2001 Conference Proceedings

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THE RIGHT TO ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY THROUGH VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION

Taymour Ravandi, Senior Attorney
PROTECTION & ADVOCACY, INC.
100 Howe Avenue, Suite 235N
Sacramento, CA 95825
ph. (916)488-9950

VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION

In this session, the speaker presents an overview of the vocational rehabilitation system and concentrates on issues relating to assistive technology. The presentation will entail a discussion of the legal requirements that facilitate access to technology for individuals receiving VR services. The attendees will receive written material, and are encouraged to share their experiences and ask questions.

The federal Rehabilitation Act provides for vocational (VR) and independent living services to people with disabilities. In California, the agency responsible for providing VR services is the Department of Rehabilitation (DR). Under state law, DR also administers the loan guarantee program.

Eligibility and Benefits

You are eligible for rehabilitation services if: (1) You have a physical or mental disability which is a substantial impediment to employment and (2) You require VR services to prepare, secure, retain or regain employment. If DR thinks you cannot benefit from its services, it must show that "by clear and convincing evidence."

To apply for DR services, you need to complete and sign a request for services form or otherwise request services; provide information necessary to determine your eligibility and priority for services; and be available to complete the assessment process. This can be done at any DR district or branch office located throughout the state. They are listed in telephone directories under the State of California, Department of Rehabilitation. DR must make a determination about your eligibility within 60 days.

Any time the state cannot provide services to all eligible persons because of a lack of funding, people with the most significant disabilities must be served by DR before other individuals with less significant disabilities.

VR services include any service or equipment that you need to achieve your employment goals. Equipment, often referred to as assistive technology, may be requested under the following benefits:

-Rehabilitation technology services;

-Vocational and training services;

-Physical and mental restoration services;

-Occupational equipment and tools;

-Alternative modes of communication;

-Transportation services; and

-Other goods and devices you need, including architectural barrier removal.

Authorization Process

Equipment and services you need must be described in a written document, called an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE). Your IPE is developed jointly between you and DR, and should be revised annually. For technology, your IPE must specify the items you need, how they will be provided to you in most integrated setting and who will provide them.

Appeal

If you disagree with any DR decision, you have one year to ask for an internal review. You can challenge the outcome of the review through mediation and/or in a fair hearing. Mediation is voluntary. It cannot be used to deny or delay your right to a hearing. A Fair Hearing is your opportunity to go before a panel called the Rehabilitation Appeals Board (RAB) and tell them why you think DR has made a wrong decision. Until the RAB's final decision, DR must continue the services you were receiving when the dispute arose. You have a right to submit evidence at the mediation or hearing. You also have a right to be represented in the mediation session or hearing by a person that you select.

The Client Assistance Program (CAP) is available to inform and advise all clients and applicants of all available benefits under DR. Upon request, CAP can assist and advocate for you at any stage of your appeal.

If you are dissatisfied with the RAB's final decision, you can challenge it in Superior Court within six months. You may ask CAP to help you decide whether to go to court. You will probably need an attorney for a court action against DR.

Other Programs

Individuals who have a significant disability are eligible to receive services they need to live independently in the community or with their families. These services are provided through independent living centers. Finally, those who are not DR clients may qualify for the DR programs that provide loan guarantees for acquiring transportation and assistive technology


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