Drawing Without Hands The Bruce Dellinger Story

Bruce-Delinger drawing

Rick Sizemore

Director of the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center

Anne Hudlow

Director of the WWRC Foundation



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This is the VR workforce studio inspiration, education, and affirmation at work the workforce and disability employment podcast from the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center, a division of the Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitation services. The VR Workforce Studio is published by our foundation at www.rcf.org and is available in iTunes and at vrworkforcestudio.com

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Bruce (Snippet): “…individuals with disabilities want to be productive no matter what it is and so… you know they want to feel like they’re empowered by going out and doing a good job to, you know they want to be productive in life and if given the opportunity and you do hire a person with a disability I think you’re gaining a valuable employee or gaining a contributing member to society…”

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Rick: On today’s episode of the VR Workforce Studio; Drawing without Hands the Amazing Story of Bruce Delliger. I’m Rick Sizemore director of the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center.

Anne: And I’m Anne Hudlow director of the WWRC Foundation, and together we’re opening up the VR Workforce Studio, so individuals with disabilities with disabilities can share their courageous stories of Vocational Rehabilitation. Along the way we also talk to the champions of business and industry that hire individuals with disabilities

Rick: On today’s show a successful business man and critically acclaimed artist, known for his intricate and unbelievably realistic pencil drawings of nature. His work can found in homes and galleries all around the world, but what’s even more amazing is the clever highly unusual and ingenious techniques Bruce Delliger uses to create these masterpieces without using his hands.

Anne: We’ll also talk with Self-Employment Enterprise Specialist Larry Roberts from the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, and his reflections on what it takes to make it in business being self-employed as an individual with a disability

Rick: Bruce Delliger is an artist with a spinal cord injury and only has limited use of his hands. You simply won’t believe which body parts he uses to hold the pencil and draw on the pallet!

Anne: Bruce received the Art to Art Pallet Award in Ohio and has won two best In-Print Awards from the Printing Industry of Virginia among many others; he has also been featured in numerous magazines, newspapers, and television programs for his amazing talent. Rick there’s a quote from the Art to Art Pallet that says that “Bruce has never used his unusual method of painting as a sensation, but has let his work stand on its own merit; the refusal to be weak and unyielding in his passion of natural beauty is finally paying off”.

Rick: Bruce Delliger Welcome to the Podcast, let’s get started with your story of disability.

Bruce: Basically an old farm boy; country boy. I grew up in the country and worked on the farm pretty much all of my life and I was getting ready to leave middle school and start my freshman year at Broadway high school. I was an upcoming football player at that particular time. So I was doing some weight training, but I also had failed my 8th grade English course so I was taking summer school and It was during the break of our summer school, July and it was over the break and my father asked me if I wanted to go with him to assist a friend of ours bale hay down in Orkney Springs, Virginia and so I can remember that day it’s like you know (what) psychologists call it a flashbulb memory and I’d gone with my father. I remember riding through the mountains with him and we finally got down to the property where we were going to help bale hay and of course you know middle of summer time, dealing with hay you get it everywhere you know. So we worked a few hours. My first cousin and I; our job was to stay on the back of the wagon and grab the bales with old hog hooks and pull them back on to be stacked, and so you know the more work you are doing, the more sweating you are doing, hays flying everywhere, you’re getting itchy and scratchy so I told my father. I said were going up to the old barn to sit in the shade of the barn and he said well don’t go far. So we didn’t go too far, the barn was about 500 yards away, so we walked up there, and my first cousin and I. We sat in the barn and I happened to look up and there was this long conveyer belt that went all the way to the top of the barn and I got up there and I notice that some bales of hay were out were out of alignment so I crawled up the loft, surveyed my situation pretty good and I figured I could straighten these three bales up and then come on back down. What I didn’t know was that there was a yellow jackets nest on one of the beams right above me when I picked up the third bale. I inadvertently knocked it (the nest) over and I saw the nest that fell and it had bees in it and first reaction fight or flight or get out of there. When I did, it startled me so I went to run to get away from them and I tripped on a hay bale. I tripped on one of the strings that was on it, lost my balance, and fell 25 feet off the loft head first and I landed on concrete and boards and broke the fifth and sixth vertebrae in my neck. Everyone that ever knew me; quadriplegic for the rest of my life so that’s how I became disabled. I did my first initial rehab at children’s rehabilitation center. It’s only later that I came back to Woodrow Wilson to do vocational rehabilitation and where I studied early childhood education and got my teachers aid certificate before I started with my regular college education. How I got started in art, primarily was during my sophomore year in high school. I couldn’t really be out doors, play sports you know throw the football around, go swimming or whatever and going through the whole process of adolescence and dealing with all the psychological issues that are associated with that. I had to confront that I was going to be probably living life from a wheelchair. So it was my aunt who suggested I take an oil painting; a hobby to get my mind off my problems.

Anne: How fortunate that you had such a supportive person in your life you know, Bruce I can’t imagine what must’ve been like for her and for you. Why do you think she recommended art?

Bruce: I had taken one art class and elective when I was in 8th grade you know just dabble like most students do. I didn’t really have any talent for it; didn’t think I had any talent for it. I did do some very rudimentary stuff, but beyond that nothing.

Rick: So you do have some use of your arms?

Bruce: Some use of my arms yes. I can drive and…

Rick: So let’s get into your art and it’s certainly incredible work, stands on its own merit, but it’s really unusual. These are incredible pieces we’re talking about here and the technique that you use is just amazing. Describe the technique you use to create these amazing works of art.

Bruce: Well, I first started out with oil painting like I said with my aunt. Eventually I moved into pastels and eventually I moved to use charcoal since you got to use your mouth to control everything. You get tired of getting black lips, black nose, black eyebrows and charcoal dust everywhere so I eventually fell in love with pencil just because it gave me the feel that I wanted to have. It was kind of my style very basic.

Anne: Bruce can you please walk us through how you evolved this incredibly unique style of drawing?

Bruce: Primarily I’ve worked very, very hard to incorporate a lot of things into my artwork and one of the investments that I was able to purchase. I purchased a draftsmen’s table and I used to work on the vanity at my house, lean way over and put my arm behind my wheelchair and lean forward and try to draw that way. Now that I am getting older of course I have invested in a draftsmen’s table. I found a good draftsmen’s table for like 800 bucks on eBay one day and a friend of mine said well I can go pick it up and its only 40 miles away so I’ll go and pick it up for you. So we invested in a draftsmen’s table and the draftsmen’s table has made it easier for me to tilt it down but one of the problems with drawing with your mouth, I can tell you a problem with drawing with your mouth is that your neck will only stretch so far on a piece of paper and so a lot of times, what I have to do is I’ll have to turn the composition upside down and work on it backwards and upside down so it’s really funky and how I do it. I’ve studied a lot of other artists in the field. There have been numerous artists, there’s another local artist around here that gave me a lot pointers when I was first starting out his name was Ken Schuler. I kind of liked his style but I wanted to have my artistic ability to stand on its own merit so I didn’t want to copy what he did, but I did want to do what felt right for me.

