Path Home Shows 2015 Show Archive October 2015 Show 1543 Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1543

Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1543

This week on Oklahoma Horizon, we look at some unique programs designed to help every Oklahoman enter the workplace.
Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1543

Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1543

For more information visit these links:

Lex Frieden

Americans with Disabilities Act

Francis Tuttle Technology Center


Jim Stovall

Inclusion Films

Oklahoma ABLE Tech

Oklahoma Transition Institute

Career and Academic Connections

Show Details

Show 1543: Oklahoma Horizon TV
Air Date: October 25, 2015



Rob McClendon: Here’s what’s coming up on your “Horizon.” This is the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act – groundbreaking legislation that led to accommodations that focus more on what a person can do than what they can’t. Yet there is still work to be done, in particular in the workplace. Today, our focus is on the efforts underway to help Americans with a disability lead independent lives and enjoy the same economic success as anyone else. Stay with us for “Oklahoma Horizon.”

Male Announcer: “Oklahoma Horizon” is made possible by the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.

Female Announcer: Oklahoma’s investment in CareerTech provides more than nationally recognized technology education and training. It produces solid financial returns for the state’s economic future. Oklahoma CareerTech, elevating our economy.

Male Announcer: And the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, helping good people grow good things. And now, from the CareerTech studios in Stillwater, here’s your host, Rob McClendon.

Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” Born in Alva, Oklahoma, in 1949, Lex Frieden was a freshman at Oklahoma State University majoring in electrical engineering when an automobile accident left him paralyzed. Times were different in the late 1960s and what he found was barrier after barrier in trying to live his life. So this Oklahoman took a stand while sitting in a wheelchair as chronicled in this CBS report from 1978.

Lex Frieden: While in some respects it might be easier to be taken care of rather than be responsible for your own life, in most respects I think handicapped people would prefer to have that responsibility and you know the benefits of that justify the effort that’s required to put up with the day-to-day routine kind of hassles that we all have in our life.

Rob: In the ensuing years, Frieden began working with others to help those with disabilities win the smallest of battles.

Female Voice: Blind people gather to protest Federal Aviation Administration rules that say their canes must be taken from them at take-off and landing, rules that only one airline is observing.

Frieden: But the message they get today is clear. We will set the pace, and we’ll set the standards for our lives, not the FAA, not the federal government nor United. We are American citizens, and we shall be free.

Female Voice: The freedom to carry a cane on board a plane costs the society nothing, but much of what other disabled citizens want could cost billions.

Rob: But conscience began to win out over cost. Here Frieden is testifying before Congress.

Frieden: Nearly 20 years ago, I broke my neck in an automobile accident while I was a freshman in college. Less than a year after that I applied for admission to a major university in the Southwest, and my admission application was denied strictly on the basis of the fact that I was disabled. I was concerned by that. I spoke to the university administrators, and I was told that that was university policy. I inquired from others about this policy and was told that I had no protection under the law, that in fact this discrimination was legal, and I considered it at the time to be legal assault. I must say that I was somewhat dismayed by that, as you might imagine. I was demoralized and certainly disillusioned about the protections which we as Americans expect to have in this great nation.

Rob: Frieden went on to pen a federal report and was to present it to President Reagan on the morning of Jan. 28, 1986 – the same day as the launch and explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. But out of that tragedy came the good fortune of meeting with then Vice President George Bush.

Frieden: He said, “You have to remember, I’m just the vice president. I can’t do much to help you now. If in the future I ever have the opportunity to help you more, I will.”

Rob: And he did.

President George Bush: Disabled Americans must become full partners in America’s opportunity society.

Rob: And after two years of debate and hearings the Americans With Disabilities Act was signed into law.

Bush: And now I sign legislation which takes a sledge hammer to another wall, one which has [applause], one which has for too many generations separated Americans with disabilities from the freedom they could glimpse but not grasp. And once again we rejoice as this barrier falls proclaiming together we will not accept, we will not excuse, we will not tolerate discrimination in America.


