Research on Employment Supports for People with Disabilities: Summary of the Focus Group Findings. A. Introduction


The findings reported below are from focus groups conducted in three cities (Seattle/Tacoma, Washington; Newark, New Jersey; and Los Angeles, California) between April and December 2000. All focus group participants were 18 years old or older, had a significant disability with onset prior to first substantial employment, and had annual earnings of at least $8,240 before taxes and transfers. At the time of the focus groups, the latter was the federal poverty line for a family of one.6 It is approximately equivalent to working 30 hours a week at the federal minimum wage.

A total of 284 individuals participated in focus groups and individual interviews for the study.7 Basic socio-demographic, disability, and employment information was collected via a telephone screening instrument and a pre-focus group registration form. Detail on the focus group methodology, the characteristics of focus group participants, and the supports available at each locality is provided in the Appendices to this report.

We asked focus group participants to discuss supports that were important to them at three critical periods of their lives: during childhood or at disability onset; obtaining first employment or first employment after disability onset; and in maintaining current employment. We present the findings from these focus groups below. Because we found that the supports used to obtain first employment and those used to maintain current employment were very similar, we have combined the discussion of these topics into one section.8 We begin with supports used during childhood and/or disability onset.