Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Based on popular demand from our Find Your Fit seminar we are offering an opportunity to participate in different types of yoga and body work at our first Yoga Body Workshop.
Come participate in
-high energy flow yoga
-body analysis and nutrition consultation
When: September 19 from 12:30pm-5:00pm
Where: Colorado Center for the Blind
2233 W Shepperd Ave
Littleton, CO 80120
Cost: 15.00 per person
Please send $15 cash or check made out to NFBCO sports and Rec to reserve your spot.
Attention: Maureen Nietfeld
2233 W Shepperd Ave
Littleton CO 80120
Space is limited to 45 participants. When we receive your payment, your spot will be reserved.
The Yoga Body workshop is more than an opportunity to exercise. You will leave with tools to improve your mind, body, and spirit including nutrition advice, new workouts, and more. You will also have the opportunity to purchase delicious and nutritious artisan snacks by Frosted Lotus Bakery!
This is an opportunity you will not want to miss. If you have questions contact Jessica Beecham at 615-497-0435.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
(Editor's Note: Last Wednesday, August 12 was the opening meeting of the 2015 Interim Study Committee on Vocational Rehabilitation Services for the Blind. NFB of Colorado President Scott LaBarre led off the agenda and with his testimony set the stage for the Committee's work. Below is his revised testimony, which was submitted to the Committee for the official record.
TESTIMONY OF SCOTT C. LABARREDelivered in Person Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Before the Vocational Rehabilitation Services for the Blind Interim Study Committee
Testimony Submitted to Record August 18, 2015
I am Scott LaBarre, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado. I wish to begin by thanking Representative Danielson, Representative Primavera, Representative Windholz, Senator Balmer, Senator Aguilar, and Senator Lundberg for this tremendous opportunity to offer testimony before what we believe to be a very important committee and process, the result of which has the potential to usher in a new era of services to the blind in our state, a model that could be emulated all over the world. I would be remiss if I did not offer special thanks and extend our gratitude to Representative Pete Lee and Senator Michael Merrifield for originally sponsoring the legislative request which led to this Committee and this process. Originally, I had prepared this testimony prior to the hearing on the 12th, but given the extra time, I have revised my comments to incorporate thoughts and questions voiced by the Committee and to respond to some items covered by other witnesses on the 12th.
In way of background, The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is the oldest and largest organization of the blind in the United States and in Colorado. The primary mission of the Federation is to allow the blind to live the lives they want in all areas of life from insuring basic civil rights to securing employment and education for the blind. Founded officially in 1955, the NFB of Colorado engages in a number of programs specifically designed to create greater opportunities for the blind. For example, the Federation is the chief sponsor of the Colorado Center for the Blind. The Colorado Center provides training in the alternative skills blind people need to become fully participating members of society. Additionally, NFB offers national and statewide academic scholarships. We provide a free talking newspaper called NFB-NEWSLINE® which allows the blind of our state to read the daily newspaper just as easily as their sighted peers. We advocate for the rights of the blind in all areas ranging from education to employment. Where positive changes are happening in the blindness field, there is a good chance that the Federation is involved.
In part, the reason we are all gathered here today is that the NFB of Colorado passed a resolution in early November of 2014 calling upon the General Assembly to study the delivery of vocational rehabilitation services to the blind in our state. The Committee already has that Resolution in its materials, Resolution 2014-07. The reason why we adopted such a resolution is that we had observed a long term degradation of services to the blind in our state. Then, the circumstances giving rise to the 2013 legislative audit of the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) under the Department of Human Services (CDHS) evolved which only brought greater turmoil to programs affecting the blind. Not only did new blind clients of Colorado DVR have to wait for years to even be deemed eligible, the services received once accepted into the program were diluted and disorganized.
After we adopted our resolution and began to implement our 2015 legislative priorities, we learned of this Assembly’s consideration of moving DVR from CDHS into the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE). This is a transfer that we applaud and favor along with its corresponding process of gaining input from stakeholders. Nevertheless, we still believe it is critically important that this Committee study the unique barriers faced by the blind and seize the opportunity to fashion recommendations that could become the envy of the world.
