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NC Department of Health and Human Services Division of Services for the Blind
 
 

Consumer and Advocacy Advisory Minutes

March 13, 2009

Due to budget restrictions, this meeting was held by conference call.  The out-of-town members were connected via telephone while the Raleigh-based members met in the conference room of Fisher Building in Raleigh, NC.

Call to Order

Chairman Gary Ray called the meeting to order at 1:10 p.m. Present in the conference room were Gary Ray, Kathy Davis, Debbie Jackson, Graham Watt, William Tubilleja, Carla Parker, and Vicki Smith of DRNC. Connected via conference call were Tommy Jenkins, Beth Butler, Carl Keehn, Allen Casey, Tim Jones, Steve Walker, Jennifer Talbot, and Julie Kagy.

Chairman Ray reminded the conference call participants of the "mute" feature on the telephone. Press *6* to mute and *6* to return to the conference call.

Tim Jones offered the invocation.

Approval of Minutes

A motion was made by Tim Jones, seconded by Allen Casey, and carried to approve the minutes of the

December 12, 2008 meeting.

Disability Rights North Carolina (DRNC)-Vicki Smith

Vicki Smith, Director, Disability Rights North Carolina (DRNC) was a special guest at this meeting. This is the protection and advocacy organization for North Carolina. Disability Rights North Carolina is a private non-profit organization. Designated by the Governor in 2007 to ensure the rights of all state citizens with disabilities through individual advocacy and system change, DRNC is part of a national system of federally mandated independent disability agencies. DRNC is completely independent of government and the disability service system in order to be free of any conflicts of interests which would undermine their capacity to advocate vigorously on behalf of the human and legal rights of people with disabilities.

Protection and Advocacy Systems (P&As) maintain a presence in facilities that care for people with disabilities. Some of their activities include: ensuring full access to inclusive educational programs, health care, accessible housing, assistive technology and voting.

A seventeen member Board of Directors guides Disability Rights North Carolina in developing and fulfilling its mission and vision.

At least a majority of the Board is comprised of people with disabilities and the Board makes every effort to ensure that Board appointments reflect the socioeconomic, ethnic, geographic, and disability diversity of North Carolina. Board members are appointed based on a demonstrated interest and experience in issues affecting North Carolinians with disabilities.

Ms. Smith explained the referral process. When a person with a disability first contacts Disability Rights North Carolina (DRNC) our receptionist asks a few screening questions i.e., Do you have a disability?  Why are you calling DRNC?  And what kind of help are you looking?

Once you are on the Awaiting Intake list, it may take up to two working days for one of their Intake Specialists to return your call. Once an Intake Specialist connects with the caller, they will first collect some basic information on the person with a disability - name, age, gender, race, income, type of disability, where the person lives, etc. Then the Specialist will listen to the person's issues. Their job is to ask lots of questions about who, what, where and how often. The information from your interview will be reviewed by an Attorney.

The Attorney will then check to see if the issue has merit - in other words has a law, regulation or policy been broken. The Attorney will also check to see if the situation is on their 'targets' list. If the answer is yes to both, the request will be sent to Case Review. DRNC has Case Reviews every Wednesday morning.

If there is no legal merit or if the request is not one of the targets for this year, then the Attorney will work with the Intake Specialist to identify information and/or referral to give to the caller.

Every caller will receive some information that will help them with their situation or referral to a more appropriate advocacy organization or attorney.

For more information on DRNC, the website is http://www.disabilityrightsnc.org/ . Their website is W3C and federal 508 compliant for accessibility. If anyone has any problem accessing this site, please contact Ms. Smith directly by e-mail at Vicki.Smith@disabilityrightsnc.org or the toll-free number 877-235-4210.

Report of Entities:

NFB of NC & Elected Committee of Vendors—Tim Jones

NFB of NC--The NFB legislative drive, the Washington Seminar, was held in February.  Seventeen members attended and all 15 representatives were seen. Issues discussed were 1) Social Security linkage issue, 2) accessible technology on appliances, office equipment, etc., digital readouts are not accessible to the blind; and 3) quiet cars/hybrid cars—NFB is asking Congress to work with DOT in establishing a minimum sound level standard for all phases of vehicle operation.