Rick: So describe how it works; as an artist how do you physically draw?

Bruce: Basically what I do is lay my arm up on the draftsmen’s table and I will work back and forth in a side-to-side motion. It all depends on what type of animal that I’m working on like if it’s an eagle I have to darken in the feathers real good so I have to place my hand on the draftsmen’s table, hold the pencil in my teeth, and slowly go back and forth and darken in an area that I want to darken in and now that I’ve gotten older I also need glasses so you know it’s…

Anne: But what amazes people is the intricacy of your work the detail is amazing…

Bruce: For me I’m always trying to capture the realism of an animal you know a lot of what I do is work with wildlife and nature you know its things I’ve learned. Since I’m trying to capture the outdoors. We as artists tend to notice things more than a lot of other people wouldn’t notice such as how the light captures on a tree, how a shadow falls across the ground. We pay particular attention to all that type of detail and for me I try to incorporate that into my drawings. A lot of the inspiration comes from the outdoors you know fish, birds, nature, things that you see. Give you one prime example, my father, and I were out hunting in the woods one day and we sat there and we were sitting in a blind and I watched this wren. This wren was looking for some grubs. He’s about 40 yards away from us jumping from tree to tree to tree and I told my father I was going to draw that wren and I tried to remember what the wren looked like with his tail up and how he looked and so I started out with an outline and it’s just a very very light sketch of the image itself such as the bird, you’ll have to draw the tail going up and slowly I started out with that and work on one particular detail at a time like wrens have a little bit of a longer beak you know it got to be a little bit darker underneath than it is on top because the light is reflecting down and so I think the trick to my art is I try to make it as realistic as I possibly can make it. You would be able to see this hanging up on a wall and go, “Oh.”

Anne: Everyone knows and your art stands on its own, but what makes it so amazing is that you do it through this incredible technique that you have developed. This is disability employment.

Bruce: At it’s finest.

Anne: Oh, absolutely, You earn a living as an artist which is hard to do, Right, even before you add on disability. So tell us about your art studio and your online business and your art shows if you would.

Bruce: The online business, I have a website called www.bruce-dellinger.com . We’ve basically set up the website where it’s real user friendly and this can go worldwide. You know I’ve had orders from Australia, Argentina, a few from California so the prints get out there from all over with media. You have to market yourself, you know. Webs open up a whole whole new world. You can go on YouTube find me on YouTube if you type in Bruce Delliger you find me there. You google Bruce Delliger, you’ll find information about my art work, about the programs that I have been involved in and various other volunteer work that I do, etc. And I have various shows and they will be up online here soon so you can catch me. I mainly do a lot of shows within the Virginia area. I have broadened out to basically do three shows in northern Virginia this year and kind of broadening my scope at little bit.

Rick: For so many people the internet has leveled the playing field especially individual with a disability.

Anne: Right and we’ll have contact information and show notes in this podcast so we’ll be able to direct people to that. What suggestions would you have for a person with a disability who is trying to start a business because you run a successful business from a wheelchair?

Bruce: You have got to promote yourself. You have to work really, really hard and really, really diligently. Some of the information that I always tell people is if you’re living around a campus, it’s always good to go to their business programs that are on campus and they will provide you with how to set up your taxes so you can pay the federal government, pay state taxes, collect your tax. I would also suggest you go online and see what other folks have done as well, explore your resources. It also helps if you have a strong community, backing that supports you, friends, family, community that is very important if your community stands behind you, your family stands behind you then that is a tremendous resource. Tell them what you’re doing, what you’re thinking about doing and there are people out there who would just love to help you get where you’re going.

Rick: Let me ask a little different question. What is your favorite piece of art? Tell us about your works and which one you cherish.

Bruce: I have several favorite pieces which I’ve drawn. I have to say that I got one called “The old bow stand” which is a buck and a doe underneath as old stand, there is no hunter there. That’s kind of a unique piece which is only in circulation in the smaller version at the moment. It will be available in a larger version later on but that has to be one. Of course, “Pride and Glory” which is the eagle which were going to be donating to Woodrow Wilson here at the moment, and another one would have to be called “Hold Tight” since I’m a advent hunter and belong to the Wheelin’ Sportsmen program. It’s got this buck being very calm, very still, a hunter walking passed him so the hunter is not even aware of his presence there at all. Believe me I’ve seen animals do this sort of thing, they will crouch down really low and you could walk by him and not even notice them at all so.

Anne: Many have said that you are a business man who gives back to his community.

Bruce: And I am the official artist for the Wheelin’ Sportsmen. I do a lot with that organization. I donate a print to their organization each year and each year that money stays with the local chapel to help other individuals who want to enjoy the great outdoors through sporting events.

Rick: Well Bruce, technology is a wonderful thing for an artist, particularly in this day and time an online artist.

Bruce: Yea it is, it opens up a broad new avenue. Going back to some of the suggestions that you said for a job and it’s good if you contact your Division of Rehabilitative Services they will also assist you in promoting your business, starting out with your business. So there’s a lot of work I’ve done across the years. You know, contacting Woodrow Wilson for advice on a lot of things.

Anne: Well Bruce we are getting to the point of where we’re going to have to wrap up, but I would like to ask this; I’m told you are often seen at 5 o’clock in the morning…

Rick: I’ve seen him! 5 o’clock in the morning!

Anne: Rick has seen you! Rolling up in the Dump trailer getting wrapped and strapped down and traveling via 4-wheeler into the woods through the dark to go hunting…

Rick: You should see the trailer bouncing and Bruce there with his rifle it’s a sight to see.

Anne: So what’s it like to be a person who is an artist who loves to be in nature and see all these things to be a hunter with a disability?

Bruce: Wow! Even though you’re out in the woods to take an animal, for me sometimes it’s just by studying. Being able to study nature in its own environment you get to experience so much more, it’s what you take into it. Now of course, each year the Augusta County chapter hosts a hunt here at Woodrow Wilson. And believe it or not I’ve never taken an animal from the Woodrow Wilson property however, I have had the opportunity of watching a red fox crawl up on a log and go to sleep and he’s like 20 or 30 yards away from me which is something you don’t see every day when you’re driving in an automobile down the road and it’s just really, really nice to kind of see that. You know you can see some of the deer walk through the woods, they’re very, very small, they are too young to harvest so you’re having the opportunity to watch them walk by you. It’s rolled up into experiences to where I find ideas to give me inspiration.

Anne: Any closing thoughts to be a very successful artist in vocational rehabilitation?

