Vocational Rehabilitation

Vocational rehabilitation, or VR, programs exist in each state and territory. VR agencies support people with disabilities to find and keep competitive, integrated employment.

This VR mission aligns well with inclusive higher education programs, which support people with intellectual disability to access college. Building a strong relationship between VR and these college programs is essential for helping people with intellectual disability to increase their independence, find and keep fulfilling jobs, and boost their self-sufficiency.

News & Features

This Fast Fact #20 describes ways that Transition Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID programs) engage with state vocational rehabilitation agencies to provide ...Read more
Russ Thelin
Russell J. Thelin, M.S., LVRC CRC, Senior Policy Fellow at ICI, is a technical assistance provider on vocational rehabilitation for Think College. ...Read more
This RRTC Practice Brief shares examples that illustrate ways in which Vocational Rehabilitation is collaborating with and supporting inclusive postsecondary education programs. ...Read more

Frequently Asked Questions

What is VR?

Vocational rehabilitation, or VR, is a federal–state program that helps eligible people (people who have disabilities that pose barriers to getting and keeping a job) to get and keep employment. VR is committed to helping people with disabilities find meaningful careers in competitive integrated employment.

What types of services can VR provide eligible individuals?

A variety of services may be provided, depending on individually identified needs, such as:

• Assessment (medical, psychological, etc.)
• Rehabilitation counseling
• Vocational evaluation and planning
• Disability related medical and or psychological treatment
• Career counseling and guidance
• Work experience while in high school
• Training and education after high school
• Job-site assessment and accommodations
• Job placement
• Job coaching
• On-the-job training
• Supported employment
• Assistive technology and devices
• Other expenses supporting individual needs (i.e.; travel)

I’ve heard that VR won’t pay for college for people with intellectual disability. Is that true?

No. VR agencies can support college attendance in multiple ways (see next question for examples). Since VR services are individualized to meet each person’s unique needs, the decision whether or how to support college attendance is based on a conversation between the individual and their rehabilitation counselor. With their counselor, individuals outline services they need considering things like their interests, aptitudes, skills, the local labor market, and more. Because services provided are individualized to each person; based on “strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, and interests,” the VR agency is prohibited by regulation from making categorical denial of certain services, like college for people with intellectual disabilities.

How can VR support students with intellectual disability to attend college?

VR agencies can support students’ postsecondary education success by providing:
• Counseling to high school students on college options,
• Counseling to college students including how to choose courses, how to access needed supports or technology, and how to explore employment while in school,
• Financial assistance for tuition and other expenses,
• Supports such as VR counseling, assistive technology, benefits planning, and job coaching while in college, and
• Support in making the transition from college to employment, including assistance getting and keeping a job.

I’m the director or coordinator of a new postsecondary education program for students with intellectual disability. What's the best way to approach VR to discuss collaboration?

You should set up a meeting with administrative staff from your state VR agency. You can find their contact information by searching the state VR agency’s website, or via CSAVR.
Approaching VR to discuss collaboration should start with establishing a relationship with them. Before you meet with VR, think about:
• Some ways your program might partner with VR counselors to support students,
• How you can make the case that your program will help students prepare for and obtain employment, and
• What measures of success VR agencies are held to (XXLINK http://www.wintac.org/topic-areas/transition-to-the-common-performance-a...) and how you can help them meet these measures.
For the best results, go into your first meeting, and maybe even first few meetings, with only one ask— to get to know each other sufficiently to ask about working together. Approach VR staffers as professionals who can assist individuals on many levels, and as a resource you’d like to partner with to meet a common employment related need. In other words, don’t just think of VR as a funding stream.

What kinds of supports could someone receive from VR if he wants to attend a college program for students with intellectual disability?

Supports will be determined individually. They might include counseling and guidance, labor market information, habilitation services, tuition, fees, room and board, books/supplies, assistive technology, transportation assistance, and any other service that is determined to be needed.

Are there certain aspects of a college program that will make it more likely that CR may be able to help fund a student to attend?

VR will view a college program more favorably if the program can show that it offers training and integrated work experiences, and gives support and placement assistance leading to competitive integrated employment. It’s also good to demonstrate that people leaving the program have higher earnings, work more hours, and/or get better employer benefits than others who don’t go through the program.

What rights to students with intellectual disability have if VR denies support for college?

The Rehabilitation Act outlines that VR must have a policy on and provide due process for individuals and/or their representative or advocate who do not agree with a decision made by the counselor or agency, including if VR denies funding college for individuals with intellectual disabilities. As part of that due process most states provide for supervisory reviews or some form of informal review of determinations internally. Individuals or representatives/advocates may also request a fair hearing with an impartial hearing officer. Such requests are best made by the individual however college program staff can play a support role by sharing with individuals their right to due process and how to use it.

Additionally, the Rehabilitation Act provides funding for each state to have an independent Client Assistance Program, often referred to as “CAP.” This program provides advocacy and education directly related to VR decisions that eligible individuals disagree with. They are a valuable resource to such individuals. Your VR agency can tell you how to contact the CAP program for your state.

Are there examples of successful partnerships between VR and college programs for students with intellectual disability?

Yes! Think College recently completed a two-stage research project on effective partnerships with VR. Some of the key findings were:
• Partnerships could be originated by either the VR agency or the IHE,
• Successful partnerships were built on a foundation of shared values, understanding each other’s goals and processes, and attention to strong relationships between IHE and VR staff,
• Communication was essential to the partnership, not just in formal meetings but in day to day, student-focused communication between staff, and
• Strong partnerships involved a sense of the VR and IHE staff working together as a team to support each student’s success in college and beyond.
Stay tuned for an update of this site with the research document detailing these findings.

What is Partnership Plus?

Partnership Plus is a Social Security Administration (SSA) option under the Ticket to Work program. Organizations can work with Vocational Rehabilitation and share in SSA paid milestone and outcome payments when participants, as a result of provided services, obtain and sustain employment. Partnership Plus can be a funding source for inclusive higher education; stay tuned for a soon-to-be established FAQ on Partnership Plus for more information.

Have more questions about VR and postsecondary education?

Email the Think College HELP DESK with your questions. A staff member will respond as soon as possible! thinkcollegeTA@gmail.com.