Focus group participants were recruited through several means: local programs serving people with disabilities advertised the study and, in some cases, directly recruited individuals; solicitation letters were mailed to working DI and SSI recipients residing in the study sites and identified via Social Security administrative data; and general advertisements were placed in local newspapers, disability newsletters, and internet listserves. The solicitation materials requested that individuals call the study 800 number to be screened for participation in the study. The solicitation materials described the nature of the study and indicated that those selected to participate in a focus group would receive reimbursement for transportation expenses and a gift, equal to $25 in value, for their participation in the study.
Those who called the 800 number were administered a brief screening questionnaire (Attachment A-1) which probed on eligibility criteria, including age, age of onset, earnings, disability and health status, and employment history. Disability severity was evaluated via a two-step process.4
First, we collected information on the underlying condition(s) associated with the disability. We developed for the questionnaire a one-page listing of conditions, the presence of which would constitute a severe disability. This listing was based upon the list employed by the Social Security Administration for disability determination, and included the most common conditions across five domains: cognitive, communication, mental illness, mobility, and other chronic illnesses. Examples of these conditions include mental retardation; deafness and blindness; paralysis and osteomylitis; major depression and bipolar disorder; and HIV and kidney disease.
Second, for individuals with conditions not on the list, we assessed the extent to which the individual experienced one or more functional impairments in mobility (upper and lower body), social functioning and ability to care for self. Any individual reporting having "A lot" of difficulty performing two or more activities, or any individual reporting being "Unable to do" any one (or more) activity was considered to have a severe disability.5 Individuals who failed to meet any of the criteria were screened out. Those meeting the study participation criteria were scheduled for a focus group.