Rehabilitation Services Annual Report 2021

DRS Success: Making It Work Together

State of Illinois Department of Human Services

Rehabilitation Services Annual Report 2021 (pdf)

Message from the Chair of the Illinois State Rehabilitation Council

On behalf of the Illinois State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) and with our Illinois Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) partners, we are pleased to present the FY2021 Annual Report for the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program.

This past year has been one of challenge and opportunity for the SRC and DRS. Maintaining safety while adapting to virtual service delivery meant effective communication and planning were more important than ever before. DRS leadership and Council members met frequently to stay on top of emerging needs while ensuring our State Plan was enacted.

Below are some of the accomplishments achieved through this cooperative work:

  • Established the sharing of data to monitor progress and set benchmarks for performance.
  • Planned and laid groundwork for the Customer Satisfaction Survey
  • Established framework and plan for Comprehensive Needs Assessment to be conducted in FY2022
  • Leveraged Council Member experience to enhance DRS outreach initiatives to hard-to-reach populations and to achieve Director Patrick's goal of serving 100,000 students with disabilities.

Though these are just some of the highlights of this past year, the SRC and DRS leadership continue to look to the future and how our partnership can be most effectively used for the benefit of all Illinoisans with disabilities. In FY2022 the SRC and DRS commit to completing the customer satisfaction survey, the comprehensive needs assessment, strategic planning session and the implementation strategy established. We will continue to work together to increase outreach and services to historically disenfranchised, rurally isolated, and hard-to-reach populations of people with disabilities. We look forward to working together to also increase outreach and provide services to individuals with most severe disabilities and to keep our Illinois community rehabilitation provider network strong.

I wish to thank the DRS staff for their dedication, expertise, and professionalism in helping people with disabilities achieve their desired employment outcomes. I also wish to thank the SRC members who gave freely of their time to help the SRC and DRS to make continuous improvements to service quality.

"My Success Can Be Your Success"

-Gaby, Graduate, Richland Community College


LaDonna R. Henson, Chair

Illinois State Rehabilitation Council

Success Stories

Empowered by VR

Gaby's life was impacted and empowered by the VR program. In her own words, "I had begun to feel more than overwhelmed not only in life, but my future and what it was to become. My disability progressively gets worse the older I get, and the frustrations and embarrassment don't let up either. When I learned about DRS, I had no idea the significant role they would play in my life… DRS came into my life and the process was beyond my expectations and wasn't overwhelming. They have changed my perception on what I can do…and with so many struggles I deal with daily, this was an abundance of gifts to pursue a life I had chosen to live and begin with no regrets. I am thankful for such a wonderful program and my life is better since I have been a part of it."

Assistive Technology and VR

At the age of six, Israa was diagnosed with cone-rod dystrophy, a rare eye disorder that affects the cone cells of the retina. She received equipment through the VR program including a laptop computer preinstalled with the ZoomText magnifier and reader, a portable digital magnifier, a portable CCTV with optical character recognition, a digital recorder to assist with notetaking, a large print high contrast graphing scientific calculator with audio output, and a desk lamp with varying brightness and color settings to help improve lighting at her desk. Israa has received the support necessary to meet her vocational goal of becoming a special education teacher.

Message from the Secretary of IDHS and Director of IDHS-DRS

The COVID-19 pandemic gave the Illinois Department of Human Services' Division of Rehabilitation Services (IDHS/DRS) an opportunity to restore and reinvent itself while building capabilities for a sustainable future. In doing so, DRS stayed true to its mission "to assist individuals with disabilities in achieving their goals of employment, education, and independent living." The Division immediately implemented measures to protect the health and safety of staff, customers, and the communities it serves. DRS made necessary technical investments to move our staff to a remote working environment to ensure complete continuity of service. Even in the face of the challenges presented by the pandemic, DRS added to its demonstrated track record of excellence in customer care and innovative services and supports in a myriad of ways, including but not limited to:

  • Activating a mass texting program to provide critical information instantly to customers and their families and providers.
  • Hosting virtual town hall meetings for customers and providers and sharing targeted surveys to gain feedback to ensure customer needs were met and diverse voices heard during the unprecedented times brought on by the pandemic.
  • Despite an economic downturn, the Vocational Rehabilitation program achieved robust numbers of placements of individuals with disabilities into competitive and integrated employment. Further, the Division provided additional critical financial assistance to our community partners to allow for additional follow up and support services during times of unemployment and remote learning.
  • Completing long overdue facility improvements in its educational and training facilities as well as upgrading technology support and resources to allow students to be successful using a remote learning environment.
  • In coordination with our partners, the Illinois Care Connections program provided much needed devices to our isolated seniors allowing them to maintain contact with loved ones without compromising their health.

