Making A Rightfully Valued and Empowered Life

Work with an Employment and Independent Living Specialist


Job search
Job coaching

Independent Living

Community resources
Skill development


Effective communications
Work accommodations

Bridges Oregon is using the term deaf in an all-inclusive manner, to include people who may identify as D/deaf, DeafBlind, deaf-blind, deaf with additional disabilities, hard of hearing, late-deafened, and/or persons with unilateral/bilateral hearing loss. Bridges Oregon recognizes that for many individuals, identity is fluid and can change over time or with setting. Bridges Oregon has chosen to use one term, Deaf, with the goal of recognizing experiences that are shared by all members of our diverse communities while also honoring all of our differences.

Accessible employment and independent living services for the Deaf, DeafBlind, deafplus, hard of hearing, and late-deafened have been largely unavailable in the state of Oregon until recently. Through Bridges, the Community can now access support to navigate state and local resources and systems, including Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and the Office of Developmental Disability Services (ODDS). The Bridges team possesses exactly the right combination of professional expertise and lived experience to deliver culturally responsive and linguistically accessible employment and independent living services.

Employment Specialists are highly skilled professionals who can help you discover your unique attributes, abilities, strengths, skills and job interests. They provide the services and supports necessary to help you achieve your employment goals and address work barriers. Our employment team provides the following services:

Assessment of support needs: When you meet with us, we will review your work history, communication needs and challenges to identify supports that could benefit you while receiving services.

Job Exploration: Our team is ready to help you explore your interests related to work and identify good job matches. We work in partnership with Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) to help you determine a job goal. We also partner with employers in the business community to educate them on issues related to employing people who are deaf..

Skill development: Finding and keeping a job can require many skills. We can assist you with developing skills such as utilizing public transportation, filling out applications online and interviewing.

Communication access: We ensure that you have full access to communication on your journey to finding employment. Providing language access that meets your specific communication needs is a priority of Bridges.

Job coaching and ongoing support at work: Once you have found a job, an Employment Specialist (job coach) can be available to help you learn all of the duties and responsibilities of the job. Your job coach will ensure that you have communication access established with your supervisors and co workers and will help you to advocate for your accommodation needs in the workplace.

Independent Living (IL) Specialists support you to learn a broad range of skills related to adult living. Bridges Oregon IL Specialists focus on skill development in the following areas:

Accessing Community and State Resources 

  • DMV services
  • Social Security
  • DHS Programs
  • Emergency and non emergency services
  • Food stamps, housing and other entitlement programs

Banking, Budgeting and Finances

  • Setting up a bank account
  • Reporting wages to Social Security
  • Creating a monthly budget
  • Paying Bills


  • Requesting accommodations/ interpreters (for meetings, interviews, assessments/evaluations, training for work etc..)
  • Hearing and Deaf cultural differences and considerations in the workforce
  • Identifying your support team and communicating goals and support needs

Technology Assessments and Training

  • Identifying appropriate assistive technology for work and home
  • Training on utilizing technology
  • Setting up and utilizing remote services

Social Skills:

  • Interacting with hearing people
  • Having good hygiene
  • Understanding body language and social cues

Daily Living Skills:

  • Housekeeping
  • Laundry
  • Shopping for food and personal items
  • Simple meal preparation
Forms (link)

Grievance Policy and Procedure (link)

COVID-19 (link)


Deaf and hard of hearing individuals with additional disabilities are referred to as “Deaf Plus” or “Deaf+”.

Our Employment and Independent Living Specialists have extensive knowledge and experience working with people who experience Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD).  An important component of our service model is to help identify people who have a suspected and undiagnosed Intellectual or Developmental disability. It is a common occurrence for deaf individuals to be overlooked for the assessments that would support their eligibility for the services they need. In addition, the diagnostic/assessment process is often compromised due having a hearing evaluator utilize an interpreter to conduct the evaluation. Without direct language access and full cultural and linguistic context, evaluation and assessment results are generally inaccurate. It is crucial that Deaf people have support to connect with Deaf evaluators. The Employment and Independent Living Specialists will advocate on your behalf to ensure you are being connected to the appropriate resources and receiving equitable access.

National Deaf Center (NDC) (link)

National Association of the Deaf (NAD) (link)

Vocational Rehabilitation Services (link)

Office Of Developmental Disability Services (link)

  • How long does it take to get a job?
    • Finding the right job can take time. All of the services we provide help you to determine a job goal and ensure that you are prepared to find and keep a job. There is no way to know how long it will take to get the job you want but we are there every step of the way to support you with determining a job goal, job search, applications, interviews and most importantly, communication access.
  • Will I lose my SSI/SSDI Benefits if I work?
    • You will always make more money working than you will on SSI or SSDI benefits. As part of the VR process, you can receive benefits counseling to understand how working will impact your benefits. You will also learn how to appropriately report your wages to Social Security.
  • Can you help me with interpreters?
    • If you are receiving employment or IL services through Bridges, we will always ensure you have access to interpreters that match your language level. Our team will make sure you have interpreters that you understand.
  • Can you give me rides to and from work and other appointments?
    • We do not typically provide transportation to and from work or appointments but can in special circumstances. It is important that transportation needs are figured out prior to getting a job. We also provide training on utilizing public transportation as an option.

Contact Our Director

Christopher Mortensen,
 Deaf / he, him, his

Employment and Independent Living Services

direct/VP: (503) 751-2346
text/FaceTime/duo: (971) 446-1829
(Download business card: PDFtxt)