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Profile & History

WWRC Profile


Vocational Training Programs are accredited by the postsecondary Accreditation body of the Accrediting Commission of the Council on Occupational Education (COE), while the Code of Ethics provides direction to all WWRC staff in achieving ethical conduct in service provision to clients, business practices, marketing practices, and in upholding the ethics of individual professions. Learn more about the WWRC Profile which includes Annual Reports and Key Operational Goals known as the Blueprint for Direction.

Code of Ethics

This policy provides direction to all WWRC staff in achieving ethical conduct in service provision to clients, business practices, marketing practices, and in upholding the ethics of individual professions. Read the complete Code of Ethics.


Overview Download complete history

After World War I, thousands of wounded Americans returned home searching for an opportunity to become useful, productive citizens. Congress responded by creating the Veterans’ Rehabilitation Service. This resulted in a demand for a similar service to civilians.

The 1920 Virginia General Assembly established a vocational rehabilitation program just a few months prior to the passage of the first Federal Vocational Rehabilitation Act. The new federal law was signed by President Woodrow Wilson and was designed to promote the vocational rehabilitation of persons disabled in industry or otherwise and their return to civil employment. It applied only to the physically handicapped; covered only guidance, training, provision of artificial appliances and job placement; and initially was in effect on a year-to-year basis. The same year, Virginia’s Governor, Westmoreland Davis, issued a proclamation accepting the provisions of the Federal Act and in 1922 the General Assembly enacted legislation providing for the acceptance of these provisions.

From 1920 to 1928, the program was administered by a special board composed of the Governor, Chairman of the Industrial Commission, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction. In 1928 rehabilitation was placed as a “division” of the Virginia Department of Education.

From 1928 through the early 1930s, Richard N. Anderson, Director of Vocational Rehabilitation for the Virginia State Board of Education; one secretary; three emergency caseworkers, and one part-time field assistant were the only rehabilitation staff in the entire state. In 1935, five rehabilitation workers became regular employees. In 1937, W. Kuhn Barnett was added to Mr. Anderson’s professional staff as a special assistant. Special Education and Adult Education were added to the program in 1938.

When war was declared in 1941, speedy production of military essentials became a necessity. As many able-bodied individuals were in the armed forces, a large number of workers had to be recruited from the ranks of those who were disabled. The rehabilitation service organized employment clinics for the disabled in some parts of the state, resulting in more growth in its services.

The Vocational Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1943 (Public Law 113) greatly extended services to the handicapped, especially in regard to physical restoration. Until that time federal matching funds could not be used for physical restoration. Such surgery as was procured for rehabilitation clients was provided without charge throughVocational Rehabilitation Act Amendments the generosity of the orthopedic surgeons of the Commonwealth. Hospital co-operated by accepting token fees paid from state funds or individual contributions. Some clients had to be trained around a disability that could have been removed or reduced by surgery.

Mr. Anderson attended many crippled children’s clinics conducted by the State Department of Health with Dr. Roy M. Hoover, an orthopedic surgeon of Roanoke. Together they discussed the possibility of a place providing service after surgery where amputees and other orthopedically disabled individuals could live and obtain physical restoration and preparation for employment in accordance with the individuals’ capabilities. It became a dream of Mr. Anderson, Mr. Barnett, Dr. Hoover and others, notably Corbett Reedy, State Supervisor, to secure such a facility.

A piece of land near Dublin, Virginia, was declared surplus, and consideration was given to the feasibility of converting this property to use as a rehabilitation center.  The Dublin location proved an impractical one for conversion to medical facilities.

In response to the many injuries in World War II, new concepts and techniques for the rehabilitation of the severely disabled were developed. Dr. Henry H. Kessler, Dr. George Deaver and Dr. Howard A. Rusk established centers applying these new skills and knowledge and were successful in returning severely disabled service men to useful lives. In January 1946, Mr. Barnett attended classes offered at one of these centers, the Institute for the Crippled and Disabled in New York (now the New York University School of Medicine), to VA personnel who would be working with the rehabilitation of veterans and representatives of veterans’ agencies. These classes were directed by Colonel John Smith, a native of Virginia, and became a laboratory in which comprehensive rehabilitation could be perfected. It was Colonel Smith who first fully developed the idea of this broad approach combining effectively social, vocational, and medical services to achieve dramatic new results with a wide range of severely disabled persons. Investigation revealed that the healing process was greatly enhanced when a vocational goal had been set. He described this new rehabilitation as a composite science combining the skills of many professions into a concerted attack on all problems which the severely disabled must overcome to be fully rehabilitated.

State vocational rehabilitation programs were ineffective for those having severe multiple problems due to the lack of resources such as special centers and staff having special skills . These concepts dramatically pointed to the need for a comprehensive rehabilitation center.

While Mr. Barnett was studying and observing the work at the Institute, it was discovered that the Woodrow Wilson General Hospital, located in Fishersville, was to be declared surplus. The War Assets Administration agreed to transfer the property to the state. It was first offered to the Department of Health for a hospital for tuberculars with an adjoining section devoted to rehabilitation; this department decided the cost of reconditioning would be prohibitive. Governor Tuck, still interested in the property being acquired by the state, asked Mr. Barnett how it could be used for educational and rehabilitation purposes. He presented a formal proposal which suggested the following services to be provided: vocational counseling and guidance, therapy treatment under medical supervision, training opportunities, a sheltered workshop, training in the use of prosthetic appliances, and speech training and psychiatric treatment in cooperation with the University of Virginia Medical Department.

While Mr. Barnett was at the Governor’s office, a representative from the Augusta County School Board was also in Richmond to request the use of part of the Woodrow Wilson General Hospital for a public school. The two together developed and presented a plan for the building to be divided into three sections; one for the rehabilitation center, one for a vocational school and one for a secondary school. This plan was submitted to the War Assets Administration after which a delay ensued. Unable to understand the reason for this delay, Mr. Barnett traveled to Washington to discover that this office had “never heard of such a thing as a rehabilitation center.” He convinced the federal medical representative in an hour’s time that the idea was a worthy one.

The property was acquired and divided, and the first state-owned and operated comprehensive rehabilitation center in the nation became a reality. Woodrow Wilson’s name had been given the army hospital and later the rehabilitation center. Not only was he born in nearby Staunton; but, more significantly, he had signed into law for the first time in the country’s history a rehabilitation program of national scope.

Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center (WWRC) opened on November 1, 1947 and Mr. Barnett was appointed Director of the Center, and the first student was enrolled November 3, 1947.

In the years after 1947 it became generally recognized that rehabilitated individuals were paying back in taxes far more than was invested in service enabling them to become self-supporting; therefore, Congress continued to pass important additional legislation affecting the type provided by WWRC.

As a leader in the field of medical and vocational rehabilitation, WWRC is proud of its record and proud that its successes have served as a template for establishment of eight other comprehensive rehabilitation centers across America. Today, as through its history, the Center is dedicated to returning people with disabilities to an autonomous life in their communities. The professional staff of WWRC look forward to many more years of quality service in partnership with persons with disabilities throughout the Commonwealth, the United States, and to the International Community.

WWRC was honored for fifty years of service by the Virginia General Assembly in 1998 (House Joint Resolution No. 15). A commemorative plaque is proudly displayed both at WWRC and at the Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services office in Richmond, Virginia.

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The Virginia State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) is a group of individuals appointed by the Governor to work on behalf of people with disabilities by serving as a source of advice, information, and support.
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