By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Governor Mary Fallin has recently appointed Emily Cheng of Oklahoma City to the Commission for Rehabilitation Services. The commission is the governing board for the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS).
As a person with cerebral palsy, Commissioner Cheng was previously a DRS client and a resident of New Orleans until Hurricane Katrina. Since 2005, Cheng has been employed as the disability services coordinator and an academic advisor at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City (OSU-OKC).
The Oklahoma DRS is comprised of five program divisions, Vocational Rehabilitation, Visual Services, Disability Determination, Oklahoma School for the Blind and Oklahoma School for the Deaf. These divisions operate dozens of programs that help Oklahomans lead more independent and productive lives.
DRS serves more than 83,400 Oklahomans with disabilities through career planning, employment, independent living, educational programs and the determination of medical eligibility for disability benefits.
Cheng used DRS’ post-employment services in the past to maintain her job at the university.
Her professional background includes higher education and accessibility issues, vocational rehabilitation, mental health services and advocacy for individuals with disabilities.
“Commissioner Cheng has 15 years’ experience working with individuals with disabilities to achieve their employment, educational and independent living goals,” DRS Executive Director Noel Tyler said. “We are excited about working with her to empower Oklahomans with disabilities to achieve their maximum potential and lead fulfilling lives.”
Cheng earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana and a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, also located in New Orleans.
She is also a certified rehabilitation counselor and previously worked for DRS’ counterpart agency, Louisiana Rehabilitation Services.
“I understand the processes that DRS has to follow because I’ve worked as a counselor before,” Cheng said. “There are guidelines, policies and steps that have to be followed to use taxpayer and federal dollars responsibly.”
After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Cheng’s husband Neil Cambre was transferred from New Orleans to Oklahoma City, where she began looking for employment.
When the OSU-OKC job opportunity for disability services coordinator presented itself, Cheng felt it was a good match for her personally.
“I always wanted to work for a college,” she said. “The job description fit my education and my training, and I was lucky enough to get this job.
“The skill set you use as a rehabilitation counselor translates well into the education field because part of a rehabilitation program can sometimes be re-training, and education is often a part of that,” Cheng added.
“I believe that individuals with disabilities can thrive when they advocate for themselves, are determined to succeed, and are given access to support services,” Cheng said. “I am happy to be working with such a great team and excited about being a good advocate for Oklahomans with disabilities.”
Cheng and Cambre are now residents of downtown Oklahoma City, where they love supporting local shops and restaurants.
“At OSU-OKC we believe that everyone can overcome challenges and achieve their goals,” Cheng said. “College is about finding your strength and bringing it out.”
For more information about employment and education programs offered by the Department of Rehabilitation Services, visit www.okdrs.gov or call 800-845-8476.