Soliday a success story for Ready to Work program

Shonna Soliday and ADRS Rehabilitation Specialist Denise Holmes discuss discuss the success of the Ready To Work program.

With a strong support system, a lot of hard work, and a positive attitude, Shonna Soliday has paved the way for others to find success through the Ready To Work (RTW) program. Soliday, with assistance from Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Dena Dodd and E.H. Gentry, recently became the first student with vision loss to complete the program and secured a position

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CRS receives grant to advance care for children with medical complexity

Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Networks (CoIINs) are multidisciplinary teams of federal, state, and local leaders working together to tackle a common problem. Last year, CRS was one of 10 states awarded a CoIIN to advance care for children with medical complexity (CMC). The grant, managed by the Boston University School of Pubic Health and supported through the Health Resources and

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Pilot program eyes college success for students with vision loss

College Quest logo

A new ADRS College Prep program specifically for students who are blind or have low vision will debut this June at Auburn University. The two-week program – called College Quest – will host a dozen students from around Alabama, with at least one student from each of the seven workforce regions of the state, said Dana Barber, state coordinator for Blind

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Jefferson County businessman joins ADRS board

Charles Wilkinson is the newest ADRS board member, representing the 6th congressional district

A prominent member of the Birmingham business community has been appointed to represent Congressional District 6 on the Alabama Board of Rehabilitation Services. Charles Wilkinson, the founder and chief executive officer of Human Resource Management Inc. (HRM), a consulting firm specializing in human resource management compliance, will represent business and industry on the seven-member board. He was appointed by Gov. Kay

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Together Success: Diyari Askew (featured story + video)

When CRS Social Work Administrator Melissa Alexander first heard from Cassie Laird that her 8-year-old daughter’s one true wish was to be able to feed herself independently, she said, “Let’s try to make it happen.” Diyari Askew is a very bright and precocious second grader in Ms. Jacob’s class at W.O. Lance Elementary in Lanett. She loves reading, learning, and

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Guide Dogs for the Blind staff offer glimpse of the ‘guide dog lifestyle’ (photo gallery)

Mark Gillard, certified O&M specialist with Guide Dogs for the Blind, explains the back-chaining and patterning methods to class participants

Staff from Guide Dogs for the Blind were in Alabama recently for a training and workshop for ADRS staff and consumers. The group’s stay began with a two-day training session for orientation and mobility specialists from ADRS and other entities, including the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind, E.H. Gentry, and Birmingham-area school systems. Class topics included assessing a client’s

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Training helps first responders better understand mental illness, cognitive disabilities

ADRS Lakeshore Rehabilitation Specialist Samantha Wadsworth leads a training at Vestavia Hills PD

Officers and first responders with Vestavia Hills Police Department are currently participating in a unique training program specifically designed to help them identify typical behaviors seen in persons with a broad range of cognitive disabilities and mental illnesses. Persons with cognitive disabilities or mental illnesses often have different reactions to stressful situations than persons without those disabilities. Led by ADRS

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READI-Net offers medical aspects of disability training for employers (photo gallery)

More than 100 people, representing some 50 employers, recently attended the Medical and Psychological Aspects of Disability in the Workplace mini-conference at the Trussville Civic Center. The daylong workshop featured a number of expert panels discussing orthopedic disorders, internal disorders, deafness/hearing loss, reasonable accommodations, mental illness and cognitive disorders, and trauma disorders. Participating employers included the Alabama Department of Transportation,

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ADRS consumer recognized during Gov. Ivey’s State of the State address

Caryn McDade with Yolanda Spencer

An ADRS consumer who was hired after attending last fall’s Governor’s Disability Job Fair was recognized during Gov. Kay Ivey’s State of the State address Jan. 9. While attending the fair, Caryn McDade met and interviewed with Southern Hospitality Home Health Care of Fultondale. By the end of the week, she was employed and training on-the-job as a full-time home

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Statewide AGCEPD awards ceremony honors businesses, exceptional people with disabilities (photo gallery + video)

  The Alabama Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities honored the success and contributions of individuals with disabilities in the workforce and recognized businesses that provide opportunities for successful employment for people with disabilities. The winners were recognized at a Dec. 7 ceremony/reception in the Old Archives Chamber of the Alabama State Capitol. Gov. Kay Ivey personally congratulated

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New clinic ‘one-stop shop’ for youngsters with craniofacial disorders (photo gallery)

A student takes a photograph of a patient's mouth

Homewood’s CRS office recently launched a clinic to specifically address the orthodontics needs of children with craniofacial disorders. The CRS Orthodontic Clinic for Craniofacial Disorders – first held this past summer – offers a one-stop shop for consumers with craniofacial anomalies. The new clinic is the only one of its kind in the state and is held quarterly onsite at

