Summary of the FY 2008 Public Comments and the DBVI’s Responses to the Comments
The Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired (DBVI) conducted a total of four public meetings across the Commonwealth. Held in Roanoke on October 17, 2007, in Virginia Beach on November 2, in Arlington on November 3, and in Richmond on November 6, 2007; these meetings were attended by over 100 individuals. A public meeting was scheduled in Bristol, and there was no attendance by the public. In addition to these five opportunities, high school-aged students attending in the 2007 Summer Transition Program at the Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired (VRCBVI) participated in an informal gathering designed specifically to include transition-aged consumers in the public comment process. The DBVI received substantial input from individuals who attended these public meetings, as well as from the individual who submitted written comments.
Approximately 20 transition-aged students attending the 2007 Summer Transition Program at VRCBVI indicated that DBVI could best assist them in planning for post-secondary education, training, and employment in a number of ways. Public Comments one through seven and subsequent agency responses broadly address concerns of students in the areas of provision assistive technology services, vocational rehabilitation (VR) guidance and counseling, including work opportunities for students; development of core blindness skills; self-advocacy; access to alternate media; and assistance with local education authorities. In general, these 20 students did not know their VR counselors or education services coordinators.
Public Comment 1
DBVI should provide students with information regarding assistive technology, training, and vendors earlier and update the student’s assistive technology hardware and software when they become obsolete. Students should have the opportunity to see and test new technology. DBVI should ensure that assistive technology services are provided to students in a timely manner.
Agency Response 1
DBVI VR counselors, rehabilitation engineers, and VRCBVI personnel attempt to provide students with timely assistive technology assessment, training, and purchase of hardware and software in as timely a manner as possible. Occasionally, there is a delay in purchase of technology, although DBVI tries to keep delays at a minimum. In general, students who require assistive technology in order to participate in and accomplish their vocational goals are provided with this in their junior year in high school. DBVI agrees that students should have, see, and test new assistive technology and encourage them to request opportunities to learn about technology from their VR counselors.
DBVI may also provide local school systems with assistive technology consultation and assessment services. The school systems are responsible for providing assistive technology required for students to participate in public education.
Public Comment 2
DBVI should ensure that VR counselors meet with and get to know students earlier, at least by the beginning the student’s freshman year in high school. VR counselors should start talking about college and providing vocational information and guidance when students are freshmen. VR counselors should have more contact with students on a regular basis.
Agency Response 2
DBVI begins working with transition-aged students at the age of 14 and older to help determine what kind of VR services will be beneficial as the student prepares for post-secondary education, training, and ultimately, employment. Recent efforts to refocus transition services for students include DBVI contacting students and their families when the student becomes age 14 to provide information about vocational rehabilitation, employment, and independence for the student.
Public Comment 3
DBVI should provide work experiences while students are in high school.
Agency Response 3
DBVI provides students with opportunities to work during high school through the Summer Work Program. This program is an unpaid work experience that promotes work for students and includes a training stipend paid directly to the student. Additionally, students may independently or in collaboration with their VR counselors identify work opportunities throughout the school year as part of VR services leading to the development of a vocational goal or as part of accomplishing an already established vocational goal.
Public Comment 4
DBVI should work with parents so they know that students need to be learning and practicing independence skills. DBVI should provide more orientation and mobility in the student’s home communities and should help students find transportation.
Agency Response 4
Part of the DBVI’s refocus of transition services includes establishing better relationships
with parents so that they are part of the student’s development of independent living skills and vocational goals. The VRCBVI has a Summer Transition Program designed specifically to assist students and their parents in determining the student’s needs in the
area of independent living in addition to vocational rehabilitation. As well, vocational rehabilitation services in the student’s home community can include orientation and mobility instruction to include helping students to locate and safely use various transportation options.
Public Comment 5
DBVI should teach students self-advocacy skills and share information about consumer advocacy groups. DBVI should help students educate sighted people about what blind people can do.
Agency Response 5
DBVI provides new customers with information regarding consumer groups. Students participating in the Summer Transition Program are taught self-advocacy skills and they also receive information about consumer advocacy groups. DBVI also provides customers with information regarding consumer groups by sending notification of consumer group annual meetings via mass mailings to DBVI customers. DBVI will examine ways to work with students and consumer groups to find ways to continue educating the public about the abilities and capabilities of blind consumers.
Public Comment 6
DBVI should provide students with large print and Braille books in less volumes and provide students with books on CD.
