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March 2006

Depression in America

Dear Colleagues:

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) is pleased to provide you with an executive summary of our report, The State of Depression in America, unveiled yesterday in Washington DC. With the help of nationally known consumers, including veteran CBS anchorman Mike Wallace, representative Patrick Kennedy, former CNN Chief Tom Johnson; and the help of leading consumer advocates, including Larry Fricks, Jennifer Martin, Jana A. Spalding MD; and the assistance of nationally recognized researchers and health care professionals, including Surgeon General Richard Carmona, Ellen Frank PhD, and Madhukar Trivedi MD, DBSA presented a comprehensive overview of the impact and cost of depression in America today.

We hope you find this a helpful addition to your advocacy tool chest. Feel free to distribute the white paper, executive summary and/or video to others who can benefit from its use.

Sincerely,

Lydia Lewis, President
Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance

READ Download the full report and the accompanying video

Source: ACE: Building Careers for People with Disabilities Via One-Stop Centers


Disabled patrons file suit against Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art over Tut

By Vanessa Blum

Tom Ryan was born blind, but the 65-year-old Pembroke Pines resident says he appreciates art and culture as much as anyone else. So when Ryan went to the King Tut exhibit at the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art in January he was extremely disappointed.

The popular exhibit features more than 130 ancient Egyptian artifacts taken from King Tut's tomb and other gravesites, but Ryan, his wife, and a friend, all three legally blind, could only "see" the 19 that were described in an audio tour narrated by actor Omar Sharif.

Now Ryan, president of the Broward County chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, is one of five local residents suing the museum and exhibit organizers in federal court. They say the exhibit violates the Americans With Disabilities Act, a 1990 law that requires public buildings to take reasonable measures to accommodate disabled patrons.

"No one is asking for a discount," Ryan said. "We just want to be able to enjoy the same things other people can enjoy."

While making a museum exhibit accessible to the blind may not be as simple as installing a wheelchair ramp, experts in disability law say the same principles apply.

Scott LaBarre, president of the National Association of Blind Lawyers, said museums can accommodate visually impaired visitors and comply with the ADA by providing guided tours, descriptive audio tours, or replicas of some artifacts that blind patrons can touch. New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art offers a number of "touch tours" including one featuring six ancient Egyptian sculptures.

"Congress mandated in passing the ADA that individuals with disabilities must have access to all aspects of our society and that includes entertainment," LaBarre said.

Two Broward County residents with physical disabilities requiring the use of motorized scooters are also part of the suit. They say they were unable to maneuver through the exhibit due to barriers.

Joshua Entin, the Miami lawyer who filed the lawsuit Feb. 6, said the two women were also forced to wait 45 minutes to use the elevator and had to leave the museum altogether to use the restroom of a nearby restaurant. He would not elaborate on the specific problems they encountered. The suit seeks a judicial order requiring the museum to comply with the ADA and reimbursement for all legal fees and expenses.

Museum spokesman Michael Mills said he had not seen the suit, but that thousands of patrons, including many who were disabled, have enjoyed the exhibit. According to Mills, the museum provides wheelchairs to patrons who request them and stations docents throughout the exhibit to assist visitors.

"We take ADA compliance seriously and have taken many steps to make the exhibit accessible," Mills wrote in an e-mailed statement. "Until having received this filing we had not received another access complaint." Mark Lach, vice president of exhibit organizer Arts and Exhibitions International, said that he and his team always keep the needs of disabled visitors in mind and try to be responsive to suggestions. When the exhibit moved from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale, Lach said changes were made specifically to accommodate the greater number of seniors expected to attend. But Lach also said no measures are in place specifically to assist blind patrons.

Touchable replicas of artifacts "would be something to consider," Lach said. "I'm always looking for opportunities to make the experience better for everyone."

WRITE Vanessa Blum (954-356-4605)

Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Broward and South Dada Counties, FL)


Disabled, and Shut Out at the Gym

By Abby Ellin

ALTHOUGH Libby Gratton lost her vision two decades ago, she never wanted that to hinder her ability to stay fit. But at five health clubs she visited, she was told she would have to hire a personal trainer to guide her around the equipment. Ms. Gratton couldn't afford a trainer, so except for an occasional walk with her husband she didn't work out. "I was discouraged but I understood they had a bottom line to worry about," she said. "I'm not one to make waves."

