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

Consumer and Advocacy Advisory Minutes

September 20, 2013

Call to Order

The CAAC meeting was called to order by Chairman, Gary Ray, at 1 p.m.

Present in the Conference Room:  Gary Ray, Carla Parker, Carl Keehn, Barbria Bacon, Eddie Weaver, Senator Allran, Dennis Thurman, Claire Hakin, and Robert Parrish.

Connected by Conference Call:  Allen Casey and Ann Avery

Approval of Minutes:
A motion was made by Allen Casey, seconded by Senator Allran and moved to approve the minutes of the June 13, 2013 CAAC meeting.

As some members have other meetings to attend, the reporting entities are not going in order as the agenda states.

Reporting Entities:

North Carolina Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind & Visually Impaired—Dennis Thurman

Mr. Thurman explained the purpose of AER.   AER supports professionals who provide education and rehabilitation services to people with visual impairments, offering professional development opportunities, publications, and public advocacy.  It has Federal and State chapters.  In North Carolina, membership currently is 110. 

Each year, the Library for the Blind, DSB, GMS, DPI and AER work together to organize a North Carolina Conference on Visual Impairment and Blindness (NCCVIB).  This is a two-day conference where speakers from different disciplines discuss the various aspects of service delivery to the blind and visually impaired.   Last year 160 professionals attended.  Traditionally, the conference is held on the campus of GMS.  The 2014 conference will be held in Winston-Salem.   We are in the planning stages for next year’s conference.  The keynote speaker is Penny Rosenblum, a professor from the University of Arizona.   Mr. Thurman extended a special invitation to Senator Allran to attend the 2014 NCCVIB

North Carolina Department of Public Instruction—Claire Hakin

63rd Conference on Exceptional Children

November 20 - November 22, 2013
Koury Convention Center, Sheraton Greensboro Hotel at Four Seasons

Believing in Achieving – it is what exceptional children educators and related service personnel do every day in their classrooms, administrators expect in their program design and oversight, and parents demonstrate when they entrust their children to public schools each morning. This is also the theme of the 63rd Conference on Exceptional Children; North Carolina’s largest gathering of educational professionals and parents of children with disabilities. The Exceptional Children Division of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction is pleased to invite colleagues from across the state to join us for this annual collaborative event to share and learn about innovations and exciting practices to help exceptional children achieve. Please join us for numerous enriching activities: an uplifting Plenary Session with inspiring keynote presentation; more than 90 informative Instructional Sessions covering the broad spectrum of exceptional children education.  Additional information may be found at:

VI Institute at 63rd Conference on Exceptional Children
Nov. 20, 2013
Karen Wolffe will present "Life Lessons: From Social Interactions to Careers"

In this session, Dr. Wolffe will focus on strategies to assist children & adolescents who are blind or have low vision, including those with additional disabilities, with social skill development. Social skills are critical to young people’s efforts in successfully making the transition from school to adult roles, including community integration and employment. Topics to be covered include: assertive communication skills, empathy and reciprocity, effective listening and responding, friendship building skills, and effective problem solving. These social skills enable youngsters to develop positive relationships at school, in the community, and at work.

Dr. Karen Wolffe manages a private practice as a career counselor and consultant in Austin, Texas. She has a M.Ed. in special education and a Ph.D. in rehabilitation counseling. She is the author of Career Counseling for People with Disabilities: A Practical Guide to Finding Employment, The RNIB Pre-Employment Program, and The Transition Tote System: Navigating the Rapids of Life. She is also the editor of Skills for Success: A Career Education Handbook for Children and Youth with Visual Impairments and co-editor of Focused on…Social Skills and Teaching Social Skills to Students with Visual Impairments. She has been instrumental in the development of the American Foundation for the Blind’s CareerConnect and FamilyConnect websites, as well as, the World Blind Union’s employment resources website, ProjectAspiro. Dr. Wolffe presents nationally and internationally on her research and writing interests in preparation for employment and social skills development for children and youth with visual impairments.

Online registration and additional information is located at

Professional Learning Community for Regions 7&8
Henderson County is hosting a professional learning community (PLC) for Teachers of the Visually Impaired and Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists for the 2013-14 school year, facilitated by Heather Brooks (DPI Consultant for Visually Impaired for Regions 7&8). A PLC is a collaborative effort among professionals to achieve common goals.
Dates: October 16, 2013, November 13, 2013,  January 15, 2014, February 19, 2014, March 19, 2014
Time:   2:30-5:00 p.m.
Location: Mills River Academy 96 School House Road. Mills River, NC 28759
Contact:  Heather Brooks at or (cell) 919.345.4066

Summer Institutes at UNC Greensboro
Over 2,000 Exceptional Children’s Educators attended Summer Institutes during the week of July 15th -19th. Two Vision Impairment institutes featuring presenters Millie Smith and Carla Brown reached over 50 educators.

