Seattle, Washington (206)744-3576 or 1-800-374-3267

Vocational Rehabilitation at the Regional Epilepsy Center

By Robert Fraser, PhD
The unemployment rate for those with epilepsy has been estimated at two to three times the national average, and almost fifty percent of those with active seizures experience unemployment. The Neurology Vocational Services Unit (NVSU) was created to help clients with neurological disabilities find employment, whether they are seeking full-time jobs or part-time work to supplement their Social Security subsidies. The NVSU was founded in December 1975 with Epilepsy Center funding secured by Dr. Arthur Ward and colleagues from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Over the years, the Unit has used diverse grant and State of Washington vocational rehabilitation funding to provide a diverse range of services:  vocational evaluation, neuropsychological screening, community situational assessment, jobsite and accommodation consultation, specialized placement, and post-placement support (which includes a job coach or paid co-worker as trainer). 

The Neurology Vocational Services Unit

The Unit is one of only two in the country housed within an epilepsy center. This allows for truly comprehensive efforts, as the Center team can assist with work access or job maintenance issues. The Unit has a Rehabilitation Counselor II, two employment specialists, two interns, and contract job coaches. It is housed within the new Patricia Steel Building in a suite specifically designed for the provision of vocational services. The Unit includes a wall of computer stations for clients’ job searches and submission of applications. 


Placement activity is chiefly funded by a U.S. Department of Education-funded Project With Industry (PWI) grant — one of two in Washington State. The PWI grant allows the program to help its target population of clients with neurological disabilities such as traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and stroke find meaningful and financially viable work at no cost to them. The goals of the grant include serving 450 clients with neurological disabilities over a three-year period and assisting 270 to placement. The PWI grant allows clients to attend a twice-weekly job club, receive job leads screened to match their needs and abilities, and have ongoing vocational advisement and follow-up. In addition to seven partner companies providing openings, the project has an incorporated employer board and a Business Advisory Council (BAC), which is building to 40 companies. Once hired, clients have access to paid co-workers as trainers and follow-up from date of hire for one year, which includes quarterly Career Enhancement dinner sessions. The NVSU ended its first year of this grant with a 60% successful placement rate and an average hourly salary of $12.00 for 30 hours a week.

New Clients

New client referrals are welcome to meet one of our experienced vocational counselors any Tuesday morning at 10:30 for an individual intake meeting to consider entering the program. Individuals with TBI who are seeking work are encouraged to come to the Patricia Steel Building, 401 Broadway (at the corner of Broadway and Jefferson), Suite 2088. Please phone 206-744-9130 for more information, or visit our website:

In December of 2006, the Unit was awarded a three-year accreditation as a vocational rehabilitation facility by the Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).