What is Vocational Rehabilitation?

What is Vocational Rehabilitation?

While individuals with intellectual developmental disabilities might face any number of challenges and requires a spectrum of accommodations when it comes to day-to-day life, this does not and should not exclude them from the opportunity to live a well-rounded life that includes the ability to work. This is where state-run, federally funded vocational rehabilitation programs come into play, and can be a great resource for helping individuals with an IDD establish a sense of independence and contribute to their own financial stability. Let’s explore vocational rehabilitation programs more in-depth and see why they are so vital to the life experiences of those with an IDD.

Creating Common Ground

Vocational rehabilitation programs are designed to help individuals with a disability get or keep a job and help these individuals find meaningful careers. In many ways, these programs act as a liaison for those with disabilities. The goal is to open communication with potential employers in order to create a common language both parties can understand so as to identify what skills the individual with the IDD might have that will help them be successful in a role the employer has available. Once a role is agreed upon as appropriate, the individual might be able to perform in the role with minimal guidance but could also require accommodations such as the presence of a job coach, depending on the specifics of their IDD.

Considerations When Placing An Individual into Vocational Rehab

Just as an employer must consider the skills and capabilities of any potential employee without a disability, there are certain considerations employers and vocational coaches must take into account when collaborating to determine the best job fit for an individual with an IDD.

Interpersonal Skills

Individuals with an IDD might have trouble interpreting non-verbal cues or nuance in interpersonal communications. Another challenge they might face is that their IDD could cause them to interpret instructions or situations literally when a figurative interpretation might be more appropriate. Deficits in interpersonal skills might mean that the individual can perform in role, but struggles with collaborative work and understanding feedback from supervisors. A job coach would help the individual navigate these relationships effectively.


While individuals with intellectual developmental disabilities might be able to perform the various requirements of a job, they might struggle with transitioning from task to task, or recognizing when they should do so. Cognition issues might also manifest as an inability to remain organized and focused, even though they would be capable otherwise of handling a job’s workload. Such individuals would benefit from the job coach working side by side with them in order to help them remain organized and on task.


Depending on the type of disability an individual has, they might struggle with written or verbal instructions. They also themselves might have challenges in communicating either verbally or in writing. Working side-by-side with a job coach bridges the communications gap and ensures tasks are properly performed and directions or instructions are understood.

Work Tolerance and Skills

Attention and cognition deficits can influence an individual’s ability to keep on task, regardless of their inherent or learned skill level. This ability to meet the demands of the workplace can vary daily, and might require a number of different strategies employed by the job coach to keep the individual on task.

Vocational Rehabilitation Builds Independence and Confidence

At Hands of Heartland, we understand the empowerment that a sense of independence instills in individuals with intellectual developmental disabilities. Our habilitative services are designed to identify and hone their transferable skills and help identify opportunities for them to transition into the workforce. As one of the few contracted Vocational Rehabilitation providers in the Omaha and Bellevue region, we take the education and transition of those in our care very seriously. Our vocational coaches provide a seamless experience for employers, allowing a rewarding and empowering experience to be had by all.

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