Doing the DVR Shuffle

Doing the DVR Shuffle
By Dan Sullivan

Bring up the topic of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) and you’re bound to get an earful. That’s especially true for those of us with vision loss who have experienced this agency. Historically, we have been some of the DVR’s toughest clients. Nonetheless, DVR is a significant resource.

Despite the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), statistics reflect a high majority of working age individuals with vision loss are unemployed or underemployed. When it comes to being blind or visually impaired, getting a job remains challenging. Regardless of how fiercely independent we strive to be, a helping hand is needed. This is where DVR comes into play.

Having been a DVR client in five states, I know the good, the bad, and the ugly of dealing with this public service. Therefore, I’d like to share some advice. To begin, DVRs have transformed drastically over the years. When budgets were bigger and clients fewer, you got a boatload of training and resources. CCTVs, computers, and other assistive devices were readily provided. Many DVRs even had recruiters acting as your personal job search agent. My entry into a federal career came through a DVR agent who instructed me about Schedule A Appointments, helped me fill out the tedious forms, mailed out 100+ applications, and paid for my flight to a West Coast interview. Those were the good old days.

Years later when again needing DVR services, I began seeing the changes. The counselor assigned to me had lone coverage of almost half the state. Noticeably overwhelmed and frustrated, the only job seeking advice she could give was to sign up at a temporary placement agency. After rejecting this idea, I was documented as being uncooperative. Nevertheless, DVR backed me up when I landed a job on my own and equipped me with an adapted office computer system. Since then, I‘ve been upgraded twice more in my technology needs by this agency.

Nowadays, DVR can no longer be as generous. Our legislative budget crunchers have seen to this. If you need training, equipment, and other career needs, the rule of thumb today is to develop a structured business plan. Not only is there competition for jobs, yet you are now battling for DVR’s limited resources. These same limitations have impacted DVR’s staff through decreased training and increased turnover. In my last DVR encounter, staff changes led to me being reassigned three different counselors during a one year period. And by the way, when it comes to counselors, it’s important to establish a good partnership with this staff member.  Not all counselors have the skills or insights needed for your specific success. If this happens, don’t be afraid to exercise your right to request a change.

When partnering with DVR, assertively research what this agency can or cannot do for job leads, education, and business support. If roadblocks occur, tap the Client Assistance Program for third party intervention. And always keep in mind; it’s your own ongoing drive and determination that makes this process successful.

Dan Sullivan lives in Wausau, Wisconsin.

Featured image is a man and woman shaking hands at a business meeting.Relations is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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