In 2018, during my senior year of high school, I was referred to the local vocational rehabilitation office. Vocational rehabilitation exists to help people with disabilities gain employment and postsecondary education. I went into my first meeting feeling very apprehensive. The counselor I met with was friendly and helpful.
Initially, the vocational rehabilitation office provided a tuition waiver as well as money for the commute to and from school. The college is approximately 50 minutes away from home, so the gasoline stipend was helpful to offset the cost of higher education. Commuting approximately 88 miles round trip gets expensive. I had found their support to be beneficial at first, and I was excited to see what sort of job supports they might be able to provide for me after finishing college.
However, my counselor soon moved to a different part of the office. This meant that I would be assigned a new counselor. I met with this new counselor once in person. I had hoped nothing would change. I soon realized that trying to get in touch with anyone at the office was nearly impossible. I left messages and e-mails that went unanswered. It became frustrating trying to reach anybody. I finally gave up on trying to pursue services through the vocational rehabilitation office. I was very disappointed with my experience.
My purpose behind pursuing a college education was so that I eventually would end up gainfully employed. This was especially important to me given that in 2017, only 37.7% of working age disabled people in my home state of Massachusetts were employed. This means that 62.3% of working-age disabled people in Massachusetts were unemployed. I wanted to contribute to society and pay taxes just like so many non-disabled people do.
I hope that if sometime in the future I try to pursue employment through vocational rehabilitation, my experience is more positive. Vocational rehab can be a beneficial program; I am disappointed that this wasn’t the case for me.
O’Neal, Vivian. “1,014 Massachusetts Residents with Disabilities Lose Jobs, Bay STATE Drops to 27th in Nation.” The RespectAbility Report, RespectAbility, 27 Mar. 2019, therespectabilityreport.org/2019/03/27/1014-massachusetts-residents-with-disabilities-lose-jobs-bay-state-drops-to-27th-in-nation/.