Vision · Opportunities · Innovation · Choices · Expertise.
Oregon Commission for the Blind, June 2021
Photo of OCB Director Dacia Johnson

As Governor Brown leads Oregon’s efforts to prepare for the future and recovery from the pandemic, the Commission for the Blind is focused on the future of the employment and independent living of Oregonians who experience vision loss.

This edition of the Voice features Oregonians pursuing their passions despite the restrictions presented by COVID-19. It also highlights the Agency’s efforts to strengthen our partnerships and collaborations to increase awareness, access, and services to individuals who are blind.

If you are in the Salem area and have the opportunity to visit Silver Falls State Park, the Commission for the Blind has entered a partnership with the State Parks (OPRD) that created a business opportunity for an entrepreneur who is blind in the agency’s Business Enterprise Program. When you are at the park, take in the scenery and grab something to go from the South Falls Café.

Finally, this edition of the Voice offers a little teaser about the Agency's Summer Work Experience Program (SWEP) for transition-aged youth who cannot be held back by the pandemic. Our 2021 SWEP Program is “virtually” unstoppable, and you can read more about it in September.

Here’s to preparing for the future!
Photo of Jonathan Scrimenti
Photo at right, Jonathan Scrimenti stands smiling in the sun

Please join Oregon Commission for the Blind (OCB) in welcoming our new Orientation and Career Center for the Blind Director, Jonathan Scrimenti. Jonathan will supervise all curriculum and instructors at the "Center," working hand-in-hand with our Vocational Rehabilitation program to ensure that OCB’s clients gain the skills, knowledge, and confidence to reach their employment and life goals.

We feel very lucky to have Jonathan! He comes to us from Willamette University’s Atkinson Graduate School of Management, where he worked on the Career Management team since 2017. As Assistant Director, he focused on student advising, student organizations, graduate employment tracking and employer relations. Prior to Willamette University, Jonathan served as the Director of Student Services at a career-focused college in Portland.

Jonathan has a Doctorate in Organizational Leadership and a Masters in Student Development Administration. While at Seattle University, he worked in Housing and Residence Life to gain the foundational skills of advising students and leading teams. Originally from Ohio, Jonathan enjoys Oregon’s beautiful outdoors, wine, and music.
Image of smiling homecare worker in scrubs sitting next to senior woman on bed holding her hand. Pill bottle and window with neighborhood view in background.
Photo at left, homecare worker in scrubs sitting next to senior woman with vision loss. Pill bottle and window with neighborhood view in background.

Recently, we began a partnership with the Oregon Home Care Commission, a fellow state agency, to train their employees to better serve people with vision impairments.

Many older individuals who are blind employ homecare workers, but few of those workers have received special training to work with visually impaired clients.
image: title slide from a presentation OCB has created for homecare workers
Photo at right, title slide from a presentation OCB created for homecare workers

When workers have basic knowledge about causes of blindness, etiquette, safe escorting techniques, and resources, they can provide a full range of assistance to their clients. Therefore, we are building a curriculum that aims to help homecare workers provide the best possible assistance, foster client independence, and pass on referral information.

With the recent virtual classroom trend, we can offer live presentations to homecare workers in all corners of Oregon. Oregonians with vision loss will get better care and learn about the services that the Commission for the Blind offers at no charge.
Photo of Kobe filling creampuffs in Safeway bakery
Photo at right, OCB client Kobe Hoover fills creampuffs in Safeway bakery

Twenty-two year old Kobe Hoover dreamed about becoming a baker but was holding down a survival job as a clerk. He needed a little more help to achieve his dream in spite of the several years training already under his belt.

Kobe took the full gamut of instruction at OCB and participated in several Summer Work Experience Programs (SWEP) as a teenager. He has long loved to cook and took culinary arts in high school. SWEP helped him build hard skills and soft skills as well as career exploration. When he later opened a vocational rehabilitation case at OCB, he began working closely with independent living instructor Char Cook and cultivated his passion for cooking.

“Kobe is a rock star in the kitchen,” says Char. “Did I teach him much? Not really, I think it was the other way round. He is in love with making good food and serving it to the people he loves. The only thing I did was look at ways of doing things without the use of vision.”

When Kobe graduated high school and started looking at baking positions, he realized he still needed a lot of experience. Kobe worked hard to submit applications and go to interviews with the support of his OCB vocational counselor Carolyn Frank.
Photo of OCB client Kobe Hoover decorating cheesecake slices in Safeway bakery
Photo at left, OCB client Kobe Hoover decorates cheesecake slices in Safeway bakery

One day Kobe went into Safeway and saw OCB job development partner, Moriah Krussow, job-coaching a friend of his who was also in OCB’s program. He started a conversation with Moriah about finding employment, which started him on a job development path that would eventually landed him a job at that same Safeway.

“He used his network and his skills to get the job,” said Carolyn. “At first, he accepted a job that wasn’t a perfect fit in the hopes he would get promoted into the bakery, which is his dream job. Within a few months, he did! His story is about motivation, perseverance, resiliency, and using his resources to achieve his goals.”

“Kobe is someone who has overcome a lot in life,” agrees Vincent Gwodoz, another OCB vocational counselor who has worked with Kobe. “He put in the time and concerted effort at OCB and SWEP to build the skills that would help him to continue to achieve his goals in life and reach his considerable potential.”
Photo of Safeway staff and OCB clients and job developer holding an employee award given to Safeway by OCB
Photo at right, Safeway staff, OCB clients, and job developer with an award given to Safeway

Because of Safeway’s commitment to promoting Kobe, providing reasonable accommodations for low-vision employees, and hosting multiple work experiences with our clients, OCB awarded them an Employer Appreciation award.