Blindness is not well understood and greatly feared. Polls taken in recent times still suggest that people fear going blind more than anything else except contracting potentially lethal diseases. This fear has led to low expectations and misunderstanding regarding the true capacity of and barriers faced by the blind. When we use the word blind, we mean a wide spectrum of those having some form of visual disability. Legal blindness is regarded as essentially ten percent of normal vision or less either in visual acuity or visual field and often both. Most blind people possess some level of residual vision but their vision is sufficiently impaired that the use of alternative, nonvisual techniques are required to address daily tasks.
The problems of blindness lead to lack of access to appropriate training to adjust to blindness, good education, and employment. For example, the working age blind face an unemployment rate of seventy-five percent in some studies and sixty-three percent by the most optimistic study out there. Pause for a moment and think about that. The general public seems to panic any time unemployment exceeds six or seven percent. Imagine if our society faced a sixty-five to seventy-five percent unemployment rate. We called the unemployment rate of the 1930’s of twenty-five to thirty percent the Great Depression and declared a national emergency. Yet the blind of our state and nation face an unemployment rate over two times the worst ever faced by the general society and we complacently stand by and permit this to occur.
The governmental response to the situation faced by the blind and others with disabilities has largely been focused through the vocational rehabilitation system. This system is funded mostly by the federal government through the United States Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA). RSA provides approximately eighty percent of the funding to the states in order to operate vocational rehabilitation agencies. The states are required to provide about twenty percent of the funding. A state can only receive all available federal dollars if it puts up the full approximated twenty percent of matching funds according to a formula set in statute and largely based on population and other demographic factors. Unfortunately, over the last few years, Colorado has not been receiving the maximum amount of federal funds. We learned on the 12th that DVR would be returning some eight million dollars to RSA for this fiscal year. This is absolutely unacceptable and constitutes a great waste of opportunity! If nothing else, this Committee and the General Assembly should work with CDLE/DVR going forward to make sure we capture the maximum level of federal funding possible and put that money into client services.
Overall, the focus of this Committee is essentially to determine the best way or manner in which to deliver vocational rehabilitation services to the blind in our state. There are several models and possibilities. Here in Colorado, we have no specialized services for the blind under our current DVR structure. By this I mean that we do not have a separate agency, division, or unit of vocational rehabilitation designed to address the unique barriers faced by the blind. Title I of the federal Rehabilitation Act allows for states to establish a separate designated state unit serving the blind. Twenty-four states have such separate agencies. In other states that have one general vocational rehabilitation agency, there is often a separate unit or division within that agency focused on the blind. The research and anecdotal evidence suggest that more focused and targeted services for the blind lead to a higher level of successful outcomes.
Let me digress for a moment with a bit of my personal story. I began my journey into the world of blindness at age ten due to a childhood virus which had the nasty habit of destroying key components of my eyes. At first and for a number of years, I thought my life had come to a very tragic and premature end. I believed wholeheartedly that there was no meaningful path to success for someone who was blind. All my childhood dreams were crushed, never to be realized. This occurred because everything that I had learned about blindness in my brief life was negative, pictures of the blind begging on the street and TV shows suggesting that we should pity the blind.
Thank God that my original picture of blindness turned out not to be true. I am an attorney running my own law practice. I have a wonderful family, a wife, Anahit, who originally hails from Armenia and my children, Alex who began seventh grade on the 13th at West Middle School in the Cherry Creek School District and my daughter, Emily, starting fifth grade at Heritage Elementary at the same time and in the same school district. We own two homes, one in which we live and one which we rent out. We are healthy and deeply involved in our community. In other words, we are living the life we want. Otherwise put and as some might say, we are living the American dream.
I credit my family for insisting that I receive a quality education and insisting that I receive the adaptive skills of blindness. Then, the NFB entered my life and provided the philosophy and positive blind role models which gave me the belief and self-confidence that I need to live the life I want. However, this amazing system of support and belief could have only translate into success if I had the ability to receive the training, education, and other resources necessary. These were provided for me largely by Minnesota State Services for the Blind. Minnesota is in fact one of the twenty-four states with a separate agency for the blind with highly focused programs and well trained staff. Without the services I received in Minnesota, I don’t know that I would be before you with the track record of success and accomplishment that I fortunately possess.
