Amplify! Success 2019 – Benefits of Disability Inclusion in The Workforce

by: Cindy Bahl, Director of Business Development & Amplify! Events

“As a life-long disability advocate who uses a power wheelchair, I have attended hundreds of disability related events. This was in the top 1% of all of them. It was energetic, informative, professional, and it included actionable take home information.” Todd Kimball, Pacific Grand Realty

The Benefits of Disability Inclusion in The Workforce – This was the theme of the third annual Amplify! Success event held on October 16, 2019 at the Tiger Woods Center on the Nike World Headquarters campus. The goal of Amplify! is to improve access to competitive integrated employment for job seekers with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities by engaging employers and the community in creating a culture of workplace inclusion.

155 people gathered for a high energy morning where they were greeted by the Nike Ability Network and heard the positive, upbeat music from The Merry Rockers, an inclusive reggae band.  The information flowed as Keynote Speaker, Becky Curran Kekula shared the challenges she faced on her employment journey as a little person working in the entertainment industry.  Now with Disability:IN, she is working with organizations like Microsoft, Google and Amazon, to name a few, who have recognized the research behind the economic and cultural benefits of inclusion in the workplace.

Attendees rotated through four breakout stations where they heard best practices and success stories from local employers, learned about organizations like Best Buddies, Project Search, Phame and InCight, and were exposed to government partners and resources that facilitate and support the employment process for people with disabilities.  The afternoon ended with an “Amplified Happy Hour” and time built in for networking.

Here’s what other attendees said about the event:

“Amazing!” Rob Klassen, The Cleaning People

“Great job with the event. I met many new folks as well as reconnected with past connections. Looking forward to next year!” Ken Price, Mt. Crest Counseling

“Very informative and inspirational” Peter Gudekunst, Marco Ideas Unlimited

“This format was awesome, engaging and inter-actice. Having a keynote is so cool who can share their first-hand experiences really highlights the heart of the mission. Being able to interact with the services that are important was a game changer for me. Great job Amplify!” John DeRosa, Embassy Suitesy by Hilton, Portland-Washington Square

“Great event! Becky was a wonderful speaker and the Merry Rockers were entertaining and inspiring. I greatly enjoyed the networking/happy hour time. The breakouts were great, and I think people learned a lot from them.” Jeff Akin, Akin Collective

If you missed Amplify! Success you can still join the initiative to change culture right where you are and we can help!  Click below and complete the “Amplify! Action Card” and let’s talk about your diversity and inclusion goals and how we can make a difference together.

The Amplify! initiative, created by Dirkse Counseling and Consulting, Inc. with the support of Oregon Employment First, is sustained by collaboration with numerous employer and community partners.  For more information or to be involved in the Amplify! Initiative, please contact Cindy Bahl, Director of Business Development and Amplify! Events at 503-258-7715 or

Amplify! Is an initiative of Dirkse Counseling & Consulting, Inc. That includes two annual events, Amplify! Success in October and Amplify! Rock Stars in May.  Events are designed to inspire, empower and equip employers to create a more inclusive workplace for people with diverse abilities.

Amplify Rock Stars – 2019

by Cindy Bahl
Director of Business Development and Amplify! Events
Dirkse Counseling and Consulting, Inc.

Wow what a fantastic event we had on May 23rd at Embassy Suites by Hilton, Portland-Washington Square with over 100 in attendance the energy was amplified!  If you missed it, you missed a great time; but don’t worry, we are here for you to help you start your disability inclusion journey!  Contact us today and let’s have a conversation!  Until then, here is a brief recap:

Keynote Speaker Heather Weldon inspired us to “think differently”, she shared the challenges she faced at The City of Seattle and how she reversed priorities, making a business case for employment of people with Intellectual and/or Developmental Disabilities.   To achieve her goals of 30 new positions, she shared her formula for success which included her top three tips for you:

  1. Focus on workplace needs
  2. One job at a time
  3. Build an army of support

Success Stories are always my favorite to share and this year we acknowledged Michael Takata and his 5-year employment anniversary at Walmart Neighborhood Store.  What a joy to see the smile on his face and to hear from Mom, Vicki Takata and how working makes such an impact not only on Michael, but on his community and our society.  I had tears in my eyes and I’m sure others did too!