Bruce: The biggest thing I can tell anyone that does have a disability. There is always something you can do, if you’re an employer you’re getting ready to think about hiring a person with a disability to start out with individuals with disabilities want to be productive in life, no matter what it is and so… you know they want to feel like they’re empowered by going out and doing a good job. You know they want to be productive in life and if given the opportunity and you do hire a person with a disability, I think your gaining a valuable employee or gaining a contributing member to society and so I think with that you’d be able to have an individual who is really, really going to do their best to stand by you.

Rick: Bruce It’s been an incredible honor to interview you. You are an amazing artist, a great business man, and a great American thank you for being on the podcast today.

Anne: Thank you Bruce, it’s really been an honor to be here with you, we appreciate your time!

Bruce: Thank you.


Rick: Larry Roberts serves as the self-employment enterprise coordinator with the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services in his role he provides technical assistance and direction to DARS consumers as they seek to advance their concepts for self-employment. He makes recommendations to management on the viability and most importantly sustainability of proposals and assists the VR counselors in case management. Larry has over 25 years of small business consulting experience and previously served as the Executive Director of the Community Business Partnership, a Northern Virginia based nonprofit assisting the disabled and disadvantaged communities in creating small businesses. The partnership included a small business development center, a woman’s business center, and a micro loan program. Larry welcome to the podcast!

Larry: Thank you Rick, it’s a pleasure to be here.

Anne: Welcome Larry, Larry we’d like to ask you a couple of questions on how was to work Bruce Delliger. Do you have some thoughts on your experience working with Bruce?

Larry: Sure, Bruce was a genuine pleasure to work with, he was prepared, he was experienced in business to a certain degree, and knew exactly what he needed to do as far his goals particularly financially; you know it’s a challenge sometimes to sort out what do we really need to make out of the business in order to be sustainable and Bruce understood that. He understood the nature of what he was doing, but we had to develop new strategies because he had experienced some health issues and that had a dramatic impact on the business. So when we worked together, it was primarily to refresh some of the strategies that have been attempted before and to see if we could provide some meaningful assistance that would allow him to leverage that into appropriate cash flow.

Anne: Great! I’m sure with each person it’s a unique situation, but what are some the keys to his success that you can pinpoint?

Larry: I think probably one of the most important things for Bruce was his preparation. You know a lot of individuals are good at the craft or the trade that they practice and Bruce is a skilled artist, at the same time they’re not particularly experienced in business and that could be a very difficult marriage to bring together. For some people it’s straightforward to be able to understand the day to day activities that have to occur and the long range financial vision you have to develop in order to be able to run a business successfully. For Bruce he had a lot of that type of experience previously and it was a much better fit. For our circumstance it was a great opportunity to help a genuine individual move forward with business and become sustainable again.

Anne: That’s great, that’s great… I know that starting your own business has a lot of risk and could have a lot of reward, what are some suggestions that you would suggest for someone with a disability who wants to start their own business?

Larry: Well I think because of my experience in it, I would say that it’s important to be practical in your expectation and to be prepared. You know there are a lot of opportunities out there for training for individual technical assistance at really minimal cost or no cost, the small business development center network itself and generally made for small workshop charge a small fee, but individual consults are free. You need to schedule and talk to an individual about some of the realities you’re facing to move forward. When I work with a new client, what I’m doing is beginning with a personal budget. I want to have an expectation of what their true financial situation is from the outset and given that the context of what they want to do in business versus what they need to make and what we can do to help them get there, has to be some practical realities there that we face and address. But obviously preparation is an important piece of it and if someone has great experience in business that’s a wonderful start. If on the other hand they need to start from scratch, then be prepared to take some time and don’t expect to support yourself quickly through self-employment.

Rick: Larry we always hear about the starving artist, but in the case of Bruce Delliger this guy has really made his way as an artist…

Larry: He has truly, and Bruce is a wonderful marriage of qualities. He’s not just an excellent artist, he’s an experienced accountant. For example he understood how to keep good records, he understood how to price his product appropriately, he was good at managing the details of running that business, and understood how to basically schedule his entire day even when he didn’t have an event where he was making sales to be prepared for that event, to make his production, to do his marketing, to do his administrative function. So Bruce has a tremendous capacity and much of that has to be taught to individuals that have no experience in business certainly a learnable skill, or set of skills, but for Bruce he came to me with a lot of preparation he already understood much of what I needed to work with him on.

Rick: If an individual with a disability wants to contact you, where can they find you?

Larry: Through the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services. What we’re essentially doing is doing intake at the local level where a local office may be, and they are assigned a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. That counselor then talks with them to develop an individual plan for employment. But for a lot of our consumers’ normal jobs are just not very workable because of the nature of their disabilities it could be that they have different hour or an inability work a certain number of hours, and self-employment may be the right fit for them. Now certainly it helps if we have a good concept and they’re able to bring some resources to the table because we have certain policies that dictate that they have to be an investor in the business as well, but that referral comes from the VR Counselor to me, contacting me directly would mean that I’ll end up sending them back to the local office to do intake, and to make sure that it’s an appropriate referral for self-employment that fits our program.

Rick: We’ve been talking with Larry Roberts of the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative services, Larry thank you for being on the podcast today

Larry: It’s been a pleasure, thank you for having me.


Rick: We are with Duane Rohr the manager of workforce incentives from CVS Health. Welcome to the podcast.

Duane:   Good Morning, thank you for having me. Lots of cool things going on.

Rick: We just talked to Bruce Dellinger, and this amazing artist was featured in the “Don’t Dis Me” video that CVS Health produced for Disability Awareness month here a year or so ago. Wow. What an incredible, what an incredible story.

Duane: Yes it is, it is very incredible. It’s exciting to see that having a disability doesn’t set people back, they grow and they fulfill what their dream is and what they want to do.

Rick:   What’s the reaction been to the “Don’t Dis Me” Video from the audiences and the many people you’ve talked to?

Duane: I’ve had nothing but good feedback on it and I use the video when I have visited a lot of other disability agencies. They really love the message being sent out there. I think it is very very impactful that we are trying to get rid of the word dis on there and just go with abilities. Because these individuals they have the ability to set out and do whatever they want to do. I think the video just really hits home with people and really gets them to see that these individuals really do have the abilities to move forward in life.

Rick:   Ann, we just had this great interview with Bruce Dellinger, what an incredible artist.

Anne: Oh, Wow. He is incredible. That’s one of the first things people see when they walk in for a tour here, is the picture that you show them, and that’s incredible.

Rick:   It really is incredible, but this video “Don’t Dis Me” really gives people a chance to actually see him.   If you would like to see him, go to VRWorkforceStudio.com look for that Don’t Dis Me” video and at the end of the video, you will actually see Bruce there painting, actually drawing with pencil in his mouth and as he said in his interview, Anne what do you think of this, he turns the picture upside down and backwards as he’s drawing it. (Laugh)

Anne:   I’m still using crayons, I’m still using crayons. (laugh) It’s totally amazing.

Rick: But Duane, the support that CVS Health has offered to individuals with disabilities is just superb and this video has been just another way that you’ve helped reach out to the community of people with disabilities and create opportunities for them.

