Wednesday, December 9, 2015
(Editors’ Note: This comes from Michael Massey, President of the Pueblo Chapter. We are rather surprised to learn that President Massey is not known to dance at such gatherings. Have a great time on Saturday anyway everyone!)
On Saturday, December 12, 2015, the Nfb Pueblo chapter will have its annual Christmas party at our monthly chapter meeting location at Wesley United Methodist church, 85 Stanford Avenue. The party starts at noon. We will have penne pasta and meatballs along with salad and rolls. Those who wish to attend are requested to pay $6 to help defray the cost of the food. Also each person is requested to bring a dessert.
The entertainment will be provided by Dan Wantuck, a local blind musician and his father who goes by the name of Ski. Some of the chapter members have been known to get up and dance, and no, sorry, I’m not one of them.
Thursday, October 1, 2015
(Editor's Note: Below is the final presentation NFBCO President Scott C. LaBarre made to the Interim Study Committee on Vocational Rehabilitation Services for the Blind on September 16. These remarks were provided via e-mail as well as in oral presentation. Scott provides a compelling summary of the testimony in the previous hearings and of the state of DVR services for the blind in Colorado. As reported in our blog of September 25, the Committee voted to request a bill draft for a dedicated division serving the blind within DVR, rather than a separate department outside of DVR. The Committee's final meeting is October 28 when it will vote on whether it will recommend legislation to the full 2016 General Assembly.)
Chair Danielson and Members:
First, the members of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado (NFBCO) would like to extend our heart-felt thanks for your willingness to consider the significant issues facing services for the blind in our state. We believe the undertaking of this process will lead to better services for our community and allow Colorado to establish itself as a leader in this field.
We have essentially three areas of recommendation. First, NFB Colorado strongly believes that a separate agency for the blind under Title I of the federal Rehabilitation Act is the ideal structure through which optimum services can be delivered. Therefore, a bill to accomplish exactly that should be on the table for discussion. At the very least, a bill or strong recommendation from this Committee should encourage and direct the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) to establish a separate unit of blindness services within the CDLE/DVR structure.
Second, we highly recommend that this Committee propose legislation that would encourage and fund grants targeting innovation in the areas of employment, youth/transition services, senior services, assistive technology, and health and wellness.
Third, much has been reported on DVR’s inability to capture all federal rehabilitation dollars available to it. This Committee should recommend and encourage DVR to work with JBC and CDLE to find all possible ways to maximize the capture of federal dollars both in this fiscal year and those to come.
SEPARATE AGENCY FOR THE BLIND
NFBCO believes that vocational rehabilitation services for the blind delivered through a separate designated state unit for the blind under Title I of the Rehabilitation Act is the ideal structure through which to deliver services. This is so because specification and focus combined with expertise in blindness lead to better results. It is also true that the medical and rehabilitation system treat blindness differently than most other disabilities. As Dr. Edward Bell testified before you, those with other types of disabilities often receive a great deal of compensatory services through the medical and insurance systems. Thus they come to DVR in a position of greater readiness for placement into employment. With respect to blindness, it has been the vocational rehabilitation (VR) system that has been largely responsible for providing the compensatory skills in the area of adjustment to blindness services.
Long term data demonstrates that separate agencies for the blind outperform general and combined agencies by a significant amount. Previously, we have provided the Mississippi State study to you which examined the most recent data available through 2010. For example, in 2008, separate agencies for the blind placed 82.8 percent of legally blind consumers into competitive employment at time of closure as compared to a 57.4 percent placement rate for general/combined agencies. See Figure 7 at P. 22 of the Mississippi State Study. Granted, it appears that 2008 was a particularly successful year for separate agencies but the rest of the data from other years clearly demonstrate that separate agencies perform markedly better. Attached to the end of this memo is a summary from the Mississippi State Study regarding all categories of employment outcomes, contained at p. 25 of that study.