“Safeway is giving Kobe the experience to be a real deal baker,” says Carolyn. “He’s living independently now, making friends, living his life.” Adds Moriah, “His employment at Safeway has not only provided him with a stable income doing what he always wanted to do, but it gave him the opportunity to make new friends which has alleviated his anxiety and fears around others knowing about his vision impairment. It’s helped his confidence soar.”

“Safeway has become like a family to him,” she continued. “I can't thank Safeway enough for challenging him and at the same time making him feel comfortable enough to push himself."
Image of Oregon State Parks logo in the shape of a badge with an image of Silver Falls.
Image at left, Oregon State Parks logo in the shape of a badge with an image of Silver Falls.

On May 27th, Vending Facility Manager Char Hawkins, in partnership with the Silver Falls State Park staff and OCB Business Enterprise Program team, opened the South Falls Café at Silver Falls State Park.

The largest park in Oregon, Silver Falls is known as the ‘crown jewel’ of the State Park System, boasting over 9,000 acres and welcoming more than 1,100,000 visitors each year. The park’s main attraction, the Trail of Ten Falls, follows the North and South Fork of Silver Creek as it cascades over ten waterfalls. One crowd-pleasing trail skirts behind a 178-foot curtain of water providing visitors with a breathtaking experience!
Photo of the front of Silver Falls Cafe with their new signage, stone exterior, hewed-log railings, and graceful rhododendron plants.
Photo at right, exterior of Silver Falls Café with new signage, stone exterior, hewed-log covered porch, and graceful native rhododendron plants.

Char’s operation is located in the historic South Falls Lodge built in 1940-1941 using local raw materials of hand-cut stone, cedar, and peeled fir logs. The café will not only provide quality food to park visitors, but her friendly staff will offer up a memorable, welcoming experience to outdoor enthusiasts from around the globe. South Falls Café patrons can indulge in fresh, home cooked meals paired with a glass of locally sourced beer or wine.

We encourage you to visit Silver Falls State Park not only to enjoy the incredible scenery and spend time outdoors, but to sample Char’s delightful cuisine!

Below: Two photos of the warm, woodworked interior of Silver Falls Café. In the first, café manager Char Hawkins puts out coffee carafes. In the second, a whimsical fruit bowl sits beside a pastry case on the polished wood counter. 
Collage of two photos of the homey, woodworked interior of Silver Falls Café. In the first, café manager Char Hawkins puts out coffee carafes. The second is a detail of a colorful fruit bowl and pastry case on the wood counter. 

Image of man operating computer tablet with high tech atmosphere in background
At right, image of man operating computer tablet with high tech atmosphere in background

This spring, OCB’s business relations coordinators and assistive technology specialists joined the 11th Annual Microsoft Ability Summit. This free digital event brought together people with disabilities, allies, and accessibility professionals to imagine the future of disability inclusion. What began in 2010 with just 80 Microsoft employees has become an event with over 11,000 attendees from around the globe.
There, OCB staff learned about diverse topics of inclusive design, artificial intelligence, and how games technology can drive accessibility innovation. The summit’s big underlying theme was inclusion, which has always been at the heart of accessibility but has largely been viewed from a technical standpoint, such as how screen readers and magnifiers can make electronic information more accessible.
While certainly assistive technology plays an important role, inclusion in the broader sense means bringing to the table people with diverse backgrounds, perspective, and abilities to share insight at the very earliest stages of product design and development. It’s about “baking in” accessibility, rather than “bolting on.”
Logo of Microsoft Ability Summit 2021 with the text "Imagine, Build, Include, Empower" and dates May 5 - 6 2021. Text superimposed over photo of brilliant blue firework on black sky.
At left, logo of Microsoft Ability Summit 2021 with the text "Imagine, Build, Include, Empower" and dates May 5 - 6, 2021. Text is superimposed over photo of a brilliant blue firework on black sky.

Many presenters shared their personal journeys with using adaptive/assistive technologies on their path to personal and professional achievement, having overcome significant challenges and in the process making society more inclusive.
The summit also covered topics of critical relevance to both our job-seeking clients and our business partners hiring them, such as empowering candidates to request accommodations, and the importance of training hiring managers, recruiters and interviewers about disability and accommodation.
As OCB employees, we know the positive impact our efforts have on those traveling their path. The Ability Summit was a great reminder of how our work helps shape not only individual achievement and meaningful life outcomes, but ultimately positive societal change as well. We do it one person at a time - and what a difference that makes for everybody.
To check out all the great sessions at this year’s conference, visit: Microsoft Ability Summit.
Photo - CJ engages with the SWEP program at home on her laptop.
Photo at right, SWEP student CJ engages with the SWEP program at home on her laptop.

OCB’s Summer Work Experience Program (SWEP), in its 48th year, is a month-long program for young people aged 16-20 who experience vision loss. The goals of the program are to empower students, teach them a broad range of life skills, and prepare them to successfully join the working world as confident adults.  

This summer, we will provide virtual pre-employment skills instruction and recreational activities, along with virtual and in-person work experiences that will be highly customized to each student’s needs, skills and aspirations. Thank you to our business partners who will be hosting some of these work experiences, including OMSI, New Seasons Market, YMCA and the City of Portland!
Our students will engage in administrative work, customer service, outreach, and more. Along the way, they’ll be supported by SWEP staff, job coaches and instructors in both assistive technology and orientation and mobility skills.
One benefit of a largely virtual SWEP is that our students will be able to connect with employers, mentors and peers anywhere in the state.
While we’re looking forward to a return to our typical residential program next year, this summer we're excited to hold another vibrant year of SWEP - "virtually" unstoppable!
Want to learn more about OCB?
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