Duane: Yes, I think the partnership has been, you’re right, it has been a blessing on both ends here. It has been very rewarding for us here at CVS to see how our partnership is helping these individuals, helping individuals get jobs. I know we’ve had, you know, at least 12 hires that I am aware of at this point which I think is a great number for the first year being in this program.   I think that having a video like this and the partnership with CVS is just invaluable to us.

Rick: And down in our down in our Materials Handling Program that incredible mock store that has led to lots of people going to work. It is an exciting time for vocational rehabilitation to see these successes and for this workforce driven curriculum in the era of WIOA when one of the focal points is business engagement to have a partner like CVS Health—It’s it’s–these are good times.

Anne:   Absolutely, absolutely, and I think when people come for tours and we show them the CVS Health store, they are really amazed at at—the quality of the instruction and the realness, and how this is becoming a reality.

Rick: Well again. Duane Rohr, CVS Health, thank you for your support and good luck to CVS in all the initiatives that you are taking on to help people with disabilities become employed and lead better lives. Anne: Thank you. Thank you Duane.

Anne: Thank you for joining us for today’s episode, you can find our contact information in the show notes at vrworkforcestudio.com if you’d like to know more please visit our foundation website at www.rcf.org until next time won’t you join us in creating hope and a path forward.

Rick: I’m Rick Sizemore

Anne: And I’m Anne Hudlow, sharing the courageous stories of Vocational Rehabilitation.

VR workforce studio inspiration, education, and affirmation at work the workforce and disability employment podcast from the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center a division of the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitation services. The VR Workforce Studio is published by our foundation at www.rcf.org and is available in iTunes and at vrworkforcestudio.com.

Sponsor: Support for the distribution and publication of the VR Workforce Studio comes from CVS Health; CVS Health helping people on their path to better health.

Special Episode Hire Ed Conference “Imagine.”

Read more

Looking Ahead to the 2016 Hire Education Conference.

Rick Sizemore here with Anne Hudlow for today’s Special Edition Quickcast

Anne: As we look ahead to the 2016 Hire Ed Thats H-I-R-E Hire Ed Conference; Imagine.

Rick: The Virginia Community College System concludes its 50th Anniversary Celebration this year, we now look to the next 50 years to “Imagine” what is possible.

Anne:  The Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center and the Foundation is thrilled about this opportunity because it bring us together with community college leaders, workforce development professionals, partner agencies, and many others to explore the ways we can all respond to the needs of businesses and individuals here in the Commonwealth.

Rick;  And That positions Virginia as a national model for workforce training. As we shine the spotlight on the accomplishments of our colleges  including the historic workforce credentials funding plan.

Anne:  I know we will be thrilled to be there Imagining the future with an Array of Virginia’s workforce professionals.

Rick:  New to the Conference this year is our live Podcast.  As we not only Imagine new and creative ways of sharing the workforce message but actually connect our session and the conference to the exciting world of possibilities in iTunes, Stitcher Radio and VR Workforce Studio’s Podcast Website.

Anne:  In our live podcast , We’ll Meet Rod Early, and hear his inspiring and courageous story of vocational rehabilitation and returning to work following a near death accident.

Rick:  We’ll interview an All Star Panel with Vanessa Rastberger from the Virginia Manufacturers Association (Manufacturing Skills Institute), Joe Ashley form the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Service, Sam Rothrock from Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center …

Anne:  and Amanda Christopher from the Virginia Community College System.   We’ll be talking about how podcasting opens doors for business engagement and provides a powerful platform for sharing success stories-especially workforce success stores.  Rick how many times have you heard leaders say….we need to share our success stories….

Rick:And that is what our podcast is all about.

Anne – Sharing the courageous success stories of vocational rehabilitation.

Rick: This all before a live studio audience we’ll get into jobs driven training, WIOA,  Career Pathways for Individuals with Disabilities, Workforce Credentialing and much more.   For more info on the  2016 Hire Ed Conference visit event.crowdcompass.com/hireed16 or download the VCCS Events App (free!) and click on Hire Education Conference.

A Big Vision of Hope, The DeWanna Christian Story.

Hear DeWanna Christian’s Courageous Story of Vocational Rehabilitation, Surviving Meningitis and Living to Excel as a Rehabilitation Professional. Read more

The Rod Early Story

Seven Months of Iron Will…From the Hospital Back to My Manufacturing Job

NOTE: To listen to the podcast, click the play icon above.

Show Notes

Rick Sizemore is the Director of the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center Rick’s Contact info: rick.sizemore@wwrc.virginia.gov @rickwwrc   540-332-7214.

Anne Hudlow is the Director of the WWRC Foundation. Anne’s Contact info: annehudlow@comcast.net or WWRCF.org.

Vanessa Rastberger is the Workforce Solutions Manager at the Virginia Manufacturers Association. Contact Vanessa at 804-643-7489 ext. 123.

Special thanks for Sally Murphy (vocals) and Richard Adams (recording and production) of the VR Workforce Jingle, composed by Rick Sizemore.


Transcribed by Doug Council.

Transcript for Rod Early Story.

This is the VR workforce studio, inspiration, education and affirmation   “AT WORK.”   The workforce and disability employment podcast from the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center, A Division of the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Service. The VR Workforce Studio is published by our Foundation at wwrcf.org and is available in iTunes and at vrworkforcestudio.com. You are listening to the vrworkforcestudio.

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And I broke down because that was the day that I knew I was going to be up. That I was going to get back up a get walking.

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Rick: On today’s episode of the VR Workforce Studio we are on the Career Pathway to manufacturing with individuals with disabilities. I’m Rick Sizemore, Director of the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center.

Anne: And I’m Anne Hudlow, Director of the WWRC Foundation and together we are…

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Rick: Uh, got to stop you Anne.

Anne: Oh, Ok.

Rick: Little quick story, Anne: Ok, This week I was at the Performance Management Summit in Richmond, VA with all the data analytics and VR leadership of the country and they had one central theme and that is to tell the story of vocational rehabilitation so I look in my pocket at your brand new, very flashy business card and I see this phrase and it hits me. The opening of our program where we say and together we are, you got to share this new phrase you came up with.

Anne: Oh, ok. It’s sharing the courageous stories of vocational rehabilitation and don’t you think that’s fitting?

Rick: That is the very essence of this podcast. You get the award for phrasing our podcast this week so, Anne: Aw well thank you, way cool, way cool so we have Rod Early talking about manufacturing on deck with his unbelievable story a 7 month journey from the hospital back to his manufacturing job and guess who rejoins us today, Vanessa Rastbeger from the manufacturing skills institute.

Anne: Oh great, so Rick it’s been almost a year since Vanessa has been here talking about manufacturing.

Rick: So let’s to a little rehab rewind.

Anne: Yes let’s go back to what she said.

