Commission Newsletter

August 2000

SUCCESSFUL MINI-ADJUSTMENT WORKSHOP HELD IN SAULT STE. MARIE

Nearly 30 MCB clients participated in a weeklong Mini-Adjustment Workshop in Saulte Ste. Marie, July 17-21, the fourth of six such programs planned for this year. Participants were introduced to a variety of skills of blindness, such as cane travel, Braille, managing time and money, adaptive kitchen skills and other skills to enhance independence. Additional Mini-Adjustment Workshops will be held in Clare, August 13-18, in Woodhaven, October 8-13, with six more being planned for 2001.

EMPLOYMENT READINESS SEMINAR HELPS PREPARE MCB CONSUMERS

Several MCB consumers from the state’s Upper Peninsula who are ready to go to work attended the Commission’s Employment Readiness Seminar, July 20, in Saulte Ste. Marie, which was held in conjunction with the Mini Adjustment Workshop. Participants received information about the responsibilities and rights job seekers have under the Americans with Disabilities Act ADA), as well as learning practical tips on resume development, job-search skills and interview techniques.

JULY 26 MARKS TEN YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT SIGNING

Thousands of persons with disabilities and advocates converged on the Nation’s Capital throughout the week of July 24 to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Numerous activities were held in the Washington, D.C. area to mark the occasion, while similar celebration events were conducted across the country.

Informational exhibits, rallies and a variety of celebratory activities took place at Michigan’s State Capitol during the week, which included participation by the Michigan Commission for the Blind, the Michigan Commission on Disability Concerns and numerous private sector organizations.

Vice-President Al Gore keynoted a meeting of the National Council for Independent Living (NCIL), then hosted a reception, July 25, commemorating the ADA, which featured a special technology exhibit on the grounds of the Vice-President’s residence where Jose Feliciano and Peter Yarrow entertained.

Special ceremonies were conducted at the FDR Memorial, Wednesday morning, July 26, marking the signing of the landmark civil rights legislation, featuring comments by President Bill Clinton, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, the original sponsor of the ADA and Justin Dart, Jr., the Nation’s leading disability rights advocate. A gala celebration reception was held later that day, hosted jointly by the American Association of Persons with Disabilities and the Disabilities Rights Education Defense Fund.

The U.S. Access Board conducted a day-long public forum, July 27, to gain public input on ADA achievements and challenges and to hear consumer recommendations on rights and access issues to be addressed in the coming decade. Closing the “digital divide” and making technology more accessible to persons with disabilities topped the comments.

ACCESS BOARD'S COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC RIGHTS OF WAY TO MEET IN SAN FRANCISCO

The U. S. Access Board has established a special advisory committee to help draft a proposed rule that would govern pedestrian crossings and other public rights of way issues. The Public Rights of Way Access Advisory Committee (PROWAAC) will hold its next three-day meeting in San Francisco, August 16-18, which will be attended by Pat Cannon, the Access Board's liaison to the committee. Detectable warning systems, broadcast signage, roundabouts, vertical deflection devices, depressed corners and accessible pedestrian signals are among the many issues to be addressed. The committee is also scheduled to meet in Washington, D.C. in October and is expected to complete its work and make final recommendations to the Board next January.

MCB’s VISION 2020 INITIATIVE MOVING FORWARD

The next meeting of MCB's Vision 2020 Process Design Team will be held in Kalamazoo, August 28-29. The charge to the group, which is representative of Commissioners and staff, is to develop a process that will enable all staff members, Commissioners and other identified stakeholders to participate in strategic visioning which will guide the agency through the next 20 years and beyond. The Vision 2020 initiative is being introduced to different components of the agency through various means.

Several staff members responded to an open invitation to participate and attended the Vision 2020 Process Design Team meeting in Lansing, July 24-25 and this month’s meeting will provide opportunity for MCB Training Center consumers and staff to participate as well.

Members of the Vision 2020 Process Design Team are: John Boes, Cindy Caldwell, Amy Daniel, Bernie Kramer, Melody Lindsey, Roberta McCall, Janet McInnis, Gwen McNeal, Bob Robertson, Beth Smedley, Earl Steenstra, Tony VanStaveren, Sue Wilson and Fred Wurtzel. The Design Team process, which is being facilitated by John Victory, has enabled those interested in its work to be kept informed via the MCB web site, a list serve and the agency's e-mail system.

