Kentucky is a location chosen as a targeted community through the Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center: Targeted Communities (VR-TAC-TC) or Project E3. Project E3 is partnering with State VR Agencies and local community partners to improve outreach and employment-related services to underserved people with disabilities in these communities.
Kentucky is known as the “Bluegrass State”, a nickname based on the blue grass found in its many areas of rich, fertile soil. It offers diverse environments and abundant resources, and is known for horse racing, bourbon distilleries, coal mining, tobacco, and bluegrass music, among other things.
Kentucky is a primarily rural state, incorporating 54 Appalachian counties, and characterized by a high poverty rate relative to other U.S. states. The geographic isolation of Kentucky’s rural communities poses significant challenges for persons with disabilities in achieving competitive, integrated, and lasting employment, and community participation and integration.
The rural nature of Kentucky and the centralization of employment opportunities in urban areas create significant transportation and access barriers to employment opportunities.
The state-federal vocational rehabilitation system in Kentucky faces many challenges as it strives to serve people with significant disabilities and promote competitive integrated employment. Project E3 will provide intensive technical assistance to two geographically distinct regions of the state:
National average = 6.3%
The rate of disability among non-institutionalized working-age people is second highest in nation.
People with disabilities = $30,200
People without disabilities = $53,700
difference in income levels
People with disabilities
with Bachelor’s degree or higher = 9.7%
People without disabilities
with Bachelor’s degree or higher = 26.2%
Poverty in Appalachia is extreme and qualitatively different from other rural areas of the United States.
Within the targeted communities, Project E3 will focus on improving vocational rehabilitation service outcomes for these populations:
Primary Challenges for Targeted Populations
The combination of the challenges above and other factors create significant barriers for persons with disabilities living in Kentucky, including access to and opportunities for:
Key Strategies to Address Barriers
Following are some of the key strategies being developed and implemented to address the targeted populations challenges and barriers to employment.
- Community Work Transition Program: Expand the Community Work Transition Program to serve the regions targeted by Project E3. This program helps students with their transition needs by providing community experiences, instruction, and employment opportunities. It provides students with a comprehensive career assessment based on the student’s interests, preferences, and strengths. This project has a primary focus on improved employment outcomes for youth as they move through their last two years of school.
- Individual Placement and Support: Expand and extend Individual Placement and Support services. This evidence-based model of supported employment helps people with severe mental illness work in integrated employment settings of their choosing.
- Motivational Interviewing: Provide opportunities for vocational rehabilitation counselors to access training on Motivational Interviewing and Impression Management. Motivational Interviewing is increasingly used in state vocational rehabilitation programs to promote working alliance and support client engagement. It is an evidence-based counseling method used to help resolve ambivalence and develop internal motivation to change behavior.
- Transportation: Meet with County and State Government participants, employers, and Chambers of Commerce Presidents in Region 1 to explore the expansion and improvement of existing public transportation services.
- Benefits Counseling:Increase access to information and supports around benefits counseling to address misunderstanding and fears about the impact of employment on existing Social Security and other benefits.
- Improved outreach and access to information about disability and vocational rehabilitation resources: Expand efforts to connect with potential service referral sources including faith communities, physicians, mental and behavioral health agencies, National AgrAbility Project, Easter Seals’ Project ACTION, Rural Housing Services, Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living, and local Chambers of Commerce.
Project E3 will provide Kentucky’s 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.
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 Kentucky and across the United States.
For further information about the Kentucky community activities: