Whether a blind student is transitioning to college or a middle-aged woman wants to find work after a long time unemployed, rehabilitation counselors for the blind can help. Yes, I know the reputation some get for doling out the hands-on work to the teacher or mobility instructor. But, many rehabilitation counselors do a lot of home visits themselves along with managing big case loads. They have acquired a Masters in Social Work, a certification in Rehabilitation Counseling, and may also be a Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist.
It may seem to be a roadblock for someone who is blind and wants to blend in with his peers to work with a rehabilitation agency. Yet, the good counselor will have her resources at the ready for job coaches in your area. Whether thoroughly acquainted or not with assistive software or hardware, she will have a working knowledge of the devices that will accommodate someone entering college or the workforce.
I’ve work with many rehabilitation counselors over the years wherever I’ve lived and found most to be hard working, though often swamped in a sea of paperwork that can tire even the most energetic among us. My experience is to be cordial but up front with them about your needs. It’s not their individual fault that the system may move at a glacial pace or miscommunication between you and other workers in the blindness field happens. Yes, the layers of approvals and codes for everything seem mountainous-and they are…for your rehabilitation counselor, too.
If you’re seeing them for the first time, write an email thanking them for taking on your case and being willing to work with you on gaining your independence. Perhaps, as you look toward self-advocacy when barriers arise, your rehabilitation counselor will be able to meet them head-on with you instead of playing the reputed “no” game.
Where we who are blind or visually impaired get in trouble is forgetting appointments, forgetting to let our counselor or her supervisor know we can’t make a scheduled meeting, or we get caught up in the us-vs.-them tug-of-war.
I know. Sometimes, the rigidity of beginning your case or working relationship with a rehabilitation counselor may seem dry and taxing on your patience. For us who have spent a lot of time alone, isolated from the workaday world, long delays in service make you feel as if the system, you know the ever present “they,” ought to move faster. Sometimes, it needs to. Believe me! Yet, the rehabilitation counselor often has to follow the rules and budget set by their supervisors who may or may not be in the same office as they are.
I love finding out little tidbits about people’s lives and like using that info in conversations, even with a rehabilitation counselor. Small talk-and I speak as one who struggles with it-helps break the ice even during a subdued or somber appointment.
Currently, my regular rehabilitation counselor is out on medical leave. So, along with communicating with the people replacing him for now, I ask how he’s doing. If whoever works with you mentions something going on during their day or a matter about family, engage in this small subplot. Especially if you’re going into teaching or another helping vocation, it will show your rehabilitation counselor they mean more than just a vocal grab bag or roadblock on your way to independence. If you’re looking to make advocacy your career, you may gain some common ground in terms of learning from one another about caring for people with any number of disabilities.
So, today we say thank-you for rehabilitation counselors and their efforts to help us be boldly blind.
Your State’s chapter of Vocational Rehabilitation or Department of the Blind employs the vast majority of rehabilitation counselors that work for the government. You can meet similar case workers through the National Industries for the Blind, the Lighthouse for the Blind, Braille Institute of America, and other similar centers for daily living.
For more details including salaries for rehabilitation counselors and where you may train to be come one, visit http://www.afb.org.