October was National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) and to encourage inclusion and equity for individuals with disabilities year-round, we sat down with Steve Wooderson, CEO of CSAVR to discuss the benefits of vocational rehabilitation services. In this enlightening conversation, DirectEmployers’ Disability & Community Outreach Specialist Christa Martin chatted with Steve about how utilizing these services can help to better employ and advance individuals in the workplace and beyond, as well as how we can all be better allies in our communities. Take a peek at the conversation below and be sure to listen to the episode in its entirety for more great information!

Christa Martin:

Could you tell us a little bit about the public Vocational Rehabilitation systems and how they operate nationally, as well as in the individual states?

Steve Wooderson:

Yeah, and I appreciate you asking that because that’s a question we’ve gotten so many times from so many different audiences. And so, let me try and tailor my response to employers because that is who we’re speaking to today. It’s good to have an understanding that the public VR program is a federally mandated and funded national program. It is a federal law and the administration of that is handed off to the Department of Education Rehab Services Administration. They are responsible for sending the money out to the agencies and then for assuring that we are delivering on the goods. That’s the federal program, but the reality of it is that it’s a state level operated program. We’ve said 78 agencies, and in your introduction, you talked about the agencies and the states and the territories across the country.

Well, there’s 78 public VR programs across the country because some states have two Vocational Rehabilitation programs and that would be because that state has decided that they wish to have one program that is geared specifically for individuals with significant visual impairment and blindness and another for the rest of job seekers and career seekers with disabilities. Some states may have two. Some states may have one, and they do it all. You add up those that have two agencies, those that have a combined agency, and then the territories and the District of Columbia, there are 78. And so, to that end, there are 78 different ways to go about doing the work. Now there are core elements for every state, District of Columbia and its territorial program, but they may be operating in just a slightly different manner. For an employer who wants to connect with a Vocational Rehabilitation program, there’s a couple of ways that they can go about that.

They could quite honestly go on our website, CSAVR.org, and go to the states and see what agency contacts you could connect with, and if you wanted to specialize or identify specifically visual impairment blindness in some states you’ll be able to go to those as well. But the point for employers is that although there are 78 different agencies, they all operate differently. The core mission is the same. The service delivery systems, to a large degree, are the same and broadly speaking, the services that are available are the same. And I do want to loop back to the dual customer mindset. We had some legislation passed in 2014 that I’m proud to say CSAVR was able to influence that language that acknowledges and allows for resources to be made available for businesses who wish to engage with the VR program and seek qualified applicants with disabilities for openings that they may have. That’s broadly the structure and how an individual business owner-operator can reach out and connect with their VR program.

Christa Martin:

I’d like to talk a little bit about intentional inclusion and if you could tell us a little bit more about your new DEI&A website and the DEI&A professional network and the resources that you’re providing through that…

To learn more about this new resource, additional details on the services Voc Rehab has to offer, and how you can better serve individuals with disabilities in your workplace and communities, listen in on the full episode. And be sure to sign up to receive alerts by email or text when new episodes are available! Stay tuned for another great episode coming in just a few short weeks.

Kacie Koons
Share This