State of Hawaii Vocational Rehabilitation and Services for the Blind Division (VRSBD)


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.

Program 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.

Program Structure/Design: 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.

States of Operation: HI
ODEP Funded: Yes
Profile Year: 2007


Career Preparation and Work-Based Learning 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 and Leadership: 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.

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.

Organization Name: State of Hawaii Vocational Rehabilitation and Services for the Blind Division (VRSBD)
Program Name: Imua Project
Street Address: 600 Kapiolani Blvd. # 306
City: Honolulu
State: HI

Contact Person: Joy Lacanienta
Contact E-mail: