(ODEP Demonstration Program)

Organization Contact Information / Project Contact Information / Innovative Practices / Project Details

Organization Contact Information

Name of Organization State of Hawaii Vocational Rehabilitation and Services for the Blind Division (VRSBD)
Contact Joy Lacanienta
Street Address 600 Kapiolani Blvd. # 306
City Honolulu
State HI
Zip Code 96813
Phone Number (808) 586-4937
FAX (808) 586-5765
Email Address joyl@lava.net
Organization Profile The State of Hawaii Vocational Rehabilitation and Services for the Blind Division (VRSBD) is a $13 million agency funded by a combination of federal and state resources. Approximately 80% of the program's funding is federal. The mission of Hawaii VR is to serve its participants and employers: "We plan with participants to deliver the timely and individualized vocational rehabilitation services they need to achieve their aspirations for meaningful employment. We plan with employers to deliver the employees and other services they need." Hawaii VR provides a comprehensive array of vocational rehabilitation and related services to individuals with disabilities. The most common services include assessment, counseling, job searching, job placement, occupational training, and transportation. In addition, services such as consultation and technical assistance are provided to employers of individuals with disabilities.

Project Contact Information

Grantee Project Name Imua Project
Contact Joy Lacanienta
Street Address 600 Kapiolani Blvd. # 306
City Honolulu
State HI
Zip Code 96813
Phone Number (808) 586-4937
FAX (808) 222-5502
Email Address joyl@lava.net

Innovative Practices

Workforce Preparatory & Work-based Experiences


Imua Project staff arranged group activities and site visits to universities, youth service providers, community leaders, government agencies, and potential employers. Some of the youth participants had the opportunity to attend campus site visits and preliminary interview sessions with the college counselors. Youth participants also took part in career shadowing excursions in several five-star hotels and resorts where they shadowed careers such as front desk attendant, switchboard phone operator, landscaper, maintenance worker, food service worker, childcare provider, and transportation provider. Also, VR staff and the Imua youth counselors worked closely to arrange personal meetings with public officials such as the Big Island mayor and a county councilwoman. These activities aimed to build the knowledge and experience of youth participants about various career options, higher education, and community resources.

Out-of-school youth were served directly by VR personnel or through contracted services. These services provided youth with the opportunities to identify their interests, skills, and abilities; develop an understanding of employer expectations; learn about prerequisite knowledge and competencies; and develop appropriate work relationships and behaviors.


Youth Development & Leadership Opportunities

Youth participating in the Imua Project were encouraged to exercise their leadership skills in their own lives as well as in the operation of the project. Youth were expected to play an increasingly proactive role in the revisions of their individualized service plans, educational plans (IEP), transitions plans (ITP), and plans for employment (IPE). Project youth developed and used the skills necessary to manage their own IEP, ITP, and IPE meetings. They were also encouraged and given support to play active roles in planning and conducting Imua Project activities (e.g. career exploration, interagency meetings, professional conferences, and training activities). For example, during a statewide Imua Project conference, which included 200 service professionals, project youth introduced speakers, provided the entertainment during breaks, and helped organize small group instructional activities. Several youth participated in an Alaska/Hawaii exchange program called "Trading Places." In addition, project staff developed and disseminated the first state Department of Education credited self-advocacy and leadership training curriculum in Hawaii.

Individualized & Support Services (Connecting Activities)

Youth served by VR are provided mental health and physical health services as needed. Transportation, including training in the use of public transportation vehicles, is a service also purchased by VR on behalf of persons in need. Seventy-nine youth were provided with assistance in completing a variety of forms, including college admissions, job applications, financial aid for college, government assistance, and community programs.


Project Details

Project Summary

In the Hawaiian language, Imua means the act of moving forward in a proactive and positive way despite barriers that exist. Imua is therefore an appropriate descriptive name for the project whose objective was to support youth pushing forward or transitioning from school to employment or higher education with an additional focus on self-advocacy and leadership training.

Project Services

The Imua Project staff served a total of 272 youth throughout the grant project period (October 1, 2001 through December 31, 2003). This included 84 officially enrolled youth who received postsecondary education, employment transition services, or both. Through the project, 188 additional youth also received supportive services and participated in the In-School and Out-of-School workshops focusing on Self-Advocacy and Leadership Training. Moreover, the project trained more than 400 people including WIA youth service providers, vocational rehabilitation, and education and partner agencies staff. Imua staff also developed and disseminated best-practice products and materials, including the state's first Department of Education credited Self-Advocacy and Leadership Training curriculum for youth with disabilities. These materials are available on the Imua Project page of the Pro-Bank Resources section.

