1. Client is a 34-year-old male with paraplegia from a spinal injury. He uses a wheelchair and is dependent, for medical reasons, to transporting in a modified van. When working with VR, the client was unemployed and had been working to find employment in his degree area of security management. His primary complaint was that VR had denied his request for a safety-related repair to his modified van. The mechanism that secured his wheelchair in place while he was behind the wheel of the van was broken, which resulted in his wheelchair being unsecured as he drove, which was very unsafe. The cost of the repair had been estimated to be approximately $1,000. The VR counselor had decided that the client could take the bus, para transit or a cab, instead of making the necessary repair to his modified van. Unfortunately, none of the options presented by VR could accommodate the client’s medically documented need to have quick, as-needed access to necessary medical equipment housed in his van. Conversely, the VR counselor stated that the van could be repaired, but only after the client was employed. The current situation, however, prevented client from even interviewing for work. Thus, VR was effectively using the client’s disability to create an even greater barrier to employment.
As soon as CAP was contacted, the Advocate worked with the client to strengthen his documentation indicating medical necessity. The CAP Advocate also negotiated with the VR counselor and supervisor to educate them of the letter and spirit of federal regulation. After providing additional evidence and advocating for the client, VR finally agreed to the repair. Unfortunately, after VR’s agreement for the service, the VR staff then became nonresponsive to client or CAP’s attempt to communicate, which further prolonged getting the repair completed. This situation was resolved when CAP made it known that it was prepared to bring the situation to the Regional Manager’s attention, after which the IPE was amended to include the repair, and the repair proceeded. Due to CAP’s advocacy, the client was then able to look for work and once receiving a job, get to work safely, while meeting his medical needs.
2. The Client is an 18-year-old male with Autism. The Client initially came to CAP with two issues: one simply required a referral, while the other required direct advocacy from the CAP Advocate. His first issue was a misunderstanding about the differences between the VR process when it involves a person who receives Social Security disability benefits (the sibling) and a person who does not receive those benefits (the client). There was also a dispute about the client’s tax status as head-of-household, although the client was living in the family home. The Advocate directed the client to the appropriate entities to obtain clarification on these issues, which were successfully accomplished.
The second issue presented by the client was that VR would not support the client’s desire for a PhD in Geology in order to work as a Paleontologist. The client had worked successfully for ten years as a volunteer at a local natural history museum and was clear about his vocational goals. The client had also worked at Safeway for the past 18 months, throughout COVID-19; thus, he was able to demonstrate his ability to work under direction with good review and persistence in employment. He had also passed two college level classes with an A and a B. Additionally, he was paying rent to his parents, which he was proud to be able to do with some of his earnings. This was a young man with a great deal of personal drive, promise and potential. Although the client currently needed supports to achieve his employment goals, his overall goal was to work without supports in the future.
When the CAP Advocate became involved, she helped the client and his parents understand and plan for the client’s needs as he moved toward a vocation. Educational paths were explored. Then the client and his parents needed to understand how to approach and negotiate successfully with VR so when CAP stepped away in the future, the client would be able to advocate for himself. One large challenge was to craft an educational path that would work for the client and that VR would support. After a lengthy period of meetings between the client (and parents), the CAP Advocate and DVR, a plan was completed that included numerous supports for the client. Although the plan did not include the client’s desire for a PhD, it did commit to an associate’ degree with a statement in the plan that with successful completion of the degree, VR would support a bachelor’s degree at a specific state university that has an inclusion program. The plan also recognized that at least a master’s degree in geology would be necessary for the client, which could be obtained at the same university. VR also agreed that a doctorate would be considered upon successful completion of all prior education. The plan also included full provision for supports, including assistive technology.
Through CAP’s advocacy, the client was able to move forward with a plan, honoring his employment goal and skills, but taking smaller, meaningful steps towards his overall career ambitions.
3. The client is a 32-year-old woman with ADD/ADHD. She came to CAP when the state VR agency would not support her employment goal and choice of training. The client had primarily worked for years in her family’s business, which VR did not value as “real employment experience,” because it was a family business. The client had a few experiences with non-family employers, but the majority of her experience was with her family. The client’s choice for training was an out-of-state accredited school that provided an online program, which the client believed was formatted in a way that would work best in terms of her disabilities and her specific vocational direction. After researching in-state training opportunities, she determined that that was no comparable program within the state.
When the client approached CAP, she expressed that she wanted to learn self-advocacy skills to work with VR. The CAP Advocate worked with the client, reviewing documentation, discussing what would be required to provide to VR, and how to effectively advocate when talking with the VR supervisor. The client met with the VR supervisor alone several times and would then report back to the CAP Advocate. After each meeting, the Advocate and client would discuss what happened in the meeting with DVR and how to improve the client’s self-advocacy. The Advocate recommended that the client present her portfolio, that she had worked on for years, to the DVR supervisor, along with earlier records of her academic experience. CAP also recommended that the client develop a narrative of her multitude of duties in the family business, which was a very stable, long-term enterprise. Armed with this information, the client approached VR and invited them to do their own research to find an in-state institutions that had a comparable program to her desired out-of-state program, that would suffice for the client’s specific vocational and disability-related needs. After challenging VR to find a comparable program, the VR supervisor finally agreed to support the client’s employment goal and choice of out-of-state training. Through CAP’s assistance, the client was able to successfully self-advocate for her desired career goal and necessary training.