Then about a year ago, Ms. Gratton found Contours Express in Leesburg, Fla., a branch of an international chain of women-only gyms, where Betty Aramino, the owner, offered to coach her for no extra fee. Today Ms. Aramino helps Ms. Gratton, 63, getting on and off weight machines and describes how to do calisthenics. Occasionally Ms. Aramino accompanies her to aerobics classes, guiding her arms. Ms. Aramino had never assisted a blind person before but she knew that without her help her new customer would find it impossible to use the gym.

Health clubs are among the last public places in the United States to become broadly accessible to the physically disabled, say advocates for people who are blind, deaf or in wheelchairs. Some clubs lack the ramps and wide doors that they are required to provide -- like schools, restaurants, theaters and office buildings -- under the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.

But even when health clubs have such basic accommodations, the disabled are often shut out because getting through the door is only the beginning. The exercise equipment must be accessible, too.

Disabled exercisers face major hurdles at most gyms, according to a survey in November in The American Journal of Public Health, which looked at 16 for-profit and 19 nonprofit health clubs and concluded that all had significant problems. Some had obstacles that prevented disabled members from reaching parts of the club, a violation of the disabilities act. Others lacked equipment that could be used by people with disabilities or staff members who were willing to help such members.

"It's hard enough to live with any kind of disability -- to get up, get dressed, go to work -- why do we have to make recreation and fitness more difficult?" asked the study's author, James H. Rimmer, the director of the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

But getting fit might soon become easier for the 49.7 million Americans who a 2000 Census Bureau estimate said are blind, in wheelchairs or otherwise physically or mentally impaired. New equipment is being designed for them. A handful of new gyms are going out of their way to assist them with wheelchair-accessible equipment.

The 26,830 health clubs in the country may soon be forced to follow suit.

New federal guidelines for enforcing the 1990 disabilities act, now under review by the Department of Justice, would mandate that health clubs provide a clear floor space of at least 30 inches by 48 inches around each type of weight-training equipment so people in wheelchairs can get to them. Swimming pools, depending on their size, would be required to have a ramp or a lift capable of lowering swimmers in their wheelchairs.

Still, while many advocates for the disabled praise the new recommendations as a step in the right direction, the majority of advocates say they don't go far enough. A Justice Department spokesman said the guidelines won't mandate, for instance, that clubs purchase equipment with Braille, or seats that swing out. This angers some disabled people. "Someone should challenge the law," said Andrew Houghton, 39, an advocate for disability rights.

At the same time, Mr. Houghton added, if the fitness industry made modest accommodations, it would attract new dues-paying members among the disabled. He has fashioned a recumbent bike that can be used by both disabled and able-bodied gymgoers. It's a solution that wouldn't cause too much financial hardship for health clubs, he said.

For years, most gyms have assumed that people in wheelchairs or with visual impairments didn't want to work out, so they did not train instructors or provide special equipment, said Helen Durkin, the director of public policy for the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, the industry's leading trade group.

Source: New York Times, February 9, 2006


Assumptions about applicant may evidence discrimination

By Maria Greco Danaher

When an applicant tries to prove discrimination based on disability with direct evidence such as interviewers' comments, the individual need only offer proof that the employer relied on the disability -- or perceived disability -- in making the challenged employment decision, the 6th U.S.

Circuit Court of Appeals held. The person does not have to prove that the disability was the sole reason for the adverse action.

In 1992, Rick Todd was granted a disability pension from Cincinnati, due to degenerative disc disease resulting from his employment as a police officer. In 1996, Todd applied for a city firearms instructor position, but was turned down.

The individuals who interviewed Todd later testified that they assumed that, based on Todd's back problem, he would be unable to do the lifting required for the job. In fact, one decision-maker asked, "how can you go out [on a disability pension] with a back injury ... then come back now and say you can pick something up that was, you know, fairly heavy?"

The decision-makers sought no additional information from Todd, nor did they discuss with him his ability to undertake the essential functions of the position.

Todd sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), alleging that the police officials refused to hire him because they regarded him as disabled. The lower court granted summary judgment for the city, but the 6th Circuit reversed.

Reversal was based largely on the decision-makers' comments about Todd's back injury and about his perceived inability to lift fairly heavy objects. The court held that such testimony created direct evidence of discrimination that allowed the case to go forward to trial.