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Vanessa: If we don’t increase the productivity of our workforce, industry is saying we won’t be here for the long term. That is very scary to me. If we don’t change our mindset and take action to insure our workforce has critical thinking and troubleshooting skills across a range of areas that we can validate. We are jeopardizing our global competitiveness

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Rick: She talked about reducing the skills gap and the interest gap for youth and getting them excited about manufacturing jobs.

Anne: Oh great, now we have two bright, young VR consumers who just completed the “Dream it. Do it.” academy. We’ll talk with them to see if we accomplished our goals with the academy.

Rick: We’ll we are also going to check in with Brett Vassey head of the Virginia Manufacturers Association as we look ahead to the 2016 Virginia Industry Forum.

Anne: Great well that’s exciting. Let’s get started with the Inspiration Showcase.

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Rick: Rod Early has worked in manufacturing his entire life and lots of various capacities. He currently works at Daikin Applied which is a member of the global air conditioning company Daikin industries. Daikin Applied manufacturers technologically advanced commercial HVAC systems for customer around the world. Daikin formally known as Daikin McQuay started back in 1924 and has an extensive history of developing new industry leading innovations and technologies.

Anne: Yes and if you live in the Shenandoah Valley you know this company well. Rod is a key member of Daikin’s team in Verona and has worked his way back into manufacturing over the past several months following a day when his life dramatically changed during a very unfortunate construction accident. Rod welcome to the podcast.

Rod: Thank you very much

Rick: It’s great to have you here Rod. Like most everyone on the podcast, there was a point in your life when your story of disability began. Can you take us back to the day of your accident and tell us what happened?

Rod: It was in June in 2013 umm… I was actually digging a ditch to put some power cable down with a friend of mine. We were parked on the top of my drive way which is real steep. We were pulling the straps off when the load got shifted and his truck started going down the driveway, Rick: Unexpectedly? Rod: unexpectedly. I jumped in and tried to stop it, tried to steer it and was just picking up speed it would not stop well across my road it can drop 40 feet or you could go 10 feet, you just don’t know so I choose to jump out of the truck at about three quarters of the way down and I landed on this bank on the side, unfortunately the trailer had gone on that side of the bank and it pinned me, crushed me and it kind of rolled me to a stop and it ended up breaking my spine in two places. I ended up with six broken ribs, a punctured lung, neck brace, and a serious laceration to my thigh which took about three skin grafts and I was lucky to be alive. I was transported with Pegasus to UVA and spent two weeks or more at UVA and ICU.

Rick: It must have been a bone chilling moment when you realized you had to jump up out of the truck.

Rod: Yes it was one of those second thoughts and in hindsight I’d of stayed in and road it out but uh the truck ended up not going in too far but, you know I had no idea knowing the weight on the back of the trailer and the truck itself. I just… in my mind it was going to go deeper and I thought I could hop on the bank with no problem, young man. It didn’t work out that way.

Anne: Wow, that’s terrifying. How did the accident affect you physically Rod?

Rod: I’m pretty much paralyzed. I can walk with my upper muscles on my thighs but I have no feeling in my feet uhh… can’t move my toes, have no calf muscles per say. Upper body, I’m fine. I can get around I’m just slow. I can’t go long distances but with the help of WWRC we just keep moving on, keep trying.

Anne: Right.

Rick: So you were almost killed in this accident and flown via Pegasus to the hospital. Tell us what happened in the days following the accident when you were in the hospital.

Rod: When I woke up, you know disoriented and everything, it was evident real quick that I couldn’t move especially with the ribs were probably the worst of the pain. Every time they had to roll me I had like six drains in my back, but they had to roll me every day and the ribs just tore me apart and then the neck brace and then I had like a big brace on my leg from where the skin graphs and they did not want that moving, they were worried about to blood clots and issues there. That was the biggest concern right away they already done the surgery and I just didn’t move for two weeks. They then shipped me to hill south. When I got there I wasn’t able to participate in any therapy because of the leg brace I still had on and the neck brace but they were able to teach me how to get from a bed to a wheelchair, Wheelchair to a bed and then we also right before I left they kind of taught me how to get in and out of a vehicle a little bit and basically nursed me back to health.

Rick: Were you aware of your surroundings during those first days. A lot of people we talk to don’t remember a month after a serious accident. Were you aware of what was going on?

Rod: I’ll tell you some story’s when you are on the drugs at first I thought I was in a foreign country and they were taking body parts. I’m calling my wife and asking her where am I and she tells me I’m at UVA and I’m like thank god they flew be back because I had no idea.

Rick: So you got oriented in a week or so maybe?

Rod: Yea, actually I was still on a lot of pain killers up until to the time I went to hill south, they kind of at first kinda brought me out and they did not want me to feel the pain immediately they would kind of bring me out of it and put me back in because apparently there was a lot of pain and ummm… I don’t remember a lot there it was, I know a lot of people took care of me a lot. My family, my wife was there night and day. I had the two surgeries once in my back and stuff and then they went back and did something I can’t remember what that was but a lot of that was a blur. I don’t remember a lot until I got to hill south and even that was still a lot of nursing, they had to do everything for me I mean I was flat on my back and at their mercy pretty much.

Anne: You know I can imagine that would take a toll, what was your lowest point emotionally.

Rod: When you are going through all of that you don’t think about that you’re thinking ok their just… their working on me, they’re going to get me better you’re not depressed because you’re just thinking, who’s coming in next to take the blood, what time are they coming to roll me over I got to get ready for or do I need the meds or don’t I you know I got to get off these things you know it just wasn’t my, Anne: a lot to think about, it was making me have bad dreams and everything. Just talking with the doctors, trying to get answers, am I going to be ok it’s hard to pull anything out if they don’t know, they don’t know how far you’re going to get back and what you’re going to get back.

Rick: So was there a point where you hit a low?

Rod: Yes, when I got released from Health South. My wife was a little upset when they releasing me so early. It was after; I forget I’m want to say five weeks I’m not sure on that but, she didn’t feel that I was ready. I was ready to go, get out of here I’ve had enough and when I got home and the finality hit and my wife had to go back to work. She was coming off cancer and kemo, that’s why we were putting the ditch in, it was for a hot tub for her but she had been off for months so she had to get back to work so we were kind of both, it was a crazy year but when I first got home this was that loneliness it was like everything stopped. First you’re getting all of the attention you got the nurses, the doctors, the family and then all of a sudden everyone is going back to their lives and you’re sitting there in the hospital bed and you got your chair there. My bother-in-law is there and he is building me a handicap shower at the house, so I have someone around but it’s just that ok is this my life. This is going to be it. I’m going to be in a bed and I’m going to be in that chair and I’m going to be watching TV and I’m going to be rolling around.

Rick: A lot of fear?

Rod: And it hit me it was uh.

Rick: It was tough time?

Rod: It was.

Anne: I can imagine.

Rick: Well was there a point where you started having some motivation thinking about their possibilities in the future.

