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Vocational rehabilitation of visually impaired and blind refers to provision of certain services to people with visual challenges to enhance their employability and boost their wellbeing. Here, the Vocational Rehabilitation offers training and skills to help the targeted persons get and retain competitive employment. The government often provides these services; however, a number of private organizations offering the same services have come up to complement government’s efforts in this area.
Over 4 million adults in the United States workforce today constitute people with visual impairment. These people often require some specialized employment services to enable them maximize their opportunities to get rewarding employment, maintain the employment and progress within their employment. According to one National statistics report, the rate of unemployment among persons with visual impairment today stand at over seventy percent. Visual impairment and blindness can adversely affect a person’s vocational opportunity and development in diverse ways. Such is the case that people with this condition may experience mobility limitations; have limited access to particular environments needed for education, training, or work performance; or possess limited training and educational opportunities while growing which subsequently interfere with their preparation for work(New Hampshire Vocational Rehabilitation | NH Department of Education. , 2018). Additionally, visually impaired people are affected by the perception of being considered disabled. The visually impaired and blind often experience financial difficulties which serves as a precursor to many other psychological issues. Additionally, people in this group face many stereotypic attitude from potential employers thus limiting their vocational opportunity and the process of integration into the workplace. Persons with visual problems may also require job adjustments to accommodate their strengths and weaknesses. Over a long time, people with visual challenges have been on the watch list of the social and private agencies considering the fact that they constantly face daunting hindrances to full involvement in their societies including employment. Government (both federal and state) vocational rehabilitation agencies have in the past continued to organize the provision of services needed. This works looks into the early development of the Vocational rehabilitation in the U.S, providing some of the legislations that support the existence of such programs. The work will them shed light on some of the service providers in this field and lastly detail the different services offered to the different persons of interest.
History of vocational rehabilitation in the U.S
Vocational rehabilitation was an issue of the charitable organizations until the 20th century when the government started showing interest. During those early times, charitable organizations such as the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army worked alongside reformers like Dorethea Dix, Thomas Gallaudet, Washington Gladden and Samuel Gridley Howell in providing services (New Hampshire Vocational Rehabilitation | NH Department of Education. , 2018). The major goal at this time was making life easier for persons with disability although it often ended in increased isolation and stigmatization. Towards the end of 19th century, there was an increased pressure to address the complexity of social issues relating to the economy and welfare of the United States. Such is the case that events such as industrialization, urbanization, immigration and populist and progressive political advocacy had worked as a catalyst to the growing awareness. The government responded by devising mechanisms to increase the involvement. Strategies were put in place to help address social issue, especially those affecting the labor force. Under the watch of the presidential administration, federal attention on these issues was made a reality through greater participation in the private enterprise, federal government, and social welfare.
Legislations governing the Vocational rehabilitation
Starting with the Public Law 236(the 1920 smith-fees Act), the federal government introduced a series of legislations that extended the VR services to the public who were not part of the government and not necessarily covered under the previously enacted compensation law. The public law worked by ensuring people with physical disabilities who are unable to work can access vocational training. Later several legislations were made to expand the public law. There was the Federal Social Security Act of 1935, which made the federal–state VR program permanent. It additionally provided benefits to persons who incurred disabilities that affected their employability. The 1936 Randolph-Sheppard Act recognized the blind as having vocational potential. The 1943 Vocational Rehabilitation Amendments (Barden-LaFollette Act) adopted separate agencies for universal rehabilitation and rehabilitation of people who were blind. Then came the 1967 Vocational Rehabilitation Amendments that expanded the rehabilitation services to cover migratory workers. It also removed the state residency obligation, and allowed for the creation and operation of the Countrywide Center for Deaf/Blind Youth and Adults (Ledbetter, & Field, 2009).
Vocational rehabilitation providers
State VR Agencies
The Vocational rehabilitation system in America is governed by regulations enshrined Vocational Rehabilitation Act. The whole program falls under the Rehabilitation Service Administration, which is an agency working within the Federal Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS). Consumers can get direct services from both the state VR agencies and general state VR agencies. Under this arrangement, the federal government caters for the 78% of the total funding used by the state agencies in VR programs with the remaining 22% catered for by each state.
Here service is given based on eligibility anchored on informed choices that are in keeping with their desires and abilities as defined on the Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE).
Under Title VII, Chapter II of the Rehabilitation Act, the state agencies receives funds to address the problems of visual impairment among older persons (Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired, 2018).
