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Podcast With A Blindness Perspective.

Apr 29, 2018

Job Insights Episode 2 - Vocational Rehab 101: Demystifying the Myths and Planning For Employment

Welcome to the second episode of  Job Insights with Serina Gilbert and Jef Thompson. We focus on Employment, Careers, enhancing opportunities and bringing you  the latest innovations from across the Vocational  Rehabilitation field to ensure your choices lead you down the career pathway that you want and succeed in gainful employment.

From getting started with services, to assessments, Individual Plan for Employment (IPE) to gaining the skills to succeed and tools for success, Job Insights will be giving you tips and tricks to help your journey to employment and break down the barriers along the way.

In Episode 2 of Job Insights Serina and Jeff break down Vocational Rehab services from eligibility, intake, personal adjustment training, training centers, and your responsibilities as well.

Navigating the services may seem daunting at first but with a little bit of information and explanation you will soon fine your pathway to gainful and meaningful employment does not have to be a solo journey. Your Voc-Rehab team wants you to succeed and is their for you all the way.


Full Transcript Below


We hope you enjoy this Job Insights episode and you can send your feedback and suggestions to the Job Insights team by email at

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Job Insights is part of the Blind Abilities network.

A big Thank You goes out to CheeChau for his beautiful music!


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Job Insights Episode 2 - Vocational Rehab 101: Demystifying the Myths and Planning For Employment


Serina: I know sometimes that a lot of individuals can be a little bit overwhelmed by applying for services with vocational rehabilitation and we'd like to hopefully demystify some of the myths and help you learn a little bit more about the process.

Jeff: Job Insights, a podcast to help you carve out your career pathway and enhance the opportunities for gainful employment.

Serina: Helping you with independent living skills, helping you get around town, helping you with cooking, money management, all those things that you need in order to be successful on a job.

Jeff: Learn about resources for training, education, and employment opportunities, to see what best suits you to see if you're prepared to move on to the next step.

Serina: Correct.

Jeff: Thus it's an assessment.

Serina: Correct, it helps the counselor out and it helps you out too.

Jeff: We will hear from people seeking careers, employment from professionals in the educational field, teachers and innovators in this ever-changing world of technology to help you navigate the employment world and give you Job Insights, and enhance the opportunities to choose the career you want.

Serina: We would hate to see you move forward with an employment goal that you thought you would absolutely love, only to find out maybe three months into the job that you obtain, that you really don't like it so much, so it helps us save a little bit of time and prepare you for realistic expectations on the job.

Jeff: You can find the Job Insights podcast on, part of the Blind Abilities Network, with host, Serina Gilbert and myself, Jeff Thompson.

And you can contact us by email at, leave us some feedback, or suggest some topics that we cover, you can also follow us on Twitter at Job Insights VIP, and check out the job inside support group on Facebook where you can learn, share, advise, and interact with the Job Insights community.


Serina: Sometimes it might be getting more evaluations done with an orientation and mobility specialist, or a vision rehabilitation therapist to see what kind of personal adjustment training you might need.

Jeff: And now please welcome Serina Gilbert and Jeff Thompson with Job Insights.

Serina: Hi Jeff how are you?

Jeff: I'm doing good how are you Serina?

Serina: I'm doing great, how was your week?

Jeff: It was good, it was good, the sun has come, spring is finally here.

Serina: I don't know, I think you might get some more snow.

It's not May yet.

Jeff: We're just so glad to have it, I already got the patio furniture out, so I'm excited, I'm excited.

Serina: You gonna be barbecuing for me?

Jeff: We did that yesterday.

Serina: Nice!

Jeff: And I didn't even let you know did I?

Serina: No you didn't even invite me, even though I'm, I don't even know how many miles away from you.


Jeff: I'll waft the barbecue smell west.

Serina: Send it over with an Amazon drone you know.

Jeff: There we go.

I wonder what that sound will be?

Serina: They'll probably have like a special Amazon Prime sound for us all.

Jeff: Oh yeah so it's recognizable.

