DRI News - Issue 1, Spring 2001
The Disability Research Institute: Partnership
in a New Paradigm
Welcome to the first issue
of DRI News, the newsletter of the Disability Research Institute (DRI)a
research partnership between the U.S. Social Security Administration
(SSA) and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).
The Institute plans and conducts a broad range of
research to further disability policy information. The projects focus
on disability issues relating to people with disabilities and disability
programs under the Social Security Act. DRI acts as a clearinghouse
for researchers who want to access SSA data for research purposes. Under
the direction of Chrisann Schiro-Geist, the DRI staff oversees technical
facilities, manages fiscal resources, and enforces privacy standards
related to data accessibility and storage. Policy decisions regarding
the research agenda, research implementation plan, education and training
program, and development and direction of DRI are guided by scholarly
advisors and a Technical Advisory Panel.
In addition to conducting research, the DRI trains
and educates scholars both to encourage promising young researchers
to concentrate on disability issues and to keep current practitioners
abreast of the results of new research. To expand its vision, the Institute
has formed collaborative partnerships with other academic institutions
and policy experts in the fields of economics, rehabilitation, public
health and public policy. Specifically, the DRI, which is housed in
the College of Applied Life Studies, is affiliated with three institutions
as well as related campus units at UIUC, such as the Institute of Labor
and Industrial Relations, National Center for Supercomputing Applications,
Office of Continuing Education, Graduate School of Library and Information
Science, and Institute of Government and Public Affairs. DRI scholarship
and research is enhanced by the input of graduate students, visiting
scholars and educational outreach participants.
An important component of the DRI mission is to inform
policymakers, government officials, the academic community and the public
at largein particular, members of the public who have disabilitiesabout
disability policy issues. To that end, the Institute prepares reports
for the Office of Research Evaluation and Statistics and will publish
research results in scholarly, governmental and popular media. Updates
on DRI activities are disseminated through an informative website, and
the print and electronic publication of DRI News.
DRI Symposium and Opening Celebration
Thursday, April 26, 2001
Mark your calendars now for the upcoming Symposium
and Opening Celebration officially marking the inauguration of the Disability
Research Institute! Special speakers and dignitaries will participate.
More information about the event will be posted on the web site soon.
Join the Discussion Online: International
Everyone interested in disability research and policy
is invited to become a member of the DRI electronic discussion list,
or listserv. By joining this online community, you will have an opportunity
to communicate with colleagues around the world on disability research
Future editions of the newsletter will be distributed
through the listserv; by joining now you ensure prompt delivery of the
latest edition of this free newsletter.
To subscribe, go to our web site at http://www.als.uiuc.edu/dri/listserv.htm.
Disability Equality Symposium Held November
2000 - Researchers From Around the Globe Meet in Chicago
A highly regarded group of leaders and experts in
the field of disability and the disability-rights movement participated
in the Symposium on Disability and Equality: Strategies for Success.
The sponsors of the Symposium from UIUC were the DRI,
the European Union Center and the Office of Continuing Education. Other
institutional sponsors included the University of Illinois at Chicagos
Department of Disability and Human Development and the Continuing Education
Center for Community Based Rehabilitation Programs at the University
of Wisconsin-Stout. Co-sponsors were: American Psychological Association
Division 22, Association of Higher Education and Disability, and National
Council on Rehabilitation Education. Speakers included Monroe Berkowitz,
Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University, a leading expert on the economics
of disability and a key promoter of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives
Improvement Act of 1999, and Ken McGill of the Social Security Administration
(SSA). Mr. McGill directs the Office of Employment Support Programs
(OESP), which was created in 1999 to provide a focus within the SSA
on matters affecting the employment of Social Security beneficiaries
with disabilities. Mr. McGill and his staff are currently leading the
implementation of the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement
Act of 1999.
The goal of the symposium was to provide a reality-based
review of progress toward equalityas well as toward equity in
quality of life indicatorsfor people with disabilities. Participants
looked not only at the potential legislative agenda, but at what changes
have occurred and are projected to occur in world society and culture,
and what should be on the research agenda in coming years.
