Practical Perspective: WIOA Meets Assistive Technology


The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is a landmark legislation. It has been designed to strengthen and improve our workforce system and assist youth and adults with significant barriers to:

  • Enter high-quality jobs and careers
  • Assist employers to hire and retain skilled workers
  • Match employers with the skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy

The purpose behind WIOA is to find more effective ways to help people return to the workforce who face barriers to employment.  WIOA was signed into law in July 2014.  Find your WIOA State Plan and to see how your state is implementing this federal law on the United States Department of Education website.

This blog will share information related to the Assistive Technology Act programs designed to improve states' abilities to access assistive technology for people with disabilities so that they can be successful in the workplace.


WIOA Sections 412 & 414

  • Vocational rehabilitation services  may include ‘‘the establishment, development, or improvement of assistive technology demonstration, loan, reutilization, or financing programs in coordination with activities to promote access to assistive technology for individuals with disabilities and employers."
  • The Administration for Community Living shall ensure that programs funded under this act will address the needs of individuals with disabilities of all ages, whether the individuals will use the assistive technology to obtain or maintain employment, to obtain education, or for other reasons.
  • The Association of Assistive Technology Programs (ATAP) prepared a helpful comparison of Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and WIOA of 2014 on their website.
  • The intent for this section of WIOA is to develop a more formal working relationship between state assistive technology programs and vocational rehabilitation, given the critical role they play in delivering vocational services to clients who need assistive technology to achieve or maintain employment.


Congressional Intent Youth in Transition

  • Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) has an enhanced role in serving youth earlier in high school.
  • Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) must be provided by schools in collaboration with VR for youth in school.
  • Check out this example of funding for Pre-ETS programs for students with visual impairments in Massachusetts.
  • Check out this example for assistive/rehabilitation technology and auxiliary aids and services provided through Pre-ETS in Wisconsin.


Assistive Technology Loan Libraries

  • Universities, agencies, schools, and independent living centers maintain loan libraries so people with disabilities can try out various AT devices before purchasing.
  • Here is an example of Wisconsin schools and their assistive technology library:
  • Find your state assistive technology contact on this website:


Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) and Assistive Technology

It is a collaborative responsibility of school, vocational rehabilitation, and long-term support agencies to provide Pre-ETS to students, ages 14-21. It is a great opportunity to ensure students have access to meaningful career planning to help with the seamless transition from high school to employment or post-secondary training.  Your state vocational rehabilitation agency must spend 15% of their annual budget on Pre-ETS for students in school!  Assistive technology can be part of those expenditures to support students with disabilities in employment.

The 5 required activities under Pre-ETS are:

1.) Job exploration counseling

2.) Work-based learning experiences

3.) Counseling on opportunities for transition or post-secondary educational or higher education programs

4.) Workplace readiness training to develop social skills and independent living (home and community)

5.) Instruction in self-advocacy, which may include peer mentoring


Assistive technology is specifically mentioned in a few of the required activities:

  • #2 Work-based learning experiences
    • AT and adaptive aids to provide more independence at the workplace
  • #3 Counseling on opportunities for transition or post-secondary educational or higher education programs
    • AT support for training programs, certificates, apprenticeships, and associate's and bachelor’s degrees
    • Develop an AT profile of needed modifications and accommodations for education, training, and employment
  • #4 Workplace readiness training to develop social skills and independent living
    • Identify and learn how to use assistive technology in the workplace
    • Develop individual transportation plans and learn necessary mobility skills

Thanks so much for your interest in WIOA.  Email [email protected] for more information.

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