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Gender equity in access, services and benefits from vocational rehabilitation.

Gender Equity in Access, Services and Benefits from Vocational Rehabilitation

Statistics for the 1980s continue to show that women and men are still employed largely in traditional occupational groups and that women fair economically less well in the work force than do men, regardless of their education or whether or not they are disabled. Women represent more than 53 percent of the United States population and 39 percent of fulltime workers (U.S. Department of Labor, 1983). Since the 1970s, women have increased their participation in nearly every job category listed in the national census of occupations (U.S. Department of Labor, 1983), but the greatest number of women continue to be employed in clerical, teaching, retail sales and service jobs and the greatest number of men continue to find employment in skilled craft, operative, and management jobs. In general, the jobs into which 80 percent of women are employed are lower-paying and provide fewer benefits, provide little opportunity for advancement, are less likely to lead to careers through which significant economic independence could be achieved, and are occupations in which the risk of displacement has increased due to technological advances. With earnings at 64% of those of men (Spain, 1985), women's incomes are more often at or below poverty-level and it has been estimated that by the year 2000 women and children will make up the population in poverty (Coalition on Women and the Budget, 1984).

According to the 1982 March Current Population Survey (Asch, 1984), 13.1 million, or 8.9 percent of working aged Americans, were classified as having a work disability. Of the 8.9 percent of working age women who report a work-related disability, 80 percent are not part of the work force (U.S. Department of Commerce, 1983, 1987; Bowe, 1984) and only 7.4 percent are working full-time, year-round (Asch, 1984). When employed, the average white women with a disability earns approximately 10 percent of that earned by white men with no disability (Levitan and Taggart, 1977; Bowe, 1984). compared to women with no reported disability, women with a disability tend to be somewhat older (six of every 10 women of working age who have a work disability are 45 years of age or older), have less education (1 in 6, as opposed to 1 in 28, have less than eight years of formal education), and are more frequently divorced or separayed (Bowe, 1984).

Nationally, women represent less than one-third of the caseloads of vocational rehabilitation programs and, while they are more likely to be closed from the system as "successfully rehabilitated," their reported earnings at closure are 56 percent of those achieved by men at closure (Carrick & Bibb, 1982; Danek & Lawrence, 1985; Goldberg, Bernard, & Granger, 1980). Though successful closures from vocational rehabilitation are generally higher for women than men, Goldberg, Bernard, and Granger found that these higher rates were a function of the types of allowable closures used with men and women: Women were more likely to enter part-time work or return to "homemaker" status, while men were more likely to enter employment outside the home within the primary labor force.

Gender-bias can be described as the set of assumptions which proscribe men or women and their employment options in terms of role-stereotypes. Women with disabilities face "double jeopardy" based on both their disability and their gender (Atkins, 1982; Deegan, 1981, Holcomb, 1984; Saviola, 1981). the stereotypes ascribed to people with disabilities and women, in general, condones passivity, dependence, helplessness and failure. Women with disabilities have no sanctioned vocational roles, few clear role models to which they might relate, and lack institutional means to achieve roles. This "rolelessness" cultivates a psychological sense of invisibility, self-estrangement, an image of poor self-worth, and a sense of powerlessness (O'Toole & Weeks, 1978; Tate & Weston, 1982; Vash, 1982).

There are both societal and rehabilitation system bases for discrimination against women in education, employment, pay and benefits. This discrimination derives from constraints "....usually embedded in traditional values, (which) restricts women's chance for self-improvement and development (Tate & Weston, 1982, p.222)." ginzburg (1971) was among the first to suggest that rehabilitationists must be aware of the changes occurring in roles for women and questioned whether they are giving adequate attention to the unique counseling and education needs of women, particularly in curriculum selection and career planning they do with women returning to the labor force after extended periods of homemaking and child bearing. Pietrofesa and Schlossberg concluded in 1970 that counselors can be expected to hold similar beliefs to society as a whole about sex-appropriate behavior and that"... counselors need to be aware of the degree to which they try to push counseless into certain directions because of their own sex biases" (p. 45).

