Where can I get services to return to work?

You can contact Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) and request vocational rehabilitation services. OOD has two (2) agencies that provide those services plus several agencies that partner with it to provide those services:

The Bureau of Services for the Visually Impaired (BSVI) provides services (including educational and other services) to individuals who are blind, deaf-blind, or who have very poor vision and who need help to qualify for, find, or keep a job.

The Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation (BVR) provides services (including educational and other services) to individuals with physical or mental disabilities who need help to qualify for, find, or keep a job.

Additionally, OOD has contracts with many third-party entities, such as private not-for-profit agencies and County Boards of Developmental Disabilities, to provide vocational rehabilitation services.

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What if I need assistance to make services accessible to me?

All programs and services that are funded by the Rehabilitation Act must be accessible to you if you have a disability that substantially limits your mobility, hearing, sight, or other functioning. This means that anything reasonably required for you to be able to participate fully in your program and services must be provided so that you can be an equal partner in discussions, choices, and program participation. All agencies, offices, facilities and services described in this booklet should therefore be accessible to you.

Assistance that you need to access offices and services listed in this booklet will be provided to you without charge if you identify what you need. This may include:

  • Materials in your native language if you do not speak and/or read English;
  • Written materials in large print, Braille or on audio tape;
  • Sign language interpreters;
  • Computer assisted communication;
  • Assistive listening or speech devices;
  • Other needed technology or assistance; or,
  • Support for the involvement of your representative if you request or need one.

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What if I do not speak English?

Program staff will make every effort to communicate in your own language. If English is not your primary language and you want to contact the office by telephone, you may wish to seek the assistance of a friend or family member who speaks English.

You can request a counselor or case worker who is fluent in your language. If no one in that office is, ask if there is a convenient office where someone does speak your language. If there is not, ask that an interpreter be present for your meetings so that you will be able to fully participate and understand.

If you cannot speak or hear on the telephone, you can reach all offices through TTY or Relay Service.

BSVI has counselors for individuals who are deaf-blind. They are skilled in communication methods and technology used by individuals who are deaf-blind.

BVR has counselors who have expertise in deafness and fluency in sign language. They also know about technology that can be used to communicate with people who have a hearing loss but who do not use sign language.

There also may be partner agencies that specialize in your disability or have counselors that speak your language.

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Are my records and my conversations with my counselor or case worker private?

Yes! All agencies funded by the Rehabilitation Act are required to keep any paperwork about you and any conversations with you private. Information about you can be released ONLY if you give permission in writing. (Exceptions may be made in connection with law enforcement, fraud, or judicial order.)

You may be asked to sign forms which give the agency permission to collect information about you. These forms must show exactly who is being asked to supply information and the scope of the information being requested. The forms should state clearly the period of time for which the consent will remain in effect. It is your choice as to whether to give or withhold consent for the gathering of this information.

Your counselor or case worker will explain the purposes of getting and keeping any information about you and the reasons for providing information to any other agency. The purpose should be stated in the form itself, as well.

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Vocational Rehabilitation Programs

How do I know if I am eligible for vocational rehabilitation services from OOD?

Your counselor will give you all the information you need about determining your eligibility for services. If you need evaluation services, he or she must explain your choices of services. These services must be provided in the most integrated setting possible and chosen by you. (An integrated setting is one that includes people who have disabilities and people who do not have disabilities.)

Your counselor does the review and any necessary assessment to see if you meet all of the following four requirements:

  • You must have a physical or mental disability.
  • Your disability must create a substantial barrier to your ability to be employed. This means that the counselor must consider your disability or disabilities along with medical, psychological, vocational, educational and other factors that interfere with your ability to prepare for a job, enter a job or keep a job that is consistent with your abilities and informed choice.
  • You must require vocational rehabilitation services to prepare for a job, to enter a job, to actually work, or to keep a job that is consistent with your strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, and informed choice.
  • You must be capable of benefiting from vocational rehabilitation services, in regard to getting or keeping a job. That is, you must not be so severely  disabled as to be unable to benefit from those services.

(If you receive Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income - due to disability - you will be presumed to meet all of these requirements.)

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What will the counselor do to determine if I am eligible?

To the extent possible, he or she will:

  • Review existing information about you;
  • Review records of your education;
  • Review information provided by you and your family;
  • Review information (if any) about you from the Social Security Administration;
  • Review information from other agencies where you have received services.

If there is not enough information to make a decision about whether or not you are eligible or if information is not available or is inappropriate, the counselor may arrange for additional assessments.

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How long does this take?

The counselor has sixty (60) days from the time you apply (by letter or by written application) to determine whether or not you are eligible for services BUT should use only the amount of time necessary. This time can be extended only:

  • If you agree that there are unusual and unexpected circumstances beyond the control of the agency that prevent your eligibility decision from occurring within 60 days; or
  • If the counselor has reason to believe that you are not eligible and provides you with trial work experiences to determine whether or not there is clear and convincing evidence that you, in fact, are not eligible.

If you disagree with your eligibility decision, you can appeal the decision. (See our FAQ on VR appeals.)

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How do I apply and how soon will I be seen?

You may apply to any of the agencies in several ways:

  • Call the office and request an appointment.
  • Write a letter to the office and state that you want to apply for services.
  • Obtain the application from OOD's website
  • Go to the office and ask to meet with a counselor.

Every effort should be made to schedule an appointment with you quickly.

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Will I have a written plan?

To receive vocational rehabilitation services, you must have an individualized plan for employment (IPE). Your participation in developing this plan is very important. It will ensure that you get the services you need and ensure maximization of your potential by matching the employment you are seeking with your skills, priorities, interests, and abilities. Your highest job goal should be included in your plan.

