By John Zamora, M.S., CDMS

Every state has a State Department of Rehabilitation or a State Commission for the Blind/Vision Impaired to assist individuals with employment and employment preparation. These agencies employ counselors, also called Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors, who can help you determine your career goals and create your individualized vocational plan, also called the Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE).

If you qualify, these services are free of charge and can provide you with help and information in locating employment and educational opportunities. A vocational plan can include specialized equipment and training, job placement assistance, funding for vocational training and transportation costs, and assistance in preparing for employment. It’s important to note that some services are not based on economic need and would, therefore, be available to you, regardless of your—or your family’s—financial status.

Residential Transition Program

Your vocational plan could include attendance at a residential transition program that is often totally or partially funded by the state. Transition programs focus on the development of daily living and other skills that will help you succeed vocationally and in life: indoor and outdoor travel, personal self-care, food preparation and cooking, reading and writing, braille, computers and technology, managing finances, recreation and leisure activities, and vocational training.

Transition programs can take place in the summer, after you graduate from high school, or after you complete your college or post-high school education. Programs can be located within or outside your state, depending upon where you live and the resources that are available, and can be state-run facilities or private centers.

Business Enterprise Program

The Business Enterprise Program is a training and entrepreneurial program that teaches individuals who are blind or have low vision to manage and run businesses, most often vending operations, including snack bars and cafeterias in schools, corporate offices, and Federal and state facilities. The program offers training in food management and accounting, and assists individuals in locating a business site.

You can also check with your state agency to learn if they would consider other entrepreneurial support, aside from a food vendor operation. For more information, contact your state rehabilitation agency, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, or the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University.