Illinois DeafBlind Employment Specialist
Joann Rushing joined the HKNC team in 2020 as the DeafBlind Employment Specialist in Illinois. She provides one-on-one and group-based direct services to DeafBlind individuals, identifies service gaps and unmet needs of participants and provides information to HKNC regional representatives and community partners. She assists DeafBlind individuals and employers in the areas of vocational rehabilitation development through the Milestones contract with an emphasis on employment. Her responsibilities include job readiness training, development and placements, job retention and coaching services, assistive technology assessments, independent living skills training, and job soft skills training. She also advocates for individuals’ rights to make their own decisions and provides support for individuals to work and thrive in the communities of their choice.
Prior to joining HKNC, she served as the DeafBlind Outreach Program Director at the Chicago Lighthouse for 17 years. Joann worked with the employment department staff to provide support for DeafBlind individuals who were referred by Vocational Rehabilitation services. She also managed the iCanConnect program for nine years maintaining the database, providing telecommunications assessment, training for consumers on the use of technology, and troubleshooting to resolve issues related to technology.
Prior to working at the Chicago Lighthouse, she was the Program Coordinator for 12 years at Options Center for Independent Living in Bourbonnais, IL. She advocated for people with disabilities, especially for the Deaf community, provided independent living skills training, worked with community agencies setting up interpreting services, provided training to consumers on the use of TTYs provided through the ITAC program, as well as training her community 911 center on how to use the TTY.
In addition to her years of work experience, she is fluent in ASL and experienced in various alternative methods of DeafBlind communication. She has received professional training working with individuals who are DeafBlind from HKNC, including: Enhancing Services for Older Adults with Vision & Hearing Loss, Employment — The Ultimate Goal, The Magic of Technology, The Power of Independence — Technology for a DeafBlind World, and Telecommunications Equipment Training for Teaching DeafBlind Individuals.
Joann’s favorite motto to live by is THINK before you act: is it true, is it helpful, is it inspiring, is it necessary, is it kind?