Bridges Blog Employment Resources Series: Find Financial Freedom February 2024

Exploration and Support from DORS/OBVS

Find Financial Freedom with Our Bridges Resource Library

This month, we highlight after-high school opportunities from free tuition to work incentives that help blind/low vision students Find Financial Freedom!

  • February 6: Free Tuition? Yes!
  • February 13: Exploration and Support from DORS/OBVS
  • February 20: College and Lifelong Resources and Services from Maryland Library for the Blind
  • February 27: Work Incentives from Social Security

This week, we check out the great services available from Maryland’s Vocational Rehabilitation agency, the Division of Rehabilitation Services/Office of Blindness & Vision Services (DORS/OBVS).

Bridges’ Support Always Available

Before diving into DORS/OBVS, please remember that we at the Bridges Technical Assistance Center are eager to help you access vocational rehabilitation services – or to provide information to help you decide when and whether you want to pursue these services.

We also offer support and advocacy services for current DORS/OBVS customers – from support and information to solutions-oriented advocacy. We truly believe in building bridges!

Vocational Rehabilitation

What is vocational rehabilitation?

Vocational rehabilitation consists of services and tools geared toward helping individuals find and keep employment. These services include both disability-specific training and traditional post-secondary education, like college, community college, and job-specific training. These services also include supports like career counseling, technology training, and disability-specific instruction, like orientation and mobility, cane travel, and independent living supports.

Tell me about vocational rehabilitation services in Maryland

Disabled Maryland residents receive vocational rehabilitation services through the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) and its Office for Blindness & Vision Services (OBVS). In addition to accessible assistive technology and rehabilitative instruction and services. These services can include college/university tuition, fees, and room and board.

“DORS partners with people with physical, emotional, intellectual, developmental, sensory and learning disabilities who want to keep a job or become employed, by providing services such as career assessment and counseling, assistive technology, job training, higher education and job placement.” From How Can DORS Help Me? web page.

DORS offers blind/low vision individuals specialized blindness/low vision services and supports through its Office of Blindness & Vision Services (OBVS). OBVS staff specialize in specialized blindness/low vision supports as well as other vocational rehabilitation services. In addition, as an arm of DORS, OBVS staff communicate and coordinate with other VR professionals to support individuals with disabilities in addition to blindness/low vision.

DORS/OBVS Services for Students (Ages 14-21)

As noted above, “OBVS teachers, counselors and technical specialists are specially trained to help individuals who are blind, vision impaired or deaf-blind.” From Blindness & Vision Loss Services web page. OBVS supports blind/low vision clients of all ages, from transition (Pre-ETS) services (ages 14-21) through Employment/VR services and the BEP program to ILOB (Independent Living Services for the Older Blind).

Examples of OBVS services include:

  • Career guidance and exploration
  • Assistive technology (AT), such as screen reading software, magnifiers, and low vision aids
  • Career training or academic education
  • Independent living skills training, such as safe cooking techniques and managing personal care and household tasks
  • Orientation and mobility (O&M), such as instruction in safe travel or use of a long, white cane
  • Job placement

From Blindness & Vision Loss Services web page.

Pre-Employment Transition Services (From DORS’ Pre-ETS web page)

Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) are five specific services designed to help students with disabilities identify their career interests and enhance their awareness of the world of work.

  • Job Exploration Counseling – explore a student’s skills and interests and career opportunities.
  • Instruction in Self-Advocacy – learn strategies for effective communication of one’s interests, needs
  • Counseling on Post-Secondary Education Opportunities – gain awareness of career pathway options and the variety of opportunities for post-secondary skill development.
  • Workplace Readiness Training – learn the knowledge, skills and abilities that make employees valuable in the workforce. Including: how to interact with peers and supervisors, importance of timeliness, and building an understanding of how we are perceived by others.
  • Work-Based Learning Experiences (WBLE) – complete learning objectives through work opportunities and experiences outside of the traditional school setting.

Student Employment Services (From DORS’ Student Employment Services web page)

These include:

  • Career counseling and decision making based on the student’s interests, abilities, and goals.
  • Skills and job training to prepare for employment.
  • Disability-related skills training.
  • Post-secondary education.
  • Job search and job placement services.
  • Job coaching and supported employment services.
  • Assistive technology solutions for disability-related needs.

DORS/OBVS Services for Adults Older Than 21

Employment Services (From DORS’ What Can I Expect? web page)

These can include:

  • Career counseling
  • Career assessment
  • College or career training
  • Work-readiness training
  • Assistive technology
  • Job placement
  • Job coaching
  • Other support services

Maryland Business Enterprise Program for the Blind

“The Maryland Business Enterprise Program for the Blind (BEP) is authorized by the Federally mandated Randolph-Sheppard Act that provides persons who are blind with the training, licensing, and oversight to manage the operation of successful retail concession, food service, and vending operations in federal and State of Maryland facilities.” From MD Business Enterprise Program for the Blind web page.

BEP is a great option for blind/low vision individuals who are interested in owning their own business – particularly in the restaurant/food service industry. Through BEP, blind/low vision individuals receive BEP-specific instruction in business and food service areas, on-the-job training, and support for starting up their businesses. The BEP even provides ongoing support for its vendors.

Please check out the Bridges Technical Assistance Center’s Resource Library today!

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Bridge’s Technical Assistance Center’s Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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