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Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities 

Section II. Background Information and Methodology

Current System for Delivering Vocational Rehabilitation Services in Ohio

Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) is the state agency that partners with Ohioans with disabilities to achieve quality employment, independence and Social Security disability determination outcomes. It is accomplished through its Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation (BVR), Bureau of Services for the Visually Impaired (BSVI) and Division of Disability Determination (DDD). A fourth area is the Division of Employer and Innovation Services (EIS), which is responsible for establishing and maintaining partnerships with employers.

Approximately 290 OOD counselors deliver VR services via 14 field offices located across Ohio, as well as from embedded locations, such as schools and OhioMeansJobs (OMJ) Centers. OOD also provides VR services through established case management and service delivery contracts with local and state agencies. During FFY 2017, 16 contracts provided a basis for delivering VR services. In addition to employment and independent living support programs, OOD is responsible for making disability determinations for the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs in Ohio.

OOD receives funding from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) for the following programs: Vocational Rehabilitation (through BVR and BSVI), independent living initiatives for older individuals who are blind (ILOB), and statewide independent living programs. VR services include activities designed to assist individuals with disabilities to engage in competitive employment capitalizing on their strengths, resources and abilities.

Elimination of the VR Wait List. Federal regulations require that when a State does not have sufficient resources to serve all VR eligible individuals in the State, it must implement an order of selection (OOS) that gives priority for services to individuals with the most significant disabilities (MSD). In 1991, Ohio’s VR program was placed on an OOS, which required the State to prioritize employment services to Ohioans with disabilities based on their degree of disability.

OOD had been operating under an OOS policy since 1991 and had been operating a statewide waiting list since December of 2008. OOD eliminated the waiting list for individuals with significant disabilities (SD) in June 2014. After eliminating this waiting list, OOD began providing services to individuals with disabilities (D) for the first time since 1991. In February 2015, the waiting list for all priority levels (MSD, SD and D) was eliminated. With the implementation of the current combined state plan, OOD is no longer operating under an Order of Selection.

Business as a Customer. OOD places a priority on engaging businesses in Ohio to form employer partnerships, creating employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities served by VR. The Business Relations Unit within the Division of Employer and Innovation Services is led by an Assistant Deputy Director and includes a Business Relations Manager, two Business Relations Liaisons, and five regional Business Relations Specialists (BRSs). From 2014 to 2017, the number of Disability: IN Ohio member businesses increased from 24 to more than 160.

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. In 2014, the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) became law. WIOA was the first legislative reform of the public workforce development system in more than 15 years and replaced the Workforce Investment Act of 1988 (WIA). WIOA, which authorizes funding for the state VR program, establishes VR as a core workforce development program and imposed regulations that require combined strategic planning and common performance measures among all state workforce development agencies, including workforce programs run by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, the Ohio Department of Higher Education, and ASPIRE (Ohio’s adult basic literacy and education program, formerly ABLE). Other areas of priority include heightened emphasis that employment outcomes achieved by the VR program meet the definition of competitive integrated employment and funding requirements on the provision of services, including pre-employment transition services, to students with disabilities.

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