By Lindsey Webster
The Vocational Rehabilitation Act was ratified in 1973 and has the purpose of protecting those with disabilities from discrimination, especially in the work place. The act also provides federal assistance for vocational counseling, training and job placement for people with mental and physical disabilities.
Every state has a department or division of vocational rehabilitation with offices located throughout the state. If you or one of your family members is interested in going to college, and has a physical or mental disability, your state’s vocational rehabilitation department can help them apply and receive school grants.
The process is simple, and because it is a grant, you will not be responsible for paying back the money when you graduate. Listed below are the steps to take to receive a vocational rehabilitation college grant:
- Call your local vocational rehabilitation office and explain your situation: Tell them what type of disability you or your family member has and that you or they are interested in going to college. Ask what steps you need to take to apply for a vocational rehabilitation grant. To ensure grant funds will still be available, you should contact the office at least five months before beginning your first semester of college.
- Set up an appointment: In most states, you will be assigned a vocational rehabilitation caseworker. This person will work with you throughout the years as you attend school. In your first meeting, you may need to bring a note from your family doctor or psychologist verifying your disability (this is especially true for those with mental disabilities).
- Verify the grant with your school’s Financial Aid Office: Once you have been accepted to a school, been approved for vocational rehabilitation assistance and received the grant, you will need to visit your school’s Financial Aid Office to verify their receipt of your grant information.
- Stay in touch: In order to continue receiving vocational rehabilitation assistance, you will need to periodically meet or speak over the phone with your rehabilitation counselor. Most state vocational rehab departments will also require you to submit doctor’s or counselor’s reports on the status of treatment for your disability every semester. You will also need to submit your grades to your caseworker at the end of every semester. If you do not comply with these requirements, your grant (and any other assistance) can be revoked.
Keep in mind that every state vocational rehabilitation office functions a little differently, although the overall process is very similar. For information on how to receive assistance, contact your state’s individual department.
Lindsey Webster has been a rehabilitation counselor for 15 years and also owns the site Masters in Counseling http://www.mastersincounseling.org/. She likes to write about different topics related to counseling and careers.