Accessibility to job opportunities has long been a challenge for individuals with disabilities. In 2020, people with disabilities had a much higher unemployment rate (12.6%) than those without a disability (7.9%). To raise awareness about disability employment issues and celebrate the contributions of workers with disabilities, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is held every October. The 2021 theme for NDEAM is “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion,” which underscores the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have access to employment as the nation recovers from the pandemic.
NCSER supports research related to career readiness and employment for students with disabilities through the Transition to Postsecondary Education, Career, and/or Independent Living (Transition) research program. Since its inception in 2006, NCSER has invested over $58 million in the Transition program and the portfolio has grown to 38 research grants. To encourage additional research in the important but under-studied area, NCSER also competed the Career and Technical Education for Students with Disabilities (CTE) special topic in FY 2019 and FY 2020, awarding three research grants totaling around $3 million.
Below are examples of recently funded Transition and CTE studies that are exploring, developing, or evaluating programs, policies, and practices aimed to help improve career readiness and employment outcomes for students with disabilities.
- Exploring relationships between college and career readiness, self-determination, and transition planning among adolescents with and without disabilities (PI: Allison Lombardi, University of Connecticut) This project aims to establish measurable constructs of college and career readiness by exploring extant data from the National Longitudinal Transition Study 2012.
- Supported College and Career Readiness (SCCR) for Secondary Students with Emotional and Behavioral Problems (PI: Lee Kern, Lehigh University) Through this project, the research team is developing and pilot testing a multi-component program that augments typical school-based college and career readiness activities.
- CTE Teachers and Long-Term Outcomes for Students with Disabilities (PI: Dan Goldhaber, University of Washington) This project aims to examine the relationship between effectiveness in career and technical education for students with disabilities and student outcomes, such as postsecondary enrollment and employment.
- Understanding the Antecedents of STEM Career and Technical Education Coursetaking for High School Students with Learning Disabilities (PI: Michael Gottfried, University of Pennsylvania) Through this project, the research team is investigating whether participation in applied STEM career and technical education courses in high school is related to students with learning disabilities pursuing and persisting in STEM majors and/or careers.
- Moving Transition Forward: Exploration of College-Based and Conventional Transition Practices for Students with Intellectual Disability and Autism (PI: Meg Grigal, University of Massachusetts, Boston) This study aims to examine and compare critical aspects of two transition approaches—a college-based transition experience and a conventional high school or community-based transition experience—and examine the associations between involvement in those programs and student employment outcomes for students with intellectual disability and/or autism spectrum disorder.\
- College and Career Readiness for Transition (CCR4T): Development and Validation of a Student Measure (PI: Allison Lombardi, University of Connecticut) The research team in this project is developing and validating the College and Career Readiness for Transition (CCR4T), a measure of the perceptions of high school students with disabilities of their own college and career readiness.
NCSER also plans to support additional research for students with disabilities with a new grant competition, Research to Accelerate Pandemic Recovery in Special Education, funded through the American Rescue Plan. This grant competition will fund research that addresses pandemic recovery, including recovery relevant to career readiness.
For more information about NDEAM as well as ideas for celebrating this month, please see https://www.dol.gov/agencies/odep/initiatives/ndeam.
Written by Akilah Swinton Nelson, Program Officer at National Center for Special Education Research. For more information about the Transition to Postsecondary Education, Career, and/or Independent Living and Career and Technical Education for Students with Disabilities topic areas, contact Akilah at firstname.lastname@example.org.