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Reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act

Updated 2/25/02: Nationwide Schedule Finalized

The reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (“the Act”) is scheduled to occur prior to October 1, 2003.  To assist the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) and the Department of Education in preparing for reauthorization, public meetings will be held to solicit input.  In addition, written comments can be submitted directly to RSA.  The following provides information on the meetings and the processes for submitting written comments.

Individuals seeking additional information should contact Beverlee Stafford, United States Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration, 330 "C" Street, S.W., Room 3014, Mary E. Switzer Building, Washington, D.C. 20202-2550.  Internet address  Beverlee.Stafford@ed.gov. Telephone (202) 205-8831.  Individuals who use a TTY may call (202) 205-5538.

Not sure what is covered by the Rehab Act? An overview is available at http://www.wou.edu/nwoc/rehaboverview.htm. An electronic copy of the Act itself is available on the RSA website at http://www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/RSA/Policy/Legislation/rehabact.doc.

We encourage individuals who need copies of the Act to obtain copies via the Internet.  However, for those individuals who are unable to access the Internet and are attending one of the public meetings, copies of the Act are available via the contact person identified below for each public meeting.  Other individuals who are unable to access the Internet can obtain a copy of the Act by calling  (202) 205-8299.

General Information:

A sampling of testimony provided at the December 13, 2001 Public Forum in Seattle, WA.

Full Schedule of Public Forum Testimony Opportunities

Individuals who wish to present comments at one of the public meetings must reserve time on the agenda for that meeting by contacting the individual identified below. Reservations for presenting comments will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.  Given the expected number of individuals interested in providing comments at the meetings, reservations for presenting comments should be made as soon as possible. In addition, all individuals attending the public meetings should be prepared to show photo identification at the meeting location for security purposes.

Approximately five to seven minutes will be allotted to each commenter, depending upon the number of individuals who reserve time on the agenda.  At the meeting, presenters are encouraged to submit to RSA two written copies of their comments. In order to ensure that all comments are given maximum consideration during the development of the Department’s reauthorization proposals, individuals should present their comments by:

(1) Identifying the issue(s) (and, if applicable, portions of the Act) to which their comments pertain;
(2) Clearly describing any proposed improvements to the Act;
(3) Providing a concise rationale supporting each proposed change.
We also ask that commenters indicate which portions of the current Act they find to be particularly effective.

When making reservations, anyone attending a meeting, including those presenting comments, who needs special accommodations such as sign language interpreters, Braille materials, and communication access real-time transcription should inform the contact individual for that meeting identified below of their specific accessibility needs.  Requests for accommodations must be made at least 10 working days prior to the scheduled meeting date. For individuals who need to use the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS), the telephone number is 800-877-8339 and the customer service number is 800-877-0996.

December 13, 2001
RSA Region X
Seattle Center, Rainier Room
Northwest Corner of the Seattle Center
1st Ave. N. and Republican (North of the Key Arena)
Seattle, Washington
March 19, 2002
RSA Regions I and II
1:00-6:00 p.m.
Metropolitan Hotel (Ballroom)
Lexington Avenue and 51st Street
New York City, NY
New York Contact: Richard Anderson; Rehabilitation Services Administration, U.S. Department of Education, c/o NYC Board of Education, 65 Court Street, 12th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201; (voice) 718-935-5650; (fax) 718-935-5584; (FIRS) 800-877-8339; (e-mail) richard.anderson@ed.gov.
March 21, 2002
12:30-6:00 p.m.
Atlanta Marriott Marquis
265 Peachtree Center Avenue
Atlanta, GA
Atlanta Contact: Diane McCuen, Rehabilitation Services Administration, U.S. Department of Education, 61 Forsyth Street, Atlanta, GA  30303; (voice) 404-562-6330; (fax) 404-562-6346; (TTY) 404-562-6347; (e-mail) diane.mccuen@ed.gov.
March 25, 2002
10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Holiday Inn O'Hare
5440 North River Road
Rosemont, IL
Chicago Contact: Kathleen Niemi, Rehabilitation Services Administration, U.S. Department of Education, 111 North Canal Street, Suite 1048, Chicago, IL 60606-7204; (voice) 312-886-8623; (fax) 312-353-8623; (FIRS) 800-877-8339; (e-mail) kathleen.niemi@ed.gov.
April 18,2002
12:30-5:30 p.m.
First Floor Auditorium
Elihu Harris State Office Building
1515 Clay Street
Oakland, CA
Oakland Contact: Gilbert "Doc" Williams; Rehabilitation Services Administration, Department of Education, 50 United Nations Plaza, Room 215, San Francisco, CA 94102; (voice) 415-556-4070; (fax) 415-437-7848; (TTY) 415-437-7845; (e-mail) gilbert.williams@ed.gov.
May 9, 2002
12:30-6:00 p.m.
Bachman Therapeutic Recreation Center
2750 Bachman Drive
Dallas, Texas
Dallas Contact: Michael Evans, Rehabilitation Services Administration, U.S. Department of Education, Harwood Center, 1999 Bryan Street, Room 2740, Dallas, TX 75201-6817; (voice) 214-880-4927; (fax) 214-880-4931; (TTY) 214-880-4933; (e-mail) michael.evans@ed.gov.
June 19, 2002
10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
U.S. Department of Education
Barnard Auditorium
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC
Washington, DC Contact: Washington, DC: Tammy Nelson, U.S. Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration, 330 C Street, SW, Room 3214, Washington, DC 20202; (202) 205-9005; (fax) 202-260-7527; (TTY) (202) 205-5538; (email) tammy.nelson@ed.gov.

