Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services take place in the context of an array of vision rehabilitation services.
More than 4 million adults of working age in the United States today report some form of visual impairment. They frequently require specialized employment services in order to maximize their chances to achieve gainful employment, remain employed, and advance in the workplace. These services are provided by a combination of state and private rehabilitation agencies.
State VR Agencies
The VR system in the United States is funded by the Vocational Rehabilitation Act and governed by regulations emanating from the Rehabilitation Services Administration, an agency within the Federal Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS).
The federal government provides 78 percent of the funding used by state agencies to operate their VR programs. The remaining 22 percent is provided by each state.
Applicants for VR services are entitled to a fair and evidence-based assessment of their eligibility. Eligible consumers receive services based on what is termed informed choice and in keeping with their abilities and desires as outlined on the Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE).
Rehabilitation counselors provide case management, referral services, and guidance and counseling. Consumers are sponsored by the VR agency to receive so-called blindness skills training from vision rehabilitation therapists, orientation and mobility instructors, assistive technology specialists, and other professionals trained to provide services to people who are blind or visually impaired. Consumers also may receive employment-related training, job-related technology and tools, placement services, and, if needed, postemployment services.
State VR agencies also receive funding to serve older persons with visual impairments through the provisions of Title VII, Chapter II of the Rehabilitation Act and transition services for youths through cooperative relations with local education agencies as provided for in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Private Agencies for the Blind and Visually Impaired
A large array of private, not-for-profit agencies also serves blind and visually impaired people of all ages in their communities. Each of these agencies has its own unique history and mission; to institute individual fundraising mechanisms and contractual relationships with state VR agencies and local school systems; and fashion the services they provide in accordance with the will of their Boards of Directors and the local community. A comprehensive list of agencies serving blind and visually impaired people in the United States and Canada and the services they provide can be found in the AFB Directory of Services.
Private agency directors find support and carry out joint projects through the auspices of their leadership organization, National Association of Private Agencies for the Blind and Visually Impaired (NCPABVI).