Michael & Vicki Takata with Dirkse CC Job Coach, Wynter Lyons

We also highlighted the Project Search Program, a 9-month Internship program where young adults with I/DD develop work skills, experience various job environments and tasks that help them identify and gain meaningful employment.  We heard from 2 graduates and 2 current Interns who enthusiastically shared their stories with the crowd.

Project Search Interns & Graduates, Addie Connelly, Brandon Runyan, Wesley Aylward & Adam Parker

Awards and Acknowledgements were also a big part of the event, after all, it is Amplify! ROCK STARS and we have some Rock Star employers in our community!  City of Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle was on hand to help acknowledge and hand out the awards.

Advancing Employment Opportunities:

  • Tualatin Hills Parks & Recreation District
  • Jama Software
  • Pest Solutions
  • Nike WD+C
  • Oregon Health & Science University
Heidi Dirkse-Graw, Mayor Denny Doyle, THPRD Representatives Julie Rocha, Gretchen Gorman, Wendy Kroger & John Griffiths

Advancing Disability Diversity & Inclusion:

  • Nike, Ability Network – Host of Amplify! Success for 3 years in October!
  • Embassy Suites by Hilton, Portland-Washington Square – Host of Amplify! Rock Stars for 2 years!
  • Pamplin Media & The Business Tribune
  • Beaverton Resource Guide
  • Beaverton Chamber of Commerce
  • The City of Beaverton
Heidi Dirkse-Graw, Mayor Denny Doyle, Embassy Suites Representatives John DeRosa & Kelsey Card

Of course, we can’t thank our Sponsors enough!  We could not do it without them!

Photos courtesy of Trillium Images

Thank you to all of our Rock Stars! Sponsors – VIEW SPONSORS

This year we also held our first Amplified Job Opportunity Fair and were very pleased to have 75 differently abled job seekers talking to five different employers, face-to-face about their opportunities.   Thanks to our participating employers who are looking forward to 2nd interviews with multiple candidates:

  • City of Beaverton
  • Columbia Sportswear
  • Chick-fil-A Raleigh Hills
  • Embassy Suites Portland Washington Square
  • Fred Meyer

Save-The-Date for Amplify! Success on Wednesday, October 16th, 2019 @ Nike WHQ!  It’s going to be bigger and better this year and you won’t want to miss it!  More details to come soon!

Join the Amplify! Initiative!  Contact Cindy Bahl, Director of Business Development & Amplify! Events at 503-258-7715 or

We’d Like Your Feedback on Amplify!

Satisfaction surveys seem to be everywhere we turn; whether that’s at the bottom of our grocery receipts, at the end of a customer service call with your internet provider, and even at the end of making a purchase online. While they might be abundant and occasionally annoying to fill out, they can be of great use to companies to know how their customers feel about their products and services. Sometimes it can feel like we participate in these surveys to help companies (and maybe jump in on a chance to win a prize) but nothing about their services seems to change. If we don’t see a change, how do we know that companies are reading our reviews and taking our comments into consideration?

Dirkse CC uses several forms of satisfaction surveys to help improve our services and delivery. One method is using comment cards at the end of our Amplify! events to hear what attendees liked about the event and what they would love to see at the next one. It was through these comment cards that Dirkse CC found out that many people wanted to “amp up” the activities at the Amplify! events and add a professional development section. By listening to our attendees, we’ve increased attendance at our events and created more opportunities for employers to engage with one another.

While we only use comment cards at our events, we still love to hear from people like you about what you like about Amplify! and what you would like to see in the future. Click on the link below to take a brief, four question survey so we can hear what you have to say.

Register Today for Amplify! Rock Stars 2019

Secure your spot now and plan on another inspiring morning full of success stories and celebrations!

May 23, 2019 9:00am – 11:30am
Embassy Suites by Hilton Washington Square

Registration is open, but we’re still building out the day’s agenda. Please continue to check back for updates!

Partner with us! You too can become a sponsor and partner of Amplify! Help us promote diversity and inclusion in our workforce and community – ASK US HOW – contact Cindy Bahl @ 503-258-7715 or

Ever Been Unemployed?

By Cindy Bahl

If you are like many of us, you have been unemployed at one time or another.  You might have felt like I did during my 7 months “between jobs”, experiencing a variety of emotions.  The spectrum for me ranged from the excitement of having some “free time” to denial that sounded like, “how could this happen to me?”  Feelings like discouragement, depression and doubt around self-worth were the common enemies of my soul.  Like many of us, my self-esteem, independence and basic existence since the age of 16 has been in my career (since 11 if you count babysitting!).  But for 7 months, I applied to positions for which I was very qualified and that matched my skill set and got very few interviews or opportunities.  I experienced what many job seekers with disabilities experience every day even in this economy of low unemployment.

