California Department of Rehabilitation

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California Department of Rehabilitation (DOR)
DOR 50Year Logo.png
Agency overview
FormedOctober 1, 1963
HeadquartersSacramento, California
Annual budget$421.3 million FY2012/13
Agency executive
  • Joe Xavier, Director
Parent agencyCalifornia Health and Human Services Agency

The California Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) is a California state department which administers vocational rehabilitation services and provides support to independent living centers throughout the state. It provides vocational rehabilitation services, independent living services, and advocacy from over 113 locations throughout California seeking employment, independent living, and equality for individuals with disabilities. The DOR was established on October 1, 1963.


The DOR assists eligible Californians with significant disabilities to obtain and retain employment and maximize their ability to live independently in their communities.

The annual budget for the 2012/2013 Fiscal Year is $418.6 million. There are 1,823 authorized staff positions statewide, and approximately 145,000 consumers receiving services annually. The Rehabilitation Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, provides grant funds and oversight to DOR for rehabilitative services and independent living. The DOR uses Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Vimeo to share public vocational rehabilitation and independent living information.


A 1964 educational film on vocational rehabilitation and Orientation and Mobility for a newly blind man, made with assistance from the California Department of Rehabilitation.

Historically, the California government developed various agencies and services to aid and rehabilitate people with physical, mental, visual, and hearing disabilities. The federal Rehabilitation Act established the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation within the Department of Education in California as early as 1921. The Department of Education administered the Division of Special Schools and Services. Established in 1946, the Division included such services as the California School for the Blind, Training Centers for the Adult Blind, Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation, and Schools for the Cerebral-Palsied Children. The Department of Social Welfare, established in 1942, administered the Bureau of Aid to the Needy Blind. Legislation enacted in 1963 consolidated the relevant services of these agencies into one Department of Rehabilitation.

In 1961, Governor Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, Sr. established the Health and Welfare Agency as part of his plan for the reorganization of state government. Designed to reduce government costs and improve efficiency, Governor Brown's reorganization plan created eight super agencies within the executive branch of California government (Chapter 2038, Statutes of 1961). As originally organized, the Health and Welfare Agency consisted of the departments of Social Welfare, Mental Hygiene, and Public Health.

In an ongoing effort to streamline the state’s government for maximum efficiency and public utility, the Brown administration added the Department of Rehabilitation to the departmental divisions of the Health and Welfare Agency (Chapter 1747, Statutes of 1963).

List of directors[edit]

2013 marks the 50th Anniversary of the formation of the Department of Rehabilitation. In the past 50 years the DOR has only had 9 Directors.[1]

Warren Thompson (1963-1966)[edit]

  • Initiated the publication of the Rehabilitation Review to report DOR activities.
  • Supported the maximum use of state funds to qualify the Department for additional federal funds.
  • Actively engaged with other state departments that served individuals with disabilities.

Robert E. Howard (1967-1972)[edit]

  • Initiated a program to enable more people with significant disabilities to be hired in Social Security Administration offices throughout the State.
  • Reorganized the Department to serve all disability groups—which resulted in three administrative divisions and corresponding deputy directors.

Alan C. Nelson (1972-1975)[edit]

  • Established a new Mobility Barriers Section.
  • Instituted a new hiring program for people with severe disabilities at the University of California, Berkeley.
  • Developed the first Operational Plan for the Department.
  • Appointed Dr. Carolyn Vash as Chief Deputy Director. Dr. Vash was the first person with a severe disability and the first female to hold a top-level position in the Department.

Edward V. Roberts (1975-1982)[edit]

  • Served as a disability rights advocate from Berkeley.
  • Established an Office of Consumer Affairs.
  • Published the first handbook about consumers’ rights.
  • Involved the Department to assist in resolving the conflict over the regulations for Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
  • Developed independent living centers through the Department of Rehabilitation, which led to the addition of a new section to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Dr. P. Cecie Fontanoza (1983-1990)[edit]

  • Broadened the Department’s services to include: Supported Employment, Workability, the Transition Partnership Project, the Mental Health Initiative, the Hi-Tech Resource Center, and the Cooperative Transportation Grant Program.
  • Instituted several award programs including: Annual Department Awards, Building a Better Future Awards, and the Governor’s Hall of Fame.
  • Developed two annual conferences including: Beyond Disability and Supported Employment.

Bill Tainter (1991-1993)[edit]

  • Increased representation of people with disabilities in top-level management positions in the Department.
  • Promoted consumer empowerment, self-determination, and independence in vocational rehabilitation service delivery.
  • Upon request by Governor Wilson, oversaw the Department’s role as lead in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) implementation and established the ADA Unit in the Department.

Brenda Premo (1994-1998)[edit]

  • Launched the California Assistive Technology System (CATS) initiative, which provides people with disabilities information on assistive technologies and related services.
  • Advanced the development of informed choice for consumers in vocational rehabilitation.
  • Established the State Independent Living Council as a free standing State agency.
  • Modernized the Orientation Center for the Blind.