Reference: Todd v. City of Cincinnati, 6th Cir., No. 05-3343 (Feb. 3, 2006).

Professional Pointer: The ultimate lesson in this case is that statements by decision-makers regarding their own assumptions about an applicant's perceived impairments or limitations can form the basis of legal liability under the "regarded as" prong of the ADA. Topics for discussions with an applicant should be limited to the essential job functions for which he or she has applied, and the applicant's ability to meet those qualifications, with or without accommodation. Anything else may form the basis of a claim of discriminatory treatment.

[Maria Greco Danaher is an attorney with the firm of Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote in Pittsburgh.]

Source:SHRM On-Lines


Lambs Farm agrees to accept client with HIV-AIDS

Chicago (March 2, 2006) -- Equip For Equality, the federally-mandated protection and advocacy agency for people with disabilities in Illinois, today announced a settlement of the federal lawsuit it brought against Lambs Farm Inc. on behalf of John Doe, an individual with HIV. The suit claimed that Lambs Farm, which serves adults with developmental disabilities, denied vocational and residential services to John Doe based on his HIV status, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal laws.

Under the settlement, John Doe will soon begin participating in Lambs Farm's vocational program. Other terms of the settlement remain confidential.

"We are delighted that our client will now be a part of the Lams Farm community and that Lambs Farm recognizes that his participation does not pose a danger to other participants," says Karen I Ward, Senior Counsel at Equip For Equality and lead counsel for Doe. "It is critical that organizations serving individuals with one disability do not discriminate based on another disability." Equip For Equality Senior Attorney Alan Goldstein also served as counsel in this case.

Doe's lawsuit alleged that Lambs Farm had tentatively accepted him, but that his application was terminated when Lambs Farm staff learned of his HIV status. Lambs Farm denied any and all wrongdoing.

Doe is eagerly looking forward to his participation at Lambs Farm. "All I want to do is go to 'The Lambs'," he said. "I want to begin my new life."

"The ADA prohibits denying services to people with disabilities based on unjustified fears and stereotypes," says Barry Taylor, Equip For Equality's Legal Advocacy Director. "Equip For Equality is committed to challenging discriminatory practices and policies that exclude people with HIV and other disabilities."

Contact: TTY 800/610.2779; Karen I Ward, 312/895.7330; Barry C Taylor, 312/895.7317.

Reference: US District Court, Northern District of IL, Chicago Case #05-5564, John Doe v. Lambs Farm Inc.


Concerns arise over new health center accessibility; Committee formed to address disability issues

By Brandon Weisenberger

Concerns about accessibility for disabled people at the new Student Health Center have prompted officials to form a committee to field and act on complaints.

Some SIUC students and at least one faculty member have complained about accessibility at the center, saying that while the building is aesthetically pleasing, certain areas do not offer optimum accommodations for people with disabilities.

Burt Pusch, a post-doctoral research student living in Carbondale, said entering the Counseling Center is difficult because of a heavy front door.

"When I tried to open the Counseling Center door, it was hard," he said. "Even some of the staff agreed. There was a lot of resistance."

Pusch, who uses an electric wheelchair, also said the counseling rooms are too small for people in wheelchairs to maneuver, especially if both the client and counselor are disabled.

"Can you imagine going to counseling and knowing how frustrating it's going to be getting in your room every time?" he asked. "My life is already full of hassles. Why do I need one more?"

Counseling Center Director Janet Coffman said the entrance door and room sizes have been a concern for staff since the Health Center was built. Counseling rooms are smaller than those in Woody Hall, where the Counseling Center was located previously. The Counseling Center and other health programs scattered across campus were re-located into one building, which opened on Grand Avenue in January.

"I think this new location feels different to the students," Coffman said. "We want to do everything we can to provide a space that makes them feel comfortable."

Stacie Robertson, an assistant professor of rehabilitation, said she believes problems at the Counseling Center could have been avoided if accessibility accommodations went beyond those mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"I think most people going into the Counseling Center are having issues and have trouble just to get there in the first place," she said. "So when you get there and you find it's not accessible, what kind of message is that sending?

"In my opinion, if you're going to build it, review what you're building it for, and see if you need to go beyond the legal specifications."

Student Health Director Cheryl Presley was notified of the complaints and formed a committee to deal with the issues. Presley said the building was meets code, but that all concerns are noted.

