Singer: VR Workforce Studio.
George Dennehy: So we just finished up recording this song. I was so honored to be a part of this. I know being a part of VR holds a special place in my heart. So, I’m just excited.
Announcer: Four, three, two, one.
Announcer: VR Workforce Studio, podcasting the sparks that ignite Vocational Rehabilitation through the inspiring stories of people with disabilities who have gone to work-
VR Clients: Tech Support
Announcer: As well as the professionals who have helped them.
James Hall: A job and a career. You got to look at how life changing this is.
Announcer: And the businesses who have filled their talent pipelines with workers that happen to have disabilities.
Debby Hopkins: To help expand registered apprenticeship.
Announcer: These are their stories.
Guest: Because there’s such a great story to tell about people with disabilities.
Announcer: And now here’s the host of the VR Workforce studio, Rick Sizemore.
Rick: Welcome to episode 83 of the VR Workforce Studio podcast. This is the one you’ve been waiting on with the world premiere of Vocational Rehabilitation’s National Anthem lead on VR featuring George Dennehy. Also Judy Heumann joins us to discuss the new Netflix film, Crip Camp and what it was like to actually be at Camp Jened, which is the focus of the film that was such a hit at the recent Sundance film festival. And Steve Wooderson from the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation. Their spring conference canceled because of the Coronavirus but Steve is with us today with all the updates from CSAVR. We’ll also have some other special guests on today’s show and the always informative and delightful Cherie Takemoto with our National Clearinghouse update.
Rick: Well, we open today show with the National Anthem for Vocational Rehabilitation with George Dennehy and the voices of rehabilitation choir. This work of course, based on the original by Dr. Ralph Pacinelli and the iconic phrase from Justin Dart, ‘Lead On VR’. Later in the show, reactions to the Anthem and where you can get the music video, the sheet music, and the complete history. Here is George Dennehy with Lead On VR.
For the Glory of VR
Jobs for people everywhere both near and far
Giving hope for all to fill the void
Building new pathways to being employed
Lead on lead on VR
Providing services that score
Creating new careers that endure
Working on skills and self esteem
Helping people reach their dreams.
Success for those with disabilities
Jobs and independence through capabilities
Celebrate the triumph of the human spirit
Shouting loud its praises for all who hear it
For all that your do through the DSU lead on lead on VR
Lead on lead on VR, lead on lead on VR (Repeat)
End Lyrics of VR National Anthem
Rick: Well that was the National Anthem for Vocational Rehabilitation featuring George Denny in the voices of rehabilitation choir produced by Richard Adams and featuring a host of professional musicians, a huge choir of students with disabilities from Wilson Workforce as well as Kathy Lafon and Jennifer Kirkland. The music video will be featured at vrworkforcestudio.com as well as on the VR 100 webpage out at RSA as we all celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Vocational Rehabilitation. I’ll have a complete history of the song as well as information on how you can get a free download of the sheet music and the soundtrack. That’s later on today’s show. But let’s get to Judy Heumann now. She was with us last month talking about her new book, ‘Being Heumann.’ Judy was included in the March edition of Time Magazine’s top 100 women featuring the most influential women of the past century. Judy is back with us to talk about Crip Camp. Welcome to the podcast, Judy.
Judy Heumann: Thank you so much Rick for having me on.
Rick: I want to talk about Crip Camp, the new film that premiered at Sundance out on Netflix. The film is about camp Jened in Hunter, New York. You were there at the camp as a young woman. What was it like?
Judy Heumann: So this is a monumental film and it was directed by a gentleman named, I call him Jimmy LeBrecht and a woman named Nicole Newnham and Jimmy was also a camper at Jened in 1971. He was 15 and I was 21, 22. And camp Jeanette was a really phenomenal experience. Many of us who went to camps for disabled children and youth found these camps to be a really important time in our life. And camp Jened was a unique camp. In as much as the leadership of the camp were young hippies and really pretty open minded. And so, the camp really enabled us as disabled youth to do more exploration and it was really an opportunity for us not only to be in an environment where our disabilities were not adversely affecting us because the environment was small and accessible.
Judy Heumann: And one of the responsibilities of the camp counselors was to help us with things like getting dressed and undressed, going to the bathroom, bathing, eating. So it meant that we also, didn’t have to be relying on our families, which in so many cases are the only people that were helping us. Crip Camp is a phenomenal film. As you said Rick, it was shown at Sundance. It was the first film shown at Sundance this year in a hall for 1200 people and the spillover of about four, 500. It received a five-minute standing ovation.
