Funding for Work
For people with physical and/or mental disabilities (except the legally blind)
Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission: Vocational Rehabilitation
State vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies are a major funding source for assistive technology (AT) for working-age individuals with disabilities. Read more.
*Portions of this section have been adapted from the Delaware Assistive Technology Initiative funding fact sheet "Vocational Rehabilitation" available at www.dati.org.
State vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies are a major funding source for assistive technology (AT) for working-age individuals with disabilities. In Massachusetts, VR services are available through the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (which serves individuals with most physical and mental disabilities) and the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (which serves individuals who are legally blind). College AT needs may also be provided if classes are a clear part of an individual's vocational goals.
In order to be eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation's (VR) services at MRC an individual must:
- have a physical, psychiatric or learning disability(ies) which severly limits his or her ability to get and keep a job,
- have a desire to work,
- be a working age adult (age 16 or older).
Federal law requires that state VR agencies presume that a person with a disability is able to work, regardless of the severity of the disability, unless the VR counselor can clearly demonstrate otherwise. A counselor must exhaust all options, including AT intervention, before denying eligibility on the basis of a person's inability to work.
This same law exempts AT purchases from vocational rehabilitation agencies' customary "comparable services and benefits" regulations. This means that VR beneficiaries do not have to endure delays in obtaining AT while the counselor searches for other funding sources.
Currently, however, individuals with the most severe disabilities receive MRC's VR services before individuals who are not considered "severely disabled" (i.e. with "functional limitations"). This is due to a federally mandated "order of selection" system that prioritizes individuals into Priority 1, Priority 2, and Priority 3 categories (based on these "functional limitations.") The order of selection system is required whenever a waiting list for services is necessary. At MRC, people with the most severe disabilities are considered "Priority 1" and can expect to be served after a 3-4 month waiting period. Priority 2 and 3 applicants-as well as Priority 1 applicants who cannot wait-often apply to the Massachusetts Assistive Technology Loan Program instead.
Upon entry into a VR agency program, an applicant works with a counselor at either MRC or MCB to determine which services may be needed. After the client's needs are evaluated, an Individual Plan of Employment (IPE) is developed. The IPE should document any needed AT devices or services. Thereafter, the individual's counselor arranges for an evaluation for the necessary AT or services through referral to either MRC's Assistive Technology Department or MCB's Technology for the Blind program. At times, the VR agency will combine its resources with those of other public and private agencies (particularly employers) in order to maximize its ability to obtain AT for clients.
What AT Services are Provided?
At the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), Vocational Rehabilitation's Assistive Technology Department can provide home modifications, adaptive technology assistance (evaluation of the need for and purchase of devices), and adaptive driving/vehicle modification services to individuals working toward vocational goals. Examples of common AT solutions VR has provided include: adapted computer hardware and software, augmentative communication devices, van lifts and modified driving systems, wheelchairs, signaling devices such as door bell flashers and other adaptive devices for use in the workplace or classroom.
MRC has specific guidelines in the case of certain types of AT, such as home modifications and vehicle modifications. For example, in the case of vehicle modifications, the agency will condition eligibility based upon certain factors such as the age of the vehicle, mileage, and its condition, and the service must help promote or advance progress toward an employment goal.
VR may also refer individuals with severe disabilities to MRC's Statewide Employment Services (SES) department for job training, job placement, individual supports, and job development services. SES provides job placements to community-based or (less frequently) facility-based employment settings. Employment services can include AT devices and services in order to get and/or keep this employment. For persons with an externally caused traumatic brain injury (TBI), employment services-including AT-are sometimes also provided through MRC's Brain Injury and Statewide Specialized Community Services (BISSCS).
Find your local MRC VR area office.
Or call MRC at (800) 245-6543 Voice/TTY, (617) 727-1354 Fax.
MRC's Statewide Employment Services (SES)
Director James Fratolillo
Brian Injury and Statewide Specialized Community Services (BISSCS)
Director Nicky Osborne
Information and Referral:
(617) 204-3852 or (800) 223-2559 ex. 2