BBI Resources

A publication of the Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University

Demand-Side Employment Placement Models
Vocational Rehabilitation: Helping Employers Staff a Skilled Workforce

April 2012

What is Vocational Rehabilitation?

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) refers to a variety of federally-funded programs aimed at helping people with mental and physical impairments to begin, maintain or return to employment. Operating at the state level, they provide vocational services such as career counseling, job placement, skills training, transportation and educational assistance, and other specialized services described below. VR services can be accessed by employers who seek to hire, train and employ people with disabilities.

How can employers benefit from using VR services?

Vocational rehabilitation will provide employers with a variety of useful services and resources at no cost. VR’s ability to provide pre-screened, job-ready applicants can save employers time and money during their recruitment processes. State VR Offices can serve as a key starting point in the hiring process by providing a pool of motivated applicants already connected to job supports that can ensure employment success.  VR offers financial incentives, tax credits and various on-going workforce development services to businesses and organizations open to hiring people with disabilities. While employees with disabilities offer a wide array of skills and talents, they might need training, specialized equipment and/or ongoing supports to maintain their jobs. VR can cover much of these costs. 

What kinds of VR services are there?

VR can help employers provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations often include adjustments to work environments to ensure qualified people with disabilities can access the application process and perform their jobs. A few general accommodations that VR helps with are removing barriers that prevent accessibility, modifying equipment, hiring an interpreter for someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, and providing a different format (audio, Braille, large print, electronic) of printed material for people with visual impairments.

Some examples and brief descriptions of more specific VR services follow:

Contact your local VR office to discover other services they can offer employers. A list of VR offices is provided at the end of this brief.

What kinds of incentives might VR recommend?

The federal and state governments offer many tax incentives to employers that hire people with disabilities. Businesses may qualify for the following federal tax and financial incentives:

Contact your local or state VR agency to find additional state tax incentives.

How can employers find VR services?

Each state has its own VR offices to serve individuals with disabilities and their employers. Employers can find contact information for each state's VR office through the Job Accommodation Network (JAN). This organization offers free, expert advice about all types of accommodations for all types of disabilities, job descriptions and workplaces. The JAN’s VR page also lists offices that offer services specifically for the blind.

More tools and resources related to developing a positive and disability-inclusive working environment, including a Disability-Focused Job Satisfaction Survey, and an Inclusive Culture Checklist, are available through our Toolkit at the Demand-Side Employment Placement Models project website.

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