At the recent Amplify Rock Stars event, our guest speaker, Jeff Akin, Manager of Imaging, Records Management Systems with The State of Oregon asked attendees this very question: “How many of you in this room have ever been unemployed?”  By a show of hands, it seemed that most of us could relate.  He threw down a challenge to the employers in the room and stated, “As employers, we have the golden ticket, we have jobs.”

I challenge you to take 10 minutes out of your work day and listen to the whole story from Jeff.  It will get you thinking about unemployment and what you can do to tap in to the potential of people with disabilities who are often under-utilized. This is a diverse group of motivated people who have the skills and abilities to meet business needs, to contribute to a team and to society in a meaningful and dignified way.  Isn’t that what we all want?


2nd Annual Amplify Success! Event at Nike WHQ – October 18, 2018!


The Rock Stars Rocked It!

  • #celebrationofemployers
  • #disabilityemployment
  • #amplifysuccess
  • #workplaceinclusion
  • #bestpractices
  • #disabilitydiversitychallenge

“Enjoyed hearing best practices from employers sharing their success.” L.E.

“I loved this!  Thank you for great information!” L.G.

“Great event! Good mix of educational and promotional content.” I.A.

By Heidi Dirkse-Graw and Cindy Bahl

Above are some of the hash tags and pieces of feedback that exemplify the focus at the Amplify Rock Stars event on the morning of May 31, 2018 at Embassy Suites by Hilton, Washington Square-Portland-Tigard. Employers and community partners gathered to celebrate employers who, over the course of the last seven months, have taken tangible steps and exemplified passion to focus on several important questions:

  • What does it take for an employer to build a diverse and inclusive workforce that sees Ability vs. Disability when considering job applicants with disabilities?
  • “How can employers meet business needs by identifying job tasks within their organization that match the talents, skills and abilities of job seekers with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities?”
  • “What steps can an organization take to promote hiring and inclusion of individuals with disabilities in the workplace?”

During the event attendees got inspired from success stories, learning about best practice models from a workforce panel and hearing from Jeff Akin, a guest employer, who inspired and challenged the 70 people in the room with his humor and stories of disability inclusion success. He encouraged attendees to continue to “amp-up” their disability diversity initiatives and take the “Oregon Disability Diversity Challenge,” focused on helping employers take their next step forward in disability employment.

And, of course, we celebrated the, “Amplify Rock Stars,” those employers who took the challenge back in October 2017 at the inaugural AmplifySuccess! Event at Nike WHQ. The following employers were recognized:

  • Fred Meyer, Raleigh Hills, Leupold & Stevens & Oregon Health & Science University were acknowledged for providing employment opportunities through their inclusive hiring initiatives.
  • Embassy Suites by Hilton, Washington Square-Portland-Tigard was honored for implementing Project Search, a 9-week internship program for individuals who experience disabilities that will provide on-site training, develop job skills and a pipeline of candidates for not only Embassy Suites, but other employers as well.
  • Boys & Girls Club of Portland, The City of Beaverton, The Department of Human services; Imaging Records Management and Jama Software were all acknowledged for engaging with Dirkse CC who provided on-site Disability Inclusion and Employment Training to enhance their workplace culture.

If you missed the event, it is not too late for YOU to “amp up”!  What are your next steps?  We are here to help.  Please contact Cindy Bahl, Business Development Manager at: 503-258-7715 or to start the conversation.


2nd Annual Amplify Success! Event at Nike WHQ – October 18, 2018!

Event Sponsors were also acknowledged and recognized because an event like this could not happen without the support of our generous community.  

Collaborating Partners

Business Recognition Sponsors

Business Promotion Sponsors

D Three Productions logo
Portland Badge and Sign logo
Brubaker Photography logo
Embassy Suites by Hilton - Portland, Washington Square logo

Meeting Business Needs: Impacting Change

As a member of The Beaverton Chamber of Commerce I have had the opportunity to represent Dirkse CC and volunteer for the semi-annual “Business Walk” where volunteers go out in to the business community and ask three simple, yet important questions:

  1. How is business?
  2. How is doing business in Beaverton?
  3. What keeps you up at night/what are your challenges?

I like volunteering for this information-gathering opportunity for several reasons:

  1. The Volunteers are not “selling” anything.
  2. Volunteers are asking important questions.
  3. Volunteers are gathering feedback from the community.
  4. It’s fun!