Transcripts are available by calling (217) 265-0279.
DRI First Year Research Projects
Employment Outcomes for
Persons with Disabilities in a Mature Economic Environment
University of California, San Francisco - Edward Yelin, Ph.D.
Assesses the factors affecting labor force participation
and transitions into and out of employment.
Using the telephone-based longitudinal California
Work and Health Survey (CWHS), the project will describe the risk
factors among the employed for poor labor market outcomes, including
involuntary part-time employment, episodic employment, and employment
that leaves individuals and their households with a poverty-level
income. Eight hundred persons with disabilities will be added to the
CWHS, permitting the study of transitions in employment among CWHS
respondents with and without disabilities. The research takes advantage
of previous analyses completed by the investigators, the longitudinal
design of the CWHS, and the Surveys enumeration of specific
services and accommodations used by sample persons.
This study is designed to show the extent to which
persons with discrete disabilities are able to secure and maintain
employment, and to describe the combination of occupations, industries,
and working conditions that maximize the labor market success of people
with disabilities. Employment issues are of central importance to
policy because persons with disabilities have such low rates of job
accession. Gaining and maintaining access to employment in the emerging
sectors of the economy will markedly improve the long-term well-being
of persons with disabilities.
Research Approaches to
Validation of SSAs Medical Listings
Northwestern University - Allen Heinemann, Ph.D.
University of Chicago - Mary Grace Kovar, Ph.D.
Assesses the extent to which the medical severity
of impairments embodied in the listings are predictive of the inability
The SSA's medical listings are a series of medical
conditions (physical or mental) which, based upon thresholds of medical
severity (in some cases with specific functional consequences), are
believed to be de facto evidence of the inability to work. The project
will develop a methodology that may be used to assess the validity
of the listings, and, possibly, other parts of the disability decision
The research will include the identification or
development of external criteria reflecting the inability to engage
in Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), development of assessment methods,
identification of appropriate statistical methods, and the application
of these methodologies to one of the medical listings.
The DRI will involve internal and external stakeholders
in this research by conducting a series of meetings with interested
New Work Arrangements
and Disability Income
Lisa Schur, Ph.D., and Douglas Kruse, Ph.D.
Ascertains advantages and disadvantages of different
This project will produce estimates and comparisons
between workers with and without disabilities in different types of
contingent and flexible work arrangements. The researchers will analyze
the prevalence of and reasons for alternate work arrangements among
workers with and without disabilities and learn more about their individual
household characteristics, pay, hours, occupation and industry.
Determines how people with disabilities experience
contingent work arrangements.
The researchers will assess the movement into and
out of contingent work arrangements relative to the business cycle
and receipt of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security
Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Drs. Schur and Kruse will review
the experience and outcomes for contingent workers with disabilities
who have filed lawsuits based on the Americans with Disabilities Act
(ADA) or the Rehabilitation Act. If the data show that new work arrangements
provide inroads to high-paid, high-skill jobs, new disability policy
may promote these positions by providing information on the types
of skills that may be gained by workers with disabilities in alternative
Disability Benefits as
Household Income and Labor Supply Decisions of Household Members
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Stephanie So, Ph.D.
Investigates household labor supply decisions for
members of different disability groups.
This study explores the incentive effects of Social
Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income
(SSI) benefit programs on persons with disabilities and their household
members to enter, exit or change the level of effort supplied to the
labor force. The Added Worker Effect (AWE), the notion
that periods of unemployment for one member of the family may raise
the labor supply of another member, will also be examined.
Looks at unemployment spells related to disability
and the impact of benefits on household income, by disability type.
The study examines the risk-of-unemployment profiles
attached to populations with different disabilities and will test
the hypothesis that types of disabilities systematically pose different
risks to household income, depending on factors such as severity and
timing of disability within the life cycle.
