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Vocational Rehabilitation for the Blind

Contact: Lou Oma Durand
Department of Services for the Blind (DSB)
P.O. Box 40933
Olympia, WA 98504-0933
Telephone: 360.725.3835
E-mail: loudurand@dsb.wa.gov

Website: http://www.dsb.wa.gov

Participation: 3,080 participants were served by the Department of Services for the Blind (DSB) between October 1, 2012 and September 30, 2013.

Who is Served:  Any person who is blind or has low vision may apply for services. Eligibility is based on statutory criteria for legal or functional blindness and need for vocational rehabilitation services. Individuals must have a visual impairment that creates a barrier to employment.

Program Description:  DSB provides comprehensive and individualized services to assist eligible individuals gain competitive employment. The emphasis is on family-wage jobs with benefits in integrated settings.

Typical services include information and referral, vocational assessment, adaptive skills assessment and training, vocational counseling and career exploration, assistive technology and training, job skills and academic training, job development and job search assistance, transportation, placement, job site analysis (including assistive technology), and employer support and follow-up. When appropriate, DSB also provides assistance in establishing small businesses. Services may include assessment and development of a business plan, occupational licenses, tools, equipment, technological aids, and other goods and services that can be reasonably expected to help participants achieve successful employment.                                               

Other Program Characteristics:  DSB currently employs 15 full-time counselors, each with an average annual caseload of close to 65 participants requiring intensive vocational rehabilitation services. On average, every year we serve 1,200 participants and receive 320 applicants for services. The rapidly changing nature of technology in the workplace presents a major opportunity and challenge for the Vocational Rehabilitation program. More jobs require high levels of technical skill and knowledge of computerized systems. Access to technology is required for visually impaired workers to be more productive and competitive in the workplace.

DSB strives to effectively integrate its Vocational Rehabilitation services into the Workforce Investment System. The Workforce Investment Act provides the opportunity to leverage the resources of larger agencies to assist in the employment of blind individuals.

Program History:  Originally part of the Department of Social and Health Services, the Commission for the Blind was established in July 1977. It was renamed the DSB in July 1983.

Funding and Regional Division: The agency is directed from Olympia with offices in Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver, and Yakima. The federal Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration requires a state plan. Funding is allocated by formula based on state population and requires 21.3 percent non-federal matching funds.

State Funding:  $2,131,000 (July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013)

Federal Funding: $9,376,665 (October 1, 2012 to September 30, 2013)

Other Funding:  $1,025,000 (October 1, 2012 to September 30, 2013)

Planning Cycle: State annual and biennial planning. Federal planning is coordinated with the WIA State Unified Plan process.

State Core Measures:  See Workforce Training Results at http://www.wtb.wa.gov/WashingtonStateCoreMeasures.asp

Other Outcome Measures:  The primary outcome measure for vocational rehabilitation is successful competitive employment (above minimum wage in an integrated setting). Other measures include average wages, increase in earnings, benefits, job retention, employment outcome quality, participant satisfaction, coverage and accessibility of services, and cost effectiveness.

Statutory Authority: Federal-34 CFR 361. State-WAC, Chapter 67-25. Administered by the Department of Services for the Blind.

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