Vash (1982) suggests that role-stereotyping leads: (a) members of the target group to accept that certain roles are "unnatural," "inappropriate," or "impossible" and that they should not aspire to certain occupations; (b) the vocational rehabilitation program to accept and guide clients into occupations that are "feasible" for them; and (c) both individuals and the system to accept as a long-term consequence, low-yield vocational goals. Subservient behavior and stereotyped roles become adopted and accepted as the natural order of things and as the "system" responds to these stereotypes, its policies reinforce practices which help to maintain society's "...outer barriers of discrimination and neglect" (Vash, 1982, p. 199).

Gender-bias stereotyping of women's roles among vocational rehabilitation counselors appears to be similar to that in the public-at-large (Pietrofesa and Schlossberg, 1970) and has been documented among school counselors, both men and women (Nutt, 1979; Thomas & Stewart, 1971). Gilbert (1983) found that vocational evaluators synthesized and developed different recommendations for men and women clients with exactly the same characteristics and Flottum (1984) found predictable differences in the way in which the functional capabilities of men and women were assessed which reflect gender-bias on the part of vocational rehabilitation counselors.

One of the most detrimental forms of gender-bias for women may result from the appraisals conducted by education and rehabilitation professionals. If their view of "a woman's employment potential" is stereotypically limited, they may unintentionally, but effectively, restrict the individual's considerations of employment and economic options in a more direct and destructive manner than other forms of discrimination. There is considerable legislative precedent for achieving equity for men and women served by rehabilitation. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (P.L. 88-352) specifically prohibits discrimination based on gender. Likewise, the Education For All Handicapped Children Act (P.L. 94-142), the Rehabilitation Act (P.L. 99-506), and the Carl Perkins Vocational Education Act (P.L. 98-524) have clear intentions and explicit language that both men and women with disabilities are to receive vocational rehabilitation services and education that will assist them to accomplish their optimal economic and personal independence. Yet, the evidence indicates that gains for women have been minimal and their economic position is not equitable. The evidence to date further suggests the outlines for a considerable problem of gender equity in vocational rehabilitation (Cowin & Ford, 1986).

That the evidence, though, is not explicit in terms of how meaningful and different are the gains made by men and women served by the program, whether the problem is isolated in acceptance practices or in service delivery, whether the problem is becoming more pervasive, or whether the rehabilitation program might self-correct these inherent problems was the impetus for the present study. The study attempted to acquire a regional perspective of the extent of the problem of gender equity and to formulate recommendations for policy which could correct the problem in the state-federal vocational rehabilitation system.

Methodology The Study Questions

The purpose of the research was to determine whether there were systematic gender fifferences along input, program, and output dimensions among the state vocational rehabilitation programs in Region V (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin) over a 13-year period, 1972 to 1984. The interdependence of gender and fiscal year on selected state-level indices of client characteristics, service delivery, and program impact were examined in this research. The research attempted to determine whether there were differences and changes (a) in the characteristics of men and women who apply for rehabilitation, (b) in the characteristics of men and women served by the Region V state rehabilitation programs, (c) in the patterning of services provided, and (d) in the impacts and benefits achieved over the 13-year period.

Regional Research Approach

The regional research methodology brought together state agency, federally funded research and regional training resources in Region V to design, conduct, and develop alternatives for addressing the issue of gender equity in the region. Data for the study were drawn from the R-300 data files that are submitted annually by each state agency to the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA). Independent random samples of men and women who registered for rehabilitation Services (i.e., applicants) and of men and women who entered and completed the programs (i.e., served individuals) were drawn from the R-300 data files. State averages (for continuous variables) and percentages (for categorical variables), computed for each gender and fiscal year, were the units of observation under the selected analytic model. Personnel with program evaluation and policy making expertise from the eight General, Combined, and Blind agencies in the six states, were convened to synthesize the findings and develop policies for remedying identified problems of inequity.

Sampling

The basic sampling design stratified on gender, federal fiscal year, and state. Samples were drawn to achieve reliable state-level indicators for the selected dependent variables. Two major samples were drawn: One sample included all persons who registered for vocational rehabilitation services between 1975 and 1984. this applicant sample was drawn to determine whether there were gender differences among applicants on such personal characteristics as age, race, and probability of acceptance for services. The second sample, the served sample, only included individuals accepted for services, served and closed between 1972 and 1984. Individuals included in this sample were those closed rehabilitated (i.e., closed in status 26) and individuals closed not rehabilitated (i.e., in statuses 28 and 30). It was drawn to determine whether there were gender differences: (a) in their characteristics at registration (e.g., age, race, education, income at acceptance); (b) in service provision (e.g., months in status, expenditures for service); and (c) in outcomes and impacts (e.g., earnings at closure, competitiveness of employment at closure).