Serina: Everyone's jealous because we got something from Amazon.

Jeff: The dogs will whine just a little bit, it is exciting though when a package comes.

Serina: So I heard that we got a ton of positive feedback on our very first introductory episode to Job Insights?

Jeff: Yes we did, it did not come by drone, but we got so much positive feedback, it's really exciting.

Serina: I think that's great.

I know today we were talking about vocational rehabilitation 101, and we'll chat a little bit about the process, what to expect.

I know sometimes that a lot of individuals can be a little bit overwhelmed by applying for services with vocational rehabilitation and we'd like to hopefully demystify some of the myths and help you learn a little bit more about the process.

And I know, as I talked about on the previous podcast, I was also a client of vocational rehabilitation and I believe you were as well right Jeff?

Jeff: Yes I did, but unlike yourself Serina, my ophthalmologist did not send me there, so getting started with State Services was interesting.

Serina: At least you got connected, that's that's the biggest part.

Jeff: Mm-hmm.

Serina why don't we start out by telling the listeners a little bit about what it takes to qualify for services, and if it's a federal or state standard that they go by.

Serina: So it's a federal mandate, the eligibility requirements for vocational rehabilitation systems, in general, you have to have a documentable disability that poses some sort of barrier towards you entering into employment, keeping employment, or advancing in the current position that you have.

You also have to be able to basically benefit from the services and that's a presumption that most agencies make.

Jeff: A presumption?

Serina: A presumption of eligibility.

Jeff: Hmm?

Serina: Another eligibility criteria that helps is, I believe if you receive SSI or SSDI then you are automatically eligible for vocational rehabilitation services.

Jeff: So that's usually a process when you go there for services then you probably have to get it to go to a doctor so it's documented.

Serina: Well, you can go to a doctor, but if you do not have documentation of your disability, vocational rehabilitation can actually either send out for the records, or send you for evaluations in order to obtain that documentation.

Jeff: And that's just one of the steps of the intake process.

Serina: So that first step is your intake appointment, which your counselor will go over a ton of different paperwork with you, you'll sign some releases of information for them to be able to talk to necessary individuals that might be working with you on the case, or to obtain medical records, or again refer you for those necessary evaluations, and from that time frame of the first date that you officially apply for services your counselor has up to 60 days to determine you are eligible for services.

It can take that long depending on the counselors caseload, but sometimes it's faster, it just depends on the documentation that you already have, and what that counselors caseload looks like.

Jeff: Is that the same for when agency is on order of a selection?

Serina: Correct, they still have the same 60 days eligibility determination requirements, even if they do have a waitlist or order of selection.

Jeff: So if they determine on the intake that you're in, then what's the next step?

Serina: The next step is what's called the comprehensive assessment.

What happens in this stage is you and your counselor are working together to identify a reasonable and suitable employment goal and also identify the necessary services that might be provided to you in order to help you achieve that employment goal.

Sometimes this process could include you trying out work, doing what's called a situational assessment, and that would involve you going to a worksite and trying out the job to see if you like it, see that the duties are something that work well with your personality, in your disability, and also to help you with networking.

Sometimes it might be getting more evaluations done with an orientation and mobility specialist, or a vision rehabilitation therapist to see what kind of personal adjustment training you might need.

Jeff: Serina, personal adjustment training, can you break that down for our listeners?

Serina: Definitely, personal adjustment training might include helping you with independent living skills, helping you get around town, helping you with cooking, money management, all those things that you need in order to be successful on a job.

Jeff: And typically you could be sent to a blindness training center or a vendor of the agency?

Serina: It depends on this state, some agencies do use the blindness centers, some do have in-house service providers that work specifically for DVR, or third-party vendors like you mentioned, and then I'm not sure about other states, but here in Colorado we do actually have a center based program that the vocational rehabilitation program staffs as well.

Jeff: And in Minnesota were fortunate to have three adjustment to blindness training centers, Vision Loss Resource in Minneapolis, Blind Incorporated in Minneapolis, and in Duluth we have the Lighthouse for the Blind, plus State Services for the Blind, and various vendors that will provide specialized services as well.