Submitting Written Comments

In addition to soliciting input through public meetings, RSA invites the submission of written comments on the reauthorization of the Act by June 30, 2002 to ensure that they are given full consideration by the Department in formulating its reauthorization proposals.  All written comments concerning the reauthorization of the Act should be addressed to Joanne Wilson, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, United States Department of Education and submitted by one of the following methods:

We encourage the submission of comments through the Internet at the following address: rehab.reauth@ed.gov.

Comments can also be submitted via mail to:

Rehabilitation Services Administration
United States Department of Education
330 "C" Street
S.W., Room 3028
Mary E. Switzer Building
Washington, D.C. 20202-2531

Comments may also be submitted by facsimile at (202) 205-9874.

Suggested Format:
As with comments provided during the public meetings, written comments submitted to RSA should:

  1. Identify the issue(s) (and, if applicable, portions of the Act) to which their comments pertain;
  2. Clearly describe any proposed improvements to the Act; and
  3. Provide a concise rationale supporting each proposed change.
In addition, we ask that commenters indicate which portions of the current Act they find to be particularly effective. We also ask that you submit your comments only once using one of the three methods described above so that we do not receive duplicate copies of the same comments.

Tips for Preparing Testimony for Reauthorization Public Forums

The purpose of this document is to help people understand the context of the public forum, organize their thoughts and prepare comments to effectively communicate their points. Thanks to Paul Dziedzic from the Center on Continuing Education in Rehabilitation for this information.

What is effective testimony?

What is NOT effective testimony?

Organizing your testimony:

With respect to Reauthorization Forums…

download printable PDF of Announcement to post (requires free Adobe Acrobat)
Department of Education Logo
Rehabilitation Services Administration
Regions I and II
U.S. Department of Education

RSA Announces a Public Forum
with the Commissioner of the
Rehabilitation Services Administration

Date:  March 19, 2002
Time:  1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Place:  Metropolitan Hotel (Ballroom)
Lexington Avenue and 51st Street
New York City, NY

Featured Guest:  Joanne Wilson, Commissioner

Description: The Federal Rehabilitation Act authorizes the funding of vocational rehabilitation programs serving people with disabilities (including Native Americans and Migrant workers), independent living programs (including older blind), Projects with Industry, client assistance programs, rehabilitation training programs, protection and advocacy, recreation and other demonstration and research programs. The Act and its regulations can be found at: http://www.ed.gov/offices/OSERS/RSA/Policy.

RSA wants to hear from persons with disabilities and others interested in the programs funded under the Rehabilitation Act.  Tell us about your concerns, issues, and ideas for improving services to individuals with disabilities through the Rehabilitation Act.

If you are interested in providing public testimony or would like more information, please call: 718-935-5650 or for TDD users, contact us through the Federal Information Relay Service at 800-877-8339.  Each speaker will be will be limited to five minutes. You can register in advance or at the door.  It is recommended that you provide a written copy of your testimony for the public record.  If you are unable to attend, you may submit written testimony via email to richard.anderson@ed.gov or by fax to the RSA Region II Office at 718-935-5584.

If you are a person with a disability and need an accommodation, please call 718-935-5650 V or 800-877-8339 TDD by March 5th.

A Sampling of Testimony

Presented at the 12/13/01 Public Forum

in Seattle, WA

A Coalition from the Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing Community:
Recommendations for Improving Services Under the Rehabilitation Act
a summary document prepared by John P. Evans
Presented to Commissioner Joanne Wilson
December 13, 2001 in Seattle, WA.

Demographics: There are 28 million people in the United States who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind and hard of hearing (source: National Institutes of Health). This population crosses all races and ethnic groups.  In July 2002, the United States will host the second Deaf Way conference bringing people from around the world together to focus on improving access, advocacy, education, employment and independence of individuals who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind and hard of hearing.

Overview: The Rehabilitation Act is a strong piece of legislation designed to develop an effective service system that results in the employment and independence of people with disabilities. The foundation of the Act is empowerment through informed choice, access to a range of vocational rehabilitation and independent living services and individualized planning designed to support employment and independence. For people who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind and hard of hearing there are three key areas of focus: effective communication, access to services and empowerment through education, informed choice and self-determination.

