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Labor and Economic Opportunity

Commission Newsletter

May 2000


The Michigan House of Representatives' Education Committee gave its unanimous approval to SB 658 on April 25, legislation promoting quality Braille instruction for blind and visually impaired students. The bill passed on a 16-0 vote after winning unanimous Senate approval February 10. The proposal, sponsored by State Senator Ken Sikkema, would help assure the availability of Braille textbooks, call for standards of Braille instruction and assure the consideration of Braille instruction for blind and visually impaired students. The measure is now before the full House of Representatives, where it is expected to be voted on before the end of the month.


The annual Spring Conferences of the Council of State Administrators in Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) and the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB) were held in Bethesda, Maryland, April 9-14. The NCSAB event featured a presentation by RSA Commissioner Fred Schroeder, who discussed the challenges of implementing the new Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act (WIIA) and the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The NCSAB Technology and Alternative Techniques Committee, Chaired by Pat Cannon, discussed accessible web sites, computer training and mobility training. MCB Central Region Supervisor Gerry Such also attended the conference.


Pat Cannon attended the Annual Meeting of the President's Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities, held in Washington, D.C., April 16-17. The meeting provided overviews of three major national programs: The Business Leaders Network, the High School High Tech Project and the Youth Leadership Forum, which will come to Michigan in July. There was also considerable discussion on the proposal to subsume the President's Committee into the U.S. Department of Labor, raising it to Assistant Secretary status.


Jim Buscetta and Pat Cannon attended the Governor's Workforce Commission meeting, held in Muskegon, April 19. Issues discussed included the Consumer Guidance System for Career Development and progress on fully implementing the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), including providing access to vocational rehabilitation services at all Michigan Works Service Centers.


The MCB Skills of Blindness Committee met in Lansing, April 19, to conclude its efforts to revising an evaluation mechanism to measure progress of clients at the MCB Training Center. There was also considerable discussion on the Commission's Mini-Adjustment Program and the important role it plays in the rehabilitation of Michigan Consumers.

The Technology Committee will continue its strategic planning initiative, while the Transportation and Minority Outreach Committees continue their work.


An estimated 720 consumers attended a vendor's fair in Ann Arbor, April 25, hosted by the Washtenaw Library for the Blind. The highly successful event featured exhibits on technology for the blind, as well as services for the blind. MCB was represented by Virginia Dean and Terry Donnelly.


The internal MCB Marketing and PR Committee met April 27 in Lansing. The Committee, which includes Bob Robertson, Karla Hudson, John McMahon, Rosalind Byers-Lang, Mary Zemlick and Pat Cannon, was formed to help implement the recently developed MCB Communications Strategy 2000.

Numerous issues were identified and discussed, including: A new general agency brochure and other specific program brochures, Braille alphabet card with MCB information and logo on it, a speakers bureau, exhibits and a variety of handout items. There was also discussion about having a "slogan contest" asking Commissioners and staff to propose a short, four-to-six word slogan consistent with the mission of the Commission. The adopted slogan could then appear on give-away items, brochures, etc.


The third meeting of MCB's Vision 2020 Process Design Team was held in Lansing, April 24-25. 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. 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 agency's e-mail system.


The MCB Consumer Involvement Council (CIC) met in Kalamazoo, May 1, to tour the MCB Training Center and receive an overview of Center programs. Members also finished its recommendations on contents for an information packet for agency consumers.


Work continues on the agency's computer systems. A week's worth of training was held the last week of April and it appears that the client recordkeeping and reporting system is finally stabilizing. Work also continues on the BEP application, with emphasis on the telephony and equipment tracking segments of the system.

BEP concluded a very successful Annual Workshop at the Holiday Inn South in Lansing on April 28-30. The elected operators selected new officers and members for the coming year and heard some excellent presentations and breakout sessions.

Progress continues on revamping the Flint and Gaylord offices. No significant progress has been made on the matching fund and FTE issues.


Supervisors from the program continue to be involved in a series of six quality management training programs conducted through the Capital Quality Initiative in an effort to learn more techniques to improve and highlight performance

On April 26, 2000, a very successful orientation to blindness seminar was held at the Michigan Commission for the Blind Training Center. This seminar, spearheaded by Sherry Gordon, targeted our community rehabilitation partners and was attended by about 40 individuals. A number of field staff and training center staff made the day successful.

Another very successful Mini-Adjustment Training Program was conducted in Farmington Hills, Michigan under the leadership of Jim Baird and Bonnie Betz. Conducted in conjunction with this Mini-Adjustment Program was an Employment Readiness Seminar. Even though there were some minor glitches, due to an injury to Joe Willett, the program was still nicely pulled together by Gwen McNeal of our Detroit Office. Participating were representatives of the Social Security Administration, a personnel officer from Unysis, and staff from the Michigan Works Detroit Office. Thirteen clients participated in this very successful program.


The MCBTC has hired a new industrial arts instructor who will begin work on May 15. His name is William Droll (he prefers to be called Will), and he comes to the Center with years of experience as a cabinetmaking teacher at MCTI (Michigan Career and Technical Institute). The staff and students at the Center eagerly anticipate Will's arrival. Jim Baird has done an outstanding job, filling in for this position until someone was hired. Jim will provide training for Mr. Droll, and then he will resume his duties as a rehabilitation teacher.

On May 17 and 18 interviews will begin for the secretary's position at the Center. The Center hopes to have someone in this position by the middle part of June.

As of May 1, 2000, the MCBTC has become a smoke-free environment. This seems to have been an ideal time to implement this practice since it is the beginning of summer and the weather is nice and there are few smokers in the student body at the Center. A few glitches have been identified and are being worked out. Much appreciation needs to be expressed to Center staff and students for their patience and willingness to cooperate with this effort.