DISCUSSION OF AGENCY STRUCTURES AND CORRESPONDINGRESEARCH
In the National Federation of the Blind we believe in the capacity of blind people, but we know that the blind require a unique set of Vocational Rehabilitation services to be successful. In Colorado blind clients are often served by vocational rehabilitation (VR) Counselors who, though otherwise qualified in serving general rehabilitation clients, may only have one or two blind clients and no specific training in how to serve them. Thus, they may never gain the necessary skill set to provide the high quality of specific services their clients require for success. They may not receive the support they need from their supervisors either, because there is no supervisor in Colorado's DVR who is tasked with coordinating and supervising VR Counselors who are serving blind clients. We learned on the 12th that there are only fifteen counselors statewide who have a caseload including blind clients, only one having a caseload comprised entirely of blind clients. DVR has a “statewide coordinator” for blind service, but that individual is not at the supervisory level nor involved in senior management of DVR.
We know that separate agencies for the blind perform better than combined agencies. The data suggests that separate agencies serve more significantly disabled clients, achieve more successful closures into competitive employment, acquire fewer “homemaker” closures, and possess fewer placements in sheltered, segregated, subminimum wage, employment.
Within the list of general/combined agencies there is a continuum of organization and dedication of highly trained personnel to providing services for the blind. Colorado's current lack of structure is at the lower end of that spectrum, with essentially no specialized services inherent in the structure. Other states with general agencies have separate units or offices dedicated specifically to blindness services which have senior management and identifiable budgets. We believe that this level of specification leads to better, more effective service. This in turn leads to a higher success rate of placing the blind into competitive employment, the end result of which is more blind tax payers and fewer relying on government benefits. On the 12th, Interim Director Anton of DVR agreed that higher levels of specification and focus lead to better results.
We believe that services for the blind in this state must become more highly focused and delivered with greater specificity. The lack of focus and specification is impairing the ability to move blind vocational rehabilitation clients out of unemployment, often poverty, into meaningful employment. This can be achieved in a number of ways, at least three. First, Colorado could create an entirely separate agency for the blind which would report directly to the Governor. Second, a division could be created under the CDLE reporting directly to the Executive Director of that Department. Third, a separate office or unit could be established within DVR with its own specialized staff and senior management along with a separate, identifiable budget.
Of course, one of the questions that always rises when these alternatives are considered is that of higher cost. The data referenced below suggests that separate agencies for the blind provide services at a similar cost as compared to those same services provided by a general agency. In the long run, investment in separate services lead to tax savings because of the higher rates of employment and independence.
We believe that DVR has been doing its best in recent times to serve its blind clients, but its current structure and level of staffing do not come close to providing optimal and more effective services. Only one person is responsible for training all other counselors in the state regarding the special needs and barriers faced by the blind. That person is Laverne Dell who testified before you on the 12th, and we know she does an excellent job. Her task, however, is overwhelming and unfairly placed on one individual.
Additionally, studies suggest that one of the barriers faced by blind clients who are on a general caseload is that the general counselor is so overwhelmed by the size of the caseload and thus do not give enough attention to the blind clients. Oftentimes decisions by general counselors are fueled by lower expectations for blind clients. We expect that you will hear public testimony from blind individuals here in Colorado who have encountered these low expectations from DVR staff. This is not a design calculated to lead to higher levels of success in placing blind people into competitive employment or otherwise allowing the blind to lead independent lives.
Immediately below are excerpts and a synopsis from research that has been conducted by the National Council of State Agencies Serving the Blind (NCSAB). We believe same is instructive.
National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB)
NCSAB Position Paper: Why Separate Agencies for the Blind?
Because of the myths and stereotypes of blindness, rehabilitation agencies for blind persons must take a different approach than agencies that serve persons with other disabilities. Agencies serving the blind must deal with two problems. Of course, they must address the physical loss of vision by teaching specialized skills and techniques. But, they must also address the misconceptions. The second aspect involves creating attitudinal changes in their clientele and in society. This requires that rehabilitation professionals working with blind persons possess in- depth knowledge about the abilities of blind people. In addition, they must possess the ability to teach blind persons how to deal positively with public attitudes, and must be prepared to deal with those attitudes themselves.