Low Vision Clinics
Dr. Alana Scheiner will continue to offer Low Vision Clinical examinations through regional low vision clinics coordinated by William Tubilleja and the SSAT Section (VI Outreach).  These free clinics are helping students with low vision receive the appropriate tools to gain access to their educational environment.  The schedule of the 2013-14 school year will be announced through the VI list serve administered through DPI.

New Regional VI Educational Consultant
The EC Division and Sensory Support and Assistive Technology Section are pleased to announce our new VI Educational Consultant for Regions 3 and 4, Ms. Denise Sample. This region covers the central Piedmont section of our state including Wake and Cumberland Counties.

Denise recently moved from Alabama where she was a part of the Vision Disabilities Department of Shelby County Schools. Denise holds a master’s degree in Blindness and Low Vision Studies from Western Michigan University as well as, a master’s in Orientation and Mobility. She is a member of AERBVI and plans to be an active member of the North Carolina Chapter. Denise looks forward to serving LEAs in her regions.

Chair Ray inquired about the Praxis issue in North Carolina.  Praxis is a test that teachers in North Carolina can take to gain the status of “most qualified” in the field. 

The visually impaired and blind community are concerned that a person could, without ever taking a course in visual impairments or every seeing or working with a visually impaired person, take the praxis and become the most qualified. 

This past spring, the GMS Board of Directors wrote a letter to Dr. June Atkinson, DPI Superintendent, addressing these concerns.  NCAER also wrote a letter to Dr. Atkinson. 

Chair Ray requested from Claire Hakin copies of these letters and asked if she could provide an update on EC’s decision or the response to the letters. 

The Deaf community are excluded from the praxis most qualified qualification.  We believe the Blind should also be excluded. 

Regional Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped—Carl Keehn

Upcoming Closing dates

Veterans Day – Monday November 11
Thanksgiving – Thursday – Friday; November 28 & 29


A new source for digital cartridges has been established and the NLS and Regional Libraries are able to again order them.

The app to allow NLS talking books to play on the iphone or ipad; completed beta testing and was released to the Apple Store for review.  Apple has completed the review process and the App was released to the public yesterday.    The planned android app has been delayed in development and is not yet ready for testing.


The analog collection continues to shrink as we weed and recycle the materials.  As a result, we are freeing up a significant amount of space for our digital and braille collections.

We received the report from our Consultant visit in February and the results are certainly encouraging.  Our consultant had very few recommendations.  The staffing issue continues to be an issue as we are understaffed according to the ALA standards. 

In cooperation with the Museum of Natural Science, we offered a program entitled Marvelous Mammals.  The program enabled participants to handle and pet animal pelts and live animals.  We drew participants from Charlotte to Durham and response was such that we had to hold two sessions.  Patron response was very enthusiastic, with the participants enjoying the program and the social interaction.

The Marvelous Mammals program is a good example of how state and local agencies are reaching out more to provide services for the visually impaired community.  The Museum of art has established a tactile tour for the visually impaired and we are in negotiation with them to set up a tour for our patrons.  In addition, we were recently contacted by the Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department Visually Impaired Program, asking us to meet with them to discuss means of working collaborating with them to provide programs.  One of the things that they are interested in is working with us to establish and support a local book discussion group. 

On Saturday, September 14, I was invited to the NFB-NC convention to deliver a report on the state of the library.  I was very warmly received and it was encouraging to feel the support for the library.  The library staff received many compliments for their friendliness and helpfulness. 

I’m pleased to announce the appointment of Tracy Rhodes to our circulation unit.  With his hire, we are again at full staff.   Although he has only been here since the beginning of September, he is already making his presence known.  Now that we are again at full staff we are able to complete our daily responsibilities in a timely manner, with time freed to complete housekeeping chores.

Outreach Activities—Carl Keehn

In Gina Powell’s absence, Mr. Keehn gave a rundown of the library’s outreach activities:

  • The Children’s and Adult Reading Program was a success with the children reading 480 books and the adults reading over 2,400 books.  The top reader for the children was 70 titles being read and for the adults 199. 
  • Attended an AT Conference in Concord, NC
  • Participated in and hosted a day at the library for the Central BELL Program students.
  • Volunteer Recognition Program will be held November 14 at the McKimmon’s center. 