Rod: One of the biggest emotional things that happened I met a lady named Diane Hess and she was with Continuum and she was my therapist and when she got there she was like how are you doing or whatever and she was like have you been up and I was like no they told me I wouldn’t be able to be up, I wasn’t ready to be up and she said well were getting up today and I looked at her like she was crazy and I said ok, whatever you say and then she asked me if I had a walker and I actually had some donated to me from friends of mine and stuff so I said yes there is probably three or four in there so she went in there so she went and got one and checked them and everything and she got me up that day and I think I took four steps and I broke down because that was the day, excuse me, that I knew I was going to be up. That I was going to get back up a get walking.

Rick: Powerful day.

Anne: Awesome.

Rod: Yep, after about a week she asked me if I had heard of WWRCs program and I told her no and she said that she used to work there and she knew a lady and that I would be a prime suspect or candidate for it and that she was surprised that I hadn’t been referred to it already and I said well maybe it’s because I didn’t do any rehab or they didn’t know anything on where I stood so she contacted a lady Tracy Toplowski and then she called me back and I was accepted into the program on an out-patient basis and I was actually coming here for one hour a day therapy and that’s where I met Kate Baxter I’ll call her my evil angel but from the day I met her she got me moving and we took those four steps and we knocked them into eventually three quarters of a mile which very rarely I do when I did walk and she was my inspiration and got me moving, got me going and she asked me if I would be interested in coming into the in-house program to basically stay here and get three hours a day therapy, two hours physical therapy and then work therapy, whatever you call it, Rick: Getting back on the job, yea therapy and so I decided to do it and once I got here and went through those three therapy’s a day I was in bed by seven o’clock that afternoon wore out but it is an intensive program and a lot of motivation. She kept me motivated there are times where you get down on yourself and she said goals from me and I was breaking those goals and that kept me, I’m a goal breaker. I have to break it or it drives me nuts and she was making them and I was breaking them within the week and she would make new ones and fusing at me because I was breaking them to fast and that inspired me even more to get that approval from her and we kept going and kept going and she just stayed in and Sonya from the other side, she taught me to do laundry and make beds and they taught me how to drive a lady named Mary, Anne: Your wife must have was happy about that, yes and actually I put a washer and drier in now and I do my own, I always have done mine before anyway so, I wanted to do that to take it off of her especially when I first got home everything was on her, you know it not only changed my life it changed my wife’s live too and now I do everything, she still does most of the cooking but I’m not gonna starve let’s put it that way and anything else around the house, I would do. The bed I can do, I can do the laundry and she has no problem telling me get up and get it yourself and so we’re at that point and you need that. You don’t use it, you lose it it’s that simple and you got to have that tough love too, yea.

Anne: So it looks like, it sounds like vocational rehabilitation at WWRC really helped you in your personal life but how also did it pave the way for you to get back to Daikin.

Rod: Well they got me back mobile whys they taught me to drive they go hand controls on my vehicle, got my license. That mobility is big they also took me out to get gas, how to get around the vehicle and get gas, the grocery store how to get around there and back to your cart, you know when you got a full cart you use the cart itself as a walker. Those types of things Kate drilled me on outside rocks, grass, inclines you know it’s nice inside the four walls. Everything’s safe, everything’s flat the world is not flat when you leave that door and you have, my biggest fear was curbs. I was scared to death of curbs and it was all in my head, it was mental and Kate knew it but she kept working me through it and working through it until she finally said, get that leg back and get it up there. I’d always catch my toe, then I would panic and that 110 pound lady catch me every time. I knew she was there she was my safety net but she taught me how to get over that fear and I had a big one there and that was one of my biggest hurtles. I can do steps, I can do rails but the curbs with just the canes I; it took me a little while to get over that. Now I have no issues but if you don’t learn that then it’s tough learning that on your own at first, you know everything your canes, grasses and as flat as it looks when you not worried about falling but when you have instability you make sure you exactly know where that cane is going when you put it down.

Rick: What we might mention. The foundation is involved in a project now to purchase a safegait system that could help people when they are trying to walk. It’s a suspension system that provides insurance when you want to take those risks so a little more about that in the program but let’s talk about the video that you were recently featured in uhhh… Larry Kroggel, who’s the HR manager out at Daikin, referred you in that video as a subject matter expert and that you’ve be able to really take on some different roles after your accident so tell us what you were doing at Daikin before the accident and what you’re doing now.

Rod: I’m an associate engineer technician there. I’ve been there for 29 years and basically I’m in the R and D setting. We take new products, innovative stuff that we haven’t released we do a testing; we do the qualifications of them. We make sure they are going to do before we release them, tear them down, blow them up, take them to the stream to see if they are going to last or not. A lot of computer work, a lot of electrical work, a lot of hooking up units there’s things I can’t do now when I come to hoses and stuff physically I’m not capable of doing that but they’ve bought me a ladder; it’s in close so I can get up into the drives and do my electrical work and component work. I can still hook up the units with the guys, I can still do all of the computer work and I’m more of a trainer at this point. I was always a technician for all these years and I’ve done pretty much every job on the plant but now I am more of a teaching role for the new technicians coming in or engineers that just don’t know anything about air conditioning and they will stick them back with us for a while to get their feet wet so I’m pretty lucky to be in that position.

Anne: That’s great, what changed did the plant have to make for you when you came back to work?

Rod: Kate and Sonya and, it was another lady but I can’t remember who but they traveled with to my plant and met with the safety lady and my human resources at that time and my supervisor and we walked through the plant, back to my office and everything and just kind of went over what it would take to get me comfortable in some things and what we saw coming up that would be issues for me. The plant went out of their way; they installed a automatic door opener back at the lab straight into our office, they gave me a parking spot right there to where I can get out and get to it, they bought me a electrical golf cart so if I’m dealing with customers on the other side of the plant I can drive out to it work with customers that we have maybe. A ladder like I said to get me around, around the units and up into stuff that I need to be around when I’m training or doing the work myself. So they went out of their way.

Rick: Not to minimize what Daikin did because they obviously gave you the accommodations you needed to be successful but they were not great expenses on the company. Seems like some minor things that really made a big difference and enabled them to keep you on the job.

Rod: Once they made a decision to work with me I mean even to this day if I need anything they pretty much; whatever you need rod they work with me on it. Money hasn’t been an issue, I try not to; I would rather do my job with fewer problems if I keep a low profile and do my thing and that’s what you want to do when you’re handicapped you feel like you are getting some of the attention you don’t want it. You just want to do your job and kind of settle on in and I’ve got great guys I’m working with I mean if I need anything they’re right there.

Anne: Well you obviously do job well and they must consider you a true asset, Rod: Thank you, to go to these great lengths.

Rick: So this is a great success story so what advice do you have for an employer who’s thinking of hiring someone with a disability?

