National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Don Driscoll plant manager describing plant projects

Rick Sizemore Twitter @Rickwwrc or email,

Anne Hudlow’s email is

Jonathan Bibb’ Twitter @jlbibb email,

Office of Disability Employment Policy Poster Link

Steve Wooderson’s Vision 2020


Rick: On today’s episode of the VR Workforce Studio which next door neighbors are on the calendar with a workforce and VR party like none other. Anne Hudlow’s big VR Question of the day. And we have an answer you don’t want to miss.

(Electric amplifier noise)

Electronic voice: Four. Three. Two. One.

Male Announcer: This is the VR Workforce Studio. Inspiration, Education, and Affirmation. At work.

Female Announcer: The workforce and disability employment podcast from the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center, a division

2nd Male Announcer: of the Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services

2nd Female Announcer: The VR Workforce Studio is published by our foundation at WWRCF.ORG and is available in iTunes

3rd Male Announcer: and at VRWORKFORCESTUDIO.COM. You are listening to the VR Workforce Studio

Spencer Clark: I first heard of 3-D printing, you know, I hear about it, you know, on the internet, YouTube, my little brother talking about it here and there…but when I went to the Academy I was mind blown on just with the hurricanes and everything, how they used 3-D printers and in just one day built ten houses with in each house being less than just $5,000.

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(Singing) VR Workforce Studio

[Rick] Welcome to another special episode of the VR Workforce Studio podcast as we look forward to the big inspiration showcase coming up later this month.

Anne – You can always join us right here in the VR Workforce Studio for a new and courageous story of vocational rehabilitation on the 15th of every month.

Rick:   I’m your host Rick Sizemore.

Anne: and I’m Anne Hudlow of the WWRC Foundation and we appreciate you taking time to get involved in the show and to hear about the brave and courageous souls of vocational rehabilitation.

Rick: Join us as we celebrate their victories, feel their joy, their laughter, their inspiration, and move with them as they retrace their journeys and face their deepest and most challenging struggles. We have some great guests up today. We’ll meet a young man just back from a Dream It Do It Academy and check in with Jonathan Bibb about a big success story from one of our Consortium partners. Anne, I’m totally pumped about today’s episode.

Anne: Me too, Rick.   So the big VR Workforce Studio Question of the day….What is one of the most important days of year? And here is a hint, it occurs on the eve of our favorite month of the year.

Rick: That’s right…..We are celebrating on today’s special episode. And the answer is………………International Podcast Day is on Sept 30th and Disability Employment Awareness Month through the entire month of October – as we join in the nation’s Celebration of Disability Inclusion for more than 70 Years.

Rick: According to the Office of Disability Employment Policy, National Disability Employment Awareness Month celebrates the important role that different perspectives play in workforce success. This year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month theme is “Inclusion Drives Innovation”.

Anne: Disability Employment Awareness Month celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities and educates about the value of a workforce inclusive of their skills and talents. There is a beautiful poster that you can download for free from Department of Labor.   We’ve put the link in our show notes and you can find out more by visiting the Department of Labor’s website.

Rick: Well, let’s start our celebration with Spencer Clark. He’s just back from a 3D Printer Academy- Welcome Spencer.

Spencer: Thank you. Happy to be here.

Rick: It’s great to have you here.

Anne: Absolutely. Spencer, can you tell us a little about the academy?

Spencer: Oh yeah, um, when I first heard of 3-D printing, I hear about it on the internet, YouTube, my little brother talking here and there, but when I went to the academy, I was mind blown on just…what it just offers. You know, I hear about how with the hurricanes and everything how they used 3-D printers in just one day built 10 houses within each house being less than $5000.

Rick, laughing: That is awesome.

Anne: Incredible.

Spencer: It was very….and you know how slowly we’ve incorporated just you know 3-D printers just effecting every day where you can easily now just take it home, print out shoes, shirts, you know whatever. I just can’t even grasp my mind on what you can accomplish just with a 3-D printer alone.

Rick: So you actually did some printing in this academy, didn’t you?

Spencer: Yes, I did.

Rick: Tell us about that.

