Vocational Rehabilitation and Services for the Blind Division (VRSBD)
The Vocational Rehabilitation and Services for the Blind Division (VRSBD) administers three programs that have separate but related functions to provide for the rehabilitation needs of persons with disabilities to secure employment and to lead full and productive lives. The underlying philosophy and goal of the VRSBD is that through employment, individuals with disabilities are empowered toward economic self-sufficiency, independence, and inclusion and integration into society.
If you have a disability that keeps you from working, contact your local Vocational Rehabilitation Office.
Services for the Blind Branch
1901 Bachelot Street
Honolulu, HI 96817
Ph: 586-5268 (V/TT)
Molokai Field Ofice
|Kona Field Office|
P.O. Box 459
Captain Cook, HI 96704
Ph: 323-0025 (V/TT)
EMPLOYMENT FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
Vocational Rehabilitation is a State-Federal partnership program that provides services to help people with physical or mental impairments to attain successful employment outcomes. ELIGIBILITY (within 60 days of application) is determined by:
- Presence of a mental or physical impairment which for such individual constitutes or results in a substantial impediment to employment, and
- Requires VR services to prepare for, secure, retain, or regain employment.
STEPS IN VR
- Your counselor will make every effort to involve you as an active participant in your rehabilitation program, including making meaningful and informed choices about the selection of your vocational goal and the services you receive.
- Together, you and the counselor will develop a plan which identifies the job goal, services, and resources required for you to reach your job goal.
- The counselor will assist you with all necessary services including preparing for a job and finding one.
- When you are finally employed, the counselor will follow your progress to assure that you are doing well and need no further help from us.
DISABILITY DOESN’T MEAN INABILITY
The Maui News of October 16, 2005 included an article written by Naomi Chun, VRSBD, Maui Branch. "October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and the focus is to acknowledge and celebrate the accomplishments of people with disabilities who have overcome barriers and are successfully employed by enlightened employers.
They are making major contributions in the workplace, and have shown they are able to participate more fully in the workforce because they are qualified and possess the skills and abilities to do their jobs well. Finding the right employer is also instrumental to their success. Not only do the right employers provide the employment opportunities but they also understand they must look beyond a person’s disability. One such employer is Sonia Gaudet, Mark’s Hallmark Shop manager. Sonia is Maui’s (VR) Employer of the Year for FY2005. Sonia, a former VR consumer herself, understands the difficulties people with disabilities face trying to find and maintain employment. After utilizing services through the Maui VR program, she also has hired people with disabilities to work in her store. She knows the services that VR provides and can count on the VR counselors to assist her. “Here at Mark’s Hallmark, we believe in looking at the person and what they can accomplish, rather than seeing what they may be hindered by,” Sonia said.
Every year Maui VR and other State VR offices honor employers for their outstanding work and their commitment. These employers along with many others have been instrumental in hiring persons with disabilities. They are not only willing to hire people with disabilities but also take extra steps to provide reasonable accommodations, give feedback and allow onsite job training, or job coaching, when necessary. They provide quality services by being flexible and providing a supportive work environment.
Taking the extra steps means being truly committed to employment of persons with disabilities. Some may think this takes too much time and have a stereotype that persons with disabilities cannot do the job. If we look closely, we see they are just myths. The National Organization on Disability (NOD) published a list in 2001 of the Top 10 reasons to hire people with disabilities:
- Employees with disabilities can ease concerns about labor supply.
- People with disabilities have equal or higher job performance ratings, higher retention rates and lower absenteeism.
- Employees with disabilities can relate better to customers with disabilities who represent $1 trillion in annual aggregate consumer spending.
- Diverse work groups can create better solutions to business challenges.
- People with disabilities are better educated than ever and are proven to have and/or exceeded challenges.
- A person with a disability motivates work groups and increased productivity.
- Companies that hire and accommodate people with disabilities in their workplace can receive tax benefits.
- Employing people with disabilities is good for the individual, the business, and society. This is a win-win-win strategy.
- People with disabilities are motivated by the desire to give something back, and by opportunities for personal growth, job flexibility and social inclusion.
- It’s ABILITY, NOT DISABILITY that counts.
The NOD also stated that the disability community, comprising nearly one fifth of the American population is an untapped market worth over $220 billion in collective spending power. Enlarging on this are families, friends and service providers of persons with disabilities. The disability community responds positively to companies whose marketing approaches are sensitive to their needs and interests. It means putting more money back in the economy and contributions as taxpayers with creativity, loyalty and consumer diversity in an expanded workforce. VR assists eligible persons with disabilities to become successfully employed."
VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION PROGRAM (VR)
VR provides vocational rehabilitation services to assist persons with disabilities to prepare for and enter employment. The economic benefits of VR are significant. They include increased earnings and purchasing power, increased taxes paid, and a decreased dependency on public assistance. As persons with disabilities achieve the employment outcome of choice intended by the program, they become tax-paying citizens and more than pay back the costs of the program.
Vocational Rehabilitation in FY 2005:
- 7,474 citizens with disabilities were served throughout the State.
- 2,604 new referrals were received. The majority of participants were self-referred males between the ages of 20 and 55 and were high school graduates. The primary disabilities include learning disabilities, mental retardation, orthopedic and psychiatric disabilities.
- 735 individuals achieved successful employment outcomes and 692 (92%) were placed in competitive positions.
- 609 (83%) individuals placed were individuals with significant disabilities.
- 229 (31%) individuals received public assistance prior to their rehabilitation.