Agency Response 7
DBVI is aware that most readers prefer volumes to be smaller and more manageable. In order to provide large print textbooks in fewer volumes, each volume would have to be larger and/or the font size would have to be smaller. Middle and high school Braille textbooks can be embossed on both sides of the page which can decrease the number of volumes, and this is standard procedure. The only other method of reduction of number of volumes would be to make each volume larger. Books that have been transcribed in Virginia can be offered in electronic format if the student desires.
Public Comment 7
DBVI should be assisting students by working with teachers at school.
Agency Response 7
DBVI employs education coordinators in each of its six regional offices. One of their major responsibilities is to work with teachers of the blind and vision impaired (TVI) who are employed by school divisions. In turn, the TVI in the school divisions should be supporting the other general and special education teachers who are directly teaching blind and visually impaired students. For its part, DBVI provides two professional development meetings each year in each of its six regional office areas. In addition, DBVI provides a statewide workshop for professional development.
Public Comment 8
I had a very positive experience with the orientation and mobility instructor in Roanoke. He told me “that’s what I am here for.”
Agency Response 8
Thank you for your comment.
Public Comment 9
I have used orientation and mobility and low vision services in Roanoke. Dennis Helms has taught me Braille, and I have been attending computer classes at the Voice of the Blue Ridge. Thanks to DBVI for helping me receive these services.
Agency Response 9
Thanks for your comment.
Public Comment 10
I suggest that DBVI advertise services. When I went back to work after vision loss, I had obstacles in the work place. People handled me like glass. Employers don’t know how to handle people with vision impairment. DBVI should reach out to employers as well and use advertisements.
Agency Response 10
DBVI’s Marketing Team has developed a new agency brochure and has plans to develop and distribute other informational materials. Additionally, various DBVI staff participates in local outreach activities and health/social services fairs. In the VR program, counselors may work directly with employers to help them understand the needs of workers who are blind or vision impaired. Rehabilitation engineers may provide worksite assessments to help employers determine which assistive technology is needed to accommodate a blind or visually impaired worker.
Public Comment 11
DBVI should get more work for people such as factory work; not everyone can go to college.
Agency Response 11
The DBVI VR program is designed to work with customers in establishing and accomplishing a vocational goal. With an ultimate goal of competitive employment, the vocational goal is consistent with the individual’s unique strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests, and informed choice. Based on that premise, DBVI assists individuals to prepare for, secure, retain, or regain employment in whatever job best suits the individual’s choice. Subsequently, individuals become employed in a wide range of jobs, including jobs that do or do not require a college education.
Public Comment 12
I work at Wal-Mart where they have a new computer system, and I can’t read the new computer screen. I learned of DBVI through another individual with vision loss.
Agency Response 12
Technical assistance was provided directly to this customer by the local DBVI office.
Public Comment 13
Are there wraparound services and how do people work together? Is there a plan such as an IEP for adults?
Agency Response 13
DBVI is a comprehensive services agency that includes services and supports in the areas of vocational rehabilitation, low vision, deafblind services, rehabilitation teaching and independent living, education services, and orientation and mobility. Services may be available to infants and children and their families, youth, adults of working age, and older adults based on specific eligibility criteria. In the VR program, VR counselors may assist customers in locating other community-based services, including but not limited to mental health services, social services, and transportation. Customers receiving VR services have an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) that outlines the customer’s vocational goal, steps necessary to accomplish that goal, and goods and services that will be required.
Public Comment 14
Most eye doctors don’t appear to know about DBVI.
Agency Response 14
DBVI regional offices participate in outreach activities targeted towards optometrists and ophthalmologists. Eye doctors are provided information regarding services and they and the office staff are encouraged to share the information with their patients. DBVI acknowledges that there is more work to be done to reach all the doctors in Virginia. This is an excellent opportunity for DBVI and consumer groups to work together to educate others about services. DBVI does routinely provide eye doctors with information regarding services and encourages them to share information with their patients.
Public Comment 15
What can I do about cataracts?
DBVI Response 15
Technical assistance has been provided to encourage this individual to seek attention from a physician.
Public Comment 16
During the meeting a lengthy discussion about public schools and residential schools and which is best choice occurred as a free flowing discussion between participants. The discussion was not directed at DBVI for response.
Agency Response 16
DBVI merely acknowledged that each of them made some good points. While most blind students in Virginia attend public school and have a successful experience, there is still a need for a residential school for some students, which makes us very fortunate in the state that we have the two options available to allow students and their parents to make the choice.
Public Comment 17
I value the time I spent at VRCBVI learning how to deal with vision impairment.
