals for this project were to:
We will leverage promising practices, knowledge, and experience gained from this project to expand employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities from underserved and economically disadvantaged populations throughout Illinois and across the United States.
Project Overview Presentation
For further information about the Illinois community activities: