A Publication of the Amputee Coalition

Vocational Rehabilitation:
Helping People With Disabilities in Jobs and Careers

First Step - A Guide for Adapting to Limb Loss
Easy Read
Original article by Bill Dupes First Step - Volume 4, 2005
Translated into plain language by Helen Osborne of Health Literacy Consulting

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image: woman standing and man seated with agenda, having discussionVocational Rehabilitation (VR) is a nationwide program that helps people with disabilities find employment, whether they simply need a job to pay the bills or and find more meaningful, long-term careers. VR not only benefits people with disabilities but also trains workers for jobs that need to be filled.

Many, though not all, people with disabilities can use VR services. People need to apply before VR can determine if they are eligible for (can get) services. In order to use VR services, you must:

  • Be legally eligible to work in the United States. This means that you must prove that you are a citizen of the United States, usually by showing your driver’s license, Social Security card and at least one other form of ID, such as a birth certificate or passport.
  • Have a physical, mental or emotional disability that keeps you from finding or keeping a job.
  • Be willing and able to work.

Once accepted into VR, you are assigned a counselor who works with you. He or she will help you choose a VR program. There are four types.

1. Vocational Counseling & Guidance. In this program, you work individually (alone) with a counselor. He or she offers support to help you reach your career and job goal. This starts with an assessment of your work potential, including:

  • Your disability, education, and social or family situation
  • Your knowledge, skills, abilities, and interests
  • Your work history, habits, and tolerances (your ability to meet the physical demands of a job)
  • Types of help or assistive technology you will need in the workplace

VR Services . After an assessment of your work potential, you and the counselor choose which services will help you get a job and find a meaningful career. These services can include:

  • Medical, psychiatric, social, and psychological a ssessments. These help identify your strengths (what you are good at) and limitations (areas where you need help.)
  • Vocational assessment. This looks at your interests, readiness for work (whether you are ready to work now or will be soon), skills, and local job opportunities.
  • Counseling and guidance. This refers to how you and the counselor work together.
  • Restoration. This means healthcare treatments to increase your work potential. This could include corrective surgery, orthotics/prosthetics, mobility aids or assistive devices such as glasses or hearing aids.
  • Job preparation. VR offers volunteer experiences, on-the-job training, and education to help you get ready for work.
  • Support services. This can include help paying the costs of transportation, tools, equipment, or independent living.
  • Job placement. This service helps you find a job suited to your interests and abilities.
  • Independent living service. This can be help with daily living tasks that affect whether or not you can work. Independent living services may include help using community services, managing money, or planning how you use your time.
  • Assistive technology services. This service looks at types of equipment you need for work .

image: people studying hands-on3. Training & Education. VR offers many types of training that helps people get back to work. This includes:

  • On-the-job training. This means paid training under supervision in a normal work environment, learning to use the equipment, documents or materials that you will use when you are ready to work without supervision.
  • Self-employment. This means having your own business, rather than working for others. Self-employment is often a good choice for people with disabilities.VR can help research different types of businesses, provide advice from consultants, and help pay the costs of starting a business or buying equipment.
  • Supported employment. This is on-the-job help for workers or their employers.
  • Short-term vocational training. This includes training programs to help people en ter the job market quickly. Training can be just a few hours or take up to two years.
  • College education . VR can help pay college costs beyond financial aid from the school.

image: professional man giving presentation4. Job Placement. VR is not an employment agency. You will need to look for a job just like everyone else. But VR can help you find job leads, fill out applications, write a resume, and practice for job interviews. It can also help you deal with work-related disability issues such as what to say about your disability or how to ask for needed changes in job duties.

How to learn more:

VR has programs across the United States. There are large programs in each state’s capital city as well as smaller ones in satellite offices. To find a VR program near you, look in the state section of your local phone book under “Rehabilitative Services” or “Vocational Rehabilitation Services.”


Transition programs provide support and guidance to students with disabilities as they move from high school to the workplace. These programs can help students identify career interests and learn about the skills and training needed to prepare for careers in those fields.

Some employment services are designed to increase older workers’ employment opportunities in the general labor market and in community service. Income-eligible individuals 55 and older are recruited, trained and referred to job openings with local employers with the ultimate goal to place them in nonsubsidized employment.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers income, medical, educational and VR services to qualified veterans.


image: students leaving building in wheelchairs


Translated from Vocational Rehabilitation Helping People With Disabilities Define Career Goals, Find Employment


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 Amputee Coalition

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