DRTC connects people with disabilities to the workforce, partnering with more than 100 companies to provide contract employees after they receive training to help disabled workers gain needed skills.
The word “disabled” is limited by definition, noting a person’s physical or mental condition that limits movements, senses or activities. However, this “limited” notion is not the spirit that pervades DRTC, formerly known as the Dale Rogers Training Center. Since 1953, this innovative agency has been serving and supporting people with disabilities, helping them discover their interests, hone their skills and prepare them for meaningful employment.
With a mission to connect people with disabilities to meaningful employment, the DRTC slogan, “Ability at work,” could not be more fitting. One example is Tammy (who DRTC identifies by first name only), a job seeker eagerly applying for caregiver positions within the community. She recently took care of an ailing family member, which sparked her interest in healthcare. She dreams of becoming a nurse. DRTC has worked with Tammy and her family to support her goals. In addition, DRTC classes and job coaches provide the training and tools she needs to enter the work-force successfully.
“[They help me by] looking for jobs and practicing for an interview in case I have to have an interview – and how to answer a phone correctly,” Tammy said.
Tammy said life without a job can be rather dull. That’s why she currently works in the DRTC Production Center, where the organization provides packaging, assembly, fulfillment and other hands-on services through more than 100 company contracts.
“I can get out of the house and not be bored. [Working] gives me something to do,” she said. “It makes me feel good and happy.”
People like Tammy are the reason DRTC Executive Director Deborah Copeland continually advocates for disability inclusion in the workplace. Most recently, Copeland has spurred conversations with business leaders about adding disability considerations to their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs. While gender, race and sexual orientation are attributes commonly recognized in DEI programs, disability often gets overlooked.
“Statistically, 90 percent of businesses have some sort of initiative or focus to talk about DEI, but recent statistics are showing only four percent of those businesses include disabilities in those discussions,” Copeland said.
Copeland said DRTC provides many on-ramps for individuals with disabilities to find work. At the same time, DRTC is building on-ramps for Oklahoma businesses, supporting company leaders who want to become more inclusive in their hiring.
“It’s important for the business community to understand that there are resources available for them if they’re looking for an innovative work-force,” Copeland said. “We try to emphasize [to companies] that what you’re doing is an investment. More than just creating a job for one person, you’re creating a job for a broader range and, really, for a new workforce.”
The Omni Hotel is one of many DRTC-business partnerships. While the hotel was still under construction, management began collaborating with DRTC staff to identify employment opportunities. Community Engagement Supervisor James Helm shared a story about Jacob, who currently works in the Omni’s laundry area after being active in many of DRTC’s programs. He grew up attend- ing Camp Tumbleweed, a summer day camp for those with disabilities, and participated in the agency’s transition program after high school graduation. DRTC employment services helped him secure employment with the hotel.
Just like Jacob, Copeland knows Tammy will be a valuable employee to any company who hires her. She said she can’t wait to see what’s next for her.
“My favorite part is seeing people like Tammy reaching out, making new goals and dreaming new dreams – and their family seeing them in a new light, seeing their potential, and just seeing that transformation. It really is a transformation,” Copeland said.