"We take every complaint seriously and we welcome constructive criticism, that's what helps you be the best," Presley said. "I want a building where people want to come and they don't have to be sick just to come here."

Presley said the transition into the new facility is the perfect time for concerns to be assessed and addressed.

Kathleen Plesko, director of Disability Support Services, said the complaints likely came from students familiar with the University's positive track record of accommodating people with disabilities.

"Students have a high expectation regarding accessibility," Plesko said. "We don't want (the Health Center) to just be compliant, we want it to work. It's all about solutions for students."

The committee Presley has formed will consist of Plesko, Coffman, one or more disabled students and possibly a faculty member. Joe Baker, assistant director of Student Health Programs, will serve as chairman of the committee.

"We're going to try and broaden our base of knowledge from student experience, and we're going to begin working on this as soon as we can," Baker said.

Source: Daily Egyptian (Carbondale, IL)


Strip Club must install elevator for disabled

By Kevin Leininger

Thanks to federal law, disabled people will be able to navigate a new strip club, too.

Owners of Fort Wayne's new five-level strip club - which was scheduled to open around March 1 - will have to install an elevator before they can open the doors to the public. "This is incredible, and not rational. We'll probably have one or two disabled people in here a year," said Dino Zurzolo, operations manager at Shangri-La East in the 1000 block of Coliseum Boulevard North, which will be the city's largest strip club.

That will be pushed back at least two weeks while Zurzolo installs the elevator needed to make the business compatible with provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Dave Fuller, Allen County's building commissioner, said the problem was discovered during a routine inspection last week. "(Zurzolo) changed the designs after they were approved," Fuller said. "The ADA requires that every level open to the public also be accessible to the disabled."

Last year federal inspectors randomly visited county-owned buildings and ordered more than $500,000 in changes designed to make them ADA compliant.

Zurzolo, who is also Shangri-La East's general contractor, said the elevator will add about $30,000 to the million-dollar cost of the new 9,000-square-foot building - the first in Fort Wayne designed specifically for use as a strip club.

Because all the dancers will work on every level, Zurzolo said people in wheelchairs would not have missed anything even if the design forced them to stay on the ground floor.

Fuller, meanwhile, acknowledges requiring an elevator in a strip club may seem a little unusual. "But if we let one go, everybody will want us to make an exception."

Source: The News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, IN), February 15, 2006


DOJ Online News

The Department of Justice has issued their latest issue of "Disability Rights News On-Line". This issue is the 11th in their series.

READ Read the issue

Source: Great Lakes ADA And Accessible IT Center


Computer Technology Opens a World of Work to Disabled People

By David S Joachim

For 24 years, Pamela Post, a victim of a panic disorder called agoraphobia, has been afraid to leave her house. She managed to find work for a time, at a company partly owned by a man who also had a panic disorder. He gave her a private office in a house, to make her feel at home and to shield her from the office bustle that could bring on attacks.

But three and a half years into the job, even those accommodations were no longer enough. Her husband left her, and her 19-year-old daughter, who drove her to work, married and moved out. ...

After a year with no job, she came across Willow, an outsourcing company that was starting a program to train at-home workers to take called for companies like Teleflora and Palm. Today she works from home in Deltona, Fla., sets her own working hours and supports herself. And the panic attacks have subsided. ...

Such arrangements are bringing jobs to thousands of people with disabilities, including those with spinal cord injuries and vision loss. Fast computers and broadband connections have become so inexpensive and reliable that location is now not an issue for certain jobs, like customer service.

At the same time, an abundance of technology is available to help disabled people operate computers, like software that lets a blind person use a keyboard instead of a mouse to navigate a program, and voice synthesizers that turn text into speech. There are also alternatives to the mouse for people with limited use of their arms. ...

No one has statistics on just how many disabled people work from home as phone agents. But the market research firm IDC says that about 112,000 home agents -- both disabled and not -- were working for outsourcing firms like Willow, Alpine Access of Golden Col., and J Lodge of Hammonton, NJ, at the end of 2005. That number is expected to climb to 300,000 by 2010. That does not count employees of companies that hire their own home agents. Many new jobs will go to people who are disabled or to caregivers who cannot go to an office, several specialists said, because there are more programs to train them.