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Employers weigh in on value of VR services at business roundtable (photo gallery)

Steve Woodson, chief executive officer of the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR), explains the goal of the roundtable

  Representatives from 20 employers from around the state gathered recently for a business roundtable on disability in the workplace. Alabama was one of five states – California, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania being the others – to participate in the event as part of the Council for State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation’s strategic planning initiative, known as Vision 2020. The roundtables

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33rd annual early intervention preschool conference a success

More than 500 professionals and parents attended the 33rd annual statewide Early Intervention and Preschool Conference in Huntsville Oct. 23-25. The 2 1/2 day conference offered more than 40 sessions, recommending practices for various early intervention and preschool services from birth to 5 years of age. Penny Foster, the parent of a child with Down syndrome who received services through

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OASIS program marks 30th anniversary (photo gallery)

Photo of council meeting with OASIS graphic overlaid with text reading "Serving older Alabamians with vision loss for 30 years"

OASIS, the department’s program serving older Alabamians with vision loss, celebrated its 30th anniversary at the Oct. 17 meeting of the OASIS Advisory Council. The program began in 1987 with funding from a competitive grant and has served more than 30,000 people since its inception, 1,044 of them in FY16. The program is nationally recognized for its innovative approach to

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Business Relations Administrator Peggy Anderson’s retirement reception (photo gallery + video)

Peggy Anderson is presented the VIP award from Lamona Lucas

Members of the Rehab Family gathered Sept. 29 to honor Business Relations Administrator Peggy Anderson for her more than 35 years of loyal service to Alabamians with disabilities. Friends, family, community partners, and colleagues as well as founding ADRS Commissioner Lamona Lucas gathered to celebrate Anderson’s many contributions as a passionate advocate for the creation of the department and a

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Leslie Dawson readies for Business Relations administrator role

With the Oct. 1 retirement of Statewide Business Relations Administrator Peggy Anderson, Leslie Dawson is preparing to fill some very big shoes. In August, ADRS Commissioner Jane Elizabeth Burdeshaw named Dawson to succeed Anderson as the department’s business relations administrator and a member of the Executive Leadership Team (ELT). “I’m honored and humbled,” Dawson said about her new role. “Peggy

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Together Success: Madelynn Pierce (featured story + video)

When you live in extreme rural Alabama, it can be difficult to find a true sense of community. But that’s exactly what Tony and Rhonda Pierce – who live in unincorporated Lawley in Chilton County – found at the CRS office in Selma. The couple’s granddaughter, Madelynn, has Warburg micro syndrome, a rare autosomal syndrome with characteristics of microcephaly, microphthalmia, optic

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CRS offices celebrate summer with events for families (photo gallery)

Children’s Rehabilitation Service offices throughout the state have hosted a number of family-focused events this summer. In Opelika, families from Chambers, Lee, Macon, Montgomery, Randolph, Russell, and Tallapoosa, counties celebrated the end of the school year at the School’s Out Bash. The annual event –  jointly sponsored by Opelika CRS, VRS, Computer Services, and the Lee County Achievement Center –

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EI partners with Alabama reading initiative to ‘prescribe’ books to kids

Reach Out and Read Alabama volunteers pose for a photo at the event in Selma

A new partnership between Alabama’s Early Intervention System (AEIS) and Reach Out and Read Alabama is encouraging early learning through reading by offering books to children when visiting their pediatrician. The program – Rx for Summer Reading – works by identifying pediatric offices in Alabama’s counties of need. In turn, these doctor offices “prescribe” and distribute books to families to

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VRS summer programs teach students skills for college, work life (photo gallery)

Students participate in a team-building activity at the Shelby County career prep session

Dozens of transition students from throughout the state have gained exposure to work and college life through a number of programs sponsored and presented by Vocational Rehabilitation Service this summer. The programs, held at various locations around Alabama, are designed to prepare students to transition to work and/or post-secondary education.    

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Together Success: Pete Petro (featured story + video)

Pete Petro - Success 17

Though Duchenne muscular dystrophy has made life a constant battle for 22-year-old Pete Petro, he has never once allowed it to tamp down his dreams or ambitions. Rather, thanks to assistance from VR and SAIL, his visions of success have only grown more substantial. “Without ADRS, I don’t know if I would have been able to complete college,” Pete said.