The results will provide direct evidence of the
incentive effects of disability benefits programs on work effort,
taking into account the fact that persons with disabilities often
have informal arrangements within their households to mitigate unemployment
shocks. In addition, the study will develop disability risk profiles
that will help SSA understand how household groups can react differently
to a household member's receipt of SSDI benefits.
Barriers to Employment
Among Persons with Mental Impairments
Rutgers University - David Mechanic, Ph.D.
Analyzes unemployment factors among those with
The objectives of this project are to examine the
barriers to employment among persons with a primary mental illness;
to examine how mental illness may complicate the effect of physical
illness and disabilities on the risk of unemployment; and to describe
the factors that may ameliorate risk for unemployment among those
with mental illness.
Addresses several research questions.
Dr. Mechanic will pursue the following questions
through his research:
- What mental health specialty services ameliorate
the risk of unemployment?
- How do characteristics that shape opportunity
(e.g., age, education, and race) interact with mental impairment to
make employment more or less difficult?
- How do comorbid mental impairments influence employment
for those with physical disabilities?
- What are the perceived barriers to work among those
with mental impairments?
- How do employers view accommodations for workers
with mental impairments?
By understanding the facilitating and impeding factors
for employment among those with mental impairments, policy needs associated
with the interaction between and impact on medical, functional and
occupational factors and disability determinants for purposes of entitlement
to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplementary Security
Income (SSI) Benefits are addressed. The project will identify persons
most likely to succeed in disability-to-work programs and program
characteristics most likely to facilitate success.
Designing an Early Intervention
Experiment and Demonstration Approach for the Social Security Administration
Rutgers University - Monroe Berkowitz, Ph.D. and John Burton, Ph.D.
Under the demonstrations authorized by the Ticket
to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act (TWWIIA), services could
be offered to applicants for benefits. This represents a distinct
change from the current law and practice where services can be paid
for out of trust funds only for beneficiaries.
This research will develop models which will help
- Identify likely eligible applicants to participate
in a Return to Work Program.
- Create models that lead benefit applicants to
Under the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement
Act (Public Law 106-70, December 1999), the Social Security Administration
is given authority to conduct experiments and demonstrations to test
the idea that the return to work record for potential applicants to
the Disability Insurance program could be improved by early intervention
and the provision of return to work services.
Profile of Dr. Chrisann Schiro-Geist, Director
and Co-Principal Investigator
Dr. Schiro-Geists research deals with the improvement
of the quality of life of persons with disabilities. She has developed
a data bank of information on university-educated persons with disabilities
who graduated from UIUC from 1952 to 1992. This database has generated
several national and international presentations, internal and external
grant money and a doctoral dissertation.
She is also involved in research on the efficacy of
animal-assisted therapy for children with severe disabilities. She is
the author of two books on disability-related issues. Dr. Schiro-Geist
was the winner of the campus-wide Excellence in Off-Campus Teaching
award in Spring 2000.
Profile of Dr. Tanya M. Gallagher, Dean and Co-Principal
Dr. Gallagher became Dean of the College of Applied
Life Studies in December, 1998, succeeding Interim Dean Robert Sprague.
As a Professor of Speech and Hearing Science, Dr. Gallagher has served
on the faculties of the University of Michigan and McGill University
prior to coming to UIUC. She has held several leadership positions including
Director of the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Associate
Dean for Allied Health Sciences, and Associate Dean for University Affairs,
Planning and Resources in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University.
Dr. Gallagher recently served as President of the American Speech-Language-Hearing
Foundation and is an advisor to the National Center for Treatment Effectiveness
in Communication Disorders.
Dr. Gallagher earned her bachelors degree (1967)
and masters degree in speech-language pathology (1969) and her
doctorate in speech and language science (1971) at the University of
Illinois. Her research has recently focused on brain-behavior relationships
in populations at high risk for communication disorders and on neuromuscular
and functional head and neck post-treatment effects following chemotherapy
radiation in patients with head and neck cancer.
Thank you for your interest in the Disability