Welcome to the Legislative information page for the Kansas Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (KABVI). Our Organization remains extremely active with Kansas State Legislation, and with administrative rulemaking and advocacy concerning any program or law that impacts blindness and/or visual impairment in Kansas. This page will not reflect everything we are doing in the field of systems advocacy on behalf of blind and visually impaired Kansans, but will provide a cross section of some of the most important issues on which we are working.
On this link on our website, we will post such items as: links to Legislation we are supporting or opposing, advocacy related letters we have written concerning systems advocacy issues, legislative language we are attempting to get introduced or incorporated into legislation, and position papers.
We are enhancing this section of our website as of fall, 2009, Prior to that time, information about our legislative and systems advocacy activities may not be posted here, but can be acquired by contacting our office at the below contact information.
For more detailed information, contact:
Michael Byington, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Byington@cox.net;
Legislative Chair at email@example.com; or
Ann Byington, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The KABVI office telephone number is 785-235-8990 or 800-799-1499.
Table of Contents
Quiet Cars and their Impact on the Blind or Visually Impaired
Senate Bill 295
KABVI Testimony on SB 295 before the Senate Transportation Committee
Background Concerning Proposed Closure of KRCBVI
Draft Statutory Language
KABVI Testimony to KFCRC
Closure Committee Correspondence
Michael Donnelly's Letter on Closure and Reorganization
Concerning the Future of KANSAIL and Contracting of Rehabilitation Teachers in Kansas
KABVI Letter to Michael Donnelly
Senate Bill 507
KABVI Senate Bill Request Document
Senate Bill 409
KABVI Support Testimony for Senate Bill 409
Senate Bill 447
Proposed Language To Correct Discriminatory Aspects Of SB 447
KABVI Support Letter of House Bill 2553
BACKGROUND CONCERNING PROPOSED LEGISLATIVE LANGUAGE, 2010 SESSION OF THE KANSAS LEGISLATURE
Over KABVI’s objection, the Kansas Facilities Closure and Realignment Commission has voted to recommend the closure of the Kansas Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired (KRCBVI). In testimony before the Closure Commission, KABVI made it clear that we do not want to see the KRCBVI closed, but stated that, if closure takes place over our objections, there at least needs to continue to be a focus within SRS on issues relating to blindness and Visual impairment. We thus recommended that, particularly if the recommendation is to close the KRCBVI, a Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired be created to continue a categorical focus on blindness and visual impairment somewhere within the State of Kansas’ Social and Rehabilitation Services. (SRS). This Commission would be closely patterned after the Kansas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, which already exists within Kansas Government. The Closure Commission did agree to advance this recommendation to the Governor as well as their recommendation for closure of the KRCBVI. Indeed this recommendation is in the Closure Commission’s final report to the Governor. It is not as specifically written as KABVI might have preferred, but it is there.
Because of the lack of specificity of the recommendation, KABVI has drafted proposed language for enabling legislation for the Kansas Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
“This is some language that KABVI is requesting that Governor Parkinson introduce as a part of his 2010 Legislative package. Although it could be introduced as a freestanding bill or executive order, we have requested that it be incorporated into the Executive Reorganization Order the Governor is preparing on State facilities closure and realignment. The Kansas Facilities Closure and Realignment Commission has voted unanimously to support the Commission created by this language.””
KANSAS COMMISSION FOR THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED
Kansas commission for the blind and visually impaired;
establishment; duties; management functions.
(a) There is hereby established within the department of social and rehabilitation services the Kansas commission for blind and visually impaired. The commission shall:
(1) Advocate with regard to services affecting the blind and visually impaired in the areas of public services, health care, educational, vocational and employment opportunity;
(2) act as a bureau of information for the blind and visually impaired to state agencies and public institutions providing general health and mental health care, employment, vocational, and educational services,
and to local agencies and programs;
(3) collect facts and statistics and other special studies of
conditions affecting the health and welfare of the blind and visually impaired in this state;
(4) provide for a mutual exchange of ideas and information on the national, state and local levels;
(5) provide public education of prenatal and postnatal warning signs of conditions which may lead to blindness or visual impairment in the fetus or newborn child;
(6) encourage and assist local governments in the development of
programs for the blind and visually impaired;
(7) cooperate with public and private agencies and units of local,
state and federal governments in promoting coordination in programs for the blind and visually impaired;
(8) provide for the social, emotional, educational and vocational needs of the blind and visually impaired and their families;
(9) serve as an advisory board to the governor on the needs of the blind and visually impaired by preparing an annual report which reviews the status of all state services to the blind and visually impaired within Kansas, and to recommend priorities to the governor for the development and coordination of services to the blind and visually impaired;
(10) make recommendations for needed improvements, and serve as an advisory board in regard to new legislation affecting the blind and visually impaired.
(b) Except as otherwise provided by this act, all budgeting,
purchasing and related management functions of the Kansas commission for
the blind and visually impaired shall be administered under the direction and
supervision of the secretary of social and rehabilitation services. Within the limitations of available appropriations, the secretary of social and
rehabilitation services shall provide additional clerical and other assistance as may be required for the commission.
Same; composition; qualifications of members; terms;
vacancies; meetings; officers; quorum; expenses.
(a) The Kansas commission for the blind and visually impaired shall consist of 17 members who shall be
responsible for the policies and management of the commission. The
membership shall consist of the following:
(1) Five ex officio members, the administrative head, or a
designee, of (A) vocational rehabilitation services, (B) social services,
(C) the department of health and environment, (D) the state board of
education, and (E) the state school for the blind.
(2) Twelve members appointed by the governor as follows: Six
members who are blind or low vision persons, two of whom shall be
representatives of the Kansas association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and two of whom shall be representatives of the National Federation of the Blind of Kansas; one member who is an expert in the use and teaching of Braille for and to the adult blind, an optometrist specializing in the field of low vision; a representative of Kansas workers employed under provisions of the Federal Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act, the Randolph-Sheppard Act, or K.S.A. 75-3337 et seq., a representative of Envision Rehabilitation, a specialist in working with geriatric blind and low vision, and a teacher of blind and visually impaired children.
(b) Initial appointments made by the Governor shall be: Four members for a term of one year, four members for a term of two years, and four members for a term of three years, as designated by the governor. Thereafter members appointed by the governor shall serve on the commission for terms of three years and until their successors are appointed and qualified. Members having completed their terms of service may be re-appointed to serve additional terms. In filling vacancies in the
membership of the commission, the governor shall give preference to blind or visually impaired persons qualified to fill such vacancies. Upon a
vacancy in an appointive position in the membership of the commission, the
commission itself, the Kansas association for the blind and visually impaired, and the national federation of the blind of Kansas may each submit to the governor a list of blind or visually impaired persons deemed qualified to fill such vacancy, and the governor may fill such vacancy from among the persons on such lists.
(c) Any appointive position in the membership of the commission
which becomes vacant prior to the expiration of a full term shall be
filled only for the period of the unexpired term.
(d) The members of the commission shall elect a chairperson
annually. The commission shall meet at the call of the chairperson, but no
less than four times a year. The members shall elect other officers as
deemed necessary, set duties of officers, and set procedures for
conducting their meetings for the purposes designated in this act. A
simple majority of the membership of the commission shall constitute a
(e) Members of the commission shall receive no compensation for
their services. Ex officio members of the commission shall receive travel
expenses and subsistence expenses or allowances as provided in K.S.A.
75-3212, and amendments thereto, which shall be paid by the respective
departments of such members. Appointed members of the commission shall
receive travel expenses and subsistence expenses or allowances for
attendance at meetings of the commission authorized by the chairperson or
the commission as provided in K.S.A. 75-3212, and amendments thereto.
Same; executive director, employment, compensation and
expenses, duties, qualifications.
(a) The Kansas commission for the blind and visually impaired shall employ an executive director and shall fix the duties, responsibilities and qualifications thereof. The executive director shall be a full-time employee of the commission who shall be in the unclassified service under the Kansas civil service act and shall receive an annual salary to be fixed by the commission. The executive director shall receive actual and necessary expenses incurred while in the discharge of official duties.
(b) The executive director, with the advice and consent of the
(1) Within the limitations of available appropriations, plan and
oversee the establishment of service centers for the blind and visually impaired in areas where the commission deems they are needed and in
concurrence with the secretary of social and rehabilitation services and
in consultation with local boards of directors of community service
centers and local groups promoting or providing services to the blind or visually impaired, or both;
(2) promote accessibility of all governmental services to blind and visually impaired citizens in Kansas including those blind and visually impaired persons with multiple disabilities;
(3) identify agencies, both public and private which provide
community services, evaluate the extent to which they make services
available to blind and visually impaired people and their families, and
cooperate with the agencies in coordinating and extending these services;
(4) provide for the mutual exchange of ideas and information on
services for blind and visually impaired people between federal, state and
local governmental agencies and private organizations and individuals;
(5) survey the needs of the blind and visually impaired population in Kansas and assist the commission in the preparation of its report to the governor;
(6) maintain a listing of persons qualified in transcription
and production of Braille as well as instruction of Braille, availability and use of low vision devices and vision rehabilitation, orientation and mobility, and specialized assistive technology used by the blind and visually impaired, and make this information available to local, state, federal and private organizations
and to individuals;
(7) promote the training of specialists in categorical services for the blind as are listed in (6);
(8) serve as an advocate for the rights of blind and visually impaired people and perform such other duties as may be required by law;
(9) employ such persons as may be needed from time to time, to carry out the work of the commission as described in these statutes.
Such employees shall be in the unclassified civil service and shall
receive an annual salary to be fixed by the commission.
(c) In selecting an executive director, the commission shall
select an individual who is QUALIFIED in at least two of the following three areas: (1) an individual who is academically credentialed in a categorical specialty specific to blindness and visual impairment, (2) an accomplished user of assistive technology specific to blindness and/or visual impairment or an expert in the field of assistive technology used by people who are blind or who have low vision, and (3) An expert in the reading, writing, instruction and production of Grade II literary Braille,
Same; cooperation by state agencies. The commission for
the blind and visually impaired may request and shall receive from any
department, division, board, bureau, commission, agency of the state or of
any political subdivision thereof, such data as might be needed to enable
it to properly carry out its activities under this act. Avoidance of
unnecessary duplication of state-delivered services to the blind and visually impaired shall be the primary objective of such cooperation.
Same; arrangements and contracts authorized for carrying
out purposes. The Kansas commission for the blind and visually impaired may make arrangements with other state agencies, and may contract with other individuals, organizations, corporations, associations other legal
entities, including private agencies, or any department or agency of the
federal government, state or any political subdivision of the state, to
carry out the purposes of the commission.
Same; reception of funds, gifts, grants, bequests;
expenditures. The Kansas commission for the blind and visually impaired is
authorized to receive moneys from any source, including federal funds,
gifts, grants and bequests which shall be expended for the purposes
designated in this act.
Same; state agencies to provide services to Blind and visually impaired. The governor is authorized to designate existing departments
of state government, or division thereof, to provide statewide services to
the blind and visually impaired as specified in this act.
“This is the testimony that KABVI President, Ann Byington, presented to the Kansas Facilities Closure and Realignment Commission concerning their consideration of closing the Kansas Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired.”
My name is Ann Byington and I am speaking as President of the Ks Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, (KABVI). Unlike the testimony presented to you at the public hearing regarding closure of the Ks State School for the Blind, KABVI cannot unequivocably support the Kansas Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, (KRCBVI), program as it currently exists within the Social and Rehabilitation Services umbrella. Our membership fervently wishes the program to continue but adamantly suggest the following changes and improvements:
As the President of KABVI, and as a former employee of KRCBVI from August, 1988 through December, 2005, I am saddened and frustrated to make this presentation. The KS Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired was founded in 1920 and wrote the enactment legislation which created the Division of Services for the Blind. We assisted the agency to have one of the most revered rehabilitation centers for the blind in this country. The original facility dedication was given by Helen Keller, an advocate for blind persons, and multiply disabled blind persons, right to live to their greatest potential and to receive training for employment. We do not want the KRCBVI to merely exist as a mediocre, under-staffed, underfunded program unable to meet the needs of blind and visually impaired Kansans for the ever-increasing range of training our technically advancing society will demand. Whatever happens to the Kansas Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, we will be here offering constructive criticism, strident complaint when necessary, and most importantly, a passionate wish for every blind or visually impaired Kansan, regardless of age, to receive blindness and low vision training/techniques to be an independent, productive member of this state.
I am attaching to this testimony, a position paper written by our Organization based on actions of our Board of Directors and resolutions KABVI has adopted. The content of this paper is consistent with this testimony, but it presents our points in a slightly different sequence, and contains relevant background and historical information.
“KABVI has generated a great deal of correspondence on the proposed closure of the Kansas Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and other cuts proposed in services to blind Kansans. We are not posting every position paper or piece of correspondence here. This piece of testimony, delivered to the Kansas Facilities Closure and Realignment Commission in October 2009, however summarizes most of our issues of concern about closures and proposed cuts. In addition to addressing closure of residential training facilities for blind adults, this document addresses the proposed cuts in community based services. “
October 19, 2009
TO: The Kansas Facilities Closure and Realignment
FROM: Michael Byington, KABVI C.E.O, as directed by the
KABVI membership and Board of Directors
SUBJECT: The Kansas Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and
Our Organization concluded its Annual Meetings on October 18, 2009. During our meetings, a major topic of analysis and discussion was the activities of the Kansas Facilities Closure and Realignment Commission, and a document sent to that Commission by Michael Donnelly, Director, Kansas Rehabilitation Services, titled, “Community Based Alternatives To Continued Operation of the Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired.” I have been directed to advance this position paper, and its attachments, to the Commission by KABVI’s membership and Board of Directors. The attachments are resolutions relevant to the work of the Closure Commission, and which were adopted by our membership at our annual meetings.