Here is a report from NCSAB on separate services for the blind, updated March 2010. It was conducted using RSA 911 reporting form data from 2007 and 2008, and is a study that has been periodically updated since 1971. Thus, it gives something of a longitudinal look at specialized services for the blind.
First, at the time of the study in 2010, there were 24 states that have separate agencies for the blind. This does not include a model like Montana’s, which has a separate division for services to blind citizens under the VR umbrella, making it a “combined agency” and which is a higher level of organization than we have in Colorado currently.
The conclusions are summarized in the bullet-points below:
? Separate blindness agencies continue to serve a higher percentage of consumers with demographic/disability characteristics associated with lower labor force participation rates.
o Applicants have more severe visual impairments (blindness vs. other visual impairments).
o Blind and visually impaired applicants have lower educational levels (not high school graduates).
o Visually impaired applicants are more likely to have secondary disabilities.
? Separate and General/Combined agencies provide similar number of services to blind and VI consumers at similar costs (suggesting that separate agencies for the blind do not lead to greater expense).
? Separate blindness agencies continue to close a higher percentage of legally blind consumers into competitive employment.
o Separate blindness agencies close a higher percentage of legally blind consumers into employment without supports in integrated work settings.
o Separate blindness agencies close a higher percentage of legally blind consumers into self-employment.
o Separate blindness agencies close a lower percentage of legally blind consumers as homemakers.
Findings are based on analyses of two RSA-911 databases: FY 2007 and FY 2008 RSA-911. Comparisons are made with findings from analyses of 1996, 1994, 1989, 1977, and 1971 RSA data. Our conclusions are corroborated with previous studies which also reported that Separate blindness agencies serve consumers who are more likely to be legally blind and to have less education (Cavenaugh & Pierce, 1998; Cavenaugh, 1999; Cavenaugh et al., 2000; Kirchner & Peterson, 1982).Findings are also consistent with earlier studies indicating that consumers in Separate agencies with less severe visual impairments (visually impaired but not legally blind) are more likely than those in General/Combined agencies to have secondary disabilities (Cavenaugh & Pierce; Cavenaugh et al.; NAC, 1997).
(Cavenaugh, 2010, found at http://www.ncsab.org/Docs/final-report-replication-study.doc)
National Council of State Agencies for the Blind, “An Update on Services and Outcomes of Blind and Visually Impaired Consumers Served in Separate and General/Combined VR Agencies, Prepared by Brenda Cavenaugh, Ph.D., CRC
This research was conducted by the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Blindness and Low Vision under a contract from the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind, Inc., 4733 Bethesda Avenue, Suite 330, Bethesda, MD 20814.
Mississippi State University
So, there you have some data from the national association representing state agencies for the blind and from Mississippi State. There is also data from Louisiana Tech which suggests that specialized training in comprehensive blindness skills leads to an employment rate of seventy-five percent for the blind, entirely reversing the tragic numbers I shared with you earlier. An employment rate of seventy-five percent is still unacceptable but a trend in the right direction.
Over the next couple of months, we hope to provide to you an overview of services to the blind over the last few decades. There was a time, for example, when Colorado DVR had a separate unit for the blind with a separate budget. Witnesses from whom you will hear will tell you how this system led to better outcomes. We intend upon providing to you information about access technology for the blind, youth transition services, services to the elder blind, employment programs for the blind, and adjustment to blindness training. We will suggest how these programs can best be delivered and thereby allow Colorado to start leading the way.
I also want to take a moment to reflect upon some very insightful questions and comments posed by the Committee on the 12th. We agree that we must find ways to encourage blind Coloradans to establish and operate their own businesses. Some work is being done on this front but not nearly enough. This issue of entrepreneurial opportunity for the blind touches in part the Business Enterprise Program operated by DVR. Although blind business managers under this program are realizing their highest level of average salary ever, many more blind people could be placed in this program and enjoy the same level of success.
