States, including Connecticut, have specialized programs and protections for people with disabilities to ensure they have equal access to employment thanks to several landmark laws.
It started with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which authorized state Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services. In 2014, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) introduced additional changes such as requiring every state to set aside 15 percent of its budget on pre-employment transition services to work with youth. In Connecticut, that means students with disabilities ages 16 - 22.
Today, Connecticut’s VR program is run and managed by the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services, which is part of the Department of Aging and Disability Services. BRS helps individuals with significant disabilities to work competitively and live independently. Staff provide individualized services consistent with each person’s strengths to prepare them and support them to work and achieve economic self-sufficiency. BRS also works to develop effective partnerships with employers, and to provide them technical assistance, counseling, and support of pre-screened candidates.
What does the VR program offer?
BRS works with eligible applicants to develop an individualized plan. BRS Counselors will evaluate your skills as well as your interests and provide a wide array of services such as vocational and benefits counseling, job search assistance as well as training or education to help get, keep or advance at a job. BRS can even help with special equipment or technology to address disability-related barriers. Most services come with no cost.
How do you apply for the VR program?
Applying starts by contacting the nearest BRS office to your home. Applicants will be put in touch with a counselor who will answer questions and who will ask for information about the individual’s disability, about education and any past work or volunteer experiences. If necessary, BRS will ask about and pay for medical, psychiatric, psychological or other evaluations. Once BRS receives any and all requested information, the counselor will determine eligibility within 60 days.
Who is Eligible for the VR program?
People who have physical and/or mental conditions which have a substantial impact on their ability to enter or maintain employment and who can benefit from VR services to achieve employment and maximize career goals. The VR program serves persons with all disabilities except legal blindness, who are served by another division of ADS called the Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind (BESB).
What about students?
Students between 16-22 years-old who are in secondary, postsecondary, or other recognized education program who receive special education services could qualify for the Level Up program. This includes students who receives specialized instruction under an Individualized educational Plan (IEP), have a documented disability or receive accommodations under a 504 plan. Services include job exploration counseling, work-based learning experiences, workplace readiness training, and counseling on enrollment opportunities for postsecondary education programs. Students can also transition to adult VR services at the end of the program.
Take the first step
BRS has offices throughout the state that have specialists who can help you or answer your questions. Click here to find the Office closest to you. You can also call the main number at 800-537-2449 or fill out this Contact Us form.