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.

WorkFirst Program--Employment Support.109 The WorkFirst program offers services and activities to help people in low-income families find jobs, keep their jobs, search for better jobs, and become self-sufficient. Low-income families refer are those people with income before 175 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). This program links families to a variety of state, federal, and community resources to meet this goal. Examples of services include the following.

  • The Re-Employ Washington Workers program which helps low income workers applying for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits return to work and avoid applying for TANF assistance;
  • Child support allotment;
  • Food Stamps;
  • Job search and retention services;
  • Working Connections Child Care;
  • Medical Assistance;
  • Tuition assistance from the community and technical colleges; and
  • WorkFirst support services.

WorkFirst--Training Services.110 TANF recipients and other parents with income up to 175 percent of FPL are eligible for the following training programs.

  • Pre-Employment Training: Customized training by the community or technical college to meet the needs of a particular employer or group of employers. This service enables TANF and other low-income parents to develop the skills needed to get a better first job and gives them priority in hiring.

  • Workplace Basic Skills: Training at a work site, customized to meet the employer needs. It is designed to help less job-ready workers retain their present job and develop long-term attachment to the workforce.

  • Work-Based Learning Tuition Assistance: This benefit makes employment-oriented training opportunities at community and technical colleges available to working parents who are not eligible for other forms of financial aid.

  • Families That Work: This service is a college program that helps develop literacy, parenting and workplace skills. It is targeted at pregnant women, parents of infants, teen parents, and others who are in earliest stages of focusing on work.

  • Community Jobs: This is a benefit that provides subsidized public and non-profit sector employment for hard-to-employ TANF recipients, who concurrently receive training to develop work skills.

  • Re-Employ Washington Workers. Unemployment claimants with dependent children with income below 175 percent of FPL are eligible for this benefit. This program provides subsidized childcare and other support services while a client is in intensive job search activities. Clients who become employed within six weeks and are still employed after twelve weeks, in a job at the same or higher wage than their previous employment, will receive a cash bonus.

Vocational Rehabilitation. The Washington State Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) assists people with disabilities to prepare for, obtain and retain employment. The Department of Vocational Rehabilitation is a state and federal-sponsored program. DVR works in partnership with the community and business to develop employment opportunities for people with disabilities. VR programs are custom-designed for each individual. DVR serves anyone who has a physical or mental impairment that results in a substantial impediment to employment; and requires VR services to prepare for, obtain, or retain employment. DVR services include the following:

  • Medical Evaluation to determine a person's strengths and vocational limitations through expert medical, psychiatric, social and psychological evaluations.

  • Vocational Assessment to identify a person's interests, readiness for employment, work and job opportunities in the community.

  • Counseling and Guidance to establish an on-going relationship between the counselor and the individual in which they explore the evaluation results and job opportunities and develop a realistic plan to enter the labor market.

  • Restoration to increase work potential and ability to retain a job through use of medical and assistive technologies.

  • Job Preparation to build work skills needed to enable a person to obtain employment. These services may include volunteer experience, on-the-job training, vocational education or classroom training.

  • Support Services to support an individual in completing the rehabilitation plan and becoming employed. Services include transportation assistance, the purchase of tools, equipment, books or work clothes, and support for independent living.

  • Job Match/Placement to assist in developing work opportunities and in obtaining and maintaining a job suited to the person's interests and capabilities.

  • Follow-up to follow a person's progress on the job for at least 90 days to ensure the employment is satisfactory.

  • Post-Employment to provide short-term services to foster job retention.

  • Independent Living to provide evaluations and services to assist persons in dealing with life issues that impede rehabilitation and employment goals. These services include accessing community resources, self-advocacy skills, money management and personal organization skills.

  • Assistive Technology Services to assist a person in the evaluation, selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device to increase, maintain, or improve their functional capabilities.

Windmills. Windmills is a complimentary employer training program of the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation designed to further understanding and knowledge about employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The program aims to help people examine their own perceptions of persons with disabilities, is individually tailored to meet each company's needs, and is based on everyday work situations. It assists employers in hiring qualified applicants; informs employers about inexpensive, simple accommodations which enable a person who is disabled to perform effectively; and it furthers understanding about workers who have become disabled.111

On-line Resume System. All Department of Vocational Rehabilitation participants may submit their resumes through the DVR website to present abilities with prospective employers. Businesses wishing to recruit applicants with disabilities can search for resumes through the on-line database. Individuals not involved with DVR may still enter their resume on-line at the Washington Online Reemployment Kiosk (WORK), which has a link on the DVR page.112

Job Search Handbook. The Job Search Handbook is a DVR publication that contains information, techniques and tips on finding the right job. Free print copies of this publication are available through a DVR counselor or at a DVR Job Resource Center. The handbook contains information on organizing a job search, assessing skills, preparing for work, job listings, tips on interviews, disability disclosure information, ADA and other programs and policies for people with disabilities.113

Job Resource Centers. Many DVR offices are equipped with Job Resource Centers to provide individuals necessary resources for job searching. Some DVR offices also have workshops to assist in career planning and job searching. Resources available include computers and laser printers, telephones, books on resume and cover letter writing, job postings, newspapers and business journals, employer contacts resources, fax and copy machine, career exploration resources, resume paper, information on the Americans with Disabilities Act, labor market information.

Employment Services for Businesses.114 The Washington State Department of Vocational Rehabilitation provides free services to businesses to assist in hiring and retaining employees with disabilities. The following types of services are offered to businesses:

  • Employment Services. These services include pre-screening applicants based on essential job requirements; computerized skill assessment and job match; referral of qualified workers; job-related training of applicants; On-the-Job-Training (OJT): an individualized worksite program; on-site job trainer and support services; follow-up services.

  • Personnel Assistance. DVR assists businesses in the implementation of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) in the areas of recruiting, affirmative action planning, workforce diversity consultation, and reasonable accommodation support in Employee Assistance and/or advisory program.

  • Staff Development. The DVR provides custom designed training programs for management, staff and co-workers including, "Windmills," (see above), as well as training and technical assistance regarding "AIDS in the Workplace," and "The Americans with Disability Act (ADA)."

  • Technical Assistance. These services include job/task analysis to determine essential job requirements, job site assessment in job restructuring/work site adjustment, accessibility/barrier removal, and assistive technology including devices and specialized equipment for workplace accommodation.

  • Financial Incentives. The DVR also providers financial incentives to employers related to the hiring of individuals with disabilities. These incentives include reimbursement for the cost of on-the-job training expenses, business tax incentives for hiring workers with disabilities including:
    • Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC). See description under Tax Policies.
    • Employee Accessibility Deduction. See description under Tax Policies.
    • Accessibility Credit (IRS Code Section 44). See description under Tax Policies.

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.

Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs). Development and Designation of Local WIB Areas and Regionalization: Executive Order No. 36 (1995) established county-based WIBs in recognition of county-level delivery of the majority of workforce development programs. This emphasis will not change with the advent of WIA. Key activities for this year are to support the identification of One Stop Career Centers by Workforce Investment Boards, provide true integration of services, identify a defined level of service at all One Stop system locations, increase employer participation in the public labor exchange, and participate in the national-state linkage to the electronic labor exchange by being part of the nationally sponsored One Stop Operating System.

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.

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.115