For IMMEDIATE Release:
February 26, 2014
Jessica Michael (217) 558-1538
Veronica Vera (312) 793-2665
Program offers necessary tools to earn a living wage and become more independent
SPRINGFIELD, Illinois - More people with disabilities are finding jobs with help from a special program operated by the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS). The Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program helped 5,291 individuals with significant disabilities find gainful employment in 2014. This figure represents a 5.1 percent increase over the number achieved in the same time period last fiscal year.
"The Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program helps people with disabilities find quality employment that pays a living wage and offers a chance for advancement and independence," said IDHS Acting Secretary Gregory M. Bassi. "This is just one of the many ways we work in partnership with people with disabilities and their families to help them achieve full community participation through employment, education, and independent living opportunities."
2014 was the third consecutive year of positive growth for the VR program, with more than 15,000 people with disabilities becoming employed during that time period. Overall, the VR program served 42,422 people with disabilities last year.
The VR program success stories include Laura Martinez, a blind chef who achieved her dream of opening her own restaurant, Matt Buchi, whose passion for teaching and basketball led to a coaching position at the University of Illinois, and Nancy Swisher who works as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) caring the senior citizens.
Specialized VR services are offered for people who are blind or visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing, Hispanic/ Latino, or Asian with disabilities. The program also assists high school students who have disabilities plan for their futures after graduation through our Transition and Secondary Transitional Experience Program (STEP).
The Work Incentive Planning and Assistance Program helps people who receive SSDI/SSI benefits understand how working will affect their benefits. The Supported Employment Program (SEP) serves eligible people with significant disabilities who want to go to work and need on-going support services to succeed on the job.
Many people with disabilities of working age (16-64 years old) are eligible for VR services. To be eligible, they need to have a significant physical or mental impairment that makes it difficult to go to work. IDHS provides services in 46 local offices located in communities throughout the state.
The Division of Rehabilitation Services, the state's lead agency for services for people with disabilities also works with corporate partners and offers training, education and incentives to increase the number of people with disabilities in the workforce.
To meet some of the people who have achieved success through the VR program visit: http://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=51120