Research on Employment Supports for People with Disabilities: Summary of the Focus Group Findings. Education, Training and Rehabilitation


Education and Rehabilitation programs are designed to help individuals invest in developing their abilities and skills, often with the primary goal of helping individuals become employed and self-sufficient. Programs and policies related to education and rehabilitation for individuals with disabilities are described below.

Education Programs and Policies. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), states are required to provide free appropriate public education for students with disabilities at the elementary and secondary level. Schools are required to create Individual Education Programs (IEPs) to help assist youth with disabilities obtain important services at no additional cost to their families. IEPs provide a central guide to available services as well as a plan for post-secondary transitions for school to work for all youth with disabilities during secondary school. Also, the US Department of Education, Office of Special Education (OSEP) provides grants to assist states in providing services.

Workforce Investment Act Implementation. The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) rewrites federal statutes governing job training programs, adult education and literacy, and VR. It is intended to provide a more coordinated, customer-friendly, locally driven workforce development system supported by an enhanced statistics system. Under WIA, states have oversight of the statewide system of Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs), administer the Employment Service (labor exchange), administer job training programs, and build and manage a statewide employment statistics system. The WIA also establishes individual training accounts similar to the New Jersey Workforce Development Partnership (WDP) individual training grants (see subsequent description). The challenge in implementing WIA is to coordinate and streamline all the partner agencies that provide the services and information critical for successfully matching workers with employers.88

One Stop Career System Development. The Department of Labor received its One Stop implementation grant in 1995. The basic intent of One Stop is to integrate services, provide for customer choice and universal access, and operate in a performance-driven manner. For many years, the role of the Employment Service in New Jersey has focused on direct placements, that is, giving a job seeker a referral to an available job. Under the One Stop Career Center System, the department is transforming the Employment Service into a broker of information, job candidates, and job opportunities. The common thread for job seekers and employers is America's Talent Bank (ATB). Through the Talent Bank, the New Jersey Department of Labor (NJDOL) has the most comprehensive information available in the state on people looking for employment in New Jersey.

Reemployment Call Center Statewide Implementation. The Reemployment Call Center (RCC) enables customers to file their initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits by telephone. It uses a combination of interactive voice response technology and trained customer service representatives to reduce filing time and more quickly initiate the reemployment process. The Department of Labor intends to extend this program throughout New Jersey. As the practice of filing claims over the phone is implemented statewide, NJDOL will focus its resources on ways to use the claim information as the basis for a resume on America's Talent Bank in order to accelerate the reemployment process. The possible use of Internet technology for claim filing is also being explored.

Workforce Development Partnership Program (WDP). The Workforce Investment Act focuses on placing individuals in jobs, and then providing the necessary training to enable them to retain those jobs. The WDP program offers an array of job skills training, education and support services both to unemployed individuals and to employers needing to upgrade the skills of their workers. Qualified individuals can receive individual training and education grants, additional unemployment benefits while in training, and tuition waivers at public institutions of higher education. Employers can receive matching funds, through the Office of Customized Training, to pay for training designed to improve worker productivity, occupational safety and health and the company's market position. Plans for this year are to increase the number of workers trained through customized training grants and to coordinate the development of the WIA individual training accounts with the WDP individual grants to maximize the use of these funds, subject to available funding.

Workforce New Jersey Public Information Network (WNJPIN). The Workforce New Jersey Public Information Network is an on-line resource that provides information about job training opportunities and job listings. It contains a listing of jobs, job fairs, job search tools, and resource guides for job seekers. Students can research career descriptions, colleges, graduate schools, vocational/technical schools and financial aid information. Additionally, employers can post job openings, read on-line resumes, learn about business associations as well as unemployment and disability information. The site provides links to the State Employment and Training Commission, Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) Administrative Information, New Jersey Department of Labor homepage, One-Stop Career Sites, information on county programs, and labor market information.

Northeast Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center. The Northeast Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (NeDBTAC) is a regional center serving New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The Center provides training, technical assistance, information and referral on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). NeDBTAC is authorized by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDDR) to provide information, materials, and technical assistance to individuals and entities covered by the ADA. The Center is funded by the US Department of Education's NIDRR.89

Job Accommodation Network. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a service of the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, is a toll-free information and referral service providing information on job accommodation, employers' responsibilities under the ADA, and on technical assistance, funding, education, and services related to the employment of people with disabilities. JAN also analyzes trends and statistical data related to the technical assistance it provides.90

Vocational Rehabilitation (for the Blind and Visually Impaired). This program assists individuals who are blind or visually impaired develop, acquire or update skills to assist them in securing and maintaining suitable employment. This may include working in the competitive labor force, operating their own business, supportive employment, or managing their own home. VR services include vocational evaluation, counseling, guidance and training; job placement; post-employment services; college counseling/support; vending facility and business enterprise programs; high school transitional services; special services for multi-handicapped persons; and training at the Joseph Kohn Rehabilitation Center in New Brunswick. Additionally, CBVI consumers can request the following services through their primary caseworker: issuance of theater passes; handicapped parking placards; income tax certification letters; Division Of Motor Vehicles identification card; self-help peer groups; community companions or volunteers; referral to community-based programs and services; reduced fare applications for public transportation; low and high technical aids and appliances; complaint resolution; and consumer advocacy.

Educational Services. The Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CBVI) provides educational services to eligible individuals from birth through their high school years and their families. These services are designed to allow students who are visually impaired to participate fully with other students in regular classroom activities. Services include: Institutional and day training center programs; services to deaf-blind children; counseling and training for families of infants and preschool children; tutoring in special areas; instruction in independent travel and daily living skills; reader services; summer camp for children and teenagers; assistance with adaptive equipment; special books, materials and technical aids from CBVI's Meyer Instructional Resource Center; vision restoration and/or enhancement of the use of remaining vision.