First of all, we object to the lack of due process with regard to the timing of the submission of Mr. Donnelly’s document concerning closure of the Kansas Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired (KRCBVI). Consumers and advocates have had one opportunity, and one opportunity only, to speak to the Closure Commission concerning the KRCBVI. By comparison, Secretary Jordan serves as an ex officio member of the Commission, and has been allowed at nearly every meeting to articulate that SRS wants to do something other than continue operation of the KRCBVI because it is his opinion that it is costing too much to continue operating the facility given the total number of clients served there, and the resulting total cost per each client served. Then additionally, SRS was not required to, and did not, meet deadlines for testimony concerning the KRCBVI that were imposed by the Commission for consumers and advocates. Instead, SRS submitted its written comments from Mr. Donnelly as to why the SRS leadership feels the KRCBVI should close well after all opportunities for consumers and advocates to address the Commission had been exhausted. This smacks of being a setup designed to thwart consumer and advocacy input, and essentially to stack the deck. It does not give consumer advocates much opportunity to react to Mr. Donnelly’s and SRS’s written position on closure of the KRCBVI, which was released on September 17, 2009.
These concerns notwithstanding, however, we do appreciate the Closure Commission’s willingness to review our written comments. Our intent here will not be to dissect every aspect of the SRS document about closure of the KRCBVI, but rather to look at some major elements of that document that are inaccurate and/or misleading, and to look at some elements that need to be addressed in the document, but which are completely missing. The three resolutions we are attaching articulate our concerns about the document, and other actions of SRS, in greater detail.
COST OF CONTINUING TO OPERATE THE KRCBVI:
The main justification for SRS recommending closure of the KRCBVI is financial. SRS points to a high cost per client, over $23,000.00 per month per client. It also points to the fact that a small percentage of the disability population, and indeed of the overall blindness population, are served through direct contact with the KRCBVI. SRS, however, seems to draw no correlations between these two issues or look at their own culpability with regard to them.
The KRCBVI was opened in 1949. At that time, there were essentially four populations within the community of blind and low vision Kansans who were eligible to be served at the facility. A major population served was older people who were losing vision, and who were requesting training in order to avoid having to go to an institutional facility. A second population frequently served were younger homemakers who did not intend to return to employment in the foreseeable future, perhaps due to long term commitments such as raising children or taking care of other family members, but who needed to learn the skills of blindness and/or low vision to continue in such family oriented roles. A third population originally served at the KRCBVI was blind and legally blind students, who had recently graduated from high school, and who were thus figuring out what they could do with the rest of their lives to be productive citizens. The fourth group served was blind and low vision people who had developed vocational goals and were actively attempting to return to work. There was a patchwork of funding sources that went into the program to insure that all of these populations could be served.
All of the funding sources used contained a match of federal and State dollars. The funding that had the highest percentage of federal funds, however, just under 80%, were the Rehabilitation Services Administration funds that served people who had developed vocational goals and were seeking employment. Many of the other funding sources used for the other populations were about a 50/50 match of federal and State funds.
Several previous federal administrations, however, interpreted the rules as to what the nearly 80/20 Rehabilitation Services Administration funds could be used to do rather broadly. As these funds contain a higher match of federal funds than other sources, SRS has thus, slowly and quietly, switched all programming at the KRCBVI to the Rehabilitation Services Administration funding source. At the time some of this switching was done, KABVI asked what would happen if the federal government ever changed its interpretations of federal statutes so that uses of the Rehabilitation Services Administration funds would be more restricted, and could not be used for the non-vocational populations. We were told by previous SRS administrations that, of course, if such a change in interpretation would ever take place, SRS would diversify funding streams so that the broad spectrum of the blindness populations of Kansas could continue to be served,
Such promises, however, are forgotten quite quickly by subsequent Administrations. Indeed, KABVI’s concern has come to pass. There is now only one funding stream going into the KRCBVI, and that funding stream has been much more severely restricted by the federal government’s re-interpretation of its own regulations and statutes, and by some changes made in re-authorization of the Rehabilitation Act. Now, the only population of blind and visually impaired Kansans that is allowed to be served at the KRCBVI is that of blind and low vision people who have developed vocational goals and are actively attempting to return to work. The other three populations of blind Kansans that were originally served by the KRCBVI still need the services, but they are no longer allowed to attend the KRCBVI.
This set of circumstances has caused the population census at the KRCBVI to diminish while fixed costs to operate a bricks and mortar facility, and to maintain staff there, have not gone down. If funding streams flowing into the KRCBVI were to be diversified so that all of the Kansans who are blind or severely visually impaired who desire services could be served at the facility, then the fixed costs would be divided among many more clients, and cost per client would go down exponentially. IN SUCH A SCENARIO, THERE WOULD BE NO REASON TO CLOSE THE KRCBVI.
Nonetheless, the above logic notwithstanding, The Closure Commission has a plan before it, authored by the SRS Administration, which plans for the closure of the KRCBVI. Although we oppose this closure, we thus must address some of the most glaring deficits in that plan.
BRAILLE TRAINING FOR BLIND AND SEVERELY DISABLED ADULTS IS LARGELY IGNORED:
The SRS document concerning closure of the KRCBVI alleges that adequate and competent Braille training for blind adults is available through community facilities. This is simply not true. Quality of such training available through largely generalist contractors is inconsistent at best. There is no track record for success. Yet, a Statewide Braille Consultant is not included in the technical Assistance Cadre proposed in the SRS plan for closure. Without such an individual providing for quality assurance in Braille instruction for newly blinded adults in Kansas, it is quite clear that Braille literacy training for blind Kansas adults will deteriorate.
In terms of successfully rehabilitating blind and severely visually impaired Kansans, omission of a Braille consultant for blind adult literacy makes no sense. Braille is a core skill for adults who are blind.
A recent study conducted by the American Foundation for the Blind revealed that while the unemployment rate for working aged blind citizens overall is around 70%, around 90% of working aged blind people who are fully literate at a competitive level with Braille are employed. To say the least, to fail to include Braille in a technical assistance cadre is short-sighted.
LOW VISION LITERACY IS LARGELY IGNORED AS WELL:
The SRS plan suggests that increased access to low vision doctors and other specialists when needed will be achieved to make up for the services that have previously been provided by the KRCBVI. KABVI strongly supports the integration of a greater degree of low vision services into the rehabilitation process, but again, to include no consultant on low vision issues in the proposed Technical Assistance Cadre is extremely short sighted.
“Low vision doctors” as Mr. Donnelly’s paper calls them, (although most professionals who are knowledgeable about the field of blindness and low vision refer to such practitioners as “Low Vision Specialists Within the Field of Optometric Practice,”) do excellent work in analyzing visual function, and assisting severely visually impaired individuals in selecting the equipment they need to have the greatest opportunities to use residual vision effectively. Training, however, to allow the low vision consumer to effectively use the equipment prescribed by the low vision practitioner within the field of optometry, is generally done by rehabilitation teachers for the blind and other rehabilitation professionals skilled in assisting consumers to integrate the use of low vision aids into performance of every-day vocational and independent living tasks. Orientation and Mobility Specialists are well qualified to teach the use of distance and travel low vision aids, and the Technical Assistance Cadre in Mr. Donnelly’s plan covers that area, but without a specialist in low vision literacy and use of related equipment, an important aspect needed in the technical assistance cadre will be missing. If technical assistance cadre representatives are needed in the fields of orientation and mobility, assistive technology, and we would allege also Braille, then such representation is equally needed in training with low vision aids and low vision literacy.
THE COMMUNITY BASED ALTERNATIVES TO CONTINUED OPERATION OF THE REHABILITATION CENTER FOR THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED PAPER ESTABLISHES NO ONGOING MECHINISMS FOR CONSUMER INPUT AND CONSULTATION FROM THE BLINDNESS AND LOW VISION COMMUNITIES:
Prior to June of 2007, Kansas had a very active Advisory Committee to Kansas Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. This body featured broad spectrumed representation from the blindness and low vision community, professionals who work in blindness and visual impairment, including optometrists and ophthalmologists, representatives from the Veteran’s Administrations blindness rehabilitation program, and educators of people who are blind and low vision. This Committee was not codified in Kansas statutes, but was very dedicated, and generally quite cohesive. Many votes taken concerning advice given to Director Donnelly and other SRS staff were unanimous or were finalized with only one dissenting vote. The meetings of this Committee always garnered a quorum, unlike other Committees Director Donnelly staffs. The only real problem that this Committee experienced was that Director Donnelly and other SRS Rehabilitation Services staff did not seem to like or agree with much of the advice being given. Thus, as the Committee was not required in statutes, Mr. Donnelly disbanded it as of June 2007. The Committee he appointed nearly a year later to replace it has never been functional. He appointed people who had not applied to be on the Committee, and ignored the applications of many qualified representatives who anted to work on the Committee. Once the Committee was constituted, Mr. Donnelly directed that the Committee and all of the sub-committees it attempted to establish could only meet during business hours of SRS, and only with Mr. Donnelly’s personal assistant available to observe proceedings and take notes. The appointed Chair of the Committee has thus found it impossible to schedule meetings with the Committee and keep it active and effective under such circumstances. It is quite clear and obvious that Mr. Donnelly got rid of the old, well functioning Committee to purposefully disempower consumers during a time when he intended to recommend closure of the KRCBVI.
Particularly if the KRCBVI closes, and is replaced with the Technical Assistance Cadre, Mr. Donnelly and other SRS officials involved with blind services should be required to meet with and listen to input from a strong and vibrant input mechanism from consumers and experts in the field of blindness. This input should be taken very seriously whether Mr. Donnelly and the other SRS officials agree with it or not. Mr. Donnelly should not have the latitude to disband the input mechanisms simply because he disagrees with positions it takes or finds it to be annoying or inconvenient to meet with it.
To this end, any plan put in place subsequent to KRCBVI closure, or even if this facility remains open, must contain as a part of the Technical Assistance Cadre, a staffed mechanism for input from consumers and experts within the field of blindness. We would suggest that the plan Mr. Donnelly has submitted to the Commission concerning closure of the KRCBVI misses the mark so badly because he failed to seek or listen to sufficient consumer or expert input prior to writing it. He certainly contacted providers and asked what they did and what they are interested in doing, but he did not really seek input on what should replace the KRCBVI if it closed.
KABVI thus takes the position that the Technical Assistance Cadre is not complete unless a part of its structure includes an input mechanism similar to that codified in statutes for the Kansas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (KCDHH). We are crafting a model statute based on the KCDHH statutory language. This is probably something that we would introduce whether the KRCBVI closes or not, but if the Closure Commission is indeed going to recommend closure of the KRCBVI, and replacement of its services as outlined by Mr. Donnelly, including the technical assistance cadre he proposes, that cadre needs to include staffing for a Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (KCBVI). The incumbent to fill this position should be selected by the KCBVI much as KCDHH has had a major role in selecting its staff. This would not necessarily need to involve allocations for additional staff. The Administrator position listed in the technical assistance cadre portion of Mr. Donnelly’s document could be adapted to include these duties, but again, the incumbent for this position should be selected much as the KCDHH staff is selected.
KABVI will provide the Closure Commission with our model statute for the KCBVI as soon as we have it drafted. This will probably be later this month, or in any case, will be prior to the Closure Commission’s November meeting. If the Closure Commission indeed recommends closure of the KRCBVI rather than the funding adaptations we are recommending here so that the facility can serve more of the blind and visually impaired of the State, then we would ask that the Closure Commission include our KCBVI statutory language in its recommendations as to what should replace the functions of the KRCBVI.
LAYING OFF COMMUNITY SERVICE PROVIDERS, AS SRS HAS ANNOUNCED IT WILL DO, IS IN CONFLICT WITH ANY PLAN TO CLOSE THE KRCBVI:
In his plan submitted to the Closure Commission, Mr. Donnelly summarizes Statewide access to services. He discusses the vocational rehabilitation counselors, and then lists supports available to these counselors. One of the supports he lists are the community based rehabilitation teachers for the blind. SRS has had positions for eight of these professionals throughout Kansas. When all eight positions have been filled, there were two rehabilitation teachers located in Kansas City and serving the Kansas City-Lawrence areas of the State, and one rehabilitation teacher located in southeast Kansas, southwest Kansas, northwest Kansas, Wichita, Salina, and Topeka. Currently, however, three of these positions are vacant due to retirements or death of the professionals who filled them. The vacant positions are located in southwest Kansas, and include both positions in Kansas City as well. Additionally, SRS has just announced that it is laying off the Topeka and Salina rehabilitation teachers for the blind. This means that there will be three rehabilitation teachers for the blind located in Kansas. It is ironic that Mr. Donnelly thus lists these positions as an element of provision of statewide access to services.
Particularly if the KRCBVI is closed, we certainly can not get by with less than all eight of the rehabilitation teacher for the blind positions being filled. The Closure Commission thus needs to take the position that, if the KRCBVI closes, all eight rehabilitation teachers for the blind positions must be filled. The layoff notices for the rehabilitation teachers in Topeka and Salina must be rescinded.