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2017 YLF delegates target leadership, success (photo gallery + video)

YLF group picture with Timothy Alexander

  The 31 graduates of the 19th annual Alabama Governor’s Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) left Troy University better equipped to take charge of their own lives following the five-day event that focused on self-esteem, self-advocacy, career exploration, independent living, and assistive technology. “YLF provides an opportunity to empower young people with disabilities to fully realize their potential to lead,” said Karen Jenkins,

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Board holds quarterly meeting at ADRS Lakeshore (photo gallery + video)

Board members Eddie Williams and Jimmie Varnado speak with members of the Adaptive Driving Program team following the board meeting

The Alabama Board of Rehabilitation Services held its recent quarterly meeting at the ADRS Lakeshore office. Paige Hebson, field supervisor at ADRS Lakeshore, spoke to the group about the services provided through her office. Also addressing the group was Beth Curry, who works at the nearby Lakeshore Foundation. Following the meeting, the board as well as members of the ADRS

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JeffCo high schoolers begin Career Journey with stop at UAB (photo gallery)

Elizabeth Turnbull, an instructor in the UAB School of Business, speaks at her session

More than 120 high school students from 30 Jefferson County schools are participating this week in “Money Express” at the Collat School of Business on the campus of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “Money Express” was developed by Stephanie Yates, an associate professor in the UAB School of Business and director of the Institute of Financial Literacy. Over four days,

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Project SEARCH programs statewide hold commencement ceremonies (photo gallery)

Project SEARCH graduates from the UAB site stand on stage

Project SEARCH, the Alabama program launched in 2012 to provide students with significant disabilities professional work experience, held 10 graduations at different program sites statewide throughout the month of May. In total, 85 students across 10 Project SEARCH locations graduated this year. Of those 85, 62 had already accepted job offers by graduation day. The program is a total immersion, business-led, school-to-work plan for

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EI Update draws professionals, families (photo gallery)

Mary Bryan, a speech-language pathologist at the University of Alabama, gestures during her session on abnormal and normal feeding in infants and toddlers

  The 16th Annual Early Intervention Update was May 23 at University Church of Christ in Tuscaloosa. The daylong event was sponsored by Three Rivers Early Intervention District VII Coordinating Council, the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (for Alabama’s Early Intervention System), and Auburn University Montgomery. The morning began with Lauren Wilson, the parent of a child with a disability, whose general

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Deaf Services celebrates 30th anniversary of annual training

Juniors and seniors from the Alabama School of the Deaf introduce themselves to staff and guests of the retreat

VRS-Deaf Services recently marked the 30th anniversary of their annual training retreat at Alabama’s 4-H Center in Columbiana. Commissioner Jane Elizabeth Burdeshaw joined the group for day two of the three-day training, where she provided an update to staff on departmental activities and led a mock interview session for 33 juniors and seniors from the Alabama School for the Deaf.

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ADRS, Easter Seals open new Tuscaloosa facility (photo gallery + video)

Easter Seals West Alabama (ESWA) and the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (ADRS) recently hosted a ribbon-cutting celebration for their new state-of-the-art facility. The new building – located at 1400 James I. Harrison Jr. Parkway Drive East – features 56,000 square feet of office space and houses all four major ADRS programs – Alabama’s Early Intervention System, Children’s Rehabilitation Service,

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‘Early Intervention Week’ celebrates impact of services for children with disabilities

Children ride bikes at 'Family Day'

The seven districts of Alabama’s Early Intervention System (AEIS) held several special events for the week of April 17-21 to celebrate the vital role early intervention plays in the success of children with disabilities or developmental delays. The celebrations were part of “Early Intervention Week” in the state of Alabama. Former Gov. Robert Bentley signed a proclamation in late March to

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Together Success: MacKenzie Reeves (featured story + video)

When Pamela Reeves was pregnant with her daughter MacKenzie, her obstetrician noticed that her legs were not forming as they should. “We didn’t fully understand the issue until after the delivery,” said Pamela. “I felt blindsided when I was told MacKenzie had PFFD.” PFFD – proximal femoral focal deficiency – is a rare, non-hereditary birth defect that affects the pelvis, particularly the hip

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Summit unites families, professionals as ‘partners in care’ (photo gallery + video)

More than 100 attendees came to Prattville’s Marriott Legends at Capitol Hill Conference Center for the seventh annual Family Voices Partners In Care Summit, April 20-21. The two-day family/professional development workshop aims to strengthen networks between families and care professionals and spotlights current challenges to developing quality systems of care for children and youth with special health care needs and

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Employment training conference brings ‘Carnival of Careers’ to Andalusia (photo gallery + video)

Students listen during a session at the employment conference

The Covington County Committee on Employment of Persons with Disabilities (CCCEPD) hosted its 11th annual Employment Training Conference for area youth April 11 in Andalusia. The one-day training connected more than 240 high school students with disabilities from 10 area schools with different and exciting employment opportunities to explore and expand their horizons within the community. Jobs in public service were a focus in this

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Kids Wish Network honors Tuscaloosa CRS consumer (photo gallery)