A total of 60,000 individuals were drawn for the applicant sample and a total of 78,000 individual cases were drawn for the served and closed sample. In each sample the representation of men and women was controlled by selecting equal numbers of men and women. That is, completely independent random samples of 500 men and 500 women were selected from the R-300 data file for each fiscal year and for each state program.

Before sampling, where states had both General and Blind agencies, their data sets were pooled to establish a "state program perspective." No attempt was made to control or stratify by type of disability. also, for the applicant sample referral year was estimated (R-300 data are reported based on federal fiscal year of closure" by subtracting "total months registration for services to closure" from the fiscal year in which the case was closed. Sampling of applicants began with 1975, instead of 1972, as prior to federal fiscal year 1975, data were not available to estimate referral year.

The Analytic Approach

A univariate analysis of variance model (gender by fiscal year) was selected in which state-level average (e.g., the state-average earnings at closure for 500 men from Michigan's program in 1984) ans state-level percentages (e.g., the percent of women closed in Wisconsin during 1972 who were black) were the observational units submitted for analysis: Analyses of the characteristics of applicants for vocational rehabilitation relied on a total data set N of 120; for analyses with individuals served by the program, the total data set N was 156. Each dependent variable was analyzed separately.

This approach was chosen over a multivariate model given the following considerations and needs in the research: (a) The R-300 data-base contains data which are a mixture of categorical (e.g., ordinal age categories, nominal ethnicity categories) and continuous measures (e.g., annual income) of client and program characteristics; (b) State-level indicators were the desired level of observation as the study was to determine the extent of systematic gender differences associated with rehabilitation programming, not to distinguish between the state agencies; and (c) The approach should provide the study group with a reasonable tool for synthesis of the array of results and to guide decision-making regarding the issues underlying the study.

Data submitted for Analysis

The selected subset of R-300 data was based on the relevance of the data to issues of gender equity and to the vocational rehabilitation program. For instance, the program principally serves a population 16 to 64 years of age and is to give priority to the most severely disabled. Whether those under 16 or over 64 are being served equitably, is of lesser concern than how differently the program might be serving men and women who are in early and late stages of their vocational careers or who are severely disabled.

The subset included indicators of (a) the characteristics of persons applying for rehabilitation and the characteristics of individuals accepted for vocational rehabilitation, (b) the provision of services, and (c) the impacts and benefits of vocational rehabilitation achieved by individuals. As previously indicated, state-level indices (percentages for categorical variables and averages for continuous variables) were computed for each variable. The N's for computing averages and percentages were 500 (the sample size for men or women for each fiscal year and each state). Smaller N's were involved when data were missing for specific variables; generally when the variable did not apply (e.g., no income was reported at application, reason not rehabilitated did not apply to persons closed in Status 26).

Study Groups

Two working groups were organized from rehabilitation agency personnel in the six states: Technical Group and Policy Group. The members of the groups were appointed by their state directors and had responsibilities in program evaluation or development of program policy at their agency. Transition between the groups was accomplished by having some personnel assigned to both groups.

The Technical Group met twice in early 1987 to review and synthesize the results of all data analyses. Prior to their meetings, results of all data analyses were compiled. This group's tasks were to identify (a) the extent to which there were conditions of inequity, (b) where changes were systematically occurring across the state programs, and (c) where there were systematic shifts in terms of how men and women were being affected. Their activities resulted in profiles of equity regarding (a) characteristics of persons referred and individuals served, (b) decisions made about acceptance for services, (c) service utilization among those served, and (d) outcomes and benefits individuals achieved from rehabilitation. These profiles were then used by the Policy Group which subsequently met twice to accomplish two primary tasks: (a) Determine the extent to which there is a problem of inequity in rehabilitation programming in the regin and (b) identify options for policy and practice which might alleviate the conditions causing inequity or directly remedy the problem.

Members worked in sub-groups. At the conclusion of each meeting, findings and recommendations were presented to the whole group for discussion and critique. Between meetings, materials were collated and distributed to all members for further review and revision. Following completion of group efforts, their findings were collated and distributed for review, critique, and comment by state directors in Region V, by the study group members and by a national panel of peer reviewers (selected for their expertise in research method, in women's issues, and in state and federal policy).