Judy Heumann: Because most of the people were not disabled people and people did not know and do not know about the history of the Disability Rights Movement. One of the exciting parts of Crip Camp is they have original footage of experiences of disabled campers including a round table discussion with disabled youth talking about what it was like to be a disabled youth, very powerful piece. And then it also follows the trajectory of a number of disabled people. I was one of those people. Jimmy was one of those people and a number of other activists and the film really allows you to take this journey up until today.
Judy Heumann: It’s got strong historical information about the individual people highlighted, very important footage on the section five of four demonstrations as you were mentioning, the ones in San Francisco and others and brings us to today. So it includes footage of the Americans with Disabilities Act demonstrations where people crawled up the capitol steps to emphasize the barriers of lack of accessibility.
Judy Heumann: And people leave that film more knowledgeable, more empowered and I would say the film was supposed to show five times. It wound up showing 12 times.
Judy Heumann: And it won the audience pick for best US documentary. At Sundance after each film or when you’re going into each film, they give you a little piece of paper and you rate the film. So, it was a real honor for the directors and producers. The film has been picked up by Netflix and the Obama Higher Ground Production Company, so it’s going to come out March 26th. It’s going to be in 12 caption and 12 languages and we’ll be in 192 countries. So it’s going to have a really important reach. Will allow people to have an understanding both within the US and outside of the US about the Disability Rights Movement in the United States.
Rick: It’s an amazing film just from seeing the clips and I know along with everyone that listens to this show is very excited and looking forward to being able to see that in its various forms. How does it make you feel having been there at the camp and to see the progress that’s been made over the past five decades?
Judy Heumann: Well, the progress has been made because of the vigilance and hard work of disabled individuals and allies. And the film really allows you to see how these things would not have happened if it weren’t for an ever expanding vigilant group of disabled individuals and allies. And I think that’s what’s one of the important parts of this film is that you can see that one of values of camp Jened and listeners who have disabilities will have been to other camps also, some of them great and some of them not. But it was a camp experience that really allowed us to come together and begin to feel injustice. And by that I mean we grew up in the United States where we were told study hard, work hard, good things will happen for you. But there was really no acknowledgement of the fact that good things were not going to happen to us as disabled individuals if discrimination in employment was going to be allowed to occur without any repercussions, without addressing discrimination.
Judy Heumann: So, departments in rehabilitation are very important because their job is to help disabled people look at the kinds of work they’re interested in and helping people get the kinds of training and work experience they need to be able to move into the world of work. But if the marketplace is not receptive to employment of disabled people, then the best training and education is still going to mean that people who should be able to get jobs are qualified for jobs, are not going to get them. So, that’s what I think. This film itself is powerful. It shows the value of disabled individuals being together, learning from each other and learning to articulate what our visions for our individual and collective futures needed to look like and begin to talk about to get there.
Judy Heumann: Things like, well, why are buildings being built with steps? Why are bathrooms not being made accessible? How come when we go to a movie theater, we have to get out of our seats. We can’t stay in our wheelchairs. Very basic things. And then of course more fundamental issues discussing why in the first place we were considered and treated as segments or second class citizens.
Rick: It has been such a pleasure to talk with Judy Heumann whose new book is out, ‘Being Heumann’, available in fine bookstores everywhere. The movie Crip Camp available in Netflix. Judy Heumann is an internationally recognized disability rights advocate. Thank you for being on our podcast, Judy.
Judy Heumann: Thank you so much Rick.
Rick: On today’s show we’re fortunate to have with us one of the most significant leaders in VR today, Steve Wooderson who’s the CEO of the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation. Welcome to the podcast, Steve.
Steve Wooderson: Hey, thanks Rick. Thanks for having me.
Rick: Steve, it was of course unfortunate, but completely necessary to cancel the spring conference this year. But today is April 20, 2020 or four, 2020. So our podcast today on four 2020 is actually for vision 2020. As we talk with you on the same day, the spring conference was scheduled to begin, so we’re adapting like everyone else to this Coronavirus in bringing our listeners your CSAVR update through our podcast. Again, welcome.
Steve Wooderson: Rick, before we get started, I really wanted to just make a comment about the Anthem that you work so diligently on. I’m absolutely thrilled to see that come to fruition. The Video-
Rick: We’re excited.
Steve Wooderson: Yeah. It’s really amazing. It’s so exciting. I’m sorry I don’t get to launch it at the spring conference, but we’re going to find ample opportunities to get that out in front of people. I mean, how many professionals do you know Rick, that has an Anthem that they can be proud of like this?
