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50th anniversary of the Institute on Rehabilitation Issues.

The 50th Anniversary forum of the Institute on Rehabilitation Issues (IRI) was held at the Washington Marriott Metro Center in Washington, DC, on June 1-3, 1997, with approximately 150 people from across the country and overseas attending, including vocational rehabilitation (VR) professionals, advocates, persons with disabilities, educators, and employers.

Fredric K. Schroeder, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) and Ms. Jeanne Munro, current Director of the Washington Division of Rehabilitation Services and President of the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) at the time of the forum, greeted the attendees and emphasized the strong state-federal partnership that characterizes the public VR program and the need for IRI to present cutting edge solutions to the challenges facing people with disabilities in achieving meaningful employment and community integration. After the opening session, the three prime study groups convened to present their draft documents on the following topics: "Improving the Achievement of Employment Outcomes," "Developing Effective Partnerships With Employers as a Service Delivery Mechanism," and "Assuring an Outstanding Public Vocational Rehabilitation Program in the 21st Century--Eliminating Barriers to Effective Service Delivery," a topic which directly impacts the streamlining initiative. (A brief summary of the publications and information on how to order copies may be found at the end of this article.)

During the evening of the first day of the Institute, the participants attended a reception to celebrate its 50th anniversary. In addition, a luncheon was held to close the IRI forum, at which time the university coordinators, chairpersons, and prime study group members were honored for their efforts in the development of IRI publications. Dr. Ralph Pacinelli, RSA Regional Commissioner, served as master of ceremonies and commended the awardees for devoting a substantial amount of time and energy to the IRI process, in addition to their normal workload, and for contributing to the development of publications widely used in training VR program staff.

During the IRI Planning Committee meeting on June 1, the following topics and university coordinators were selected for study during the upcoming 24th IRI cycle: "Field Service Managers and Supervisors: Strategic Leaders in Achieving Employment Outcomes," Dr. Donald Dew, George Washington University; "Achieving Successful Employment Outcomes with the Use of Technology," Dr. Daniel McAlees, University of Wisconsin-Stout; and "Developing Self-Employment and Small Business Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities," Ms. Jeanne Miller, University of Arkansas.

The 24th IRI prime study groups will begin meeting in fall 1997, so that draft documents may be presented at the annual IRI forum scheduled in Washington, DC, May 3-5, 1998. IRI is a cycle of activities originating in the request for possible topics for study and ending in the publication of documents Useful in training and program development. As part of the "streamlining" agreement between RSA and CSAVR, IRI was highlighted as a project to develop guidance and training materials to sustain and expand activities to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the VR program.

Revitalizing IRI

During the past few years, RSA and CSAVR determined the need to be more actively involved in IRI and to use this activity as a yearly opportunity to rethink the VR process and to improve program performance. The immediate results of this renewed interest have been twofold. For one, there has been increased support and participation by the staff of the state VR agencies. Second, the topics selected by the RSA Commissioner for the past two IRI cycles have been specifically related to improving the quality of employment outcomes achieved by persons with disabilities served by the public VR program.

In order to familiarize all members of the rehabilitation community with RSA procedures for conducting the IRI, it may be useful to review the history of IRI, the support organizations, the organizational structure, and the process from topic selection to dissemination of the IRI publication.

Historical Perspective of IRI

IRI has had a long history of cooperation and affiliation among state VR agencies, RSA, universities, and community rehabilitation programs. This affiliation continues to receive strong support today.

IRI is one of the longest running annual events in the human services field. It began as the Guidance, Training and Placement Workshops (GTP) in 1947. The original purpose was to discuss subjects of general interest in state VR agencies and prepare training materials for staff, at all levels, in those agencies.

In 1963, the name was changed to the Institute on Rehabilitation Services (IRS). Major support for IRS continued as a partnership between the state VR agencies and RSA and, for the first time, universities participated as prime study group coordinators. Funding problems in the RSA Training Grants Program in 1974 caused the name change. RSA shifted financial support for the new IRI to the RSA administered rehabilitation research program. In 1978, the National Institute on Handicapped Research (NIHR), later to become the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), was created by law to administer the research program and IRI funding moved to NIHR, which continued sole support through its Research and Training Centers (RTC) program.