These innovations are not just in response to the present pandemic, but have led to systematic change. These demonstrated efforts suggests that in the future, other big real-world challenges can also be tackled with a sense of urgency through innovation. The pandemic has given us the opportunity to revolutionize services to all Illinoisans with disabilities.

We are extremely proud of the many accomplishments across the Division over the last year. While many of the innovations and accomplishments described above were initiated by the pandemic, they are consistent with the guiding vision of IDHS for the future. We are proud of the adaptability, determination, resilience, and sense of urgency DRS staff have shown during these challenging times. By increasing availability and use of technology in our programs, we better position ourselves to meet the needs of our customers, providers, and other partners.

It is truly an honor to serve the people of Illinois, and to have the opportunity to provide the necessary supports and services to Illinoisans with disabilities so that they can live independent and empowered lives. We very much look forward to building on the successes of the past year and continuing to serve the people of our state, always committed to ensuring that Help is Here-wherever you are.

Grace B. Hou, Secretary

Illinois Department of Human Services

Rahnee K. Patrick, Director

Division of Rehabilitation Services

We invite you to visit the Division of Rehabilitation Services SUCCESS website at and enjoy the wonderful stories from our customers and community business partners that will encourage and educate on how to make success happen at your home and in your community. In addition, there are numerous helpful resources provided for your use as well.  If you require this information in Braille or large print, please inform us of this preference.

Success Stories (continued)

Paralympian Pride at DRS

There has been a long-standing and productive relationship between the para-athlete program at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and the Division of Rehabilitation Services, Vocational Rehabilitation program. This relationship has been tremendously beneficial to many students as they seek not only Paralympic gold, but also in achieving their employment goals. One example is Jenna, a first time hopeful at the Paralympics and recent graduate of the University. Her hope is to work with other individuals with disabilities to achieve their academic and vocational dreams. She is seeking further training after her bachelor's degree, to realize that vision of success for herself and for others with disabilities in our community.

Success in the Business Enterprise Program for the Blind (BEPB)

Steve is a blind vendor in the BEPB. No different than many of our blind vendors, he suffered tremendously when COVID took hold on our State. Steve operates approximately 180 vending machines scattered throughout southern Illinois and manages 20 cottages at Hazlet State Park. As the pandemic eased up in the Spring of this year, he was back to approximately 85% occupancy at this state park and his vending machine revenue has also picked up substantially. DRS provided him with assistance through job retention and he states that his business is on its way to a full recovery!

College Bound

Elisabeth is a 19-year-old woman who studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign. She was born with cerebral palsy and relies on a power heelchair for mobility. Through a partnership with the Illinois Assistive Technology Program, an assistive technology specialist determined what technology would help her work independently as a college student living on campus. Elisabeth has unique speech patterns, so several different voice recognition software applications and various microphones were tested, along with several keyboard and mouse options as she worked to narrow down the best devices and software applications for her needs.

IDHS/DRS Vocational Rehabilitation Program FY 2021 Final Data Summary

Service Data

Category Referrals Applications New Plans Total Served Outcomes
BFS Region 1 North 2,532 1,969 1,752 7,191 568
BFS Region 1 South 1,711 1,318 1,201 4,940 543
BFS Region 2 3,480 2,552 2,200 8,499 1,036
BFS Region 3 1,641 1,425 1,150 4,689 701
BFS Region 4 1,293 969 825 3,751 426
BFS Region 5 1,456 1,208 935 3,745 492
BBS 554 465 392 1,649 123
Statewide Total 12,667 9,906 8,455 34,464 3,889

Customers by Service Category

Category STEP Transition STEP + Transition SEP College
BFS Region 1 North 3,694 113 3,807 339 977
BFS Region 1 South 2,839 96 2,935 198 497
BFS Region 2 4,596 281 4,877 252 1,240
BFS Region 3 2,034 157 2,191 110 886
BFS Region 4 1,596 132 1,728 57 953
BFS Region 5 1,618 195 1,813 76 711
BBS 88 53 141 24 311
Statewide Total 16,465 1,027 17,492 1,056 5,575

