Lady smiling at camera

IMAGINATION AND A FASCINATION WITH VISION IMPAIRMENT PLOTS A CAREER COURSE FOR FEROS CARE’S BETH HELMERS.

A football or pair of skis may be highly sought items for kids growing up in Denver, Colorado, but for Feros Care Local Area Coordinator (LAC) Beth Helmers, it was a hammer, a pack of playing cards, and some nails, which gave her the greatest joy.

Little did she know it at the time, but combining the items with a love for a story about a boy going blind to create her own unique Braille Alphabet proved prophetic for a seven-year-old with plenty of imagination.

“The book was called Follow My Leader; it’s about a boy learning to adapt after losing his vision, and after I read it, I’d walk around the house with my eyes closed trying to do chores,” Beth said.

“I got a copy of the braille alphabet, and I used a hammer and nails to create bumps on the cards so I could learn braille.

“I was fascinated.”

THE BEST LACS CARE FOR OTHERS

Not content to stop there, Beth continued to build her capacity by teaching herself how to finger spell. Developing her skills, Beth would go on to learn American Sign Language (ASL) at university while assisting Deaf students, before traversing the globe and landing in Canberra in 1992.

“I’d moved around the world and lived in places like Norway and New Zealand before coming here to work for Guide Dogs Australia,” Beth said.

“I worked for the Guide Dogs in orientation and mobility for 32 years, teaching people with vision loss how to navigate around, before becoming a guide dog instructor.

“I’ve been in Canberra the whole time, as it suits me and reminds me of Denver with the outdoors and the mountains.”

Learning to convert ASL to Australian Sign Language (Auslan) along the way, Beth retired from the Guide Dogs in 2014, before making her way to the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).

With a broad experience across disability, Beth saw working as an LAC with Feros Care as the perfect opportunity to help a wide range of National Disability Insurance Scheme (NIDS) recipients to build their capacity and achieve goals.

“I’d worked with people who had a wide range of other disabilities, so that knowledge suited a career as an LAC,” Beth said.

“Also, having an extensive knowledge and connection with the disability community in Canberra supported the linkages, and it just felt like a natural fit.”

HELPING OTHERS IS AT THE CORE OF WHAT WE DO

Fast forward to 2020 and that Beth stands as Feros Care’s longest serving LAC in the ACT comes as no surprise to any of her colleagues. A wealth of knowledge in the office, ACT Community Development Coordinator, Tara Barrett, said Beth’s care and approach was invaluable.

“It’s such an emotionally invested career, and while Beth is the last of our original LACs, she still shows the same consistent passion for her career,” Tara said.

“There’s an understanding you need to assist people with disability and Beth has that knowledge, and she’s an advocate for capacity building so people can have autonomy over their lives.

“The Deaf community in particular really benefits from someone like Beth, who really invests in and supports their lives.”

Equally as passionate in informing her colleagues about vision and hearing disabilities, Beth also created and implemented a training program on Deafness, to provide LACs with a better understanding of the terms and equipment associated with the disability.

Joining forces with fellow Auslan trained LACs, Deb Hayes and Amy Holt, Beth is helping to develop the early stages of a project which will directly assist ACT’s Deaf community.

Including workshops, the project will offer the opportunity for Deaf participants to have their questions answered, while offering information on NDIS plan funding, how to prepare for meetings and reviews, and providing tools for plan self-management.

Recently marking her three-year milestone with Feros Care, Beth’s efforts were commended in the best possible way when she was “moved to tears”, following a celebration in May.

Showing no signs of slowing down, Beth said her long-term aim was to continue to assist her colleagues while looking for further opportunities to assist others.

“The strength of Feros Care is that we share our knowledge, so by informing my colleagues about vision and hearing issues, they can build better plans for people and help them to find better supports,” she said.

“I’ve really enjoyed helping people to access the NDIS funding they need to achieve their goals.”

ARE YOU CONSIDERING A CAREER IN AGED CARE OR DISABILITY? CLICK TO BROWSE OPPORTUNITIES WITH FEROS CARE.

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT HOW SOME OF OUR OTHER LACS ARE ASSISTING PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY TO REACH THEIR GOALS.

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