Hero of the Month graphic w/ photo of Ashlyn with cheerleaders

Ashlyn Wilson, a CRS consumer from Tuscaloosa, was named April’s Hero of the Month by the Kids Wish Network. To celebrate the honor, staff in the Tuscaloosa CRS office sponsored a party for Ashlyn and her family, complete with pizza and cupcakes. Ashlyn, who has Down syndrome and bilateral hearing loss, loves cheerleaders and cheerleading, so CRS staff worked with

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Older Alabamians learn IL skills at Camp SAVI (photo gallery)

A photo of eye glasses used to improve contrast

Seven seniors with visual impairments are attending Camp SAVI (seniors adjusting to visual impairments) at E.H. Gentry in Talladega this week. The camp, in its seventh year, teaches skills that help the participants remain independent in their homes. The program also features sessions to educate the relatives of the seniors about issues faced by people with visual impairments. The five-day

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Floyd is ADRS’s new software development manager

ADRS Computer Services recently promoted a familiar face to be the department’s new software development manager. Beverly Floyd assumed her post, previously held by Clay Weaver, on March 16. “Right now, I’m really serving dual roles,” Floyd said, “Not only am I taking over for Clay, I’m also still wearing my project management hat. I’m busy, but it’s also exciting. I’ll be working

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BRC teams with library to find gold at end of ‘Beautiful Rainbow’

When the Beautiful Rainbow Catering Company and Garden officially opened its doors inside the Gadsden Public Library on Valentine’s Day, it was a cause of celebration for everyone involved. The library café is the latest component of a larger garden-to-table education curriculum for adolescents and young adults with significant cognitive disabilities in the Gadsden City Schools. In addition to operating the area’s only vegetarian eatery, the program also

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ADRS partners with AIDB to offer Structured Discovery program in Birmingham

The Alabama Freedom Center for the Blind recently opened its doors as the first Structured Discovery program offered in the state of Alabama. Located at the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (AIDB) Regional Center in downtown Birmingham, the nine-month training program offers people who are blind or have low vision an alternative to traditional independent living skills training. In addition

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Lee County parent joins ADRS board

A Lee County woman has been appointed to the Alabama Board of Rehabilitation Services. Penny Foster, an Auburn resident and Tuscaloosa native, will represent the 3rd Congressional District. Foster is the mother of three daughters, including 13-year-old Maggie, who has Down syndrome. Foster was appointed to the board by Gov. Robert Bentley and confirmed by the Alabama Senate. ADRS Commissioner

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ADRS, AIDB, and AIDT collaborate to offer accessible Ready to Work program at E.H. Gentry

Alabama’s Ready-to-Work (RTW) program provides a career pathway for adults who have limited education and employment experience through 66 sites at 22 institutions. One of those sites – E.H. Gentry in Talladega – is now fully accessible and operational, representing the culmination of a two-year partnership between ADRS, Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT), and the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (AIDB). The RTW curriculum is designed by

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‘Mentoring Day’ preps Decatur-area high school students for next step (photo gallery)

The Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (ADRS) and Athens State University teamed up to host Mentoring Day, a transition event to prepare students with disabilities for life after high school. Approximately 130 students from nine area high schools attended yesterday’s event on the Athens State campus. Attendees participated in a career fair, campus tour, and three different learning sessions: Disability

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‘Transition Unlimited’ unifies transition efforts statewide

A collaboration between ADRS and Auburn University to improve transition services to students is currently being implemented in every high school in the state. The Alabama pre-employment transition services (Pre-ETS) initiative – dubbed “Transition Unlimited” – is designed to build capacity and connect services to appropriately implement transition services throughout the state. Its goal is to provide guidance to local education agencies

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ADRS staff re-locating to newly completed facility (photo gallery)

Earlier this week, the Vocational Rehabilitation Service (VRS) and State of Alabama Independent Living (SAIL) offices in Tuscaloosa began moving to their new location at 1400 James I. Harrison Jr. Parkway E. When the move is complete, the 56,000-square-foot, three-story complex – owned and built by Easter Seals West Alabama – will house some 60 ADRS staff. The Tuscaloosa offices

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SAIL, Senior Services partner to provide meals to persons with significant disabilities

State of Alabama Independent Living recently formed a partnership with the Alabama Department of Senior Services to provide access to Meals on Wheels to qualifying individuals currently served by a SAIL Medicaid waiver, said SAIL Program Specialist Kathy Fountain. Senior Services Commissioner Neal Morrison approached Fountain to provide $50,000 in funding for SAIL to access the Meals on Wheels program statewide.

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VA Employer Summit a success

Nearly 90 representatives from more than 50 companies around the Southeast recently attended the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS) Employer Breakfast Summit at Trenholm State Community College in Montgomery. With ADRS as a partner, the summit enabled employers to facilitate a discussion on hiring veterans with different organizations to support their efforts upon exiting the United States Armed

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