The Wonderful World of Discovery

Robert Haliburton photo

Orlando, FL – Imagine living most of your life in an institution and wanting more – more freedom, more choices, more opportunities.

Robert Halliburton, who has Cerebral Palsy and uses a wheelchair, had spent most of his life in an institution for individuals with disabilities. With support from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities and community providers, Robert moved out of the institution and into the community. He attended an adult day care program and was proud of his accomplishments, but he continued to want more. He wanted to go to work, and that’s where Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) came in. VR helps people with disabilities find or keep a job.

Robert met with his VR counselor, and they tried many of the usual services. She referred him to various community providers who tried their best to help him find a job, but there were a lot of obstacles and road blocks in his way and years went by without a job opportunity.

Then in 2011, VR launched the Discovery program and Robert and his counselor decided to give it a try. With the Discovery program, a VR customer gets one on one attention from his Discovery Provider, figuring out what his interests are and what barriers are keeping him from getting a job. Robert’s coach, Desiree Robles with Bishop Grady Villas, started the process by interviewing people who interacted with him in his daily life at home, at church, and at the adult day training program. She saw how he interacted with others, and how they interacted with him.

“I found that the whole point of the Discovery process was discovering that the obvious needs are not always quite so obvious,” said Desiree. “In the different settings, you can identify what they really need. Then you go into more depth to find out what their skills are and what they can and cannot actually do.”

Through these observations, she and Robert began to translate his life skills into potential areas of employment. Her final report on Robert was positive, enthusiastic, and optimistic. VR provided Robert with new clothes for interviews, a shower chair with the appropriate lift, and other assistance to make it easier for him to prepare for work opportunities.

And finally, at an age when most people are considering retiring, Robert found his first job, and he loves it! He is a part-time office assistant for Perfect Petroleum, a marketing company, and he’s really found his niche. “When I first came here,” said Robert. “They said that the paper was really stacking up, and they needed shredding, so that’s what I do.” His co-workers have boxes on their desks where they collect papers that need to be filed or shredded. Robert collects the paper and completes whichever task is needed. He’s also willing to help in other ways such as by putting together the marketing bags they send out to customers.

Robert is appreciative and grateful for the opportunity. “It’s a wonderful job; I couldn’t ask for a better job,” he said. “And the owner, Aashish Kapadia, is a wonderful man. He also has a son with a disability. They’re [his co-workers] all very caring people and have faith in me.” Robert’s proud that he’s now a tax-paying citizen but he says it’s not so much the money that’s important, what really matters is your dedication and being able to make a difference.

Desiree is proud of Robert, and staff at Bishop Grady Villas continues to follow up with him on the job to make sure everything is going well. “The Discovery program was an opportunity to work with someone who’d been in the system for many years and because of that he didn’t have a lot hope for a different outcome. The program gave him the hope he needed. It took time to really see beyond the disability and get to the person, but in the end, it always turns out to be a positive experience.”

About Vocational Rehabilitation
Florida’s Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) is a federal-state program committed to helping people with disabilities become part of America’s workforce. Our employer-focused website,, 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 89 offices across Florida, and last year helped 7,214 Floridians with significant disabilities find or keep a job. For more information about VR and its services, call (800) 451-4327 or visit