- The VR program is cost effective. The average case service cost was $1,973. VR services increased the average annual earning power of people with disabilities from a weekly average of $49 at referral to $303 a week at closure. These are yearly earnings increases of around 618%, from $2,548 to $15,756.
- The percentage of persons with earned income of any kind increased from 15% at application to 94% at closure.
HAWAII VR LITERACY GRANT PROJECT
The Hawai‘i VR Literacy Project is a five-year federally funded grant under the U.S. Department of Education. Unlike projects that come from service delivery models, the Hawai‘i VR Literacy Project is a research project that will compare the employment outcomes and literacy gains between a control group and an intervention group. Four other states (i.e., Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, and South Carolina) have also received federal funding and are participating in this study.
The project’s objectives specify its purpose:
- Investigate the efficacy of literacy curriculum in a Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) setting;
- Assess the impact of literacy training on VR outcomes (e.g., employment and earnings);
- Facilitate the development of effective literacy services.
Project participants must meet the following criteria:
- Be eligible for VR services;
- Has NOT earned a college degree;
- Has NOT been previously diagnosed as having moderate or severe mental retardation;
- Has a learning disability, either previously identified, or suggested by a learning disability screening instrument;
- Scores above minimum but below average on an adult literacy pre-test.
Individuals who meet project criteria are randomly assigned to either the control group (i.e., receives necessary VR services) or the intervention group (i.e., receives VR services and the Wilson Reading System (WRS)). Both groups are pre- and post-tested and interviewed to determine literacy and employment gains. VR clients who are placed into the intervention group meet 3 times a week with their instructor in small classes or on a one on one basis. WRS does not overwhelm the student with rules, but instead, uses a multi-sensory approach to present English in a very systematic and cumulative manner.
The Hawai‘i VR Literacy Project sponsored two training sessions in the Wilson Reading System in July 2004 and July 2005. In an effort to address Objective 3 of our project: (i.e., facilitate the development of effective literacy services), professional and volunteer members from the community were invited to participate in the workshops resulting in over 35 individuals being trained in the Wilson Model. Participants represented organizations including the University of Hawaii and Community Colleges, Hawaii Job Corps, Hawaii International Dyslexia Association, Hawaii Literacy Inc., and the Department of Education-Adult Education. The Hawaii VR Literacy Project also provided each organization with a Wilson Reading System Starter Set. By providing these opportunities and resources, the Hawaii project hopes to foster and expand the scope of literacy services in the State.
The project has screened 1,483 individuals, tested 464 individuals, and presently has 31
participants. Our staff of three instructors currently holds classes in Kaimuki, Honolulu,
Waipahu, and in Hilo.
SERVICES FOR THE BLIND PROGRAM (HO'OPONO)
Ho’opono, the Services for the Blind program's goal is to enable visually impaired adults to attain maximum vocational and functional independence with its team of skilled professionals providing varied services to meet the participant’s individual needs.
Ho‘opono's New Visions program became a reality on November 1, 2002. It utilizes methods and techniques to teach blindness skills such as long cane travel and Braille. Center students commit to full-time participation to take classes and learn new skills without the use of residual vision to become proficient in the use of the long cane. The New Visions Mission is to create an atmosphere where students gain knowledge, skills and develop a positive attitude about themselves. Developing confidence and blindness skills will enable them to obtain employment and make their dreams a reality. Students planned and organized numerous events in and for Ho‘opono as part of their training which included luncheons, recognition ceremonies, and a White Cane Awareness Walk. Students conduct tours of Ho‘opono and have joined consumer organizations to develop their social skills and awareness of issues that affect them.
Ho’opono Program in 2005:
- The Adjustment Section served 70 individuals including 20 individuals with severe disabilities to adjust to their blindness and to live more independently in FY 05. On the Neighbor Islands, 13 individuals were served.
- The Low Vision Clinic served 284 individuals to make maximum use of their residual vision for reading and distance viewing.
- VR Counselors placed 21 individuals with severe visual problems into a diversity of employment opportunities.
- Home Rehabilitation Teachers provided services that equipped 208 persons who are older blind with personal, leisure, and home management activities to live as independently as possible.
- A wide range of volunteers provided 603 hours of support services to the agency. The estimated value of these services totaled approximately $4,600.
- The annual White Cane Safety Awareness Day was held on October 15, 2004 in the Capitol District with several Legislators taking part.
- 11 youth from four islands participated in Camp Ho'opono, a weeklong retreat for youth at Camp Erdman. In its second year, the camp challenged young people out of their comfort zones using alternative blindness techniques and skills to achieve successful outcomes.
- The Business Enterprise Program (Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Program) had 41 licensed vendors in FY 05. Two new facilities were established during FY 05 and three new vendors were placed at vending operations.
The Business Enterprise program was established under the Randolph-Sheppard Act passed by Congress in 1936. The Randolph-Sheppard Act established the priority for blind persons to operate vending stands on government and other properties. The first vending operation in Hawaii started in 1938 at the downtown territorial post office. There are 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico that participate in the Randolph-Sheppard Vending Program. There are three classifications of facilities: vending machines, cafeterias, and snack bars/other.
DISABILITY DETERMINATION PROGRAM
The Disability Determination Branch (DDB) determines eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. The SSDI (Title II of the Social Security Act) program provides benefits to insured workers with disabilities and their families based on the workers’ employment and earnings history. The SSI (Title XVI) program serves financially needy, aged, blind, and disabled individuals, including those with no recent employment experience. DDB adjudicates and processes disability claims of Hawaii residents for SSDI authorized by Title II of the Social Security Act and SSI authorized by Title XVI of the Act.