Access through Effective Communication: For our population the communication needs range from the use of assistive listening devices to the use of a sign language interpreter. The needs vary from person to person depending upon their situation. The key is qualified staff who understand the impact of the disability, the available technology and the impact of culture and English as a second language. The Rehabilitation Act addresses the need for qualified staff through the Comprehensive System of Personnel Development, the requirements include education but the regulations also recognize the need for staff who are culturally competent and have the language ability required to effectively serve individuals. This is particularly important for individuals who are Deaf and Deaf-Blind. A degree is not effective without the cultural competency, community trust and fluency in ASL.

Our recommendations in this area include:

  1. Increasing the number and availability of education programs that prepare staff to serve people who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind and hard of hearing or late deafened.
  2. Increasing access to all training programs that provide undergraduate, graduate and continuing education to employees in the public VR system. Do people in these higher education programs understand the needs? Are accommodations readily available? If they are using distance education methods are they accessible? Are Deaf, Deaf-Blind and hard of hearing people recruited and employed in these programs?
  3. Increasing the employment of Deaf, Deaf-Blind and hard of hearing people in the VR system. Assure that these employees have support and access to promotional opportunities.
  4. Assure that certification processes such as the Commission on Certification in Rehabilitation Counseling are accessible to people who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind and hard of hearing. This includes access to information via the phone system, preparation materials and the testing process.
  5. Employ qualified staff who specialize in providing services to Deaf, Deaf-Blind and hard of hearing consumers. This includes the reinstatement of Coordinators for the Deaf in each state. Generalists do not address the competencies required to effectively deliver services to this population.
Access to Services:  The Rehabilitation Act incorporates a variety of services ranging from the Title I provision of public vocational rehabilitation services to other titles including independent living, Projects With Industry, advocacy support and other related services that directly support employment outcomes and independence. Do people who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind and hard of hearing have access to the full range of services? For the majority of members from our community a variety of services are required to assure that they are employed in a career and able to live independently. Qualified staff is key as we mentioned previously. Access to written information is also important.

Many of these service programs serve a wide range of programs on a relatively small budget. For example, a small independent living center in rural Oregon has a budget of less than $75,000 a year. Though they may want to serve our community they don’t have staff who have sign language competency and can’t afford interpreters.  These same concerns surface with PWI programs, Client Assistance Programs and other important programs operating on a small budget. Many decisions are driven by the budget and not the needed services.

Recommendation: Explore options for providing effective communication and access to the wide-range of services without monetarily penalizing the already underfunded programs.  Research and develop alternate communication systems that provide effective communication.

Recommendation: Increase funding for services to consumers who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind and hard of hearing. Focus the funding on increasing access to the wide-range of services offered through the Rehabilitation Act. Don’t let the cost of accommodations and access drive the service delivery decisions.

Order of selection has been invoked in some programs within our region.  Though the intent of order of selection is good, the interpretation and implementation of the system has resulted in Deaf, Deaf-Blind and hard of hearing people being cut-off of VR services. The impact of these medical conditions is wide-ranging. The key is to look beyond the diagnosis and understand how the condition creates barriers that can be alleviated or removed through the delivery of VR and independent living services. For people who are born Deaf, Deaf-Blind or hard of hearing key barriers and issues may range from the need for assistance in areas such as money management, understanding contracts, advocacy services, limited training, education and work experience, or how to maintain a job or promote.

Recommendation: Provide technical assistance and training to VR programs regarding the implementation of order of selection.

Other key areas of focus include the transition from school to work and the required coordination between VR and higher education. In many states the required agreement between VR and higher education is not in place, leaving the student in the middle while the issue of cost and payment of auxiliary aids and services is being debated. For students who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind and hard of hearing transition from high school to work or higher education is key. People are graduating without having competitive levels of competency in reading, math and other key skills that employers require. Work has to be an early focus and the coordination between schools and VR.

Recommendation: Assure that memorandums of understanding are in place between the VR agency(ies) and higher education in each State.

Recommendation: Include VR staff in the early planning stages of transition from school to work. Incorporate work experience and a focus on needed independent living skills.

Access to mental health services and drug/alcohol treatment programs delivered by qualified staff are also key components. These services must be accessible to individuals who require them as part of their independent living and employment plan.

Recommendation: Support the development and training of staff that offer culturally and linguistically appropriate services to Deaf, Deaf-Blind and hard of hearing consumers. Actively recruit and employ people from the community.

Access to employment options such as PWI programs, self-employment programs and the one-stop centers offers choices for career development and job search. Again, qualified staff and access to effective communication are essential to serving our community. There have been many instances where people seeking services through the one-stop system are automatically referred to VR. The Ticket to Work poses another challenge for people who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind and hard of hearing. We understand that people with disabilities are not covered under the non-discrimination clause in the contracts of the Employment Networks and that the E.N. can deny services to individuals or groups of people with disabilities. Based on the experience of our community, the cost of communication access will most likely result in limited access to the Social Security funded employment networks.

