Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Consumer Satisfaction with Vocational Rehabilitation Services

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Consumer Satisfaction with Vocational Rehabilitation Services

Article excerpt

Empowerment of individuals with disabilities may be viewed as possession of the same degree of control over one's own life, and the conditions that affect life, as is generally possessed by people without disabilities (Harp, 1994). It is the transfer of power and control of values, decisions, choices, and directions of human services from external entities to individuals themselves. In recent years a growing belief has emerged that consumers of human services should gain power over the services they receive, and, in the process, gain or regain control over their lives. West and Parent (1992) report that choice, a fundamental aspect of empowerment, remains significantly limited for many individuals with disabilities within the current vocational rehabilitation (VR) service system.

The purpose of the Act is to empower individuals with disabilities to maximize employment, economic self-sufficiency, independence, and inclusion and integration into society. A primary vehicle for accomplishing this goal is through the provision of effective VR services. Increased employment of individuals with disabilities can be achieved through individualized training, independent living services, educational and support services, and meaningful opportunities for employment in integrated work settings through the provision of reasonable accommodations (Rehabilitation Services Administration, 1993). Increased employment, in turn, allows individuals with disabilities to live independently, enjoy self-determination, make choices, contribute to society, and pursue meaningful careers.

The quality of increased employment for individuals with disabilities is first and foremost a perception in the consumer's eyes (Johansson & McArthur, 1988). Consumer involvement and the increased demand for program accountability has resulted in a need for rehabilitation programs to demonstrate consumer satisfaction with services (Janikowski, Bordieri, & Musgrave, 1991; Kosciulek, Prozonic, & Bell, 1995). Increased levels of consumer satisfaction with VR services thus represents one measure of the implementation of both the spirit and letter of the Act.

As mandated in the Act, the Missouri State Rehabilitation Advisory Council (the Council) was formed to advise the MDVR with regard to rehabilitation services for people with disabilities. The Program Evaluation Committee (PEC) of the Council was charged with establishing a new direction for MDVR regarding consumer satisfaction feedback. The purpose of this article is twofold: (a) to present the new consumer satisfaction survey process implemented by the MDVR, and (b) to report first year results of this process. It was anticipated that the information provided in this paper would be useful to consumers with disabilities, state VR agencies, and community rehabilitation programs for program evaluation and development purposes leading to the continuous improvement of VR services.

The Missouri Consumer Satisfaction Survey Process

Section 105 of the Act requires that state VR agencies establish a state rehabilitation advisory council. The Missouri State Rehabilitation Advisory Council was created to meet this regulation. The Council was initially formed and appointed by Governor Mel Carnahan on March 10, 1994 with a total of 19 members. Council members are appointed to terms not exceeding three years, and no more than two consecutive full terms. The Council is responsible for reviewing, analyzing, and advising the MDVR regarding performance on issues relating to: (a) eligibility, (b) extent, scope, and effectiveness of services, and (c) functions performed by the MDVR that affect the ability of individuals with disabilities to achieve rehabilitation goals and objectives (Missouri State Rehabilitation Advisory Council, 1994).

A major responsibility of the Council is to conduct a review and analysis of consumer satisfaction with (a) the functions performed by the MDVR and other entities responsible for performing functions for individuals with disabilities and (b) VR services. …

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