Rod: I think what we did with Kate and all of them going to the facility walking through me, there were issues I noticed that day carpets rolling up on my walker, how far it was to the bathrooms if we had anything to any bathrooms luckily there was a nice handicapped in the facility, bathroom and stuff, but just talking to that individual about what his job is and the reality of what you can do and what you can’t do. There is a point when you say alright Rod I know you use to do this but you got to back off, you can’t do this any longer and then the other things you can and do safely in a plant situation you still have to remember safety’s first so not only for myself but to people I work with and I think just doing that one on one and getting ideas from both sides is defiantly valuable.

Rick: It’s a real partnership between business and industry and vocational rehabilitation that makes this possible and if that blink isn’t working this just can’t work but in this case obviously I did. You’re back at work and they have retained a valuable employee.

Rod: Yes sir.

Anne: You know Rod it sounds like such a process for you with all this but what advice would you give to someone who has a disability whose struggling.

Rod: There’s going to be some highs and there’s going to be lows. One of the things that I was surprised, I have issues now that aren’t with my back. There are other things that I have trouble with catheterization and it’s the mental side of that. You can fight the physical side, the mental side is tough sometimes and you’re going to have those up and down days it’s just part of it so you got to have that support group you know your wife, your family and everything else you’ve got to have that and a positive out… you got to remember that life goes on and you want to get the most out of it you know. I’m still, I’m lucky to be here so I’m going to take advantage of everyday that I can get on top of that you know and try to get back to what I was doing before and I’ve got three girls and a beautiful wife. I can’t complain and I have a job.

Rick: You started out with four steps and you wound up walking three quarters of a mile. That is a great accomplishment as you think back on that, what do you think the future holds.

Rod: I don’t know yet, you know. You hear people talk that you don’t know how much you get back totally it maybe five years, it maybe seven years. I saw a video on a guy that was eight years and took his first steps. When I was here Kate and I, she has a video I took eight steps. It wasn’t pretty as my wife said it looked like I was twerking or something but I made eight steps you know so I don’t know how far it’ll go. I’m hoping every day I get some more back and something get stronger and stronger. I don’t think there’s any saying what’s the end because I don’t know what that’s going to be. Hopefully I’d love to just walk one day just on my own and that’s not to say they are not going to come up with something to help in that to so there’s new innovations everyday so…

Anne: So now you were a golfer too. You’re going to get back to golf I hope.

Rod: Yea (Laughing), I love to golf

Rick: Your no stranger to golf at home, are you Anne?

Anne: Well, I try. My husband is a great golfer but umm… whenever we go out, I don’t count; I don’t keep score.

Rod: I don’t either half the time (laughing), Anne: So you and I can go out together sometime. I’d slow him up, I love the game and my father-in-law got me into it and later in years I use to play baseball, softball so it was natural I’d pick up golf next you know and I was at the point to where I was getting ready to try it with a bungee cord and the guys at work were engineers and trasfins so we started talking and I had a guy at work draw a sketch and is actually making a thing we hook on to the golf kart right now and it has a built and it’s almost like a weight built snaps in, holds me and has two little shock absorbers and a stabilizer bar and we’ve tried it out once but one of the pieces he made it out of was like a cast and broke so he machining a steel one right now. We’re going to try it out here in a couple of weeks.

Anne: That’s great well let us know how it goes because we can have a Daikin/WWRC tournament, Rod: Well there you go, I can see that happening.

Rick: Well and we’d love to get a photograph of that to put on the website.

Rod: I told my therapist down there if the kart doesn’t fall on me and I will bring her a video on how it goes after a few swings and see how it goes.

Anne: That’s great, well as you look on all this Rod. The seven month journey from a near death experience to being back at work and you know, what do you want people to know most about you and rehabilitation here at WWRC that has helped you, you know back to the work you love.

Rod: I guess the biggest thing is keeping that motivation. When I worked with Kate, we set those goals. When you leave here you set your own goals too I mean there’s things cause it’s easy to get complacent. It’s easy to take the easy route a lot of times you know, I still try to make it to at least once every two weeks to come here to therapy on the side to keep going and that’s not easy you know. It’s easy to do the easy thing I’d just sit and not keep trying but, it comes back to the people I mean the people here defiantly give you that inspiration to keep trying and keep pushing and I mean they when you are having an low day when I was here right before I was released, I had three weeks left and I was going back to work and Kate; I had a rough week I wasn’t breaking any records. I was getting through but wasn’t excelling at all and she could tell I was tried, I wasn’t feeling good and I kept telling her my back kept giving me trouble. Well she found a bump on my back and it was actually and infection that was on my spine so it delayed… they were going to have to open me up again from top to bottom and luckily when I went to the hospital, they went in with a camera and they found the infection and they were able to put a drain in my back and drain that infection and I had to go on a drip line for six weeks and a drain in my back and that pushed me getting back to work in December of that year so I made it through all of that so I made it through all of that stuff and I thought oh gosh here we go again so after that I came back to meet with Kate, my therapists here and we were going to do three weeks of just seeing, making sure I haven’t lost anything physically wise and endurance wise before I go back and within the first and second day I was actually meeting my goals that I meet before I left. I was tying those goals so we were happy about that, that I didn’t lose anything thank goodness they didn’t have to open me up again. The drains and the antibiotics work so that pushed me back a month so that’s why I got back in, I guess it was February for that year.

Rick: Rod you are the man with the iron will to succeed. ¯Music transition¯ We’ve enjoyed talking with you. You are an inspiration to everyone and we wish nothing but the greatest success in the future, thank you for being here on the podcast.

Rod: Thank you.

Anne: Thank you, Rod.

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Rick: Vanessa Rastbeger is the workforce solutions manager at the Manufacturing Skills Institute. Nice to have you back in the studio Vanessa.

Vanessa: Thank you Rick, I’m glad to be here today.

Rick: So Vanessa welcome back to the VR Workforce Studio Podcast. Great to have you here it was almost a year ago when you and Katherine DeRosear and we recorded our first podcast on manufacturing and I was listening to you through the monitors. You sound fantastic so many people get started they’re first couple of podcasts they’re nervous but you sound great.

Vanessa: I feel nervous but…

Rick: Well we had to change the studio around a little bit since you were here.

Vanessa: Maybe because you were in a different room. It’s just different. Feels more professional.

Rick: Well at any rate were glad you’re here. Let’s talk about Rod Early.

Anne: Vanessa you’re so very focused on helping manufactures maintain their talent pools what was it like for you to hear vocational rehabilitation helped a guy like Rod to get back to work.

Vanessa: Rods story was a compelling one. My main reactions with Rods interview was hope. That things are possible if you keep moving forward. He talks about motivation that a lot of people take the path of least resistance but his message to me was that if you overcome the fear, to try new things and invest in yourself the future is wide open to all kinds of opportunities, especially that may have seemed at one time impossible.

