contact me at

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I Hit the VR Jackpot

When it comes to people with disabilities, there is no end to
complaint about Vocational REhabilitation Services (VR).
Everyone has a horror story to tell. They go on and on about
what VR won't provide, and what services VR denied. It's really
quite sad.

When my VR counselor emailed me about wanting a meeting, I was in
a total panic. Due to my pain, I have not been able to work on
my VR goals. I was certain she was going to close my case. As
it turned out, she just needed to do an annual review.

So, I had a meeting today with my VR counselor and my Deaf-Blind
Outreach trainer. The trainer acts as an interpreter, but she is
also the one who will help me with goals and provide actual
training. I don't know how I get so lucky sometimes. I really
hit the VR jackpot.

First, let's talk about technology. I want to trade my Focus 80
braille display in for a Focus Blue. My counselor called the
place that provides this technology. It seems that I can't do a
trade-in. What I'm doing is considered a down-grade as far as
size and price. They don't accept trade-inns for down-grades.

The cost of of the Focus Blue is $2,000. I just paid nearly
$7,000 to buy a BRaille Note Apex. I'm not up to another big
purchase right now.

It will be okay, though. If I donated the Focus 80 to VR for
use with another client, they will pay for the Focus Blue.

They will also pay for Jawbone and Dragon Voice. This software
will allow me to speak to my computer instead of typing. That
will cut down on muscle strain and pain.

We will begin with trading the braille displays. Then the
Cleveland Sight Center will upgrade and reset my computer for
best use with Jaws. They will get rid of nasty, evil Norton's
anti-virus. They will install any new software and get the new
braille display set up.

The plan is for me to start computer training on October 1st.
I have waited so long for this and had to deal with so many
postponements. But finally, I think it's gonna happen.

My VR counselor was impressed that I paid for the Apex with my
own money. She says that it shows I am willing to contribute to
my case, instead of expecting the state to provide everything.
VR likes that. It makes them more willing to fund other

Next, we talked about my employment goals. I have decided that
my body isn't up for all the intense signing that would be
involved in getting a Masters degree. I'm not really upset
about that. To live with a chronic problem means making life
styles changes. You have to be willing to say, "No, that's too
much for me."

That is not to say I'm giving up on writing. I hope to return
to the Kent State for more writing classes in the Spring.
I'll still be a post graduate students taking undergraduate
classes. VR can't pay for that. I don't mind. I think the
experience is worth it, so I will pay myself. I feel most alive
when I'm sitting in those writing classes.

Ohio Rehabilitations Services has a new program called Customized
Services for employment. They will take what I want to do and
find a way to get me employed in that area. It's customized to
the needs of each client. That means they won't turn around and
say, "We can't help you because you are too disabled." My
passion is writing, so that is what we will focus on.

WE talked about other things, too. As far as classes go, I am
done with ASL. It's too much signing and too hard on my body.
Instead, I'd like to get involved in deaf socials and events in
my community. That would be a better way to improve my sign
skills, as opposed to sitting in a classroom doing silly

Something else randomly came up. We were talking about my new
medication. The VR counselor said she used to work at The
Hattie Larlham Foundation and many of the children there took
that same medicine. Let me tell you about Hattie Larlham. It's
a residence for children with profound developmental
disabilities. These children are about as severely disabled as
anyone can get. They can't walk, talk or use a toilet. They
suffer from so many medical problems. Seizures are common.
They all have mental retardation. Most can barely move at all.
Does that sound dreadful?

No, it is the most wonderful place in the world. I used to work
there when I was in high school and college. The motto is
"Comfort, Joy and Achievement." There are probably over 125
children living at the main building. They also have group
houses for adults, and they provide respite care and support for
families who want to keep their special child at home.

It's a place where the tiniest thing can be a major miracle.
When you talk to the children and they smile.... It's the most
beautiful feeling. These kids have so much spirit. It's
impossible to be around them without feeling something

Don't think of the place as an institution. It's a excellent
facility. They have a heated pool for relaxation and therapy.
There's a specially designed playground outside. They go to
school and on field trips. Volunteers do activities with the
children. Or they just sit and hold a child while talking to
them. That was always my favorite jobs.

The staff is well trained and very kind. You get the impression
that they actually love the children they work with. The kids
are clean, have nice clothes and their own bedroom area.
There's even a cool room with dangling lights, streamers,
sounds, tactile etchings or imprints and different types of
vibrating devices. This is all designed to stimulate various

I am now too disabled to work there. But I've long wondered if I
could be a volunteer. I'd just need someone to help me help the
child. I can hold and talk to a child. I can read braille books
with tactile pictures. I can do Play Doh and tactile art. I
feel I still have the ability to make a difference in the lives
of these amazing children.

We talked about this. They are going to work on seeing if I can
become a volunteer there. My DB trainer might even be able to do
this with me. I'm so excited about the possibilities.

All in all, it was a very good VR appointment. I appreciate the
opportunities I am being give. I can't wait to find out what
will happen next.

Watch out world -- It looks like Angie is coming back!

1 comment:

  1. Great post! It's so nice to have projects and opportunities ahead of you. Also, Hattie Larlham sounds like a wonderful place. I see you've been taking ASL classes, are you a new signer? You're right, the social setting is the quicker way to learn ASL. You learn signs quickly according to what you would use in a "real" situation.