Episode 64 – A Look Ahead to 2019 Introducing Vicki Varner and updates from CSAVR and NRA.
Speaker 1: (singing).
Vicki Varner: I chose this platform, because when you hear the words, wheelchair user, most of the time a bunch of adjectives come to mind. But none of the adjectives include young, beautiful, and able, so that is something that I really would like to change.
Rick Sizemore: Welcome to a special episode of the VR Workforce Studio, as we take on the challenges of 2019. I’m Rick Sizemore.
Anne Hudlow: And I’m Anne Hudlow.
Rick Sizemore: Today we have these quick updates about the podcast and what you can look forward to this year, and someone we’d like for you to meet, Vicki Varner. A powerful spokesperson for people with disabilities. Who’s injured in a car accident back in 2015, now enrolled in college. Listen to this, Anne, a double major in psychology and communications, how exciting. She’s just beginning to work with vocational rehabilitation, so we’re planning to follow her throughout her VR journey across the next year. Vicki recently selected as Miss Wheelchair Virginia, and has a powerful platform of advocacy and inspiration.
Vicki Varner: Thank you.
Rick Sizemore: That’s so awesome to hear your voice. Tell us what it was like to be selected to be Miss Wheelchair Virginia.
Vicki Varner: Well, it was definitely an amazing experience. I actually found out about it the month of when my injury happened in December. That’s kind of crazy, because that can be kind of a rough time for me. My family absolutely loves the holidays, and it’s something that they celebrate. And in the back of my mind, of course, I want to celebrate with them, but I have this dark cloud over me. So, when I found out about it, it gave me that push that I needed to be more involved. And, yeah, I messed up already.
Rick Sizemore: No, you’re doing wonderful. So many people think of Miss Wheelchair as a beauty pageant, but it’s anything but. It’s a place for young women, like yourself, to talk about their platform of inspiration and advocacy. Tell us about yours.
Vicki Varner: My platform is breaking down societal ableist beauty standards. I chose this platform, because when you hear the words, wheelchair user, most of the time a bunch of adjectives come to mind. But none of the adjectives include young, beautiful, and able, so that is something that I really would like to change.
Rick Sizemore: Seeing you in the program, you certainly won me over talking about what you want to accomplish in the next year. Could you tell us more about your goals?
Vicki Varner: Yeah. Like I said, my platform is breaking down societal ableist beauty standards. So I would like to work with, maybe, some local ad agencies and be more inclusive of differently abled women and men. I’m also very fitness oriented. I was a college softball player prior to my accident, so I know how much fitness can help you both, mentally and physically, and it’s way more important after a disability. A lot of people with disabilities don’t really know where to get started, as far as fitness. Which I definitely don’t blame them, because all of the gyms and equipment are geared toward able-bodied people. So I plan on going to multiple different gyms around the State of Virginia, and just talking to them about adding some equipment that wheelchair users could use, and how to work with people with various different disabilities.
Rick Sizemore: That is so awesome. That, in addition to being involved in communications, and psych, and college, and this platform of advocacy, you’re going to be a busy lady, and you just got started with Voc Rehab here, in Virginia. Tell us about that.
Vicki Varner: I would like to get some help with school and getting back into the workforce.
Rick Sizemore: Well, that’s a very exciting goal, and this podcast is all about people with disabilities making that transition, going through development so that they can go to work. And what we’d like to do, over the course of the time you’re Miss Wheelchair Virginia and beyond, is follow your story through Voc Rehab, through your college experience, and the career pathway to employment.
Vicki Varner: Awesome. I look forward to keeping in touch and I just want to thank you for your support.
Anne Hudlow: Well, thank you, Vicki, and we’ll look forward to your on-going story.
Rick Sizemore: Along that line, happy to welcome Katia Albanese, who works with CSAVR’s Social Media and Outreach. Welcome to the podcast, Katia.
Katia Albanese: Thank you so much, Rick, for having me here today.
Rick Sizemore: Everyone’s very excited about this new newsletter.Katia Albanese: And so are we. CSAVR just launched its new newsletter called, In Focus, which is part of the Vision 2020 effort, continuing to lead change today, tomorrow, together. We’re really excited about this publication. The newsletter offers insight into what state VR agencies are doing to increase employment opportunities and outcomes for people with disabilities.
