In recruiting individuals for participation in the focus groups, we attempted to select individuals who met the following criteria:
Age 18 or over;
Have a "significant" disability, where "significant," at a conceptual level, is defined as a level of disability that would, in the absence of work, qualify the individual for SSI or DI benefits;
Experienced the onset of their impairment or health condition prior to engaging in significant labor force participation; and
Are competitively employed and have worked for at least one year with earnings in excess of $8,240.3
We chose to focus on people with disabilities whose impairment began relatively early in life because current public policy attention has been captured by the rapid growth in the number of younger people coming on to the SSI and DI rolls, and to the issues faced by children with disabilities and their transitions from school to work. Public policy has also been focused on the work requirements of state TANF programs, which primarily serve relatively young adults with children, many of whom have significant impairments or health conditions.
We thought it important to reduce the breadth of issues addressed in this study in favor of greater depth. The range of issues affecting people who become disabled later in life, and who may have a long and established work history, are very different from the issues faced by people who develop disabilities either in childhood, or early in their adult life. Rather than attempt to address both types of individuals, we restricted our focus to the issues affecting those who develop disabilities early in life (i.e., before the first significant employment experience).