How Will Fewer VR Counselors Affect Deaf People Across the US?

Published on April 5, 2023

This is a rectangular image with a blurred background. In the foreground, two women are facing each other, engaging in eye contact and conversation. Only the back of one woman's head is visible, while the other woman is shown smiling.

Vocational rehabilitation (VR) services are an important part of the pathway to successful employment for people with disabilities. VR counselors, statewide coordinators, career advisors, case managers, and employment specialists play a large role in the quality of these services. The demand for qualified VR counselors is high – the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts nearly 10,000 rehabilitation counselor job openings per year for the next decade, a job growth rate that is faster than the average for all occupations.

On average, 8% of the people served by VR across the country are deaf.
That number is higher in some states – for example, 18% of VR consumers in Texas are deaf.

Historically, vocational rehabilitation has sought ways to better serve deaf people by providing staff who are uniquely trained and qualified (e.g., rehabilitation counselors for the deaf, 34 CFR § 361.18) and building relationships with organizations and educational programs that specifically serve deaf people. Deaf consumers have long preferred VR counselors who are familiar with deaf people and can sign (Luft, 2022).

Video description: https://tinyurl.com/whbhfhy

Why Are There Fewer VR Counselors in the Field?

There are fewer and fewer specialized positions for rehabilitation counselors for the deaf, and only around 2% of current VR counselors are deaf (American Community Survey, 2022). Many of those deaf VR counselors have recently retired, or are near retirement age. There is a national shortage of VR counselors who are qualified to work with deaf people. This is a problem because deaf people benefit from working with qualified and experienced professionals who have deep knowledge and familiarity with deaf communities. Many VR statewide needs assessments have identified a need to hire more VR counselors and psychologists with expertise in working with deaf and deafblind people, and to increase outreach with deaf communities (e.g., Iowa, Ohio, Texas). 

The national shortage of VR counselors with the necessary expertise to work with deaf people may be making an impact on the quality of services provided. Deaf people have to wait a longer period of time to get services, and deaf young people do not get enough pre-employment transition services. Some deaf people may be underserved, such as deafblind consumers, who may be more likely to be placed in unpaid employment (Cmar & McDonnall, 2019). White deaf people also get more services than Black, Indigenous, or Latinx deaf people (Palmer et al., 2020; Cuevas et al., 2021).

How Can You Help?

You can help by advocating for maintaining positions for specialized rehabilitation counselors for the deaf in your state and spreading the word about open VR positions across the country – check out the job openings below and share this with your colleagues!

Do you know of more open VR positions? We encourage you to share any available positions on our listserv!

Save This
ClosePlease login
Categories: All News
Useful For: Vocational Rehabilitation Professionals, Administrators, Disability Services Professionals

Other News Items

deafwomenshistorydata
March 29, 2024
All News
...Did you know that more deaf women are going to college than deaf men? It's true! About 6.4% of deaf women are in college compared to 4.2% of deaf men (Bloom, Palmer, Winninghoff, 2024). But overall, not many deaf people are going to college compared to those who can hear. That's because there are still some big challenges, like sign language interpreter shortages, financial barriers, and not as many deaf students enrolling overall....
summercamp
March 28, 2024
In The News and Opinions, All News
...For deaf youth, summer camps bring opportunities to build relationships, develop their identities, and strengthen skills for the future. Whether they are day camps focused on coding, virtual programs in the arts, or overnight outdoor adventures, research shows that summer programs can have a significant, positive impact on the lives of deaf youth....
Two person sitting and discussing while looking at a laptop.
March 15, 2024
...If you were unable to join us for our recent webinar, Breaking Barriers: Enhancing Self-Advocacy Skills & Navigating the Grievance Process for Deaf Students, don’t worry! We've got you covered with a recap of the essential insights on navigating college accessibility as a deaf student—especially when the process hits bumps along the way....

Need Help?

Fill out this form to get help from the NDC team.  Can’t see the form below? Click here to contact the NDC team.