Illinois has programs that help certain people with disabilities find work. These programs are:
- Vocational Rehabilitation: helps people with disabilities obtain employment
- Supported Employment Services: helps those with the most severe disabilities find and keep jobs
The Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) runs the vocational rehabilitation program, which includes supported employment services.
The federal goverment also has programs that help certain people with disabilities find work. These programs are:
- Social Security Administration - Ticket to Work Program
- Department of Education - Projects with Industry
Vocational Rehabilitation (VR)
Vocational Rehabilitation is a program supported by federal and state funds which helps people with disabilities prepare for and find quality employment that pays a living wage and offers opportunities for advancement. Services include:
- Guidance and counseling
- Job development
- Job placement
- Follow-up services to ensure that individuals remain on the job
VR can provide financial assistance for individuals to participate in vocational training programs at community colleges, or pursue a degree at a college or university. VR can pay for assistive technology equipment that can enable an individual with a disability to perform job functions more efficiently. Each individual works with a rehabilitation counselor working for DRS to develop a service plan to him or her achieve a specific employment goal.
Supported employment services
Supported employment means ongoing support services in a workplace where employees with disabilities interact with non-disabled employees. These services make sure people with the most significant disabilities have what they need to enter or keep competitive integrated employment.
Evaluation for Eligibility and Functional Limitations
To be eligible for the VR program, and individual must have a physical or mental impairment that limits their ability to work. To participate in supported employment, an individual must have a most significant disability as determined by a functional limitation evaluation conducted by a DRS counselor. This evaluation looks at 7 areas of functional capacity:
- Your ability to get around
- Your ability to take care of yourself
- Your ability to communicate
- Your ability to direct yourself
- Your ability to interact with others
- Your work tolerance
- Your work skills
Some examples of disabilities that qualify an individual to participate in the VR program are:
- Burn injury
- Cerebral palsy
- Cystic fibrosis
- Head injury
- Heart disease
- Respiratory or pulmonary dysfunction
- Mental illness
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscular dystrophy
- Musculo-skeletal disorders
- Neurological disorders including stroke and epilepsy
- Paraplegia and quadriplegia
- Sickle-cell anemia
- Specific learning disabilities
- End-stage renal disease
Supported employment services are based on your needs and must include at least workplace monitoring twice a month and any services you may need to maintain stability. Ongoing support services that you can receive include the following:
- Job development and placement;
- Social skills training;
- Regular observation and supervision;
- Help so that you can use the natural supports at the workplace; and
- Follow-up services in order to reinforce and stabilize the job placement.
Supported employment services usually last no longer than 24 months, or until you become stable or show substantial progress. After your case ends, you will be placed on an extended services plan.
If you think you qualify for vocational rehabilitation services, including supported employment services, you can apply online using the DRS online referral form, or by calling 877-761-9780 (voice) 866-264-2149 (TTY) or 312-957-4881 (VP).
Social Security Administration – Ticket to Work Program
Many individuals with disabilities would like to work, but do not know if they will be successful and fear losing their Social Security payments. The Ticket to Work Program can help.
The Ticket to Work program supports career development for Social Security beneficiaries age 18-64 who want to work. It is a free and voluntary program, and offers beneficiaries with disabilities access to meaningful employment through assistance of Ticket to Work employment service providers called Employment Networks. Beneficiaries can assign their “Ticket” to an employment network and receive free job and educational training through that organization.
A benefit of the Ticket to Work program is that social security beneficiaries are allowed to keep their benefits while exploring employment, receive vocational rehabilitation services and gain work experience. Beneficiaries remain enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare through the transition to work, and there are certain benefits if an individual is unable to continue working due to a disability
Individuals can receive Ticket to Work services if they are:
- Receiving cash benefits due to disability from the Social Security Administration (SSA). This includes SSI and/or SSDI benefits
- Entitled to Medicaid or Medicare benefits as a result of having received cash benefits, even if they are not currently receiving cash benefits from SSA
- Receiving a supplemental payment from a state
Department of Education- Projects with Industry
Projects With Industry can provide you with the following benefits:
- Training in realistic work settings in order to prepare you for work and career advancement in the competitive market
- Changing your employer's facilities or equipment
- Support services to help you keep the job you have
For more information, visit the Projects With Industry website.