We also appreciate comments about the independent living program. The Older Individuals for the Blind Program under Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act provides critical funding for blind seniors all over the state. Although this program is administered through independent living centers, the experts in blindness and thus independent living for the blind, reside or should reside within DVR. Consequently, we believe it is imperative that the OIB program be housed with blindness services, however they are structured.
Everyone knows that information technology continues to change our world radically. It provides great opportunity to the blind but significant barriers as well. The provision of access technology and creating the proper environment for same is critical to placing the blind into competitive employment. We must bolster our ability to provide such technology and target same in the employment setting.
The issue of services for blind veterans was addressed. We agree that this is another area of critical importance. Although DVR appears to work with the federal Veterans Administration to some degree, we think there must be a higher level of coordination. We are not satisfied that we are doing enough for blind individuals who have served their country.
We believe that Committee members were correct to raise the issue of transition services for blind youth. The handoff from the special education system for blind children to the VR system is a critical one. In several states, that transition starts at age fourteen but not here. We must find a way to transition our blind youth much more effectively. Long term this leads to higher rates of success in placing younger blind people into employment and less time spent as clients of VR.
QUESTIONS THIS COMMITTEE SHOULD CONSIDERSome questions that we suggest you might consider are:
o What is the best structure through which to deliver vocational rehabilitation services to the blind in Colorado: through a separate agency reporting directly to the Governor; through a separate agency reporting directly to the Executive Director of CDLE; or through a separate unit within DVR with its own staff and identifiable budget?
o How many vocational rehabilitation counselors are there in total working for Colorado DVR?
o How many of these counselors have blind or visually impaired clients on their caseload - a viewed through a snapshot of one day or some period of time?
o How many of DVR's Counselors have caseloads specifically dedicated to serving blind or visually impaired clients?
o How many caseloads are comprised of 50 percent or more, blind and visually impaired clients?
o How many counselors are serving blind and visually impaired clients whose caseloads are under 50 percent blind/visually impaired cases?
o Of these latter caseloads, what is the average on the snapshot day of blind and visually impaired persons per caseload?
o Are there supervisors to whom counselors serving blind and visually impaired counselors report? For caseloads of 50 percent or more blind cases, or dedicated caseloads?
o How many management staff are dedicated to coordinating services and counselors serving blind and visually impaired caseloads?
o What specific training is there for working with blind and visually impaired clients and what resources exist?
o What new innovative services can be attempted to turn the blind and low vision of this state into tax payers rather than the recipient of tax dollars?
o How can we promote greater opportunity for blind persons to establish and own their own businesses: though tax credits; low cost loans; more specialized training?
o How can we better coordinate services for blind veterans and maximize opportunities for those who have been blinded in service to their country?
o How can we integrate services for blind seniors leading to greater independence and the ability to return to the workforce if desired? Should services for older individuals who are blind remain within CDHS or transfer also to CDLE?
o Are we maximizing opportunities for blind Coloradans in the state’s Randolph-Sheppard Program also known as the Business Enterprises Program?
o What can we do to augment transition services for blind youth leaving the secondary education system transitioning into vocational rehabilitation? Should we lower the age at which VR serves blind youth to fourteen as several other states have done?
o How can we augment placement of blind VR clients into competitive employment? What new innovative approaches and strategies exist?
o How do we provide the most meaningful and effective access technology to blind persons and how can we work with employers to create environments where that technology can be best put to use?
Certainly there are other questions that should be asked, and the Committee process will undoubtedly unearth these. However, we feel the above is a good place to start.
Finally, I want to thank this Committee for an historic opportunity to tackle the barriers faced by the blind. We are emerging from a very difficult period for vocational rehabilitation services in our state. However, as often is true, periods of great struggle provide opportunity for meaningful change. Let us seize this moment and fashion programs for the blind which all the world will wish to replicate! We look forward to working with you on this exciting project and stand ready to provide whatever assistance we can.
Scott C. LaBarre
President, NFB Colorado
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
(Editor's Note: This is the Legislative Council's final document with respect to the creation of the Interim Committee to Study Vocational Rehabilitative Services for the Blind. It is taken from the official PDF which can be found at https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/2015-3ServicesforBlindFINALRequest.pdf.)
