BARTLESVILLE, Okla. – Bartlesville native Beverly Bates once struggled to find a job where skills and work ethic were more important than her vision and hearing losses.
Bates, age 54, was born with profound hearing loss and developed Stargardt macular dystrophy, which causes progressive central vision loss.
She describes herself as DeafBlind.
Today Bates is happy to work 12-hour shifts as the dishwasher in the dietary department at Adams Post Acute Recovery (PARC) Center in Bartlesville.
Sometimes she grabs a mop or a broom, or helps with other additional duties, but “the dishes are my responsibility until lockup,” she said.
Bates is also Oklahoma spokesperson for 2019 Helen Keller DeafBlind Awareness Week, an annual event celebrated internationally from June 24 through 30.
Keller’s birthdate was June 27.
Governor Kevin Stitt issued a proclamation recognizing the celebration and the accomplishments of DeafBlind Oklahomans.
Visual Services, a division of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, selected Bates for the honor.
“We chose Beverly because she was recently employed and couldn’t be happier,” Stephanie Butler, DeafBlind vocational rehabilitation specialist, said. “She has experienced difficulties and setbacks, but continues to smile her big smile, (and) joke and tease those she works (with).”
Bates’ consults with and advises Bates’ vocational rehabilitation counselor Yasmin Avila Guillen who provides career planning and employment services.
Jeri Cooper, a DeafBlind specialist who is DeafBlind herself, provided additional support and purchased an iPad for Bates through the National DeafBlind Equipment Distribution Program, promoted as iCanConnect Oklahoma. Cooper manages the Oklahoma program, which provides assistive distance communications equipment and trains DeafBlind clients to connect with the outside world.
Rehabilitation Teacher Charles Gant provided services to help Bates adjust to vision and hearing losses, and develop practical skills.
Assistive Technology Specialist Diana Smith provided Bates with assistive technology and training.
Michelle Rudesill, a DRS benefits planner, explained how Bates’ employment would affect her Social Security disability and other benefits.
In addition to helping with Bates’ resume, interviewing skills and employer contacts, VS staff provided interpreter services for the Deaf and Support Service Providers.
SSPs provide visual, auditory and environmental information and communication assistance for people with vision and hearing loss.
“It’s been great having Beverly on our team,” Adams PARC Executive Director Rachel Shearer said in a telephone interview. “It’s been positive -- no negatives. She’s conscientious, very diligent and always smiling.”
Adams PARC administration enlarges text if needed, while Bates and co-workers sometimes text, or communicate with markers and a white board hanging in the kitchen.
“Beverly has great strategies in place for effective communication,” Shearer, who has a speech pathology degree, said. “It’s been really good for our staff to have her here. Some employees are learning sign language so they can communicate with her more frequently.”
When stormy weather threatened this spring, Shearer put a safety plan in place to alert Bates about tornado watches and warnings.
“There is a lot of trust (at Adams PARC), so I’m able to have autonomy (with my) responsibilities,” Bates said through an interpreter for the Deaf. “Everyone is very friendly -- the kitchen and nursing staff. The culture there is wonderful. There is good camaraderie there.”
She believes that DeafBlind workers may focus more and are not easily distracted due to their disabilities.
“We’re definitely a hands-on group of people, but we’re all human beings. We all have needs, and we all have similar wants,” Bates said. “We (DeafBlind people) can work…. It’s about being human.”
Bates, who attended Oklahoma School for the Deaf from 1969 to 1982, is the mother of to two adult daughters, Jenita and Krista, who graduated from OSD. Bates left OSD before graduation, but obtained her General Education Development, known as a GED.
OSD is a division of DRS.
She is an active participant in the Green County DeafBlind organization based in Tulsa, but does not take off work from the job she loves to attend monthly meetings at 11 a.m. on the third Thursday of each month.
“My job is counting on me,” Bates said. “I need to be there.”
Governor Stitt is expected to read his DeafBlind Awareness Week proclamation at a DRS outreach event from 12:00 to 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 27. The celebration will be held at VS’ Oklahoma Library for the Blind at 300 N.E. 18th Street in Oklahoma City.
For more information about the celebration or services for Oklahomans who are DeafBlind, contact Jeri Cooper at 918-551-4921 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Stephanie Butler at 918-551-4904 or email@example.com. DeafBlind people may use this information to schedule their Support Service Providers for the celebration.