Current Organization and Structure

Changes to IRI over the years have been few, but significant, such as in resources, university coordinators, funding agencies, and procedures. RSA and CSAVR have remained consistent supporters and contributors to IRI as have the universities funded by RSA and NIDRR. The basic purpose and focus of IRI has remained unchanged:

* Identify and discuss current issues of importance to the public vocational rehabilitation program.

* Develop materials which can be used by state VR agencies and others concerned about staff development in rehabilitation.

* Publish and disseminate the materials widely to people who provide rehabilitation services to individuals with disabilities.

Since its inception, state VR agencies have been and remain the principal supporters of IRI. These agencies allow release time for staff members to serve on prime study groups and to attend and participate in the annual meeting. They also make significant use of IRI publications. Although once funded by NIDRR, IRI is now solely funded by RSA through cooperative agreements with the Regional Rehabilitation Continuing Education Programs (RRCEP).

The Planning Committee. IRI is guided by a planning committee, which provides direction to the university coordinators who manage the prime study groups and are also responsible for completing the following tasks:

* Publicize IRI and solicit from CSAVR and RSA: topics for study, prime study group members and chairpersons, and participants for the annual meeting.

* Discuss topics and recommend four topics for study. The RSA Commissioner, with input from the CSAVR President, selects three topics and assigns each to a university prime study group coordinator.

* Advise the university prime study group coordinators on the marketing and dissemination of IRI publications.

* Recommend strategies for including IRI publications as part of state VR agency inservice training and regional continuing education programs.

The planning committee gathers once each year during the annual meeting to conduct the managerial business of IRI.

The IRI Process

Topic Selection. During the early spring of each year, topics for the following year's IRI are solicited from CSAVR, RSA, and other appropriate entities. CSAVR and RSA each submit at least three topics to the planning committee. The planning committee discusses the topics and selects those that are determined to be most relevant for study. The selection criteria used by the committee are:

* The topic is currently one of concern to a large number of state VR agencies.

* It is a topic that can be completed within a year.

* There are recognized experts or a body of literature that will be available to the prime study group.

Selection of Prime Study Group Chairs and Members. CSAVR and RSA nominate to the university coordinators individuals for consideration as prime study group members who meet the following criteria: knowledgeable and recognized experts on the topic being developed; able to formulate written ideas; and willing and able to make a substantial commitment of time and energy to the IRI process. Each prime study group coordinator evaluates the nominations and submits to the RSA/IRI coordinator a recommended panel consisting of 12-15 study group members, the majority of whom are state VR agency representatives. The remaining members will be made up of one RSA representative and other individuals who are recognized authorities on the issue under study and/or represent important consumer perspectives.

The RSA Commissioner and the CSAVR President jointly select the prime study group chairs and members. The chairperson will be a current employee of a state VR agency who has demonstrated leadership qualities and good writing and editorial skills and has served on previous IRI prime study groups. The members of the prime study groups make a commitment to attend three meetings (travel expenses paid by the university, except for the RSA employees) and to prepare materials between meetings of the group. No honorarium is paid as part of the IRI process. In addition, the prime study group meetings are held in cities that have an RSA regional office to enable the participation of an RSA employee.

Prime Study Group Meetings

The first prime study group meeting is devoted to a discussion of the topic and all of the issues surrounding it from each member's perspective. When the issues have been discussed, they are organized into chapters for the draft publication. These issues are then used to outline potential chapters and to make writing assignments. The members return home to do the actual writing for their assigned portion of the outline.

