Randi Turner: Bobcat reaches out to serve Texans with disabilities
by Brian Hudgins
Bobcat reaches out to serve Texans with disabilities
By starting over, Randi Turner has taken steps forward to help many Texas residents spread their wings.
Turner’s new beginning happened in May 2016, when she became the accessibility and disability rights coordinator for the Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities. For the San Antonio native who graduated in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in applied arts and sciences, the broad scope of her daily duties is quite different from a few years ago. "It’s like I started all over," Turner says. "I love learning, and it’s exciting to work with different populations. I had developed tons of resources, and I see myself as a connector."
Turner’s previous job within the Office for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services provided a foundation for her to transition into a larger role throughout the state. "My job for 19 years was focusing on helping people who are deaf or hard of hearing," Turner says. "Now that has opened up to all people with disabilities."
Turner’s skill as a connector includes her fluency in American Sign Language. She is certified by the National Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and still interprets part time for Video Relay Services. Questions regarding individual access to parking spaces, businesses, and residences are frequently posed to Turner, who explains how the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to individuals or groups in various cases. That line of communication also includes Turner conducting disability rights training sessions for businesses. "What has been really cool is that at the Office of the Governor, we take comments from the community about challenges they face," Turner says. "Then we take them to a 12-person committee, which sends recommendations to the state legislature or governor."
Following Hurricane Harvey’s impact on Texas, the need to assist residents in rural areas who lack transportation options is a main consideration for the disabled.
“I love learning, and it's exciting to work with different populations. I had developed tons of resources, and I see myself as a connector."
"In those rural areas, there are often fewer resources," Turner says. "A visually impaired person who can’t drive — how are you going to be mobile?"
At a special education forum in Lubbock, Turner learned firsthand that a lack of public transportation there made it difficult for local students to reach a school. Another common issue is the lack of American Sign Language interpreters in rural communities. "For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, there are many interpreters in Austin because of the number of state agencies employing people with disabilities," Turner says. "The School for the Deaf is here (in Austin), so people often move here and stay. For people in Laredo or counties in West Texas who have smaller deaf communities, there may be no interpreter."
In 2004, Turner’s occupational excellence resulted in her receiving the LBJ Award as part of the Deaf Celebration Expo. The award is presented annually to a hearing Texan for contributions toward equal opportunities for deaf people. The award is given in the spirit of President Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law establishing the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.
Turner credited an intensive writing course at Texas State for helping her function as an advocate and trainer. "I have had to share information in a persuasive way," Turner says. "You are giving people information that they need to make decisions."
That learning process led to Turner being nominated as a potential commencement speaker through the College of Applied Arts, which she called "an honor."
"I was 46 years old when I finished at Texas State," Turner says. "One of the other students said she was on a one-year plan. I joked that I was on a 27-year plan!"