VRS - Blind and Deaf Services (VRS)

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About


The VRS Blind and Deaf Program provides specialized assistance to Alabamians statewide through its four major programs: Blind and Low-Vision Services, Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Services, OASIS (Older Alabamians System of Information and Services), and the Business Enterprise Program.

Services are delivered by a team of specialized professionals who are trained in the unique communication issues, technology and culture of this population. ADRS also partners with other state and private organizations to ensure the consumer receives the best and most appropriate care possible to achieve their maximum potential.

Services


Blind and Low-Vision Services assists with job readiness and independent living skills to ensure success in employment. Orientation-and-mobility specialists assist Blind Services’ consumers in gaining independent travel skills and orientation to the work environment.

The program also works with Alabama employers in maximizing their resources by hiring qualified blind and visually impaired job applicants. Vocational Rehabilitation counselors visit work sites to assess job tasks and perform job analyses to determine positions that can be performed by qualified blind workers.

Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Services are provided by professionals who are trained in the unique communication issues, technology and culture of this population. Anyone facing a substantial barrier to employment due to these impairments is eligible and will receive assistance in preparing for a job, getting a job, and/or keeping a job.

All rehabilitation counselors for the deaf and hard of hearing are proficient in American Sign Language (ASL). In addition, staff interpreters can assist in communicating directly with consumers who use ASL as their primary mode of communication.

OASIS (Older Alabamians System of Information and Services) is a federally funded program designed to assist individuals age 55 and older who are blind or visually impaired to live more independently in their homes and communities. OASIS offers older Alabamians:

  • Guidance in adjusting to living with vision loss or blindness
  • Instruction in independent living skills
  • Low-vision examinations and devices
  • Mobility instruction in the home and the community
  • Training in using adaptive equipment and technology
  • Information and referral to appropriate agencies

These services are provided through a network of Vision Rehabilitation Therapists and Orientation and Mobility Specialists located throughout Alabama. OASIS also develops local support groups to encourage older adults who are losing their vision to share information and support others who are adjusting to vision loss.

For more information on OASIS, call 1-800-441-7607 or email OASIS-information@rehab.alabama.gov.

The Business Enterprise Program (BEP) provides qualified blind individuals with job training and employment opportunities through the management and operation of small businesses that are designed to provide independence through self-employment.

Created in 1936 by the federal Randolph-Sheppard Act, Alabama’s BEP provides employment for over 100 blind vendors who operate delicatessens, snack bars, cafeterias, vending machine facilities, vending routes, a gift shop, and five federal dining hall operations statewide. BEP sites include the Alabama Department of Transportation’s welcome centers and rest areas as well as commissaries and vending operations at Department of Corrections facilities.

FAQs


Any person who is blind, low-vision, deaf, hard-of-hearing, late-deafened, or deafblind, has a substantial barrier to employment due to their impairment, and needs assistance in preparing for a job, getting a job, and/or keeping a job is eligible.

Here are some of the services that consumers and employers can expect:

  • Vocational guidance and counseling
  • Vocational evaluation to determine skills, abilities and potential to work
  • Vocational training
  • Transition services
  • Adaptive equipment
  • Rehabilitation teaching
  • Orientation and mobility
  • Job placement assistance
  • Rehabilitation technology services
  • Entrepreneurial opportunities

For more information about services for the blind or visually impaired, call (800) 441-7607.

Some specialized services include:

  • Deaf culture and awareness
  • Communication techniques
  • Assistive listening devices and other rehabilitation technology
  • Interpreter services
  • Referrals and assistance to obtain services from specialized agencies
  • Specialized vocational and other training services
  • Audiological and hearing aid assessments
  • ADA requirements for communication accessibility
  • Resources for hard of hearing and late-deafened individuals

Our on-staff audiologists help consumers refine their auditory skills through the use of hearing aids and other assistive technology and develop individualized strategies for enhancing their ability to communicate and engage with the world around them.

Services are provided through a collaborative team approach led by a primary counselor and will involve a counselor for the deaf and a counselor for the blind, the staff audiologist, the technology specialist for the deaf and/or the blind, the orientation and mobility specialist, and a rehabilitation teacher. Rehabilitation staff interpreters as well as deaf support specialists are trained to communicate with people who are deafblind and can help when needed.

A person who is deafblind may receive the following services to help him or her get and keep a job:

  • Personalized strategic planning for achieving their employment goals
  • Testing for adaptive technology that could help with both hearing and vision
  • Assistive technology training
  • Guidance and counseling
  • Job site evaluation for adaptive solutions
  • Communication and problem-solving skills’ training
  • Coordination with other agencies
  • Discovery of personal skills, abilities and interests
  • Support services (interpreters, notetakers, etc.) for school
  • Job training and preparation for success at work

For more information about Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Blind and Deaf Services, email VRS-BD-information@rehab.alabama.gov, or call 334-293-7128.

OASIS offers older Alabamians:

  • Rehabilitation teaching services
  • Orientation and mobility instruction
  • Low-vision examinations and devices
  • Resource and referral information
  • Individual peer support
  • Support groups

These services are provided through a network of rehabilitation teachers and orientation-and-mobility specialists located throughout Alabama. OASIS also develops local support groups to encourage older adults who are losing their vision to share information and support others who are adjusting to vision loss.

For more information on OASIS, call 1-800-441-7607 (or TTY 1-800-499-1816) or email OASIS-information@rehab.alabama.gov.

The BEP program is a partner for blind/low-vision consumers who want to own and operate their own business. BEP connects them with vital guidance, training and resources to make them independent, successful vendors for a variety of food service and retail businesses.

While there are many entrepreneurial opportunities available, the majority of BEP sites are vending machine operations. Currently, Alabama’s blind vendors are managing more than 75 vending machine routes.

ADRS's blind vendors also employ more than 470 other Alabamians – many of whom also have disabilities – to assist in their small business operations.

ADRS administers the Alabama Scholarship for Dependents of Blind Parents / Textbook Benefits for Dependents of Blind Parents.

To be eligible, an applicant must:

  • Be an Alabama resident for at least five years
  • Be from a family in which the head of household is blind and whose family income is at or below 1.3 times the current poverty income level, as determined by federal poverty guidelines based on family size
  • Attend an Alabama public college, university or trade school within 2 years after high school graduation but before the age of 23

With this scholarship, the institution of higher learning waives tuition and instructional fees, and the amount for textbooks depends on the number of participants in the program. The scholarship is renewable up to four standard academic years of nine months each, and recipients must reapply each year.

For applications and additional information regarding this program, contact the coordinator of Blind Services, at 334-293-7315 (Montgomery office), or 256-362-0638 (Talladega office).

 Locations

ADRS State Office
602 S. Lawrence St.
Montgomery, AL 36104
P: (334) 293-7500
TFN: (800) 441-7607
FAX: (334) 293-7383

VRS Office Locations

800.441.7607