In addition to providing Pre-ETS services, Virginia’s two VR agencies, DARS and DBVI (which serve people who are blind and/or vision impaired) help people with disabilities to prepare for employment, get a job, and/or keep a job. VR services are funded through the federal Rehabilitation Act under WIOA.
VR is an eligibility program and to qualify for services, the individual must have a physical, emotional, or mental disability that keeps them from getting or keeping a job and they must want to work. The VR agency must also decide that there is a good chance that VR services will help the individual get and keep a job. The law requires that the VR agencies presume that a person can be employed unless there is clear and convincing evidence that they cannot. Financial resources for these programs are limited and sometimes there is a waiting list, called an Order of Selection.
Under the VR Program, an eligible student, or adult works with their counselor to develop an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE). An IPE is like an IEP but centers on reaching an employment goal. If the student is still in school, the IPE and the Transition IEP should be coordinated with one another and the VR counselor should participate in Transition IEP meetings.
VR services include but are not limited to:
- Vocational Evaluations – looking at aptitude (what the person is good at), interests, job-seeking skills, independent living skills, learning style (e.g., do they learn better by seeing information or hearing information?), physical abilities, etc.
- Career Exploration – learning about different jobs/occupations to see whether they fit with preferences, skills, interests, and abilities
- Job Training – gaining the knowledge and skills needed to perform the desired job; can include education, on-the-jobtraining, and more
- Job Placement – The VR counselor and others working to help the individual with a disability find a job and be hired into that job
- Life/Independent Living Skills Training – gaining skills needed to become as self-sufficient and independent as possible and keep employment
- Supported Employment/Job Coaching – providing one-on-one assistance to help individuals who need extra support to learn and keep their job
Besides providing VR services, the DBVI Educational Services Program staff talk with, help, and provide training for families and public school staff in the areas of vocational planning, transition-related programs, community resources, adaptive materials (like Braille or computer-aided instruction), educational programs, independent living, and recreational planning. Your child’s school team can help you make the connection with DARS or DBVI or you can contact them directly.
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Unlike public education, VR services are not free. Some services like counseling, guidance, and assessment are no cost. Other services are based on ability to pay. Parent income is considered until the student reaches the age of majority (age 18 in Virginia). VR clients are also required to seek out other funding resources. For example, if VR is going to help support college attendance, the student will have to apply for federal financial aid, which has its own rules about how much the family must pay.