Spencer: With that, they showed us many programs, like there’s this one called CAD; it’s uh Computer Automated Design, where for us we got to look at how we can build with like Legos. You can make these blocks, and then you enter the dimensions on to the webpage itself and it can print the exact replica of it with color and everything.

Anne: Wow, that’s great.

Rick: That is great.

Anne: That’s very impressive. So tell us a little bit more. Did you get to visit a plant?

Spencer: Yes I did. I got to visit Munters, which is in Buena Vista, which for me was my first time being exposed to a manufacturing plant and it blew my mind on just how large it was. It looked like I was going into an aircraft base, you know. It was just like, you could, it was just incredible how much space there is, but with all the stuff I’m learning in my class, how all of it just comingles with everything you do in there. Like, with CNC, you can type in all these codes and it will create your product without all the hassle of trying to get all the parts.

Rick: So that’s what these Dream it Do It camps are all about. It’s getting people all excited about possibly going into manufacturing jobs. What MSI, the Manufacturing Skills Institute, says is reducing the interest gap. Did we peak your interest about possibly working in manufacturing?

Spencer: Oh absolutely.

Rick, laughing: Pretty exciting, isn’t it?

Spencer: Oh yeah, it’s…going into it, I was a little hesitant because you know with all the math I was kind of “ugh” you know, but looking at it and you know the benefits and opportunities I could get with it I was, I was immediately drawn to it.

Rick: Wow.

Anne: Well we were able to visit the last day, Rick, and see what they had created and done and it was just incredible

Rick: Awesome.

Anne: Yeah, the instructors and the work that the students put in and you should be very proud of yourself. It was very impressive.

Spencer: Oh yeah, it was very impressive. Just what we can just accomplish just in manufacturing and 3-D printing alone.

Rick: So, Spencer, you got a couple things going on. You went to this camp, but you’re also working on what Virginia Manufacturer’s Association calls Skill Gap Reduction. So, you’re in MTT. Tell us about that.

Spencer: Um, right now in MTT, we just finished our third TAB test which was on orthographic projection, which is basic…you know like pulleys you know just, they’ll show videos how you can get involved with it instead of just being on a computer, more hands on stuff.

Rick: I’m so jealous. That sounds like such great fun.


Rick: Well, tell us about your disability.

Spencer: Well with my disability, for me, in school, it was hard to focus, and you know I had the hugest problem remembering like certain things. And it could be a small thing or the biggest, depending on what it was. Like in school, I would always see my buddies. They’d be on the third page of the worksheet while I’m still on half of the first one. And it kind of made me feel a little left behind until I would talk to my parents, see what’s going on, and when I got the testing done, they said I had traits of Autism but I had a memory retrieval deficiency, which for me, kind of blew my mind because I want to know how bad this is. But with them, they said because they’re traits I could easily outgrow it. So with me, mornings, I would have to leave sticky notes the night before, like you know brush your teeth, don’t forget to make sure you did this, did that, just make sure that everything is prepped for the next day so I wouldn’t have to stress or get all anx….get all this anxiety of making sure I didn’t forget anything.

Rick: Could you give some lessons to my thirteen year old daughter?


Anne: Amen, amen.

Rick: Well, what are they doing here at Wilson to help with that disability so that you can be successful in getting your credentials in manufacturing?

Spencer: Well like in my MT class, we um…cause for me, they give us PowerPoints that we can use and download to our computer so that way, if I were to not understand something, they would highlight certain ones on a piece of paper to show me where I can go on, and go to my computer in my room and focus on that one subject I didn’t get.

Rick: So do you think this is a, would you call it a specialized learning environment as compared to high school or other educational settings?

Spencer: Absolutely, it’s…for me, I mean, it doesn’t have a football team, but you know…


Spencer: But comparing this to high school, this is like ten times better and more engaged than what I did in high school.

Rick: That’s awesome.

Anne: That is awesome, that really is. So, you had said you felt left behind at some points-

Spencer: Oh yeah.

Anne: it sounds like this program has empowered you. I mean, are you feeling like it’s a good pace and you’re…

Spencer: I feel like it’s an excellent pace. It’s, for me, even if I were to feel a little left behind, I know I can go after class or just have a talk with my teacher, just to catch myself up to where I don’t have to stress or worry about it as much.

