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Model collaborative career program established at the National Center on Deafness.

A national model of career services for students who are deaf, hard of hearing and those with other disabilities has been established at the National Center on Deafness at California State University, Northridge. This multiproject collaborative effort will provide innovations that can be easily replicated at institutions and agencies throughout the country. In addition, each of the three allied projects will produce materials that are to be disseminated nationally for use by agencies, postsecondary institutions and employers.

For 30 years the National Center on Deafness (NCOD) at the university has been a leader in the exemplary services for students who are deaf and hard of hearing on a mainstream university campus. Once again, the NCOD has taken the lead in the establishment of a national model of career services known as the "NCOD Career WIT" program serving students who are deal hard of hearing and disabled. The program is a collaboration among three career projects, supported by federal and state funds, to establish services for the host campus and surrounding community, while implementing a program of national impact.

The three projects of the NCOD Career WIT program are:

* WorkAbility IV (WAIV)

* Transition Resources and Career Services (TRACS)

* Increasing Career Choices for Individuals who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ICC)

Functioning as a collaborative unit, Career WIT strengthens the type of programs and services that could be offered by each project individually. A "one-stop-shop" has been established that eases access for students, the campus

community, area employers and service providers throughout the nation. It utilizes the unique talents of project staff to the mutual advantage of all programs. By working in concert, Career WIT is able to institute a broad network of campus and community contacts, enabling NCOD to serve a diverse base of constituents. The projects each build upon the resources of the other--for example, adding to the library of career-related materials-in effect tripling the capacity to provide optimal service to students and the community. Project staff work in unison to develop workshop curriculum, coordinate students and employers for career fairs, share best practices and broaden program visibility.

While the one-stop-shop concept is not new in government and private services, the Career WIT program is the first of its kind for students who are deaf, hard of hearing and disabled at a mainstream university campus. Students who come to the NCOD Career WIT program have the advantage of the expertise and contacts developed by numerous program specialists for counseling and placement services. They also have a wider variety of career-related workshops tailored to meet their unique needs. The Career Center at the university and local employers also have more support and resources than ever before. Each campus career fair now has a place where students who are deaf can find sign language interpreters readily available, and students with other disabilities can find quick answers to their pressing questions or coaching on interviewing. Participating employers at the fairs find a visible presence where they can bring their questions, review material resources and explore the assistive technology display. For companies in the Greater Los Angeles area, large-scale training seminars on disability awareness and the Americans with Disabilities Act are offered, with each Career WIT staff member speaking on their area of expertise. All constituents have the benefit of expanded online resources through the Career WIT Web site. The three projects that comprise Career WIT work in concert to offer top-quality services; however, each individual component has features that make it unique for the specific populations it serves.

NCOD's WorkAbility IV (WAIV) is the first hard of hearing/deaf-only project sponsored by the California State Department of Rehabilitation and, as such, the project has initiated many innovations. WAIV established a voice mail system for deaf students, allowing them the option of using a voice message service telephone number on their resume. This service empowers students by giving them control over the timing of their disability disclosure. Knowing that individuals who are deaf prefer visual feedback, WAIV has established a mini-studio where students can participate in a videotaped mock interview that is used both to reinforce positive behaviors and to discuss negative ones. The WAIV Job Developer is also a sign language interpreter. This specialist accompanies students on interviews, meets employers face-to-face and provides direct feedback to students. Moreover, having an interpreter readily available for interviews reduces the stress on students to make interpreter requests to employers. A WAIV mentoring component, called "JOBNet," pairs current deaf and hard-of-hearing students with NCOD alumni working in fields students are considering. Other unique components are basic skills tutoring, helping students to develop the foundation they need to succeed in their major courses and a computer lab where students can build their computer proficiency as well as look for job vacancies, research companies and develop their resumes. The services of WAIV have proven invaluable, however, as per contract the project can only work with students who are clients of the California State Department of Rehabilitation.

Transition Resources and Career Services (TRACS) is sponsored by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS). TRACS is the only specialized program to offer unique individualized training and guidance for students who are disabled at California State University, Northridge. In addition, TRACS works across disabilities with high school and community college students, connecting them with other college and university students in a "Peer Sharing Network," to mentor and coach them with their college and other professional development pursuits. TRACS also offers training to high school teachers and counselors on career preparedness, to foster improved information to students with disabilities and encourage transition to higher education. Curriculum and handbooks for students and employers developed at Cal State Northridge by a previous grant are being updated and printed for national dissemination. An "Employer Accommodation Network" has been established, where area employers can connect with other area employers to discuss accommodation and other access issues, opening up more and more companies to hiring individuals with disabilities. TRACS has successfully placed students in jobs with companies like Disney, Allstate Insurance, Low Cost Insurance, and Future Scholars.

The newest addition to the NCOD career services is a project supported by a grant from the Rehabilitation Services Administration entitled Increasing Career Choices for Individuals who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ICC). ICC offers services to students who are deaf and hard of hearing previously unable to take advantage of the tailored program offered by WAIV because they are not clients of the California Department of Rehabilitation. Through ICC, students receive services via direct communication in the mode most accessible to the individual--spoken English or sign language. ICC builds upon many innovations established by the WAIV program, such as the voice mail service and Job Developer/Sign Language Interpreter. In addition, through ICC, employers will be able to participate in an assistive device loan program, so they will not have this expense when taking on short-term interns. Furthermore, new hires can have equipment to use immediately while companies go through the process of purchasing their own equipment. The most unique product to be developed by ICC is a series of "Deaf Mentor" videotapes featuring deaf individuals from a variety of fields discussing their career paths and accommodations. An accommodation videotape will also be produced that will inform employers about accommodations and access issues for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing, and instruct them on ways to acquire the technology and make their work environments "deaf-friendly."

The NCOD Career WIT program offers a tremendous range of programs, services, activities, and products to the Northridge community and to the nation at large. Each individual project offers specialties and builds upon the collaborative efforts of the other. Anyone wanting more information about any of these programs can contact the National Center on Deafness Special Projects office at (818) 677-2099. In addition to the products discussed, the Career WIT staff will document best practices as well those attempted that were not successful, and disseminate this information through state and national conferences, in publications and through direct contact.
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Publication:American Rehabilitation
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2001
Words:1347
Previous Article:The impact of labor market trends of the employment of persons with disabilities.
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