Rick Sizemore: Well, we’re going to include the link to CSAVR and information about how folks can get the newsletter. So, again, congratulations on the success of this. I know everyone’s really excited about reading these promising practices that you’re capturing in the newsletter.
Katia Albanese: Yeah, and the newsletter will be published quarterly. The first issue was released in January, and the second is expected to come out in a couple of months in April. As you mentioned, each issue highlights innovative ways VR agencies are fulfilling their charge as core members of The State Workforce Assistance. Each issue focuses on four key areas, reflective of each state VR’s goals: meeting the needs of individuals with disabilities as customers, responding to the needs of businesses, collaborating with public agencies and community partners, and informing and shaping federal state policy and practice.
Katia Albanese:In addition to encouraging our listeners to please subscribe to the newsletter, we also are encouraging listeners to send us their story, share your successes with us, so that we can feature them in one of the upcoming issues of the newsletter. And you can do that by simply emailing a brief summary highlighting your efforts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rick Sizemore: Outstanding work. We’re so glad to be connected with you, Katia, and best of luck with the newsletter.
Katia Albanese:Thank you so much.
Anne Hudlow: Rick, you’re working with NRA’s Social Media Committee now, correct?
Rick Sizemore: That’s right. The National Rehabilitation Association, not the gun NRA, the National Rehabilitation Association. Super excited to be working with NRA’s social media efforts, and we’ll be sharing news and updates from NRA throughout the year here, on this podcast. Had a call with them yesterday. Mary-Anne Joseph, the current NRA President and, of course, Dr. Fred Schroeder and a host of other top VR professionals from all around the country. Certainly look for them on all the social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, and LinkedIn, sharing those great stories right out of NRA.
Rick Sizemore: They’ll be working with us here, in the VR Workforce Studio, to share those updates, as well. We’ll also provide links in our show notes back to all the NRA news and happenings.
Anne Hudlow: And don’t forget the National Rehabilitation Association’s 38th Annual Disability Employment Summit being held March 31st through April 2nd in Alexandria, Virginia. We’ll have all the details for you in our show notes at vrworkforcestudio.com and, of course, links to CSAVR’s Spring Conference in Bethesda, Maryland April 6th through the 10th, as well.
Rick Sizemore: Well, the big news is that we’ve had an extraordinary response to our live podcast on Career Pathways, the V-2-V Grant, and how VR and apprenticeships have been a real success with the Hershey company. So we’re going to continue to feature that episode through the first of March. You know, Anne, we’ve spent a lot of time with our listeners this year talking about the podcast. We’re making a few changes. Our episodes will now post on the website on the first of every month. Of course, you can find us on Apple Podcast, Digital Radio, Tune-In, Breaker, and all of your favorite podcast apps.
Rick Sizemore: We’ve got a lot of exciting publications upcoming. We’re especially excited to be working with John Walsh, who leads the Project E3 on Targeted Communities, some truly exciting stories emerging about helping ensure employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
Anne Hudlow: We always bring you guests who can share the story of how they became employed through vocational rehabilitation, with reflections from VR professionals, and the business community. Our episodes truly embrace CSAVR’s Vision 2020 of being mission driven and dual customer focused. Of course, we have some awesome partners who we continue to work with, Cheri Takamoto from the National Clearinghouse, Deb Ruh’s Global Impact Today Radio Network, Virginia Voice, and others who have joined us to get involved in these powerful stories of vocational rehabilitation.
Rick Sizemore: Anne, it’s like one of our clients here, at Wilson, said to me the other day, he said, “I’m looking for the spark that ignites vocational rehabilitation.” I think that’s what these stories are.
Anne Hudlow: Right, here.
Rick Sizemore: They just give us that spark, and I’m really looking forward to 2019, and working with you, and others here in the VR Workforce Studio. So, until next time, I’m Rick Sizemore.
Anne Hudlow: And I’m Anne Hudlow.
Rick Sizemore: With the courageous stories of vocational rehabilitation.