Rob: And this small town boy from Alva, Oklahoma, became known as the chief architect of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Rob McClendon: After the ADA’s passage, one by one, schools, stores, stadiums, government buildings and businesses became accessible to people with all sorts of disabilities. And while highly regarded for improving so many lives, the Americans with Disabilities Act has struggled in one key area and that is in the workplace, which is our focus when we return.

Male Announcer: You’re watching “Oklahoma Horizon,” featuring some of the good things that are happening in the great state of Oklahoma.

Rob McClendon: Department of Labor statistics show that roughly two-thirds of working-age people with disabilities remain out of the workforce, numbers that are not that different when Congress adopted the ADA in 1990, a failure that several groups in the state are working to change. Our J.D. Rosman starts us off.

J.D. Rosman: Slice and dice – all by feel, and not by sight.

Callie Chappell: I really enjoy coming to work because everyone is very positive.

J.D.: A chef at Francis Tuttle Technology Center’s Tutts Café, Callie Chappell lost her sight from a retina disease several years ago.

Keith Hubble: She can do it all.

J.D.: Keith Hubble is one of the lead cooks at Tutts Café who taught culinary skills to Callie as a student.

Hubble: I’ve never worked with anybody like Callie before.

J.D.: A challenge no doubt. But today, Callie is right there with the best of them.

Chappell: My least favorite job in the kitchen is probably peeling potatoes. I don’t really look forward to doing that but I have to.

Hubble: She’s been great. She’s here every day on time, one of my best employees.

J.D.: Yet unemployment is high among the visually impaired. According to the National Federation of the Blind, 60 percent of vision impaired workers are actively unemployed.

(Nats of Harvey walking with cane)

J.D.: In downtown Oklahoma City, Michael Harvey teaches lessons he knows well.

Michael Harvey: I’m going to empower them by teaching them the tools.

J.D.: Training other visually impaired on how to be self-sufficient.

Harvey: How to get basic directions. How to problem-solve. If you get stuck by a construction zone how do you get around it?

J.D.: Equipping others with transferable skills that can make them more marketable in the workforce.

Harvey: One of the problems with blind people finding jobs is a lack of training. Many blind people don’t have the opportunity or don’t take the chance to go get the blindness skills training that they need. So therefore, they are more reliant on people than is probably feasible for them to be as independent or as employable as they need to be.

J.D.: Rob Slaughterbeck, a student of Harvey’s, knows all too well that finding a job can be difficult.

Rob Slaughterbeck: I actually have a bachelor’s in industrial engineering and a master’s in business. Even with that, I attended several job interviews face-to-face, they liked me, everything went great but never would receive a phone call. Eventually after months and months of that going on that really starts to wear on you, and you get depressed and questioning your own abilities.

J.D.: Which is why Slaughterbeck is working with Harvey, all in an effort to be seen for more than blind.

Slaughterbeck: The biggest thing is just treat them like you would any of your sighted friends. And if you would hold the door open for your friends, hold the door open; if you wouldn’t, don’t. We’re not special people; we just want to be treated like people in general.

J.D.: And while working in a sighted world can be difficult, breaking through stereotypes might be the biggest challenge.

Slaughterbeck: For myself, I know I learn from making mistakes. If people stop me from making a mistake then the next time I’m more apt to make that same mistake again.

J.D.: An attitude of self-reliance that employers like Kevin Hubble says inspires him every day.

Hubble: It’s not that hard. It’s not that scary. You would be surprised most people really, can really shock you in that nature. Prove something, you know, that they can produce like everyone else they can work like everyone else. I mean there is no difference.

Rob: Now, while some disabled Americans are kept out of the workforce by employment discrimination, for many others, the barriers to employment occur long before they have the opportunity to even apply for a job. Earlier, I was able to visit with Jim Stovall, a one-time Olympic weightlifter who lost his sight early in his adulthood, yet went on to a career in television and as a motivational speaker.

Rob: So, Jim, give us some insights about being in the workplace as a blind individual.

Jim Stovall: Well, I think, you know, you’ve got to look at what abilities you have and not focus on the disabilities. And, you know, the biggest thing you can do if you work around a blind or visually impaired person, or someone with any other special need, is raise your expectations. You know, one of the hardest things about being blind is people have low expectations. If I wanted to sit at home and listen to my radio from now on and never do anything, people would say, “Isn’t it great, he can do the radio.” Now, if you wanted to, your friends would come over and say, “Rob, come on, you know, get off the couch, go do something, be somebody,” you know. And so the biggest thing that we can do for anyone that has a special need or a special challenge is to have high expectations and hold them to that.

