Over the past two decades of supporting the Vocational Rehabilitation community, we've seen a lot of changes.
In 20XX, we started VR Development Group to serve those needs beginning with development of a series of training module for continuing education. As we added consulting services, webinars and agency services, we have been able to get more rich feedback to make our content more valuable for those we serve.
While we love doing live training, many of our clients asked us to create self-paced versions to make these experiences available to more people. Given our commitment to Universal Design for Learning (UDL), we were thrilled to expand in this direction.
Our hope was to make these modules available to anyone at any time in a fully accessible Learning Management System (LMS) but we couldn't find one with the right balance of features and ease of use.
Most of the systems had little to no accessibility features or, when they did, they were "bolted on" clearly as an afterthought for legal reasons. And in even those systems, most of those features were only for the "learner" as if all design and administrative work was being done for people with disabilities rather than with those people.
We created YesLMS with the goal of making the world's first fully accessible Learning Management System. And by "accessible," we don't just mean compliant with standards like Section 508 or WCAG, we mean a system that EVERYONE can use to expand and share their knowledge and skills.
Along the way, we have been fortunate to have great partners like the Helen Keller for Deaf-Blind Youths & Adults (HKNC). Together we created a foundation for the system that became YesLMS. Since then, we have be honored to work with a wide variety of agencies and educational institutions across the country including
- National Disability Institute (NDI)
- Policy Works
- New Hampshire Vocational Rehabilitation (NHVR)
- Rehabilitation Services Administration DC
- Delaware Department of Health and Social Services
- University of Washington Center for Continuing Education in Rehabilitation
- North Carolina Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
- Rehabilitation Services Administration of Arizona
- Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED)
- New Mexico Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
In the past year, we've opened up YesLMS to other organizations outside of the Vocational Rehabilitation community including a local brewery, a martial arts studio, a manufacturer, a leader in arts education and multiple consulting firms looking to deepen their impact with education services (much like we did).
Every partnership has helped us grow, refine VRDG's content and evolve YesLMS to become more powerful and even easier for people to use (many times during our demos and on-boarding we often hear "I got it! I can do this right now!").
In 2020, some of our partners asked us about supporting their community needs by transitioning to virtual conferences. While we have extensive experience speaking at and (in a past life) have even designed and planned conferences in the past, a year ago we would have never imagined how virtual conferences would become such a large part of our business.
But we already had some advantages. We had decades of experience creating engaging experiences, deep knowledge re: offering those experiences for professional audiences and continuing education credit, and one other significant differentiator.
We were able to adapt our registration, billing and fully accessible content system to create a unique conference experience that can begin at registration and continue long after the live conference sessions are over.
After the last day of the CSAVR Fall 2020 Conference, CEO Steve Wooderson summed up the event with…
"Don’t have words at the moment – except – wow…. Not sure I said this yet – but – wow!"
(And yes, we are supporting CSAVR's next conference too!)
We appreciate the complexity of these events and take the responsibility very seriously.
Before each conference, we hear the horror stories of past ones gone terribly wrong. We've also seen a lot of conference train wrecks and over time developed a planning template with over 300 key activities (many of which need to be done more than once - per session, per speaker, etc.). And after every conference, we continue to learn, refine and expand our thinking about what can come next.
Along the way, we believe every success we've had - whether it be in training, consulting, developing courses, creating software products or supporting conferences - all comes down to developing strong relationships of trust, respect and genuine partnership (with a little humor along the way).
We also know the more significant the goal, the more challenging - and ultimately, rewarding - the journey. We feel so fortunate to be on our journey with such amazing partners, colleagues and friends.
While the pandemic has been difficult if not tragic for most of us, our experience in the Vocational Rehabilitation community has taught us the transformational power of resilience and creativity in face of significant obstacles.
We are excited about the opportunity to bring that resilience and creativity to 2021 and beyond to help make the world more accessible, hopeful and fun for all.