Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services

The Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program helps individuals who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Late Deafened or DeafBlind get ready for work, find a job or keep a job. This helps to increase their ability to live independently in their communities. VR services may include vocational counseling, training, assistive technology, resources related to hearing loss, and job placement.

The Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) program provides specialized vocational services with staff that are fluent in sign language to include: 

  • Regional Vocational Counselors for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (RCDs)
  • Statewide Pre-Employment Transition Counselor for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (Pre-ETS Counselor)
  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Center at Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center (WWRC)

Program staff also provides community education and technical assistance to agencies, community organizations and employers involved with job training, job placement, and employment of persons who are deaf and hard of hearing.

Main Contact:
Mary Nunnally, Program Manager
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Services
8004 Franklin Farms Drive, Richmond, Virginia 23229

DRS Videophone (804) 325-1316
DRS Toll Free number (800) 552-5019
DRS Toll Free number (800) 464-9950 TTY
DRS Office Details Listing

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Deaf and Hard of Hearing Success Stories

Elizabeth Alcazar-Zepeda

Elizabeth Alcazar-ZepedaElizabeth Alcazar-Zepeda did not let her deafness stop her from achieving her goals of attending college and securing a successful career in accounting.

While a student at the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind in Staunton, Elizabeth worked with DARS for transition planning and services. The agency provided Elizabeth and her family with guidance and counseling for college admissions and assisted her in applying for financial aid, scholarships and grants. In fall 2005, Elizabeth entered Gallaudet University in Washington, majoring in accounting.

“There were very great people at DARS who helped support my attendance at Gallaudet University,” says Elizabeth.

At Gallaudet, Elizabeth was involved in a student organization, Keeping the Promise of Educating Latino Students. While raising a daughter, she maintained high academic standards, earning recognition as a President’s Cum Laude Scholar, an honor reserved for undergraduate students whose cumulative degree grade point averages are 3.4 or above for the preceding semesters and who have earned at least 15 degree credits at Gallaudet, as well as Outstanding Academic Achievement for Summa Cum Laude. In 2011, she graduated at the top of her class.

Elizabeth credits much of her job search success to her collaborative efforts with her rehabilitation counselor. “She provided consistent support, direction and encouragement along the way. All of the experiences combined assisted in my effort to master the skills needed to ace my job interviews,” says Elizabeth.

Elizabeth obtained a paid internship in the Gallaudet Department of Business Interpreting Service, commuting every work day from home while continuing to meet with her counselor and other DARS staff to work toward securing a full time position with benefits. During this time, Elizabeth says, “I learned networking was my best friend.”

In June, she was interviewed and offered a job as an accounting assistant with Deaf-REACH (also known as the National Health Care Foundation for the Deaf), in Washington. “I love my job and I am enjoying the challenges involved. I am eager to learn more.”

Read More

Serious Mental Illness (SMI)

DRS has received funds since 1986 from the Virginia General Assembly to provide services to individuals that experience serious and persistent mental illness (SMI). This program began initially as a result of a cooperative effort between DARS, the Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services (DBHDS) and local Community Services Boards (CSBs) and Behavioral Health Authorities (BHA in which DARS provided vocational rehabilitation (VR) services to mutual consumers of both agencies. The Program enhances consumer community and vocational successes by providing vocational development, placement, and job retention services, primarily in conjunction with 10 CSBs/BHAs located throughout the Commonwealth. This funding is primarily for DARS dedicated specialty counselors and a small amount of consumer purchases. DARS specialty counselors are assigned to work with the following CSBs/BHAs and their catchment area: Danville-Pittsylvania CSB, Henrico Area CSB, Colonial Behavioral Health, Hampton-Newport News CSB, Richmond Behavioral Health Authority, Blue Ridge Behavioral Health, Cumberland Mountain CSB , Harrisonburg Rockingham CSB, Rappahannock Area CSB and Chesapeake Integrated Behavioral Health.

DARS eligible individuals that experience serious and persistent mental illness that live outside the specialty counselor service areas will be served by a general caseload counselor in their nearest local DARS Field Office.