Recommendation: Request that the Ticket to Work regulations be modified to include non-discrimination coverage for people with disabilities.  Work with other Federal agencies such as the Department of Labor and the Small Business Administration to provide appropriate services via qualified staff in accessible environments.

Empowerment Through Education, Informed Choice and Self-Determination: The Rehabilitation Act places a strong emphasis on empowerment and self-determination. For our population access and effective communication are key to empowerment.  Access to information related to the wide range of services provided through the public VR system is essential. This ranges from understanding the basic options, how to access the wide-range of services and how to self- advocate for effective communication.  Deaf, Deaf-Blind and hard of hearing people need to be empowered to control their own communication access needs, whether it be assistive  technology or interpreters. Participation in system development and advocacy is also important, this includes the opportunity to serve on State Rehabilitation Councils and State Independent Living Councils where education and technical assistance can be incorporated into policy and service delivery strategies.

Recommendations: Deaf, Deaf-Blind and hard of hearing people need access to appropriate levels of written information and effective communication strategies that support education, empowerment and self-determination. Review the written information designed for consumers. Incorporate consumer feedback into needs assessments, strategic planning sessions and program development. Train Deaf, Deaf-Blind and hard of hearing people on techniques for managing their own communication access whether this means requesting assistive technology or arranging for and managing qualified interpreters. Deaf, Deaf-Blind and hard of hearing consumers cannot be empowered if they do not have the training and opportunity to manage their own communication needs. These skills are necessary for systems access, independent living and in employment situations when requesting a reasonable accommodation.

Summary: The public VR system and related services offered under the Rehabilitation Act are key to employment and independence for people who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind and hard of hearing. We look forward to a continuing working relationship with your regional and national staff. We appreciate your time and support in improving services and outcomes for all people with disabilities.

Thank you for your time and attention. We appreciate the opportunity to provide input into this important service delivery system.

Respectfully submitted by the following community members from Washington and Oregon:

Sheli Barber    shelibarber71@aol.com
Cheryl Davis    davisc@wou.edu
Danny Delcambre   BayouCajun@my2way.com
John Evans    deafwest@msn.com
Ariele Faulkner    advocate4dfhh@aol.com
Liz Halperin     halperin@speakeasy.net
Sheila Hitchen    sph@crpud.net
Mark Landreneau   Mlandreneau@SeattleLH.com
Bob Lichtenberg    lichtrw@dshs.wa.gov
Donna Platt    WA911TTY@aol.com
Gail Ploman    gaploman@speakeasy.net
Kenneth Puckett    exec.director@cscdhh.org
Dean Roberts    roberdw@dshs.wa.gov
Dawn Stoyanoff    yugogypsy@aol.com

Cheryl D. Davis, Ph.D., Coordinator
WROCC Outreach Site at Western Oregon University
Regional Resource Center on Deafness
Western Oregon University
davisc@wou.edu (e-mail)

Good morning Commissioner Wilson.

My name is Dr. Cheryl Davis. I am a member of the Oregon Coalition, and the coordinator of the WROCC Outreach Site at Western Oregon University. It is one of the 50 plus outreach sites associated with the Postsecondary Education Programs Network. This nationwide network of programs trains service providers in programs such as VR and higher education on access options for individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, late deafened, and deaf blind.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to be a part of this process and to offer my strong support for the reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act. This is a quality service that helps literally hundreds of thousands of people each year. Others have eloquently addressed the issues around access to services faced by individuals who are culturally deaf and deaf blind. Rather than repeat their concerns, I would like to focus my time on the specific access needs of individuals who are hard of hearing and late deafened. These individuals generally do not know sign language. They are dependent upon speechreading, amplification of residual hearing, and technology for communication.

10% of the population has some degree of hearing loss. The onset of hearing loss occurs before the age of 65 for 50% of these individuals. According to the Nineteenth Institute on Rehabilitation Issues on Serving the Underserved, the average age of retirement for people with hearing loss is 42. The most common reasons reported for leaving their jobs prematurely were loss of ability to communicate over phone, difficulties in participating in group meetings, and difficulty in effectively leading group meetings. Accommodations could easily keep most of these people in their jobs.

People who are hard of hearing generally do not think of themselves as disabled. They tend to try and get by on their own…even when getting by means, for them, leaving a job they love. Unfortunately, VR counselors may not see them as having a disability either.

Neither general rehabilitation education programs nor Deafness programs prepare counselors for working with hard of hearing clients. Once on the job, adequate training is difficult for counselors to obtain. For example, in the state of Oregon, the goal of managers is to have 80% of their staff obtain at least 20 hours of training annually. This is not enough time for counselors to stay up-to-date on the many different disability groups that they serve, much less adequately understand:

Counselors who do not work with these individuals on a regular basis often lack the resource base to be able to quickly and easily troubleshoot when problems arise, leaving the client without communication access.

Even when training programs are available, such as the 4 week summer intensive Rehabilitation Counselor For Deaf And Hard Of Hearing program at Western Oregon University, or the 2-day Northwest Symposium on Rehabilitation and Deafness (which is cosponsored by RSA Region X, State VR Agencies and Commissions for the Blind, and the Northwest Outreach Center), counselors in Oregon have a difficult time getting the time off approved to attend.