Rob: And by your very own life, you’ve demonstrated that with narrative TV.

Stovall: Well, narrative TV came out of my own need. I, after losing my sight, I was really frustrated with my inability to access movies and television, so we created a system so that the 13 million blind and visually impaired Americans and their families could access television, and it has grown immensely and been very, very successful.

Rob: Has technology made it easier?

Stovall: Oh absolutely! I mean, you know when I was a sighted person, I don’t know that I ever read a whole book cover to cover. Now, thanks to high speed audio technology and digital books, I read a book every day. There hasn’t been a day in the last 20 years I haven’t read a whole book cover to cover, and I can listen to them at 800 words a minute, and it has changed my life.

Rob: Really?

Stovall: Absolutely.

Rob: Eight hundred words a minute?

Stovall: Yes.

Rob: That’s some listening ability.

Stovall: Well, it’s just you speed it up a little more every day, and it’s kind of like the old boiling the frog thing. You just speed it up a little more every day and every day and you never notice it’s going that much faster.

Rob: I guess really a final question, what is your take away whenever you meet someone and you want to tell them about your life?

Stovall: Tell ’em about my life -- I tell them, I’m just a guy that’s doing the best I can with what I’ve got to try to make the world better, which is who I hope we all are.

Rob: Jim, thank you so much.

Stovall: Thank you!

Rob: And if you’d like to see my full conversation with Jim Stovall, it is streaming on our website at

Female Announcer: Still to come on “Oklahoma Horizon,” helping the disabled transition from school to work, but first, a return to his roots.

Rob McClendon: Well, Joey Travolta is best known as the older brother of Hollywood legend John Travolta, but a star in his own right. After working as a special education teacher, the older Travolta decided to try his hand at performing. Now, Travolta started off his Hollywood career as a singer, recording the hit single “I Don't Wanna Go."

[Singing: Just no place to hide and I don’t wanna go but I can’t stay here no more. I don’t wanna go, I don’t wanna go. I don’t wanna.]

Rob: Travolta then made his leap to feature films, but today has come full circle teaching filmmaking to students with special needs, and I was able to visit with him in Norman, Oklahoma, at the screening of his latest film.

Joey Travolta: I’m, I’m doing now what I was meant to do. When I tell my wife, cause after, you know, a long career as a actor, filmmaker, director, you know, I, I’m back into the field of special needs, I tell my wife I wish this would have happened, you know, 25 years ago. And she said, “You wouldn’t have been ready for it 25 years ago.” So she was right because everything that I, I learned filmmaking from being behind the camera. I didn’t go to school for it. I learned the acting from being around my family. I learned the production through being, you know, on the sets as an actor wanting to know what everybody did, and that feeling that you got when together as a group you made content.

Rob McClendon: Which is what Inclusion Films is all about. Travolta works with adults with developmental disabilities to give them an entry-level working-knowledge of film production.

Travolta: We created our own production company, and now when people are seeing the content that we’re making, and then they find out who is involved with making it.

Rob: They are often surprised, but not Travolta.

Travolta: Filmmaking is the ultimate collaboration, the process of making a film gives you what we call soft skills. When they’re finished with the program, they’re learning communication, they’re learning to work as a team, and those can be applicable any place that you go to work.

Female Voice: His last name makes him Hollywood royalty. But it’s his heart that may well make Joey Travolta a legend.

Travolta: This summer we’re taking an intern from each one of the workshops and bringing them on the road with us to the film camps.

Male Voice: Quiet on the set.

Rob: Moving beyond the classroom and offering students real-world experiences.

Travolta: The training part we have down. The employment part we’re getting there on, but the employment part is now becoming a part of Inclusion Films, because we hire from within. So we train them, we keep them, or we open a new place. You know one of the things we’re working on is our guys going out into the school system and teaching. I mean we did a camp this year, half my staff were, had disabilities, and they were doing camera, and they were doing the lighting, and they were doing sound, and they were, you know they were an integral part of that. So they can go out and teach it too.

