Every state has a vocational rehabilitation agency, or “VR agency,” that helps people with disabilities to find, keep, and succeed at a job. Many people with disabilities and their families have found these agencies helpful. Your state VR agency can give you flexible services to help you reach your employment goals. Find Florida’s state VR agency website here: http://www.rehabworks.org/
You may also be eligible for services from your state agency that supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. That’s sometimes called the “state IDD agency.” Florida’s IDD state agency is called Agency for Persons with Disabilities and you can access their website here: http://apd.myflorida.com/
You may also be eligible for services from your state agency that supports people with mental health and substance abuse disorders. In Florida this agency is called the Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, Department of Children and Families. You can access their website here: http://www.myflfamilies.com/
Let’s talk more about VR and what it can do for you. Your VR agency can help you in many ways. For example:
- VR has tools to help you learn more about your interests, your skills, and the supports you need.
- They will also help you develop an Individualized Plan for Employment that outlines your goals and the services you will receive. In this plan, your Vocational Rehabilitation counselor (or “VR counselor”) will help you think about an employment goal. It is the VR counselor’s job to help you figure what type of job you want and support you to look for a job. You’ll also make a list of all the steps that will help you get there. The work we’ve done together in this curriculum will help you be prepared for that!
- VR services may include:
- Vocational counseling. This is when you and your counselors have a conversation about your strengths and what type of job may be best for you.
- Job placement assistance. VR can help you to meet with potential employers and set up interviews.
- College or vocational training. VR can pay for you to go to college or a trade school to prepare you for a job.
- Job coaching or tutoring. VR can pay for someone to come to the job to help you learn it until you don't that type of help anymore.
- Transportation. VR staff can help you figure out how you will get to and from work.
- Assistive and rehabilitation technology services. If you need a special piece of technology to help you with your job, VR may pay for all or part of it!
What if you met with your counselor with all the information that you gathered by doing this curriculum? Let’s review all the work we have done. You answered questions about:
- What you are interested in
- Your employment goals
- What accommodations you might need on the job.
All this information will help you and your counselor find the services you need to get the right job for you. So while you are waiting for a meeting date with your counselor, complete these exercises. The more you know about the job you want and what you need to do to get it, the better off you will be.
Another important thing that we need to pay attention to is transportation. Getting a job is great, but if you can’t get to the job, it’s a problem. Now if you have a driver’s license and a car, you’re set. But what if you don't? You have to do some planning.
First we need to think of all the options that are available. For example:
Ask a family member for a ride. What if the job is near your home? Then a parent, a sibling, or a spouse may be able to drop you off and pick you up from work.
Public transportation. If you live near a bus stop or a train station, this may be an option. Here are some things to know.
- By law, all public transportation must be accessible. “Accessible” means that it can be used by all people, with or without a disability. For more information about accessible transportation, please click here: https://www.transportation.gov/accessibility
- Buses and trains have schedules. If you use the Internet, you can get the schedule on a website, or you can get a printed schedule at the station. If you need help finding a schedule, ask a friend or a family member.
- You have to know how far the bus stop is from your work or home. This will help you plan what time to leave home to go to work, and what time to leave work at the end of the day.
Para-transit. If you have been on a bus or a train, you know it can be crowded, especially when a lot of people are travelling to and from work at the same time. In addition, if you use a wheelchair, it may be hard for you to fit into that small space that is reserved for wheelchairs. An option for you may be para-transit. Para-transit means buses and vans that are completely accessible. You can call them and ask for them to pick you up and drop you off.
There are many benefits to using para-transit.
- All buses are accessible and have drivers who are trained to help you on and off.
- Vans can pick you up from your house and take you to work and then take you home.
- Para-transit is usually a lot less crowded than public transportation.
Para-transit also has some issues you’ll need to plan around.
- It is not free, and sometimes it can cost twice as much as public transportation. You’ll need to plan for that in your monthly budget.
- You may have to ask for a ride at least three days in advance, so it helps to plan for transportation needs early.
- Sometimes para-transit can be late, so give yourself extra time to get to and from work.
Lastly, think about who is in your community that may be able to help you get back and forth to work.
- Is there anyone in your office who lives near you and could offer you a ride? You could offer to help pay for gas.
- Is there someone from your neighborhood who likes to drive and has some free time? It doesn’t matter how you know them, but it should be someone you trust and feel comfortable with. If you ask someone for a favor, think about how you can return the favor.
Sponsored by United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Developmental Disabilities and the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, Inc.
The EmployMe1st project is a joint project of the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston, and National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services.