Because of the prevalence of hearing loss, it is a good idea for general caseload counselors to understand the issues. Nonetheless, I strongly encourage RSA to consider reversing the trend towards generalists and to develop State Coordinator for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and Rehabilitation Counselors for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing positions so that informed point persons are available to others needing information on local resources.

I would like to quickly point out two other pieces of the Rehabilitation Act that have a huge impact on training access for individuals with hearing loss that need to be carefully monitored for compliance.

First, the deadlines for developing the memos of agreement between Vocational Rehabilitation and institutions such as higher ed have passed, and often with little progress towards their completion. The lack of formal agreements means struggles between programs about who pays for services…and the client suffers in the process.

Second, Section 508 focuses on access to technology. Many programs are taking advantage of distance education options. Programs developing Distance Education courses should keep communication access issues in mind as they are developing the programs, not after the fact.

Attention to these three areas of concern will greatly improve services to clients who are hard of hearing.

Thank you for the work that you do, commissioner, and for your attention to and action on these issues.

Liz Halperin
Deaf-Blind Service Center
2366 Eastlake Ave, E, #206
Seattle, WA 98102

Hello. My name is Liz Halperin. Currently, I work at the Deaf-Blind Service Center as Program Manager and Advocacy Specialist.

I would like to tell you a little bit about my life.  I have always had a hearing loss and had some vision problems.  About 6 years ago my vision drastically deteriorated.  My life changed completely.  Everything changed.  I had to learn how to live my life differently.  I wanted to continue to work and pay my bills, pay my taxes, I contributed to charities.  I wanted to continue to be independent.

Voc Rehab helped and for that I thank you. I was able to learn independent living skills and maintain my life in the community.  I learned to do what I could by myself independently, but there are still areas where I need assistance.

I was on the waiting list for SSP from DBSC.  I had to ask friends to give up their valuable free time to do boring errands with me.  I felt guilty asking, guilty receiving and felt pitied.  3 years later When I started getting SSP time, the guilt left.  And the people doing it would have skill in sign language, guiding, cultural issues, etc.

Getting formalized, paid SSP time changed how I thought about myself.  My mental health improved.  I was again independent, deciding where I wanted to go and when, not being at the mercy of others to say when they could help me out or people who tried to make decisions for me.

I received 10 hours a month of paid SSP time.  Not 10 hours a week, mind you, 10 hours a month.  Now I only get 6 hours a month.  It’s very difficult, but I manage because I have friends and family to help out.  Many of my clients do not have enough of the same support systems and they are really suffering now.

For me, independent living is also about communication access.  Access to world information. I use various types of equipment for access: computers, software, magnifiers, braille, large print, TTYs for telephone, TeleBraille,   Cost?     Far beyond a cell phone and a television or radio.

I don’t qualify for VR now for equipment because I am employed, but I do need Independent Living assistance.  I need assistance to purchase the very equipment and services that keeps me independent.

I would like to see specific money targeted for SSPs for Deaf-Blind people.  I would also like to see equipment money targeted for Deaf-Blind people to assist with Independent Living.  I would like to see these areas covered under the Independent Living portion of the Rehab Act, not just under employment, so that more people could qualify for assistance.

I also think we need these items targeted specifically for Deaf-Blind people.  Otherwise, out of loose block grant monies, we tend to get lost as the smallest group, least vocal.

Thank you for this opportunity to give personal testimony for a federal law.  I have benefited from the Rehabilitation Act in the past and support its being renewed.

Sheila R. Hitchen, M.A.
Managing Partner
DTM Enterprises, LLC

Good day, Commissioner.

My name is Sheila Hitchen. I am a member of a coalition of Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Hearing professionals in Oregon. I am here as a private citizen, a person with a progressive hearing loss and representative of the Oregon coalition. I support the earlier testimony of those who have addressed the concerns and needs of Deaf, Hard Of Hearing, Late Deafened and Deaf-Blind consumers. I am here to offer testimony in support of the reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act.

My comments draw on my more than 15 years of experience in public and private rehabilitation settings, 11 of those in the state/federal VR system. They also represent the ideas and concerns of the many coalition members who were not able to attend today. My focus today will be on staff qualifications, equal access for consumers and systemic issues that prevent effective provision of services to Deaf, Hard Of Hearing, Late Deafened and Deaf-Blind individuals.

Over the past 15 years, there has been an increased emphasis on generalization vs. specialization in VR service provision, leading to access issues for Deaf, Hard Of Hearing, Late Deafened and Deaf-Blind consumers. Generalist counselors have good intentions but need specialized skill and expertise to effectively communicate with Deaf, Hard Of Hearing, Late Deafened and Deaf-Blind consumers; knowledge and resources needed to appropriately determine eligibility and severity of disability; skills to identify necessary services and suitable vocational goals; and current information on wide array of assistive technology available, as well as their various applications, to meet the accommodation needs of Deaf, Hard Of Hearing, Late Deafened and Deaf-Blind people.