A general assumption is that providing service to the blind through a separate agency results in higher cost. This does not turn out to be true, however. In 2008, for example, the median cost of services to those served in separate agencies was $3,527 as compared to $3,600 for general/combined agencies. See Table 5 of the Mississippi State Study at P. 19.
Additionally, separate agencies serve their clients over a shorter time period which leads to savings of staff resources expended. For example, in 2008, the median number of days from development of the individual plan for employment (IPE) to closure for separate agencies was 511 as compared to 605 days for general/combined agencies. See again Table 5 of the Mississippi State Study at P. 19.
Dr. Bell reported to this Committee that the most recent numbers available for Colorado indicate that closures in 2010 (most recent data available) for blind consumers into competitive employment hover around twenty percent. It is true that Dr. Bell was looking at all cases opened and not just those with an IPE. With respect to legally blind consumers who developed an IPE, placement into competitive employment ends up at forty to fifty percent, far below the average maintained by separate agencies for the blind or even other general agencies nationwide. Dr. Bell also testified that in 2010, approximately fifty percent of the legally blind consumers in Colorado were closed as homemakers. Although this may be an appropriate placement for some, it is hard to imagine that fifty percent of the legally blind seeking services from DVR truly wanted to remain at home as opposed to finding competitive employment.
NFB Colorado understands that some might think we are using this data in an argumentative fashion. However, this data comes from the federal government and can be accessed by all. Each year, every VR agency, whether separate or general/combined, must report to the Rehabilitation Services Administration regarding its cases on something called Form 911. We are using the data from those reports and nothing else.
We also wish to address comments regarding the small number of blind consumers currently with DVR. Presently, the number of consumers of all disability types for DVR is drastically down. This is due to the two years plus where a giant wait list existed and applicants were being turned away. In the past, there have been in excess of one-thousand consumers who were blind and receiving services from DVR. We expect that these numbers will be achieved again once DVR does the appropriate level of marketing and it is widely known that there is no longer any wait list.
In our view, there is no doubt that services for the blind must improve dramatically in our state. We believe that a separate agency for the blind is the structure which allows for the best possible performance. This agency could be housed in CDLE and therefore share certain services with VR such as accounting, IT, outside vendors, and human resources. This would minimize any duplication. The separate agency would have its own director and therefore be much more accountable to the blind community and other stakeholders.
It is our understanding that CDLE officials may believe that separate services for the blind are warranted but perhaps offered through DVR. In our view, if this were to occur, two very important things must happen. First, the separate unit must have its own identifiable leader who reports to the Executive Director of CDLE. This unit must also have its own, identifiable budget. These reporting and budgetary requirements are essential to insure the highest level of accountability. As the DVR audit demonstrated, accountability has been a critical problem in recent times.
We strongly recommend that this Committee request a bill draft that would establish a separate agency for the blind under Section 102 of the Rehabilitation Act housed in CDLE. This would allow a full discussion of what the best approach for vocational rehabilitation services for the blind in Colorado would be. This does not mean that we are opposed to other approaches. However, we must feel comfortable that identifiable leadership at the senior level and an identifiable budget are present. Through starting with a bill draft establishing a separate agency for the blind, we can ultimately reach the solution best for Colorado.
Our second major area of recommendation is that the Committee, through legislation or otherwise, find funding to fund grants to identify innovative new programs and approaches in the areas of employment, youth transition services, senior services, assistive technology, and health and wellness. We have all heard the reports regarding the fact that it is likely that DVR will be returning millions of federal dollars. Perhaps, we can find ways to match these funds with a small amount of state funds to secure funding for these grants.
This Committee has heard the staggering and completely unacceptable employment numbers. At best, legally blind adults are employed at a rate of thirty-seven percent. This Committee heard about some new approaches like those being offered by the Blind Institute of Technology. There was discussion of finding ways to incentivize large, national corporations to work with the State to place qualified blind individuals in franchises. This kind of creativity could be encouraged and rewarded with relatively small grant programs.