Results and Discussions

Very few interactions between gender and fiscal year and few significant changes over the time period were detected in the analyses of variance with the state-level measures. Thus, the summaries presented below indicate a consistency over the period of time for differences and similarities detected between men and women. Where there were notable trends over time, these are related. (Table 1 summarizes the most significant findings and the reader is referred to the full report for more details: Region V Study Group, 1987).

Outcomes and Impacts of Rehabilitation

It is clear that neither men nor women could claim great strides toward financial independence. However, reported annual earnings at closure illustrated the fact that men earned more and that those earnings better enabled them to avoid poverty than was the case for women. At the time of application, no difference existed between earnings of men and women; both had earnings about $4000 below the poverty level. At acceptance into the rehabilitation system, reported earnings favored men by about $100 per year. When successfully rehabilitated individuals exited the system, the disparity in income became considerable. Women's earnings were 67 percent of the reported earnings for men. While men's earnings put them about $1500 above the poverty level, comparable earnings for women were about $1000 below the poverty level. A higher percent (20%) of women received public assistance at closure.

The gap between percents of successfully rehabilitated men and women narrowed over the study period, but women continued to more likely be successfully rehabilitated. It was also evident that more women than men were closed into low-paying or non-paying occupations. With the exception of the gradual rise in percents of women attaining employment in the professional-technical-managerial occupations, the majority of occupational choices open to women continued to remain in the traditional ones: clerical, sales, and service. Few women appeared to have crossed the boundary into traditionally made-dominated jobs.

Among all closures in rehabilitation, there were 9.4 percent fewer women closed into competitive employment than men. Higher percents of women were closed into the non-paying homemaker classification (15 versus 3%) or closed into sheltered employment (6.5 versus 4.9%). Women were less likely to be supported to start a small business (2.5 versus 1.8%). The types of occupations into which individuals were closed showed significant differences by gender over time. There was a small, but higher, percent of men closed in the professional-technical-managerial occupations (45.5 versus 41.5%). Twice the percent of men were closed in service occupations (14.6 versus 6.9%) and women were more often found in traditional female clerical-sales occupations (15.3 versus 10.9%). Women comprised less than 1 percent compared ro 7.1 percent of men closed in the traditionally male-dominated structural occupations, though closures in this category were found to have been declining over time.

The present findings corroborate the occupational segregation which Bowe (1984) found: disabled women are as occupationally segregated as are women in general in the American work place. According to Census Bureau figures (U.S. Department of Commerce, 1987), the top four occupations for women 18 years and older are secretaries, bookkeeper-accountants, managers or administrators, and general office clerks. The top four occupations for men are managers or administrators, manufacturing supervisors, heavy truck drivers, and wholesale or retail owners. The top four occupations of women aged 35-44 with five or more years of college are elementary teachers (average annual earnings, $16,100), managers and administrators, registered nurses and secondary teachers; for men they are managers or administrators, lawyers, physicians, and post-secondary teachers (average annual earnings, $40,000).

Were the rehabilitation program to continue its current efforts with women, at least four major consequence of occupational segregation appear likely: (a) The first consequence is that of economic dependence on another's source of earnings or on public assistance. The non-income status of the homemaker and use of homemaker status as a closure option at both application and closure may indicate a system-based gender-bias and an implicit acceptance of non-income based goals for some individuals, a goal which also then accepts economic dependence as appropriate. (b) occupational segregation is likely to place constraints upon their opportunity in non-traditional jobs for which they have the required functional capacities. The denial of this opportunity may mean the difference between success and failure in an employment attempt and a narrowing of career possibilities for women to occupations with limited growth potential, (c) occupations dominated by women have lower average earnings, are less likely to provide such important fringe benefits such as health insurance and retirement for disabled women, with the consequence that they are less likely to achieve financial independence through their own earnings. If women are encouraged to pursue occupational goals in entry-level or societally prescribed women's occupations then there will continue to be a lack of parity in income and continued dependence on public assistance supplements, (d) cumulatively, occupational segregation of women with disabilities into traditional, low-paying occupations, then, serves to reinforce their acceptance of the stereotype that they are less capable of taking care of themselves and a self-concept (both as women and as individuals with disabilities) of being less-than-valued.