Main Contact:
Al Jones, Program Coordinator
8004 Franklin Farms Drive, Richmond, Virginia 23229

DRS Toll Free number (800) 552-5019
DRS Toll Free number (800) 464-9950 TTY
DRS Office Details Listing

Substance Use Disorders (SUD)

Since 1988, the Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services (DBHDS) and the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) have operated the interagency Contract Substance Abuse Vocational Rehabilitation (Contract SAS) Program involving co-located clinical and employment-oriented programs within Community Services Boards and Behavioral Health Authorities across the Commonwealth. This collaborative effort is designed to address job entry and maintenance problems experienced by people with Substance Abuse Disorders (SUD) by focusing on vocational development, work habits, job readiness, and employment follow-along services along with collaborative CSB/BHA clinical and social supports. Currently DARS has Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors serving individuals with SUD in the following CSBs/BHAs: Valley CSB, New River Valley Community Services, Horizon BHA, Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare, Rappahannock Area CSB, Fairfax-Falls Church CSB, Alexandria CSB, Henrico Area CSB, Richmond Behavioral Health Authority, Virginia Beach CSB, Norfolk CSB, Chesterfield CSB Hampton/Newport News CSB, Portsmouth Behavioral Healthcare, Chesapeake Integrated Behavioral Health, Region Ten CSB, Cumberland Mountain CSB, Highlands CSB, Western Tidewater CSB, and Mt. Rogers CSB.

Consumer Definition:

The DARS SA Counselors provide vocational rehabilitation services to consumers who have primary diagnoses of SUD involved in CSB treatment or have completed treatment.

Main Contact:
Donna Bonessi, Deputy Director
804-662-7177 |
8004 Franklin Farms Drive, Richmond, Virginia 23229
DRS Toll Free number (800) 552-5019 | (800) 464-9950 TTY
DRS Office Details Listing

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Recipients of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), the welfare benefit of the Virginia Department of Social Services (DSS), who have disabilities, have always been among individuals served by the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS). As part of Virginia's welfare reform, the 1998 General Assembly (GA), provided funds for specialized Employment Service for individuals with disabilities who receive TANF and DARS was awarded funds to provide vocational assessments and employment services to eligible TANF recipients with disabilities.

DARS partners with Employment Advancement TANF grant recipients throughout the Commonwealth to maximize opportunities to share resources and provide appropriate employment Service for these consumers in collaboration with their local Departments of Social Services.

DARS has designated VR counselors in every Field Office assigned to the local DSS agencies in the office’s service delivery area. You can download a full contact listing for each district below. Each office is also linked for address information.

District Related DRS Field Offices and DSS Offices Served Staff Contact Info

Blue Ridge District
District Office

Roxanne Slaughter

Lynchburg - Lynchburg, Appomattox, Bedford, Campbell COunty, Amherst County
Fishersville - Shenandoah Valley, Rockbridge-Buena Vista-Lexington Area
Harrisonburg - Harrisonburg-Rockingham, Page County, Shenandoah County
Charlottesville - Charlottesville, Albermarle, Nelson County, Greene County, Louisa County, Fluvanna County

Blue Ridge Counselors

Capital District
District Office

Sherrina Sewell

Farmville - Amelia, Lunenburg, Nottoway, Cumberland
Henrico - Powhatan, Goochland, Hanover, New Kent, Charles City
Petersburg - Petersburg, Hopewell, Surry County, Susssex County, Prince George, Dinwiddie

Capital Counselors

Hampton Roads District

Kimberly Shepard

Hampton - Newport News, Mapton, YOrk-Poquoson, Gloucester, Mathews
South Hampton Roads - Norfolk, Virginia Beach
Portsmouth - Chesapeake, Suffolk
Eastern Shore - Accomack, Northampton County
Emporia - Greensville/Emporia, Franklin City, Isle of Wight, Southampton, Brunswick County
Williamsburg - James City

Hampton Roads Counselors

New River District

Michele Wells

Roanoke - Roanoke City, Roanoke County, Craig, Botetourt, Alleghany
Martinsville - Henry, Martinsville, Patrick, Franklin
South Boston - Halifax, Mecklenburg, Charlotte, Lunenburg
Christiansburg - Montgomery, Giles, Pulaski, Floyd, Radford
Danville - Pittsylvania