NFB's State Convention will be held at the Holiday Inn, Crabtree, September 11-13.

On March 26, the Louis Braille Coin will go on sale.

On March 28, NFB Students Division, will hold an all day seminar on the campus of GMS for students looking at post- secondary education.

Elected Committee of Blind Vendors—The program is going well.  Due to the economy and gas prices, the rest area sales were down about a million dollars which affected set-aside revenues.  Mount Mitchell only had about a third of the business they usually have because of road construction on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Average operator income is in the mid $40,000's. Tim Jones expressed his thanks for all the hard work and dedication that the Business Enterprises Chief, Clay Pope, does to help the blind vendors.

Regional Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped—Carl Keehn

At the last meeting, it was expected that the first digital machine would be received in February as part of the final beta testing the National Library Service (NLS) was planning.  They have encountered a problem in getting underwriter certification so the testing has been delayed for a couple of weeks. Formal rollout of the machines is scheduled for 6 weeks after the beta test. NLS will host an open telephone forum beginning March 18 at 1:30 p.m. for regional libraries and lending libraries. This will give allow staff and others to ask questions, discuss concerns, and make suggestions.

NLS did release a proposed allotment schedule for the digital machines. For the first year, 20,000 machines will be released per month. North Carolina will be receiving 456 standard machines and 112 advance machines per month for the first 4 months. By the end of the first year, North Carolina should receive 5,792 machines which is about 70% of what is currently needed.

Federal Regulations require that veterans be given preference for the digital services and equipment so the Library is in the process of contacting all veterans to offer the new machines to them.

The Spring issue of "Tarheel Talk" is in production and is expected to be ready in mid-April.

Outreach: Gina Powell, Outreach Librarian, is not able to make this meeting as she is traveling today. The Outreach staff has been meeting with Lori Special, Youth Services Coordinator for the Library Development at the State Library. Library Development is the librarians that go to public libraries to give advice and support.

Governor Morehead School—Kathy Davis in Barbria Bacon's absence

The GMS Board of Directors and Foundation Board have participated in GMS' strategic thinking and planning process by devoting the majority of the last 2 meetings to analysis of our strengths, weaknesses, and possible threats. This had led to a study by Terry Sanford's Institute of Public Policy at Duke University. Results and recommendations will be presented in the Spring.

A $50,000 grant proposal has been submitted to the Carolina's Foundation Long Leaf Fund. The Foundation funds opportunities to inspire children and provide incentives to youth to better themselves. A decision rather to fund the proposal will be made in June.

GMS has concerns about the teacher licensure practice revision approved by the State Board of Education. This revision allows an individual who holds a clear teaching certificate in an area to add additional teaching fields to their license by satisfying practice II testing requirements. The concern is that people may simply pass the practice without taking sufficient coursework to prepare them to work with visually impaired students.

The budget remains critical. GMS is under a hiring freeze, travel restrictions, and purchases not critical to the operation of our programs.

Some of the events that have recently occurred at GMS include the 82nd Airborne Band visiting GMS in January; wrestling team went to West Virginia; Braille Challenge in February; Career Day in February; Liberty Day on March 16, and a trip to Washington D.Con March 23-26.

Department of Public Instruction—Julie Kagy

Ms. Kagy provided an update on the study that looked at residential schools. Tom Winton and Kathy Rhodes have been going across the State and presenting to exceptional school directors in each region a proposal of what's going on in hopes that they accept a regional program in terms of small consortiums. We want to expand the continuums for Local Education Agencies (LEA's). Some LEA's have a full continuum but many do not—they either have an itinerant or a residential school. Surveys have been very positive regarding this effort.

Question was asked if the parents/organizations/consumer agencies had any input into this plan.

The report is due back to the legislature April 1, 2009. The report has not been completed. Another concern was how feedback from this Committee and other consumer organizations would be incorporated in this plan with such a short notice.

The Chair requested that this Committee be kept informed of any items important to the blind community. Also, the enabling legislation that established the Consumer and Advocacy Advisory Committee states that State Agencies should bring issues relating to blindness to us for feedback. The Chair also requested that the National Federation of the Blind see the final report before it goes to the legislature.  The Chair feels this Committee was not appropriately informed of the Study as is required by state law.