You mentioned doing a situational type of thing where you go to an employer and they do an evaluation, would that be set up with your employment specialist to see if this is an interest of theirs or to see if they like it?

Serina: It can be set up through an employment specialist if the state that you work in is structured in that manner, sometimes it's your vocational rehabilitation counselor that's setting it up, and sometimes it can even be a third party vendor that you're working with that is providing that assessment service for us.

Jeff: And this is all in an attempt to see what best suits you to see if you're prepared to move on to the next step.

Serina: Correct.

Jeff: Thus it's an assessment.

Serina: Correct, it helps the counselor out and it helps you out too because we would hate to see you move forward with an employment goal that you thought you would absolutely love, only to find out maybe three months into the job that you obtained that you really don't like it so much, so it helps us save a little bit of time and prepare you for realistic expectations on the job.

Jeff: So if you do need some soft skills, if you do need some technology skills, and it's determined that you should go to a blindness training center of some sorts, that might set you back six to nine months or whatever it takes right?

Serina: That's correct, the blindness training centers are not super short programs, I think the shortest program that they have is the summer youth program for those that are still in either high school or college perhaps, and I believe that's even eight weeks.

Jeff: And that's basically like a step program to bridge you into college preparedness?

Serina: Correct.

Jeff: And if you're planning on going just straight into the workforce then a training center might give you the skills that are needed to help gain employment.

Serina: Correct, they work on every skill that you can possibly think of from independent transportation, orientation and mobility, independent living, I do believe they do some self-advocacy training, as well as working on basic social skills because you are living on campus with lots of other people and there's gonna be times when you disagree and you're gonna have to use those conflict resolution skills which will help you for sure once you start working.

Jeff: I know we talked about transition aged students quite a bit, but there's also other people adults that have vision loss and they want to get their employment back and so these training centers do adult programs as well.

Serina: And it can be quite helpful because I know last time we talked a little bit about an individual maybe who's coming in that has lost sight a little bit later in life but still really wants to work, that's a hard transition coming from having a driver's license and being able to independently transport yourself and work on a computer, to all of a sudden not having those skills anymore and abilities, and those centers and also other field based programs through vocational rehabilitation can certainly help with that transition, and also help you connect with different support groups and things like that so that you can start networking with individuals who've maybe been there as well.

Jeff: However, before you move on to this step you must set up an individual plan or employment.

Serina: That is correct, and all of the individualized plans for employment can only have services on it that the counselor and you agree are necessary and appropriate, and then they are always purchased at the least possible cost.

So there might be times when there's certain products that you really really would like, but the counselor has to follow certain policies and purchase things at the lowest possible cost that is still appropriate for what you need the items for.

Jeff: But typically the items will get you to your destination?

Serina: Exactly, like as an example, there's lots of different types of computers now, we have our personal computers that maybe would run a screen reader or screen magnification software, and we have our Mac books that also have that same type of software built into it.

Typically vocational rehabilitation is going to look at purchasing personal computers more so because we're looking down the road at employment and most employers still use personal computers, so it makes the most sense to get you used to using that type of a technology if you're going to be working in an office environment down the road.

Jeff: And when you're saying personal computers, you're talking about Microsoft based platform.

Serina: Correct, like a Windows computer.

Jeff: Mm-hmm, Serina, can you tell us how flexible and IPE, individual plan for employment is?

Serina: Yes, it's a plan, yes it's written on paper, but that doesn't mean that it can't be changed.

So it's really important to communicate with your counselor if you feel that something's not going the way that you want it to go, or that you want to try something different, because that plan can definitely be amended, it's actually quite rare that we have the exact same plan from start to finish.

Jeff: Okay someone goes through the process and they get their training, making progress, and you're checking the list and moving forward and now they're going to college and they are succeeding, according to the plan, and it comes time to where they start thinking about the job and job resumes, and job interviews, and all that, is there any services for that type of area?