Private Agencies for the Blind and Visually Impaired
A number of private, charitable agencies also serve the visually impaired and the blind people of all ages. Different agencies have different history and mission that support their efforts in instituting individual fundraising approaches and contractual dealings with local school systems and state VR agencies. These private agencies tailor their services to reflect the will of the community and the Board of Directors. Among the well-known private agencies dealing with the visually impaired and the blind is The Illinois Bureau of Blind Services, Services to the Older Blind Community, Horizons for the Blind, Chicago Lighthouse, and Leonard & Young Communications (Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired, 2018).
Services and programs
The services provide here include Individual Assessment, Technology Training, Jobsite Assessment Mobility Aids and purchasing assistance with this equipment. This training is geared towards making persons with visual impairment lead independent and fulfilling lives (Giesen, & Hierholzer, 2016).
Job Development and Job Placement
This is for visually impaired persons looking for employment and are in need of assistance with job development and placement services. The vocational rehabilitation program come handy in this area by providing training in; Career Exploration and Goal Setting, Job Search, Resume Writing, Job Application Completion, Interview Skills and Work Readiness Skills. Additionally, a visually impaired person can benefit from the following: Job Retention and Job Maintenance Skills, Meetings with Employers, Developing a Transportation Plan for Work and Obtaining Work Experience (Giesen, & Hierholzer, 2016).
Job Skill Development
Visually impaired persons in need of a comprehensive program to cultivate personal and vocational skills for living and working independently can benefit from this training. In this case, the concerned persons work alongside the rehabilitation staff to achieve personal and career goals. Students are offered guiding and counselling alongside the rehabilitation training. Classes may include Adult Basic Education, Adaptive Technology, Braille, Braille Technology, Careers, College Prep, Keyboarding and Computer Skills. Additional training is done on the following areas Consumer Education, Cooking Leisure Education and Orientation and Mobility (Giesen, & Hierholzer, 2016)…
This covers all the work performed in a competitive environment with services provided to help virtually impaired persons maintain employment. Provided by a job coach and taken within an 18-month period of employment, Supported Employment encompasses four basic components: Assessment, Job placement services, Intensive On-the-Job training and Long-term follow up.
Not all people qualify for supported work services, however for those who pass the eligibility test they are often required to receive multiple services and long-term follow up as a measure to maintain a successful employment (Giesen, & Hierholzer, 2016).
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Services for High School-Aged and College Students
It is for the virtually impaired and the blind students in high schools. It works by assisting these students move from school to employment. here, the VR counsellors work with the assistance of teachers and the guiding and counselling team to find a client the job of his/her choice.
This offers early training to visual impaired children on matters of carriers. Its goal is to identify early career interests by searching through different educational and skill requirements with future job availability. The trainees can engage in activities like visiting employers, doing volunteer work for experience or working alongside someone with a career that interests the client.
Vocational and Collage Training
This training is aimed at helping visually impaired persons find schools that will prepare them for their career goals. Under this program, they are helped in identifying financial resources that might cater some fraction of the total training fees.
Other related trainings include College/University Training, Vocational Training, and Services for Job Seekers, Job Placement and On-the-Job Training
Vocational rehabilitation of visually impaired and blind refers to provision of certain services to people with visual challenges to enhance their employability and boost their wellbeing. Vocational rehabilitation in the U.S was an issue of the charitable organizations until the 20th century when the government started showing interest. The government first step to recognize this program came in 1920 following the enactment of the Public Law 236(the 1920 smith-fees Act). Under this law, the federal government introduced a series of legislations that extended the VR services to the public who were not part of the government and not necessarily covered under the previously enacted compensation law. Vocational rehabilitation providers include both the government’s state agencies and the Private Agencies. In addressing the issues affecting this special group, vocational rehabilitation providers offer Services and programs that include Assistive Technology, Job Development and Job Placement, Job Skill Development, Supported employment and Services for High School-Aged and College Students.
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- Blind and Visually Impaired, Services for the | New Hampshire Vocational Rehabilitation | NH Department of Education. (2018). Education.nh.gov. Retrieved 13 February 2018, from https://www.education.nh.gov/career/vocational/blind_visu.htm
- Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired. (2018). Maine.gov. Retrieved 13 February 2018, from http://www.maine.gov/rehab/dbvi/
- Giesen, J., & Hierholzer, A. (2016). Vocational rehabilitation services and employment for SSDI beneficiaries with visual impairments. Journal Of Vocational Rehabilitation, 44(2), 175-189. http://dx.doi.org/10.3233/jvr-150789
- Ledbetter, J., & Field, T. F. (2009). A brief history of vocational rehabilitation legislation. Psychosocial Rehabilitation Journal, 2(3), 35-42.
- Wexler, A. J. (2009). The Blind and Visually Impaired. Art and Disability, 133-151. doi:10.1057/9780230623934_7