For over 25 years, Catherine Wright enjoyed a career as a pre-school teacher in university-based child development programs. She was the Lead Teacher and Assistant Director at the Arizona State University, Child Development Center, and most recently was Lead Teacher at the University of Nevada, Child and Family Research Center. Her official job title was Childcare Worker II. At UNR, she taught and cared for children ages 0 to 3 years in the Early Head Start Program. Cathy was very happy in her job and loved working with the children. She had no desire to leave the University. However, her life and career would soon change dramatically.
Cathy was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, an immune system disorder often associated with other progressive immune system disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The neck pain, low back pain and pain in multiple peripheral joints secondary to Sjogren’s, along with inflammatory arthritis, resulted in total replacements of both of Cathy’s knees. The unfortunate impact on Cathy was that she became permanently unable to meet the physical demands of caring for small children and could no longer perform the full range of essential functions required of a Childcare Worker II.
Cathy was placed on medical leave and looked to the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation for help finding work she could do. She had been approved for medical retirement, but wanted to keep working if at all possible, either with the State of Nevada or in the private sector. It was her desire to work long enough for the State to retire comfortably, and she saw that slipping away. In order to upgrade her office, administrative and computer skills, and to help qualify her for an administrative assistant position with State, Voc Rehab assisted Cathy with a short-term clerical and administrative skills training program. Voc Rehab also helped Cathy with a computer for practicing her skills, a comfortable chair, job placement services, clothing for job interviews and transportation expenses.
Cathy was certified for the 700 Hour Law Program, which was established to provide a path to State employment for people with disabilities. She successfully completed her training, and, after many job interviews in both the public and private sectors, Cathy was hired through the 700 Hour Law. Her new job was an Administrative Assistant II with the Nevada Department of Health & Human Services.
Although she loved working at HHS, Cathy noticed that she had a great deal of difficulty hearing people on the job. She often joked that she always thought she couldn’t hear people at work, because of all the noise that the kids were making at her old job.
Following an audiological evaluation, it was found that Cathy had permanent sensorineural hearing loss in both ears, which could be corrected with hearing aids. Voc Rehab helped Cathy with obtaining her hearing aids, and she is still working at HHS and enjoying her new career and her ability to hear clearly and communicate with others on the job. And it wasn’t the kids after all.