These jobs pay reasonably well, from about $10 to $14 an hour for those who earn a commission when taking orders over the phone. Firms like Willow, based in Miramar, Fla., often treat their agents as independent contractors, with no benefits, but many disabled agents qualify for Medicare.

The wages are higher than agents get for similar work in India, where many companies have moved call centers in the last few years, but the costs are still at least 30 percent lower than hiring full-time employees and providing working space for them, said Stephen Loynd, an analyst at IDC. Some executives at outsourcing firms say that the extra expense of hiring American workers is worth it, because many customers that offshore agents do not speak English well. ...

At the Internal Revenue Service, about 350 disabled workers in 42 states are taking calls this tax season. The IRS and other federal agencies are required to hire people with severe disabilities as part of their compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The agency determined that disabled agents could easily handle its seasonal call center, answering requests for tax forms.

The IRS was especially interested in having agents answering calls during peak hours -- midday on Mondays and Tuesdays -- without having to employ them full time. ...

Customer service is not the only job that can be moved into the home. Janet Eckles, 53, of Orlando, Fla., works full time for Language Line Services of Monterey, Calif., taking calls from hospitals and courts that need a Spanish translator. Clients call a central number and are routed to either Ms Eckles or hundreds of other translators.

Ms Eckles uses a computer to train other Language Line interpreters over the phone. For that, she uses a Windows program called JAWS, for Job Access With Speech. It is customized to let her navigate her computer using a keyboard rather than a mouse, and it reads the output into one ear while she talks to a trainee, like a television anchorwoman taking cues from a producer. ...

Some call center operators have found that disabled workers stay in their jobs longer and are more loyal than other workers. They also tend to be older and better educated, and they will work for less. ...

About 6.5 million people receive disability benefits from the Social Security Administration, and about a million disabled people are registered with state agencies looking for work. ...

There are limits, though, to the ability to work while drawing disability benefits. Those who qualify for federal disability insurance cannot earn more than $860 a month after completing a nine-month trial period, or they lose disability payments, which average $938 a month.

Garth Howard, chief executive of Alpine Access, says he moved many customer service jobs overseas as an executive at American Express and TeleTech Holdings. Now, he says, technology is helping him hire disabled workers at competitive wages because he can offer them a measure of convenience that was not available just a few years ago.

"I'm excited to be able to bring some jobs back," he said.

Source: The New York Times, 3/1/06


Special Needs Future Planning

Brian Rubin has been lecturing on the topic of Special Needs Future Planning since 1982 ... since his own son with special needs was one year old. For more information and/or to arrange for a "HEART-to-HEART Family Educational Group Presentation" for your group or organization on the topic of "Future Planning for Families of Children & Adults with Special Needs", please contact our office.

05/20/06
Cornbelt Bank, Pittsfield (30 minutes west of Springfield).
8:30 am -1:00 pm

05/16/06
Arc of Illinois Expo, at Holiday Inn Convention Center, 18501 S. Harlem Ave, Tinley Park.

04/06/06
The Arc of Illinois Annual Convention, at Hilton Hotel, Lisle
9 am - 10:15 am

03/25/06
TAP (The Autism Program)
8:30 am - 9:20 am Presentation
10:30 am -11:50 am Panel Discussion: Estate Planning and Education Law(Brian Rubin Attorney, Matt Cohen Attorney, and Vickie Henley, Family Matters) braham Lincoln Hotel and Conference Center, Springfield.

03/24/06
Exhibitor, at Abraham Lincoln Hotel and Conference Center, for TAP (The Autism Program), Springfield, Illinois.

03/23/06
The Next Step Team and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Echo School, 350 W. 154th St, South Holland.
6:30 pm - 8 pm

03/18/06
Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School, 1365 E. 60th St, Chicago.
1 pm - 3 pm

03/14/06
SEDOL - Lasso Program (SEDOL - Special Education District of Lake County), SEDOL building, 18160 W. Gages Lake Road, Gages Lake.
7 pm - 9:30 pm

03/11/06
Kaneland Community School District 302, Special Services, Kaneland H.S., 47W326 Keslinger Road, Maple Park.
11 am - 12 noon

03/07/06
PACT, at Elmhurst Memorial Center for Health, Conference Room D, 1200 York Road (York & Roosevelt),Elmhurst.
7 pm - 9:30 pm.