Customers by Order of Selection

Category Rehab Closures Non-Rehab Closures Rehab Rate Average Weekly Earnings Average Spending on Rehab Education Average Spending on Rehab Non-Education
Disability Which is Most Significant 2,172 2,415 47.40% $348 $7,508 $2,319
Disability Which is Very Significant 1,415 1,319 51.80% $435 $7,209 $2,449
Disability Which is Significant 324 321 50.20% $440 $7,555 $2,634
Statewide Total 3,911 4,055 49% $387 $7,402 $2,386

Customers by Age Group

Category Cases Served Competitive Outcomes Percent Competitive Percent Served Average Hourly Wage Average Weekly Earnings
0 - 20 23,269 2,034 52% 68% $12.43 $344
21 - 30 3,829 665 17% 11% $13.77 $398
31 - 40 2,427 415 11% 7% $14.44 $428
41 - 50 2,097 360 9% 6% $14.61 $445
51 - 60 2,096 312 8% 6% $15.39 $429
61 - PLUS 746 103 3% 2% $14.21 $396
VR Total 34,464 3,889 100% 100% $13.36 $380

Customers by Disability Category

Category Served Outcomes Percent of Outcomes Percent of Served Average Hourly Wage Average Weekly Earnings
Visual Impairment 1,461 85 2.20% 4.20% $19.10 $549
Hearing Impairment 1,732 281 7.20% 5.00% $16.33 $543
Orthopedic/Neurological Impairment 1,837 182 4.70% 5.30% $15.87 $506
Mental Illness Disability 6,777 972 25.00% 19.70% $13.13 $358
Intellectual Disability 9,837 957 24.60% 28.50% $12.08 $294
Learning Disability 8,883 1,018 26.20% 25.80% $12.72 $375
Alcohol - Substance Abuse 67 22 0.60% 0.20% No Data No Data
TBI Disability 350 39 1.00% 1.00% $13.92 $383
Other 3,520 333 8.60% 10.20% $13.15 $357
VR Total 34,464 3,889 100% 100% $13.36 $380

Customers by Race/Ethnic Group

Category Cases Served Competitive Outcomes Percent Competitive Percent Served Average Hourly Wage Average Weekly Earnings
White 19,754 2,460 61.00% 56.90% $13.33 $386
Black or African American 7,987 824 22.90% 24.40% $13.50 $376
Hispanic or Latino 5,213 475 12.90% 14.70% $13.22 $362
Asian 823 59 1.80% 2.20% $14.38 $383
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander 55 6 0.10% 0.20% $13.05 $379
American Indian/Alaskan Native 55 3 0.10% 0.20% $13.01 $386
Two or More Races 577 62 1.30% 1.40% $12.75 $316
VR Total 34,464 3,889 100% 100% $13.36 $380
All Minority Categories 14,710 1,429 39% 43% $13.41 $369

Measurable Skills Gains

Category Skills Gained Post-Secondary Students MSG Rate
BBS 168 204 82.40%
BFS Region 1 North 666 718 92.80%
BFS Region 1 South 220 317 69.40%
BFS Region 2 561 831 67.50%
BFS Region 3 345 514 67.10%
BFS Region 4 321 624 51.40%
BFS Region 5 285 455 62.60%
Statewide Total 2,566 3,663 *70.1%

Customers by Education Program

Category Rehab Closures Non-Rehab Closures Rehab Rate Average Weekly Earnings Average Spending on Rehab Education Average Spending on Rehab Non-Education
Secondary Transitional Experience Program 1,765 3,260 35.10% $294 $5,486 $1,860
Transition - NON STEP 235 316 42.60% $390 $11,628 $4,379
Technical Institute 38 33 53.50% $535 $7,171 $3,845
Community College 520 356 59.40% $455 $9,501 $5,603
University 247 201 55.10% $617 $35,393 $22,954
VR Total 3,911 4,055 49% $387 $7,413 $2,386

Customers by Special Program

Category Rehab Closures Non-Rehab Closures Rehab Rate Average Weekly Earnings Average Spending on Rehab Education Average Spending on Rehab Non-Education
Supported Employment 158 165 48.90% $242 $11,829 $3,538
IPS Program 336 238 58.50% $352 $7,916 $1,327
Community Rehab Program 1,445 884 62.00% $352 $8,267 $2,247
SSI or SSDI Recipient 1,146 1,518 43.00% $302 $9,774 $2,810
VR Total 3,911 4,055 49% $387 $7,413 $2,386