Approximately 3 months later, the prime study group reconvenes for the second meeting to review the draft documents and to further discuss the topic. At the end of this session, the written materials are reorganized, chapters may be cut and pasted together, and new outlines are developed for missing materials. At the second meeting, chapters may be reassigned to other prime study group members to provide an additional perspective or to further elaborate on specific issues. They will then rewrite that section or chapter, using the first draft as a starting point. This second effort is sent to the prime study group coordinator for duplication and distribution to the members and persons who will attend the annual meeting.

Annual Meeting. Approximately 2 months prior to the annual meeting, the date, meeting site, and issues developed over the previous year are announced to potentially interested individuals. Prospective participants choose one of the topics that will be presented and become part of that topic's expanded study group. Each member is mailed a preliminary report of the prime study group's draft document at least 2 weeks prior to the annual meeting to re view, critique, and develop recommendations in preparation for the meeting. At the annual meeting, the prime study group describes the development of the topic, reviews the draft document, and carefully reviews the material for accuracy, comprehensiveness of coverage, reference to state VR agency practices, inclusion of appropriate consumer references and concerns, and other issues. Critical comments, both negative and positive, are recorded for consideration by the editorial committee.

Revision and Report Development. At the completion of the annual meeting, a small editorial committee made up of the prime study group chairperson, two members of the prime study group (one of whom may serve as the following year's chairperson), and the prime study group coordinator, edit the document. The prime study group coordinator subsequently conducts an additional edit of the revised document and sends it to RSA for the first review. During the first review, RSA will informally provide feedback to the prime study group coordinator.

Final Review of Publication Prior to Printing. Upon completion of the final edits, the document is sent to RSA for a final review, which RSA will share with CSAVR. Within 45 days, RSA will provide the university prime study group coordinators with final comments prior to publication.

Dissemination and Impact. Approximately 3,500 copies of each IRI publication, accompanied by an RSA Information Memorandum (IM), are distributed free of charge to RSA central and regional offices, NIDRR, state VR agency directors, State Rehabilitation Advisory Councils, Client Assistance Programs, other RRCEP'S, Rehabilitation Training Centers, Rehabilitation Training Programs, and to the National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC). All IRI publications are available in alternative formats. Other copies are sold by the university prime study group coordinators to recover part of the cost of printing and distribution. One year after the date of publication, all remaining copies are sent to the National Clearinghouse on Rehabilitation Training Materials for further distribution and to maintain a central source for all IRI publications. A marketing strategy is being developed to advertise the availability of IRI publications, to ensure that they are disseminated to a broad range of rehabilitation professionals, and to maintain a single location for obtaining past and future documents.

The Future of IRI

An important part of RSA's mission is to provide training and technical assistance to state VR agencies on the problems facing rehabilitation service providers and to disseminate and promote the utilization of knowledge resulting from current research. Through IRI, high priority training needs are responded to expeditiously and the study findings on a specific topic are quickly transposed into useful and usable training materials and publications.

IRI publications have made a significant impact on program policy and operations and are being used extensively as resource/reference materials and as a means for individual self-development. State VR agencies and other rehabilitation programs have indicated that IRI publications have contributed content to their training programs that was not available from any other source. The process of developing the IRI publication is a significant event for a member of an IRI prime study group because most of the authors are rehabilitation practitioners who bring a practical perspective to discussions of the topic and the resulting publication. RSA intends to continue its support of IRI to provide VR professionals with an opportunity to develop with their peers the most imaginative solutions possible to improve the work opportunities and the quality of life for persons with disabilities.

Summaries of the 23rd IRI Publications and Ordering Information:

Improving the Achievement of Employment Outcomes. This document is comprised of seven chapters that focus on issues, programs, and models relevant to improving the achievement of employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities. An organizational culture designed to support the attainment of employment outcomes is explored in Chapter One. Chapters Two and Three provide a detailed model for developing the role of vocational rehabilitation in the economic community. Chapter Four offers counselor input into mechanisms and strategies for attaining employment outcomes. Chapter Five addresses the changing world of work. Chapter Six focuses on client education in preparation for employment. Chapter Seven describes various models and experiences from successful self-employment programs.