Rick: We’re excited.
Steve Wooderson: Yeah. Thank you. And particularly a shout out to Dr. Ralph Pacinelli.
Rick: Oh, wow.
Steve Wooderson: For his vision many years ago and how it’s really taken flight. Absolutely. So it’s wonderful.
Rick: Well thank you. Well, Steve, given where we are right now, can you give us a snapshot of the current state of affairs in the field?
Steve Wooderson: Yeah, sure. And you’re right, it’s really unfortunate that we had to cancel the spring conference in response to the Coronavirus. But, the VR profession is probably much in the same place as most public service agencies right now. Really adapting to the safer at home kinds of standards that have been set up across the country. Most of our 78 agencies are either partially or completely working remotely. That may be that there’s a few people at their state office running the ship. But for the most part across the country, counselors, direct service providers are working from their homes or in some remote setting. So, we’re making that transition to a more virtual environment, trying to work out the bugs and accessing the technology that’s needed. Probably some of the greatest challenges that Rick we’re really dealing with right now is just being in that transition of being able to access our customers.
Steve Wooderson: We’ve got individuals that we’re trying to reach, individual customers and we’ve got schools that are closed. Sometimes we have challenges with the customer’s technology on their end. So, working through those challenges or other customer businesses. That’s a challenge when it comes to some of our work based learning experiences and obviously with hiring in some cases. We’ve got service providers out there that we rely on and they rely on us to send their business and so we are certainly interested and concerned for their wellbeing. I think the reality is at this point and this environment, we’re beginning to maybe see some things in moderate. We still have a lot more to do. It’s not going to last forever and we know that there’s hope on the horizon. So that’s where we are right now.
Rick: Yeah. This has really given us all an opportunity to step back and look at how we work and what’s going on. I’m curious, from your perspective, how does the history of VR demonstrate the resolve of this program, that’s really withstood the test of time now for 100 years?
Steve Wooderson: Yeah. Isn’t that crazy when you think about it?
Steve Wooderson: Here we are 100 years in and reflecting back on the 100 years and celebrating the 100 years and we’re going through what began the entire VR program. I mean the whole era of the 1917, 1918. I mean that was the Spanish flu pandemic.
Rick: It’s weird.
Steve Wooderson: It is really strange without a doubt. So, we came into existence on the heels of that pandemic, World War one and that’s what thrust us into kicking off our profession in 1920. But, I really do think that it’s important for us to recognize that our history gives us hope for where we will go for the future because we have really responded and been proactive during these times of challenge throughout our history. You look at the legislation that erupted in American culture during the last 100 years. We were driven by post World War two challenges when it came to the Barden-LaFollette Act, trying to further extend services. We were responding in the 1950s to try and expand the scope of services and then of course when the ’60s a civil rights movement, all of these things really pushed the VR program to respond to what was happening in the culture at the time.
Steve Wooderson: But really the other side of that, Rick, is it, it’s not just always been a response to those things that have happened in history. It’s also that in history that VR has been a leader and proactive in looking towards the future. I can mark several points in time as examples, but probably the most significant one is in the late ’80s and into the early 2000s where the profession, the VR profession, it’s really what pushed and encouraged the awareness that we have an individual customer that’s the individual with a disability that’s seeking employment and the business. That is a primary customer of ours. So history has really proven the character of the VR program during times of disruption, periods of transition and change and our value is really been reflected now if you look back at how we responded to those issues and to position ourselves for the future.
Rick: Well, kudos to you and the entire organization for vision 2020 and the dual customer model and really making that clear, particularly as we face the challenges that we have today. How have you seen innovation and creativity emerge as we learn to deliver our services differently?
Steve Wooderson: Maybe break this out into two parts and that’s before the current environment. Okay. And therefore we’re dealing with as a result, because quite honestly, innovation is often born out of periods like this. So, even before post WIOA really provided us with opportunities to do things, do it differently and it was WIOA that business engagement in this, we’ve already acknowledged that business as a customer really began to come into its own. And so, business engagement has really been an outgrowth where we see innovation and creativity emerging. Models of service delivery where we’ve continued to build on the community concept, community driven. What is it that’s needed in this current workforce right now in the moment? We saw the gig economy beginning to emerge, do in different ways to becoming engaged in the workforce. And of course, innovation prior to our current environment has really been driven by the way that we deliver transition services to students and youth.
