We’re celebrating not only the champions of business and industry that hire individuals with disabilities, but also the vocational rehabilitation professionals who’ve dedicated their lives and careers to creating hope and a path forward to employment
Transcript of podcast follows:
Intro: I believe it is possible for everyone to go to work with the right accommodation: All you have to do is ask.
VR Workforce Studio: Inspiration, Education and Affirmation at Work. We’re bringing you the stories of individuals with disabilities who are in or preparing to be part of the workforce in Virginia. And we’re celebrating not only the champions of business and industry that hire individuals with disabilities, but also the vocational rehabilitation professionals who’ve dedicated their lives and careers to creating hope and a path forward to employment so individuals with disabilities can work and lead more fulfilling lives while building Virginia’s workforce and moving our economy forward.
Andrew……..Thank you Rick it’s nice to be here. I’ve been a fan of the VR workforce studio and am thrilled to be in the studio with you today.
Rick: Andrew how long have you been doing this kind of work…I know its more than 20
Andrew: Since 1987. Been around almost since dirt, as one of my voc rehab mentors used to say. And there have been plenty of changes and challenges during that time. The Voc Rehab or VR profession has grown a lot in the past 25 years, from working with a majority of people either with physical or intellectual challenges, to working with a large number of individuals with all kinds of emotional, memory, organization, and social skills issues. This has had at least two major effects: 1) the level of expertise needed to do our jobs has grown, such that now it requires a master’s degree in counseling or rehabilitation counseling to qualify for the work we do, at least in the public sector; and 2) this has spawned a growth industry in the need for people who are known as job coaches. Different organizations call them by different titles, (Employment Specialists, Employment Consultants, Vocational Counselors) but they are people who are trained to provide the proper supports to individuals looking to find and maintain work. And exactly because each person with a disability is an individual, the way one works successfully with one person may look very different from the approach with another.
But the heart of the work is to find a good match between an individual and the workplace, and use the prospective employee’s strengths to overcome any of their limitations at the work site.
Rick: Andrew a question I ask a lot of our guest is to give us in just a few sentences your perspective on disability employment.
Andrew: I’m a firm believer that a fully integrated and diversified workforce strengthens our community. I’ve witnessed again and again how employment allows people with disabilities to increase their connection with others and provide a sense of satisfaction through increased purpose, autonomy, and self-confidence.
Rick – Andrew one of our podcast categories is the VR briefing room for VR professionals. We both belong to our professional association, the National Rehabilitation Association (NRA) and its state affiliate, the Virginia Rehabilitation Association or VRA. If I were to briefly describe VRA what would you say.
Andrew. This organization works tirelessly to promote the vocational rehab profession, and to provide training, networking, and leadership opportunities to the individuals who dedicate their lives to assisting people with disabilities find and keep jobs. So Rick one of my professionals roles is as the VRA Communications Chair. Our organization supports both people with disabilities and the hundreds of counselors, job coaches, employers, and other behind-the-scenes staff every day. Let me highlight just two, one in our proud past, one recent. Back in the late 80’s, early 90’s.
Did you know, Rick, that VRA was a catalyst for the initiation, and subsequent enactment, of the Virginians with Disabilities Act in the General Assembly back in 1985? This was 5 years before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) nationally. And that this Act is considered by many to be the model for the federal legislation that created the ADA.
Second, we also sponsor an advocacy consultant in the General Assembly every year. In 2015, she successfully worked with other employment and disability groups to increase state funds by over 3.5 million dollars to provide support to people with disabilities throughout the Commonwealth. So, you see, we are an active organization with proud roots and viable accomplishments.
Rick: Andrew we’ve posted the address to the VRA website on vrworkforcestudio.com and you also have a newsletter . . .
Andrew: yes we do. It is called NewNotes, and it comes out quarterly in both paper and electronic form to all members, with a few special editions here and there. Its purpose is to keep our members in touch with the happenings in legislation at the state and national levels, with education and training opportunities, and to help us communicate with each other better.
Rick: and we want to thank you for the special edition that recently came out that highlighted the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center.
Andrew: You are welcome, Rick. The activities at WWRC well-deserve to be featured with a special edition of News Notes.