Unlike other disability groups, VR consumers with hearing loss do not have access to qualified staff. A uniformly accepted means to ensure fluency in American Sign Language and cultural competency among staff serving these groups should be established. VR Counselors who are themselves Deaf, Hard Of Hearing, Late Deafened and Deaf-Blind and therefore have specialized knowledge of the needs of these groups should be hired at a much higher rate than presently seen. A mechanism to recruit and retain such people should be instituted, and the Act must express advocacy for such activity. VR staff nationwide should look to their consumers with hearing loss to pursue VR counseling as a vocational goal and fully encourage and support their efforts to achieve that goal.

Present VR staff do not receive training and preparation to effectively serve Deaf, Hard Of Hearing, Late Deafened and Deaf-Blind consumers. There must be significant increases in the participation from VR agencies at regional and national conferences on Deafness & Hearing loss issues. More inservice training focused on effectively and efficiently meeting the varied needs of Deaf, Hard Of Hearing, Late Deafened and Deaf-Blind consumers is essential. A greater number of collaborative partnerships with specialized training programs for Rehabilitation Counselors for Deaf, Hard Of Hearing, Late Deafened and Deaf-Blind individuals should also be pursued. A “point person” should be designated within the system in each state to coordinate, promote and maintain focus on the diverse needs of this group of consumers.

The VR System needs to support its staff and encourage them to do rehabilitation right the first time. Basic access to VR services needs to be ensured. In a recent TTY access check performed in Oregon, only 5 of 29 VR offices answered the phone with a TTY. There are also routine incidents of VR staff members failing to obtain interpreters and depending on written notes for communication with a consumer base whose primary language is frequently a visual one, not a written one. Additionally, due to administrative pressures, counselors concerned with overspending their budgets frequently deny access and necessary services that would allow Deaf, Hard Of Hearing, Late Deafened and Deaf-Blind consumers to achieve their vocational potential. For example: authorizing purchase of only one hearing aid when two have been prescribed or refusing a consumer's request for financial support to attend college to develop more advanced job skills and offering only job placement in return. With this in mind, it is easy to see why so many Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Late Deafened and Deaf-Blind people are disenfranchised with the VR system.

The Oregon Coalition and our partners here in Washington State believe in the power of the Rehabilitation Act. We believe in its potential to positively impact VR consumers, their families and their communities. However, we recognize the need for a significant emphasis on equal access and appropriate service provision with the grossly underserved populations of Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Late-Deafened and Deaf-Blind Americans. Thank you for your attention to and your action on these issues.

Mark Landreneau
Government Affairs Specialist
Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind
2501 South Plum Street
Seattle, WA  98144
phone: 711 then 206 436 2272
tty: 206 436 2272
fax: 206-436-2234

As a member of the Deaf-Blind community I am concerned about the way vocational rehabilitation programs serve Deaf-Blind people.

One concern is that under the Act, vocational rehabilitation dollars are not to be spent in helping place clients in non-integrated settings.
Some Deaf-Blind people need significant support systems in order to succeed in a job.

Examples of support offered at the LH are:  A team of experienced interpreters who know about Deaf-Blindness and the culture therein, A mobility teacher who is fluent in ASL, Adaptive technology used on the job, People who fit the machine to the machinist rather than placing an employee below their level of expertise simply because the equipment is not availed to them.  If a person who is Deaf-Blind is working at a place where that person is the only Deaf-Blind person, there is little to no incentive for providing accommodations that even the playing field and put them at par with their coworkers.  Accommodating a job to that sole person is not cost effective and therefore rarely done, let alone accommodating other jobs for that person when it comes time for upward mobility.

Statistics show that unemployment among hearing blind people is 70% to 74%.  While statistics are not available for the Deaf-Blind community specifically, we could borrow from that number and increase it substantially when considering the dual disability of the Deafness and Blindness.

These support systems would not be available in a typical integrated setting. These supports only exist in organizations devoted to providing employment for people with disabilities.

It is important for Deaf-Blind people to have the option to choose whether or not they work in an integrated or non-integrated setting so that they have opportunities to access the support systems needed for success.

Other concerns:

Deaf-Blind people live with extremely limited choices. I believe that the Rehabilitation Act should promote and enhance the range of choices for Deaf-Blind people whenever and however possible.

Donna Platt, Manager
Washington State 9-1-1/TTY Education Program
1609 19th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 322-4996 TTY/V
(206) 720-3251 FAX

Safety of Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing
in their Home and Work Environment

Independent Living Skills (ILS) are important to Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing people. ILS enables these people to become independent in their everyday lives such as transportation, shopping, education, emergency information, safety, technology and much more. This paper will focus on safety needs and emergency information.