Access and Characteristics of Rehabilitation

Applicants

At the time of acceptance for rehabilitation men typically were single (54.4.versus 47.8%) or married (32.6 versus 21.2%), while women were more likely to be divorced, widowed, or separated (30.8 versus 12.7%). There were six widowed women to each widowed man. The divorce rate among program applicants paralleled the divorce trend in society (U.S. News and World Report, 1982). A significant percent of women with disabilities were divorced and twice as many women with disabilities were likely to be separated.

A higher percentage of women 45 years and older came into rehabilitation (17.1 versus 14.6%), whereas men who tended to apply at an earlier age, between the ages of 16-34 (68.1 versus 63.5%). In general, a higher percent of women came into the system receiving public assistance (25.1 versus 17.5%).

Evidence of different patterns of marital status between the genders suggest that women are more likely to come to vocational rehabilitation for services when their marital and/or economic status has changed. Disabled women may be sheltered from the work force by husbands or family members. A question should be asked as to why older women who are faced with a need for employment options seek assistance from vocational rehabilitation, when over one-half of the women have graduated from high school or have received some post-secondary training. Women with disabilities who have not experienced or have only recently experienced paid work, even though they may be qualified, may encounter barriers including (a) the psychological barrier of perceiving their own employment as their sole source of financial support and (b) the reality of needing to be a head of household.

Service Provision

Women and men were provided dissimilar vocational rehabilitation services, in the degree to which vocational skill training, work adjustment training, and services to family members were provided. The following were similar: (a) average dollars spent ($1,092 for men, $1,105 for women), (b) average months in service statuses (20.3 months), and (c) the average number of services provided them (2.45 for men and 2.52 for women). Dissimilarities were found in provision of four of the types of skill training: (a) more women were provided business school training (4.2 versus 1.8%), (b) slightly more women were provided college training (13.2 versus 11.8%), (c) men were provided vocational school training more often (14.0 versus 12.4%), and (d) significantly more women were provided vocational adjustment than men (23.1 versus 21.1%). Further, women received slightly more services to family members than men (1.45 versus 1.2%). Although this study did not include the number of dependents, in the general population more than one in seven families is headed by a woman and it is likely that women are more likely to need child care services.

Selected Recommendations for Policy and Practice

The results indicate a serious problem of inequity in the impacts of the vocational rehabilitation program on men and women with disabilities. The research clearly demonstrated that women with disabilities did not acquire financial resources and occupational success at the conclusion of rehabilitation comparable to those achieved by men. The importance of these results should not be dismissed, even though the inequities mirror the mores and beliefs which society holds regarding the traditional place and role of men and women in the labor force. Rather they can provide impetus and possible directions for actions which can lead to greater equity through changes in policy, procedure, and practice in rehabilitation programs.

Recommendations for the Vocational

Rehabilitation Program

Federal and state provisions for resolving inequity

The Rehabilitation Services Administration, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitation Services should initiate actions to accomplish the following: (a) coordinate policy to implement the gender equity provisions of rehabilitation and education legislation, (b) establish focused priorities for gender equity concerns in long-term and short-term training grants, federally supported research and state plans with targeted performance expectations for service provision to women receiving services under Titles I, VI, and VII of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act, and (c) modify the data collection system reporting requirements to more accurately understand gender-related issues and for program evaluation. State rehabilitation agencies should initiate companion efforts to achieve these goals at the state program level. Their quality assurance units should be sensitized to the importance of disequity issues and design appropriate measures for the evaluation and identification of inequities in case work policy and practice.

Program Policy and Guidelines for Practice

The state Vocational Rehabilitation agencies should conduct a comprehensive review of their policies, guidelines, and practices. The outcome of this review would be the identification, modification, or elimination of items which are gender-biased and impact upon access to service, eligibility determination, goal selection, planning of service, and outcome. Performance standards need to be developed regarding the incidence of women on the caseload and standards for closures. The use of "homemaker" as a closure option continues to be problematic, lacks consistency in its application, and may lead to systematic gender inequities. State Agency Management Reviews may elicit how and the degree to which this type of closure is being used appropriately on behalf of women's needs. Such reviews may also monitor whether there is a significant shift from use of homemaker status to use of independent living under Title VII as a services outcome for women occurs.

