Lisa dreamed of becoming a paralegal. At age 49, she decided to take the plunge.
She took her employment goal to Vocational Rehabilitation (Voc Rehab), the state program that assists Oregonians with disabilities in getting and keeping a job that matches their skills, interests, and abilities.
Lisa requested help from Voc Rehab in getting the education she needed to work as a paralegal. The agency improperly denied her request.
An attorney with our Client Assistance Program (CAP) stepped in and helped get the decision reversed. CAP aims to expand job opportunities and independent living for people with disabilities. We offer advice and tools that you can use to protect and assert your rights.
Q: Tell me about yourself.
I moved to Oregon in 1996. I’ve lived in Salem for nearly 10 years.
Three years ago, I started a paralegal bachelor degree program. I recently completed the program and am trying to find a job. I also have an associates degree in radio broadcasting from many years ago.
I never had the courage to do it back then. I was intimidated. It took me until the age of 49 to pursue it.
This was something that I was interested in since high school. I was involved in newspaper in both high school and college, for about four and a half years. I created a newspaper in college. The school had not had a student newspaper for 15 or 20 years. I created and edited it. I was also the program director for the radio station in college.
Working as a paralegal requires a lot of writing. So those years working in journalism helped prepare me for my career today. I never had the courage to do it back then. I was intimidated. It took me until the age of 49 to pursue it.
I was nervous about how to transition going from school to the actual workforce. I knew I was going to need some kind of support system because of my disability in order to do that.
Q: What was the problem that you sought our help with?
I experience a disability and approached Voc Rehab for assistance with paying for school. But, I hadn’t been in the workforce for a number of years. So, I was nervous about how to transition going from school to the actual workforce. I knew I was going to need some kind of support system because of my disability in order to do that.
I ran into issues with Voc Rehab. I tried to address these specific issues on my own, but did not have any success. My attorney at Disability Rights Oregon argued that there has to be a way that the client can be righted.
Ultimately, we won.
Q: How did Voc Rehab support you?
In addition to assisting me with tuition, they’ve helped me purchase glasses for when I work on a computer. And I had another serious health issue that took six months to diagnose. Voc Rehab helped me acquire software that served as an accommodation for my disability and a laptop that worked with the software.
Q: Is there anything that you’d want other people in a similar situation to know?
It pays to fight for your rights. There were times, when I thought about giving up. But, I kept up the fight.
Fortunately, DRO attorney Matthew Denney was by my side the entire time. He puts a lot of heart and sacrifice into advocating for people.
Clients shouldn’t get so discouraged that they think no one cares. CAP is there for a specific purpose. If you stay strong and keep up the fight, the legal representatives at CAP will be right there at your side; helping the Davids fight Goliath. Don’t lose heart.
- You have the right to ask to change Voc Rehab branches and counselors, and to challenge a decision made by a counselor or branch manager that you don’t agree with.
- Ask for Voc Rehab assistance well in advance of starting school, and try to appeal a denial before starting school or paying tuition.
- You can always go to Voc Rehab to seek assistance and check with CAP for advice and assistance regarding your rights at any time.
Know Your Rights
For more information about how Vocational Rehabilitation can help you go to college or career school, check out: