KABVI logo - click here to return to home page

By Michael Byington

I was supposed to have this article to Nancy before the convention and, as usual, I am running behind. This is bad from the perspective of Nancy’s growth of hair. I am sure I cause her to pull it out by the hands full, but it is good from the standpoint that I get to thank everyone involved with our convention for all of their hard work and efforts. Our Mary T. Adams Educational Seminar onBlindness and Low Vision was well attended. The speakers were competent and presented material particularly relevant to some of the issues in education and rehabilitation of the blind and visually impaired here in Kansas. The annual meeting of our organization was a good time for fellowship, and for making some tough decisions as the State’s leading consumer advocacy organization for people who are blind and low vision.

KABVI’s membership elected people to fill the open seats on our Board, and our Board in turn elected me as President for one more year; so you all are stuck with at least one more year of my pondering. I started writing the article below before the convention. I think it is still relevant and that it points to the importance of our continuing to do the hard work needed to keep our organization functioning, thriving, and growing.

It was sudden. In October, the following announcements were made within a few days of one another:

Kansas Vocational Rehabilitation expects to not have sufficient money to serve everyone requesting services over the remainder of this fiscal year.

1. No one who had failed to sign a rehabilitation plan would receive services until at least January 2006.

2. Six blind and visually impaired clients who are studying at the Kansas Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired (KRCBVI) did not have their plans signed when all of this went into effect.

3. Those six clients had to leave their training immediately because they were not in the proper status to continue.

All of the clients who were to be forced out in the middle of their training had been involved with training at the KRCBVI for more than a month. Three of the six clients involved had at least some employment waiting for them if they finished their training, or a business which they owned and hoped to be able to return to.

There was no actual loss of money which should be causing these clients to have to end their programs. The staff salaries, building costs, utility costs, etc. at the KRCBVI remain about the same whether the place is full or not. The problem was a bureaucratic one. The budget which funds the KRCBVI is nearly 80% federal. When a State vocational rehabilitation program goes into order of selection, which is a federal designation, the feds do not want any of the remaining monies in the budget to be spent for people who have failed to establish and sign a rehabilitation plan. In other words, it would be perfectly acceptable for the KRCBVI to be sitting half empty, with all of the money spent to keep it going being spent for training of people who had a signed plan. To add clients who did not have a signed plan in order to use a greater percentage of existing capacity and existing budget, however, was a violation of federal regulations.

Some of the clients at the KRCBVI, including some of those who were to be thrown out and some who were going to get to stay, contacted me in my capacity as KABVI President. They were angry. They did not understand why six of their number should be thrown out, and why those six, some of whom had been in the program longer than many who were getting to stay, were being considered less worthy of rehabilitation than the others. The clients said, “We want to let you advocates know how upset we are, but there probably is not much we can do.”

KABVI was not able to do much to help, but we did not need to do a lot. We probably did close to enough. I explained the order of selection process and the budgetary conundrums. The KABVI office and KABVI’s word processing and printing equipment were made available to a committee of the clients. They wrote a position paper concerning why the six clients should be able to stay and complete their training. They argued that, as no real dollars were missing, there should be a way. I gave them the address of the Governor, and prominent administrators within the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. Independently, the clients decided to send their position paper to several press outlets. They were allowed to use the KABVI letterhead. There was no reason to decline to support them. We have long been on record as supporting the availability of rehabilitation services. No KABVI officer had to put their name on any documents, or take the lead in any way. .

The clients did this for themselves with nothing more than some guided discovery learning provided by KABVI. When the issue hit local press outlets, and the Governor’s Constituent Service Office, budget juggling got done rather quickly. The six clients are getting to complete their training, although a couple of them are getting less training hours each week (for a limited time).

The Kansas Rehabilitation Services office is to be commended. I am sure it was not an easy task. They would have had to move monies with no federal match, or lower federal match, into the program in order to drop the 80% federal funding for the facility to a lower percentage. That is the only way the feds would allow clients whom they considered non-eligible under order of selection to remain in training.

Now let me say a word or two about why clients who had not signed rehabilitation plans were studying at the KRCBVI and, in some cases, had been studying there for several months. It used to be that people could not enter training at the KRCBVI unless they had already decided that they were going to work, established goals as to what they wanted to do, and signed a plan accordingly. Many newly blinded people need training at the KRCBVI before they can acknowledge that they are still able to work. A part of what the KRCBVI can do is to help them determine what needs to go into the rehabilitation plan. It makes no sense to have to have the plan already signed before the individual enters the program. Several blindness consumer groups and advocates thus urged that clients should be able to enter the KRCBVI at any rehabilitation case status point. This is still right thinking from a perspective of timely and efficient services, but this flexibility almost came back to bite six clients in the butts in terms of completing their rehabilitation process. Only client advocacy, facilitated by KABVI’s presence with a State advocacy office, and the creative money juggling of some dedicated, but I am sure frustrated, Rehabilitation Services financial officers, saved the day for the six clients in question.

The clients did it, but without the existence of KABVI to provide that little bit of operational assistance, the advocacy success would not have happened. When your President, or other leaders of KABVI, talk about why we need to keep going, why we need to keep money coming in to maintain our office and equipment, or to provide training and advocacy services, these are the types of things which happen from time to time because we are here. It was sad that the need arose to provide this kind of help in October, but October turned out to be a pretty successful month when measured by the yardstick of the training of six blind or visually impaired Kansans.


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