Service Needs of Women with Disabilities

State Vocational Rehabilitation agencies should examine their policies regarding provision of non-traditional combinations of ancillary services. The degree of flexibility with which rehabilitation agencies provide services consistent with the unique needs of women with disabilities can profoundly affect the quality of vocational outcomes. More consideration should be given to the provision of services which can support the successful outcome of cases involving women: Child care, transportation, maintenance, and other ancillary services are services which are apt to be important for success among women with disabilities. Methods for stable funding and standards for the provision of ancillary services should be reviewed for their relevance to women's needs and consistency in provision.

Standards and Criteria for Success

State programs should establish meaningful standards for access, process, and outcomes. These should be incorporated into state plans and tied to program goals, training, and evaluation. The plan should include the following: (a) an alternative system for categorizing successful closures, (b) revised performance expectations for the rehabilitation program, and (c) timelines for achieving equity in service provision. An alternate classification system could include four types of successful outcomes: Competitive, sheltered, self-employed and homemaker, or unpaid family worker. Revised expectations for program performance with (a) targets for incidence of acceptances of men and women and targets for closures into (b) competitive employment, (c) competitive employment with earnings above the poverty level, and (d) competitive employment into occupations with career potential.

State Agency staff development

The state Vocational Rehabilitation agencies, in conjunction with pre service and inservice training resources, should prepare training and staff development plans which will enable vocational rehabilitation personnel to provide meaningful vocational counseling and guidance to women. An effective plan should give consideration to the following: (a) identification of one's own gender-bias, (b) the economic effects of gender-bias, (c) the entry and re-entry problems of women pursuing careers, (d) promoting pursuit of non traditional vocational goals, (e) women's probable need to work in order to achieve self-sufficiency, (f) emphasis on decision-making in guidance, (g) use of current labor-market information, and (h) the importance of involving families in women's selection of non-traditional occupations.

Recommendations on Inter-System

Relationships

Public Image

State agencies should determine whether their principal publics (e.g., legislators, women with disabilities, former clients, referral sources, other human service organizations, employers) perceive them as accessible to and effective with women. Their focus should be on determining (a) the level of sexist language and stereotyping in advertising, manuals, and information packets and (b) staff recruiting and personnel practices which negatively impact upon women. Public relations plans then should be implemented which correct inaccurate perceptions of vocational rehabilitation and portray non-sex-stereotyped images of women in brochures, annual reports, and news releases.

General External Context for Rehabilitation

As vocational rehabilitation does not occur in a vacuum, state agencies must assume responsibility for educating segments of the community which impact on the vocational development of women with disabilities. Legislators, employers, educators, and vendors need information which promotes a positive image of women with disabilities. Joint advocacy efforts with consumer and professional organizations concerned about women with disabilities should be encouraged.

Rehabilitation services purchased or provided by state agencies should be gender-free. Agreements between state agencies and providers of services should include non-discrimination and affirmative action provisos. Because service providers may have developed their services and programs mirroring the gender stereotypes in the work force, it may also be necessary to develop joint training aimed at increasing their awareness of the needs of women with disabilities.

Consumer Education

The state Vocational Rehabilitation agency's consumer education process should encourage full involvement by consumers in directing their rehabilitation. This process should emphasize (a) client assertiveness in pursuing non-stereotyped occupations, (b) assistance in the development of self-images of vocations based on successful role models of women with disabilities, (c) income and fringe benefit information available for non-traditional, high-yield occupations, (d) encourage women to see themselves as their main income source, and (e) encourage women to obtain relevant support and counseling for their families.

Relationships with Principal Referral Sources

Vocational Rehabilitation agencies should conduct a systematic examination of current and potential sources for attracting women to the vocational rehabilitation program. This may require modifying working relationships and development of understandings with new referral sources of who is an appropriate referral to rehabilitation. The image and messages of the program should emphasize (a) vocational rehabilitation effectiveness, (b) need for early mutual intervention with women with disabilities, (c) mutual collaboration in the formulation of vocational solutions, (d) providing referred women with an understanding of the importance of prevocational skills and skill acquisition, and (e) establishing joint responsibilities in successfully completing a planned vocational rehabilitation.