You may choose to develop this plan yourself or you may choose to do it with the assistance of your counselor. The plan must be in writing and it must be on the forms supplied by the agency. Your counselor will work with you to develop the plan soon after you have been determined eligible so that you receive the services you need to get or keep a job. Your counselor will also explain all of the agency guidelines and requirements affecting your plan. When you and your counselor have agreed on your plan, you will be asked to sign it, and your counselor will approve and sign it.

Your IPE will be reviewed with you frequently to be sure that your needs are being met. If you and your counselor decide that changes are needed in your job goal or services, you will be asked to demonstrate your agreement to these changes by signing a revised plan.

Remember that you can make choices about the work you want to do, the services that you will receive, and the providers of these services. When your individual plan is completed, your counselor will give you a copy. It will be provided to you in your native language, in large print, in Braille or on audio tape, if necessary.

The basic parts of the IPE are:

  • Your job goal;
  • The services you need to be successful at work;
  • The providers of your services;
  • Who will pay for these services
  • and, a process for review of your progress toward getting or keeping your job.

When you and your counselor develop your plan of services, it may outline the responsibilities of everyone involved to assure that you receive these services.

If you and your counselor cannot agree about your job goal or services, you can appeal. (See our FAQ on VR appeals.)

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What services might I be able to get?

OOD and the partner agencies provide goods or services that you need to get a job, return to your job, keep a job, or get a better job. Services may include:

  • Evaluation of your rehabilitation needs;
  • Counseling and advice;
  • Vocational and other educational services;
  • Treatment to help improve your physical or mental condition as it relates to employment;
  • Living costs you would not have if you were not participating in a rehabilitation program;
  • Interpreter services if you are deaf;
  • Reader services if you are blind;
  • Personal assistance services while you are receiving vocational rehabilitation services;
  • Instruction in independent living and independent travel if you are blind;
  • Transportation you need to access rehabilitation services;
  • Telecommunication, sensory, and other technology;
  • Rehabilitation technology services;
  • Assistance you need to obtain needed services from other agencies;
  • If you are a high school student, assistance as you move from school to rehabilitation programs;
  • Work licenses, tools, equipment, and initial stocks and supplies you may need to start a business;
  • Assistance you need to find a job;
  • Job coaching to learn job tasks and expectations;
  • Follow-up to support employment success and satisfaction;
  • Training to employers about laws to prevent disability-related discrimination;
  • Other services you need to work.

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Do I have choices in services and where I get these services?

Yes! In conjunction with your vocational rehabilitation counselor, you will be able to select your job goal, the activities and services needed to reach the goal, and the providers of your services. Your counselor or case worker will help you to find information about your options.

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Do I have to pay for the services provided?

The agencies may ask for client contributions towards some services, but you NEVER have to pay for the following services:

  • Evaluation to determine whether or not you are eligible, and to determine your priority for services if the agency is using an Order for Selection for Services;
  • Evaluation to determine the services you need;
  • Rehabilitation counseling, advice, and referral services; and
  • Services to help you find a job.

You may have to pay for some costs of tuition, fees and books if you attend a post-secondary college or training program. Ask your counselor for information on the training rule.

For all other services, you may have to contribute financially and use any available resources if you are able. You will be asked to provide information to make this determination.

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What if my counselor and I do not agree?

Remember that you have a right to dispute any decision if you do not agree. You (or your representative) may ask for a timely review of any decision that your counselor makes.

Procedures for this review are available from any counselor or office. You will need to give written notice of your desire to appeal such a decision. That notice must be submitted to OOD within thirty (30) days of the date you were informed of the decision. (See our FAQ on VR appeals.)

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Do you have any tips for getting the best service?

Here are some tips:

  • Keep asking questions until you are sure you have enough information to make good decisions about your job goal, services, providers of services, and location of services.
  • Be sure your job goal matches your abilities, desire, interest, and priorities.
  • Ask about the success of the service or program you are considering for provision of your service.
  • If you think there are delays in services, call your counselor or case worker.
  • Try not to drop in without an appointment because your counselor or case worker may be unavailable.
  • When you arrange for an appointment, state the reason so the counselor or case worker will be prepared for your visit.
  • At the end of any visit with your counselor or case worker know what both you and your case worker must do next.
  • Anything that you are required to sign may be signed by someone you authorize to represent you.

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Case Closure

  • Be sure you are successful and comfortable in your job before you agree to your case being closed.
  • Before your case is closed, discuss with your counselor or case worker any service you think you might need in the future to keep your job.
  • After your case is closed, remember that you can request additional services that you may need to keep your job, regain your job, advance in your job, or move to a better job. This may require that you undergo an additional application process.

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Making The System Work For You

Referral and Initial Interview

  • If possible, make an appointment before you go to the office so that you will know if there is helpful information you can bring along and so that any accommodations you need would be ready for your appointment.
  • When you call for an appointment, ask for directions and parking instructions.
  • If you do not drive, ask for information about public transportation or other transportation that meets the needs of people with disabilities.
  • If you are not able to get to the office, ask if a counselor or case worker can come to your home.
  • Make a list of all of your questions.
  • Bring your Social Security card and your Immigration card (if you are not a United States citizen) to your first visit.
  • Be prepared to describe your disability in terms of how it interferes with your work or ability to live independently. Think about possible solutions.
  • Be prepared to discuss your work history.
  • Learn as much as you can about the agency and its services.

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Eligibility and Rehabilitation Program

  • Be available to work with your counselor or case worker during the time he or she collects information to establish whether or not you are eligible for services.
  • Advocate for yourself! Let your counselor or case worker know what you want and why you think it is reasonable.
  • Participate when it comes time to plan the services you will receive.
  • Ask questions. Be sure you understand what you are asked to do.

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