Many Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing people are often unaware of the emergency warning being announced to the public. Most announcements are done auditorially. Deaf, and Hard of Hearing rely on visual information such as email pager, strobe light, captioning on TV, and others. BUT for Deaf-Blind people, audible and visual information is not effective. They depend on information from individuals via tactile sign language and/or large print or Braille.   It is very common for Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing to be left out especially due to lack of media access.

Some cities, counties and states have emergency education funds but they do not know or understand the needs of Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing people. Also, each county has Emergency Management program and is responsible for informing their community about possible emergency warning. Often that type of warning is not fully accessible to Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing residents. The employees need to be trained on Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing Awareness first as well as to be given possible options available to Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing communities. Also the staff should be informed of the laws that they are liable to provide to these communities.


 The possible solutions to provide communication access and safety are;

There is a need for Rehabilitation Act to fund:
1) emergency education for Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing people so they can live safely by having an access to information during emergency, and
2) research to develop and design a program and/or system to meet the safety of Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing people.
Thank you for your consideration on this important issue which is an access to emergency information. It is important to consider the safety of Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing people’s lives.


Arnold, Bob, “Epicenter: Northridge,”, DeafLife, March 1994, pp 12 –31

Dateline NBC Transcript.  “Interview with deaf survivors of the World Trade Center Tragedy.”  November 20, 2001.
Retrieved November 27, 2001, from http://deaftown.com/communitycenter/news/archive/Dateline011120.html

Giordano, Tyrone, “Forever Changed,” Silent News, v.33, no.10, October 2001, p.1

Heppner, Cheryl. Northern Virginia Resource Center. “NVRC Special Report: September 11, 2001,”
Retrieved December 13, 2001, from http://www.nvrc.org/09_11_2001.htm

Norman, Darrell. Deaf couple escapes death in Sand Rock tornado. The Gadsden Times, Gadsden, Alabama, Thursday, November 29, 2001.
Retrieved December 11, 2001, from http://www.gadsdentimes.com/news/stories/2942newsstorypage.html?display=p

Silver, Ann, “The Storm After Hugo for Deaf South Carolinians,” Silent News, v.21, no. 11, November 1989, p.1

Starr, Brenda, “Floyd’s Fury Flares Major Concerns,” Silent News, v. 31, no. 11, November 1999, p. 1

Suggs, Trudy, “Threat of Anthrax Real for these Postal Workers,” Silent News, v. 33, no. 12, December 2001, p. 1

Unknown, “Woman Gets Out of Building in Nick of Time,” Silent News, v.33, no.10, October 2001, p. 2

Gail Ploman
Executive Director
Deaf-Blind Service Center
2366 Eastlake Ave. E. #206
Seattle, WA  98102

Good morning! My name is Gail Ploman.  I am Deaf and sighted.  I work as the Executive Director for the Deaf-Blind Service Center in Seattle.

Independent Living Issues

As Donna Platt recently explained, for Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing people, independent living is very important.  Independent living not only means access to transportation, safety and emergency services, communication and equipment, health and other social services, but also means being able to make our own decisions about our daily living activities.  For this to be possible, we need support to remove existing barriers.  Many of us here today are talking about those barriers and what is needed to remove them.  The barrier I would like to talk with you about is one that is impacting the lives of many people who are Deaf-Blind.

Support Service Provider Issues

Lack of Support Service Providers is a barrier for access to many things in life, such as:

  1. Information in daily news or TV or newspapers,
  2. Posted job announcements,
  3. Food and clothing stores,
  4. Banks and the Post Office,
  5. Apartment rental information,
  6. Finding the right plane or train to board,
  7. Swimming pools and exercise gyms,
  8. Picking out needed furniture,
  9. Information about new equipment and use of new technology, and
  10. Reading daily mail and paying bills.
This list is only a sample.  The Deaf-Blind Service Center was the first in the country to implement a Support Service Provider program.  This program is currently coordinated by Nancy Sommer, who is Deaf-Blind.  This program is a national model for other cities.  For the past 15 years, DBSC has recruited, trained and paid for Support Service Providers (SSPs).  SSPs guide and provide visual information so a Deaf-Blind person can make decisions independently when doing their banking or shopping.  SSPs also provide mail reading.  SSPs are not interpreters.  SSPs do not make decisions for the Deaf-Blind person.

Some statistics are:

This year we had to reduce the number of hours each Deaf-Blind person receives from 10 to 6 hours a month, because we are now providing SSP services to a long list of people who have been on our waiting list.  To meet the current need for SSP services, our SSP program would need an increase of 46% in funds and this would only provide 20 hours a month of SSP services for 50-60 Deaf-Blind people.

In closing, imagine yourself having only 6 hours a month to run errands, do food shopping, buy clothes for work, read your mail and pay bills, etc.  Now, imagine yourself trying to live independently and get to work on time every day without being able to go to the store to buy food, a bed or pick out a nice suit of clothes for work. Imagine trying to do all that with only 6 hours a month.

It is time for the Rehab Act to include funds specifically for recruiting, training, hiring and paying Support Service Providers for Deaf-Blind people.

Thank you!