Please RSVP to Jessie Gibson@ PACT (630) 960-9700 x147

Source: Special Needs Future Planning Law Offices of Brian Rubin & Associates. Phone: 847/279.7999


Community Partner Update

Before a joint session of the General Assembly, Gov. Rod Blagojevich introduced the FY '07 Budget on February 15, 2006. The division fared pretty well in the budget proposal, increasing its Home Services Program by $33 million over last year's spending and increasing its GRF Match for the

Vocational Rehabilitation Program by more than $800,000. These increases will allow HSP to grow at a rate of 100+ net new cases per month; the increase for VR will help in offsetting the lack of adequate federal increases in the past several years.

Legislative Update: SB 2330 Senate Bill 2330 creates the Blind Vending Act (the bill sponsor is Senator Jacobs). The measure replaces the existing Blind Persons Operating Vending Facilities Act which pertains to the Business Enterprise Program for the Blind within DHS. The new Act requires state agencies to give priority, instead of preference, to qualified vendors who are blind or visually impaired to run vending operations on all state owned or leased property.

Negotiations are ongoing with the bill sponsor, the Illinois Committee of Blind Vendors, various state units, and other interested parties. Several amendments have been added to the measure. The majority of the discussions have focused on the percentage of profits a state agency will receive from the blind vendor in state owned facilities. In many instances, a state owned facility receives a percentage of the profits and uses those funds to provide extras to customers that cannot be provided for with state or federal funds.

Appropriation Hearings

As you are aware, appropriation hearings will be held next week on the 2007 State Budget. The House hearing will be held on Monday, March 6 at 10:00 a.m. in the JRTC Auditorium in Chicago. The Senate hearing will be held on Tuesday, March 7 at 4:00 p.m. in Room 212 of the Capitol.

Interpreter Rate Increase

DRS is increasing its rates for sign language interpreters effective April 1, 2006 [no joke]. These rates have not increased since 1992 and the higher rates will make it much easier to accommodate DRS employees and customers who are deaf. Within the last 13 years, several changes have occurred in the field of interpreting. As the pool of interpreters has remained much smaller than the demand for services requires; costs have continued to rise.

Video relay services have also depleted the reservoir of interpreters. Many of the highly skilled interpreters are working for these services where they have regularly scheduled hours, no outside travel, and fringe benefits. With the opportunity to earn much more than DRS is able to currently offer, interpreters are accepting our assignments less and less.

Rates for interpreters holding ISAS levels 1, 2 and 3 or NAD levels 1, 2 and 3 will remain the same. Interpreters holding the following credentials will be paid hourly as follows: ISAS Level 4 and NAD Level 4 at $31.50; ISAS Level 5 and NAD Level 5 at $33.00; RID: IC or TC at $34.50; RID CI or CT or IC/TC at $40.00 and RID CSC or CI/CT at $45.00.

These higher rates will make it much easier to accommodate DRS employees and customers who are deaf.

Community Forum

DRS held a Customer Forum at Progress Center for Independent Living on February 27. In all likelihood, the large attendance at the forum was a result of the timing of the event (the budget address and DHS Appropriations hearings are imminent), and the fact that it has been two years or so since we have convened such a meeting.

During this forum, DRS staff in attendance attempted to garner feedback for the program, got ideas and communicated with stakeholders about the program, and followed up on individual complaints from Customers. The issues raised were almost uniformly HSP in nature. The questions asked by stakeholders, which were interesting and well thought out, included: "How does DRS publicize its programs and services?", "When does the state pay for augmentative communication devices?", "Why did the DRS Office reduce my personal assistant hours?", "Can you send me some newsworthy stuff in braille?", and "Under what circumstances would HSP make an individual whose primary disability was Bi-Polar Disorder eligible for the program?"

Medical and Psychosocial Aspects of Disability Training

Do you know what Orthostatic Hypotension is? What about Autonomic Dysreflexia? Which disabilities are likely to encounter these physical issues? These and other questions will be answered as Scott Forbes of Region V Rehabilitation Continuing Education Program begins training DRS staff on The Medical and Psychosocial Aspects of Disability. This training will help participants review and refresh their knowledge of the systems of the body and disabilities related to those systems. The disabilities selected are those disabilities most frequently reported by DRS customers in the past fiscal year.

