Monday, March 2, 2015

ACCES-VR and Vocational Services for Young Adults

A recent inquiry from the parents of a young adult had us looking at our past blogs, seeking information about vocational rehabilitation in New York. We were surprised to see that we had last addressed this issue five years ago -- in 2010. Much has changed since then and it's more than time to update this information.

In fact, in 2011, the entire vocational education system in New York was revamped, and the new agency changed its name from VESID (Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities) to ACCES-VR ( Adult Career and Continuing Education Services - Vocational Rehabilitation). Special education services, which had been part of VESID, were integrated with general educational services for students through 12th grade, a move we thought was long overdue.

 While today's blog looks at changes in the New York system, vocational rehabilitation programs exist in every state, growing out of a series of federal laws that go back almost 100 years and which were designed to provide federal funding to states to establish programs for vocational guidance, training, occupational adjustment services, and job placement for adults with disabilities.

Who can benefit from such programs? Let's look at a couple of actual examples to see some of the Transition and Youth services that might be available to young adults, which ACCES-VR considers to be any individual from late high school age through age 25:
  • "Sam", a twelfth grader at a public high school, hopes to attend a local college. Sam is a good student who has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. He has an IEP and, as part of his post-high school transition planning, his IEP Team is looking at what he will need to succeed in college. Although ACCES-VR and other vocational rehabilitation agencies provide adult services, they also work with high school aged youth who will be in need of support to move to adult employment. Through ACCES-VR Sam may get help (beyond what his high school can provide) to learn to drive so he can travel from his home to the local college.
  • "Sally", who is 24,  had graduated from college and was working at her first job when she suffered an emotional crisis. She left her job, moved back to her parents' house, and was diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder. She entered treatment and slowly, over a number of months, felt better and wanted to go back to work. Through ACCES-VR, she was referred to an agency that helped her get back into the work force, with the help of an understanding employer and a job coach. After a period of time in this supportive environment, she was ready to move on to the regular job market and is now again employed in her chosen field.
For individuals over the age of 25, ACCES-VR offers services to assist with entering or re-entering the workforce. You can get a good overview of these adult services in a brochure they publish

Since vocational rehabilitation programs are operated individually by each state, residents of New Jersey should contact their program at Jobs for Jersey and those in Connecticut should contact that state's  Bureau of Rehabilitative Services. Residents of other states can check a list from the federal Department of Education to find their state's agency. Note that individuals with visual impairments are dealt with via other agencies, so the list may contain a separate agency for these individuals.

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