Anne: Wonderful.

Rick: That’s great. We’re gonna put some pictures up of your tour of Munters on the website. Hearing your story seems like the perfect way to celebrate Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Anne: Absolutely. Spencer, thank you so much for taking the time to be here. It means a lot, and we really are so happy for you.

Spencer: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me here.

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Rick: Jonathan Bibb is the President of the National Consortium of State Operated Comprehensive Rehabilitation Centers and Directs the Arkansas Career and Technical Institute in Hot Springs…has a long history in VR, Career and Tech Ed, and Educational leadership. Welcome Jonathan.

Jonathan: Thank you. Glad to be here.

Anne: Happy Disability Employment Awareness Month, Jonathan. How are you?

Jonathan: Doing well. And thank you. This is a great month, getting ready to have a lot of our students graduate and enter the workforce this month.

Anne: Absolutely, absolutely. Well, we really appreciate you being here. And have you seen the new, very cool National Disability Employment Awareness poster out on the Department of Labor ODEP site?

Jonathan: I sure have. It is a great poster and one that I think needs to be put up at all the comprehensive centers but also at every workforce center that’s out in the United States.

Anne: Absolutely. It is very cool, very cool. So we are also celebrating International Podcast Day on this episode. And Jonathan your episode on the “CVS Mock Stores” is one of our most popular episodes in iTunes.

Jonathan: That’s incredible.

Rick: So, Jonathan, We want to thank you for your comments on that episode and especially to all of our friends out at CSAVR- particularly, Steve Wooderson, Kathy West-Evans and Danielle Guest for featuring that episode on their incredible new website. Now if you’ve not visited the site please go out and see it at CSAVR.ORG. It is an impressive site.

Jonathan: It definitely is, really highlighting a lot of the things that are going on nationally in vocational rehabilitation. There’s incredible work being done in all the states, the state directors are doing some very innovative things, and I appreciate the opportunity and the…the time spent with them in highlighting some…a lot of the successes that are going on at the comprehensive centers and also with our incredible partnership with CVS and some of the other things that are moving forward.

Rick: One of the cool things about that new site is you can learn a lot about Vision 2020 and let me put in a plug for Steve’s leadership with Vision 2020. I heard him speak at that Performance Summit in Nebraska last week and it was powerful. We’ve put the link to csavr in the show notes. If you’d like to know more, certainly check that out. It’s powerful as we inch closer and closer to celebrating 100 years of the public VR program in 2020. You’ll definitely want to check out Steve’s presentation.

Rick: Jonathan, at the heart of this vision 2020 and disability employment month we are all focusing on inclusion and innovation. And in Steve’s words, “embracing the opportunities and challenges of WIOA to really help individuals with disabilities move into competitive integrated employment”. We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate all of this than to talk with Kimberly Anderson and hear a little about her career that started with skills gains at ACTI.

Rick: How are you, Kimberly?

Kimberly: I’m good. How are you?

Rick: I’m doing fine.

Anne: Welcome Kimberly. Thanks for being here.

Kimberly: You’re welcome.

Rick: It seems like Kimberly, you started with cosmetology back in 1994, attended classes and graduated in 1996. And you’ve started in a career. Tell us about your disability and the exciting career that you’re pursuing now as a result of those skills you gained at ACTI.

Kimberly: Well, my disability was a learning and reading disability where I couldn’t comprehend what I read and my career was cosmetology. Pursued it when SmartStyle opened and I continued to work there until I came back to ACTI to continue my education within the instructing program, to get my instructor license. After I graduated in 2011 with my instructor license, I also pursued in opening my own salon. I continued my career as coming back in 2016 and started a part time position with the cosmo instructor working in cosmetology.

Anne: Wow that’s great. That’s incredible, Kimberly. It sounds like you have some a very long way. Can you tell us a little about your disability? And how it’s…the struggles you’ve had with it?

