A Familiar Understanding

Joe Rapisardo photo

Tallahassee, FL Joe Rapisardo always knew he wanted to help people with disabilities and he is more than qualified to pursue his dream. Not only does he have a degree in Rehab Counseling from Florida State University, but Joe lives with a disability himself.

The 24 year-old from Homestead is a double amputee and uses prosthetics for mobility. Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) assisted Joe with counseling, guidance, and training so he could find employment in his field. In fact, Joe is now proud to say he works for VR in Tallahassee. "I'm living proof that VR works," says Joe happily.

When VR counselor Mike Torres first met with Joe, he quickly realized that not only was Joe a candidate for VR services but he also had the credentials to fill an open position within VR. "I went to my supervisor, and I said I am working with an extraordinary young man," said Mike. "In the future as a counselor, he's going to have that sense of empathy, and he'll know where VR customers are coming from, having lived with a disability all his life."

Mike helped Joe update his resume and practice interview techniques, since he only worked a few jobs in college and had never gone through an official interview process. Joe and Mike's relationship has grown strong over time. "He's my hero, my idol," says Joe. "I guess he was my father away from home." Joe is thankful he found VR and feels the services that Mike provided helped him every step of the way.

Joe started working as a VR Technician in Tallahassee. He was responsible for assisting counselors with referrals, authorizations, and appointments. He also interviewed VR customers and communicated with doctors. Joe's supervisor, Suzanne Bradley, enjoys working with him. "With Joe having a disability himself, he really seems to be able to have a lot of understanding about the customers we have and their various disabilities. That's really helped him to be successful at his job. He really has the desire to work with the disabled community," said Suzanne.

Joe is proud to be self-sufficient working a full time job and paying his own way. His next goal was to "sit in Mike's seat someday" and that's just what he did. He completed his Master's degree at FSU and was promoted to VR Counselor. Joe enjoys giving VR customers the same type of services that were provided to him he knows what a difference they can make!

Florida's Vocational Rehabilitation program is committed to helping people with disabilities become part of America's workforce. Our employer-focused website, FLJobConnections.com, allows businesses to search at no charge for employees who are ready to go to work, as well as to post available jobs. VR has 80 offices across Florida, and last year helped 6,523 Floridians with significant disabilities find or keep a job. For more information about VR and its services, call (800) 451-4327 or visit Rehabworks.org.