Time is running out and seats are filling fast. Register for the FREE Amplify Rock Stars event today!

Since the mission of The BCC is to represent business in the community this short, in-person survey has the potential to impact change. Although promises are not made, some changes have occurred quickly as a result and others are given to City Leaders and Officials with a full report and actions available to those interested. The activity is a way to help meet the needs of businesses in the Beaverton community; to survey industries and to bring back input from the trenches to the front line for potential change.

This process is also how we at Dirkse CC help businesses recognize and respond to their specific Disability Employment and Inclusion needs. Through our complimentary consultation process of asking the right questions, identifying the challenges and gathering feedback, we can offer our 21 years plus of experience in creating an inclusive culture and in providing workplace solutions. Whether you are just thinking about disability diversity and inclusion in your business or you already have a plan in place, we can help you through the process of inclusive hiring, retention and training. It’s a simple process with impactful results for your business culture, your bottom-line and your community.

To learn more about what leading employers are doing to become more inclusive of people with disabilities, register to attend Amplify Rock Stars, May 31st, 8:00-10:00am at Embassy Suites by Hilton, Washington Square, Portland-Tigard, by clicking the button above. Our Workforce Panel Discussion “Tapping In To Ability” is sure to inspire and encourage you toward a plan of action for disability diversity and inclusion in your workplace.

Contact: Cindy Bahl, Dirkse CC Business Development Manager & Amplify Event Coordinator for more information. 503-258-7715 or

Amplify Rock Stars! Let’s Celebrate!

Seven months ago, on October 19. 2017 at NIKE WHQ, 115 employers and community partners joined together for Dirkse Counseling and Consulting, Inc.’s first Amplify Success event! This was an event designed to inspire the Portland community to take strides toward improving disability employment and inclusion in the workforce. Now we are gearing up for a celebration of the outcomes made by employers who took the Oregon Disability Diversity Challenge last October and to share news about promising practices in the Portland area.

Time is running out and seats are filling fast. Register for the FREE Amplify Rock Stars event today!

We want YOU to attend! The Amplify Rock Stars Celebration will be held on May 31st, from 8-10am at Embassy Suites by Hilton, Washington Square-Portland and you are personally invited! After all, who doesn’t like a good party?  Just like most parties there will be food, drinks, gifts, old friends, new friends and some fun, positive energy to start off your day!


Whether you attended the first event or not, you won’t want to miss our Workforce Panel discussion, “Tapping into Ability” which will give you information and ideas around best practices from leaders in the business community.  Our success stories promise to inspire and encourage as we share the impact employment has made for individuals hired and, on the organizations, who hired them.

If you’ve been on-the-fence, curious or have a plan in mind for disability inclusion in your workplace; this is the event for YOU!  Come and celebrate with us and learn what others are doing and what YOU can do to get “All Amped” up and become an Amplify Success Rock Star in your business or organization and in our community.

Let’s Party!

What’s Your Story?

I recently had the opportunity to share a success story with readers of a local publication, “The Beaverton Resource Guide”.  I am always proud to write these monthly success stories featuring an individual (or two) who have reached their career goal and been hired by a local business or organization.  The story usually involves a little about the individual and the challenges they face when job searching and then a little about the players involved in helping them along the way and of course, about the employer who hired them.  The May, 2018 issue* that just hit the stands is one I am particularly proud to share as it is featuring an employer who attended our Amplify Success event last October.

Time is running out and seats are filling fast. Register for the FREE Amplify Rock Stars event today!

Sharon Person, Assistant Human Resources Manager of the Raleigh Hills Fred Meyer attended the Amplify Success event and shared that the event inspired her to see the ability in people first and to recognize the value of each person.  Sharon stated “attending Amplify Success brought awareness of how I could help out and I felt more comfortable having resources.  It is important to engage with people, to get to know them and what their abilities are.”   Her attitude matches the Fred Meyer philosophy of inclusive work culture that values and appreciates individual differences and provides equal opportunity to all; reflecting their customers and community which is also a perfect fit for our job seekers who experience disability.