Kimberly: The struggles I’ve had with my disability is more like reading. It…it took a long time to come over that hump, to actually read and continue to read, to understand what I was reading, to comprehend what I was reading. And it was very hard, to actually be out in the world and to not know what you are reading, to understand what you’re reading. The more I asked questions, the more I told, it was like okay now we understand where we can help and understand your disability. So, and it kind of became easy after that. So I kind of started taking it to myself, you need to read more even if it’s you know a little bit at a time a day.

Anne: So you named the challenge and you overcame it. And you’re overcoming it every day. I think that’s awesome.

Rick: How did ACTI help you with your disability?

Kimberly: Well, we got equipment AVE which was super amazing, cause it helped break down some words that wasn’t understandable and it, it kind of took the time out to give you that one-on-one, to give you that more extended time to understand what you’re reading. And also CRC was amazing. That was very amazing. Because it kind of helped you level up from your reading, where you was from, if you was at from fifth grade level up to twelfth grade level. It was…it was just a stepping stone each time.

Rick: It’s exciting to hear about your career. Kimberly, we wish you the very best as you continue in your career in cosmetology and continue writing your courageous story of vocational rehabilitation. Thanks for being on our show today.

Anne: Thank you Kimberly. Best of luck.

Kimberly: Thank you.

Anne: Jonathan, what’s happening across the country in some of our vocational training centers?

Jonathan: Well, I think the big thing that we’re seeing is, with the passage of the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA), the centers are really focusing in on that innovation. I know that many centers across the nation are finding out new and innovative ways of serving youth. That’s one of the hallmarks of VR under WIOA, is the transition for students with disabilities. I know there are several programs that are out there. The Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center of course has a great program with PERT and some of the other things that are going on. I know we’ve got many of the centers which are focusing on it. Also, business engagement. I know we’ve talked about the partnership with CVS and we’ve got some incredible champions in that company that are really helping us move forward and development of mock stores in every location, but also just establishing that business partnership and helping them or them helping us reach out to other business and industry contacts. I’m very proud of the Maryland center, who has stepped up and has partnered with Starbucks and has the first retail training for a…for Starbucks at their center, so that’s incredible. Also the center in Pennsylvania has been working with Starbucks and in October is going to celebrate the grand opening of their mock store and it is going to coincide with the National Consortium meeting that will be held at the Hyram G. Andrews Center there in uh…Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

Rick: Cool stuff happening all over the place as these centers align themselves with the core measures of the Workforce Innovation Opportunities Act, business engagement, we’re all focused on skill gains and credentials and we’re looking forward to those first reports on the second and fourth quarter retention as well as the second quarter median earnings. So, some exciting things in our future. Jonathan, thank you for your leadership of the centers. We look forward to hearing more great success stories out of ACTI and the other Comp centers.

Jonathan: Well, I think it’s just scratching the surface on what we’re going to be able to do in the future, with new technological advances that we have, and being able to work with students while they’re in high school. I believe that the comprehensive centers are well positioned to really take a leadership role in the future and make some incredible changes related to business engagement in vocational rehabilitation.

Anne: Outstanding.

Rick: Jonathan comes to us from his office in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He’s the director of the Arkansas Career and Technical Institute (ACTI). Thank you, Jonathan.

Jonathan: Thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity.

Anne: Thank you, Jonathan. Take care.

Jonathan: You too.

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Rick: Anne, as we celebrate international podcast day, and what a celebration that is; we’re moving into our 4th year of podcasting. We have a lot, and I mean a lot, of exciting things going on.

Anne: We really do. And I can’t believe it’s been almost four years. It’s incredible. Hey we’ll be podcasting from CSAVR’s Fall Conference from a session on Career Pathways for Individuals with Disabilities (CPID). Of course that will be in our feed, and we are hoping to share that as a “live stream” on Facebook as well.

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Rick: This should be incredible; we’ll interview some of the country’s leading experts as they describe how CPID is transforming VR services. Innovative practices, business engagement and helping consumers have that performance edge that makes them, as our friend Dr. Joe Ashley say, “not only the ideal but the preferred candidates for business and industry’s talent pipeline”.

