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Labor and Economic Opportunity

Commission Newsletter

September 2000


The Michigan Commission for the Blind (MCB) and the Washtenaw County Library for the Blind co-sponsored “Discovering the Possibilities – A Blind Services Forum,” September 6, in Ann Arbor. The event featured a panel presentation by MCB staff and representatives from the Washtenaw County Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled, offering an overview of services, supports, opportunities and technology for persons who are blind or visually impaired.

Bob Askey, a Denver-based, award-winning narrator for the National Library Services for the Blind (NLS), was the event’s keynote presenter. Askey, who has narrated more than 800 books for NLS, discussed the NLS recording process and his approach to interpretive reading. MCB staff participating in the panel discussion included Amy Daniel, Virginia Dean, Roberta McCall and Pat Cannon.


The U. S. Access Board 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) held a three-day meeting in San Francisco, Aug 16-18, which was 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 were among the many issues addressed. The committee will meet next in Washington D. C., October 18-20, to complete its work and prepare its final report to the Access Board next January.


The next meeting of MCB's Vision 2020 Process Design Team is tentatively scheduled for October 4 and 6 in Detroit. 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. The group met at the MCB Training Center in Kalamazoo, July 28-29 to gain input from Center staff and consumers.

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.


Nearly 50 MCB clients participated in a weeklong Mini-Adjustment Workshop in Clare, August 13-18, the fifth 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. An additional 40 consumers are expected to be served at the next Mini-Adjustment Workshop in Woodhaven, October 8-13. Six such workshops will also be scheduled in 2001.


The Administrative Services Division has continued its efforts toward on-going issues such as the development of our specialized computer applications and our website. In the absence of Fred Wurtzel, who is recovering from surgery, the Business Enterprise Program staff have been pulling double duty. On a sad note, Dale Heckmann, MCB’s most senior BEP promotional agent, will be retiring at the end of September for health reasons.

Regarding the budget, an initial meeting on the FY2002 budget was recently held with FIA budget staff and Jocelyn Vanda and some potentially useful strategies were discussed. Work was also completed on a five-year capitol outlay request for the Training Center. As a result, $400,000 of capitol outlay funds have been reserved for use next fiscal year to replace the roof, repair broken paving and parking places, and provide a backup generator for use during power outages and other emergencies.


As of the end of August, the Vocational Rehabilitation Program has 110 competitive rehabilitations. In spite of a continuing struggle with System Six, it is anticipated that MCB will have close to two hundred competitive rehabilitations this year. The Field Services Administrator is currently looking at some measures to overcome these problems next year.

Staff continue to be involved with various training programs. Recent programs (sponsored by the Rehabilitation Services Administration) include: Informed Choice for Clients, Vocational Rehabilitation Services for Individuals Who Are Blind and Job Placement. Additionally, vocational rehabilitation staff will receive training on mediation services that will be introduced in the new fiscal year. Additional staff will also be participating in the Capitol Quality Initiative training program at Lansing Community College.

The Independent Living Program has suffered another setback in the Upper Peninsula due to the illness of Mike Welch. Help is being pursued to get some additional staff to deal with some of the backlog of cases in that area. Also, Regina Wesley started in Detroit last month. However, unprecedented increases in referrals in some geographic areas in both the vocational rehabilitation and independent living programs.

Some twenty clients participated in the thirteenth annual water skiing clinic in the Detroit River in August. It was a very successful event in spite of the low water levels in the Detroit River.

The Michigan Commission for the Blind will present several programs at the upcoming Michigan Rehabilitation Conference. This year the Michigan Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (MAER) has joined as a co-sponsor of the program.


On August 28 and 29, the Vision 2020 Process Design Team for MCB met at the Training Center. Approximately 40 staff, students, and community partners participated in the strategic thinking activities with this group. The feedback from many of the participants was very positive and encouraging.

On September 15 the Michigan Rehabilitation Council will hold its quarterly meeting at MCBTC. This meeting will give MCBTC the opportunity to highlight its programs and its commitment to developing partnerships with various groups in the rehabilitation field.

Rena Simms, who is an employee with the Southeast Alaska Independent Living Center in Juneau and who coordinates services to the senior blind in this region, will participate in an in-service at MCBTC beginning September 18 through September 27. MCBTC was recommended to Ms. Simms as a resource for observing how a training center works with blind individuals in learning the skills of blindness.