When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Oregon, John Bertrand's support team moved quickly so his work wouldn't be interrupted.
John has worked for Providence for more than 25 years. He is currently a Learning Development Clerk in the e-learning team. John works on special projects and also sets up trainings and helps with grading the classes.
John, 50, lives at home with his mother Carol. Although most of his team works remotely, John went into the office every day – until COVID-19.
“I used to have a caregiver at work to help me with personal needs," John said. “The caregiver would help me with lunch and going to the bathroom."
Since he has worked at Providence for 26 years, John knows his job well. Mer Stevens with provider Community Access Services said most of the services were centered on making sure John had the technology to do his job from home.
“John really has an expert grasp on his tasks and the nuances of his position," she said. “We were able to provide the supports to allow John to use his tools. Coaches supported by moving and finding documents for him to work with and with ADLs. His home office was beautifully designed to meet his needs – he can control the lighting, the door, and the temperature from where he sits and he really seems to enjoy showing off his tools!"
Vocational Rehabilitation counselor Amel Karaselimovic has supported John for more than five years. He said when John has needed an upgrade in his supports and technology, VR has stepped in.
“VR assisted with training on the Speech Generating Device," Amel said. “He has a specialized power chair that is connected to everything in his room. We reopen his file each time he needs major upgrade in supports, but luckily it is streamlined because John has worked so long."
John uses a hands-free cursor on his forehead to control his computer through his head movements. Through the cursor and a keyboard on his screen, he can send emails, do video conferencing and any other work required on the computer.
John' supervisor, Gail Gubser, said the e-learning team at Providence is more essential than ever. The team is responsible for all classes, orientation and training for more than 150,000 Providence employees.
“Learning used to be carried out separately, with all the hospitals doing their own thing," she said. “Now our team manages all of it centrally. One of John's duties is going into the system and cleaning out old classes that need to be retired."
While most of John's direct team work remotely, John worked in an office before COVID-19 and enjoyed the social aspect of work. He said he misses seeing coworkers and friends every day.
“I like my home but it's getting old," John said, referring to working from home, something many people can relate to right now. “I miss my coworkers and the office."
John works 28 hours per week. When he first started at Providence, it was before the Employment First movement. His mother Carol said John was a strong self-advocate.
“Back then, people with John's level of disability weren't expected to work," she said. “He wrote letters to every single company he wanted to work for, stating what he was able to do and asking for a chance. A gentleman at Providence named Don Brown contacted John and gave him an interview. It made all the difference."
Gail, John's supervisor, said John is a popular member of the team. Many employees at Providence request for him to work on their projects.
“We have virtual get-togethers, happy hours on camera," she said. “John participates in all of those."
John said he likes that Providence has given him new challenges over the years, and has supported him to keep taking on new work. His advice to people with disabilities: keep pushing to get the job you want.
“Keep a positive attitude," he said. “Don't give up, no matter what anyone says."
John's employment team includes: Services Coordinator David Tom with Clackamas County Developmental Disabilities Services; Vocational Rehabilitation counselor Amel Karaselimovic, and additional supports from provider Community Access Services.