“I have a challenge finding clients,” René jokes. “Vermont has more cows than deaf or deaf-blind people.”
However, it is Rene’s job to find and serve deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind clients.
Rene is the coordinator of the Northern Vermont Resource Center, part of the Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. This center serves people who are deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind in northern Vermont. Rene oversees mental health, counseling and day programs for people with developmental disabilities and mental illness. He also coordinates a telecommunications distribution program for northern Vermont.
Rene supervises eight employees on his staff. In addition to his administrative work, he does about 15 hours a week of direct client service, where he provides counseling and support for his clients. He also works with his staff to develop treatment plans, behavior plans and address issues with his clients.
Rene traveled a multi-faceted route to his current position. He received a BA degree from Gallaudet University, and shortly afterwards, worked in a group home for hearing people with developmental disabilities. He tried teaching for a while, but discovered he disliked it. He then found a job working for the Vermont Association for the Blind, providing peer advocating and case management for people who were blind or visually impaired. Rene worked as a vocational rehabilitation counselor for two years, then took a position as state coordinator for the deaf and hard of hearing. He stayed in this position for 15 years before he became coordinator of the Northern Vermont Center four years ago.
“I was ready for a change and wanted to try out some new things,” he said.
Rene has noted some challenges in this new position, however. “My vision is decreasing and some of my clients don’t understand my visual needs at times. My staff is great. They know they need to stay in one position and sign in a small space. It is harder for my clients to understand that so I face the challenge of understanding them and getting them to understand my vision loss.”