Recent success placing clients from the Vocational Rehabilitation Services division of Iowa Workforce Development at a Dubuque museum has sparked a much broader relationship between the two entities – and prompted Vocational Rehabilitation to expand a valuable new service.

Vocational Rehabilitation staff members recently completed specialized training and testing to become Certified ADA Coordinators – experts who will be able to help Iowa businesses and organizations improve both programmatic and physical access for Iowans with disabilities.

The staff members are now certified to evaluate workplaces for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and guide organizations on how to better accommodate the public and/or potential employees with disabilities.

Michelle Krefft, Disability Engagement bureau chief for the Business Engagement division of Iowa Workforce Development, said the new ADA coordinators (and others that are still in the process of getting certified) will help companies put their best foot forward. Just as importantly, the new training will help ensure that the Iowans with disabilities who go to the Vocational Rehabilitation Services division of IWD seeking career assistance will be able to work in the best possible environment.

β€œThis allows staff to take a look at the programmatic and physical accessibility at a location and make recommendations for potential accommodations,” Krefft said. β€œOur staff really look at the environment to determine how we can make it a safe and accessible environment to ensure that our candidates have success with their new careers.”

Vocational Rehabilitation staff have been offering guidance on ADA compliance for years, but this is the first time they have done so with official certification.

The service was launched earlier this year after a request from the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque. After finding success with several Voc Rehab-assisted job candidates, the museum asked for help with a total assessment of how to make the museum a more inclusive place. Vocational Rehabilitation Services brought in people with hearing impairments, autism, intellectual disabilities, and physical barriers to provide input, while also working with the museum staff and the Great Plains ADA.

Projects the division has assisted with since then include:

  • A six-year planning and construction project for the City of Sioux City along the waterfront at Chris Larsen Park. The project will include accessible walkways, water features, wheelchair and adaptive charging stations, and adaptive play equipment.
  • An Iowa factory where the division recommended a fire alarm system that included flashing lights for a deaf employee. The company noted that it ultimately improved safety for all employees working in the noisy factory, who otherwise might not hear the alarm.

β€œOur recent accessibility audit conducted through a partnership with Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services and Great Plains ADA has allowed us to identify several ways that we can break down the barriers that prevent people from experiencing our campus. This has been a vital step in placemaking to add diversity, accessibility, and belonging to the visitor experience,” said Kristen Leffler, Staff Resource & Engagement Manager and Internship Coordinator at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. β€œWe are so grateful for the opportunity to work with the very talented and passionate staff of these organizations and look forward to the many positive changes to come.”

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