School to work transition

A collaborative effort with schools would integrate vocational rehabilitation counseling into the development of the vocational portion of the student's education plan, increase the referral of younger women to the program, and improve the probability of a successful transition from school to work. State agencies should implement efforts with schools which provide opportunities for women students to explore and participate in non-traditional vocations. Such efforts could break down sexual stereotypes among young women by (a) providing role models of women in non-traditional occupations, (b) creating an awareness of the need to plan for their economic and vocational future, (c) emphasizing the economic advantages of vocational choice, and (d) emphasizing possible gains from non-traditional occupations. The results of such collaboration would be (a) an enhanced vocational plan, (b) an educational plan that focuses on both vocational preparation and the independent living skills needed to support the student's vocational plan, (c) a student better prepared to make informed vocational and career decisions, and (d) the timely and appropriate referral to a rehabilitation program.

Summary and Conclusions

This study adds to the growing body of evidence that the vocational rehabilitation system has inequities based on gender which are apparent in the numbers of women receiving services and in the outcomes achieved by disabled women. The Vocational Rehabilitation program operated in Region V does not currently ensure appropriate and equal outreach, access, services, and outcomes for women with disabilities. The question for the rehabilitation community in the region is whether this data and other previous studies offer strong enough evidence to warrant addressing these issues through systemic changes.

There are clear inequities in the impact of the rehabilitation program on the occupational attainments and economic gains for women. The data revealed that men and women came to the vocational rehabilitation system with comparable earnings, but during the rehabilitation process the disparity that first began at acceptance became pronounced at closure. Participation in the vocational rehabilitation system impacted men's earning potential more than it did women's earning potential and thus their potential for economic self-sufficiency. These findings perhaps argue for pursuing a higher goal for disabled people than we are now pursuing, a goal to prepare them for placement into occupations with career and earnings growth potential, rather than a continued, reliance on their employment in marginal, entry-level occupations.

The vocational rehabilitation program is not adequately reaching a segment of women in the population. It is under-accepting women ages 16-24. The study indicated that young women do not enter the program at rates comparable to those for young men. The profile of older women who did enter the program differed significantly from their male counterparts. Older women had a higher educational level, received public assistance, and were either widowed, separated or divorced. They may have been seeking employment opportunities or economic gains in conjunction with change in their marital status. Returning to work after an extended period of time requires that the rehabilitation program address issues such as (a) financial dependency on the welfare system, (b) lack of prior or current vocational experiences, (c) the psychological implications of family circumstances that require the unexpected entry into the work force, and (d) the need for marketable skills.

Women with disabilities may be suffering from occupational segregation which is reinforced by the occupational skills training they receive as part of their rehabilitation. The findings again suggest that the answers may lie with the decision-making processes that produces the individual's vocational goal. The results indicate different patterns of services, employment outcomes in gender-role occupations, and inequities in terms of financial gains from vocational rehabilitation for women.

Society's traditional mores and attitudes toward women, particularly those with disabilities may encourage a more protective approach. The viewpoint may be that women need not consider a career as necessary, even though no body of fact argues that such views are held by women with disabilities. If there were only minor differences between men and women in their application, acceptance and closure rates and in their relative income levels, and were this the only study to reveal such differences, it might reasonably be argued that "concluding that there is an issue of systemic inequity" is an overstatement. When the incidence of gender is controlled, as reported in this research, and the results are consistent, it must be accepted that the system is clearly not serving women equitably.

There is substantial precedent for targeting legislation, policy, regulations, services, and resources toward persons perceived to be in need, without regard to their gender. Historically, vocational rehabilitation has intentionally changed when a clear mandate was expressed through public action or when a sufficient body of evidence accumulated surrounding an issue. There now appears to be such a body of evidence which shows an advantage for men and that rehabilitation reflects what is going on in society. Vocational rehabilitation can continue its tradition of assuring services to populations with special needs by intentionally making the systemic changes in program, policy, and practice as have been suggested here.

Table : Characteristic, Service and Impact: Abstracted finding from Analyses of Variances Conducted on State-Level Indicators of Selected Variables in the the R-300
COPYRIGHT 1989 National Rehabilitation Association
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Author:McCrowey, George
Publication:The Journal of Rehabilitation
Date:Jan 1, 1989
Words:6047
Previous Article:A survey of women with disabilities in nontraditional careers.
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