SPECIALIZED, CATEGORICAL SERVICES IN THE FIELD OF BLINDNESS ARE STILL NEEDED:
Mr. Donnelly includes two additional sections in his plan concerning availability of community based services and consumer choice. These include references to the Assistive Technology for Kansas Sites, Envision, Alpha Pointe of Missouri, and the State’s centers for independent living.
Although Alpha Pointe and Envision both have some categorical expertise in the fields of blindness and low vision, the other providers that Mr. Donnelly mentions generally do not. Blind and visually impaired Kansans already utilize resources from the Assistive Technology sites, and the centers for independent living to an extent, but the skills of blindness, and to a large extent, low vision as well, are very specialized. The potential contractors and partners Mr. Donnelly mentions, who work with general disability caseloads, simply do not have the qualified personnel on staff to address categorical service areas. As one blind person put it at our annual meetings, “If I am going to take my life in my hands and cross a major four to six lane city traffic way, I want someone who is specifically qualified in teaching that skill working with me. Some generalist who also sets up attendant care for people who use wheelchairs or also counsels the mentally ill is not going to get the job done, not when it is my life that we are talking about.”
There are other options besides closure of the KRCBVI and adoption of Mr. Donnelly’s unrealistic and unworkable plan. Not only should the KRCBVI have adjustments made in its funding base so it can potentially serve all of the Kansans who are blind or visually impaired who want to study there, but it also could and should be compelled to increase its outreach and community assistance capacities. It should indeed take its expertise on the road to serve communities, and blind and low vision people in them, throughout Kansas. It is impossible to take the show on the road, however, if the theatre where the show is created is shut down and its staff scattered to the four winds.
WHEREAS, downturns in the Kansas economy suggest that programs of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) may require across the board cuts of 10% to 15%; and
WHEREAS, three of the eight rehabilitation teacher for the blind positions in Kansas are currently vacant, and no move is being made to fill them; and
WHEREAS, SRS has recently announced plans to lay off at least two more rehabilitation teachers for the blind; and
WHEREAS, these actions constitute a roughly 63% cut in the Kansas rehabilitation teaching for the blind program; and
WHEREAS, SRS has released a document titled, Community Based Alternatives to Continued Operation of the Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, which proposes to close that facility and replace its staff with a five member Statewide Technical Assistance Cadre, thus also constituting a roughly 63% cut in professionals available through the State of Kansas to serve blind and visually impaired Kansans; and
WHEREAS the Kansas Seniors Achieving Independent Living (KanSAIL) program is supposed to be comprised of five staff, and currently has only two staff, with no efforts being made to fill these positions, thus constituting a 60% cut in available services; and
WHEREAS, cuts in blind services programming at 60% and above is quite clearly disproportionate to cuts in other SRS programming;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by the Kansas Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, in convention assembled, at Topeka, Kansas, this 17th day of October, 2009, that this Organization expresses its utter disgust at the disproportionate proposed cuts in specialist personnel to serve blind and visually impaired Kansans; and thus directs its Officers, Directors, and Legislative Committee to rigorously endeavor to call to the attention of the Kansas Legislature, the manner in which SRS is abusing blind and visually impaired Kansans through disproportionate service cuts;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Organization directs its Officers, Directors and Legislative Committee to work with the Kansas Legislature to ameliorate the abusive actions toward blind and visually impaired Kansans on the part of SRS;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this Organization acknowledges that it is unlikely that it will be successful in completely correcting the counterproductive actions on the part of SRS, and that it thus directs its Officers, Directors and Legislative Committee to take all actions necessary to work with community based programs in the private sector to increase specialist service expertise and capacities to work with blind and visually impaired Kansans, and to work with the Kansas Legislature to insure that all monies that have previously been expended to serve blind and visually impaired Kansans through SRS specialist staff and facilities, continue to be allocated categorically to serve blind and visually impaired Kansans, with cuts no greater than are experienced by other service populations, and with services provided through more willing entities who are committed to maintaining specialized and categorical services.
“The Plan for closure of the Kansas Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and the cutting of other State blind services, released by Michael Donnelly, Kansas Rehabilitation Services Director, in September 2009, makes it clear that certain facilities will be closed and certain positions eliminated. It clearly states that certain other programs and positions will be retained. It does not explain, one way or the other, whether the outreach services to employed blind Kansans currently provided by several staff, but primarily by Phil White, will be retained. KABVI received contact from several blind and visually impaired consumers seeking this information. We thus wrote to Mr. Donnelly to find out if Mr. White’s position will be retained or not. Mr, Donnelly has sent a hard copy answer to our letter, but his response essentially fails to answer the questions we have asked in our letter.”
November 4, 2009
Mr. Michael Donnelly, Director
Kansas Rehabilitation Services
Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services
Docking State Office Building
Topeka, Kansas 66612
Dear Director Donnelly:
We need some clarifications concerning the document, “Community Based Alternatives to Continued Operation of the Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired (KRCBVI).” As we are moving quickly toward the 2010 Session of the Kansas Legislature, prompt attention to the clarifications requested here will be appreciated.
The above referenced document makes it clear that the technical assistance cadre proposed features two orientation and mobility specialists, and one assistive technologist. All others being retained in the cadre address such things as administration and media conversion. It is made clear that no staff working directly with areas such as Braille, low vision literacy, techniques of daily living, job seeking, etc. are being maintained.
The plan does not, however, address one way or the other, what will happen with the outreach services, provided by Services for the Blind, in assistive technology and accessibility. These services have generally been provided by Mr. Phil White, but are sometimes provided by a number of your other employees as well. Our office has received several calls this week from blind and low vision individuals who are working, and who have benefited from these services. They are understandably concerned about their continuation.
Mr. White’s position has worked recently fairly extensively with State information technology personnel to make sure that State systems, as they are changed and updated, remain accessible to blind and low vision State employees, and also remain accessible for blind and visually impaired members of the general public who are users of information systems provided by the State. Without ongoing work in this area, State information systems will most certainly become inaccessible, and State jobs will be lost due to accessibility problems. Our Association could certainly deal with this situation by assisting individuals who are victimized by such losses in filing complaints under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, or other relevant civil rights laws. We would prefer, however, to insure that accessibility is not compromised in the first place. Taking this pro-active stance seems more positive, productive and cooperative. To continue this positive stance, however, we need specific information as to whether the community alternatives plan anticipates retaining Mr. White’s position, and if not, what alternatives will be provided in its place.
Mr. White, as well as other employees associated with Kansas Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, additionally often assists with technical assistance for non-State workers who are blind or low vision, who are gainfully employed in other private or non-State public sector positions, and who encounter accessibility problems as systems change that could threaten their jobs. Often, these services are needed promptly, and there is not time to re-open a vocational rehabilitation case. The fact that the retention or closure of outreach services as we know them is not mentioned one way or the other in the community alternatives plan is a concern. Such services are vital, and we need to know specifically how they are going to be continued.
Although the actions of the Kansas Facilities Closure and Realignment Commission do not directly relate to the continuation of outreach services, it would seem that the closure of the KRCBVI impacts the entire footprint of what services for the blind will look like subsequent to the anticipated closure. We thus need to know what the plans are for the future of outreach services in light of the anticipated overall changes. We realize that the Closure Commission is only empowered to make a recommendation. Their recommendations will be translated into an Executive Reorganization Order (ERO) which the Kansas Legislature will then be required to approve or disapprove. As Disapproval would mean that the Legislature as a whole would essentially have to do the work of the Closure Commission all over again, it does not take very much political analysis to determine that the ERO will likely be adopted as recommended. Although we realize that it is impossible to offer any scenarios that are set in concrete until the Kansas Legislature has acted upon the anticipated ERO, we do need to know what actions are anticipated assuming that the ERO will be approved.
Our perceptions would be that the following scenario has taken place. Kansas has narrowed the funding sources for almost all services provided by the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) to the State’s blind citizens to funding through the United States Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), and largely to the 80/20 federal State 110 funds. As the RSA has limited the use of this funding source more and more to only services involved with helping Americans who are disabled obtain what the RSA defines as competitive employment, many services that Kansas used to fund through its 80/20 monies have become ineligible. We would like to know if this includes the outreach services as they have been provided here to date.
Most States that have been faced with these funding conundrums have replaced 80/20 funds used for purposes found to be ineligible with other funding streams. It seems as though Kansas has instead simply chosen to narrow and cut services.
This is not an acceptable practice, and corrections need to be made. Failure to do so will result in increased unemployment, discrimination, and lack of access to information for the State’s blind and low vision citizens. Ultimately, complaints would ensue that will result in reprisals both from Legislative and civil rights enforcement perspectives.
In an attempt to be pro-active in helping arrive at a solution to this problem, it occurs to us that supported employment services may have been vastly underutilized with regard to our State’s blind and low vision citizens. Blindness and severe visual impairment are generally not disabilities where front door-back door types of programming are appropriate. Services may need to be provided at more intensive levels during training and adjustment periods, but as information access and the built environment continue to evolve, some level of ongoing supports are often quite legitimately needed on a continuing basis.
I did a search on the SRS website recently ant attempted to count the number of times that the phrase “supported employment” occurs on that site. Frankly, the number was so great that I lost count. It may be that some of the funding streams associated with supported employment and follow along services will need to come into play to continue to fund some of the things that Mr. White and others do out in our communities.
If the State has been attempting to fund its outreach services, and essentially supported employment services, for blind workers and severely visually impaired workers largely through the RSA 80/20 funds, then I can understand why an adversarial tone may be being taken with consumers and consumer advocates when we ask what can be done to continue the services. The fact is, however, the bottom line is that the services need to continue and increase. We are willing to attempt to help to be part of the solution but the first step to a partnership needs to be SRS acknowledgement that there is an ongoing need for the services. We are willing to see service delivery mechanisms change if those changes mean more efficient delivery of services instead of massive cuts in services. We know that service cuts in amounts exceeding ten to 15% are occurring in many SRS programs and staff because of the economic downturn. We expect to take our fair share of the hit, but cuts of 60% to 100% in specialized programming for people who are blind and severely visually impaired are simply not acceptable.
We look forward to working with you toward solutions to these problems. At our recent annual meeting, Mr. Jordan and Mr. Rogers, in addition to yourself, all attempted to assure us that, although there would be changes, essential services would continue. We appreciate that expression of intent, but at this point, we require much more detail. Thank you.
cc. Don Jordan
Dennis RogersGovernor Mark Parkinson
“The Kansas Facilities Closure and Realignment Commission has also considered closure of the Kansas State School for the Blind. It appears that this facility will remain open, but we are providing a copy of our testimony that was instrumental in bringing about the saving of this program.”
June 22, 2009
TO: Kansas Facilities Closure Commission
FROM: Michael Byington, C. E. O. (Volunteer)
SUBJECT: Kansas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
We are sure it will come as no surprise to the Commission that our Organization wants to see the Kansas School for the Blind remain open and functional. In addition to all of the quality educational services the facility provides to blind and legally blind Kansas children, however, we will also discuss why closure of this facility would in no way be in the best financial interests of the State.
We know that you have heard from many disability rights advocates that the day of the institution is over, and that it is time to close them all down. It is certainly true that Kansas does not currently require the number of institutional beds that were once necessary. Some services, however, are so specialized that they require a facility base in order to be provided comprehensively. This is certainly the case for many categorical educational services for children who are blind, legally blind, or multiply disabled blind.
Sighted children in the public schools, for example, receive reading training every day. The blind child who is mainstreamed or totally included in the public schools, even if provided with Braille books equivalent to those the sighted children are using, may only get to see an itinerate qualified Braille reading teacher once every two to three weeks. This is partially because, even if teachers for the blind and visually impaired were available in the numbers the public schools are supposed to have according to federal guidelines, travel time from school to school within a State as spacious as Kansas, would still mean that the time a qualified teacher of the blind and visually impaired has available to spend with each student in the public schools would continue to be exponentially less than the educational time that can be spent at the Kansas School for the Blind. Unfortunately, however, this problem is exacerbated by the fact that there is a tremendous shortage of vision education teachers and Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists in Kansas. As Kansas has no in-State preparation programs for these disciplines, this problem is not expected to lessen in the foreseeable future.
Even if reading training was to be available every day for the blind child in the public schools, however, there is nevertheless a lack of peer challenges or competition to excel academically. No other peer is learning in the manner that the blind child does. We know through many documented studies that children do not learn as well if they have less contact time with qualified teachers. We also know that peer pressure is an extremely important aspect of learning. An isolated educational situation, where there is perhaps only one blind child in a large public school, often causes the blind or legally blind child to fall behind his or her sighted peers. In tern, this has resulted in a dumbing down of standards for blind and visually impaired children in the public schools. Sighted children, for example, may be expected to achieve a goal of reading 250 words per minute with good comprehension. The standard for the Braille using student may be set at 60 words per minute.
The same diluting of standards also seems to be taking place with regard to travel and independent living skills. A blind child in the public schools should not have to travel less independently than their sighted peers. With shortages in Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists working at the local educational level, however, often travel and independent living skills, as taught to blind students in the public schools, suffer along with academic performance.
When the only thing about a child that is dysfunctional is the eyes, then it is KABVI’s view that there should be no different learning standards. Blind children should be expected to read as fast as sighted children, do math as fast and as accurately, travel as independently, etc. This simply is not happening in many of the public schools. Unchecked, the consequences of such deficits can result in young adults who can not learn fast enough to complete higher education, and can not be employed at competitive rates of speed and accuracy.
