Virginia Currents Interview with Jim Rothrock

Uploaded by vadrs on 30.11.2009

Jim Rothrock is with us. He's the Commissioner of the
Department of Rehabilitative Services
in Virginia, and he's going to talk about issues related to
people with disabilities here.
Give us an overview of DRS
OK - DRS has been working in the commonwealth for about 80
We provide services to Virginians with disabilities, to help
them become - hopefully - employed.
Certainly more independent in their day-to-day
We work with Centers for Independent Living,
Employment Services Organizations,
we have Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center in Fishersville
and 40 offices across the state that provide services to about
25,000 individuals each year.
Now Jim, you and I have known each other for quite a
Give our viewers an idea of your personal story.
Well, in 1965 while sleigh-riding in Martinsville Virginia, I
went down a hill
I didn't see a car come out of a side street, and struck the
car with my shoulder
Putting a significant amount of pressure on my spine right here
and became a person with a spinal cord injury.
- How old were you?
- I was sixteen.
and, I was just your - kind of - nice kid, stumbling
hoping to go to college and maybe teach or something like
and all of the sudden I had a lot of barriers.
Fortunately I was able to go to Woodrow Wilson Rehab
as a student, and now it's kind of interesting that I'm the
commissioner of the agency that it's under
worked with a lot of people that showed me that while they had
some barriers
that needed to be addressed, with a good strong family network,
and a lot of determination and will
There were opportunities, and you could take advantage of them
and become successful
and do what everybody else does.
- But back then, there
were only three colleges
in the nation that you could have attended in terms of
Right. In 1971 I could have gone to University of Illinois,
University of Florida and St. Andrews Presbyterian College
in Laurinburg North Carolina. I chose the latter I guess
because University of Illinois was too cold
and the University of Florida was too hot and St. Andrews was
just right.
- [Laughs] 'was just right' that's great. Now, there have been
so many advances
with the Americans with Disabilities Act, however for you, what
are some of the ongoing issues
that are still facing Virginians.
- Well we've been able to
work with
businesses and state and local governments to remove
to get rid of steps and to widen doors and to make sure that
this TV program has the option of Closed Captioning
is you so choose. Many of those physical barriers can be
We're still working with barriers between two places, two basic
and those two points are right here, Point A and Point
working with other people about how they think about people
with disabilities
Seeing beyond a wheelchair, or the absence of a
or a facial configuration that might equate to Down
Dealing with somebody and trying to understand mental illness
like bipolar
- a person with a bipolar disability - to understand there
there's a difference
and there's similarities that really define what they can do
and focus on those similarities
as to what they can do and become workers.
- What do yout
think of the man who's going around
well he got a lot of press out of this, the wheelchair
accessibility issue
and he's going around and suing those places that don't have
The ADA never had an enforcement unit. There were never funds
that provided an ADA "police" as it were.
This gentleman - I've followed some of his activities - is just
employing legal mechanisms
to bring about redress and remove barriers. A lot of people
have some quibbles about
some of his motivation and incentive, but everything he's done,
to the best of my knowledge,
is legal, and the communities that he works in, and other
entities like him
are more accessible - not only for the disabled individuals
that are immediately aided
but for the aging population that we have can get around as a
result of the lawsuits that he's brought about
- that have brought about barrier removals.
- Coming back
to your agency, what are some of the demographics?
We are seeing roughly, that about 1 in 5 people have some type
of disabling condition.
We serve about 25,000 people a year - assisting them to go to
We help about 70,000 people get Social Security benefits for
which they apply,
and if they're eligible, we can provide the documentation to
ensure they can get their SSI or SSDI.
One of the things that we're seeing is an alarming increase in
at least 2 populations:
One is autism. Autism Spectrum Disorder - particularly
Asperger's -
We're seeing a
- Asperger's is where you're really - the
condition denotes someone who's extremely bright
- and lacking in some social skills.
- Can be very bright,
but likely will have some very limited social skills.
We've found that these people can work, but employers need to
We've got a really exciting pilot that we're doing at Bon
Secours in Central Virginia
where we're letting these youngsters explore vocational
and then the wounded warriors - unfortunately we're seeing way
too many people come back
from Iraq and Afghani war zones, and many of them are coming
back with a combination
post-traumatic stress, and traumatic brain injury from the
continual concussion that
to be possibly too graphic - rattles the brain multiple
and although they have use of all of their limbs, and there's
no physical harm,
6 months, a year, 2 years, 3 years down the road they're
showing some problems
that they and their family need to deal with, and we're working
with the Department of Veterans Services
and hospitals here in the states to make sure we're ready for
those individuals.
Some very important populations you're working with. For folks
who want to find out more about your agency
let's give them the web site information.
- It's
We've got a toll free number there and we accept contacts and
we love to work with people.
Jim Rothrock, of DRS, thank you so much for being with us
Thank you.