Rob: Like Elliot Cole Schneider, a 22-year-old filmmaker, writer and aspiring comedian. The first question is my hard one. Can you say your name and spell it for me where we get it right on the bottom of the screen?

Elliot Cole Schneider: Oh, man! I didn’t know it would be a spelling bee.

Rob: All with autism.

Schneider: Social skills are like a muscle where if you don’t use them, they stay weak, but the more you use them, the stronger they get. And on the road I was using my social skills with kids, I was using it with the other staff, with people I met on the street. And so I was, you know, using that muscle. And it’s, you know, it’s the independence, you know. And I learned that I could do things, that I was fully capable. When I didn’t, I, you know, I didn’t believe in myself, but on the road everyone believed in me and showed me I can believe in myself.

Rob: Starting with Joey Travolta.

Travolta: I was always for the underdog. That’s the way my father was.

Schneider: A lot of people think that people with developmental disabilities can’t do things. This movie will show exactly what we’re capable of, that we can, the amazing things that we can do if we’re just given the chance. And you know society doesn’t give us a chance. But if more people gave us a chance, you could see how amazing we can do, and not only that but it can inspire you, inspire you to be your best as well.

Rob: You turn 65 tomorrow.

Travolta: Yes!

Rob: Are you still learning things?

Travolta: You learn something every day. There’s nothing you can’t overcome. You know if you’re going to make a mistake, if you’re going to make a mistake, make a mistake with me because I understand, and I can teach you how to correct a mistake.

Rob: Yeah, final words of wisdom for anyone that’s seeing this.

Travolta: We’re all people. We’re all individuals. You’ve got to give people a chance. You’ve got to give people an opportunity because when you give them an opportunity, you know, you never know what’s going to happen. And it should be, it should be what we do as human beings.

Rob: Now, Travolta was in Oklahoma to speak to the 10th annual Oklahoma Transitions Institute, a group that helps individuals with disabilities transition from school to work.

Rob: Kim Osmani is with Oklahoma’s Department of Rehabilitation Services.

Kim Osmani: The goal of OTI is really to bring together anybody who works with or has children with disabilities, to help them really start thinking about preparing for life after high school.

Rob: Osmani says federal law puts a huge emphasis now on helping students with disabilities find competitive and integrated employment.

Rob McClendon: Want to share something you’ve seen here today? Well, all of our episodes are streaming on our YouTube channel at OklahomaHorizonTV, or you can subscribe to our weekly free podcast on iTunes.

Rob McClendon: Oklahoma ABLE Tech helps those with disabilities acquire assistive technology to help them function more independently. I visited with their director, Linda Jaco, at the ABLE Tech offices and had her show me around.

Rob: So, Linda, this is your assistive technology demonstration room?

Linda Jaco: Right, that’s correct, Rob. Here is where ABLE Tech has a variety of devices to demonstrate and show to people who have different disabilities. For instance, here we have hearing devices for those who are hard of hearing or deaf, which helps them to participate in all settings. That’s the name of the game, to be able to be independent through the use of these devices.

Rob: And you’re also using a lot of technology. I see that right here.

Jaco: Clearly, clearly, here are environmental adaptations. For instance by hitting this blue switch, someone who wouldn’t otherwise be able to turn on the lights in their home or office can now have the lights on, very simply. Here we have all kinds of communication devices for those who can’t speak independently, this allows them to have a voice.

Rob: Hmm. So how does that work?

Jaco: Well, there are a variety of different ones, some that are very low tech for young children. These, this particular one is showing pictures so the child would hit it in order to communicate what their needs are. Perhaps they’re hungry, perhaps they want something.

Rob: How does someone access this?