Catherine T. Campisi, Ph.D. (1999-2006)[edit]

  • Increased the effectiveness and timeliness of vocational rehabilitation service delivery.
  • Established the Workforce Development Section to work with the employer community.
  • Increased successful employment outcomes for Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) consumers by 19 percent and wages by 14 percent from 1999-2003.
  • Served as chairperson of the California Workforce Investment Board Universal Access Workgroup to build capacity for accessibility of One-Stop Career Centers.
  • First Chairperson of the Governor’s ADA Interagency Task Force.

Anthony “Tony” P. Sauer (2007-2014)[edit]

  • As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, DOR received and expended $61.8 million in federal stimulus funds to make infrastructure and programmatic improvements. This included $56.5 million for vocational rehabilitation, $1.6 million for independent living, and $3.7million for older blind programs.
  • On January 1, 2012, the Governor's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities transferred from the Employment Development Department to the Department of Rehabilitation. Along with the transfer, the name changed to the California Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities..
  • In January 2013, DOR began phased statewide implementation of the new Vocational Rehabilitation Service Delivery Team Model. The centerpiece of the new Vocational Rehabilitation Service Delivery Model is the shift to a more consumer-centric team approach to service delivery.
No. Portrait Name Took Office Left Office Governor
Appointed By
Reappointed By
1 Warren Thompson.png Warren Thompson 1963 1966 Edmund G Brown
2 Robert E Howard 1967 1972 Ronald Reagan
3 Alan C Nelson.png Alan C Nelson 1972 1975 Ronald Reagan
4 Edward V Roberts.png Edward V Roberts 1975 1982 Edmund G Brown Jr
5 Dr P Cecie Fontanoza.png Dr. P. Cecie Fontanoza 1983 1990 George Deukmejian
6 Bill Tainter.png Bill Tainter 1991 1993 Pete Wilson
7 Brenda Premo.png Brenda Premo 1994 1998 Pete Wilson
8 Catherine T Campisi PhD.png Cathrine T Campisi PH.D. 1999 2006 Pete Wilson
9 Anthony Tony P Sauer.png Anthony "Tony" P Sauer 2007 2014 Arnold Schwarzenegger Edmund G Brown Jr


The Department administers services through two programs, vocational rehabilitation and independent living. The major divisions of the Department of Rehabilitation are the Office of the Director, Administrative Services Division, Specialized Services Division, which includes the Business Enterprises Program, Blind and Visually Impaired and Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and Vocational Rehabilitation Policy and Resources Division, Vocational Rehabilitation Employment Division, and the Independent Living and Community Access Division.

Vocational rehabilitation program[edit]

The Department administers the largest VR program in the country. Employment services are provided annually to approximately 115,000 individuals with significant physical and mental disabilities to assist them prepare for and obtain competitive employment in integrated work settings. Approximately 1,300 vocational rehabilitation staff in over 85 offices throughout California provide direct services to individuals requiring multiple services over an extended period of time. The purpose of the program is to assist individuals with disabilities in preparing for entering into, and retaining competitive employment in integrated work settings. The department accomplishes this by providing services such as consumer assessment, counseling and guidance, purchase of individualized rehabilitation services and job placement. The program provides services to individuals with a full range of physical and mental disabilities, pursuant to federal law.

Individualized vocational rehabilitation is the major service provided by the Vocational Rehabilitation Employment Division (VRED), the largest organizational unit in the department, and the Specialized Services Blind & Visually Impaired and Deaf & Hard of Hearing Division (SSD). The Department delivers its principal service, vocational rehabilitation, through qualified rehabilitation professionals located in statewide district and branch offices. A vocational rehabilitation team works with job seekers to establish the best combination of services and resources necessary to prepare for, find, and retain employment. DOR vocational rehabilitation services may include career assessment and counseling, job search and interview skills, independent living skills, education and training, and assistive technology.

Independent Living Program[edit]

The Independent Living Program advocates for the leadership, empowerment, independence, and productivity of individuals with disabilities. The DOR’s Independent Living Program supports independent living centers (ILCs) throughout California.

Reimbursements from the Social Security Administration enable DOR to provide $12.5 million to 28 Independent Living Centers in California. Independent living services assist over 30,000 individuals of all ages with significant disabilities to live independently, consistent with the 1999 Supreme Court Olmstead Decision.

The ILCs provide six core services to individuals of all ages with any type of disability: housing referrals, information and referrals, peer counseling, personal assistant services, independent living skills training and individual and systems change advocacy. The ILCs also provide assistive technology services and may provide benefits counseling, employment readiness training, transition services, and legal aid. These programs ensure full participation and promote the achievement of social and economic independence for individuals with disabilities.

The DOR works in collaboration with the ILCs, the State Independent Living Council, and the California Foundation of Independent Living Centers to create programs, develop policy, maximize systems change, and remove barriers to independence and equality of persons with disabilities.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "DOR DIRECTOR'S GALLERY". California Department of Rehabilitation. Retrieved 8 February 2013.

External links[edit]