Agency Response 17
Thank you for your comment. Adjustment blindness is a major component of the VRCBVI programs.
Public Comment 18
Does DBVI have anything to do with Leader Dog schools?
Agency Response 18
Not directly. Consumers who are interested in dog guides are provided contact information about the Leader Dog schools, along with the contact information for the other guide dog schools.
Public Comment 19
There is an issue of timeliness in the Fairfax office, and NFB is helping folks access assistance from DBVI. Services are delayed for any number of reasons, specifically, lateness of delivery of services. In one instance, the vendor was out of the country. Evaluations of services are late. NFB will make a resolution asking DBVI to take the lead on the resolving the issue of timeliness and making sure customers are ready to develop their employment plans.
Agency Response 19
DBVI is reviewing vocational rehabilitation policy and procedures to address the concern regarding lateness in service delivery and will be providing guidance to agency staff regarding the importance in providing services in a timely manner.
Public Comment 20
A customer from Winchester commented that in early August she called the Fairfax office to have her case reopened; her case was closed four years ago. She is now in need of employment assistance and using the Internet and assistive technology. She was born legally blind, is experiencing increased sensitivity to light, and reports that her vision may be worse than several years ago. She is unhappy with the response she received from DBVI. She has been trying since August 2007 to get a copy of her eye report from her physician as requested by DBVI. She cannot get a copy of the report, and DBVI will not open her case until she has the report.
Agency Response 20
Technical assistance from the DBVI Fairfax office has been provided to this customer.
Public Comment 21
How do students get devices such as notetakers? Technology is needed for students to participate in public education.
Agency Response 21
DBVI provides for the purchase of assistive technology for transition-aged students when the technology is required in order for the student to accomplish their vocational goal.
DBVI policy allows for purchase of assistive technology for college-bound students in the junior year providing ample time for the student to become familiar with the technology before starting their secondary school participation. DBVI may provide local school systems with assistive technology consultation and assessment services. The school systems are responsible for providing assistive technology required for students to participate in public education.
Public Comment 22
I am not looking for employment. I have a degenerative disease and am retired. Are there older services?
Agency Response 22
The Rehabilitation Teaching/Independent Living Program offers rehabilitation teaching and independent living services to individuals of all ages. Within that program, the Older Blind Grant offers a thorough assessment to people age 55 and older with severe vision loss. An individualized program of specific goals and objectives is then designed for the customer based upon the nature and extent of her vision loss, as well as what she wants to learn and/or improve in her life.
Public Comment 23
DBVI job placement is not good. Some rehabilitation counselors lack experience in job development. Has DBVI ever considered job placement counselors? If you get people working, it brings money into the economy. There are things at DBVI that could be cut to pay for job developers. Is there a possibility that the VRCBVI can teach various screen reader systems other than JAWS?
Agency Response 23
Job placement and development is an area that DBVI seeks to improve by providing counselors with training and supervision. At this point DBVI does not have enough positions to designate separate job placement counselors and this function is a critical component of the VR counselor positions. Currently, VRCBVI routinely teaches JAWS and has the capability to teach System Access and Window Eyes if there is a specific request.
Public Comment 24
I am dissatisfied that my VR counselor is pushing one job, such as rolling silverware, doing laundry, or folding pizza boxes. I am not satisfied with the job or the vendor.
Agency Response 24
DBVI encourages customers who are dissatisfied with recommendations of their counselors to talk directly to the counselor about those concerns. It is necessary for customers and counselors to partner together to find the best possible solution of problems or issues that may arise. If a customer does not want to work in a particular area recommended by a counselor, they should talk directly with the counselor to resolve their dissatisfaction. In most instances, problems or issues are resolved in this manner; however, if problems or issues can’t be resolved, the consumer always has the right to
pursue a fair hearing. The form to initiate the grievance process may be obtained from the VR counselor or by contacting the regional office. The consumer
Complaint/Grievance Form can also be downloaded by visiting the agency Web site at http://www.vdbvi.org/forms.htm. Consumers may also contact the Client Assistance
Program (CAP) for assistance in helping to resolve problems or issues they have concerning their VR program. The phone number for CAP is 1-800-552-3962.
Public Comment 25
DBVI is to be applauded for providing opportunities for VRCBVI students to participate in several activities in the last year, such as the Monument 10-K race where students and staff participated together.
Agency Response 25
Thank you for your comment. VRCBVI is planning to participate in more activities in which staff and students can educate the public about the capacity of blind individuals to contribute to their communities. These activities also help students gain confidence in themselves and their skills.
