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Success Stories

Their success, your success, our success.

At the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, we work together with our many partners and Colorado employers to make a positive difference each and every day in the lives of Coloradoans with disabilities. Take a moment to read our stories - and see how their success, your success, and our success all go hand-in-hand.

Employee Profile

Aron Ralston

Place of Employment: Self-Employed
Occupation: Motivational Speaker
Rehabilitation Counselor: Sue Williams

Aron Ralston

Aron applied for vocational rehabilitation services toward the end of May of 2003. He had, just the month previously, been involved in an extraordinary situation where he found himself pinned by an 800-lb. boulder in Blue John Canyon, a remote area of Canyonlands National Park in Utah. Aron realized that his survival required drastic action, so he amputated his arm below the elbow utilizing his pocketknife. He was referred to the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) by the staff at the hospital where he was treated. Aron's life was impacted tremendously by this disability. Until he sustained his injury, he had lived and worked in Aspen, spending most of his free time enjoying wilderness activities (climbing, hiking, biking, etc.). In time, he came to realize that he could continue these activities with some adaptations.

Aron sought assistance from his DVR counselor, Sue Williams, to find a new vocational direction and regain employment. During his 15 months with DVR, Aron received counseling and guidance to help him identify a new career direction, physical and occupational therapy, and vocational training in first aid, search and rescue procedures, and CPR. Due in part to the services he received from DVR, Aron succeeded in beginning his new career as a public speaker/author. He has been featured in several nationwide television programs and publications, has recently published a book about his experience, and has traveled the world to respond to requests for him to speak to various groups.

When asked about his experience with DVR, Aron said that, because of the services he received, he is now more confident in his abilities and feels better prepared to continue in his vocational endeavors. He also feels that his counselor was very patient with him, knowledgeable about her field and the agency for which she works, and tremendously accessible to him when he needed assistance. His advice for a new person seeking help from DVR? "Go in with a realistic expectation of what services are available and how long things might take. Know that you will get the help you need, but recognize that good things take time."

Maggie Boden

Place of Employment: Golden West Senior Living Facility
Occupation: Massage Therapist
Rehabilitation Counselor: Nani McPherson

 Maggie Boden

Most people would not count having a stroke as a blessing, but for Maggie Boden, the event that happened four years ago led her on a path to a happier life and a more fulfilling career.

Before Jan. 15, 2006 Maggie had been working as an x-ray technician – a good job with a good paycheck. But, on that day, Maggie’s stroke left her with a loss of vision in her right eye and problems with her short term memory. She could no longer perform the duties required of her as a technician and, in addition to months of physical rehabilitation, she was also faced with having to find a new career.

Maggie soon began training as an Occupational Therapist and working at the hospital part time, but life dealt her another blow when she was informed that she would no longer be able to work part time at her position. Still recovering from her stroke, she was unable to work full-time and was laid off.

“It was difficult because I always envisioned working into my 70s, and here was another job I was not able to do,” Maggie said. “But I knew I needed to do something because I just couldn’t sit.”

That’s when one of her rehabilitation therapists suggested that DVR might be able to help. She began working with DVR counselor Nani McPherson out of the Boulder office, and together they realized that Maggie might be best suited to pursue training in massage therapy, an occupation that would allow her to use her previous medical experience, yet keep flexible hours.

She began classes at Healing Spirits Massage Training Program in Boulder with the help from DVR, and, upon graduating, her ideal career finally started to fall into place. She set up a massage therapy room in her home and takes appointments throughout the week, and a volunteer job that she took on as part of her rehabilitation ended up paying dividends too.

“Part of my rehab was to get a volunteer job to see if I could work,” Maggie said. “So, I started volunteering at Golden West Senior Living Facility. After I finished my schooling Golden West gave me a rent-free room to work out of if I give massage to the residents at a discounted rate.”

Maggie now enjoys her work and the flexibility it allows, and considers herself fortunate to have had people supporting her along the way and for the event that turned her life in a different direction in 2006.

“When one door closes, another one opens,” Maggie said, “and I count my stroke as a blessing. It has been wonderful.”

Kathy Santaus

Place of Employment: Staples
Occupation: Sales Support
Rehabilitation Counselor: Julia Zanon

Kathy Santaus

Most would agree that believing in one’s self is an important ingredient to finding employment in today’s economy.

But for those individuals who happen to have a disability that requires an accommodation, believing in themselves may not be enough. They also need a willing employer who also believes it can work.

DVR client Kathy Santaus was faced with such a challenge two years ago when her former employer made a change to its computer system that no longer would work with the software she needed as a blind computer operator. Knowing how difficult it is to find an employer who is open to making the right accommodations, Kathy worried that her job search was going to be an uphill battle. But that’s when she ran into a former coworker who said Staples was a great company to work for.

“She said I should apply at Staples,” Kathy says. “When I went to the interview I met with an interviewer who just happened to work with a blind person at a previous job and she knew that it could be successful.”

The interviewer, Laura Sears, went to Staples management with some ideas. They then coordinated with Kathy’s DVR counselor Julia Zanon, out of the Denver Metro DVR office, who started working with an adaptive technology specialist to help Kathy navigate within Staples’ complex computer system.

“Kathy is super skilled with adaptive technology,” says Zanon. “She is one of those clients who didn’t need a lot of help because she has such a great work ethic and always puts in the extra effort to make things work for her.”

Kathy now works with customers who may have problems with an existing order. And that lady who believed in her at the interview, Laura Sears, is now her supervisor, who Kathy refers to as her “mentor and coach.”

The technology continues to change as Staples updates existing programs or adds new ones, but Kathy says that working for a company that offers the assistance and support she needs always helps her to push through the problem to find the right solution.

“As they add new programs, it’s always a new experience,” she says. “But Staples is very supportive of me and it’s comfortable to work here. I am very lucky!”