Self-Employment Resource Now Available to Support VR Consumers and Counselors

October 26, 2021

October is Disability Employment Awareness Month. In celebration, we are excited to share a report about a new online resource for Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) counselors and people with disabilities called the VR Self-Employment Guide

We know that people with disabilities are self-employed at higher rates than those without disabilities, and that VR agencies exist to help consumers with disabilities secure employment. However, the self-employment rates of VR consumers are considerably lower than the overall self-employment rates of people with disabilities.

For various reasons, self-employment is an underutilized option in VR. To better support self-employment within VR, RTC:Rural engaged in a participatory process to develop an online self-employment resource. Stakeholders, including business owners with disabilities, VR agency and counseling staff, and a Small Business Development Center, helped shape the guide.

The online resource provides a common location where counselors, consumers, natural supports, Community Rehabilitation Providers and vendors, and small business development staff can access and review the same materials on a website. In this way, various stakeholders can stay on the same page and maintain continuity during the self-employment process.

The VR Self-Employment Guide introduces how the self-employment process may unfold for VR consumers. Users start with a basic introduction and then work through self-assessment exercises to gauge their readiness. This is followed by work to assess the feasibility of the business idea and step-by-step guidance to support the development of a full business plan.

Each chapter of the guide includes user-specific review sections for both the consumer and counselor. These provide next steps and discussion points to promote a cooperative, transparent process.

Most importantly, the VR Self-Employment Guide is accessible, sequential, and consumer driven. The content is written to the consumer, and is appropriate for any person with a disability who is interested in starting a business. It also provides a common business planning process that can be used by various stakeholders or supports.

RTC:Rural is currently training VR agencies to use the online resource guide and continue to engage and learn from counselors and consumers who have used it. If you are interested in receiving similar training and participating in this research, contact Catherine Ipsen at catherine.ipsen@mso.umt.edu.

“We are so excited to support this resource in the field. It represents the work and commitment of so many stakeholders, and it is work that I am proud to share,” said Ipsen, RTC:Rural Director.

Read and download the entire progress report here:

Increasing Consumer Opportunities for Self-Employment in Vocational Rehabilitation