Friday, March 21, 2014

She got one - why didn't I? Understanding Vocational Rehabiliation logic when it comes to funding AT

REVISED: 3/21/14

By Erin Hough
Disability Law Center of Utah

Does the assistive technology you're
asking for relate to an employment goal?
The mission of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) is to assist and empower eligible individuals with disabilities to gain and maintain employment. If you are found eligible for services you will be assigned a counselor whom you will work with to determine what services are necessary for you to get a job and keep it. One of these services may be an assistive technology (AT) device or service.

You and your counselor will work together to determine if you need the device to succeed at work. Not at daily living, not at recreation, at work. Come prepared to discuss this need with your counselor. 

Sometimes VR will cover a device in one case and not in another. This may seem inconsistent and unfair, but what they're really doing is looking at whether the device is necessary in that individual situation, to assist that individual with “preparing, securing, retaining, or regaining an employment outcome.”  

Everyone’s going to need something different to reach their employment goal. Here are some examples:

Covered (most likely): 

  • An IntelliPen to help someone with a learning disability to keep track of what was said in meetings or trainings at work.
  • Adaptive software for someone to access specific digital material at work.
  • A netbook and screen reader for someone who is blind to be able to do work related tasks such as taking notes and accessing emails and calendars.
  • An iPad for someone with an intellectual or developmental disability to be able to communicate work preferences and develop work-related skills.

Not Covered (most likely):

  • An IntelliPen for convenience, because you're tired of carrying your laptop around.
  • Adaptive software for someone who does not yet have a job and does not need it for education or job searching.
  • A netbook and screen reader for someone who is blind to access books or newspapers for leisurely reading on the go.
  • An iPad for someone with an intellectual or developmental disability to be able to communicate with caretakers at home.

When seeking funding for assistive technology devices, VR is mandated to search for comparable benefits. This means that before funding an AT device or service, VR will work with other agencies, programs, and providers to meet in whole or in part the cost of the AT service. If no comparable benefits are readily available, VR may fund the service until a comparable benefit becomes available.  

Any AT device or service provided by VR is intended to help you get and keep a job. Here are some examples where VR may or may not see a clear connection to an employment goal. 

May or May Not be Covered:

  • Van modifications to be able to get to work… and everywhere else.
  • A shower seat so you can have good hygiene at work… and everywhere else.
  • Power standing wheelchair
  • Hearing aids so you can hear what’s going on at work… and everywhere else.
  • Dedicated communication device so you can communicate at work… and everywhere else.
  • A ramp installed at home so you can get to work… and everywhere else.

We hope this helps! These cases can be difficult, so feel free to call the Disability Law Center with questions 1-800-662-9080.

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