Steve Wooderson: Of course, that’s an outgrowth of the pre-employment transition services mandate and WIOA. But what has happened, and I just take one slice of that is the new and cool things that we see, particularly in the STEM arena for kids, the way that they’re accessing do experiences, work-based experience when it comes to Science and Technology, Engineering and Math. And those are the kinds of innovation and creativity that we’ve seen all along, particularly in the last few years since WIOA. But Rick, we got to be honest with ourselves. With the onset of the current pandemic, it’s also put us in a position of having to even go a step further with the innovation. The flexibility of how we deliver services during this period of time, by delivering services remotely. Guidance and counseling is at the core of what we do, right?
Steve Wooderson: That’s our business.
Rick: That’s what we do.
Steve Wooderson: Yeah. That’s it. So we’re looking at finding ways to deliver that core service that’s really led to new ways of us even connecting to our customers. And so that’s exciting outgrowth and businesses are responding. I mean obviously business have a bottom line need. They got to run their business. They have to meet their bottom line. And so, the creativity and innovation that’s the emerging as a result of that is also impacting the way that our customers, our individual customers are engaging in the workplace.
Steve Wooderson: We have a pool of talent that can meet these immediate needs now and the business can access that talent through the public VR program to fill those needs. So, we will see, I think more innovation and creativity.
Rick: Steve, how are we positioned to deliver services over the next 100 years?
Steve Wooderson: Yeah. I think Rick, that we’re probably as well positioned now as we have been at really any point in our history. We have a piece of legislation, Rick, that really does provide us with foundation to be innovative and creative. The Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act. Now, there are areas where we wish there might be some additional flexibilities and quite honestly we may find ourselves being able to kind of push the envelope during this particular time, but at a foundational basis, the legislation really allows us to do a lot of things that in the history of the program, we’ve really not been as flexible in doing.
Steve Wooderson: I think the second area that I can use as evidence is that we have staff across the country that are exceptionally well trained. I have to give a shout out to our post secondary and graduate school programs that are helping us and training up the future workforce for the Vocational Rehabilitation profession and the states who are pouring resources into ensuring that we’re staying up to date and preparing for what the future may hold.
Steve Wooderson: And I really think as a organization, CSAVR as a profession in the public VR program, we really have stood tall on the principles of the vision 2020 initiative. And that is, we’ve really been able to demonstrate and continue to demonstrate how we are innovating solutions to really gain greater access to and services for our dual customers that we’re working hard at, not just putting people into first job, any job, but that we are working hard to continue looking at careers and building careers and retaining talent in the field.
Steve Wooderson: Our field is really key on customizing services and that expertise that’s needed for delivery and looking to co-partner with those in our sphere of influence to better deliver services. So it’s not just the VR agencies that are delivering the services, but our partners as well. Again, going back to our history, we’ve really shown that we are resilient, ready, and able to respond to whatever that future holds.
Rick: Well, as you look ahead, what do you see as the most important considerations for the future of VR?
Steve Wooderson: I think in the short term, we really have to be mindful of the marketplace and I say that because we will have a new and different marketplace as we come out of this current environment. We know that things will begin to moderate after that, but even then the marketplace is going to be new and different. So we began to see things prior to the pandemic as far as how we were innovating and delivering services, how we’re responding to the local, regional, and national needs of business. Well, I think in the short term, we just need to have a heightened awareness how that’s going to continue to change. In the midterm, we really have to be mindful of expanding upon. Even though I think we’re doing a good job, great job, we need to continue to be mindful of how we be creative, how we deliver services.
Steve Wooderson: We’re going to learn from our current experience and we want to build upon that and expand upon our models to service in the future. So always looking for new and more innovative ways to deliver services and kind of the midterm and then the long term, let’s just be realistic. The public VR program is really going to be graded on our ability to impact the workforce participation rate of people with disabilities. So we really have to keep our eye on the value add of the VR program. So if we’re not putting people to work, if we’re not increasing the workforce participation rate of people with disabilities, then we need to be going back to those short term and midterm objectives and make those adjustments. It’s exactly right. So, that’s where I see the most important considerations for the future of the VR program.
Rick: Steve Wooderson heads up the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation. Thank you for being on the podcast today, Steve.
Steve Wooderson: Thank you Rick. Be well and stay strong.
Rick: It’s time for our National Clearinghouse update with Cherie Takemoto. Welcome to the podcast Cherie.
Cherie Takemoto: Thank you Rick. And I don’t know how you continue to just up the ante on these podcasts.
Rick: Well, thank you Cherie. We’re so excited about everything on today’s show, the VR national Anthem, Steve Wooderson and of course Judy Heumann.
