OVR and Early Reach

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The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) is a state agency that assists Pennsylvanians with disabilities secure competitive, community integrated employment and independence. You must be referred to OVR, and determined eligible to receive services. Being referred is as simple as calling your local OVR District Office. Being “determined eligible” means that: you have a diagnosed disability that may make it difficult to obtain employment, you would benefit from OVR services, and you WANT to work.

A good time to be referred to OVR is while you’re still in high school, when you have 1-2 years left before you graduate. If you already graduated from high school, don’t worry! You can be referred to OVR even AFTER you graduated from high school. There is no age limit. As long as you want to work and are still able, you can be referred. Anyone can make a referral to OVR, including YOU.

If you are still in high school, you may have the opportunity to attend an outreach presentation that is being given by your local, friendly early reach coordinator (ERC). ERCs provide outreach services for OVR, going into high schools and speaking to youth with disabilities about: OVR services, life after high school, how to self-advocate, etc. All the important topics and conversations that will help you be successful and independent, after high school!

One of the most important skills you can work on establishing now, is “self-advocacy”. If you are a self-advocate, that means you ask for what you need and want, and try to have as much say as possible in making your own life decisions. The first step to becoming a self-advocate, is to know yourself: your needs, your wants, and your strengths. Guess what? If you’ve ever asked for help, or asked a question, you are already a self-advocate!

If you have any additional questions, please contact Stacy Shirk, early reach coordinator, at 717-346-2783 or stshirk@pa.gov. To access a list of the various OVR offices across the state, please visit www.dli.pa.gov. If you would like to refer yourself for OVR services, or would like to request an ERC to come to your school to provide outreach presentations, please contact the OVR District Office that serves the county in which you reside.