VR Helps Kathleen Roe Keep Working

Kathleen Roe photo

Boca Raton, FL – Kathleen Roe has had a long career as a district aide for state legislators. As a district aide, she is responsible for answering the phones and speaking with constituents, so her hearing and voice are two very important tools of the trade. When she started losing her hearing, Kathleen became concerned about continuing in her career. She contacted Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), a state agency that helps people with disabilities get or keep a job, and signed up.

Florida VR currently maintains a waiting list for services, prioritized by the barriers to employment presented by the disability, the number of services needed, and how long a person is expected to need VR services. The more significant all those factors are, the higher the priority for service. Because Kathleen’s service needs had a lower significance, she was put on a waiting list. “My hearing wasn’t too bad yet, so that was okay,” says Kathleen. “And I did get letters updating me and asking if I wanted to stay on the list. They kept me informed, and as soon as they could, they got in touch and said ‘you’re up, here’s what we need to do,’ and got it done quickly. I was very pleased!”

Kathleen continued working, moving across the state and back again to work for new representatives when her former bosses did not get re-elected, but her hearing continued to get worse. Then she began having trouble speaking. Her VR Counselor, Jackie Uhrig, sent her to have her hearing and voice evaluated to see what was needed so Kathleen could keep working. She was diagnosed with bi-lateral hearing loss and vocal dystonia, which causes a tremor in your voice.

What Kathleen needed were hearing aids and a voice amplifier, because as she explains it, “When I talk softly the tremor isn’t as bad, but nobody can hear me. We got an ambulatory device, so if I’m out in public, I can still be heard, even when I’m talking softly.”

She was doing well with her new device, and then she saw a phone amplifier demonstration from Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology or FAAST. This was another good tool for her to use in the office, so VR purchased that device, as well, to assist her when speaking on the phone.

“So here I sit in Rep Kevin Rader’s local office with a voice and phone amplifier,” says Kathleen. “I do think it has helped me keep my job and helped me when I was looking for a job, because what I do is so tenuous because I work for state reps.”

Kathleen’s recent experience with VR has shown her the customer side of things, but she has known about the agency for more than 15 years. “I think they [VR] do a great job, and my experience has not been just me. Working with the legislature, I’ve had several people with difficulties who I’ve referred to VR, and they were amazing. Every time I have contacted VR, they have responded in a timely fashion, and they’ve done the best they can. Sometimes the answer is no, but it’s never for the lack of trying.”

Jackie says that Kathleen was a pleasure to work with because she always did what needed to be done and understood the process, and Kathleen returns the praise. “I’ve got to tell you, Jackie has been just terrific – very empathetic, solution-minded, really doing her best to figure out which professionals I needed to see and what kind of equipment I needed to get. She stayed in close contact with me. Plus, she’s great! She’s got a terrific personality.”

Florida’s Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) is a federal-state program committed to helping people with disabilities become part of America’s workforce. Our employer-focused website, http://www.FLJobConnections.com, allows businesses to search at no charge for employees who are ready to go to work, as well as to post available jobs. VR has 89 offices across Florida, and last year helped 7,214 Floridians with significant disabilities find or keep a job. For more information about VR and its services, call (800) 451-4327 or visit http://www.Rehabworks.org.