Customers by Employment Barrier

Category Successful Closures Unsuccessful Closures Rehab Rate Average Wage at Successful Closure Average Spending Per Closure
Ex Offender 178 177 50.10% $12.95 $7,192
Homeless Runaway 38 62 38.00% $13.45 $7,158
Long Term Unemployed 1,362 1,848 42.40% $13.12 $7,715
Foster Youth 36 49 42.40% $12.77 $6,432
Low Income 1,595 1,581 50.20% $13.36 $7,331
English Language Learner 260 311 45.50% $13.45 $8,055
Low Literacy Levels 1,275 1,483 46.20% $12.46 $6,377
Cultural Barrier 217 200 52.00% $13.97 $7,724
Single Parent 188 172 52.20% $13.74 $6,799
Displaced Homemaker 17 10 63.00% $14.08 $5,833
Dependent of Seasonal or Migrant Worker 1 2 33.30% $22.84 $7,824
Seasonal Worker 13 5 72.20% $15.27 $5,668
Individual is not within two years of exhausting TANF 90 59 60.40% $15.10 $5,872
Individual is within two years of exhausting TANF 20 11 64.50% $13.69 $6,094

Data Summary

Vocational Rehabilitation Program and WIOA

Despite the immense challenges presented by navigating a global pandemic while maintaining high quality employment readiness and support services to individuals with disabilities, DRS-Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) achieved some considerable feats in FY2021.

The DRS-VR program assisted 3,911 people with disabilities in achieving a competitive employment outcome. This marked a decrease of 15.6% from the previous fiscal year. These individuals earned on average $20,124 at case closure, an increase of $1,976 annually from the previous year. This added a total of $7.7 million in additional income for Illinois households over the previous year.

In FY2021/PY2020, DRS-VR Title-IV had a negotiated target for Measurable Skills Gains (MSG) Rate set at 50% by the RSA for our WIOA Performance and Accountability reporting. This rate is determined by the number of post-secondary participants workforce agencies are able to help achieve gains in their skill sets commensurate with the program the individual is participating in. During FY2021 DRS-VR customers achieved a 59.8% on our MSG rate, substantially above our target and one of the highest rates in the country.

Program Highlights

IPS Program Model Expanded to Customers with Most Significant Disabilities

Due to the tremendous cooperation and efforts of the IPS team and network of prime agencies, DRS was able to expand this provenly successful model of individualized services to those disability communities in Illinois in most need of the enhanced supports that are necessary for successful employment and community based independence. This process will allow for the services needed by these individuals to be provided as quickly and appropriately as possible. To ensure that happens, we have developed new tracking measures that will allow DRS staff the ability to follow these cases from referral to successful employment outcome. By avoiding unnecessary delays to service delivery, these customers will rapidly be established in our VR program and begin receiving individualized supports. This cooperative endeavor will lead to very meaningful improvements in the lives of our customers and further exemplify the IPS model as a proven process to achieve success for customers with greater needs than traditional programs can address.

DRS Training Unit Reinvented

During FY2021 the DRS Training Unit reestablished its focus and initiated a new robust regimen of focused and graduated trainings designed to bring new employees up to speed more effectively and provide current staff with the knowledge needed for continuous improvement and innovative service delivery. Some of the highlights of this new process include:

  • Developed and began presenting Multi-Cultural Diversity and Inclusion Events for the entirety of DRS to heighten staff awareness on this important issue.
  • Established a partnership with University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to deliver a robust agenda of training on a variety of complex topics related to vocational rehabilitation.
  • Successfully and seamlessly transitioned staff development events from an in-person to a virtual environment while providing accommodations to those with disabilities.
  • Partnered with a variety of outside entities to provide technical support as a supplement to in-house training.
  • Reengineered the onboarding process for all new staff.

The DRS Training Unit is committed in FY2022 to further expanding their partnerships with outside entities and employing the use of enhanced surveying and emergent technologies to ensure continuous growth and improvement in our agency.

Workforce Development

The establishment of this new unit in 2019 has continued to lead to better employment for customers and more appropriate workplace atmospheres for all people with disabilities. In FY2021 our Workforce Development Unit made 1,421 new and follow-up contacts with Illinois businesses. Though much of DRS-VR work goes towards providing services to customers in need of employment, the role of this unit is to find those businesses that would make great employers for people with disabilities and bridging the gap between employer and customer. By building this network of employers, VR staff are able to match the skills of their customers with the best employer for their success. They ensure the business has the supports they need

to provide an atmosphere that allows our customers to work and earn at an equal rate to their able-bodied colleagues. These mutually beneficial arrangements are the backbone to our customers achieving competitive employment. In addition, this unit is fully integrated into the local WIOA centers and One-Stop communities so that wherever workforce needs arise, people with disabilities will always have the same opportunities as all Illinoisans.