COLORADO GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Sen. Bill Cadman, Chairman
Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, Vice Chairman
Sen. Morgan Carroll
Sen. Mark Scheffel
Rep. Brian DelGrosso
Rep. Crisanta Duran
Mike Mauer, Director
Amy Zook, Deputy Director
Sen. Rollie Heath
Sen. Matt Jones
Sen. Kevin Lundberg
Sen. Vicki Marble
Sen. Ellen Roberts
Rep. Jessie Ulibarri
Rep. Perry Buck
Rep. Lois Court
Rep. Lois Landgraf
Rep. Polly Lawrence
Rep. Jovan Melton
Rep. Angela Williams
ROOM 029 STATE CAPITOL
DENVER, COLORADO 80203-1784
303-866-3521 FAX: 303-866-3855 TDD: 303-866-3472
This letter reflects the authorization for the committee as approved by Legislative
Council at its meeting on April 24, 2015.
Requested by: Representative Lee
With support of: Senator Merrifield
Re: Request for interim study committee regarding vocational rehabilitative
services for the blind
Information Required Pursuant to Section 2-3-303.3, C.R.S.
The Legislative Council approves the creation of an interim study committee to study vocational
rehabilitative services for the blind through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR)
during the interim between the 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions. The interim study
committee is named the “Interim Committee to Study Vocational Rehabilitative Services for the
The Joint Budget Committee (JBC) is sponsoring Senate Bill 15-239, which concerns the
transfer of vocational rehabilitation programs, including the business enterprise program, from
the Department of Human Services (DHS) to the Department of Labor and Employment
(CDLE), effective July 1, 2016. The sponsors commend the commitment, evidenced by this
move, on placing people with disabilities into competitive employment. However, in view of
concerns about DVR’s operations and delivery of vocational rehabilitative services for the blind,
the sponsors requested the interim study committee be created, as described below. The
interim study committee is to augment the quarterly reports from CDLE to the JBC, as required
by Senate Bill 15-239. The work of the interim study committee is in addition to the other
stakeholder outreach being done by the CDLE concerning the transfer of the DVR to the CDLE
Scope of the policy issues to be studied. In order to build a strong foundation for DVR in
CDLE and improve accountability and the delivery of vocational rehabilitative services for the
blind, the sponsors requested the creation of an interim committee to study the vocational
rehabilitative services for the blind is appropriate. The interim study committee will determine
the most effective structure and delivery model for vocational rehabilitative services and
supports for the blind from the DVR within CDLE. Specifically, the interim study committee is
mandated to make recommendations based on the following:
• the findings and recommendations of the November 2013 Legislative Audit, as those findings and recommendations concern the blind, including identification
of “…pervasive problems in the Program that raise questions about the Division’s oversight, system of internal controls, and culture of accountability”;
• evaluation of the delays in delivery of vocational rehabilitative services to the blind;
• assessment of the efficacy of the application, receipt, and use of federal 1973 Rehabilitation Act “110” funding for the blind;
• consideration of any and all issues identified in the National Federation of the Blind Colorado Resolution 2014-11-2, Resolution 2014-01 (Attachment
• consideration of any other issues related to the effective delivery of vocational rehabilitative services to the blind to assist them in obtaining job
skills and long-term high paying jobs.
list end nesting level 1
Committee meeting requirements and structure. The interim study committee should meet
as determined by the interim study committee, but may hold up to 6 meetings during
July through November and report to Legislative Council by November 15, 2015. The interim
study committee should hold a meeting on the Western Slope, possibly Grand Junction, or
arrange for remote testimony. The interim study committee can refer up to 3 bills to Legislative
The interim study committee consists of 6 members:
• 3 members of the Senate, with 2 appointed by the President of the Senate and 1 appointed by the minority leader of the Senate; and
• 3 members of the House of Representatives, with 2 appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and 1 appointed by the minority leader of
the House of Representatives; and
When appointing the legislative members, consideration should be given to the membership of
the committees of reference responsible for business, employment, and human services. The
appointments must be made by July 1, 2015. The chair shall be appointed by the Speaker of
the House of Representatives, and the sponsors suggest Representative Jessie Danielson be
appointed as the chair of the interim study committee. The interim study committee shall elect
a vice-chair from its members.