Despite these conundrums, KABVI is not suggesting that public school educational programs for students who are blind and visually impaired should be done away with or that all children should be educated at the Kansas School for the Blind. Quite to the contrary, in Kansas, we have been in the process of crafting a combined system where the public school programs work in concert with the Kansas School for the Blind to provide the best and most cost-effective programming possible. We are fighting for the continuation and further development of this programming. If the School for the Blind closes, this will not occur, but rather, public school programming for children who are blind and visually impaired will simply become less efficient and effective.
This is because, the Kansas School for the Blind does not just serve a primary educational function for the 50 to 70 students who study on the Kansas City campus at any given time. Due to a cooperative arrangement between the major school districts and special education cooperatives throughout the State, the Kansas School for the Blind in fact provides technical assistance and consultation to assist with the education of every blind or visually impaired student studying anywhere in Kansas. The media center at the Kansas School for the Blind provides the majority of Braille and recorded materials that blind and visually impaired students use throughout the State. This means that the educational lives of nearly 1,000 students are impacted each year by the work of the school.
Additionally, cooperation between the public school programs and the Kansas School for the Blind allows for the creation of a best-of-both-worlds situation. Earlier in this testimony, we mentioned the deficits that can develop when a child is allowed to fall behind academically in the public schools. At the same time, there are obvious family based advantages for many students to be able to remain in their home communities, and to enjoy being educated with their local peers. Cooperation and communication between the public school programs and the Kansas School for the Blind allow for monitoring of a child’s progress. They may spend the larger percentage of their academic careers in their local schools, but if they are falling behind in academic, travel, or other independent living areas, then the child can spend a year or two or three at the School for the Blind so that they can concentrate on improving these specific skills.
The Kansas School for the Blind also offers summer classes that can allow public school based students another option for catching up on academic, travel, and other independent living areas. These shorter term interventions can also contribute to a best-of-both-worlds educational situation.
Currently, national census data tells us that around 70% of all severely disabled adults of working age, including those who are blind or legally blind, are unemployed. A few years ago, the Kansas School for the Blind did a survey of its working age former students. This included anyone who graduated from the School, or who spent time there to improve specific skill sets. Unemployment among this population ran under 50%. While this is still an unacceptably high level, and reflects the level of discrimination that continues to exist against blind and legally blind laborers in the workplace, it suggests that Kansas is beating the national averages markedly. The goal needs to continue to be to produce a blind and legally blind population within Kansas that is able to produce competitively with their sighted peers. If the Kansas School for the blind were to close, the cornerstone would be removed from a system that is continuing to evolve and develop effectively toward achieving this goal.
“This is KABVI’s testimony to the Board of Directors of the Disability Rights Center of Kansas about that Organizations priorities over the next several years.”
September 17, 2009
TO: Rocky Nichols, Executive Director
And the Board of Directors
Disability Rights Center of Kansas
FROM: Ann Byington, President
Michael Byington, C.E.O.
SUBJECT Comments Concerning Long Range Strategic
Plan and Proposed Program Priorities
The Kansas Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Disability Rights Center of Kansas (formerly Kansas Advocacy and Protective Services) have partnered concerning various projects for quite some time. Unlike many disability rights advocacy organizations, we had a good relationship with your Organization under its former leadership headed by Jim Germer, and we believe that we have been able to maintain this relationship under the administration headed by Mr. Nichols. We look forward to continuing this good relationship.
The proceeding is not to say, however, that we are completely pleased with the performance of DRC of Kansas in recent years. The overall priorities are fine, and it is our view that many of our concerns could be addressed under those priorities. While a few of these concerns are indeed being addressed, many others are not.
When DRC of Kansas wanted to assume stewardship of the Client Assistance Program a few years ago, it was a controversial move as far as our Organization was concerned. KABVI had a good working relationship with the internal CAP, and we challenged Mr. Nichols to document for us how having an external CAP operated through the DRC would be better. He made a number of arguments that would all fit in the category of autonomous advocacy efforts having more efficiency, and he convinced us to support DRC of Kansas taking over the CAP. When we commit our support to something, we are quite rigorous about following through, and we certainly followed that approach with regard to this advocacy issue. Roughly five years down the road, however, we almost regret having lended our support to DRC of Kansas taking over the CAP. We have been disappointed in the results.
As an advocacy organization of and for people who are blind or who have severe visual impairments, we are most certainly concerned with systems change, and also maintaining services which blind and visually impaired individuals find to be necessary, and which are threatened with cuts, closure, or downsizing. When it comes to provision of many of the specialized and categorical services and training that people who are blind and visually impaired need in order to be employed, and to live independently, we see Kansas Rehabilitation Services as being an increasingly dysfunctional and inadequate entity. We will not recount in this testimony all of the services that are important to blind and visually impaired Kansans that have been weakened or cut over the past couple of decades, but we do maintain such a list, and the ever growing length and complexity of it is becoming more and more frightening to us. We will certainly discuss some of the systems issues which currently challenge us, and where we believe that DRC participation in our advocacy efforts would be helpful and appropriate. As an advocacy organization, we make referrals to CAP when consumers contact us with complaints or disagreements with regard to their own vocational rehabilitation cases, but like the DRC, we attempt to move those individual complaints to a level where we can address a preponderance of complaints as systems advocacy/systems change issues. The internal CAP staff used to be pretty effective at sometimes helping us address such systems problems affecting numerous consumers because of SRS or KRS policies. They could often work to get those policies changed from within, and once in a while, they were quite effective in doing so. Subsequent to the CAP becoming external, and under the stewardship of DRC, we are usually told that CAP/DRC simply does not handle such systems change issues. We are told to refer consumers who are affected by the specific problem to CAP and that perhaps the issue can be addressed at an individual level, and indeed, we have followed through and made such referrals on a number of occasions. Sometimes DRC has taken up the individual case and done a good job of advocacy with it, and sometimes this has not happened, but even when the case is taken on, the advocacy stops when the individual being represented achieves some type of resolution. The dysfunctional system that caused the problem in the first place is seldom addressed or impacted.
The above scenario seems to fly in the face of not only the rather global nature of the wording of Priority 9, but also runs counter to some of the systems change implications noted in Priorities 4, 5, and 10. The practices with the CAP program, and failure to address Kansas Rehabilitation Services systems change issues under other priorities as well, also runs counter to the “Prioritization of Impact Litigation to Create A Larger Systems Change” provision under your “Limiting Factors for Priorities” section.
We will now address some specific issues which we feel DRC should address as systems advocacy/systems change issues related to the disability rights of Kansans, and particularly of blind and visually impaired Kansans. It is our view that all of these issues most certainly could be regarded as falling under one, or more than one, of the priority areas noted in the previous paragraph.
THREATENED CLOSURE OF THE KANSAS REHABILITATION CENTER FOR THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED (KRCBVI): This is one of a number of facilities that is currently under the scrutiny of the Kansas Facilities Closure and Realignment Commission. Generally, DRC has supported the downsizing and closure of institutions that serve people with disabilities, and this is appropriate, particularly under the DRC Priority 3. Facilities such as the KRCBVI, however, and also the Kansas School for the Blind (KSB), are not long term. They are limited exit, institutional facilities. They provide shorter term specialized training so that people who are blind or severely visually impaired will have the necessary tools to return to fully integrated employment, education, and/or community living. They do not qualify as an institution as defined under DRC Priority 3 but most certainly do qualify as essential services under the definitions in DRC Priorities 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, and 10. No one stays at the KRCBVI, for example, for more than a few weeks or months, but in that time, they are able to acquire skills that could take years to develop if approached in the community through a few hours of training per week or per month. An overwhelming contingency of the blindness community came forward to testify before the Closure Commission that the KRCBVI and KSB should remain open and operational. In the case of the KRCBVI, however, at each meeting of the Closure Commission, SRS Secretary, Don Jordan expresses the view that the KRCBVI needs to close because it does not serve enough consumers at any one time to be viable, and that this causes the cost per client served to be entirely too high. The Closure Commission thus gave themselves only one opportunity to hear from impacted consumers concerning the closure of the KRCBVI; as an ex officio member of the Closure Commission, however, Mr. Jordan has multiple opportunities to express the view that the facility must close. The Closure Commission is therefore, to say the least, not receiving balanced information. What Mr. Jordan fails to acknowledge is that it is the policies imposed by the larger SRS and KRS administration that have caused the KRCBVI to narrow its focus so that so few people can be served there at any given time. This is of course what makes the costs per consumer so high. Meanwhile, numerous populations of blind and visually impaired Kansans who want to be served by the facility are simply not receiving services. Throughout much of its history, the KRCBVI received funding from a number of different SRS funds. A few years ago, all funding was shifted to United States Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) Title I funding because this funding had the most favorable federal to State match. Subsequent to this adjustment, however, the RSA has established priorities, some of which are actually reflected in the Rehabilitation Act, and some of which are not, to narrow case closures in any category except that of fully competitive, integrated, paid employment. While this increased emphasis on employment is not a bad thing in and of itself, it has, along with the narrowing of funding sources available to the KRCBVI, caused several populations of blind and visually impaired Kansans who used to be served by the KRCBVI to no longer be served. These include older blind and visually impaired Kansans who require training in independent living skills in order to continue to live outside of long term institutional settings, housewives, and other individuals involved in child rearing or other endeavors which may not immediately make them candidates for the competitive employment market, and transitional aged blind and visually impaired youth. So in summary, many blind and visually impaired Kansans desire services from the KRCBVI, and because of issues with gatekeeping to get into the program, and restrictions on current funding sources, they can not receive such services; Then SRS administration repeatedly informs the Kansas Closure Commission that the facility must shut down because it is not serving enough people to be viable from a perspective of costs per consumer. This is an example of a systems advocacy issue where the DRC should weigh in on behalf of Kansas blind and visually impaired citizens.
KANSAS SENIORS ACHIEVING INDEPENDENT LIVING (KANSAIL): This program is funded under Chapter II of the Rehabilitation Act. It offers a 90/10 federal to State match, one of the most favorable among all federal-State funded programs. SRS, however, has now not only stopped allowing older blind and visually impaired Kansans the right to attend the KRCBVI, it has also woefully neglected the KanSAIL program. The program is supposed to have five employees to cover the State in terms of independent living services provided to older blind Kansans. This is an inadequate number of practitioners even when the program is fully staffed, but it has not been fully staffed for more than the past three years. Currently, only two staffpersons are expected to serve the entire State, and SRS is making no attempt to restore and fill the other three assigned positions even though 90% of the funding for KanSAIL is federal. KABVI has long supported the enhancement and bolstering of the KanSAIL program, and SRS has largely continued to ignore the program over many years. At our last convention, the KABVI membership, had become so frustrated with SRS’s lack of attention to the KanSAIL program, and to the needs of the older blind of Kansas, that it voted that it would be better to privatize KanSAIL, and to contract it out to an entity such as Envision, much as CAP is contracted to the DRC, rather than see SRS continue to attempt to kill KanSAIL through neglect. Our organization does not support, however, as some advocates have suggested, simply blending the older blind funding into the funding for Centers for Independent Living. The older blind program is a specialized one because the services to be provided are very specialized and specific to the blind and low vision populations. While perhaps one or two centers for independent living around the State have staff qualified to work in these specialized areas, most do not, and the limited KanSAIL dollars would not allow them to bring on appropriately qualified staff.
REHABILITATION TEACHING FOR THE BLIND PROGRAM: Over the years, this program has been the first contact contrivance for most people in Kansas who become blind or severely visually impaired. Traditionally, a majority of people who fill the Rehabilitation Teacher for the Blind positions have been blind or visually impaired themselves. These professionals go into the homes of newly blinded or visually impaired individuals. They provide in-home teaching and advocacy services, and a lot of information and referral and resource identification to see to it that a newly blinded or severely visually impaired individual makes it into the services and rehabilitation systems that they need appropriately. Without active and competent rehabilitation teachers, the entire SRS system of services for people who are blind and visually impaired tends not to pick up on the people who need the service. Many referrals are lost in the shuffle or never happen. There are supposed to be eight rehabilitation teachers for the blind working throughout the State of Kansas. Currently only five of these positions are filled, and SRS is making no efforts to fill the other three. What is more, Rehabilitation Services Director, Michael Donnelly repeatedly has stated that he does not understand what the rehabilitation teachers do or why it is necessary for them to do it. What he fails to understand is that the field of blindness rehabilitation has never traditionally started out as a medical model concept as is the case with rehabilitation from most other physical injuries or conditions. Often, blindness or low vision that is not correctable with surgery is identified in a physician’s office. Even if surgery can make an impact on the condition, often the surgery is outpatient. The follow-up medical model systems are thus either not in play, or are too sporadic to insure that most people needing blindness related rehabilitation will get into the system to get it. Our concern is thus three fold. First of all, the Rehabilitation Teaching program, operated through KRS, needs to be operating at full strength. Positions need to be filled. Secondly, SRS needs to do more outreach to insure that the public, and particularly medical treatment professionals and human services providers, know about the Rehabilitation Teaching program. Currently the program is not being promoted, and the remaining Rehabilitation Teachers are largely not allowed to do much outreach or promote the program themselves. Instead of taking this course of action, it would appear that KRS/SRS is doing everything possible to discourage referrals to the Rehabilitation Teaching program, and is attempting to reduce caseloads so that they can lay off the remaining rehabilitation teachers and shut the program down. Thirdly, the funding source being used for the Rehabilitation Teaching program may be a part of the problem. For many years, this program was Social Services Block Grant funded. It too was switched a few years ago to the 80/20 Title I monies. With the additional restrictions that the RSA has recently placed on uses of that money when going toward rehabilitation teaching for the blind, this may be why a large percentage of the population needing rehabilitation teaching services simply are not getting them.