Ms. Kagy stated she provided all the information she had at the time of each of the CAAC meetings. Ms. Kagy will provide this Committee a copy of the report when it is complete.  The report has not been finalized.

Concerns were voiced that there isn't a definite plan in place; i.e. where are the regions, how are the services going to be provided, who is going to be involved, etc. Ms. Kagy will inform Tom Winton of the concerns. Kathy Davis will inform Ms. Bacon of the committee's concerns so Ms. Bacon can request a copy of the report from OES.

Praxis—The Praxis is a Licensure Test and given by a company that allows people to be licensed in a particular educational area. It was accepted by the State Board of Education and allows teachers to take a praxis exam to make them licensed in another area of teaching.  This does not work well in low incidence areas such as working with visually-impaired and deaf students. It is possible for a person to take no coursework in the VI or Deaf field to become licensed in these fields.  Changing this practice may require a change in State law.  This test should not be the only criteria for getting a license in another area of teaching.

Prevent Blindness North Carolina—Jennifer Talbot

In the "No Child Left Behind" bill, there is an interest in adding a vision component to the language. If anyone has any thoughts on this, please e-mail Ms. Talbot at Jtalbot@pbnc.org .

At the end of January, Prevent Blindness was informed that they would not be receiving the money that was promised for "More at Four" children screenings that were done in September.  Prevent Blindness contacted DHHS and the Department agreed to pay the services that were performed.

Division of Services for the Blind—Debbie Jackson

DSB is planning to re-open the Medical Eye Care Program on April 1 on a limited basis. DSB will be working with the Professional Advisory Committee in refining the details and getting the word out to the public.

DSB hopes to see the Governor's budget next week.

Two of DSB's rehabilitation programs will be receiving recovery money—the Vocational Rehabilitation Employment Program and the Independent Living Older Blind Program. Guidelines from RSA should be arriving soon. DSB will be tracking the expenditures of these funds. DSB is looking at several areas to spend the money and welcomes any ideas/suggestions. If anyone has a suggestion, please e-mail Debbie Jackson ASAP.  Her e-mail address is Debbie.Jackson@ncmail.net.

In addition to the new DHHS Secretary, Lanier Cansler, the new Deputy Secretary for Long-Term Care and Family Services is Maria Spaulding.

North Carolina Lions Foundation—Steve Walker

Considering the state of the economy and the increase in the demand of services, funding is holding up pretty well.

Applications are coming in for Camp Dogwood this summer. Transportation is again an issue this year.

Debbie Jackson will send Steve Walker a briefing of the services the Medical Eye Care Program will offer beginning April 1. DSB is planning to begin providing eye exams, some surgery/treatment and some medications. DSB is not planning on resuming the purchase of glasses at this point.

NC Council of the Blind-Allen Casey

ACB legislative seminar was held a few weeks ago in Washington. Some of the issues discussed were the quiet car (hybrid) relating to pedestrian safety.

The White House has appointed a special assistant to the President for disability policies. This person is from Illinois and is visually impaired.

Regional Legislative Leadership Conference is being planned through ACB for the Fall of 2009. Current plans are to have representation from Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.

State Convention will be September 25-27 at the Holiday Inn North in Raleigh.

NC AER—William Tubilleja

The NC AER has been able to maintain a steady membership of about 110 members.  Due to economic concerns, the annual conference will only be 1 day this year rather than 3 days. Approximately 120 registration forms have been received so far.

Old Business

Currently, the CAAC does not have any legislature representation. Representative Coleman is now the head of State Personnel. Gary Ray will make contacts to assure we are represented.

Allen Casey and Gary Ray have been working on the enabling legislation—there are 2 very clear needs—l)stream line the membership and quorum and 2) the need for a vice chair.   Mr. Casey and Chair Ray will continue working on this.

Chairman Ray expressed his commitment to this Committee and always encourages groups to bring any issues involving the visually impaired community to this Committee. Ms. Kagy agreed with this commitment.

New Business

Elections for the Chair of this Committee will be at our next meeting in June.

Adjournment

The meeting adjourned at 3:20. The next meeting is June 12, 2009.

 

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