A state-funded agency is working to help individuals with disabilities onto the right career paths.
Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services counsels high school students and adults with a wide range of disabilities. Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Paul Vogt said that as long as a person has an official diagnosis from a healthcare professional, the agency covers disabilities ranging from physical to psychological to cognitive.
Clients work with a counselor to determine what type of career and education opportunities are right for them. Vogt said some people who apply for services know exactly what they want to do. He estimated one out of every three has a clear career plan in mind.
“Those other people, that don’t have an idea of what they want to do, we help them think about what their options are, look at what’s available in the area and help them pick out a work goal that they can feasibly achieve,” Vogt said.
Counselors help clients receive training and write resumes and applications. The individuals can use resource computers to find jobs and other programs. The agency also provides funds for application clothing, work clothes and work supplies and tools.
Joseph Barlow has been a client with the agency off and on for years, ever since an accident at work left him with physical and mental disabilities. He is involved in IVRS’s self-employment plan and is going back to school to Clinton Community College for business management. He said the organization provides a great deal of help.
“They look for things that you wouldn’t be able to find,” Barlow said.
Shelly Haley is also attending CCC, majoring in psychology and sociology, with the help of IVRS. The agency provides $840 of her $1,700 tuition. Haley, who is high-pitched deaf, said the agency also helped her get hearing aids.
Rehabilitation Assistant Laurie Fay said the agency has had approximately 37 successful closures for the year, which runs from October to October. A successful closure is when a client is placed in a position. Vogt said this is favorite part of his job.
“Everytime someone gets at least that far (an interview for a job) and they’ve done all the steps to get there, you kind of feel like you’re with them,” Vogt said. “So when you get the call back after the interview, ‘Hey, they offered me a job,’ that’s far and away the best feeling that we get. That’s our end goal for everyone.”
With October being Disability Awareness Month, Vogt feels this is a time to highlight how capable people with disabilities are. He said most are able to do the same tasks that anyone can do, adding that people might not even know a co-worker has a disability.
“I’d say the takeaway probably from this month’s message is that people with disabilities are just as capable and they have just the same large variety of skills as those without disabilities and that employees should definitely be open to hiring people with disabilities,” Vogt said.
“When you’re looking at new applicants, not to judge someone by their disability but rather by heir skills”