Sunday, October 18, 2009

Interpreter for deaf comes full circle

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TAMPA — A serious car crash in 1987 left Ramona Richardson in constant, debilitating pain. After five surgeries in six years, her pain has diminished. And with help from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, she achieved her dream of interpreting for the deaf.
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Richardson is working again — for VR. October is Disability Employment Awareness Month, a time when employees with disabilities are recognized for their successes.

At the time of the accident, Richardson was an assistant vice president for a large mortgage company. She came to VR after unsuccessfully attempting a return to work at her former employer and realizing she needed a career change.

Richardson told VR counselor Ron Thiessan about her new career goal, and he felt it was a good direction for her to pursue. "I found her to be very articulate," Thiessan said. "I thought those language skills would help her when she became a sign language interpreter."

VR paid for Richardson's tuition and school supplies at Hillsborough Community College, and in 2005 she graduated with a degree in sign language interpreting.

In 2008, Richardson came to work for VR as one of two staff interpreters for a six-county area. She teaches two American Sign Language classes for VR staff and is active in organizations related to deafness and the deaf community.

"It's funny how life comes full circle," she says. "I am now a staff interpreter for VR, and they were the ones that helped me get my life back and in the career I always wanted."

Her road to success was bumpy, but she credits Thiessan for helping her succeed. "Mr. Thiessen would always find a way to help me overcome any obstacle that I would encounter," she said.

# Florida's Vocational Rehabilitation program helps people with disabilities become part of the work force. For more about VR and its services call (800) 451-4327 or visit Rehabworks.org.