This training will utilize Problem Based Learning to focus on the possible functional limitations of disabilities and the impact of the psychological and sociological factors of these disabilities. The Problem-Based Learning design will empower participants to use reference materials available to them in their offices and give them practice in gathering information. This much needed initiative will benefit both HSP and VR staff.

Future of VR

Jeff Standerfer, Bureau Chief of DRS Field Services, recently represented the state at a "Future of VR" Meeting in Bethesda, Maryland. More than 100 advocates and VR staff from around the country participated. The meeting was hosted by the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR). Over 130 participants attended the first full-day session which provided an opportunity for the VR community, including advocates, community rehabilitation programs, parents and other stakeholders, to present testimony on the state of the past and present VR program. The second day was a closed session for VR directors and staff who shared their reactions to the testimony offered during the first day and discussed varied themes that had emerged around five key questions which CSAVR had asked everyone to consider. We anticipate that CSAVR will provide a synopsis of this discussion as well as an analysis in the near future. It was an eye-opening, thought provoking two days, which could lead to several important changes in the way the VR Program serves customers in the years ahead. Additional information from this meeting is posted on the CSAVR website.

RFP Update

DRS issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) in January to establish a new methodology for purchasing job placement services from community rehabilitation program agencies. The current method provides a lump-sum payment to the community agency when all steps in the job placement process are completed. The new milestone method provides for incremental payments when various steps in the process are completed. DRS believes that more individuals will receive services and that community agencies will have a more secure funding base using the milestone method.

DRS received 21 proposals from community agencies in response to the RFP. A total of $150,000 in new funds is available to applicant agencies, with a maximum award of $50,000. DRS anticipates funding three new provider agencies when the process is completed in May.

Proposals are currently being reviewed and scored by review teams. Each proposal is scored by a team of three reviewers. Each team includes DRS staff as well as one external reviewer.

Interagency Committee on Employees with Disabilities Annual Legislative Reception

The Interagency Committee on Employees with Disabilities (ICED) will host its Second Annual Legislative Reception on March 28. The reception will take place from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. at the State Library in Springfield. This event is designed to provide opportunities for employees in state governmental agencies to meet and interact one-on-one with their legislators. Last year's event, attended by Senators DeMuzio, Cronin and others, was considered a successful first step.

Workforce Investment Act Update

We continue to hear from our contacts in Washington that there still may be action on the WIA Reauthorization this year. There may be an impending meeting between Senators Durbin, Enzi, and Kennedy to discuss what would need to happen to have S. 1021 receive a vote on the floor of the Senate this spring. Thanks to all who called and wrote to our U.S. Senators, your advocacy may still result in a bill passing the Senate and going to conference committee this year. Stay tuned!

State Rehabilitation Council Update

The State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) held its quarterly meeting and legislation day in Springfield on February 22 and 23. Director Kilbury met with SRC council members and gave an update on the selection of impartial hearing officers, the appeals process, and talked about the impact of the Governor's proposed budget on DRS programs. In addition, SRC members developed their 2006 Legislative Priorities and discussed them with elected officials at the Capitol.

For more information concerning SRC or meeting dates, please contact Matt Abrahamson, staff liaison at 217/782-2280 (v/tty).

Quarterly Regional Consortiums of Transition Planning Committees

DRS is facilitating Quarterly Regional Transition Planning Committee (TPC) Consortiums throughout March. These consortiums provide a forum to address transition issues, provide networking opportunities, and facilitate information sharing among local TPC members, VR staff, educators, post-secondary schools, consumers, community partners, parents, and state agencies.

Invited guest speakers include: David Spacek, Illinois Department of Transportation; Kevin Dill, Champaign Special Education Cooperative; Gary Hake and Renee Lumpkin of local Southern Illinois Case Coordination and Community Services Options, respectively; and Myra Christian of Family Resource Center on Disabilities.

Goal Ball Anyone?

Marjorie Olson and Rob Kilbury attended the second ever goal ball contest at the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired on February 21. Goal ball is a fast-paced game that includes an auditory ball, a goal the width of a basketball court, and three defenders with blindfolds per side.

While both the boys and girls teams lost to Missouri School for the Blind, the competition was spirited and the participants and observers had a great time.

Source: IL Dept. of Rehab Services, March 2006


Council for Disability Rights

Knowing your rights is the easy part. Exercising them can be a bit trickier.

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