Rick: Vanessa, you and I had a great day together on June 2nd when you came up to the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Centers part of our showcase for the “Dream It. Do It.” Academy in our MTT program. What was it like to be in the mist of all that excitement that day?

Vanessa: Rick it was a great day. I was very proud to be there. I had been working with you all for some time to get ready for the academy when I came in I was not surprised to see a lot of people there.

Rick: There were a lot of employers, business people, business development managers, a lot of folks there. There’s a tremendous buzz about this partnership.

Vanessa: Yes and I walked in. I was so impressed with what I was seeing and what had been accomplished that week and I was very impressed also to hear from some of the participants. They really seemed like they were very proud of themselves, they seem very engaged, very proud of their instructor and seemed like they were really happy that they had come to the academy that it made a very positive impact which I’m sure that will be lasting for them.

Rick: I think we had almost seventy people actually in the new MTT classroom. How would you describe the classroom setup and the teaching methods of the academy?

Vanessa: I thought it was very intriguing. I have told many people about what your all are doing and no one has any doubts on Jim Leech’s qualifications to teach the academy and also the MTT program. I thought what you did was unique. You didn’t just use the “Dream It. Do It.” curriculum that you could have used but you created your own and I thought what you all did was innovative and just something that really made the students feel like they were building something. That was really unique.

Rick: They got their hands involved in what’s going on. What did you think about the purification unit that the students constructed in the whole manufacturing setup.

Vanessa: Yea I was like I said very impressed. I thought they defiantly seemed to know a lot more about manufacturing maybe in that week.

Anne: So Vanessa, we have David and Sarah here with us today having just completed the “Dream It. Do It.” academy welcome David and Sarah. So let me ask you David how well did the manufacturing academy introduce you to modern manufacturing.

David: Yea you guys did that very, very well. It seemed just like an actual plant but on a very small scale.

Anne: Great and Sarah you worked on the line in the academy, what was your job?

Sarah: Yea my part was to be a bottler which means I put the water in the bottle and I send it no down the line for the next person to cap it.

Anne: I understand you went on some field trips, what was your favorite site visit?

Sarah: Going to the Hersey plant.

David: I saw rows upon rows upon even more rows of conveyer belts and chocolates and my mom eats the heck out of some almond joys and now I can have some bragging rights that I saw them being made.

Rick: So David you spent five days learning what manufacturing is really like what surprised you most about the program here at WWRC.

David: I wasn’t expecting the educational part of it. I thought they were just going to give us a brief rundown of the machinery and just throw us in but no it’s very in depth and it actually teaches you about the history of manufacturing from where we were to where we are now.

Sarah: Well here they actually take the time and go over everything with you and make sure that you understand what you are doing and at a high school they usually have to 40 kids or 30 some in a classroom and they really aint got the time to take to help you understand so they just keep going and going and just hope that you’ll catch up.

Anne: These academy’s and our MTT training at WWRC are all part of the career pathways for individuals with disabilities initiative. Can you talk a little bit about you disability and how the academy helped you?

David: Well my disability is I have ADHD really bad. It’s hard for me to sit still in one location for long periods of time and what my job at the factory was quality control at my assembly line it was my job to inspect the bottles coming in but to me that didn’t seem like a job it just felt like something I wanted to do so it really picked me up and gave me something that I would enjoy doing so instead of me drifting off and either falling asleep like I usually to in class and today it was very, very fun and kept me entertained while I worked.

Sarah: Well my disability is that I am a slow learner and basically means like you can stand there and talk all day it tries to go in one ear and out the other.

Rick: So Sarah did the way we teach this academy help.

Sarah: Very much helpful because you show me one time and I’ve got it.

David: I think this academy shows if since we get a certificate whenever we accomplish something I feel like that will be something to prove to employers that hey we are very qualified workers and we are willing to work for you and we can be very good skilled workers once we get our mind set up.

Rick: Sarah and David thank you so much for your incredible comments. Any final thoughts from you Vanessa on our academy?

Vanessa: So that’s what the “Dream It. Do It.” academies and camps are all about is to really engage young folks about different careers and realize they could be successful and give it a try. Once they’re done with the academy, they move on to the MTT training hopefully and once they have those nationally recognized credentials it really does send a signal to manufactures that these folks are trainable, they don’t give up and they have some of the skills they want to hire and I think that’s a good thing for folks particularly if they have trouble communicating that themselves. The credentials speaks very loudly as far as the talent that they are.

Rick: Thank you Vanessa, we want to finish up now with a look ahead to the 2016 Virginia Industry Forum that will be held in Williamsburg on November 10th and 11th and some comments from the head of the Virginia Manufacturers Association, Brett Vassey.

Brett: The 5th annual MSI Workforce Development Symposium will continue the VMAs work on building a reliable talent pipeline for industry and a career pathway for future workers. We’ve committed the last decade to closing the skills and career planning gaps. This commitment requires attention to a work ready and industry ready workforce. Industry recognized credentials are the way forward and this year’s symposium we’ll further explore those solutions. One in particular will be expanding industry’s understanding of recruiting from a pool of talented individuals with disabilities. We’ll be breaking down physical barriers and intellectual barriers to gain a better understanding of the possible. This will include unveiling our new program with the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services for auditing the physical spaces of manufacturers for placing people with disabilities in those spaces with adaptive technology. This may be the first of its kind of commitment between the disability community and manufacturers. We hope this is the first step in a great success for a future program.

Rick: Brett it is always a pleasure to work with you and the great staff at the Virginia Manufacturers Association…. we’ll see you in Williamsburg on November 10th and 11th for the 2016 Virginia Industry Forum.

Brett: Rick we appreciate the partnership with DARS. This has been a fantastic relationship. We know that this symposium will be one of the bright stars in our very near future together and thank you for the opportunity to work together.

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Rick: Anne this has been a great show.

Anne: It has, it has.

Rick: I was so inspired to listen to David and Sarah talk about their future in such affirming and optimistic ways. I believe these two will be working in manufacturing within the next three months and that is tremendously exciting. I think this gives life to the new tagline.

Anne: Oh I agree, I think they will be incredibly successful in sharing the courageous stories of vocational rehabilitation certainly rings true here.

Rick: Maybe you would like to share your own courageous story of vocational rehabilitation. You can contact Anne or myself at the website at vrworforcestudio.com look in the show notes you’ll see all of our contact information. We’d love to hear from you.

Anne: That’s right Rick and if you would like to find out more information about the WWRC foundation we invite you to visit our website at wwrcf.org to find out how you can help.

Rick: I’m Rick Sizemore.

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Anne: And I’m Anne Hudlow.

Rick: Sharing the courageous stories of vocational rehabilitation

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Vrworkforcestudio, inspiration, education and affirmation   “AT WORK”   The workforce and disability employment podcast from the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center, A Division of the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Service. The VR Workforce Studio is published by our Foundation at wwrcf.org and is available in iTunes and at vrworkforcestudio.com.