BOSTON — The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) announced, along with the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind and the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, a $17 million federal Innovation Grant from the Rehabilitation Services Administration.
MRC’s vocational rehabilitation division works to break down barriers and create opportunities for individuals with disabilities by preparing them for the modern workplace. With funding from this grant, MRC will implement a new approach to vocational rehabilitation that will support youth to develop the skills they need to ensure access to equitable, accessible, and inclusive employment opportunities after high school.
Across the Commonwealth, individuals with disabilities are among those that have been disproportionally impacted by COVID-19, and challenges to find employment have been exacerbated by the pandemic. To increase access and opportunity for employment for individuals with disabilities, over the past year, MRC has partnered with Holyoke Community College, Roxbury Community College, and CISCO to host the MRC Technology Academy Program. The first of its kind in New England, the program provides individuals receiving services from MRC the opportunity to be trained in cybersecurity and earn a certificate from CISCO.
MRC has also partnered with Viability, an employer based in Springfield, on cutting-edge programs to assist young adults with disabilities. Together, the pair recently launched Project (VR)2, a virtual-reality program that enables individuals to acquire interactive soft skills essential for employment.
“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, employment of individuals with disabilities has been a national concern,” Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said. “The administration recognizes the need for transformative efforts and support for individuals with disabilities to attain their employment goals. With this new funding, MRC will strengthen traditional systems and provide innovative services for employment to our most vulnerable residents.”
Commissioner Toni Wolf added that “we are excited to collaborate, problem-solve, and implement a new approach to vocational rehabilitation. We will work together to bring down barriers and make a better state possible for individuals with disabilities — one that is truly equitable, accessible, and inclusive.”