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Vocational Rehabilitation

Vocational rehabilitation helps people with disabilities or injuries and those who are unemployed get the vocational training, education, and vocational skills they need to find employment. Read on to learn more about vocational rehabilitation.

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) refers to several overlapping support systems. One is the program of services to help people with disabilities gain or keep employment. Find info on vocational rehab in this article.

People qualify for these programs on account of a physical or mental handicap that is an impediment to employment. The second type of VR is the retraining a worker after he or she has suffered an injury with the goal of helping restore him or her to employment. A worker who is injured may need not only physical therapy, but occupational therapy. The third type is assistance to unemployed or underemployed, people who-for various reasons-have not yet found their employment potential.

If a student needs vocational rehabilitation, these services may be offered through the school as part of the student’s Individual Education Program (IEP), if the student is receiving special education services. Whether or not this is the case, there will likely be a transition team who will help the student move from one school to the next, or into vocational training, integrated employment, etc.

Those who are beyond student age may receive support from non-profit organizations or government agencies. The non-profit with perhaps the largest investment in vocational rehabilitation is Goodwill Industries of America. Goodwill helps people move from public assistance to employment. Goodwill serves not only people with disabilities, but also people with insufficient experience or training, and people who have other vocational impediments. There are also special programs that are explicitly for people with disabilities.

Rehabilitation Act of 1973

The Federal legislation that mandates the programs to assist individuals with disabilities with vocational rehabilitation is the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, often just referred to as the Rehabilitation Act. This legislation authorized aimed to help disabled individuals, “achieve equality of opportunity, full inclusion and integration in society, employment, independent living, and economic and social self sufficiency.”  To this end, a Rehabilitation Services Administration was set up to carry out the mandates of the Rehabilitation Act.

Finding a Vocational Rehabilitation Program

The Commission on Accreditation of  Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) is one organization you can check if you are looking for an organization to provide Vocational Rehabilitation. For individuals with disabilities, each state, as well as the United States Territories, has a state office of Vocational Rehabilitation which you can locate at this webpage:

The state offices have slightly different names, and there is  often a separate office for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and a separate Client Assistance Program, as well. These programs have the purpose of helping disabled individuals “prepare for, secure, retain, or regain employment,” and offer an array of services, including.

• Assessment of Vocational Rehabilitation needs
• Vocational Counseling and Guidance
• Training
• Transportation
• Interpreter and Reader services for Deaf  and visually impaired individuals
• School-to-Work transition services
• Job Placement

There are also specialized state programs available in some areas. For example, Delaware has a program called “Key to My Dreams” to enable people with disabilities to start a small business. Illinois has a TechConnect program to help residents with disabilities purchase assistive technology. Iowa has an Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Program to help people with disabilities who wish to start their own businesses.

Written by Mary Elizabeth

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