This Committee heard about how critical it is to start providing transition services to blind youth so that they are ready to enter the workforce at the appropriate time. The most recent amendment to the Rehabilitation Act calls upon state VR agencies to dedicate fifteen percent of their funding to transition services. Now is the best time to encourage new and innovate approaches allowing blind youth to be much more job ready and life ready.
The senior blind are the fastest growing segment of the blindness population. As our society lives longer and longer, the number of folks encountering age related blindness steadily increases. Current programs serving the senior blind are effective but cannot meet the demand. There must be a way to identify and secure funding for this important population.
No one can deny the effect of technology on our society. If one is not technically literate to some degree, it is almost impossible to participate in the mainstream of daily life. Blind individuals face significant barriers to participating in the technological revolution. First, there is not sufficient funding to provide access to assistive technology or to have the ability to learn about the technology available. New grants in this area would be extremely helpful.
Second, other than the federal government, state governments are the next largest purchasers of information technology. Colorado already has a law requiring the State to procure information technology which is compatible with the assistive technology used by the blind. However, compliance with this law is spotty. Perhaps, this Committee should call for an audit or study of how well the State is performing in the area of purchasing accessible, information technology. Recommendations could then be made to bring the state in compliance with its own law.
Finally, although the topic of health and wellness was not directly brought up during the Committee’s first four meetings, it is becoming a very important issue within our community. The blind face much higher obesity rates and confront other health challenges at higher levels. Little emphasis has been put on the health and wellness of the blind because general low expectations bring with them low expectations about the wellness of the blindness population. Perhaps, there is a way we can find some grant funding to identify the parameters of the problem here in Colorado and then suggest solutions to tackle it.
CAPTURING ALL FEDERAL FUNDING
This Committee has heard a great deal regarding the staggering level of federal funding that is being returned due to DVR’s inability to use it. The Committee should know that when states like Colorado return funding, that money is then reallocated to other states. Those states have the ability to apply for additional funding based on how much is returned. We must find a way to position Colorado so that in the future instead of returning millions each year, we apply for additional funding for new programs.
We think this Committee should find a way to issue directives or recommendations to DVR to make all efforts possible to retain its federal dollars. We should invest in new programs that are eligible for federal matching dollars. This Committee should request DVR’s plan for the next fiscal year and how it will capture all available federal funds. It is our understanding that even though DVR is not yet housed in CDLE, CDLE is already working with DVR to identify ways in which to capture more federal dollars and not return those already granted. Those efforts should be strongly encouraged and assisted by the General Assembly.
Again, we thank the Committee for its efforts and willingness to address the issues raised. We are confident by working together on all levels, we will find a way to bring Colorado from the back of the pack to a state out front leading all the others.
Employment Status at Closure
* Separate agencies close a higher percentage of legally blind consumers in employment without supports in integrated settings.
o FY 2007: 65.3% vs. 52.3%
o FY 2008: 70.7% vs. 51.0%
* Separate agencies close higher percentages of legally blind consumers in self-employment.
o FY 2007: 8.4% vs. 3.5%
o FY 2008: 7.5% vs. 3.6%
* Separate agencies close a lower percentage as homemakers.
o FY 2007: 20.1% vs. 39.0%
o FY 2008: 15.9% vs. 40.8%
Patterns/trends. Current findings are consistent with analyses of RSA-911 databases from the 1980s and 1990s indicating that Separate agencies, compared with General/Combined agencies, close a higher percentage of consumers in employment in integrated settings and in self-employment (Cavenaugh & Pierce, 1998; Cavenaugh et al., 2000; NAC, 1997). Earlier analyses of databases from the 1970s showed an opposite trend (Kirchner & Peterson, 1982; JWK, 1981).
* Separate agencies close a larger percent of legally blind consumers in competitive employment.
o FY 2007: 77.5% vs. 60.2%
o FY 2008: 82.8% vs. 57.4%
* Although differences are small, Separate agencies close a larger percent of VI consumers in competitive employment.
o FY 2007: 89.1% vs. 87.6%
o FY 2008: 90.6% vs. 85.1%
Patterns/trends. Current findings are consistent with previous investigations indicating that Separate agencies, compared with General/Combined agencies, close a higher percentage of consumers in competitive employment (Cavenaugh & Pierce, 1998; Cavenaugh et al., 2000; NAC, 1997). Note that the Competitive Employment variable is somewhat different from competitive variables used in previous investigations in that with the current variable, individuals must be compensated at or above the minimum wage.
Saturday, September 26, 2015
(Editor's Note: The Grand Valley Chapter of NFBCO is only a year-and-a-half old but, as you can see from their second newsletter, these Federationists have the spirit and are putting it into action!
FALL QUARTER 2015
The ultimate purpose of the National Federation of the Blind is the complete integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality. This objective involves the removal of legal, economic, and social discriminations; the education of the public to new concepts concerning blindness; and the achievement by all blind people of the right to exercise to the fullest their individual talents and capacities. It means the right of the blind to work along with their sighted neighbors in the professions, common callings, skilled trades, and regular occupations.
To contact our local Federation:
- Board Members:
- Nathan Hecker (President) 605-610-7959
- Steve Davis (Vice President) 970-241-9638
- Elaine Davis (Secretary) 970-778-7246
- Cassidy Martorana (Treasurer) 970-250-4167
- Margaret Williams (Member at Large) 970-314-7676
To make donations send check or money order to:Ntl Federation of the Blind of CO
c/o Nathan Hecker
751 Glenwood Avenue
Grand Jct., Co. 81501
Your donations are greatly appreciated!"
Words from our President:By Nathan Hecker
We have been staying busy in Grand Junction! In the beginning of August we had a successful fundraiser at Kannah Creek Brewing Company, and would like to give them special thanks; we look forward to another Firkin fundraiser with them next year!
The work of our Grand Valley Chapter can already be seen in the lives of our members. Margaret Williams and Alice Besiack attended the Seniors in Charge program held at Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB) and both have benefited from their experience at CCB. Later on in this newsletter Margaret Williams shares her interesting and exciting story and experience as a senior student of the Seniors in Charge program
I am excited to see the NFB in action. Our Vice President Steve Davis and I gave remote testimony at Colorado Mesa University to the Colorado legislature's Interim Study Committee on Vocational Rehabilitation Services for the Blind alongside other advocates and activists. We spoke about the need for separate services for the blind in Colorado! We made sure that Grand Junction was not left out and let them know the NFB is across the state! We also spoke with the local department of vocational rehabilitation services in Grand Junction, and I am excited to announce that Lorraine Hutchison will be speaking at our chapter meeting in October! We also briefly met with a member of the CMU Educational Access Services staff in order to reach out to blind students attending CMU. In our discussion, we talked about assistive technology, and let them know we are here if they run into any problems.
We are working toward holding fundraisers in the near future; follow us on Facebook to find out more information on our upcoming events. We also are excited about our upcoming state convention in Colorado Springs, and are providing some aid in funds, as needed, to those who want to attend the convention!
I'd like to give additional thanks to our members for their hard work, St. Matthews Episcopal Church for providing transportation to us, and our supporters for their encouragement. Without each and every one of you we would not be able to make the Grand Valley Chapter what it is! If anyone has any questions please do not hesitate to contact one of our board members! We all strive and work hard for a better life and encourage one another in the motto, “live the life you want”!
Appreciating our community, Flexibility is the keyBy Elaine Davis
Every community presents its assets or strengths and its special and wonderful challenges. it is our work as the Federation to bring out and enhance the strengths of our communities and to overcome community challenges. We, in our efforts, work to enhance the quality of life for blind people and for all in our communities.
We would like to thank the Center for Independence for supporting us since our inception. The Center has helped us in our chapter efforts through their encouragement, their time spent with us, assistance and by their constructive ideas on building a strong and resilient chapter.
We heartily thank the Kannah Creek Brewing Company for our recent Firkin Fundraiser which was a lot of fun and a big success.
Lastly, we would like to thank St. Matthews Episcopal Church for supplying monthly transportation to our meetings. This has helped greatly in bringing in new members.
As a chapter of the Federation we as blind people can contribute to our changing communities and help bring about a better and richer life for all. In doing this, flexibility is the key for this is one of our greater keys of success and longevity as a chapter.
Our community and the NFB, becoming involvedBy Steven Davis
As it has been said many times “Life is what you make it” and that is ever so true with us. Our lives then are what we make them and for all of us we must each shape and determine our own lives.
All of us are blessed or, if you will, fortunate in that we live in a great nation, state, and community where we all can make a difference. We, each, as informed and active citizens of our community, state, and nation can shape our own future determine and bring about opportunity for all of us and determine the quality of our own lives.
The National Federation of the Blind, for over seventy years, has actively been working for the greater opportunity, security, and quality of life for all blind people. We as Federationists believe that it is ourselves who must determine this greater opportunity, security, and quality of life for all of us. We, each, then as blind people can determine our own future and aid others in doing so and can positively help shape our communities and our nation and can make a difference.
How might we become even more active and greater self determined citizens as blind people? Becoming active participants in our local chapter is a very positive and effective way or means of transforming our lives, shaping our futures for the good and guaranteeing opportunity for all blind people.
How do we do this?
- Become self determined.
- We, each might examine our lives not necessarily in terms of our blindness, but rather in terms of what we want out of life. The National Federation of the Blind asserts that “blindness does not define us or our future” but rather it is our desires and motivation in life.
- Become informed.
- All influential and active members of their community must become informed. We as members of our communities and as members of the blind community must become knowledgeable about the issues, including our blindness which we now or potentially may face.
- Become involved.
- Those who affect their lives and shape their communities often become active within organizations and groups who represent their common interests. Becoming active in the National Federation of the Blind represents a way to significantly promote and challenge our blindness and to ensure opportunities for ourselves and others as blind people.
- Become self reliant.
- One who is self reliant helps shape the world in which he or she lives. But most importantly those who are self reliant may achieve their dreams and live the life they wish. The National Federation of the Blind asserts that blind people can, “given the right skills”, achieve their dreams and live their desired life.
We can contribute to and control our own lives and aid others in doing so.
Join the National Federation of the Blind and participate in the challenging of blindness. As a participant in the community, state, and national efforts of the National Federation of the Blind, you can make a difference and in doing so you will help shape the opportunity and future for us all.
Upcoming MeetingsBy Elaine Davis
We here at NFBCO Grand Valley Chapter are currently changing our dates and times of our meetings. We will be meeting at the Center for Independence at 740 Gunnison. Our next meeting will be Saturday, September 12th from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
In October, our meeting will be Saturday, October 3rd from 10:00 a.m. -- 12:00 p.m.
In November our meeting will be Saturday, November 7th from 10:00 a.m. -- 12:00 p.m.
Come join us in our lively discussion, WE HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE!
Our Blindness, Our challengeBy Elaine Davis
Our local chapter of the state affiliate is active and hard at work in encouraging blind people to transform their lives to have a vision as to what is possible and to achieve their desired goals.
Two of our senior members, Alice Besiack and Margaret Williams, attended the Senior’s in Charge program at the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB) this last month.
Margaret Williams who is visually impaired is a capable and active member of the community and our local affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado and is an inspiration to many here.
Margaret learned a variety of skills in challenging and taking control of her blindness. Margaret gained confidence in her reading Braille and was able to read some words. She feels that the techniques that she learned in reading Braille were very useful. Margaret also discovered the use of the long white cane which she proudly employs now in her traveling with greater confidence. In her wanting to attend the Senior’s in Charge program, she expressed an interest in baking and decorating a cake which she learned to do while at CCB. She also learned how to thread a standard sewing needle having a small eye which she hasn’t been able to do since losing much of her vision.