Serina: Definitely, it can be considered part of vocational counseling and guidance, which is on every single plan for employment across the country, I don't think there's any plans that don't have that, but it's also part of what we call job seeking skills training, which would be, you either working with your counselor, or perhaps a third party vendor to develop that resume, develop a general cover letter, and also start doing mock interviews, and begin talking about how do you want to handle the interview, how do you want to disclose your disability, if you want to do that at all, and how do you advocate for yourself during that interview.

For example if you need an accommodation for testing and things like that as part of the interviewing process.

Jeff: Now when it comes to disclosure, there's so many debates about it, and there I don't think there is any one answer, one fits all for this topic.

Serina: Correct and I know we're probably gonna talk about that, maybe that'll be our next episode, because that's a hot topic of how do I disclose my disability, and what when and where, am I going to get discriminated against, things like that, I know people are very fearful of that, that definitely will warrant a full episode.

Jeff: And that's a big one, so is writing your resume, because a resume is a work in progress, because if you're looking at one job, looking at a next job, it has to form to the job, the keywords and everything, so it's a good skill to have and a good thing to have a template to be able to adjust it for the job you're seeking.

Serina: Exactly, we call it tailoring your resume because if you're not putting in specific keywords, a human's not even going to see your resume because there's so many electronic ways that they use, optical character recognition, and scanning the resume that you've submitted either online or even email, where they just scan to see specific keywords and skills and if it doesn't meet that, then it automatically gets denied.

Jeff: Optical character recognition, it was such a gift and now it's working against us.

Serina: Yep, sound familiar though right?

Jeff: Mm-hmm, Serina with all your experiences, what tips would you have for someone who's receiving services and working with the counselor?

Serina: So during the vocational rehabilitation process it's really important that you stay in close contact with your vocational rehabilitation counselor.

There will be a lot of times when they're going to be asking for tons of paperwork that you might find cumbersome or even redundant.

I promise you they wouldn't be asking you for it if they didn't need it because we get a lot of paperwork, if we didn't need it, we wouldn't be asking for it for you.

So especially if you're on/in a plan for employment that includes training, every semester we're going to be looking at what grades did you get, what classes are you registering for next semester, do you need any books, did you apply for your federal financial aid?

All of those things are things that are required before we can say yes we will pay for your tuition this semester at the school.

If your counselor sends you an email asking for something, the quicker you reply the quicker things can move, and just know that sometimes things can't move overnight, if you call us and for specific piece of technology, we might not be able to get that for you immediately, especially if it's not included on your plan for employment, there might be some paperwork things that have to be done and ordering processes and things like that.

So we ask that you're a little bit patient with us, but also the more you communicate with us, the better service provisions you will have.

Jeff:And staying ahead of the game is the whole thing.

Serina: Exactly.

Jeff: Yeah, being on the State Rehab Council I get a lot of documents about this it's agencies and I see that one of the highest percentage of closures is because of lack of communications by the client back to the agency.

Serina: That's probably actually pretty accurate because especially with my caseload I work with a lot of young adults, so they're still learning how to keep in touch so I do give them quite a few chances but it never fails that as soon as I close a case because I haven't heard from them despite multiple attempts on my end, about two weeks later is when they call me back and say, well I didn't know that you were gonna close my case.

And obviously yes you can go back through the process and we can open it again but it's much more efficient even if you just send me a text message saying, everything's all right, I'm still out here, and that'll keep things going for you, but we have to remain efficient and show that the people that were working with are making progress in order to meet our goals and outcomes.

Jeff: Serina, this is a lot of great information for someone who is going through vision loss, what advice would you have for someone who is seeking services from their division of vocational rehab or their State Services for the Blind?

Serina: If you are a transitioning student and you're at least 15 years old and you are definitely starting to think about employment and what's next and actually some states that's as little as 14, but most states is about 15 or 16, but if you're starting to think about employment, I would say do not hesitate to contact your local vocational rehabilitation, talk to them about services, even if you call and you meet with them and it's not quite the right time, you are at least ahead of the game and knowing what to expect when you do decide that it's the right time for you.