Jaco: Very easily. We have two toll free numbers that you can contact us. We have a website. You can even fill out forms very easily on the website to borrow. We have our entire inventory of over 2,500 devices available on the website for folks to just indicate and fill out a form and fax it in or send it in through the website or call on the phone and say, “Hey, I saw on your website that you have, you know, X-Y-Z devices. I’d like to borrow these.” We box them up the same day, ship them and then include a postage-paid label so that the individual after trying it out for six weeks can ship it back to us for free. We simply are here to demonstrate and provide knowledge so that other individuals can make an informed choice before they purchase. The whole goal being here, that by providing enhanced knowledge about these devices, an individual has increased access and the ability to acquire these devices, and they are doing so through an informed choice of having tried it out, taken it home, taken it to school, taken it to their place of employment, and they now know that this is the device that’s going to appropriately work for them.

Rob: All right. Linda, thank you so much for visiting with us.

Jaco: You bet!

Rob: Now, if you’d like to see my full conversation with Linda, we do have that streaming on our website at

Rob McClendon: You can keep up with us throughout the week. Just head to, where you can see more of any of our stories, read our reporters’ behind the scenes blogs, see what others are saying about us on Twitter and face the facts with our regular updates. So reach out and touch us anywhere and anytime.

Rob McClendon: Claudio Otto is a disability services specialist for the State Department of CareerTech and joins me now. So, Claudia, how are we doing here in the state?

Claudio Otto: We are, we’re improving. We’re doing really well and we are improving. We have many partnerships that are connecting schools, comprehensive, technology centers, higher education, parents, students and the community. Some of the challenges that I have found are, although awareness is very key, and I do see a lot of awareness when it comes to individuals with disabilities in Oklahoma. We have awareness of individuals who are visibly disabled, but the awareness we are working on now is for those who are not visibly disabled, so for example, a person with traumatic brain injury or a person with autism. So what I have noticed is that a lot of educators are trying to use instructional differentiation in order to target all learning styles, all the different intelligences that are there in the classroom to offer.

Rob: Once education is done, how are we doing with transitioning these people into jobs?

Otto: Well, in certain pockets we are doing fabulous, and the areas where we may not be doing so well, they are partnering with the areas who are. So that is a wonderful thing to see. People are asking, how can I help, how can I better serve this demographic, this population? And I think that’s fabulous. More and more people are not only aware, but they want to learn. And not simply because they have somebody with a disability in their office or in their classroom, but because they know that this is a person who needs services, this is a person like anybody else. So I think that’s a wonderful thing. I’m seeing best practices. I’m seeing technology come into the classrooms. I’m seeing people learning, again not because they have somebody in their classroom, but because they know that this will help a future student.

Rob: Yeah, and when we’re talking about just income, how do they compare to the general population?

Otto: Well, unfortunately there is a disparity. When you look at the median earnings, there’s about a $6,500 disparity when you’re looking at individuals with disabilities and without. So people with disabilities are making approximately $21,000, whereas the median earnings reflect that $28,000 is being earned by those without disabilities. So we still need to work on that, and that’s a scenario that is near and dear to my heart, and I’m working with several agencies now and state level and community level and different communities and people so that we can teach more employability skills, whether they’re hard skills, soft skills, to help these individuals because they want a job. And they deserve a job like everybody else. And when somebody gives them a chance to, you know, become employed, it’s amazing what they can do. You can teach them, and they love what they do, and the employee turnover rate lessens. They come to work every day because they want to be there, and so that’s a fabulous thing, and so that’s what we’re working on right now.

Rob: Well, certainly an important area for our state and for a lot of individuals. Claudia, thank you so much for coming by.

Otto: Thank you.

Rob McClendon: Now, if you would like to see some of the success stories we are talking about, I do have some of our past stories streaming on our value added section on our website at

Rob McClendon: The Dust Bowl was one of the worst environmental disasters this country has ever seen.

Dene McClendon: Oh it was so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.

Next time on “Oklahoma Horizon,” we look at some of the conservation work that’s kept the black blizzards at bay.

Shining machinery and everything is wonderful, and my cattle is all wonderful and that, but they’ll all be gone one day, but the land is always here.

Rob: Making sure the Dust Bowl is a thing of the past, on Oklahoma’s show for the heartland, “Oklahoma Horizon.”

Rob McClendon: Thanks for including us as a part of your day. I’m Rob McClendon. Hope to see you back here next week.

Male Announcer: “Horizon” is made possible by the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, helping good people grow good things. Thank you for watching “Oklahoma Horizon.”