BLIND BUSINESS ENTERPRISES PROGRAM: SRS and KRS are also failing to appropriately discharge their duties to sustain and grow the federal Randolph-Sheppard Licensed Blind Vendor Program (for State purposes, known as the Business Enterprises Program). This is the program that makes vending opportunities available to qualified blind workers in federal, State, County, and City buildings. SRS/KRS is the licensing agency for this program in Kansas. This program has provided viable employment for blind businesspersons in Kansas subsequent to its inception in the 1930s. It is a program that the RSA continues to define as meeting all provisions of being competitive, integrated employment. Nonetheless, the program was much stronger in the 1960s and 1970s than it is today. At its strong point numbers of blind Kansans into the high 30s were making a gainful living through this program. Now, numbers of blind Kansans who are participating in the program are in the teens. This is not because of a lack of blind Kansans interested in working for a gainful living, and is not because some imagined shrinkage in the overall size of government has somehow has made it impossible to develop and maintain locations. The program reductions are occurring simply because current SRS leadership chooses not to support the program or the concepts behind it.
RULES THAT CREATE AN US AND THEM ENVIRONMENT WITHIN HUMAN SERVICES DELIVERY: One final issue that we wish to address with regard to KRS is one that can impact any disability group. It is not exclusive to the blind and visually impaired population of Kansas, but it has an impact on our population particularly, and on the deaf population, because we are both small, close knit, low incidence consumer populations. The issue involves regulations that KRS Director Michael Donnelly has promulgated as a part of the KRS “Professional Conduct Expectations” regulations. These regulations state that an employee of KRS, a volunteer working for KRS, or an employee of any of the KRS partners, may have no friendship, socialization, or personal contact with anyone who is a client of KRS, or any part of SRS, during the time that the client has any type of open case with SRS whatsoever, and also for a period of five years after all SRS cases with the client have been closed. Our Organization is aware of the ethical need for distancing between human services professionals and their active clients. We would never support the concept of any relationship that exploits and SRS client financially, emotionally, sexually, or in any other demeaning manner. We acknowledge the need for standards to assure protections for clients against such wrongs, but at the same time, we find the five year distancing rule to be draconian, impractical, and unreasonable. Given that around 70% of working aged persons who are blind or legally blind, as well as is the case with a number of other disability groups, are unemployed, it is a simple fact that a very high percentage of people who are blind or legally blind, and in some other disability categories as well, have ongoing open cases with SRS. The five year distancing rule makes it impossible for any person to work for KRS/SRS, while maintaining a close enough relationship with people in the disability community to have their fingers on the pulse of the needs of that population. It eliminates the right of several thousand SRS employees, and thousands of partners and volunteers as well, to have disabled friends, and transversely, eliminates several thousand people from the potential circle of friends that a person who has a disability might have. The five year distancing rule is especially difficult for KRS/SRS employees, volunteers, or partner employees who themselves may have disabilities, and who may experience a cultural identification with a certain disability population. These cultural identifications issues are particularly prevalent among many blind and visually impaired Kansans and many deaf Kansans. We have talked with some SRS partners and volunteers who have said that they are largely unconcerned about the five year distancing rules because SRS does not have the capabilities of enforcing them. We ardently disagree with this approach. If such rules are allow to remain unchallenged within SRS regulations, they give SRS and element of control which is completely out of line. KRS/SRS could not only fire its direct employees, no matter how competent they might be, because of who their friends are, and what cultural associations they might have, but SRS could additionally terminate agreements with such groups as centers for independent living, and disability specific support groups because it could allege that friendships might be developing between SRS clients and employees of such programs. Needless to say, the existence of these rules could potentially allow SRS to soil the reputation of persons working as volunteers, including disabled volunteers, because it could allege that they have friends who are also employees. Our organization in fact has a couple of members who, though not asked to do so, have left SRS employment, because remaining employed and in full compliance with SRS rules would have require them to give up too much of their circle of friends, or to be required to disclose intrusive information about who their friends are to their employer. It is essential that DRC bring pressure on Director Donnelly to rescind the five year distancing rule within the KRS Professional Conduct Expectations regulations, and to replace this rule with a more reasonable and practical code of ethical conduct that will protect consumers from exploitation and yet not intrude into their friendships or personal lives. We might close this discussion by pointing out that this situation is an example of one where we approached DRC with this issue. DRC said that it could not address purely a systems advocacy issue, even though it claims to select cases based on those that will have positive systems impacts. We were told to refer individual active KRS clients who have concerns about the five year distancing rule to the DRC if they want to oppose the rule with regard to their personal cases. We indeed made such referrals, We know that at least one, and we believe more than one, of the individuals we referred did indeed follow up with DRC to file complaints about the rule, and that DRC did not actively choose to work with cases addressing the five year rule under any circumstances.
It makes us contemplate whether there might be a subtle conflict of interest where DRC is unwilling to challenge Director Donnelly on important disability rights advocacy issues because he is a former DRC employee. We do believe that DRC needs to work toward a balance on issues that pit consumer choice and free will against concerns about exploitation, such as does the five year rule. Historically, the populations that DRC started representing in its original capacities as a protection and advocacy unit, were largely mentally disabled individuals, and then for a number of years, were largely mentally disabled individuals and also persons who experience emotional disabilities. Because such individuals sometimes struggle with issues of capacity, they are thus particularly vulnerable to exploitation, and it is appropriate that a strong record has been developed in protecting consumers against exploitation. With the addition of the voting rights responsibilities, assistive technology advocacy, and Client Assistance services to the DRC menu, it is essential that DRC acknowledge that the exact same degrees of protections verses informed choice are not the identical for all groups of consumers whom it serves.
OUR OBJECTIONS TO THE WORDING IN PRIORITY 11: This priority calls for rights to special education and related services in the least restrictive environment. It says nothing about insuring that those special education services are appropriate for the student, and are allowing the student to move toward their maximum potential in self-sufficiency and toward becoming productive, independent, and self-determining adults. To call for the least restrictive environment without calling for these other essentials is irresponsible. We mentioned the Kansas School for the Blind (KSB) earlier in this document when discussing the activities of the Kansas Closure Commission. We want to make several points about the educational contributions to the blind, visually impaired, and multiply disabled blind student populations of Kansas being made by KSB. There is no question that the program has a residential component. There is a dormitory available and more than half of the students who attend the school live in it. Some would thus suggest that the school does not offer a least restrictive environment for anyone. KSB does, however, offer a massive amount of outreach services and technical expertise to local school districts throughout Kansas. These services are largely focused on keeping as many blind and visually impaired students as possible in their local school systems. It is a fact, however, that the academic skills of blindness require very different teaching approaches than do the academic skills taught to sighted students. It is possible, for example, for a blind student to read Braille as quickly and efficiently as most sighted students read print, but we know that most public school systems are unable to offer a sufficient quality and quantity of training to achieve such levels of academic competence in their students. Thus, if a child is falling behind academically, they may spend a year or two, not their entire educational career, at the KSB in order to keep their skill levels or their social skills, their ability to travel independently, etc. moving forward. This is an important educational service which simply must be maintained in Kansas. If one looks only at the term “least restrictive environment,” and does not look at such issues as appropriateness for providing skills at a competitive and age appropriate level, then the value of such programs as KSB is understated. As the political winds blowing from the Kansas Closure Commission currently appear to be blowing, it would seam that the members of that Commission are ware of the needs for the KSB, and also see the value of the Kansas School for the Deaf (KSD). It appears the Closure Commission is committed to keeping the two programs around, but it also seems evident that the Commission currently has a strong interest in combining the KSB and KSD programs on one campus. Both the blindness and deafness communities of Kansas feel strong cultural ownership of their schools. Neither group supports the combining of the two programs. We are not in a position to speak for KSD, but we can state with authority that KSB is not broken and does not need to be fixed through program changes or combining. Further, in a number of States where schools for the deaf and schools for the blind have been combined, it has been documented that, ultimately, the move of doing so turned out to be more costly to the taxpayers than keeping the programs separate. Our Organization thus proudly joins our friends in the deaf community in opposing the combining of the two schools on the same campus. We know that the two programs need to remain open, but also remain in their current separate locations, and we urge that DRC also adopt this stance.
INCREASE COORDINATION WITH COMMUNITY PARTNERS IN TERMS OF ACTIVITIES RELATING TO PRIORITY 11: Earlier in this document, we were critical of the work of now, Director of Rehabilitation Services, Michael Donnelly. We now must also commend Mr. Donnelly, however, on the work he did during his tenure with the DRC concerning implementation of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Our Organization along with its nationally affiliated organization, the American Council of the Blind, has been at the forefront of advocacy concerning voter access and voter privacy for disabled voters over the past several years. When Michael Donnelly worked for the DRC, he did some truly excellent work in coordinating efforts of, and working cooperatively with, other major advocacy players who were deeply involved in voter access issues. We in fact wish Mr. Donnelly would vacate his current position with Rehabilitation Services, for which he is not well suited, and return to some of the types of work he did with the DRC, and did extremely well. We have to assume, however, that this is not going to happen. What we do not understand, though, is where DRC has been concerning voter access issues subsequent to Mr. Donnelly’s departure from the DRC staff. Our Organization continues to have our Legislative personnel attend hearings that are relevant to the ongoing battle for equal and private access to the voting booth. We used to always see Mr. Donnelly or other DRC staff at such hearings. Recently, however, the DRC is almost never represented. Because Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh has been largely supportive of many of our voter access initiatives, we have made considerable progress in terms of voter access in Kansas, and are in fact one of the more advanced States in the union concerning this incredibly important area, but there have nonetheless been many pieces of Legislation introduced that could have the impact of lessening voter access for voters who have disabilities. When our personnel has been at hearings and meetings concerning such legislation over the past year or two, we have so far been successful in defeating those initiatives that would be detrimental to voter access for people who have disabilities, but we have often thought that it would sure be nice if we still had Mr. Donnelly with DRC helping us with such issues. We may not be able to get Mr. Donnelly back into this role, but we have to ask why DRC seems to have vacated its role on this subject. The subject of access for voters with disabilities is an ongoing issue. It may be paramountly important for additional emphasis to be placed on this issue if we end up with a much less supportive Secretary of State after the next election.
Thank you for this opportunity to offer input. Please let us know if we can provide further information.
“Several documents written by KABVI in late 2009, including some that are available here, have referenced a document written by Kansas Rehabilitation Services Director, Michael Donnelly, concerning the closure and re-organization of certain parts of adult blind services. We want to provide you with a copy of Mr. Donnelly’s actual document."
State of Kansas
Mark Parkinson, Governor
Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services
Don Jordan, Secretary
Kansas Rehabilitation Services
Michael Donnelly, Director
915 SW Harrison, 9N
Docking State Office Building
Topeka, Kansas 66612
Community-based alternatives to continued operation
of the Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired
The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) recommends the following plan for comprehensive community-based services as an alternative to continued operation of the Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired (RCBVI), Topeka. This service delivery model would be managed by SRS consistent with the current method for managing and purchasing other vocational rehabilitation (VR) services (for example, provider agreements, pay-for-performance contracts, or individualized service agreements). Accountability and oversight remain with SRS. The focus on competitive, integrated employment outcomes is strengthened.
The plan is comprised of seven key components:
1. Statewide access to employment services rather than a centralized facility-based approach.
2. Emphasis on a full array of service options coupled with consumer choice regarding the options that best fit their vocational goals, needs and priorities.
3. Expanded partnerships with agencies that specialize in providing services for persons who are blind or visually impaired. Such organizations may include Envision, Wichita; Alpha Pointe, Kansas City; and the Kansas State School for the Blind.
4. Increased capacity to serve this population at community-based organizations that specialize in serving persons with disabilities, including independent living centers and assistive technology access sites.
5. Options for facility-based services when needed by individual consumers to develop the basic communications, orientation and mobility, daily living, and
technology skills necessary for competitive, integrated employment.
6. Access to specialists, such as low vision doctors, when needed.
7. Statewide technical assistance provided by a small cadre of SRS staff with specialized training and expertise in services for persons who are blind or visually impaired.
This community-based service delivery model will provide local access to the employment, assistive technology and independent living services needed by people who are blind or visually impaired. Services will be provided in their home communities – the cities, towns, and counties where they choose to live, work, and raise their families. As a result, individuals participating in services will remain connected to their communities and families, rather than being removed from their natural supports in order to receive the services they need to achieve competitive, integrated employment.
Use of stimulus funding to enhance and build community capacity:
Stimulus funds are currently available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to support increased capacity building with community-based agencies and SRS staff. SRS will set aside up to $300,000 for these efforts. Such capacity building would be implemented through competitive grants or contracts. Funding would be used primarily to develop/deliver training and skill development to enhance statewide expertise related to serving persons who are blind or visually impaired. Thus, with limited State General Fund investment, the use of stimulus funds gives the State an opportunity to establish and enhance service capacity of community organizations as well as SRS employees stationed statewide. The use of stimulus funds is well-suited for one-time strategic investments, such as this capacity building effort. Once stimulus funds end, services established through this process would be sustained through provider or fee agreements funded by existing case service dollars available for eligible consumers.
