Document Type

Research Progress Report


University of Montana Rural Institute

Publication Date



Economics | Labor Economics | Social and Behavioral Sciences


The lack of employment opportunities for people with disabilities is a major problem according to vocational rehabilitation (VR) service providers, American Indian Section 121 employment programs, and people with disabilities (Arnold, Seekins, & Nelson, 1997). This is particularly true in rural areas where local businesses struggle to create enough quality jobs for community members, including people with disabilities. In the face of this challenge, rural residents with and without disabilities frequently opt to pursue self-employment. Yet, VR and Section 121 programs are often confused about existing business opportunities and their potential for success. There are established procedures to analyze markets and develop business plans (Arnold, Seekins, et al., 2001), but there is no systematic way to initially identify potentially-viable business ideas and opportunities. Rural areas often lack leaders who can take responsibility for conducting economic development programs (Knapp & Simon, 1994). Vocational Rehabilitation programs rarely consider collaborating with community economic development activities, and rural community economic development practitioners rarely think of VR as a potential economic development partner, or of people with disabilities as potential entrepreneurs and community leaders. In the new disability paradigm, community participation is a key outcome variable (Seelman & Sweeney; World Health Organization,1997). Participation means being actively engaged in community life and achieving a sense of belonging to the community. Leading community activities is one way to achieve this. A goal of our research is to explore the leadership role people with disabilities, as well as rehabilitation service providers, might play in rural economic development, and to examine the economic and personal benefits of such leadership to them and their communities.


employment and vocational rehabilitation, economic development, rural, disability


© 2001 RTC:Rural.

Granting Agency

National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research


Our research is supported by grant # H133B70017-01 from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Dept. of Education.

Project Number