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VCU receives $8.8M to support employment of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities

Virginia Commonwealth University received a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) to fund the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Employment of Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD). The goal is to help reduce the continuing high levels of unemployment among people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The grant was awarded for $875,000 a year for a period of five years to establish this RRTC in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Vanderbilt University, and Kent State University. The principal investigator is Paul Wehman, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in the VCU School of Medicine and in the Department of Counseling and Special Education in the VCU School of Education.

The RRTC will conduct multiphase studies that examine the critical variables that have the potential to improve the competitive integrated employment (CIE) outcomes for individuals with IDD and enhance rehabilitation professionals and other stakeholders' capacity to provide employment opportunities and supports. We will empirically study how: 1) a major corporation implements a demand side approach to hiring workers with IDD, 2) young adults from minorities with IDD acquire technology skills to enable them to access careers in IT fields, 3) college students with ASD can use cognitive technology to impact their academic and employment outcomes, 4) parent intervention impacts parent expectations and their sons and daughters CIE outcomes; and 5) training employment specialists using a competency based curriculum can improved CIE outcomes.

The VCU RRTC will form an Advisory Committee that will be made-up exclusively of people with IDD who will assist in all stages of research and knowledge translation activities. Key activities will include: 1) establishing a National Resource Center for individuals with IDD and their families and 2) conducting a variety of customized dissemination and knowledge transfer activities.

The grant began Oct. 1, 2019 and will run for five years. The studies' results will be shared nationally and internationally through research briefs, journal articles, online trainings, conference presentations, and social media.