As a result, Ms. Person hired two young adults seeking their first paid job in the community. Both have the attitude and ability to do the job and both embody the Fred Meyer customer service motto.  They now enjoy some of the same benefits you and I enjoyed as we experienced our first jobs; earning a paycheck, helping our families and working as part of a team.  But without someone like Ms. Person at Fred Meyer to see their ability and the value they bring, they may not have the same opportunities as you and me.

So, what is YOUR story?  If you attended Amplify Success last fall and were inspired to see the ability in all people; what has changed for you, for your company or organization?  Have you started a conversation, developed a plan or initiative?  Have you engaged with us or others for Disability Diversity and Inclusion Training?  Have you hired someone with a disability or provide opportunities that may not have been there before?  What have you done?  We’d like to hear from you; we’d like to share your story too!  Feel free to contact us today and don’t forget to register for Amplify Rock Stars, a celebration of success stories that will include our friends at Fred Meyer.

*CLICK HERE to read full Beaverton Resource Guide Story

Get involved in the cultural movement – Consider working with your local Oregon Vocational Rehabilitation office and Oregon Employment First who will connect you with agencies like Dirkse CC to provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities in your workplace.  We are here to help you see the abilities in people and to look beyond the disability.  We want to help reduce the myths, fears and biases that may impact your hiring and retention of this untapped workforce.

Let us help you change your perception of ability so that you too can become “Rock Stars” and amplify your workplace with inclusion for all.

To become a sponsor or for more information contact: Cindy Bahl, Dirkse CC Business Development & Amplify Rock Stars Event Coordinator – 503-258-7715 or

We are here for you; to assist you and your business/organization with your disability diversity initiatives in 2018.  Because we believe:

Disability inclusion matters

It benefits business

It benefits us all.


3 Things Employers Want

In our experience over the past 21 years in business, we have noticed across all industries that employers have a common goal regardless of the job title, job description and profession. Employers are looking for just 3 simple things:

  • Skills; the ability to perform the job or tasks.
  • Reliability; show up and perform those tasks.
  • Teamwork; work together, communicate and get along with others.

Yet in this low unemployment and tight job market there still remains a large population of people who could meet the employer’s need for skilled and reliable team members. You guessed it, they are individuals who experience disability.

Did you know this is also a minority group that any one of us could enter at any time? In fact, according to 2013 statistics, 19% of the U.S population, or 56 million, experience some form or another of disability. Plus, with the Baby Boomer generation aging and staying at work longer, this number will rapidly increase.

So why does the unemployment rate for people with disabilities remain so high? According to the US Department of Labor in 2016 it was more than double at 10.5% compared to 4.6% for those without disabilities. What are the barriers? Why aren’t employers tapping in to this under-utilized workforce that can provide the 3 simple things every employer wants?

Come to Amplify Rock Stars, Thursday, May 31st 8-10am at Embassy Suites by Hilton, Washington Square-Portland-Tigard and find out what several local employers and business leaders are doing to tap into this under-utilized segment of the community.

The workforce panel discussion, “Tapping Into Ability” includes:

  • Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director – Lorraine Clarno
  • City of Beaverton Assistant City Attorney – Jenny Marston
  • Embassy Suites by Hilton, Washington Square, Portland General Manager – Scott Youngblood
  • Oregon Health and Science University Diversity Talent Acquisition – Riikka Salonen
  • Washington County Vocational Rehabilitation Branch Manager – Karen Burch

Each panelist will bring a different perspective to the discussion along with various programs and initiatives that they are using to tap in to the abilities of people with disabilities.  It will be a discussion and celebration of their challenges and success stories you won’t want to miss!

Get involved in the cultural movement – Consider working with your local Oregon Vocational Rehabilitation office and Oregon Employment First who will connect you with agencies like Dirkse CC to provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities in your workplace.  We are here to help you see the abilities in people and to look beyond the disability.  We want to help reduce the myths, fears and biases that may impact your hiring and retention of this untapped workforce.

Let us help you change your perception of ability so that you too can become “Rock Stars” and amplify your workplace with inclusion for all.

To become a sponsor or for more information contact: Cindy Bahl, Dirkse CC Business Development & Amplify Rock Stars Event Coordinator – 503-258-7715 or

We are here for you; to assist you and your business/organization with your disability diversity initiatives in 2018.  Because we believe:

Disability inclusion matters

It benefits business

It benefits us all.

Empower Your Workforce
Affirm Abilities
Amplify Success!