Forum member AnnieDeaf posted a series of messages explaining how to utilize Vocational Rehabilitation services. Although her information is targeted towards late-deafened people, her information and suggestions can also help the born-deaf.
#1. Vocational Rehabilitation CAN help you.Many folks do not know that they are entitled to help from their State Dept of Rehabilitation Services if they have a significant disability, that effects their ability to get and keep employment. Part of the problem is that in each state is that different titles are used to describe the office. The mandates are that people who are employed but at risk of losing their job, or people who want to work and need help to do that are eligible. Vocational Services are NOT a welfare program. No one has to be destitute to get services. The following URL describes what vocational rehabilitation should be offering to everyone with a significant disability in every state:http://www.nls.org/vrbooklt.htm If you can not find Vocational Rehabilitation in your phone book or on the internet, then phone the national office for the title and phone number in your state.
Rehabilitation Services Administration
ADDRESS: 330 C Street, SW Washington, DC 20202
PHONE: (202)205-5482 TTY: (202)205-5538 FAX: (202)205-9874
After reading the above, do the following to prepare yourself for making an appointment with your local service provider:
1) prepare a letter that tells why you need hearing help to keep working or get a job.
2) make a copy of your last year's IRS report as they may ask for a copy.
3) prepare a budget showing what you spend and what your income for the coming year will be.
(remember to put in your savings for retirement, your savings for the new roof, etc.)4) make a list of all things that you think might help you get and keep a job: hearing aids, ALD's, smoke alarms, computer classes, counseling for stress and anger, ASL classes to learn signing… (Ask for whatever would help - don't feel guilty listing too much! They can only say no.)
When you've prepared yourself. It is time to make an intake appointment. USE Relay or a TTY to make your request even if you have an amplified phone you can use or ask someone to call for you. The next article will explain more about being ready for the appointment. Remember, if you are denied at any level you are entitled to appeal! They are required to see you, do an intake and give you a written copy of their denial or acceptance for services. Insist on that as it is your protection that you are not being "dropped through the cracks".
#2 The Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors and the Intake AssessmentBefore you go to the first appointment you need some REALITY. Counselors and staff of Vocational Rehabilitation in most places know little about late deafness and hearing loss. When this federally funded program was begun after WWII, most of the workers were trained to work with people in wheelchairs. Then many blind came in for services and found to need specialized services so special programs were set up for them. People who were signing deaf found out much later about the program and began to request services; then counselors who were trained in the needs of people who sign were employed in many places. Few people who were hard of hearing or late deaf have known about Vocational Rehabiliation so they haven't sought services and hence the staff had no training in helping them. How does this effect(sic) your first visit? Since the staff don't know that clear speech is not an indicator of hearing they will ASSUME if you talk a lot and clearly that you can hear well. To make avoid this I suggest talking little and taking a pad and pencil and asking them to WRITE everything they have to say to you. This is NOT a time to assume you heard everything correctly. When you go into the Counselor's office don't be afraid to ask them to sit with the light from the window coming onto their face to help you see their expressions and lip read a bit… again make SURE they write everything they say down.
A letter of introduction from you can give you some time to think and get a feel for the office. Remember now is NOT THE TIME to have that stiff upper lip, or show off your best business suit. You need to look like you need help, not like there is no reason for you to be there.
I suggest folks take a letter of introduction to explain why they are seeking Vocational Rehabilitation services - and to educate the counselor to the world of hearing loss. Word such as: "I am writing things down because I want to be involved in the development of my rehabilitation plan... and feel that I need to be respected and listened to. I was not born deaf, and I am having major problems adjusting to my hearing loss and I don't even know where to start to get the help I need.