FCC ADOPTS RULES FOR VIDEO DESCRIPTION

On July 31, the FCC adopted video description rules to make television more accessible to persons who are blind or visually impaired. In a Report and Order, the FCC ruled that commencing with the calendar quarter April to June 2002, broadcasters affiliated with the ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC networks in the top 25 television markets must provide a minimum of 50 hours per calendar quarter (roughly four hours per week) of described prime time and/or children’s programming. Cable and satellite systems with 50,000 or more subscribers must provide video description for the same amount and type of programming on the top five national non-broadcast networks they carry and any broadcast station or cable/satellite network, regardless of market size, with the capability to do so, must “pass through” any video description it receives from programming providers.

ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES DIVISION UPDATE

Shannon Hengesbach, MCB’s summer student intern, has done terrific work on enhancing the MCB web site. A large amount of new content has been added, including pictures, as well as many links to additional useful resources. Progress has also been made on the BEP and System 6 applications.

Progress has been made on the promulgation of rules for the Business Enterprise Program. A full report on Operation Care has also been forwarded to the Department of Transportation with the intent of continuing to work out problems with this program at rest stops on major holidays. Staff has also been able to meet with DMB Facilities staff to gain early warnings about planned state building alterations or moves.

CONSUMER SERVICES DIVISION UPDATE

The client services division continues to be very active. Fifteen out of 27 Memorandums of Understanding with Workforce Development Boards have been signed, twice as many as when the Commission Board last met. MCB will be very close to completing all 27 agreements by the end of the fiscal year.

The Annual Section 107 Review, conducted by MCB’S federal partners every year, has been postponed due to the hospitalization of MCB’s representative, Charles Linster. However, in a preliminary review of the employment data, MCB compares very well with colleagues in the mid-west. The review is to be rescheduled at a later date.

The State Plan was approved effective July 1, 2000 and will only require a minimal update each year for the next five years. A bound volume will be published in a month or two. Printing of the document will be completed once the federal review has taken place.

Mediation services are on target for implementation at the beginning of the fiscal year. Training for staff and the CAP program will occur in September. The mediators have already been provided training in the Rehabilitation Act and in Michigan Commission for the Blind Policy.

Vocational Rehabilitation and Independent Living staff are combining their efforts in the Upper Peninsula to try to reduce the backlog of Independent Living referrals. Staff will provide a series of concentrated efforts to expedite services in the Western Upper Peninsula.

TRAINING CENTER UPDATE

After conducting interviews at the end of July for the maintenance supervisor position previously held by Frank Driscoll, Dick Linihan has been promoted into this job. Dick has worked at MCBTC as a maintenance mechanic for 14 years. Dick is very detail-oriented and does an excellent job in coordinating projects around the Center so that they are done efficiently and thoroughly. The Center is very fortunate to have someone like Dick on board.

As a result of Dick accepting this position, the Center now has a vacancy in the maintenance mechanic position. The target is to have this position filled by the end of September.

At the Center, there has been a shortage of substitute teachers to fill in when staff are sick or on vacation. To deal with this problem, the Center has been successful in working with FIA personnel to convert Wendy Van Elk and Shelly Masion from job shares to full-time intermittent teachers. This has been very helpful for the Center because it gives the flexibility to each person to work up to 40 hours a week individually. Previously, they were only allowed to work up to 40 hours a week for both positions combined.

On July 25, MCBTC hosted a retirement party for Linda Petersen who used to be the executive secretary to the Center director. Linda gave many years of outstanding service to MCBTC, and she will be greatly missed.

The renovations of the reception area have begun. When the project is finished, the receptionist will have a bigger and more comfortable area in which to work, and the reception counter will be accessible to individuals who use wheelchairs. The projected date for completion is September 9.

The BEP staff have begun working with seven new trainees. It promises to be a very enthusiastic and motivated group of participants.

The process is in place to enhance technology services at the Center. A committee consisting of Bob Tinney, Roger Yake, Marlene Schwartz, Bonnie Betz, and Lynne Hall has been formed to recommend strategies for delivering technology services to consumers participating in training at the Center. They plan to survey MCB staff and various consumers to see what the needs are and how best to address those needs. This is a very exciting project with the potential of preparing blind consumers for various employment opportunities that require skills in technology.

During the first week of July, several staff members from the Center spent three days working with MCB field staff. The feedback thus far has been positive. There are plans to survey the participants to make improvements to this project for next year. Some of the field staff have indicated that the Center staff they worked with helped them solve problems for their consumers in the home environment.