I am a Vocational Rehabilitation professional and earned my Master's Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling: Deafness at Gallaudet University in 1991, just a few months after my 23rd birthday. I went to Gallaudet because I wanted to know what my clients would be experiencing as a member of a linguistic minority; I went into VR Counseling because you can't fix that system and improve Deaf/HH services from outside it.
I don't come from a family with Deafness in it. I had a classmate in junior and senior high school who was Deaf, but I didn't begin learning ASL until I was in college. I started learning ASL when I was 18 because I worked in a video store in Eugene and had a lot of Deaf customers. I was frustrated because I couldn't communicate clearly, so I started taking ASL classes through University of Oregon, where I was working on my Bachelor's degree in Psychology. Iris Peters, a local freelance ASL interpreter who had also worked in K-12 schools, was my teacher at UO. The Eugene Deaf community were my teachers in the real world. I thought about becoming an interpreter for about 10 seconds, but I am a bit too opinionated to be effective as a neutral party, so that wasn't a good job match for me. I took all the ASL and interpreting classes I could while at Oregon; that got me ready to hold my own at Gallaudet.
I was fortunate to be in Washington, DC in the era of the birth of the ADA. There was a lot of political action related to Deafness and disability services in general then, and success built on success. I started at Gallaudet in August 1989, a little more than a year after DPN. I met I. King Jordan 4 times--twice in an elevator (he remembered my name, major and where I was from the second time--even though nearly 6 months had passed), once in a campus-wide "Communication Day" Visual Gestural Communication workshop taught by Bernard Bragg (IKJ sat next to me--and again remembered my name), and then at graduation (picture below). He was an incredible administrator and advocate, and a genuinely nice man. My Gallaudet experience shaped me and my future in ways I am still only now discovering, nearly three decades later.
I started working for Oregon VR as a Rehabilitation Counselor for the Deaf & HH (RCD) in December 1990 and I still work for Oregon VR today. I am a second-generation Oregon VR employee; my stepfather was a VR Counselor (Spinal Cord injury was his specialization) and a VR manager; I heard stories about VR and what it did in partnership with its clients beginning when I was in 9th grade. Following grad school, I was lucky enough to call him a professional colleague for nearly 7 years before he retired. I have worked as an RCD, a Branch Manager, and as the Lead RCD in Central Portland VR, North Portland VR. Since 2003, I have served as Oregon VR's State Coordinator for Deaf & HH Services (SCD) and worked from VR Administration in Salem. Additionally, I manage a lot of other projects that help the field offices statewide to run effectively. I also worked for more than 20 years as Adjunct Faculty for WOU's Rehabilitation Counseling & RRCD programs. The focus of my SCD work with Oregon VR is making sure that Oregon's Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities have full communication access, effective counseling services and a wide range of vocational options no matter which VR office they choose to work with. Shifting attitudes from within VR and DHS to be more focused on "How CAN we?" and much less on "We can't POSSIBLY" has been at the heart of my work.
Today, I live in Corvallis with my Corgi, Dillon, and three cats: Violet (Domestic Longhair), Lou Reed (ginger Manx) and Sylvia (grey Manx). When I am not working, I am usually watching movies, reading, going out to eat with friends or planning my next travel adventure. I have two adult (step)children from a previous marriage, a daughter-in-law and 2 grandchildren.
I joined ORID as a Supporting Member in hopes that I can provide information and assistance to anyone who has questions about working with Vocational Rehabilitation, or who needs help connecting someone from their community to the local VR office to apply for services or to resolve a problem. I am also hoping to be able to assist ORID in its development and continuation of programs and services to its members if any of my talents can be used.