Nonlegislative members will not be appointed to the interim committee, but are encouraged to
provide information, testify, and work with the committee. It is critical for stakeholders and
activists in the blind community participate with the interim study committee. A task force is not
necessary because of the work being done by the CDLE pursuant to Senate Bill 15-239.
Other Information Related to the Interim Study Committee
Other agencies that may be called upon to provide assistance or information include: DHS;
CDLE; Colorado Department of Education; Colorado Department of Higher Education; National
Federation of the Blind; business advocates, such as the Colorado Association of Commerce
and Industry, National Federation of Independent Business, and various chambers of
commerce; and others entities as determined by the interim study committee.
Resolution 2014-07 Regarding a Request that the State Legislature Convene an Interim Committee to Study Services for the Blind
(Editor's Note: August 12, 2015 marks the first meeting of the Legislature's Interim Study Committee on Vocational Rehabilitation Services for the Blind. This Resolution passed in our November 2014 Convention was our first statement of resolve to improve the opportunities for blind Coloradans by striving to improve the Vocational Rehabilitation services tasked with assisting us to become integrated in the economic fabric of the state.)
WHEREAS, a robust economy and healthy tax base require the inclusion of all Colorado citizens, who are willing and able to work, to actively participate in civic life, and pay their fair share; and
WHEREAS, the opportunity to take part in the social and economic fabric of our state is no less sought after by people who are blind than any other group of citizens; and
WHEREAS, our unique Colorado culture requires equality of opportunity for all; and
WHEREAS, such a requirement demands a variety of programs and services, which exist to bring appropriate regulation, the fostering of entrepreneurship, education, training and rehabilitation, and job placement to a diverse number of Colorado citizens; and
WHEREAS, people who are blind must have effective training in a discrete and specialized skill set in order to be successfully employed and integrated into the economic fabric of the state and nation; and
WHEREAS, state vocational rehabilitation programs are mandated by Federal and state law, and designated and monitored by the United States Department of Education Rehabilitation Services Administration to provide such services; and
WHEREAS, effective vocational rehabilitation requires that administrators,
supervisors, and counselors providing these necessary services to the blind absolutely must have a belief in the capacity of the blind, and possess a thorough understanding of the nonvisual and low vision strategies and adaptive technologies necessary for successful rehabilitation of their clients; and
WHEREAS, Colorado's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation has only a handful of counselors serving blind clients, and no distinct entity providing services to blind Coloradans nor supervisors specifically charged with providing services to the blind; and
WHEREAS, the extensive services often necessary for blind clients are rarely understood by Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation supervisors and managers despite federal and state requirements for individualized services, leading to pernicious delays and unjust, immoral, and illegal denials of legitimate services, and the exercise of federally mandated Informed Choice; and
WHEREAS, a Division of Vocational Rehabilitation working group recently created new policies in answer to a Legislative Audit recommendation regarding time limits in which services must be provided, but admitted that no consideration was given to clients who are blind or the policy's impact on those blind clients when developing these arbitrary and capricious restrictions; and
WHEREAS, unlike almost every other single state in the nation, the Colorado Department of Human Services, which houses the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation has time and time, and time again submitted a budget, which does not allow the state to take full advantage of significant Federal “110” dollars, which can be drawn down in direct support of adjustment, training, and job placement for people who are blind; and
WHEREAS, the blind of Colorado can no longer stand by while inadequate services are delivered through the current administrative structure; and
WHEREAS, there is irrefutable evidence from the many states which have separate identifiable services for the blind that greater outcomes and reduced costs result from a separate state agency model: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado in Convention assembled, this second day of November, 2014, in the City of Lone Tree, Colorado, that this organization calls upon the President of the Colorado Senate and the Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives to convene a special interim committee of the General Assembly to consider how best to address the woeful service delivery system of the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this committee be instructed to give strong consideration to the establishment of a separate, dedicated unit within state government to provide the targeted expertise necessary to enhance quality of life and improve employment outcomes for Colorado’s blind citizens.