[nfbwatlk] FW: letter from Joanne Wilson, former RSA Commissioner

Alco Canfield amcanfield at comcast.net
Mon Dec 14 21:18:03 UTC 2009



From: Carl Jarvis [mailto:carjar82 at gmail.com] 
Sent: Sunday, December 13, 2009 10:15 PM
To: shirley music; john guydish; Holly Kaczmarski; Eric Hunter; Carl Jarvis;
Bill Hoage; Alco Canfield; Frank Johnson
Subject: letter from Joanne Wilson, former RSA Commissioner



October 24, 2005



The Honorable Governor Matt Blunt

Office of the Governor

Room 216, State Capitol Building

Jefferson City, MO. 65101



Dear Governor Blunt:


It has come to my attention from concerned blind and visually impaired
residents of Missouri that you and your administration may be currently
evaluating a recommendation from the Missouri State Review Commission to
consolidate programs provided by Rehabilitation Services for the Blind (RSB)
into the general Division of vocational rehabilitation. As a former
Commissioner of the Federal Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA),
founder and Executive Director of a state-wide orientation and training
center for blind adults, and long-time consumer advocate, I write to
respectfully urge you to ignore any recommendation to combine appropriately
targeted rehabilitation services to blind and visually impaired people into
any vocational rehabilitation agency serving the general disabled
population. Despite the positive intent, a recommendation of this nature is
in fact inconsistent with best practice in providing vocational
rehabilitation services to blind and visually impaired consumers, and
consolidation of these services will ultimately harm this community.


Often proposals to combine vocational rehabilitation services offered to
blind and visually impaired clients with those delivered to the general
disability community are either considered or adopted on the false premise
that such an action will enhance administrative efficiencies and will not
diminish the quality of services provided to blind or visually impaired
program recipients. Both of these superficial assumptions are flawed. Please
review below important facts and information that you should possess before
reaching a decision in this matter. I am confident that you will soon see
the simple wisdom of preserving distinct and identifiable vocational
rehabilitation services for blind and visually impaired residents of


Neither Specialized and comprehensive vocational rehabilitation services nor
essential changes in social attitudes about blindness can be achieved when
vocational rehabilitation services for blind and visually impaired people
are provided through a program of generalist scope. Almost all agencies for
and of the blind agree with the conclusions of the National Federation of
the Blind (NFB) that specialized vocational rehabilitation services for
blind and visually impaired people are best. Why is this so?


The skills that blind and visually impaired people must master in order to
realize true independence and to secure competitive employment are
dramatically different from those that must be learned by others with other
disabilities. Braille, cane travel, use of adaptive technologies, and
techniques of independent living (e.g., cooking, sewing, cleaning and the
like) must all be taught by practically experienced professionals. Where
blind or visually impaired people represent less than 3% of the general
disability minority, only a specialized number of professionals have been
trained to impart these distinctive non-visual alternative techniques. It
has been the experience of blind and visually impaired people nationwide
that access to fundamental, high-quality, training is scarcely available
when vocational rehabilitation services are provided from generalist
agencies. Without a solid grounding in the alternative techniques of
blindness, blind and visually impaired people simply cannot independently
and efficiently compete in the employment and social arenas of daily life.


Equally, if not more important, is the fact that specialized staff in
agencies catering to the vocational rehabilitation needs of blind and
visually impaired people are best equipped to affirm positive emotional
attitudes about blindness to blind and visually impaired program recipients
and to the general public where they are possessed with detailed expertise
and experience not shared by generalists in the vocational rehabilitation
profession. It cannot be emphasized enough that positive attitudes about
blindness must be absorbed in tandem with the non-visual skill sets
previously discussed. If inadequate emotional adjustment to blindness among
program recipients and fashioning of positive public attitudes toward the
blind community are not successfully managed, the important mission of
vocational rehabilitation services will again fail to achieve its maximum


Provision of vocational rehabilitation services that are targeted to blind
and visually impaired people are, when the facts are thoroughly examined,
administratively efficient, consumer-responsive, and yield a higher quality
result. A 1999 study conducted by Dr. Brenda Cavenaugh at Mississippi State
University concluded that agencies providing targeted vocational
rehabilitation services to blind and visually impaired people produce
greater numbers of competitive job placements and higher client wages at the
time of case closure. These are the significant measures to consider when
evaluating the success of employment focused vocational rehabilitation
systems. Further, the objective firm JWK International noted that even most
generalist state agencies choose to serve blind and visually impaired people
either through a specialized unit within the agency or using counselors with
blindness-specific caseloads, and it was observed that these agencies with
specialized caseloads tend to produce better outcomes for their blind and
visually impaired customers. Considering these two studies (conducted more
than two decades apart), there can be little question that separate,
agency-specific services concentrating their unique brand of rehabilitation
on blind and visually impaired clients is in the best interest of this
community. Finally, in a study styled by Mallas (1976), the advantage of
blindness-specific services are summed up this way by the study's author:


"Where reorganization of services for the blind has taken place on the basis
of the economy-of-scale principle, its proponents have sold the legislature
and the governor on statements such as, this will be more efficient and
economical. It will let us get more mileage out of every tax dollar. As a
matter of fact, in every state where such a reorganization has taken place,
the prestige and level of operation of the agencies serving the blind have
been downgraded."


In addition to the quality control benefits found in dedicated agencies
serving blind and visually impaired people, greater accountability for
results is strengthened by this organizational structure. Groups and
individuals, who often serve an informal quality monitoring role, have
easier access to decision makers when they are not buried several layers
deep in an unwieldy bureaucracy. In short, where the needs of the blind and
visually impaired community are quite different from other disabilities, an
identifiable agency serving blind and visually impaired people is generally
more amenable to consumer-developed policy recommendations for improved
services. Reflection on the human element in provision of quality vocational
rehabilitation services cannot be over-emphasized.


In closing, I draw your attention to the fact that the United States
Congress has acknowledged that the unique needs of blind and visually
impaired consumers of vocational rehabilitation services are sufficiently
different from the broader disability community that provisions in the
Federal Law (29 USC Section 721-A-2-a-I) allow for the creation of distinct
state agencies to serve blind and visually impaired people. I earnestly
encourage you, in light of the factual, anecdotal, and legal basis in law
supporting specialized vocational rehabilitation services to blind and
visually impaired consumers, to retain, if not actually strengthen,
Missouri's existing model of separate and identifiable vocational
rehabilitation services. Blind and visually impaired residents of Missouri
will be immeasurably advantaged should you adopt this course of action.


Thank you in advance for your consideration of my views in relation to this
issue. Should you have any further questions, please feel free to contact



Sincerely Yours,




Dr. Joanne Wilson,

Executive Director of Affiliate Action,

National Federation of the Blind

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