Margaret tells us that someone who is newly blind can also take these classes. They teach you how to use mobility skills, Braille classes, Daily living skills, cooking, woodworking, technology just to name a few. She has expressed that attending CCB has increased her confidence and desire to challenge her blindness and pursue even more her interests. She has also expressed the idea that all of one’s senses may be employed in life’s adventure and that blindness is only a characteristic and not a barrier. Margaret is planning to continue her effort in tackling Braille and wants to be a fluent Braille user.
Margaret feels that attending CCB’s Seniors in Charge program is for her a life changing experience and has given her a different outlook on what it means to be blind. She would recommend this program to all blind seniors.
Come one, come all and rally with us, its state convention time again!By Elaine Davis
Come and join us at this year’s state convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado. here you will see us in action in carrying forward the work of the Federation. It is expected that a large attendance of enthusiastic Colorado Federationists and others will attend, learn, and help shape our continuing work as we march toward greater equality and opportunity for all blind people.
This year’s convention will be held at the Antlers Hilton which is located at 4 S. Cascade Avenue in Colorado Springs. The convention will be held from Thursday, October 29th through Sunday, November 1st. Hotel rooms will be $89 per night excluding taxes.
Registration before October 19th:
Registration - $20
Friday and Saturday lunch - $20 each
Saturday banquet - $35
Registration after October 19th:
Registration - $25
Friday and Saturday lunch - $25 each
Saturday banquet - $40
Come join us in the hard work and fun, and help us make this year even better.
Margaret’s CornerBy Margaret Williams
This month Margaret has given a cool treat to try Watermelon pie
- ¼ c. boiling water
- 1 package 3 oz. watermelon jello
- 1 1/2 containers cool whip
- 2 c diced watermelon
- 2 ready-made graham cracker pie crusts (either 8 or 9 inch)
- Directions for pie
- Pour water over jello in large bowl
- Stir until well dissolved
- Let cool for 5 minutes
- Mix ½ container of cool whip in bowl
- Fold in rest of cool whip with 2 cups diced watermelon
- Pour mixture in pie crust
(Makes 2 pies)
A glimpse of fall, Upcoming eventsBy Elaine Davis
It is beginning to get cooler and the leaves are falling from the trees. And even now this fall finds us, the Grand Valley Chapter, hard at work.
We the Grand Valley Chapter are looking ahead to several possible fundraisers and other events:
We will be having a cookie sale October 9th.
Where: City Market 200 Rood Avenue
When: October 9th from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
COME AND JOIN US AND HAVE FUN!
We are also looking forward to White Cane Day on Thursday, October 15th when we will promote the progress made by blind people in determining their own lives. We are also excited about the state convention held in Colorado Springs from October 29th through November 1st. We expect a good representative membership from the Grand Valley Chapter to attend.
Our chapter this fall will be doing some tandem bicycling with Colorado Discoverability. Further information will be given as details become available.
This fall will indeed be a busy final quarter of the year for us.
Where do we go from here?The Grand Valley Board
The Grand Valley Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado (NFBCO) is just over one and a half years since its formation in February 2014. We have overcome many challenges and look forward to continued growth and a meaningful and vibrant chapter.
It is often daunting to form a new organization in a community. This challenge is often compounded by the lack of knowledge of members and potential members as to the nature of the new organization. A major challenge for any new organization is the welding of its diverse membership into a cohesive and vibrant whole.
The Grand Valley Chapter is vibrant and forward looking and although our meetings may become somewhat disorderly at times the excitement can be felt in the air. Even though members may be unsure in how things are going to be accomplished nevertheless a “can do” attitude is shown in chapter enthusiasm.
We, as a chapter, are beginning to address the issues as possibly plaguing many chapters and are also addressing common challenges based by us all as blind people. As a chapter, we are beginning to make small inroads in contacting various businesses throughout the community and are striving to form meaningful relationships with key organizations within our local area.
This newsletter, in its purpose to inform our chapter members and others as to blindness and to promote and engage our members in the work of the National Federation of the Blind, will be presenting informative and meaningful articles on blindness, the work of the Federation in its effort toward security, opportunity, and equality for blind people. This newsletter will also present challenges of blindness based by our community and how such challenges may be overcome.