To order copies of this publication, contact:

Dr. Donald Dew

Institute on Rehabilitation Issues

George Washington University

Region III Rehabilitation

Continuing Education Program

2011 Eye Street, NW #300

Washington, DC 20052

(202) 973-1550 (Voice)

(202) 973-1544 (TTY)

(202) 775-053 (FAX)


Web Page:


Developing Effective Partnerships With Employers as a Service Delivery Mechanism. The second publication focuses on approaches designed to strengthen the state-federal VR partnership with private sector employers. It addresses the needs of the private sector employer and discusses employers' perspectives, the structure of corporate employment in large and small companies, how employers prefer to be approached, employers' perceptions of the value of vocational rehabilitation, and more. Each section is followed by a list of straightforward ideas on how to improve relations with employers.

Finding qualified candidates is no longer as easy as placing an advertisement in the newspaper. The resounding cry from business across the country is clear: "We need skilled people!" VR is in the position to answer that call. Never before has the opportunity to establish effective relationships with businesses been as promising. The largely untapped pool of potential workers with disabilities represents a valuable resource to employers desperately seeking qualified candidates. The authors believe that the present era of prosperity offers more opportunity than simply increasing the number of "placements" by VR. They recommend how we can further close the gap between business and VR to create a partnership that meets the needs of all the customers involved, including people with disabilities, the companies that employ them, and the vocational rehabilitation staff that represent them.

Chapters include: "Successful Partnerships: The Employer Speaks," "Successful Partnerships: What Do They Mean?" "Successful Partnerships: What Are We Trying To Achieve?" "Successful Partnerships: Are We Speaking the Same Language?" and "Successful Partnerships: Administrators Are You Listening?"

To order copies of this publication, contact:

Ms. Jean Davis

Institute on Rehabilitation Issues

University of Wisconsin-Stout

Region V Rehabilitation

Continuing Education Program

214 10th Avenue

Menomonie, Wisconsin 54751-2506

(715) 232-1380 (Voice)

(715) 232-5025 (TTY)

(715) 232-2251 (FAX)


Web Page:

Assuring an Outstanding Public Vocational Rehabilitation Program in the 21st Century--Eliminating Barriers to Service Delivery. The third IRI document identifies the basic components of a successful VR program, the issues affecting the efficient and effective delivery of services leading to employment outcomes, and strategies for eliminating identified process requirements and other barriers which impede the achievement of successful outcomes.

A system based on core values and principles, the 21st century public VR program exemplifies many characteristics which have been developed in state VR agencies across the country. Examples of effective practices that may be useful to other VR professionals are highlighted throughout this publication, including where to go for further information.

To order this document, contact:

Ms. Jeanne Miller

The Institute on Rehabilitation Issues

University of Arkansas

Region VI Rehabilitation

Continuing Education Program

P.O. Box 1358

Hot Springs, Arkansas 71902

(501) 623-7700 (Voice)

(501) 624-0079 (TTY)

(501) 624-6250 (FAX)


Web Page: Under construction.

To order copies of previous IRI publications, contact the individuals listed above, or:

National Clearinghouse on

Rehabilitation Training Materials

Oklahoma State University

5202 N. Richmond Hill Drive

Stillwater, Oklahoma 74078-0435

1-800-223-5219 (Voice)

(405) 624-3156 (TTY)

(405) 624-0695 (FAX)

E-Mail: brookdj@okway.Okstate.Edu

Web Page:

Mr. Sadler is a VR Program Specialist with RSA in Washington, DC. In addition to coordinating the IRI, he is responsible for the development of VR program monitoring and technical assistance guidance and is a frequent participant in VR program onsite reviews.
COPYRIGHT 1997 U.S. Rehabilitation Services Administration
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Streamlining Service Delivery; vocational rehabilitation for the disabled
Author:Sadler, Charles
Publication:American Rehabilitation
Date:Jun 22, 1997
Previous Article:Organizational transformation: a bold journey, not a guided tour.
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