What are vocational rehabilitation services?

Elder patient using hand bike in Adult gym/med rehab

Imagine a path leading to a fulfilling career that caters to your unique abilities and goals, regardless of the challenges you face. This path exists for individuals with disabilities and who are recovering from a serious illness or injury, thanks in part to vocational rehabilitation services. Let’s dive deeper into what these services are, how they can benefit you in specific ways and how to access them. 

What are vocational rehabilitation services?

Vocational rehabilitation, or VR, is a program designed to help empower individuals with disabilities to enter, return to or advance in the workforce. VR programs can be nonprofit organizations, or they can be funded by federal or state governments or private funding. These programs offer a comprehensive range of services that are tailored to a person’s unique needs. The primary goals of VR are to:

  • Increase employment opportunities — Employment and VR services help bridge the gap between a person’s capabilities and the demands of a job. This can lead to greater employment opportunities and a path to financial independence.
  • Improve job satisfaction — By aligning an individual’s skills and interests with a suitable career path, employment and VR services can help lead to greater job satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment and overall well-being.
  • Boost self-esteem — Returning to work and contributing to society can significantly boost an individual’s self-confidence and sense of purpose. 
  • Offer greater social interaction — Employment after VR services can provide the opportunity to have more social interaction and develop a sense of belonging within a work community. 

Who can benefit from employment and vocational rehabilitation services?

VR services can cater to people with a wide range of disabilities, including:

  • Physical disabilities like spinal cord injuries, amputation or chronic pain
  • Sensory disabilities like blindness, deafness or vestibular dysfunction
  • Learning disabilities like dyslexia, ADHD or auditory processing disorders 
  • Mental health conditions like anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder 

What services does vocational rehabilitation provide?

The specific services offered by VR programs can vary, but they generally can fall into these categories:

  • Assessment — VR counselors and occupational therapists conduct a thorough evaluation to understand your skills, interests, education and career aspirations. They will also assess your disability and how it might impact your work environment.
  • Career counseling — VR counselors will work with you to explore suitable career paths that match up with your strengths, limitations and long-term goals. They provide guidance on job search strategies, résumé writing and interview skills.
  • Education and training — VR programs may assist with funding for vocational training, college courses or certifications needed to qualify for your desired job.
  • Job development and placement — VR professionals can help connect you with potential employers by finding job openings, advocating for your qualifications, and even helping you practice interview skills specific to the company and position. 
  • Assistive technology — VR programs can help you get or learn to use assistive technologies that can make the workplace more accessible and efficient for you. They can be integrated into an individual’s vocational plan to maximize function and productivity. This may include screen readers, speech recognition software, ergonomic equipment or modified tools.

Examples of how VR services can help address specific challenges include:

  • Physical disabilities — VR programs can help individuals with physical limitations by providing ergonomic assessments and recommendations for workplace modifications. They can also help with getting specialized equipment or tools to do job tasks. Imagine a person with carpal tunnel syndrome receiving ergonomic training and a specially designed keyboard to help prevent further injury while continuing their data entry career.
  • Sensory disabilities — VR programs can offer training in assistive technologies like screen readers for people who are blind or captioning software for those who are deaf. They can help employers understand how to create accessible workplaces. This could include proper lighting or implementing visual cues for people with visual impairments.
  • Learning disabilities — VR counselors can work with people with learning disabilities to develop strategies for managing their challenges in the workplace. This may include providing memory aids, suggesting time management techniques or advocating for alternative testing methods during job interviews. 
  • Mental health conditions — VR counselors can collaborate with mental health professionals to help individuals develop healthy coping mechanisms for managing work-related stressors for anxiety. They can help them develop strategies for maintaining a consistent work schedule and prioritizing self-care routines for those with depression. They can advocate for employers to adopt strategies like stress management workshops, flexible work schedules or reduced workloads to accommodate a person’s needs.

How long are vocational rehabilitation services?

The length of time someone participates in VR services can vary depending on their individual needs and goals. However, there’s a typically well-defined process:

  • Initial assessment — This phase involves determining eligibility and creating a personalized plan. This personalized plan is also known as an Individualized Plan for Employment or IPE. This IPE outlines services and timelines specific to the individual.
  • Service provision — This is the active phase where the individual receives the services outlined in their IPE. They will work closely with a VR counselor in this phase. The duration of this phase can range from a few months to a year or more, depending on the complexity of the individual’s needs.
  • Employment and follow-up — Once the person is employed, VR may continue to offer support services for a set period of time, possibly around three to six months. This continuing support helps to ensure success in the new job and address any challenges that may arise. However, VR services typically end once a person is gainfully employed and no longer requires ongoing support. Return to work navigation is provided through our occupational therapists to support an individual returning to employment after a life-altering event such as a stroke, spinal cord injury or head injury.

Ability KC can help you reclaim your future with employment and vocational rehabilitation services

Vocational rehabilitation services are a powerful investment in the future. Our disability employment services help patients navigate the state-run vocational rehab process by working closely with the Missouri and Kansas Vocational Rehabilitation Offices.

Our team at Ability KC can help to empower individuals with disabilities to overcome challenges, achieve their career goals, and contribute to building a more inclusive and productive workforce. We’ve been providing rehabilitation services for over 75 years. Through personalized support, we can help you find tailored solutions to bridge the gap between your capabilities and your next career.

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.