Research Summary

Research Summary: Vocational Rehabilitation and Self-employment Success Factors for People with Disabilities

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A Quick Look

A retrospective study examining factors that are related to successful self-employment of vocational rehabilitation (VR) services recipients over a recent five-year span. Using data from the RSA 911 database between 2008 and 2012, the researchers examined individual characteristics, accountability systems, and levels of support. Limited statistical support from modeling, but other interesting findings were identified.

Key Findings

  • There were about 4,000 self-employment closures each year, 2008-2012
  • That’s about 2.2% of all employment closures (but about 70% of cases had no employment closure)
  • The South region accounted for about 50% of all self-employment closures
  • The majority of self-employment closures were among white (76%) and male (55%) clients
  • Most self-employment closures were among consumers who had a high school education or less (57%) and a significant disability (93%), unexpected predictors

Putting It Into Practice

  • 2007-2009 was the great recession, generally more self-employment happens when other jobs are lost during economic slow periods. It can be a good time to start a business.
  • Rural and urban areas may present different opportunities for self-employment.
  • Interagency collaborations such as with Small Business Development Centers may help.

Learn More

  • Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 defined VR services in Self-employment, including “technical assistance and other consultation services to conduct market analyses, develop business plans and otherwise provide resources…to pursue self-employment or establishing a small business”. Awareness of this directive can guide services.


Yamamoto, S. H., & Alverson, C. Y. (2018). Vocational rehabilitation and self-employment of people with disabilities: Factors of successful outcomes. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation48(2), 269–283. 

Contact a Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center for Quality Employment expert

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