Conley seeks to remove employment barriers | News | – Norman Transcript

Clear skies. Low near 45F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph..
Clear skies. Low near 45F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph.
Updated: October 30, 2021 @ 11:54 pm
Norman, Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY — Enhancing the accessibility of job certification and licensure for people with disabilities was the focus of an interim study Wednesday by Rep. Sherrie Conley. R-Newcastle. The study was hosted before the House Government Modernization and Efficiency Committee.
“People with disabilities are being denied access to certifications and licenses because of testing requirements,” Conley said. “I wanted to examine potential modifications to policies and procedures to enhance access to jobs and careers for this population. I appreciate all of the great voices who shared their expertise with us as we examined this issue.”
Kari Bailey, an instructor with the Culinary Assistant Program at Francis Tuttle Technology Center, gave the higher education side of the equation.
She spoke about the HospitAbilities program, a partnership with the Oklahoma Restaurant Association, that offers 18 skill areas for students who are on an Individualized Education Program. Students have to pass seven areas to earn certification. They have four opportunities within two years to test.
Bailey, who has worked with special education students for over 25 years from the elementary level to higher education, said this program gives many students with disabilities an opportunity to work they otherwise might not have. This is possible, she said, because they don’t require their students to pass a paper/pencil test but instead to show what they can do. This is something she wishes the state would adopt for other programs such as carpentry, automotive, and more.
The entire time Bailey spoke, a video of students performing tasks for their certification tests played in the background. One student folded napkins, another inventoried products, another set tables, others prepared food.
Bailey said certification is based on what industry said it needs, and industry executives serve as evaluators for the certification tests.
Bailey said some students can’t read or are non-verbal. Some have severe or profound physical limitations. Others speak only limited English. While they may not be able to do all tasks, she works individually to find skills at which they excel.
She helps students with interviewing, with onboarding, planning transportation routes to work, the importance of being on time and more. Bailey said she wants to make sure she’s giving her students everything they need to succeed in the workforce, because that helps them live better lives.
Bailey said one thing she shares with industry is to treat students as professionals and to have high expectations of them.
Roberta Helsley, education manager for the Oklahoma Restaurant Association, the Oklahoma Hotel Lodging Association and the Oklahoma Travel Industry Association, delivered the industry side.
Helsley has been a certification evaluator for several years for the HospitAbilities program. She said one of the silver linings of COVID is its brought programs such as this to light, and it’s helping the hospitality industry and others to re-evaluate how they are operating.
Of restaurants surveyed, for instance, 72% report staff shortages. This forces them to look for workers among populations such as those with disabilities, and to evaluate things such as making reasonable accommodations.
Melinda Fruendt, executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services spoke about potential future plans with CareerTech and the Tulsa Tech Center culinary HospitAbility program and how accommodations are being made to include the blind and visually impaired as well as the deaf and hard of hearing populations.
She said the department is working in all 77 counties to break down barriers for individuals to get into the workforce.
Other presenters during Wednesday’s study included Julie Lackey, with the Oklahoma Inclusive Post-Secondary Alliance, who spoke on post-secondary opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as future plans of the alliance in supporting students both academically and with social skills.
Shawna Nord and Cori Gray with the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology, presented CareerTech accomplishments and how they plan to meet more needs in the future through the area of testing accommodations.
Lori Chestnut, a secondary transition program specialist with the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s Special Education Services division, presented data around serving students with disabilities and what OSDE is doing to support successful postsecondary opportunities.

Wanda Jean Givens (82) died October 27, 2021 in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. Gravesite services scheduled for 11:00 AM, Monday, November 1, 2021 at the Denver Cemetery, entrusted to the care of Wadley’s Funeral Service. Online condolences may be made at

Marjorie Lewis Cannon, age 95, of Norman, passed away on February 9, 2021. A Memorial Service will be held at 2:00pm, on Saturday, November 6, 2021, at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 235 W. Duffy St, Norman. Share condolences online:
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