A Toolkit for #DeafSuccess: Vocational Rehabilitation Professionals
Data shows there are gaps and barriers for deaf people when accessing vocational rehabilitation (VR) services:
- Only about 0.6% – 3.8% of enrolled deaf students between 2015-2016 were documented as being funded by VR to attend college or job training. (source: Undergraduate Enrollment of Deaf Students in the United States)
- More deaf people were put on VR waiting lists in lower priority categories than people with other disabilities.
- Less deaf youth received Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) compared to youth with other disabilities. (source: Deaf People and Vocational Rehabilitation: Who Is Being Served?)
For these reasons, VR professionals play an important role as gatekeepers to provide services and support for individuals with disabilities to make informed decisions to maximize postsecondary training, employment, independence, and community inclusion.
This includes deaf people seeking higher education and vocational training as well as deaf youth preparing to transition after high school. VR professionals should have a nuanced understanding of deaf people’s diverse sociocultural identities, values, goals, communication preferences and access needs to close gaps in education, employment and VR services.
Professionals should also be aware of the laws protecting and supporting individuals with disabilities in education, employment and community settings. Additional considerations are necessary to effectively provide deaf youth with Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). This toolkit is a combination of resources, guidance and tools to support VR professionals to effectively collaborate with deaf people and their career pathways.
Vocational rehabilitation (VR) professionals play an important supporting role in the transition from high school to continued education or employment. VR professionals need to be prepared to provide high-quality and individualized services for deaf people, who have diverse sociocultural identities, values, goals, communication preferences and access needs. To improve the services you provide to deaf people, consider these tips below. Download these tips here.
Recognize the diversity of deaf people and deaf communities. Deaf people are a highly diverse population with a wide range of communication preferences, sociocultural backgrounds and additional disabilities that shape their interactions with their environment. Learn more about the diversity within the deaf community and strategies for increasing accessibility in your setting by taking a Deaf 101 course.
Learn about how to center deaf people in decision-making. Deaf people are diverse with different aspirations, experiences, backgrounds, values and needs. As a professional, recognizing the deaf person’s layered identities and communities is critical to ensure individualized services and the person’s ability to exercise informed choice. This course shares stories and expert lectures by deaf people coupled with research and additional information on the importance of centering deaf people.
Provide appropriate accommodations for assessments. Deaf people are uniquely at a disadvantage for English-based testing. Learn more about what constitutes reasonable accommodations for placement tests, standardized assessments and psychological evaluations
Assess deaf students’ self-determination skills. Self-determination skills are an important component of success. The Self-Determination Inventory (SDI), which is accessible in ASL, measures students’ self-determination skills. An individualized report will provide detailed information to assist in planning to strengthen self-determination and self-advocacy skills.
Encourage the development of self-advocacy skills. Vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselors who work with deaf clients are in a unique position to support deaf clients’ self-advocacy skill building, especially during the transition into the workforce and other postsecondary settings. This research brief explores strategies on how to promote self-advocacy knowledge and skills for deaf people within employment and educational contexts.
Strengthen college readiness among deaf students. There are many barriers that may result in deaf people being less prepared for college. Increasing readiness is a shared responsibility between students, professionals, and institutions. Learn more about this process, and strategies for increasing readiness
Maximize opportunities for pre-employment skill development. There is an increased focus to support students with disabilities with the transition to life after high school. This guide discusses relevant resources, context, practices and considerations to support vocational rehabilitation professionals in the provision of the five required categories of Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) for deaf youth.
Use online gaming to strengthen transition skills. Deafverse is an interactive game that supports the development of self-advocacy skills and work readiness for deaf youth. Players navigate common situations in a variety of settings including community, school, and the workplace. Learn more at nationaldeafcenter.org/deafverse
Pursue professional development opportunities. There are a variety of free e-learning opportunities for professionals who support the postsecondary success of deaf students. Courses include Deaf 101, Deaf-Centered Practice, Effective Communication Access, Test Equity, and more. Earn CRC clock hours by taking courses.
Believe in the potential of deaf people! #DeafSuccess spotlights working deaf professionals in a range of fields and industries. Role models are one way to foster high expectations, self-esteem and self-determination in deaf youth.
- Only 48% of deaf people are employed, compared to 72% of hearing people*. Furthermore, only 18% of deaf people receive bachelor’s degrees, compared to 33% of hearing people*. Employment rates rise with more training and education, but complex and underlying factors play a significant role in the persistent gaps in postsecondary achievement between deaf and hearing people. Learn more about diversity, communication and postsecondary outcomes within the deaf population.
- The Deaf Community: An Introduction
- College Readiness for Deaf Students
- Effective Communication
- Deaf People and Educational Attainment in the United States
- Deaf People and Employment in the United States
- Root Causes and Key Impact Areas: Navigating Toward Successful Postsecondary Outcomes
- Online Courses (available for CRC clock hours)
There are a range of accommodations that when utilized appropriately make it possible for deaf people to equally participate in education, employment and social settings. Learn more about access options and how to collaborate with deaf people to individualize accommodations.
To learn more, take our free Effective Communication Access Course Series available for Professional Development Clock hours.
- Assistive Listening Systems 101
- Dual Accommodations: Interpreters and Speech-to-Text Services
- Interactive Process Tools
- Sign Language Interpreters: An Introduction
- Speech-to-Text Services: An Introduction
- Why Test Accommodations Are Important for Deaf Students
- Remote Services
- Remote Interpreting Services
- Laws, policies and procedures that ensure equitable access to education, employment and the community are critical in reducing barriers for deaf individuals to access a range of opportunities. Federal laws refer to concepts such as “effective communication,” the “interactive process” and the “subjective experience” of an individual with a disability. Understanding these concepts and legal protections of deaf individuals will support proactive planning and reducing barriers to postsecondary environments.
- Job Exploration Counseling
- Work-Based Learning Experiences
- Counseling on Postsecondary Opportunities
- Workplace Readiness Training
- Instruction in Self-Advocacy
- Plan Your Future: A Guide to Vocational Rehabilitation For Deaf Youth
- Developing Readiness for Effective Self-Advocacy: Perspectives From Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors Who Work With Deaf Individuals in Postsecondary Settings
- Self-Advocacy Skills and Transition Planning for Deaf Students
- Self-Determination Inventory in ASL
- Role Models as Facilitators of Social Capital for Deaf Individuals: A Research Synthesis
- Research Summarized! Promoting High Expectations for Success