Anne: Yes, that sounds really exciting. Can’t wait to be a part of that, Rick. Well my hope is that we’ll continue to hear the kinds of positive feedback that we’ve been getting from lots of listeners. We truly appreciate you following our podcast and getting involved with the show. We would love to hear from you and as always, we always appreciate your e-mails. All of our contact information and lots of other helpful resources are right there at our website at VRWORKFORCESTUDIO.COM.   Our commitment to you, here on international podcast day is to connect you with that never-ending pipeline of stories, interviews and inspiring reflections from individuals with disabilities on their courageous journeys of Vocational Rehabilitation. You know, Rick, I couldn’t think of a better way to finish up this special episode celebrating international podcast day than with our segment that we call “The Journey”.

Rick: That’s a great way to finish out the show today, Anne.   We’ve had so much positive feedback on the Journey and that’s what the people who listen to this podcast tell us they want, those great courageous stories from people on the journey, so that is exactly what we intend to continue doing. Until next time I’m Rick Sizemore

Anne: and I’m Anne Hudlow with the courageous stories of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Rick: We leave you now with the Journey.

[Clock ticking sound]

Rick: Give us just a few minutes and we’ll take you on the journey of a lifetime. [Drumroll sound]

“It startled me so I went to run, I tripped on one of the strings that was on it, lost my balance, and fell 25 feet off the loft. Headfirst, and I landed on the concrete and boards.”

Anne: A disability can strike like lightening and in the twinkling of an eye

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Anne: change your life forever

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Anne: In the United States alone there are over 60 million people with a disability so chances are you know, work with or love someone with a disability.

Rick: A disability can alter your life (slower but still slightly dramatic music) even when you are pursuing your most deeply held passions.

“I had a couple things that day were telling me not to race. Every medical professional who’s seen the video, they ask the same three questions: 1) how am I alive? 2) how did I not end up with a cervical level injury? And 3) how did I not end up with a severe brain injury?”

Anne: People with disabilities have proven time and time again to be some of the most resilient, talented, and capable people on earth and employers are beginning to recognize the passion, energy and dedication that individuals with disabilities are bringing into the workplace.

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“Rod’s been with us for a long period of time; it’s a return on investment that’s the pure and simple business angle of it but beyond that he teaches, he trains, he’s a subject matter expert. So being able to access all that 8-9-10 hours a day is… is quite frankly in our best interest.”

Rick: That’s why we’ve opened up the VR Workforce Studio…. a place where we can all celebrate the courageous stories of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Anne: Stories from those on the journey.

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“And I broke down, because you know, that was the day that I knew I was going to be up, that I was going to get back up, and get walking.”

Rick: Stories about the champions of business and industry that hire individuals with disabilities.

“Oh! (Dramatic pre-battle/medieval hunting horn) It’s the best company I’ve worked for, Uh, they’re very professional, they’re very nice, it’s like Uh, the company’s like a big family.”

Anne: Reflections from the professionals that have dedicated their lives and careers to helping individuals with disabilities go to work.

“Working with the students closely to see them come in, and think that ‘Oh, I don’t know if I can do this’ and provide support for them to where they’re empowered and they are achieving they’re goals. And just to see their confidence.”

Rick: Now you can be part of this exciting podcast revolution – (exciting closing music) welcome to the community of people who want to champion the causes of disability employment.

“…diving down into your own personal hells and then coming out of that hell with a smile on your face but with bumps and bruises in the process and you can walk away, smiling and feeling proud of those bruises.

“You know, every time my son drives off to work, I mean I just… I just feel so good about what it is you nice folks prepared him for.”

“Getting people back to life and back to work.”

Rick: These powerful stories, as told by those on the journey are just a click away on your computer, cell phone or mobile device.

“It’s awesome.”

“I think what you are doing is kind of unique. And you know we’re kind of in a period of…of where people can get information from lots of different sources and I’m just trying to make people aware of that. I thank you guys for what you’re doing…”

Rick: Join us for a new and exciting episode of VR Workforce podcast every month at VRWORKFORCESTUDIO.COM, or subscribe at Stitcher Radio or in iTunes.

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Male Announcer: Support for the foundation’s production and distribution of the VR Workforce Studio comes from CVS Health, Dominion Energy, the Virginia Manufacturer’s Association, the Jesse Ball DuPont Fund, and AmeriCare Plus.