Statewide access to services:
Consumers who are blind or visually impaired currently receive comprehensive VR services to support competitive, integrated employment outcomes through a statewide network of approximately 80 VR counselors. These specialized counselors are stationed in 35 SRS Service Centers. In addition, they travel to other counties to provide statewide access.
This network of VR counselors is also supported by:
Vocational evaluators who provide assessment services to help consumers identify their skills, interests and employment goals. They provide information about current labor market trends to assure that consumers prepare for jobs available in the local economy. These staff also coordinate community-based work assessments.
Rehabilitation teachers who provide basic skill training on communication techniques and orientation/mobility for people who are blind or visually impaired, as well as other customer support and coordination services.
Service providers who contract with SRS to provide a wide range of services, such as assistive technology assessments and training; employment preparation services; on-the-job coaching and supports; job placement; independent living skills assessment and training. There are currently more than 100 such service providers doing business with SRS, with coverage in each region of the State. The types of providers include private businesses and individuals; independent living centers; assistive technology access sites; Community Developmental Disability Organizations; and Community Mental Health Centers. They are well-versed in the availability of services and employment options in their communities.
Numerous businesses, vendors, doctors, psychologists, specialists, and therapists who provide essential goods and services to help individuals achieve competitive, integrated employment.
This existing network already serves the vast majority of individuals who are blind or visually impaired who are participating in VR services. For example, in SFY 2009, this network served 591 individuals who are blind or visually impaired, while only 31 persons received facility-based services at RCBVI.
Full array of service options coupled with consumer choice:
As described throughout this plan, the community-based service delivery model is intended to increase capacity for a variety of options from which consumers can choose specific services to best meet their unique strengths, priorities, abilities and career interests. Expanded options will be created through partnerships with agencies specializing in serving persons who are blind or visually impaired, independent living centers, assistive technology access sites, and other interested/qualified organizations. Consumers will then be able to choose from among the expanded list of service providers, instead of having only one choice of a centralized facility. The VR counselor will be responsible to facilitate this process by assuring that each consumer has sufficient information about the available options from which to choose.
Expanded partnerships with agencies specializing in serving persons who are blind or visually impaired:
Moving toward this community-based model, SRS would seek opportunities to increase service provider relationships with community programs that already specialize in serving persons who are blind or visually impaired. The focus of such collaborations would be supporting consumers to achieve competitive, integrated employment outcomes consistent with the requirements of the Rehabilitation Act.
SRS will make every effort to collaborate with Envision (Wichita) and Alpha Pointe (Kansas City, Missouri) on the development of service provider agreements. In addition, SRS and the Kansas School for the Blind have agreed to develop a Memorandum of Understanding and associated service provider agreements related to services for transition-aged youth and adults who are eligible for VR and who have active Individual Plans for Employment. Along with these direct service agreements, SRS and the School will seek opportunities to leverage available technical expertise. For example, school personnel currently provide technical assistance to public school teachers statewide for students who are blind. Through a contract or fee agreement, these personnel could consult with SRS on employment and career development for transition-aged youth. They could also provide technical assistance or specialized services for adults seeking competitive, integrated employment.
SRS anticipates that further collaborative options will emerge if a decision is reached to support this community-based plan. Pending contract negotiations and agreements, estimated expenditures are not identified at this time.
Increased capacity at community-based independent living centers and assistive technology access sites:
Independent living centers already have expertise in a variety of services needed by persons with disabilities as they prepare to regain or enter competitive, integrated employment. Such services include independent living skill assessment and training; peer support; self-advocacy skill training; computer skill training; and job placement.
Assistive technology access sites already have expertise in the types of assistive devices, aids, equipment or services that individuals with disabilities need to be successfully employed. Four of the access sites are managed by independent living centers. Other independent living centers are also expanding their ability to provide assistive technology assessment and services. These efforts, taken as a whole, set the stage for an effective community-based network to meet the assistive technology needs of all Kansans with disabilities, including those who are blind or visually impaired.
Several of these organizations have already expressed interested in building further capacity and expertise to serve individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Five independent living centers have specifically expressed interest in establishing orientation and mobility services. These centers represent primarily rural communities that previously have not had the specialized staff to serve persons who are blind or visually impaired. With this in mind, SRS anticipates opportunities for competitive Requests for Proposals or service provider agreements if a decision is reached to support this community-based plan. Funding would be prioritized for areas of the state that are underserved or unserved in terms of options for persons who are blind or visually impaired.
Actual expenditures would depend on negotiated rates for contracted services. However, SRS projects the following:
Approximately $180,000 would be expended on services such as vocational and independent living assessments, basic communication and computer skills training, and orientation and mobility training. (100 consumers X 30 hours of service each X $60 an hour = $180,000.)
Approximately $120,000 would be expended through assistive technology access sites for comprehensive assistive technology assessment and training. This level of funding would provide services to 50 persons who are blind or visually impaired using the existing SRS rate structure. (50 consumers X $2,400 for comprehensive assistive technology assessment and training = $120,000.)
Options for facility-based services when necessary:
For the few consumers who need and choose short-term facility-based services in order to achieve competitive, integrated employment, a variety of options are available in Kansas and neighboring states. VR case service funding is available to support enrollment in these programs, consistent with the Individual Plans for Employment developed for eligible consumers.
Facility: Envision, Wichita
Services available: Training on activities of daily living
Orientation and mobility
Cost/unit: $85 per hour
Duration of services: NA
Total cost: NA
Facility: Alpha Pointe, Kansas City, MO
Services available: Training on activities of daily living
Orientation and mobility
Training on computer skills
Cost/unit: $6,869 per month (includes weekday lunches only)
Duration of services: 3 to 4 months
Total cost: $20,607 to $27,476
Facility: Nebraska Training Center for the Blind, Lincoln
Services available: Training on activities of daily living
Orientation and mobility
Training on computer skills
Cost/unit: $3,780 per month
Duration of services: 4 to 6 months
Total cost: $15,120 to $22,680
Facility: Colorado Center for the Blind, Littleton
Services available: Training on activities of daily living
Orientation and mobility
Training on computer skills
Duration of services: 4 to 6 months
Total cost: $14.960 to $22,440
Facility: Iowa Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center, Des Moines
Services available: Training on activities of daily living
Orientation and mobility
Training on computer skills
Cost/unit: $6,000 per month
Duration of services: 6 to 9 months (uses Structured Discovery Learning model)
Total cost: $36,000 to $54,000
As the table illustrates, the option to use one of these facilities when needed instead of maintaining a facility in Kansas with limited consumer demand, is cost effective. The average TOTAL cost to complete facility-based training in one of these neighboring states is $21,672 to $31,649 depending on the length of service. In contrast, the average cost for only ONE MONTH of service at RCBVI is $23,024.
In SFY 2007 through 2009 a total of 44 consumers received services at RCBVI for 14 or more days. Therefore, SRS estimates that there would be an annual average of 15 persons requiring the level of training available through facility-based options. Depending on the length of service (see table above), the projected annual cost is $325,080 to $474,735. As the statewide expertise is enhanced through community-based organizations and consumers are able to receive the specialized services they need in their local communities, the number of persons requesting facility-based services is expected to decrease.
Access to low vision doctors and other specialists when needed:
This community-based model would increase usage of these specialists for assessment services needed to determine eligibility and identification of functional limitations in areas such as communications, self-care and work tolerance. In addition, the specialists would recommend services and low vision aids that would address the identified limitations and thus enhance the employability of persons served. In order to pay for the services of these doctors and specialists, VR counselors would first assess whether comparable benefits, such as Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance, are available. If such funding is not available, services would be paid through VR case service dollars.
During the past two years, SRS has established a cooperative working relationship with the Kansas Optometric Association and its Low Vision Committee. Continued cooperation and collaboration will help assure the quality of low vision services provided for individuals who are visually impaired.
Statewide technical assistance:
SRS proposes to maintain a small cadre of expert staff to provide statewide technical assistance, assuring high-quality services and coordination between SRS programs and community providers. Functions of this technical assistance unit would include consultation on individual cases; dissemination of research and best practices to improve service delivery; and implementation of staff/provider training to enhance system capacity to more effectively serve this population.
Position: Orientation and mobility (O & M) specialist #1
-Consult with community providers to assure that orientation and mobility services are provided by qualified staff and meet quality standards.
-Consult on development of individual training plans for consumers seeking competitive integrated employment.
-When needed and available, provide direct O & M services for consumers learning new work environments.
-Consult with the statewide network for VR counselors to improve employment outcomes for persons who are blind or visually impaired.
Position: Orientation and mobility (O & M) specialist #2
-Consult with community providers to assure that orientation and mobility services are provided by qualified staff and meet quality standards.
-Consult on development of individual training plans for consumers seeking competitive integrated employment.
-When needed and available, provide direct O & M services for consumers learning new work environments.
-Consult with the statewide network for VR counselors to improve employment outcomes for persons who are blind or visually impaired.
Position: Technology specialist
Functions: Consult with consumers, staff and service providers so they may thoroughly analyze the available computer options, technology devices and services. Consumers would be empowered through this service to make informed choices about which technology to acquire and learn to use it effectively for employment.
Position: Media of choice specialist
Functions: Support the statewide network for VR, rehabilitation teaching and Kan-SAIL services by converting regular print to accessible formats such as Braille or large print. Provide similar services as needed by SRS Administration. Such communications access is considered a reasonable accommodation.
Functions: Maintain overall responsibility for the statewide provision of technical assistance and consultation on issues and outcomes related to blindness and visual impairment. This position would supervise the positions mentioned above; and directly manage the Business Enterprise (vending facilities and stands) and the Kan-SAIL programs.
Position: Driver (.75FTE)
Functions: Provided as a reasonable accommodation for technology specialist.
Total – Salary/benefit expenses - $306,211
Total - Other operating expenditures (includes $44,784 for extensive travel of the O & M and technology specialists for community technical assistance and direct services) - $57,179
Total - Indirect costs (cost allocation plan) - $126,500
Grand Total - $489,890
The Technical Assistance Unit would be housed at the Docking State Office Building (DSOB). In addition, other programs for people who are blind or visually impaired which are currently co-located in the administrative section of RCBVI would be moved to DSOB. These related programs include the Business Enterprise Program and Kan-SAIL (Kansas Seniors Achieving Independent Living). With these moves, overall agency overhead expenses would likely be reduced.
This plan sets a course for redesigning the delivery of vocational rehabilitation services for Kansans who are blind or visually impaired.
-Community-based services in integrated settings are emphasized.
-Statewide access and capacity are enhanced by leveraging the expertise of organizations that traditionally serve individuals who are blind or visually impaired as well independent living centers and assistive technology access sites. As a result, consumers will have access to a greater range of options in choosing services that meet their specific needs and priorities.
-Services to be funded through VR dollars are focused on empowering individuals who are blind or visually impaired to be fully included in their communities and to achieve competitive, integrated employment, consistent with the requirements of the
Rehabilitation Act. Individuals interested in pursuing other outcomes will be referred to organizations and funding sources that are compatible with their goals and priorities.
We believe this plan would result in the establishment of an effective statewide service delivery system to meet the needs of individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Partnerships between state and community organizations are enhanced. Choices and options for consumers are increased. We ask for your recommendation that this plan be implemented during SFY 2010.
For more information, please contact:
Michael Donnelly, Director
SENATE BILL- 295 -QUIET CARS AND THEIR IMPACTS (SOMETIMES LITERALLY)
ON PEOPLE WHO ARE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED
An issue of national concern is the increasing prevalence of hybrid, all-electric, and other energy efficient cars that make little noise when moving, and sometimes no noise whatsoever when in their idle phases. Blind pedestrians are able to travel safely in the built environment by listening to traffic sounds. If the traffic makes no sound, that creates a problem.
The American Council of the Blind (ACB) has introduced national legislation which addresses this problem. It would require that the best solutions to making all traffic make sufficient sound to be heard by pedestrians be completed, and that then requirements be developed to require soundmaking devices on all cars using “quiet car” technology. Another, national advocacy group representing blind individuals, the National Federation of the Blind, also supports this legislation.
The blindness community and its advocates have no objection to the development of cars that will use energy more efficiently, and will be better for our environment. We just want them to make noise so that we can hear them coming or idling at intersections.
To learn more about the national efforts concerning this issue, visit the national website of the American Council of the Blind at www.acb.org.
The national solutions to the problem of the increasing number of quiet cars, and the dangers they are causing to blind, visually impaired, and other pedestrians, are moving forward steadily, but too slowly to insure safety of such pedestrians for some time to come. This is why several States, including Kansas, are asking their State Legislators to also address this issue.
In Kansas, KABVI has introduced Senate Bill 295 into the Kansas Legislature. Hearings are expected to be held on this bill sometime during the 2010 session of the Kansas Legislature this winter. This legislation largely mirrors the National legislation. It would require the State of Kansas to go through a study and standard setting process for determining specifications for what sounds “quiet cars” titled in Kansas need to make. Then such standards would be developed as required for quiet cars titled in Kansas.
To see this legislation, go to www.kansas.gov. Select “popular links”. Go to “Legislature,: and then to 2009-2010 bills. Put 295 into the bill field. Both the text of the Bill, and the fiscal note for it, will come up as available links.
