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Lending a helping hand

Lending a helping hand

Austin helps those with disabilities find jobs

October 6th, 2017 by Helen Wilbers in Local News

Tiffany Austin, a vocational rehabilitation counselor, mingles with Callaway Resource Network members after their Thursday meeting. She spoke about the vocational rehabilitation services Missouri offers in the area.

Photo by Helen Wilbers /Fulton Sun.

When an individual faces difficulties transitioning to working, people like Tiffany Austin are there to help.

Austin is a counselor with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's Vocational Rehabilitation branch. She often works with area school districts to help students with disabilities prepare for the workforce.

"In schools, we work with students with Individualized Education Plans and 504 Plans," she said during a Thursday talk at a Callaway Resource Network meeting. "They could have physical, mental or learning disabilities."

Her job is to help people overcome difficulties that might keep them from working. After being referred to the program, individuals go through an assessment process to determine whether they qualify for services. Services start as early as 11th grade, and a Missouri Vocational Rehabilitation pamphlet said there's no upper age limit on who can receive help.

"We work with students with careers and jobs, matching them with jobs they want to do," Austin said.

VR also provides training and funds for college, trade school and other educational programs. VR can help connect students with up to two years of job coaching, in order to help them stay on the job.

In cases where transportation is a barrier, it can help provide van modification.

"One individual was a heavier man who needed help walking," Austin said. "We helped him with a van modification so he could get to work. Without transportation, he was in danger of losing his job."

They also hook people up with devices like artificial limbs and glasses.

VR receives state and federal funding, and services like assessments to determine if clients qualify for help, counseling and job-search assistance are free. Other services are provided at no cost, partial cost or full cost, depending on an individual's income and resources.

Austin serves about 100 clients in Audrain and Callaway counties, and said she loves her job.

"I like it because I can help individuals attain their employment goals," she said.

Clients are referred to her in many ways.

"I get referrals from schools, community support workers and people who've been through the program themselves and think their friend could benefit," Austin said.

If you or someone you know could benefit from vocational rehabilitation services, contact the Central Office at 573-751-3251.