Dawn Stoyanoff
Reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act
December 13, 2001

 I would like to address the issue of DVR's defining of "suitable" Deaf professions for the purpose of the reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act.

First, I will explain my deaf, educational background and experience.  I was born and raised deaf.  I attended various schools such as mainstream, private and Deaf schools.  I received a B.A. in Psychology with emphasis in Women's Studies in 1991. Currently, I am finishing a Masters in Theatre Arts.  Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) assisted in my undergraduate pursuits and closed my case in 1991 after I graduated and found employment.  My attempt to gain further assistance from DVR for my intended career change into professional theatre was frustrating, humiliating and a failure.

After attaining my B.A., I worked for approximately ten years in the area of education and psychology before realizing I was exhausted and burnt out.  During this time it was my job to try to salvage many deaf and hard of hearing children that were dumped on me--children who had deep and severe psychological, emotional, sexual and mentally challenging scars.  I realized I needed to protect my own mental health and my time. After some years of this work, I was even suffering and being treated for clinical depression myself.

Having had wonderful experiences in the theatre arts (acting and directing) at various times that fueled my long time passion to involve myself artistically in theatre, I decided to try to pursue this new direction.  When I met my future husband and moved to Seattle, I took up an Artist-In-Residency teaching acting to children at the Seattle Deaf Youth Drama Program.  While I was tired of teaching in general, it was wonderful to be working in theatre.  After two years of this, I knew that my passion was real.  I felt vibrant and excited about my days, my work and the future. I decided to pursue this exciting passion further by earning a Master's in Theatre Arts which I could hopefully translate into a professional future with a great sense of fulfillment.  This was in 1999.

As I applied to the U.W. and Western Washington University, I again contacted DVR about assistance.  My experience with DVR in Minnesota, when following the degree path to Psychology and teaching, background had been excellent.  Back then I worked with a DVR counselor who had extensive experience and understandings of the Deaf experience and ASL. This time, however, I found a DVR representative who seemed to block every path.  This person took the position that artistic pursuits were not practical or realistic for a deaf person and would not lead to a successful professional attainment.   I was told that if I could prove otherwise, through research and statistics supporting theatre employability for the deaf, they would reconsider; but in the meantime, if I felt the need to pursue more education with DVR assistance, it needed to be more "practical".  So, I was faced with accepting their view of my future employability or mounting a research project to prove them wrong.

My position was, and remains, that the fact that there is little history of a Deaf woman succeeding in professional theatre does not translate to impossibility.  By taking this position, the DVR is discriminating against me because of my deafness. Theatre does not require hearing.  As with many, many professional positions, it will require interpreter support, but that is dealt with under the ADA in so many ways in our modern times.

I have had to pursue my M.A. without DVR assistance.  Along the way I have found a great deal of excitement and acceptance for deaf / Deaf contribution to artistic theatre. This excitment comes from Universities, professional and community theatre and from their audiences, directors, playwriters and other performers alike. It is true that I am also experienceing tremendous challenge sourcing interpreters talented and trained for dramatic work, and especially with funding for them.  But solving these challenges is part of the process of removing barriers--which is the mandate of Deaf future and the intent of the ADA.  It is just one of the frontiers to cross in integrating deafness into society as a whole. By demanding that I, as a Deaf woman, restrict myself to DVR's view of a "practical" future for a deaf person, I would be both limiting myself in happiness and health, and limiting the forward motion of the Deaf experience.

The first solution is DVR should not dictate what deaf people can or cannot do except in cases of extreme physical limitations such as military or police officer's working on the street. In addition to this, my request is for the DVR to not depend on research and/or statistics.  My solution for this is to respect the Deaf peoples' personality rather than trying to mold the Deaf into the DVR's image of what they think we Deaf should be, not what we want to be.

Being a theatre artist does requires full time communications.  I am only faced with communication limitations; I have no other physical limitations to do my on-stage work.  Providing full-time communication access does represent undue financial hardship for the theatres. Thus, the challenge I experience is not in being an actress or director--it is in financing communication support. DVR should not question the suitability or ability of a Deaf acting career, but rather needs to consider support, such as providing financial aid for theatres who have undue financial hardship as a result of providing access.  Acccording to ADA, communication access needs to be provided in public accommodation; theatre happens to be a part of the public accommodation.  Interpreters are needed. Theatres do not earn enough money to fund the livelihood of the interpreters.

My Deaf interaction with society as a whole means that I rely on qualified interpreters for the rest of my life, until death do me part, whatever profession I undertake. The question should not be which course I should follow in training--it is about on-going financial support based on my requests, needs and wants.  When one places limitations on financing interpreters, then one places limitations on communication access.  The whole issue is not suitability, it is communication support services.

  Direct suggestions, comments, and questions about this page to:
Cheryl D. Davis, Ph.D., Coordinator
WROCC Outreach Site at
Western Oregon University
Monmouth OR 97361
503-838-8642 (v/tty)
503-838-8228 (fax)
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Last modified on 18MAR02.