KABVI Testimony on SB 295 before the Senate Transportation Committee
January 14, 2010
TO: Senate Committee on Transportation
FROM: Michael Byington, Volunteer C.E.O.
SUBJECT: Senate Bill 295, support
Many of you have known me for a number of years as a legislative advocate on behalf of Kansans who are blind and visually impaired. I also, however, throughout my career, have been a direct service provider for people who are blind and visually impaired. I have become increasingly concerned about the ever increasing complexity of traveling as a pedestrian who is blind and visually impaired. New traffic contrivances such as round-abouts, no yield turning lanes, user activated traffic signals where the user activation controls are very hard to locate, and most certainly the fact that many cars no longer make any appreciable noise, continue to increase challenges for blind and visually impaired pedestrians. Because of my concerns and interests in this area, I have returned to Graduate School and am currently working on an advanced credential as a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist (COMS). There is no program in Kansas that offers this specialized training, so I am traveling back and forth to Texas Tech University, and taking a significant portion of the training online from here in Kansas. I am thus am in the process of becoming a credentialed expert concerning the travel of blind and visually impaired pedestrians.
As I am still a little over a year from completing my current course of study, however, I have brought with me today, someone who is already a credentialed expert as a COMS. Ms. Nanette Easterling works for the State of Kansas as an instructor of Travel Techniques for the blind, but she is here today outside of her State capacities. She is not representing SRS today. She is, however, a recognized expert in travel of blind pedestrians. She will be available at the end of the formal testimony presented by Ms, Lind and myself to share her expertise in helping answer any of your questions.
Senate Bill 295 is really quite simple. It would require the convening of a “quiet motor vehicle and safe mobility committee” to develop state standards for sounds that quiet cars need to make if licensed in Kansas. The committee will include representatives from automobile manufacturers, the blind and visually impaired pedestrian community, insurance industry, vehicle research entities, and law enforcement. A fiscal note evaluation has been done, and the bill has a zero fiscal note. The quiet motor vehicle and safe mobility committee has a specific end date. It will not drag on forever, nor should it.
We acknowledge that some interests are being expressed in promulgating federal standards for quiet cars. HR.734 and S.841, both pending in the federal Congress, would require similar standard setting at national levels. These pieces of legislation are moving quite slowly, however, and even if they are federally adopted, the implementation timelines are as long as one might expect federal program implementation to be. Meanwhile more and more quiet cars (hybrids that are quiet and all-electrics) are coming onto the market. They are becoming an increasing percentage of the Kansas car population, and they make absolutely no sound when idling and very little sound when moving at city speeds. Pedestrians are being endangered by such vehicles NOW, and the danger is increasing. We do not think that the problem can afford to wait for actions on the part of the feds. That is the reason that several states have introduced legislation such as that which you have before you in Senate Bill 295.
It is essential that a pedestrian who experiences visual, cognitive, or attention related disabilities not be literally blindsided by vehicles that make no noise. Blind pedestrians particularly are taught to listen to traffic sounds when crossing the street. It is hard to do that if part of the traffic makes no sound. It is essential that blind pedestrians, particularly, are also aware of idling vehicles. If one is blind, and planning to cross a street, then he or she needs to know when a car is sitting still, but may be starting to move soon, for example when a traffic light changes or a left turn arrow lights.
I am attaching information concerning the greater risk that all pedestrians and bicyclists, not just blind, visually impaired, or otherwise disabled ones, are at when encountering quiet cars in the built environment. Granted, the statistical risk among all pedestrians is not huge, but it is statistically significant. At a variance of three tenths of a percent, out of every 1000 quiet cars put on the road, three more pedestrians or bicyclists are hit than is the case with every 1000 cars that make some noise. If you are one of those three additional people, the statistics become pretty significant.
Now add to those statistics the factor of someone who uses sound largely, or only, to determine when traffic is approaching. Such individuals are at a tremendous disadvantage and consequently, a much greater risk.
After my testimony. Ms. Marilyn Lind will testify. Ms. Lind is a retired teacher and a lifelong Topekan. She has been blind all of her life. She is an excellent guide dog user, and her current guide, Jaguar, is her third. Nonetheless, she and Jag have experienced several close calls with quiet cars, one of which is recounted in a newspaper article she will provide.
Now at this point, hopefully, all of you are probably thinking that we have made some interesting and compelling arguments here, but you are wondering how much it costs to make a quiet car make sound, and wondering if we have the technology to do so. Part of the reason for the standard setting process outlined in 295 is to address this issue, but I can absolutely tell you that there are some low cost solutions on the market, and that can be easily created.
I mentioned at the beginning of this testimony that I am studying the field of travel for the blind and visually impaired. One of my related projects to this academic pursuit has been to design a soundmaking device for my own, all-electric quiet city car. Yes, the Kansas Devision of Motor Vehicles does allow me, as a person who has a disability, to drive, but with restrictions. I only drive at city speeds and in familiar areas. As these are my restrictions, a city speed all-electric car meets many of the independent transportation needs that I am able to fill for myself. When I bought such a unit, being a student of pedestrian travel, I started immediately working on a way to make the vehicle make sound. My soundmaking gadget, that makes sound both when the car is moving and idling, cost me a total of $328.00 to design, build, and have a technician install. I mention this, not to promote my shadetree engineering skills, or to sell my device. I will in fact give my plans away to anyone who is willing to install a similar device on their hybrid or all electric car. I just want quiet cars to make some noise to accommodate pedestrians, particularly blind and disabled ones. I want Kansans to be a part of the solution. I am attaching a picture of my quiet car, which is not quiet any more.
KABVI LETTER TO MICHAEL DONNELLY CONCERNING THE FUTURE OF KANSAIL AND THE CONTRACTING OF REHABILITATION TEACHERS IN KANSAS
December 16, 2009
Mr. Michael Donnelly, Director
Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services
Docking State Office Building
915 S. W. Harrison
Topeka, Kansas 66612
Dear Director Donnelly:
This letter shall address two issues. One is contractual provisions and service descriptions for the area of rehabilitation teaching for the blind. The other is the future of the Kansas Seniors Achieving Independent Living program (KanSAIL).
In attempting to express KABVI’s concerns and input concerning service descriptions for the area of rehabilitation teaching for the blind, I have contacted several of your staff. Some have acknowledged that they are working on development of such service descriptions, but have told me that drafts are not available, and that any input our Organization has should go directly to you.
I am thus writing to offer some thoughts on the service descriptions and qualification of providers in the field of rehabilitation teaching for the blind, and to ask that KABVI have a seat at the table as service descriptions are developed that relate to services for Kansans who are blind and visually impaired. The positions expressed here have been crafted through various resolutions adopted by the KABVI membership.
The skills of blindness and low vision are very specific and specialized. A generalist in independent living or occupational therapy, who is not, by training, an expert in the skills of blindness and/or low vision, has absolutely no business providing rehabilitation teaching for the blind services. It has been proven in practice situation after practice situation that such skills are best taught by individuals who know and use the skills. Because the skills in question are so specialized, several universities around the country have developed post-graduate programs to train such skills. Rehabilitation teaching for the blind has thus become a specialty where the Academy on Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP) offers a specialty certification. Likewise, the medical model concept of having low vision optometric Professionals (which you refer to as “Low Vision Doctors,” in some of the documents you have written, provide rehabilitation services or supervision of generalists providing the services, also has not proven to be practical or effective. This would be comprable to having a neurosurgeon supervising the rehabilitation of someone who has a spinal cord injury. In short, the person who fits, or prescribes, the assistive device, is not always the best to teach the skills of use, or day to day functioning with the device. In an ideal world, the service descriptions being developed would simply need to require ACVREP certification. Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world, and this would not be a realistic level at which to set the bar for qualifications of providers here in Kansas. There is no guarantee that sufficient quantities of rehabilitation teaching for the blind services will be purchased to keep an ACVREP certified professional busy in a manageable territory, and Kansas currently has few, if any, such qualified professionals within its borders. We can argue that the services are sufficiently needed so as to keep such a person busy, but the funding streams Rehabilitation Services controls have narrowed to a point that you are unable, with your current funding mix, to serve significant segments of the blindness and low vision populations needing rehabilitation teaching for the blind services. Your highly focused interests are only in the rehabilitation of those blind and visually impaired Kansans who are of working age, and who are willing to develop goals to return to competitive employment, as the Rehabilitation Services Administration defines this term. Consequently, the State of Kansas has laid off, or forced into retirement, several rehabilitation teachers for the blind, who were State employees, and who, though not ACVEREP certified, were highly qualified to provide these specialized services. Our suggestion would thus be that the service descriptions be written so that these highly qualified professionals may continue to provide services on a limited basis as independent contractors. The key would be to, while not requiring ACVREP certification for rehabilitation teaching for the blind services, nonetheless require, for example, a minimum of five years experience in using and teaching the skills of blindness and/or low vision, Demonstrated levels of competency in performing such tasks as homemaker tasks without use of vision would be a highly desirable standard, as would the ability to read Braille at certain levels of competence.
Although the narrowing of the scope of who Rehabilitation Services is willing to serve has diminished the size of rehabilitation teaching for the blind caseloads, there is no question that some visually impaired and blind Kansans, particularly those who are newly blinded, will continue to need and require rehabilitation teaching for the blind services in order to become employed. Standards as noted above would allow professionals who are both available, and who have proven qualifications, to continue to work in this essential area of blindness rehabilitation.
It should also be noted that many of the best qualified Rehabilitation Teachers for the Blind in Kansas, and throughout the country are people who are, themselves, blind or visually impaired. Rates developed will thus have to consider driver expenses as well as usual travel costs.
KABVI wants to be part of the solution here. At considerable expense to our Organization, we are providing office and equipment space for at least two Rehabilitation Teachers for the Blind who used to work for the State. While these individuals will be independent contractors, and KABVI thus has no direct stake in the arrangements for compensation of their services, we remain the oldest, and largest, consumer organization of blind and visually impaired Kansans in our State. We were originally incorporated in 1920, and we helped to develop and advocate for many of the services which have been provided to blind and visually impaired Kansans over the years. We are thus very significant stakeholders, and we must express some frustration at how difficult it has been to find inroads to provide meaningful input, as SRS has contemplated and prepared to implement massive service alterations and reductions. Although some of our individual members have received invitations to your upcoming stakeholder’s meeting on blindness and visual impairment issues, we did not receive such an invitation at our offices.
Now as to our comments concerning the KanSAIL program, we have learned from several sources that you are having discussions with centers for independent living, and organizations who represent such centers, to the effect that they might take over operation of the KanSAIL program. We must state our opposition to any such service realignment of KanSAIL, and state that our opposition is sufficiently avid that we would explore legislative and legal avenues to stop such a realignment. If Congress had reached the finding that older blind individuals can be well served through the independent living center model, separate, categorical, independent living funding, under an entirely separate section of the Rehabilitation Act, for serving older blind would have never been codified in the law. To assign the older blind funding to generalist independent living providers is thus quite clearly thwarting the intent of Congress.
For a number of years, KABVI opposed any privatization of KanSAIL, or the providing of older blind independent living services through contractual arrangements. We took this position because we felt that the State of Kansas had the most comprehensive set of specialized services for people who are blind, and was the most capable entity to operate a Statewide system serving older blind. We changed our position on this issue a couple of years ago because it became clear to us that SRS Rehabilitation Services personnel did not care enough about the KanSAIL program to keep the positions allocated under that roughly 90% federally funded program filled. Now that the State is effectively dismantling its Statewide service system for Kansans who are blind and visually impaired completely, we even more avidly take the position that State government may indeed not be the best entity to directly operate KanSAIL. Our requirements for a private entity to operate KanSAIL would be:
1. That any private entity wwilling to operate KanSAIL would show sufficient interest in the program so as to pay the State match to pull down the federal older blind independent living funds. If the State really is in as difficult of economic times as Governor Parkinson has implied, such a required contribution should certainly be considered to be in the best interests of the State of Kansas.
2. Such an entity must have the capability to operate the program on a Statewide basis.
3. Such an entity should have a strong specialty in blindness and visual impairment.
4. Such an entity should be based predominantly in Kansas and be familiar with local Kansas populations, conditions, and governmental structure.
Although KABVI would be pleased to see any entity meeting these qualifications come forward, we are aware that Envision does meet these qualifications. We have not identified other entities that do meet the above qualifications.
We look forward to continuing to work with you concerning these important issues. Thank you.
CC. Governor Mark Parkinson
Don Jordan, Secretary, Kansas Department of Social and
Senate Bill 507
The proposed statutes that would create a Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired to parallel the Kansas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, have been introduced as a Bill. It is Senate Bill 507. The Governor did attempt to create the Commission we wanted through an Executive Order. The Executive order is Executive Order 10-02, and it can be gotten off of the “issues and initiatives” heading of the Governor’s web page.To see this legislation, go to www.kansas.gov. Select “popular links”. Go to “Legislature,: and then to 2009-2010 bills. Put 507 into the bill field. Both the text of the Bill, and the fiscal note for it, will come up as available links.
