Organizations Work Together to Help Karlee Hayes become Employed

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In honor of Low Vision Awareness Month, Vocational Rehabilitation shares a story of someone with multiple disabilities, including low vision, who has found a job she loves.

Photo of VR Counselor Lindsey Scherger Gray with Karlee Hayes at her new job with Children's Medical Services.

VR Counselor Lindsey Scherger Gray with Karlee Hayes at her new job with Children's Medical Services.

Karlee was always very motivated to become employed. Her growth over the last year is evidenced by her success in her job.

Karlee Hayes, who has cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder, and difficulty with her vision, came to Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) while she was still in high school. That’s where she met VR Technician Lindsey Scherger Gray.

VR helps people with disabilities get or keep a job, and one of its main focuses is the School to Work Program to help high school students make the transition from school to the working world.

Lindsey and Karlee hit it off right away, and when Lindsey was promoted to VR counselor, Karlee was delighted that Lindsey was allowed to continue helping her plan for her future career.

Karlee and Lindsey worked together to come up with her career goal. During that time Karlee was offered a position working 20 hours a week at Children’s Medical Services (CMS) for the Florida Department of Health on the University of South Florida (USF) campus. She had been volunteering there for the past two years during her school holidays and summer vacations and enjoyed working with the staff.

Karlee helped stuff envelopes, sort the mail and deliver it to her co-workers. Because she enjoyed her job, Lindsey and Karlee decided to create a vocational goal of office worker. Lindsey then referred Karlee to The Diversity Initiative for supported employment services.

Her job coach, Christine LaPace, immediately began working with her to fulfill her accessibility needs at her job. Karlee needed a large computer monitor, power hole-punch, right-handed keyboard, monitor stand, metal sorter, foot pedal, a grabber (in case she dropped an item), and a pivot for her wheelchair arm so she could be as close as possible to her desk. All of these accommodations were paid for by VR, one of the many benefits offered to employers who hire someone with a disability.

Karlee’s supervisor, Mary Ordway, says that she has thoroughly enjoyed watching Karlee come out of her shell and is amazed at everything she has accomplished in one year. “Karlee intermingles with the staff very well; she has a great sense of humor and always keeps everyone laughing,” says Mary. “She is willing to try anything!”

While working at CMS, Karlee was accepted into the STAGES (Successful Transition After Graduation for Exceptional Students) program at USF, a transition program on campus. During her STAGES Internship, Karlee worked at the Campus Rec Center where her responsibilities included keeping track of USF IDs, remote controls, and sports equipment.

Karlee continues to work for CMS and she is taking on more and more responsibility. Her duties now include alphabetically sorting new client referrals and inputting them into the confidential CMS system, scheduling conference rooms for meetings, and printing information entered into the system by the three social workers she is assigned to, along with other duties.

Lindsey is very proud of Karlee, and says, “Karlee was my first case as a counselor that I worked from the beginning to successfully employed. She was a delightful customer to work with and was always very positive and motivated to become employed, even from our first meeting. Karlee’s growth over the last year is evidenced by her success in her job.”

“Working with Lindsey was really great!” says Karlee. “She listened to what I needed and helped me get it. I like working with the ladies here [at CMS] and feel like I am helping make their jobs easier. I have a lot to do, and I keep busy!”

About Vocational Rehabilitation
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.

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Rachel Smith
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