Salem, Oregon. – We are thrilled to announce that Bridges Oregon was nominated for Employer of the year for 2023! On Tuesday, October 17, 2023, the Marion County Employment First Network hosted the 6th Annual Employment First Recognition Awards Event to recognize employees, employers, and employment professionals who champion the cause of Employment First for people with disabilities in our communities. At Bridges, we’ve always believed that a diverse workforce is a key driver of innovation, productivity, and success. We are deeply honored to receive this nomination, which recognizes our ongoing commitment to creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for all employees. Along with the agency nomination, Chris Mortensen and Nyssa Vaughn were nominated for Employment Professionals of the Year!

Employer of the Year Nomination: Chad A. Ludwig, Executive Director of Bridges Oregon.

“Facing barriers on a daily basis, Chad is an advocate for individuals in the employment world by shifting the thinking in employers, leaders, managers, legislators, agencies,  and state level professionals. Thanks to Chad and his advocate work in the workforce, it has positively impacted the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities, resources, access to communication, and also education of how to provide inclusive services is becoming a new trend. At work, Chad embodies professionalism, fairness is a big deal to Chad. He ensures that there is no “better than you” mentality and no matter where you stand you are always accepted and welcomed at Bridges Oregon. Chad embraces wholeness and person centered thinking at a higher level than most employers.”

Bridges owes this recognition to our incredible team, whose diverse backgrounds, talents, and experiences contribute to our company’s growth and prosperity every day. Together, we continue to break down barriers and build bridges toward a more inclusive future. We extend our heartfelt thanks to the Marion County Employment First Network for recognizing our efforts and the incredible work our team does. This award is a testament to our ongoing dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Employment Professional of the Year Nomination: Chris Mortensen, Director of Employment and Independent Living Services

“Christopher Mortensen, an amazing ally for his Deaf community. He has fought for equal rights, ensured each and every person on his caseload has fair and equal integrated employment opportunities. From assisting people in career exploration to carving out employment opportunities for DeafBlind individuals. No disability is too big in his perspective. Christopher knows that successful employment starts in the little things, with each and every person he ensures they have full support in every aspect of their lives. Whether it be 1:1 mentorship with time management or a safe person to vent to who understands the Deaf barriers that they face.  Christopher educates and trains employers how to better support their Deaf individuals, understanding cultural differences, best practices for communication, and person centered thinking. Christopher is a well known member in the Employment world and is a Trailblazer for the Deaf and hard of hearing community.”

Employment Professional of the Year Nomination: Chris Mortensen and Nyssa Vaughan, Employment and Independent Living Business Administrator.

“As of this year, Chris and Nyssa are part of a non-profit organization that serves Oregonians who are deaf, blind, or hard of hearing- Bridges Oregon. Nyssa is the Employment and Independent Living Services Business Administrator and Christopher is the Director. They currently help some of the individuals I support with employment skill building, job development, job coaching, retention services in their preferred mode of communication. They are professional, friendly, welcoming, problem solvers, and always promote independence and inclusion. They have developed great bonds with the individuals they support. They encourage the individuals they support to strive for greatness and are always willing to help in any way they can. Chris and Nyssa go above and beyond for the individuals they support in employment from helping them set accommodations based on their needs, developing natural supports to increase independence and inclusion, and minimize barriers to employment in the community.  They are helping an individual pass their driving learner’s permit so they can meet their goals of driving to and from work. The individuals they support can’t imagine not having them in their lives. They have created a unique bond and consider them family”

The entire agency sends a heartfelt thank you to Chris, Nyssa  and the entire Employment and Independent Living ( Emp/IL) Services team. Your commitment to the deaf community in providing highly specialized employment services to members who experience intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) is invaluable. The Emp/IL team at Bridges Oregon is leading efforts to design a service delivery model that best serves deaf individuals who experience I/DD. This is a highly marginalized “hidden” population within the larger deaf community requiring a unique and customized approach to providing accessible services. Nationally, best practices service models for deaf people with I/DD are underdeveloped and not well understood. Bridges is leading state and national discussions regarding this specialized work.

About Bridges Oregon:Bridges Oregon is a linguistically and culturally specific and responsive statewide nonprofit organization for Oregonians who are Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing or face other communication barriers. It is in our mission to facilitate equity, inclusiveness, and to provide a bridge to opportunities through advocacy, education, and communication.