Research on Employment Supports for People with Disabilities: Summary of the Focus Group Findings. Ranking of the Importance of Selected Supports

Prior to the start of each focus group, participants were asked to complete a registration form. Included in the registration form was a list of supports that are often available to people with disabilities. On a scale of 1 (very important) to 5 (not important), participants were asked to rank the importance of these supports in allowing them to find and maintain employment. We have summarized the results by site (Exhibit 1) and by impairment (Exhibit 2). Differences by site might reflect differences in population characteristics and the availability of supports, but also might simply reflect variation in recruitment.

In general, the rankings assigned by Seattle/Tacoma, Newark and Los Angeles focus group participants are very similar (Exhibit 1). Nearly three-quarters of the participants at each of the three locales ranked family/peer support, access to health insurance, special skills or other training, college education and employer accommodations very highly (assigning 1's and 2's). Participants at all sites also ranked job search assistance, family financial support, family/peer support, procedures and medications, assistive devices and public income assistance (SSI, SSDI, TANF) highly (assigning 1's and 2's). Nearly three-quarters of Los Angeles participants ranked family/peer support as very important (1), compared to just over half in Newark and Seattle/Tacoma.

Participants in all sites assigned relatively low rankings to public in-kind assistance programs other than health (e.g., food stamps, housing subsidies, home heating subsidies), special education (as a youth), job coaches and PAS. Nearly twice as many Los Angeles participants ranked special education as not important (46 percent) as in Newark (25 percent), with Seattle/Tacoma in between.

Support rankings differed more substantially by impairment category (Exhibit 2) than by site. For example, while more than half of participants across all impairment categories ranked access to health insurance as very important, 80 percent of participants with mental illness and 90 percent of participants with other chronic illnesses assigned that ranking. Roughly the same proportions of participants with cognitive (71 percent) and mobility (68 percent) impairments assigned a rank of 1, while only 51 percent of participants with communication impairments ranked access to health insurance as very important.

Large proportions of participants with mental illness and other chronic illnesses also assigned a 1 or 2 ranking to specific drugs or treatments (88 percent and 95 percent, respectively), while less than half of individuals with communication and mobility impairments (47 percent each) did so. A larger share of participants with communication impairments ranked assistive devices and technology as very important (76 percent) than any other impairment category. Only a very small proportion (14 percent) of participants with mental illnesses ranked assistive devices and technology as very important.

The perception of the value of public in-kind assistance (e.g., food stamps, housing subsidies, home heating subsidies) also varied substantially by impairment. Approximately 70 percent of participants with other chronic illnesses ranked this support as very important, while the proportions for other impairments were lower, ranging from 15 percent (communication impairments) to 51 percent (mental illness). Participants with cognitive impairments were more likely to rank special education and job coach services as very important (50 percent and 70 percent, respectively) than other impairment groups (except participants with other chronic illnesses, of which 47 percent ranked special education as very important).

VR was slightly favored by participants with cognitive impairments relative to other impairment categories. Public income assistance was ranked most highly by participants with mental illnesses, cognitive impairments and other chronic illnesses (70 percent, 66 percent and 53 percent, respectively).

The supports with the largest proportion of participants with cognitive impairments ranking them as "very important" included job search assistance (75 percent), access to health insurance (71 percent), job coach services (70 percent), public income assistance (66 percent), and special skills or other training (64 percent). Those supports receiving the largest proportion of participants with cognitive impairments ranking them as "not important" included assistive devices and technology (46 percent), PAS (42 percent), and college education (33 percent).

The supports with the largest proportion of participants with communication impairments ranking them as "very important" included college education (79 percent), assistive devices and technology (76 percent), special skills or other training (71 percent), employer accommodations (68 percent), and transportation (61 percent). Those supports receiving the largest proportion of participants with communication impairments ranking them as "not important" included job coach services (57 percent), public in-kind assistance (50 percent), and PAS (40 percent).

The supports with the largest proportion of participants with mental illness ranking them as "very important" included access to health insurance (80 percent), specific drugs or treatments (75 percent), public income assistance (69 percent), family/peer non-financial support (66 percent), and special skills or other training (60 percent). Those supports receiving the largest proportion of participants with mental illness ranking them as "not important" included assistive devices and technology (63 percent), PAS (58 percent), job coach services (48 percent), special education as a youth (39 percent), and specific drugs or treatments (37 percent).

The supports with the largest proportion of participants with mobility impairments ranking them as "very important" included access to health insurance (68 percent), family/peer non-financial support (63 percent), college education (60 percent), special skills or other training (47 percent), and employer accommodations (46 percent). Those supports receiving the largest proportion of participants with mobility impairments ranking them as "not important" included job coach services (54 percent), special education as a youth (49 percent), public in-kind assistance (41 percent), PAS (30 percent), and transportation (26 percent).

The supports with the largest proportion of participants with other chronic impairments ranking them as "very important" include access to access to health insurance (90 percent), specific drugs or treatments (90 percent), employer accommodations (74 percent), public in-kind assistance (71 percent), and transportation (65 percent). Those supports receiving the largest proportion of participants with other chronic impairments ranking them as "not important" included special education as a youth (41 percent), job coach services (33 percent), and family financial support (21 percent).