We as a chapter are looking forward to a fruitful year and are hoping to meaningfully promote self reliance and to carry forward the work of the Federation.
Come and join the Grand Valley Chapter in challenging blindness. Come, live, grow, and learn—“LIVE THE LIFE YOU WANT”.
Friday, September 25, 2015
The outcome of Wednesday's hearing was a vote to have a bill drafted, with fiscal note, to create a division within DVR dedicated to serve blind clients. The motion passed 3-2 on party lines; Rep. Windholtz, a Republican, was excused. Republican Sen. Lundberg, who hadn’t attended any previous hearings, voted no. All three Democrats, including Chairman Jessie Danielson, voted for the motion
We very much wish to thank Reps. Danielson, Primavera, Windholtz and Senator Balmer for their devoted attendance and engaged questioning. Also, Senator Aguilar joined the Committee after the first meeting as a replacement, and we thank her as well.
Our goal was to have a bill drafted to create a separate Vocational Rehabilitation unit to serve blind clients, one that would be parallel to, but not part of DVR's general program. So that's why the football analogy seems the best way to describe things. By coincidence, the next night, a Thursday, came the Denver Broncos remarkable come-from-behind victory in Kansas City. Keep that in mind!
For the past six weeks or so, the Interim Study Committee has been meeting at the Capitol, taking testimony, receiving e-mails, reading policy and documents and more on the matter of DVR's poor performance with respect to serving blind Coloradans.
The Interim Study, of course, came into being because of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado, and the bulk of the testimony was provided by us. In the first meeting of the Interim Study Committee, our President Scott LaBarre gave an excellent summary of the present state of services for the blind, along with strong evidence that separate agencies across the U.S. provide consistently better results - all backed by solid research.
Dr. Fred Schroeder, Executive Director of the National Rehabilitation Association and former Commissioner of the federal Rehabilitation Services Administration came to Colorado for the second hearing to present more powerful evidence that separate services produce more and superior employment results than do combined agencies with respect to the blind. Dr. Eddie Bell, Director of Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindnessat Louisiana Tech, was present on September 3 to present Colorado DVR's specific performance with respect to its blind clients. Based on his own research, Dr. Bell presented data drawn from the federal reporting program known as the "911." No surprise to the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado, it showed that DVR performs near the bottom of all states in placing blind clients in jobs, and well below the national average.
It should be noted here that DVR was also asked to provide testimony and updates. At the opening hearing on August 12, VR Counselor Laverne Dell, who is the lead person for fellow Counselors serving blind clients, laid the facts out simply and without defensiveness. It turns out that only one counselor in Colorado has a caseload made up entirely of blind clients.
Others providing testimony were Diane McGeorge, Julie Deden, Duncan Larsen on services to blind seniors, Brent Batron with Colorado Dept. of Education's Tanni Anthony on transition of blind high school students, Kevan Worley on BEP and entrepreneurship, James Gashel on assistive technology and its importance for hopeful blind workers and numerous blind Coloradans who have applied or are being served by DVR.
Testimony to the Committee also included e-mails and, when remote testimony from Grand Junction was made available for September 3, two of the three who testified were Nathan Hecker and Steven Davis, our President and Vice-president respectively of the NFB of Colorado's Grand Valley Chapter.
In addition to the request to draft a bill to create a division within DVR to serve blind clients, the Committee also voted 3-2 to draft a bill that would expand opportunities on state sites for the Business Enterprise Program.
Other matters were considered, such as the sorry state of transition of blind high school students, but did not result in specific action.
Though we scored a field goal, the game is far from over. The Committee meets for its final time on October 28 to vote on the drafted bills. We have a lot of work to do to ensure that the draft bills are recommended to the full General Assembly in its 2016 Session, and then we must usher any bills through that body to win the game.
So, get on your game faces and huddle up team!