Saturday, July 25, 2015

Up From Pathology: Promoting the “Individualizng” factor in Vocational Rehabilitation Evaluation Protocols

IN PROGRESS (phrasing of certain passages may be changed as this post develops; revised Jul. 27, 2015)

This essay argues for reform of Vocational Rehabilitation ("VR") practices. While the scope of this examination is narrow, focusing on two elements of a single portion of a continuum of services, the ramifications are nevertheless broad. The topic discussed here is a basic measurement – or, more properly a combination of two closely related fundamental aptitudes: reading and writing. They will be treated as one unified matter here, regardless of the fact that there are two separate metrics involved.


The Power to Pathologize

Here’s a psychological diagnosis you may be unfamiliar with. It has fallen out of use and since has been replaced with different terminologies and hypotheses of cause and standard histology, and been expanded to include a broader demographic.

Drapetomania was the diagnostic term that described a pathology wherein a black slave would flee captivity, rather than accept his restricted and supervised status. It was “discovered” by Dr. Samuel A. Cartwright, an American physician, in 1851.[Cartwright, Samuel A. (1851). "Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race". DeBow's Review XI.]

The power to “diagnose,” to “pathologize,” is a great power indeed.


The “MEAN PUSH” Hypothesis

Hypothesis: Dragging down one group and lifting up another. – Could there be a latent desire (perhaps fueled by a misapplication of notions of “equality” employed perversely to denote sameness in behavior and aptitude, rather than properly to denote equality of opportunity) on the part of VR professionals, expressed in their models, methods, programs, and evaluation techniques to drag down VR clients (a tiny minority of the total population of VR clients)  populating the right-hand side of the IQ bell curve, while at the same time exhibiting a sincere effort to lift up those populating the left hand?

Are Vocational Rehabilitation professionals inadvertently, or in some cases, deliberately, taking a VR client who has “gifted” or “very superior IQ,” persons who are capable of complex “fluid” thinking, and then implementing a series of actions (services), or inaction (denial of services) that would, in effect, attempt to make the client more disabled after implementation of VR treatments, than the client was before exposure to the VR system?

[Excerpt from “VR Services Reform Study Notes - ADA Compliance,” main post]


Diagnostic Vocational Evaluation protocols

If the State-implemented DVE (Diagnostic Vocational Evaluation) protocols accept median aptitude as its maximum allowable recorded level, then it may well be treated in error as a representation of actual aptitude. Further the currently employed “cap” requiring median level as s the maximum to be measured has multiple other adverse effects on the VR process. The client’s awareness can result in loss of trust; the absence of data leads to decisions that fail to exploit demonstrable ability – a key factor in constructing an employment goal that is consistent with the clear-cut mandate to “maximize their employment potential.” As mandated by amended ADA legislation “to assist clients in achieving their highest level of achievement or a goal which is consistent with their maximum capacities and abilities. Id. at 365.” [Ronald M. Hager, Esq., “State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies & Their Obligation to Maximize Employment,” July 1999, Neighborhood Legal Services, Inc.; reference to Buchanan v. Ives, 793 F.Supp. 361 (D. Me. 1991)

A court has clarified the statute’s meaning:

“The court noted that the intent of Congress, in adding the maximization language, was: [T]o establish a program which would provide services to assist clients in achieving their highest level of achievement or a goal which is consistent with their maximum capacities and abilities. Id. at 365.” [[reference to Buchanan v. Ives, 793 F.Supp. 361 (D. Me. 1991)]

Further the US Rehabilitation Services Administration 1997 directive:

“The guidance provided through this Policy Directive is intended to correct the misperception that achievement of an employment goal under Title I of the Act can be equated with becoming employed at any job. As indicated above, the State VR Services program is not intended solely to place individuals with disabilities in entry-level jobs, but rather to assist eligible individuals to obtain employment that is appropriate given their unique strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, and capabilities. The extent to which State units should assist eligible individuals to advance in their careers through the provision of VR services depends upon whether the individual has achieved employment that is consistent with this standard (emphasis added).” [Hager, quoting federal Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), US Dept. of Ed., Policy Directive, RSA-PD-97-04, August 19, 1997]

The effect of the bias exhibited in the non-measurement of above-the-mean skills that is seen in State-sanctioned DEV programs, is to enforce the opposite of maximization, to in effect enforce instead of self-realization on the part of the client, but instead to impose (through non-measurement, through ignoring the individuals specific attributes) a maximum permissible level of achievement. The principle of assisting “clients in achieving their highest level of achievement or a goal which is consistent with their maximum capacities and abilities” is at best inadvertently undermined at at worst directly sabotaged by State VR policies that allow or require “capped” measurements of clients’ abilities in any category.”


To break the spell of the “mean push,” the VR system’s tendency to ignore in its testing, subsequent interpretation of such tests, to systematically overlook any positive factors that are above-the-mean, it is crucial for there to be a deliberate effort on the part of leaders in the field of Vocational Rehabilitation to eliminate the unsound, biased and distorting practice of deliberately ignoring, failing to record any basic skill, aptitude, achievement, or ability that appears in the battery of texts that are conducted within the DVE process.

The “mean push” may in fact represent just a “tip of the iceberg” – appearing as an obvious and visible indicator of deep institutionalized protocols that result in major civil rights violations. When there is a bias of this sort present – a bias that coerces “sameness” in a seemingly ideologically trained perversion of a favoring of “equality,” the floodgates are open for further biases. It allows politically motivated agendas to be inserted into DV programs, such as the bias against “white male heterosexuals” (asserting that this class is “privileged” and must be pushed to politically “change”) that is being promoted by some of the professors who train social workers.




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