USOR 100 – Spotlight on Employee Excellence: Beth Bartholomew

Beth Bartholomew has worked for the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation (USOR) for 28 years. She is currently a Pre-Employment Transition Specialist in the Central Utah District, and previously served as an Office Specialist and Rehabilitation Tech in the Provo District.

She has an amazing ability to connect with a variety of people with disabilities — especially youth — and always goes out of her way to make sure they have the support and services they need to achieve success.

What brought you into the profession?

As a girl, I spent time at the State Hospital where my grandparents worked and learned about people with a variety of disabilities. I learned at a young age that you can be ridiculed, treated badly, excluded, looked over, or plain ignored for having a disability. I decided that I would never treat anyone with a disability the way I was treated. I have always had a desire to help those who are different. When a job with Utah’s Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Program became available, I felt it would be a good fit and it has proven to be the best experience for me.

What is your fondest memory during your time with VR?

While working with the Career Exploration Unit, I worked with an 18-year-old quadriplegic client who was very discouraged. He had been told he would never be able to do anything because of his disability and to just give up. He did not feel like he had any skills, abilities, or capabilities. However, he was interested in video games and, with adaptive technology, he was able to use a keyboard. He had a high IQ; but physically, he was only able to move his shoulders, fingers and head.

He came to VR to see if anyone could help him. With the help of his VR counselor and the Career Exploration Unit, he found that his aptitudes were in computer technology and programming. With VR’s help, he was able to obtain the assistive technology and equipment he needed to get a degree in Computer Science Engineering and Programming. He went on to design, build and program computers and started his own company. He came back several years later and thanked our staff for the help and encouragement he received that has helped him succeed in life.

Why does VR matter to you?

I have seen the lives that have been touched and changed over the years because of VR. People who felt that their disability made it so they couldn’t do anything. People who wanted desperately to have a job and do something, but felt their disability wouldn’t allow that. VR has given dignity, self-esteem and self-worth to so many people over the years. My son’s best friend benefitted from VR. He had terminal Multiple Dystrophy and was 18 years old when he applied for VR services. Our staff helped him get training and provided the specialized equipment he needed to allow him to work from his bed doing a job he loved until the day he died. He was so proud to be able to contribute to society, provide for himself and not be a burden on his family. VR matters to me because it gives people the opportunity to find their abilities and capabilities, become independent, and be successful in life.