Cathee Wolford, a Counselor with Missouri Vocational Rehabilitation, spoke about ways her office helps people with hearing loss find employment opportunities. Cathee, who has a hearing loss, joined the Missouri VR staff earlier this year.
More than a dozen people attended Saturday’s Kansas City HLAA Chapter meeting at the Kansas City Library-Plaza Branch. James Ankrom and Cathee Wolford with Missouri Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) shared employment and education resources for individuals with hearing loss.
Wolford, who has a hearing loss, explained how VR services allowed her to thrive in college and in the workforce. “When I got interpreting help, my grades went up,” she said. “Maybe I would have done better in (elementary and high school) if I’d had an interpreter.”
The purpose of VR in Missouri, which has 27 district offices and six offices in Kansas City, is to help persons with disabilities find good-paying employment opportunities. This includes people with hearing loss or deafness, as well as the learning disabled, visually impaired, persons with brain injury, and other special needs. “We want everyone who comes to us working,” Ankrom said about his department’s purpose.
Someone who is hard of hearing and desires Missouri VR services will first be sent to an audiologist for an audiogram, or hearing test, to determine the level of hearing loss. The person would need to have a minumum 38-decibel loss to qualify for services.
Any person with hearing loss who needs special equipment to function well on the job can request it through VR referrals. For instance, Wolford uses a video phone at work to be able to make phone calls despite her hearing loss.
VR’s job skills training includes how to write resumes, how to interview, and what to wear to the interview.
Missouri VR can also monitor high school seniors who have disabilities, then work with them in finding jobs once they graduate.
“We don’t want people with disabilities to be hidden,” Ankrom said. “We want them in mainstream society, working alongside able-bodied individuals.”
For information about Missouri VR, visit www.vr.dese.mo.gov.
For information about the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, visit http://www.srs.ks.gov/Pages/Default.aspx.