VCU awarded $4.4 million grant to boost employment for people with physical disabilities

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The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research has awarded a $4.4 million grant to Virginia Commonwealth University to conduct advanced research, training and technical assistance that helps people with physical disabilities find jobs.

The VCU School of Education’s Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) and the VCU Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation will use the five-year grant to establish the RRTC on Employment of People with Physical Disabilities. In May 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the percentage of individuals with disabilities in the labor force was 18.2 percent, well below the employment-population ratio of 64.3 percent for people without a disability.

“This center will allow VCU to provide research and national leadership in helping the large number of individuals with physical disabilities who are unemployed,” said principal investigator Paul H. Wehman, Ph.D., RRTC director and professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation.

Researchers will examine several clinical interventions and their effect on employment outcomes. They will study technology, individual and environmental factors, the effects of government practices policies and programs and interventions for transition-aged youth and young adults with physical disabilities.

“We are very excited to work on this important project,” said project director Katherine J. Inge, Ph.D. “The new knowledge generated from our research will improve employment outcomes of individuals with physical disabilities in the careers of their choice. It will also enhance rehabilitation professionals and other stakeholders’ capacity to provide accommodations and opportunities for these individuals.”

The new RRTC will be based at the VCU schools of medicine and education, and include collaboration with the Medical University of South Carolina and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It will involve the VCU Center for Rehabilitation Science and Engineering; and VCU's departments of rehabilitation counseling, physical therapy, occupational therapy and special education and disability policy. Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU and Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center will also be involved.