New River Counselors

Northern District
District Office

Mark Fletcher

Alexandria - Arlington County
Fairfax - Fairfax, Reston, Penninio Building, South County, Bridges Program
Leesburg Loudoun County
Manassas - Manassas City, Manassas Park, Prince William County
Winchester - Warren County, Clarke County, Frederick County

Northern Counselors

Rappahannock District

Tracy Harrington

Fredericksburg - Spotsylvania, King George, Stafford County, Caroline County
Culpeper - Orange County, Rappahannock County, Fauquier County, Madison County
Warsaw - King William, King and Queen County, Essex County, Middlesex County, Westmoreland, Richmond County, Northumberland County, Lancaster County

Rappahannock Counselors

Southwest District
District Office

Cynthia Matney

Abingdon - Washington County, Bristol, Smyth County
Norton - Norton City, Wise County, Scott County, Lee County, Dickenson County
Pounding Mill - Buchanan, Tazewell, Russell County
Wytheville - Bland County, Carroll County, Wythe County, Grayson County

Southwest Counselors

Main Contact:
Al Jones, Program Coordinator
804-662-7219 |
8004 Franklin Farms Drive, Richmond, Virginia 23229
DRS Toll Free number (800) 552-5019 | (800) 464-9950 TTY
DRS Office Details Listing

Supported Employment

Supported employment is one of many effective ways of assisting persons with disabilities in gaining and maintaining employment.  DARS partners with over 75 Employment Service Organizations in providing situational assessment, job development, placement and training services and long term follow along.

DARS provides supported employment or job coach training services, if appropriate and with agreement of their DARS counselor, to eligible consumers regardless of an individual’s impairment or disability cause.

All Employment Service Organizations that provide supported employment and job coaching services are CARF accredited to ensure that consumers are receiving quality services.

For a more details of supported employment and job coach training services see the Virginia Guide to Supported Employment.

Employment Stability Review

VA DRS Supported Employment Guide

Contact Info:
DRS Office Details Listing

Self Employment Enterprise

Self-employment is an option that may be considered for any DRS customer when it is determined through the IPE (Employment Plan) process that this is an appropriate method for that individual to reach the established employment goal. Self-employment must reflect the individual's career interests and informed choice to the extent that those factors are consistent with the unique strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, and capabilities of the individual. The self-employment enterprise option is based on the results of the eligibility determination assessment and any additional needs assessments required to develop the Employment Plan.

Self-employment or self-employment enterprise (SEE) means the individual is earning income directly from the individual's own business, trade, or profession rather than from a specified salary or wages from an employer. A self-employment enterprise must:

  • Comply with all relevant state, federal and local laws and regulations.
  • Involve sole ownership and management of the business by the DRS customer.
  • Enable the individual to meet ongoing living and business expenses.
  • Be intended to become a major source of income for the individual.

The following documents are provided to assist you and your counselor in your pursuit of self-employment in general and, in particular, if you are seeking to solicit financial support through the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services.

  • If you have limited experience in small business, answer the Self-Assessment Questionnaire to give yourself and your counselor some perspective on where you are in the process, as well as your needs and expectations for the business.
  • The Consumer's Guide to Self-Employment will provide insight into the DRS Self-Employment Enterprise program and its procedures, as well as what will be expected of you. A business plan outline is provided, along with a sample business plan for your review, as are cash flow projection and personal budget templates, also with samples.
  • Congratulations on your decision to pursue self-employment. This is a challenging, yet potentially rewarding undertaking that will require considerable effort on your part. Your Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor and the DRS Self-Employment Enterprise Coordinator will work with you to develop your proposal, but it is up to you to take responsibility for its creation and ultimately, its success. Additional Tools for Self Employment Enterprise are listed below:

Main Contact:
Lawrence Roberts, Self-Employment Enterprises Coordinator
540-649-0648 |
Fishersville, Virginia 22939
Fax: 540-466-1166
DRS Office Details Listing

CARF logo
DARS Organization Chart
Virginia 2-1-1

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