Data Collection and Use


Data were used in the development of strategies for program improvement and for the design of the Imua Project. Information produced from annual analyses of program data helped VR to assess performance, identify a segment of the service population in need (young adults), and set objectives and priorities. Ongoing analysis facilitated program evaluation and promoted the continuous improvement of performance.

Hawaii VR measures its success through program improvement and service outcome measures. Measures of program improvement include documentation of cooperative agreements and resulting program change (e.g. cooperative staffing of One-Stop Centers with VR personnel, increased number of cross agency referrals, etc.). Measures of improved service outcomes include: number of positive outcomes (persons closed with employment) compared to the previous year; positive outcomes as a percentage of all persons served and closed; percentage of those closed employed and earning at least minimum wage; percentage of those earning minimum wage with significant disabilities; hourly earning in relation to the state average; percentage change as measured before and after service in one’s own income as primary source; and ratio of service rate for minorities and service rate for non-minorities.

During the time program participants were being served, data was collected on the demographics of individuals served, the services provided, and the outcomes of service. Following closure, data were collected on service satisfaction and on long-term employment outcomes. The performance measures used with youth with disabilities are the same as those for the VR population as a whole.

Customer satisfaction for persons with disabilities is determined in a number of ways including satisfaction surveys, focus groups, and consumer and business advisory groups. Consumer satisfaction for employers is also assessed and concerns are identified and addressed on an individual basis with the appropriate VR counselor. Regarding dissatisfaction, all individuals served by VR are informed of the Client Assistance Program (CAP) and the related services provided by the Hawai’i Disability Rights Center. Consumers that are not able to address particular concerns satisfactorily may ask for assistance from the third-party Client Assistance Program.

In addition to serving their primary customers, youth with disabilities, the Imua Project was also able to address issues related to determination of employer needs. They did this by making use of a secondary analysis of data report (January 2004) on entry level employees and employees with disabilities, which was completed by a Sociology class at the University of Hawai’i on behalf of Vocational Rehabilitation and Services for the Blind Division. By using the results of that survey, the Imua Project was better able to target training and education strategies to meet employer requirements.


Project Plans and Outcomes

The project established five goals related to serving youth, improving community services, achieving participant outcome measures consistent with VR outcome measures, development youth participation strategies, and increasing program access for youth with disabilities.

Goals Relevant Results
Measurable Outcomes: Model services for 80 youth from two communities served via youth-centered planning and access to community resources for individual academic or employment outcomes. Served 84 youth; of those, 25 obtained employed; 27 were in postsecondary education or training; and 32 were continuing in service based on youth-centered plans. An additional 188 youth with disabilities obtained knowledge of self-advocacy strategies.
Community Services: Access and improve community services for youth; build community capacity; document and disseminate services. Training provided to over 400 community service providers; best-practice products and materials developed and disseminated.
Cross-Partner Measures: Project measures for youth with disabilities were to be consistent with VR outcome measures (education, employment, wages, hours, etc.) All project youth were served by VR; data on individual services and measurable outcomes were available through VR.
Youth Participation: Proposed activities include the development and demonstration of youth participation strategies. Youth and families were involved in project implementation; individuals took leadership responsibility on the advisory board and in project-supported conferences and training activities. Project materials reflect participation.
Program Accessibility: Intended outcomes included greater program access for youth with disabilities. Outcomes were achieved through the access provided through project services, in spite of reduced funding.


Other Youth Program Outcomes Achieved by this Project:

Outcome Total
Imua Project self-advocacy and leadership training 272
Individual career or postsecondary counseling 91
Job placement, career development, career shadowing, and mentoring 83

Career and education exploration activities, including site visits

Site visits were made to the following:

  • WIA youth service providers
  • Workforce Development Division
  • One-Stop Centers
  • state and community agencies
  • potential employers

Forms assistance was given in the following areas:

  • college admissions
  • job applications
  • financial aid applications
  • government assistance
  • community programs
HCIL Trading Places
(Alaska/Hawai’i Exchange Program, Hawai’i camp)
Support and referral services
(for youth who are employed or pursuing postsecondary education or training)


In addition, the Self-Advocacy and Leadership Training curriculum developed under this project continues to be recognized by the Hawai’i Department of Education for use in public schools for course credit by students taking the training.

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