Vocational assessment has often been used to determine not only a consumer's vocational goal but also the type of services he or she requires. The probability of a successful rehabilitation outcome can often be enhanced by a good vocational assessment. Proper planning helps inform the consumer about vocational and service choices in which he or she is more likely to succeed.
In the 1900s, formal psychometric approaches such as occupational interest inventories and vocational aptitude batteries were commonly used. As occupations became more specialized (for example, within industrial settings and the military) and the importance of good person/job matches became more critical, the number of vocational assessment tools on the market (including those for people with disabilities) expanded. The tests attempted to evaluate an individual's strengths, identify areas of need, enhance self-image, and determine the level and style of the individual's learning abilities. Vocational evaluation tools generally organize job tasks into discrete components in order to assess, within a short period of time, a person's potential for a variety of job and training options. Statistical procedures are then used to derive a vocational or occupational profile.
Situational Assessment or Ecological Evaluation
Over the past 20 years, rehabilitation professionals who work with visually impaired youths and adults have moved away from standardized vocational evaluation. Increased emphasis on individualized service provision has led many employment specialists to use direct experience (e.g., situational assessments (also known as ecological or naturalistic evaluation and on-the-job observations accomplished through volunteer work or an internship) to provide consumers with a real-life opportunity to learn and perform a set of job duties. The result is often an assessment based on the consumer's skills, interests, environmental preferences, and work habits. Since conclusions about the "fit" between the individual and the job are derived from direct experience, many rehabilitation specialists and consumers have more faith in the results of these activities than in previously used standardized instruments. Professionals interested in a more detailed discussion of ecological evaluation are referred to the book Career Counseling for People with Disabilities (Wolffe, 1997).
Possible disadvantages to using direct experience include the time, effort, and expense involved in arranging the experience. As compared to standardized vocational assessment, the relatively narrow focus of the situational assessment or on-the-job observation may require that another experience be set up if, for example, the consumer has an unfavorable experience, the consumer concludes that the occupation is not for him or her, or insufficient information is gathered from the experience to direct the rehabilitation professional and consumer to other potential occupations.
Vocational Training Program Assessment
There are a number of vocational training programs for visually impaired persons in the United States. These programs generally include methods of evaluating applicants to determine their readiness for the training program and likely potential for success. A noteworthy example is Lions World Services for the Blind (LWSB). LWSB uses a vocational assessment battery that evaluates aptitudes, interest, and academic skills and that includes work samples to match visually impaired consumers with employment in such areas as collection services representative, customer service center representative, and taxpayer service representative (all with the Internal Revenue Service); and training programs that vary from bicycle assembly and repair to assistive technology trainer and office automation specialist.
Standardized Vocational Assessment for Visually Impaired Persons
Various standardized and comprehensive vocational evaluation instruments have been used to assess the skills, aptitudes, and interests of visually impaired persons. The Comprehensive Vocational Evaluation System (CVES) is the only available test battery that was developed specifically for blind and low vision consumers. It is based on neuropsychological principles and is normed specifically on people who are blind or visually impaired. The CVES identifies relative strengths and weaknesses in the areas of learning, problem-solving and achievement, sensory and motor abilities and emotional-coping and adaptive behavior. Test administration training is required and scoring is allowed only by the test developer.