Transition Programs at Criss Cole

Authors: Trae Shaw, Training Support Supervisor, Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center, Austin, TX

Keywords: transition, vocational rehabilitation, Texas Workforce Commission, Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center, independent living skills, Expanded Core Curriculum, blindness skills, employment skills, job readiness skills, college prep

Abstract: This article describes three new transition programs at Criss Cole Rehabilitation Training Center (CCRC). All legally blind students in the state of Texas between the ages of 14-22 years old are encouraged to apply. Shaw’s information can help students and families determine which program is the best fit to enhance a student’s independent skills.

Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center (CCRC) is a rehabilitation training center, located in Austin, Texas, that trains Texans with visual impairments in the skills needed to prepare for, find, and/or retain employment. Criss Cole has created three innovative transition programs designed to provide the skills to prepare students between the ages of 14-22 for post-secondary opportunities of training and employment. Each program is tailored to provide topic-based training while touching on the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) and reinforcing blindness and job readiness skills such as O&M, assistive technology, etc. All of the summer transition programs are facilitated in the Austin area, however all legally blind Texas students between the ages of 14-22 years old are encouraged to apply. 

The students from the Summer 2022 program described it as a fast-paced opportunity for them to get to know themselves as working young professionals and as a person. One participant said that she had “to make [herself] advocate” because she didn’t have teachers to advocate for her.” She explained, “If I don’t advocate for myself nobody will…in the real world.” Students were overjoyed that they could talk about the experience to other people and give advice to younger blind and low vision peers. In all three programs, students loved the new opportunities, had lots of fun, and appreciated the challenging, fast pace. 

CCRCs Leaders Engaged and Driven (LEAD) Program

The Criss Cole LEAD program is a weekend-long training focused on building leadership skills and cultivating a stronger network of blind/low vision peers from a student’s home community. 


  • Discover their personal leadership styles, their strengths, and opportunities for personal growth.
  • Learn about leadership opportunities in their home and community settings.
  • Network with peers from their community. 
  • Work with peers collaboratively on leadership projects.
Five students, four of them holding canes, lean against a low wall.

Students in the Criss Cole LEAD program stand together with the Texas Capitol Building in the background.

CCRC Summer Transition Accelerated Rehabilitation (STAR) Program

The STAR program is a summer community-based, real-world transition program designed to engage blind students and prepare them for transitioning to young adult employment. Areas of training included employment readiness skills, independent living skills (ILS), and individualized Orientation and Mobility (O&M) training. ILS training included cooking, grocery shopping and budgeting in an apartment setting. O&M training included the independent use of public transportation. 


  • Gain real-world living experiences. 
  • Practice cooking, grocery shopping, budgeting and more.
  • Learn appropriate work habits and earn their own paycheck with a part time job.
  • Enhance travel skills using public transportation.
A student with shoulder length blue hair puts money into a cash register.

A member of CCRC’s STAR program operates a cash register as part of their job.

CCRC College Prep

The Criss Cole College Prep Program is a two-week educational training program located on a university campus designed for teaching academic students who are blind and visually impaired how to successfully maneuver through the college experience and achieve their educational and career goals.  


  • Gain valuable college readiness tips and strategies.
  • Learn about financial aid services and the tuition waiver.
  • Learn about various accommodations and services available during a visit to the Office for Students with Disabilities.
  • Gain hands-on experiences with assistive technology software and devices.
  • Practice organizational skills, time management, note taking, and study strategies.
  • Improve Orientation & Mobility skills related to navigating a college campus.
Seven students wearing white helmets stand together in front of tall wooden obstacles and a net.

College Prep students stand together as they prepare for the ropes course.

If you are interested in having a student participate in Criss Cole’s 2023 transition programs, begin by contacting the student’s Texas Workforce Commission’s Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor to express interest. It is important to contact them starting in early January 2023. All Criss Cole summer transition programs require a referral from the student’s Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor and require that they have an active case with Texas Workforce Solutions—Vocational Rehabilitation Services. For help locating a Vocational Rehabilitation Services office, send an email to [email protected] or call (512) 936–6400. For more information on Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center’s Transition programs please contact the Dual Customer Coordinator at (512) 377–0300. 

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