By Andrew Lehn —

The Stout Vocational Rehabilitation Institute gave students, families and teachers two valuable opportunities to learn about the unique challenges of disability at the Youth Transition Conference and the open house on Vision Loss Technology.

This month’s event marked the sixth annual Youth Transition Conference since it’s founding in 2009, and its second year in a row at University of Wisconsin–Stout. The Great Hall and the ballrooms of the Memorial Student Center were bustling with 400 people who registered in advance to attend and learn about Transition. Transition, according to the SVRI, is the likely challenging journey that disabled youths must encounter when moving from high school to post-secondary education or employment.  The SVRI and the YTC both aim to help affected youths recognize and overcome barriers to increase self-determination and independence.

The SVRI also held an open house on Vision Loss Technology, an event where the curious could learn about the variety of assistive technology devices available for individuals who have low vision or blindness in an hour-long professional presentation, followed by a guided tour of the Voc Rehab labs. Techniques to accommodate low vision, as well as different technological solutions to disability problems were discussed. Attendees also had the opportunity to physically interact with different types of assistive technology.

Tom Hallgren, a senior in the Vocational Rehab Major and the president of the VR Club here at Stout described the importance of events like these. “The Youth Transition Conference serves as an outlet for all individuals to connect and promote the idea of collaboration that Vocational Rehab teaches to students,” Hallgren says. “All it takes to change the minds of others regarding disability services is merely a few strong minds working together as one.”

Hallgren and other members of the student-run Vocational Rehab club know how difficult the day to day can be for the disabled; through volunteering with disabled at the Gillette Children’s Hospital, fundraising and participating in other community outreach events they have become aware on a personal level. “This is a human service field,” Hallgren says. “We are here for people first and foremost.”

Both of the last month’s events advance the SVRI mission, “To advance innovative programs and practice in disability and employment through partnerships in research, training, education and services.” They are not only valuable to the transitioning disabled and the Voc Rehab majors who attended, but also for those who didn’t; the benefits of greater advocacy and understanding will spread from them to the rest of Stout.

If students want to get involved they can follow the SVRI on Facebook or get involved with the Vocational Rehab club.


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