Public Comment 26
I attended VRCBVI around 1990. Congratulations for taking down the cane racks. It is a good thing.
Agency Response 26
Thank you for your comment. One of the questions that we ask at the VRCBVI when making decisions is: How does this prepare students to function confidently and independently in the real world? Because cane racks are virtually non-existent outside the VRCBVI, DBVI believed that students would be better served by removing them, thus ensuring that students would have to learn various ways to stow canes, depending on the situation. DBVI also believes that students need to know where their canes are at all times and should not have to depend on someone else to retrieve their canes or help them navigate the room because their canes are stored elsewhere.
DBVI believes that the decision to remove the cane racks was a decision to remove the barrier of dependency, which the cane racks represented at VRCBVI.
Public Comment 27
What is DBVI doing to address the quiet car year problem? What is the DBVI stance? The pedestrian laws in Virginia are very lax, other states are friendlier.
Agency Response 27
DBVI’s orientation and mobility staff have raised the issue and are discussing how to address quiet cars during their teaching programs. This is a complex problem that must be addressed at the national level. Virginia cannot independently legislate that quiet cars be equipped with an audible device, etc. Many organizations are studying the issues, including the responsibility of auto manufacturers and pedestrian laws.
Public Comment 28
DBVI has computer software applications training located in Richmond which is too far for customers from the Eastern Shore to travel.
Agency Response 28
DBVI has received several comments and suggestions about providing computer hardware and software training in other areas of the state in addition to Richmond and is examining ways to comply with these requests. One suggestion that DBVI will follow-up with is collaborating with regional and sub-regional libraries.
Public Comment 29
How long will DBVI accept written comments?
Agency Response 29
DBVI will accept written comments through December 15.
Public Comment 30
One of the provisions of the rehabilitation plan is that agencies are supposed to treat rival consumer groups equally and fairly. In some instances that has not happened. The American Council of the Blind (ACB) in Virginia is concerned that DBVI does not treat consumer groups equally. A recent mailing of brochures mailed out by DBVI had the National Federation of the Blind brochure on top; NFB got “top” billing. The ACB is asking for equal treatment.
Agency Response 30
DBVI strives to and believes that it treats all consumer groups fairly and equally. The recent mailing being referenced included 1,000 pieces of mail with multiple pages. The individuals who folded the mailing, who happened to have been blind, were given no particular order in which to compile the mailing. They simply picked pages from four different piles of paper and folded them in preparation for the mailing. DBVI has no interest in giving one consumer group consideration over another.
Public Comment 31
Suggest putting mailings of brochures for consumer advocacy groups in alternating order each year.
Agency Response 31
Thank you for the suggestion.
Public Comment 32
I commend this agency above and beyond the call of duty. I have not had negative comments about this agency in over 10 years. DBVI has given wonderful equipment and served me for years, especially computer and Aladdin Atlas. Thanks above and beyond this agency. Best VR agency in the country.
Agency Response 32
Thank you for your comment.
Public Comment 33
What is the possibility of sending announcements of the statewide consumer organization meetings to individuals who are not VR customers, such as older rehabilitation clients?
Agency Response 33
DBVI will review the possibility of sending announcements to individuals who are not VR customers.
Public Comment 34
Virginia has several recognized bands of Native Americans. DBVI should reach out to this group of people. One avenue is the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Agency Response 34
During FY 2007 DBVI staff attended the National Consortium of Native American Rehabilitation to begin developing an understanding of the potential vocational needs of Native Americans. DBVI will follow-up on the suggestion to explore the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Public Comment 35
This is a curiosity comment regarding the upcoming presidential elections. How will the results of that election impact funding and services in FY 09?
Agency Response 35
DBVI will continue to provide services to blind and visually impaired citizens of the Commonwealth regardless of the outcome of presidential elections.
Public Comment 36
Please explain any particular budget cuts that will affect the agency given the financial issues at the State level. Explain, there is no order of selection, but could be.
Agency Response 36
In fall 2007 DBVI was asked to and submitted a plan for five percent reduction in General Funds. The five percent reduction included giving up six of the seven new rehabilitation teacher positions which were funded 100% with State General Funds. As for an order of selection, DBVI is currently operating on an order of selection with all categories open for services since October 1, 2005. At this point, DBVI anticipates operating with all categories open through Fiscal Year 2008.
Public Comment 37
Did the surrendering of the six rehabilitation teacher positions affect the federal match required in the Vocational Rehabilitation Program?