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Self-Employment: A Viable Option in Vocational Rehabilitation

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Research Summary


Self-employment can be a viable option for people with disabilities seeking employment using vocational rehabilitation services, especially for those in rural communities where jobs and transportation access are limited. Often vocational rehabilitation agencies do not consider this option due to concerns over support staff, costs, and the viability of self-employment. Recently, researchers compiled data from vocational rehabilitation agencies across various states and geographic locations to explore the viability of self-employment services. They found several agencies had developed resources and staff to foster higher rates of successful self-employment for individuals with disabilities.

Key Findings

  • Individuals who became self-employed using vocational rehabilitation services worked fewer hours and earned higher hourly wages.
  • Job-seekers using services in rural areas had a higher rate of self-employment than those in more urban areas.
  • Individuals with physical disabilities and visual impairments had higher rates of self-employment than other disability types.
  • It typically costs more for agencies to provide self-employment services than competitive employment services.

Put It Into Practice


Tips and tools to help you apply best practices at work.

Agencies with successful self-employment outcomes use some or all of these practices:

  • Provide certification and training to educate people with disabilities on small business development.
  • Provide financial support for small business development.
  • Connect with local small business development centers and workforce-related programs to assist in the process.
  • Embrace self-employment as a viable option, especially for those individuals in rural communities where jobs may be scarce and transportation options are limited.

More About This Research

This study used data compiled from 711,037 individuals using 47 different VR agencies between 2008-2009. Individuals were grouped into geographic segments: urban, rural, very rural, and isolated rural geography.

Learn More

Ipsen, Catherine & Swicegood, Grant (2017). Rural and urban vocational rehabilitation self-employment outcomes. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 46 (1), 97-105.