KABVI Senate Bill Request Document
TO: Senate Public Health and Welfare
FROM: Michael Byington, C.E.O. (Volunteer) KABVI
SUBJECT: Introduction of 9rs 1726
This bill request is generated due to the recommendations of the Kansas Facilities Closure and Realignment Commission and the Governor’s response to those recommendations. The Closure Commission made two recommendations concerning facilities and services provided to blind and severely visually impaired Kansans. One was to close the Kansas Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired (KRCBVI). The other was that, given that facilities serving the blind are to be closed, and the current economy has resulted in massive cuts to the community based Rehabilitation Teaching for the Blind program (Seven of the eight positions in that program have been eliminated.) the Closure Commission recommended that, in replacement of these services, a Kansas Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, within SRS, be created that parallels the statutory authority of the Kansas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The Closure Commission did its work on the assumption that an Executive Reorganization Order (ERO) would be the vehicle used to move any of its recommendations that the Governor supported forward. The ERO, of course, does have the Constitutional authority to set and alter Kansas statutes. The Governor, however, given the fact that he decided not to close the Kansas Neurological Institute, chose to deal with the Closure Commission’s recommendations through a series of executive orders and directives instead. He did include in these orders, Executive Order 1002, which does address the recommendations that the Closure Commission made concerning services for blind and visually impaired Kansans.
While we appreciate the Governor’s good intent to address the recommendations the Closure Commission made concerning the services for blind Kansans, an executive order does not have the authority of statutes. It can not create a body to plan and advise future services for blind and visually impaired Kansans which in fact has parity with the Kansas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, as was recommended by the Closure Commission.
The Bill draft you have before you would in fact fully implement the recommendations of the Closure Commission concerning blind and visually impaired Kansans. It would create a body representing blind and visually impaired Kansans that has exact parity with what the Kansas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is currently authorized to do for deaf Kansans. The Governor’s Executive Order, though well intended, simply does not get the job done.
KABVI has reviewed the current staffing of Kansas Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. We believe that there are people currently on staff who meet the qualifications for the Executive position called for in this legislation. We therefore do not anticipate that this bill would have any fiscal note above or beyond the expenses that would be generated through the Governor’s Executive order.
Senate Bill 409
Mark Coates, Chairman of the KABVI Legislative Committee, represented KABVI in testifying for Senate Bill 409. This would authorize the Kansas Department of Transportation to attempt to get more passenger rail services into Kansas. Below is a copy of Mark’s testimony. To see this legislation, go to www.kansas.gov. Select “popular links”. Go to “Legislature,: and then to 2009-2010 bills. Put 409 into the bill field. Both the text of the Bill, and the fiscal note for it, will come up as available links.
KABVI Support for Senate Bill 409
February 3, 2010
TO: Senate Transportation Committee
FROM: Mark Coates, Legislative Chair
Michael Byington, C.E.O. (volunteers), KABVI
SUBJECT: Support for Senate Bill 409
We are here in support of this legislation. That probably is not too much of a surprise given that KABVI represents a bunch of folks who either can not drive, or can drive only with extreme restrictions and limitations.
The only options people who can not drive have when they must go from one city to another, in Kansas, or to travel to cities in other states, is to use Greyhound or one of the other very few and limited bus lines that serve Kansas, or they can ride in the middle of the night on one of only two passenger trains that move back and forth through Kansas. If a City is not on a major highway, a person who can not drive there simply is not going unless they can get someone to drive them.
It used to be believed, that buses were more flexible than trains because they could serve small towns on secondary highways. That is no longer true. Greyhound and other bus lines simply are not doing it any more.
With the system of train tracks running through Kansas, and many quite renovateable, it may indeed be possible to serve a lot more of Kansas using increased passenger rail services.
Michael Byington has been giving most of the testimony for our Organization, but now that he is back in Graduate school and not always going to be available, some of us other KABVI officers are stepping up to talk with the Legislators. Let me tell you a little about my background. I am Mark Coates, and I am Vice President of KABVI. I was a professional salesperson, driving everywhere I needed to go, and selling everything from shoes, to manufactured housing, to furniture, to financial plans, until, at age 45, I was diagnosed with optic atrophy due to multiple sclerosis. I had to completely stop driving for several years because my vision was extremely unstable. It has now stabilized to a point that I drive in familiar areas only, but for trips out of town, I definitely have to use public transportation or get a driver.
I travel fairly frequently between Topeka and Denver. To take the bus, for example, I have to first take a bus to Kansas City, Missouri, and then wait three hours to get on a bus that will take me to Denver. It drives right past Topeka on the way, of course, but it will not stop there. That basically adds five hours of wasted lifetime before the trip can even progress toward Denver.
With the currently extremely limited train service we have in Topeka, I could take the only train to New Mexico, but would have to take a bus from there to Denver. With these types of public transportation options, it is no wonder that the thinking is that Kansans just do not use public transportation. It is not that Kansans would not use public transit; The fact is, we can not.
The last time I went to Colorado, Just last week, I had someone drive me. That trip, given gasoline, and the care and feeding of a driver, ended up being over $700.00. Public transportation, even at full cost, would have been a much better option, if only it were available. It would have been a better option for me even if I was not too visually impaired to drive there.
To save energy, assist in improvement of our environment, and to accommodate those of us who simply can not drive to other cities, it is imperative that every step possible be taken to encourage improvement of city to city public transit. As a representative of Kansans who are blind and visually impaired, we must take every opportunity to increase the frequency, convenience, and prevalence of public transit in our State.
Senate Bill 447
We have been working on getting some changes made to Senate Bill 447. This bill would do major revisions to the child care facility licensure and registration standards in the State. The new standards are proposed by a coalition which is lead by some parents who do have some very valid concerns in that they had children who were killed through negligence at day care centers. The problem with the new language, however, is that it makes the children being within sight and hearing of the care provider the primary standard of care to be used. Needless to say, this would put some blind and deaf day care providers out of business, and it casts some dispersion on whether blind and deaf parents should be allowed to do child care at all. We need to nip this in the bud. Hearings have been held on this Bill, and I was asked to provide proposed language to to fix the amending section. This Bill went through Senate Public Health and Welfare, which is chaired by Senator Jim Barnette, Emporia. The Committee assigned the 447, however, to Senator Laura Kelly, Topeka for rewrite. I thus sent the language provided here to Senator Kelly. Before I post the language, however, I will note a thanks to our member, Donna Sanborn, Emporia, for her work with Senator Barnette’s office. Senator Barnette discussed Donna’s concerns, as well as those of some other blind advocates who had contacted him, with the committee in open session.
To see this legislation, go to www.kansas.gov. Select “popular links”. Go to “Legislature,: and then to 2009-2010 bills. Put 447 into the bill field. Both the text of the Bill, and the fiscal note for it, will come up as available links.
Now here is the language changes I sent Senator Kelly
Sent: Monday, February 08, 2010 2:33 PM
To: Laura Kelly
Subject: Proposed language to correct discriminatory aspects of SB 447 relating to people who have sensory impairments
When you and I talked after the Public Health and Welfare Committee meeting last Thursday, concerning SB 447, you asked for some language that would correct the discriminatory aspects of the Bill as these relate to people who have sensory impairments. I have drafted language to address these issues, and have consulted with a number of advocates working in sensory impairment related fields, who have provided me with input. All of these individuals believe that the language provided here would solve the concerns that many of us have expressed.
The offensive and discriminatory language in 447 reads as follows, “”Children in child care facilities, as defined and regulated by the secretary of health and environment, must be competently supervised. Competent supervision means that the children are within line of sight and hearing of the child care provider at all times, except as follows:
(1) When emergencies necessitate that direct supervision is impossible. An emergency is defined as an extreme situation that directly affects the life safety of one or more children in care;
(2) Children who are able to toilet independently, including fastening and unfastening clothing, wiping, flushing the toilet, and washing hands, may use the restroom for no more than five minutes, but must remain within hearing distance of the child care provider;
(3) children may nap or sleep in a room adjacent to the child care provider, but must be within hearing distance of the child care provider. When children are sleeping, the doors to all rooms containing sleeping children must remain open and the child care provider must physically check on each child every 15 minutes;
(4) Child care providers may attend to personal restroom needs for periods not to exceed five minutes provided children are within hearing distance;
(5) Child care providers may interact with parents in person or by telephone and engage in regulatory interactions with surveyors or other officials for periods not to exceed five minutes provided children are within hearing distance.”
The change I would propose would be as follows. Change the language specifically quoted above as follows. “Children in child care facilities, as defined and regulated by the secretary of health and environment, must be competently supervised. Competent supervision means that children are within proximity of the child care provider, and the child care provider is aware of their activities, to an extent permitting the child care provider to realize when a child is in danger or distress, or is exhibiting dangerous or potentially harmful behavior, and to reach such a child within 30 seconds, except as follows.”
(1) When emergencies necessitate that direct supervision is impossible. An emergency situation is defined as an extreme situation that directly affects the life safety of one or more children in care;
(2) Children who are able to toilet independently, including fastening and unfastening clothing, wiping, flushing the toilet, and washing hands, may be afforded privacy in the restroom to the greatest extent feasible while continuing to allow the child care provider to remain aware of their well being and of life safety issues;
(3) Children may nap or sleep in a room adjacent to the child care provider, but the door or doors to rooms containing sleeping children must remain open, and the child care provider must physically check on each child every 15 minutes;
(4) Child care providers may attend to personal restroom needs for periods not to exceed five minutes provided that such providers remain aware of the proximity and activities of children to an extent that a dangerous, potentially dangerous, or life threatening situation can be recognized by the child care provider;
(5) Child care providers may interact in person or by telephone and engage in necessary regulatory interactions by surveyors or other officials for periods not to exceed five minutes provided that such child care provider remain aware of the proximity and activities of children to an extent that a dangerous, potentially dangerous, or life threatening situation can be recognized by the child care provider.”
Although the above language is our preferred manner of dealing with this situation, we will express a fall back position as well. If the parents who are advocating 447 find the above solution to be totally unacceptable, then the original language could remain as written, but a clause could be added which states, “Nothing in this act shall be construed as preventing a person who is blind or visually impaired, or who is deaf, or hearing impaired, when otherwise qualified, from being a licensed day care provider, or an employee of such a provider.”
We believe that this second, alternate solution would actually create more ambiguities than the language proposed. We are nonetheless providing you with both options. Thank you for requesting input on this important issue
Kansas Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired
603 S. W. Topeka Blvd.
Topeka, Kansas 66603
KABVI Support Letter of House Bill 2553
February 9, 2010
TO: House Committee on Federal and State Affairs
FROM: Michael Byington, C.E.O. (Volunteer)
SUBJECT: Support for House Bill 2533
This Bill would amend the Kansas Act Against Discrimination, bringing it into line with the Americans With Disabilities Act Restoration Act adopted at the federal level. In this testimony, I will.
· Summarize one of several significant Supreme Court
Decisions that made it necessary for the United States Congress to revise the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
· Explain how the federal restoration corrected a problem
Created by the Supreme Court
· Explain the concept of a mitigating measure, and
· Explain why the State Act against Discrimination needs to parallel relevant federal laws.
The court case I will summarize is generally referred to as the Suddon case, and started out as Sutton v. one of the major United States airlines. The Suttons were two twins who were both qualified airline pilots. They both had a number of years of experience flying for a small, regional carrier, They both applied to instead fly for a major airline. Both of the Suttons achieved 20/20 vision through wearing glasses. The major airline refused to hire them, even though they were otherwise qualified for the job of airline pilot, because the major carrier said that it was their policy that pilots, when hiring on, had to have UNCORRECTED vision of 20/20. In other words, pilots who wear glasses simply were not going to be hired to fly for their airline because it was company policy that they were not going to do so. The Suttons alleged that the use of glasses to correct their vision meant that they were disabled individuals who used a mitigating measure to completely correct or negate the nature of their disabilities. They alleged that the airline was thus violating the ADA by refusing to hire them. Had the Supreme Court sided with the Suttons, the ADA could have been opened up to include coverage of approximately 70% of the working aged population that wears glasses. This would have, of course, deluged the civil rights complaint processes instead of leaving such avenues open to those who truly had disabilities making it more difficult for them to get most jobs. The Supreme Court dealt with the case by ruling that the glasses, as a mitigating measure, caused the Sutton twins not to be disabled at all. They therefore had no rights to protection under the ADA, and the company had the right to have the policy about glasses as a characteristic for its pilots. On its face, this may seem to have been a logical and appropriate decision which protected the efficacy of the ADA. Subsequent to this precedent setting decision, however, several courts at several levels have used it as a precedent to suggest that, for example, a wheelchair is a mitigating measure that allows a person in a wheelchair to get from one place to another; Braille is a mitigating measure that allows a reader thereof to read just as sighted people read print, and that therefore a wheelchair, or vision so impaired that a worker must use Braille, count as mitigating measures that cause the person not to be considered disabled, and to therefore remove them from coverage under the ADA.
Congress corrected this situation by stating in the ADA Restoration Act that the use of a mitigating measure does not negate the fact of the person’s disability. Congress also made clear, however, that standard eye glasses are an example of an accommodation that does not qualify as use of a mitigating measure. Thus, under the ADA Restoration Act, the Suttons would still not have had a case, the person who uses a wheelchair, the person who uses Braille, or more intensive low vision aids, would still have coverage under federal anti-discrimination laws.
A mitigating measure therefore clearly is documented as something which a person may use on the job in order to achieve qualification for the job, or ability to do it. It does not, however, make the user “non-disabled.”
As State civil rights enforcement and investigatory agencies are sometimes asked to assist with federal investigations, it is very important to bring State anti-discrimination laws into line with federal laws.
Please report House Bill 2533 out positively. Thankyou.