In 1920, the first public rehabilitation program providing training, prosthetics and placement services for persons with disabilities began with the passing of the Smith-Fess Act. In Florida, the VR program began in 1925. Florida’s first director was Harold Corpening who served as both director and counselor. The first year he identified 2,000 known adults and 1,500 children with disabilities. By the end of the second year, there were 300 active clients on his caseload and he achieved 17 successful closures; most of whom had been rehabilitated through training. Corpening spent 178 days in the field and logged 19,360 miles. The first person rehabilitated (1928) was W.M. Turner, a 26 year-old lineman for a utility company who crushed his foot on the job. Gangrene developed and he lost his leg and his job at the same time.
Since that time, there have been many laws enacted to enhance the lives of persons with disabilities. On July 26, 1990, President George H. W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law. The ADA has made a tremendous impact on American life and culture and is an important civil rights act designed to ensure that individuals with disabilities enjoy the same freedoms as everyone else. Additionally, the 1992 Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ensure consumer choice in career opportunities.
The latest amendments are incorporated in Public Law 113-108, enacted on July 22, 2014, as Title IV of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). WIOA is designed to give job seekers easier access to employment, education, training, and support services needed to succeed in the labor market, and to match employers with the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy.
In 2020, our economy and workforce was challenged with an international pandemic. We do not know specifically what the future is going to look like, but VR has reinvented itself over the last century to meet the ever-changing employment needs and challenges faced by individuals with disabilities and the demands of public policy. VR will continue to incorporate new services and methods that will be relevant to the next 100 years to improve employment outcomes for eligible individuals with physical and mental disabilities.
To help people with disabilities find and maintain employment and enhance their independence.
To become the first place people with disabilities turn when seeking employment and a top resource for employers in need of qualified employees.