Rick: so, what is the latest at VRA in the news?
Andrew: Yes, I want to highlight two articles in the upcoming edition. First, we recently welcomed a new member to VRA, Suzie Klein. Let me share a short segment from her bio to give an idea of the types of people who join our organization:
She came to us from Chugiak (CHOO-gee-ak.), Alaska and traveled to Charlottesville in 2013 to complete her Internship for her Rehabilitation Counseling Master’s program with WVU. She reports that she joined VRA as a way to stay informed and collaborate with others working to improve the quality of life for all persons with disabilities.
Like many who come to the field, Suzie’s background is varied and diverse. It includes initial training as a Recreation Therapist during her undergraduate years. As I recall, Rick, you have some similar background of your own in that regard, correct?
She also has over 15 years’ experience providing support to people with Substance abuse, working with those with serious mental illnesses in inpatient psychiatric units, and has more recently taken an especial interest in assisting those on the Autism Spectrum transition to independence. Getting her Masters for Rehabilitation Counseling was a great way for her to combine all her knowledge and experience to help others. She states that “everyone has and deserves a purpose, and has something to contribute.” That belief drives her passion to assist others in discovering their purpose and achieving their employment and life goals. Knowing Suzie personally, I can attest to her passion and her drive in this regard. She has an enviable energy and buoyant, infectious spirit. Even as a new member, there are many ways in which she already embodies the ideals of the Virginia Rehab Association and its membership.
She also notes that one of her first activities as a VRA member was to attend the annual training conference in Virginia Beach in November, known as Collaborations. It brings together three disability and employment organizations for training, sharing of resources, and yes, “collaboration” and networking amongst our three entities. This year’s conference is at the Hilton and runs from Wednesday, the 11th to Friday, the 13th.
A sampling of training topics includes Successfully Working with Ex-Offenders to examples of people starting their own business as a pathway out of poverty to How to Use our Smartphones to Deal with Anxiety and Stress. Just looking at all the topics gets me excited to go and participate, Rick! I have an especial interest in what practices in our field are shown to work in helping people get and succeed in jobs. A lot of these seem to revolve around having a caring and involved counselor, a supportive family, and a core belief that the individual can work successfully. But one of the sessions is focused on what research shows are the best and most promising practices. So, that really stokes my enthusiasm!!
For more on Suzie, the Collaborations conference, and other news from VRA, go to www.vra.org and click on NewsNotes, Current Edition.
Andrew: and that is the news from VRA.
Rick: Andrew- you know- I wonder if VRA has ever thought about evolving its own podcast. Its certainly a cool way to reach a niche audience.
Andrew: Well, funny you should mention it, Rick. One of my committee colleagues and I have been kicking around the exactly this idea recently. We want to find a way to communicate more effectively with our members, and wondered if this could be a new format to try out. At present, we plan to discuss the idea further at a Board Meeting at the end of the month to see what feedback we get. But I’m interested in pursuing it. I hear it’s a bunch of work
Rick: I talk to a lot of folks about the podcast and its pretty common to get the following comment. ….. I’ve always wanted to start a podcast……..You know I have this idea and I think folks would be interested in my topic.
Let me say from personal experience that tackling the technical challenges, figuring our your message and dealing with the learning curve can be extremely overwhelming if not down right painful and yet the benefits of podcasting can be enormous. If you are thinking about starting a podcast let me make a suggestion. Visit our good friend Dave Jackson at the school of podcasting. Thats Dave Jackson at the school of podcasting dot com. You are only a few mouse clicks away from the guru of podcasting who offers award winning tutorials, technical support and even start up packages to get you on your way as Dave Jackson say to pain free podcasting. The VR workforce studio is a partner with the school of podcasting. So go on over and visit Dave Jackson at the school of podcasting.com and tell him all the staff and crew here at the VR workforce studio tell everyone who is thinking of starting a podcast that school is in session and Dave is your man. School of podcasting dot com.
You’ve been listening to another edition of the VR Workforce Studio. For comments please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next time please join me in creating hope and a path forward so individuals with disabilities work, lead more fulfilling lives, enhance our workforce and move out new Virginia economy forward.