If you're an individual that's lost sight a little bit later in life or maybe have never heard of vocational rehabilitation and you're struggling with some vision difficulties, pick up the phone and give them a call, especially if you're looking into employment.

All of our services at vocational rehabilitation are for sure geared towards employment now, so any services that we provide do you have to be tied to an employment goal with an eventual goal of being employed in the long-term.

Jeff: You know Serina when I first lost my eyesight, I was skeptical you know, I was like worried about what's gonna happen and I didn't know, I didn't know where the blind were, I didn't know anything and I kind of felt like State Services, the agency was kind of a safety net, so I was gonna go out there and forge my own path and if I failed I would head towards the agency and get services, but now today, the more I know about it, it seems like it's a vehicle towards a future, and I've said this many times, but it is, it's it's, it's a resource, it's a place to go to learn about the pathways that you can take towards employment.

Serina: And I'm curious what was your experience on the client side?

I know you're on the state rehab Council and things like that, but do you remember being your very first experience when you first applied for services?

Jeff: You know this is a great question for me because my experience was quite unique I think because when I first lost my eyesight I sold my pickup truck and I bought a brand new computer, I bought jaws and I started doing things the way I thought was best, I did things my own way.

I did not understand that State Services for the Blind with an IPE, an individual plan for employment would have set up something of the nature to provide me the tools for me to succeed according to the plan and my goals, and once I understood that there were services as such, I then meticulously figured out what I would have to do for myself, and what they could do for me, and together we could reach the goals that we both set up.

So I think part of the demystification of this is, they won't buy you everything, it's not a toy store, but they will assist you in succeeding, and those services do range from, you know, picking the right college that best suits your field, the technology that you'll need to succeed in college or in the workplace, there's so many services that are available there, you just have to make that call, like you said Serina, make that call and find out what they can do for you, and what you have to do as well.

Serina: Well and that, someway just popped a thought into my head, I know that some individuals, most you know, most likely receive SSI or SSDI, some sort of Social Security benefits and it can be a little nerve-racking wondering, what if I start work and then it doesn't work out, how are my benefits impacted, there's lots of different rules related to social security and work.

So I'm thinking that might be a really good idea for another future topic as well.

Jeff: Absolutely, and when a person is going through vision loss it doesn't mean that they're totally educated on all the intricacies that are involved from your State Services, from your DVR, from the government, from Social Security, all these things have to be learned and dealt with and that's why talking with your counselor to learn, to educate yourself, so you can better be prepared for the opportunities that are ahead of you, and I think calling your State Services is one of the best things that a person can do, and that's why they call it a informed choice.

Serina: Exactly, so many topics Jeff, we're never gonna end.


Jeff: Hmm, that's job security huh?

Serina: For sure, how insightful.


Jeff: Speaking of something that never ends, I thought winter was the same way around here, but we got grass out back now and the trees are starting to bud, I could feel that a little apple trees with the little buds on them.

Serina: That's awesome, you'll start sneezing pretty soon here.

Jeff: Mm-hmm, I'm just glad I planted apple trees because I don't think they make PC trees.

Serina: Ba dump bum[Imitating comedic snare drum]

[trumoet sound effect]

Well that concludes today's podcast, but next week we will be tackling that tough topic of disability disclosure, and the job interview.

If you have questions you can email us at:


Serina: Or follow us on twitter:

Jeff: at Job Insights VIP.

Thank you CheeChau for your beautiful music, that's @LCheeChau on Twitter.


We really hope you enjoyed this podcast, thanks for listening, and until next time bye-bye.


[Multiple voices]

When we share what we see through each other's eyes, we can then begin to bridge the gap between the limited expectations and realities of blind abilities.

Jeff: For more podcasts with the blindness perspective check us out on the web at, on Twitter at Blind Abilities, download our app from the app store, Blind Abilities, that is two words, or send us an email at

Thanks for listening!