Understanding the Influences of Race, Disability, and Poverty on Employment

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Perspectives from Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) Participants Living in the Central City of Milwaukee

The Central City of Milwaukee has many strengths but also faces unique challenges. Chronic generational poverty rooted in structural and historical racism is pervasive. Nearly one-fifth of households reported annual income under $10,000 a year in 2019, forming a concentration of residents living in extreme poverty. A high percentage of community members experience unique challenges and barriers to employment as a result, including people with disabilities.

A better understanding of the employment service needs and perspectives of people in this community who received vocational rehabilitation services was clearly needed. Acting on this, the Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) connected with Project E3 through colleagues at the Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance Center (WINTAC) in May 2019.

Insights and Perspectives Shared by City of Milwaukee Residents

Thirty residents of Milwaukee’s Central City who were engaged with DVR and were either pursuing employment and career opportunities or had recently exited the program contributed to this effort. They shared their insights and perspectives into their experiences with DVR, their goals and aspirations for the future, and the challenges that poverty or lack of resources presents when seeking and engaging in employment.

Their responses revolved around these themes:

  1. The Importance of Effective Counselor Communication, Responsiveness, and Working Alliance
  2. Concerns About Staff Turnover, Delays, and Lack of Time and Flexibility
  3. The Influence of Race
  4. Challenges Presented by Poverty
  5. Participant Perspective on Improving DVR Services

The Wisconsin DVR and Project E3 evaluation team carefully reviewed all participant input to develop information and a set of near-term and longer-term recommendations designed to inform policy and systems decisions that could increase DVR participation for people with disabilities.

Download the Milwaukee Perspectives Report
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