Cherie Takemoto: I think it’s really interesting that Judy is a recipient of VR services.
Rick: Yeah. Great lady.
Cherie Takemoto: Yes, and even though we’re all in this Covid-19 crisis, I thought today I’d share a little bit from something that the Commissioner, Mark Schultz, who’s also the acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education Rehabilitation Services shared with folks during a teleconference. And I’ll have a link to that in our next newsletter.
Rick: Yes. Give us the summary.
Cherie Takemoto: Okay. Well, I just read this over and over again. I just think it’s so true and so apropos. So this is what Mark Schultz said, “This is the 100th anniversary of the program and we’re going to continue our recognition and celebration activities, although we’ll need to do so differently than we originally planned. As we begin the next century of the VR program and those who follow us in the future, look back on this time, they will see this as a key moment in the history of the program. It’s up to each of us to write that chapter in history. We must lead by partnering with each other to innovate and take advantage of the opportunities within this challenging time to demonstrate our value to students, youth and adults with disabilities and our business partners when they need us the most. We at RSA and the Department of education will continue to listen and support your work as best we can with the expectation that the belief that we will come out of this situation stronger than ever to the benefit of all we serve.”
Rick: It’s so nice to hear those inspiring words from Commissioner Schultz.
Cherie Takemoto: I know and things are just so hard and to try to make things a little bit easier, at least for people to find things to read about and take advantage of, we have so many upcoming events in our next newsletter. We’ve created the link to all of the topical lists that we’ve shared over time from our NCRTM library, and then finally we feature the WINTAC and NTACT Covid-19 pages that they’re continuously updating so that counselors and educators can continue their important work.
Rick: Well, that’s wonderful. We thank you so much for that. April is National Autism awareness month and I’m certain the Clearinghouse is filled with useful tips, resources, news, and information on autism as well.
Cherie Takemoto: So check out those show notes.
Rick: All right. Thank you so much, Cherie.
Cherie Takemoto: Of course.
Rick: Well, there’s a list of people I’d like to thank for their support of the VR National Anthem. Of course, they’re all listed in the credits of the music video and you can find that at vrworkforcestudio.com but first George Dennehy, the man of the hour. If you don’t know George, you can learn more about him and hear his complete story in episode six of the VR Workforce Studio podcast. He was born without arms, learned to drive through Vocational Rehabilitation. He’s a guitarist, a singer, motivational speaker, and has performed with the Goo Goo Dolls and now regularly graces the stage before standing room-only crowds with his unique performance style and inspirational messages.
Rick: Next on the list is the man who wrote the song, Dr. Ralph Pacinelli. Of course, Ralph spent his entire life in Vocational Rehabilitation. He’s retired now, lives in Pennsylvania. It was such a joy reconnecting with Ralph as we engaged in this collaboration, creating the VR national Anthem for the 100th anniversary of VR. Part of Ralph’s original vision was to create a song that could be used at meetings, conferences or gatherings, and that’s why we’ve developed the sheet music and the soundtrack, which are now available as a free download at vrworkforcestudio.com. We’ve also included a complete written history of the song from Ralph’s personal files and that is available in the show notes at vrworkforcestudio.com episode 83. We would also like to thank CVS, the Hershey Company and CSAVR as well as the Passion Academy and the WWRC Foundation for their support of the production of the Anthem. Also special thanks to my friend Richard Adams and all the students from the voices of rehabilitation choir at Wilson Workforce and rehabilitation center. Here’s Lynn Harris, Director of the Wilson Workforce Rehabilitation Center Foundation.
Lynn Harris: The foundation is so pleased to bring you these exciting stories of how Vocational Rehabilitation is changing people’s lives by helping them gain the skills and credentials they need to be successful in business and industry. We thank all of our partners in podcasting who made this episode possible, Ablenow, Aladdin Foods, The Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation, CVS Health, and the Hershey company. You can find out more by visiting us at wwrcf.org or find our contact information in the show notes at vrworkforcestudio.com.
Rick: You can always find another exciting episode as we podcast the sparks that ignite Vocational Rehabilitation here at the VR Workforce Studio. Until next time, I’m Rick Sizemore.
Announcer: The VR workforce studio podcast is owned and operated by the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center Foundation. The foundation publishes and distributes the VR Workforce Studio and manages all sponsor arrangements. Audio content for the podcast is provided to the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center Foundation by the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services in exchange for promotional considerations.
Rick Sizemore: This episode is dedicated to the lifetime achievements and service of Dr. Ralph Pacinelli.