KABVI logo - click here to return to home page


By Michael Byington

There are always some new issues and new thoughts every time the deadline comes around to write one of these “Ponders” articles. There are also some issues which do not move that fast. They continue to develop, and new arguments arise, but they remain long term items which we need to keep working on. I want to be careful not to simply repeat thoughts and stands taken in previous articles, but nonetheless, some issues are big enough, and major enough to blind and visually impaired Kansans, that they warrant comments and updates on an intermittent basis.

The future of services for blind and visually impaired adults in Kansas is one such issue. There are a lot of service providers who work with blind and low vision people in Kansas, but for adults who have these disabilities, Envision, which is a not-for-profit service provider, and the State operated Kansas Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, have to be considered two of the most major players.

In my ponderings for this month, I am asking if any of the leadership of either of these two organizations really have the best interests of a broad spectrum of blind and visually impaired Kansans at heart. I have had the good fortune, in some of my past jobs, to be able to travel around the country quite a bit and examine blind and low vision service systems in a number of States. One overwhelming impression I have gleaned from these observations is that people who are blind and low vision generally receive the best services in States where the government services sectors and major not-for-profit players get along. They do not try to shut down each other’s programs; they do not try and take over each other’s programs. They instead jointly look at where there are gaps in services, as identified by their primary consumers, and they work together cooperatively to see that these gaps are filled. In Kansas, the above scenario is most certainly not happening. I have heard both State leaders, and leaders from Envision refer to each other as “the enemy.” I have seen Envision attempt to perform hostile takeovers of State programs. I have seen State blindness services officials fight tooth and nail to try and get good job placements for blind workers at Envision discredited by the Rehabilitation Services Administration. These are just snapshot examples of an ongoing battle.

I would submit that the losers in such battles are always blind and low vision consumers. Until the not-for-profit and State providers work cooperatively to provide the full spectrum of what blind and low vision citizens need, instead of what they want to provide because they think it is cool from a philosophical standpoint, or because they think that a certain set of services are the most likely to help make money overall, consumers with any degree of visual impairment will be the losers in Kansas.

Some of my associates in KABVI leadership, or who lead other organizations with which KABVI cooperates, have suggested when they have heard me voice these arguments, that I am probably right, but I might as well shut my pie hole about it, because with the current leadership at the State level, and with Envision, nothing will change, and the two entities will never cooperate. They suggest that without major leadership changes, both in personnel and philosophy, the not-for-profit and Government sectors in Kansas simply are not going to put the needs of blind and low vision Kansans first. They feel that the current leaders want what is best for their own organization, glory, profit margin, national recognition, etc. Some of these associates suggest to me that, in my capacity as KABVI President, I therefore need to take the position that current service provider leadership, at both not-for-profit and State levels must be changed.

So far, I have not taken the above view, and neither has the KABVI Board of Directors. I certainly acknowledge that there is an excellent body of quality work being done in the field of blindness by both Envision and State of Kansas Services. I can not be wholly critical of either program or either approach. I am increasingly aware, however, almost every time I pick up the telephone at the KABVI office, and quite often when I answer my personal lines as well, that there are many gaps for services and employment opportunities for blind and low vision Kansans. The needs of many people, and sometimes the people themselves, are falling through the cracks. KABVI has not yet taken the position that any leadership must change, but a message that our Board and this President are receiving with increasing volume and urgency is that if the views and interests of current leaders do not change, then it may indeed be necessary to change the leaders.


{ About } { Contact } { News } { Events Calendar } { Resources } { Your Rights } { ACB }