Governor Morehead School—Barbria Bacon

The campus of GMS was very busy this summer by hosting and or allowing space for the following events: 

  • 60 students from LEA’s from across the State.
  • Braille Enhancement for Literacy Program sponsored by NFB. 
  • SAVVY Program sponsored by DSB
  • GMS Alumni, NCAWB, Wake County Public Schools Leadership Program with 25 international students, and NCCU Teacher Training Program all held programs on the campus. 

GMS was able to hire a new permanent principal, Ms. Kelly Davis.

The Wake County Young Women’s Leadership Academy increased enrollment from 150 to 250 students. 

Wake County also spent $4.7 million on renovations to our buildings. 

This year will be full of challenges, but our students will be moving forward with our main concern being technology. 
We are looking forward to the Wake County school students and GMS students being involved in different programs together. 

Each residential school has an Advisory Council consisting of 5 representatives and welcomes any suggestions/comments. 

October 15 in White Cane Day.  Events are being planned. 

Question was asked if GMS would give tours of the school and classrooms.  Yes, just make Mrs. Bacon aware of your needs and she will be glad to arrange a tour.

Division of Services for the Blind—Eddie Weaver

The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) has a new Commissioner, Janet LaBreck, who is blind. 

The Reauthorization of the Rehab Act, Senate Bill 1356, Workforce Investment Act, has many provisions that DSB does see as favorable.  It proposes removing RSA from the Department of Education and moving it to the Department of Labor.  It also proposes taking Independent Living Services and moving them to the Department of Human Resources on the Federal level.  There are many more proposals.  If you would like to discuss further, please contact Eddie Weaver directly. 

Budget:  The VR, ILR, and MEC Programs received level funding this year.  The area hardest hit is the Independent Living Services Program (Social Workers).  Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) was hit hard across the board.  We are hoping to be able to move funds to help offset the $378,000 reduction. 

Security:  Safety officers have stressed the important of making our buildings safe.  Fisher Building now has a security door where visitors will sign in and a staff person must let the visitor in by pressing a button to open the door.  The Department wants all of our buildings on campus to be secured. 

SAVVY Program—Each year, DSB sponsors a program for transition aged students who are visually impaired or blind.  This year 28 students participated.  This program has three parts:  Adjustment to Blindness, World of Work, and a college prep program.

BEAM—DSB’s case management system for our consumers and staff is nearing a “Go Live” date.  For the most part, it’s JAWS friendly. We are working with vendor to get these issues resolved. 

Vacancies—Since May, the Department has not released any positions to be posted.  Across the State, DSB has 10 vacancies.

Legislation—the legislature abolished the Professional Advisory Committee and added them as members of the Commission for the Blind.  It appears that they are voting members but will be excluded in the makeup and count of the number of visually impaired members the Commission must have. 

Newsline was funded again this year in the amount of $75,000. 

DSB provided space and staff for the BELL program.  This program is for kids aged 5-11 and focuses on learning and using braille. 

North Carolina Council of the Blind—Allen Casey

The national convention was held in Columbus, Ohio.  There were international speakers from Spain, Germany, England, and Australia.  There was the election of a new president of ACB, Kim Charlson, the first female president.  Mrs. Charlson is the Director of the Perkins Library.

The State convention is September 27-29 in Greensboro. 

National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina—Gary Ray

The national convention was held in Orlando, FL, with approximately 2,400 in attendance. 

The State convention was held in Fayetteville, NC, with 113 in attendance. 

The NFB is getting ready for the Washington Seminar which is held the end of January/beginning of February. 

North Carolina Association of Workers for the Blind—Ann Avery

The NCAWB annual meeting was held August 2-4 on the GMS campus.  Approximately 30 people attended.  We are hoping for higher attendance next year.  It was a very good meeting and a fantastic meal was served on Saturday! 

GMS Alumni—Robert Parrish

The Alumni had a very active quarter.  Their convention was held August 2-3 with approximately 130 persons attending.  The Alumni and NCAWB joined together for a talent show.

During the luncheon at the convention, Mrs. Carolyn Spruill and Mr. Fred McEachern were honored with the presentation of the Crockett/Calloway plaques.  These are given to staff that have given great service to the alumni and the blind and visually impaired. 

Items to Keep in Mind from the Chair Gary Ray:

Thanks to a lot of advocacy work NewsLine was funded for another year.   Representative Dollar helped us get the $75,000 appropriation into the budget.  Friends are needed in the legislature. 

At this time, the 3 residential schools are fairly safe.  The schools will need to show the legislature that they are educating the children appropriately and utilizing the State’s property to the fullest. 

The blind of North Carolina have made it known that we need a separate blind agency.  It is essential for quality service.  Facts show that when States merge into one Rehab agency, the blind suffer. 

When Chair Ray met with Secretary Wos, she could not promise him that there would not be further merging of agencies.

Chair Ray welcomed any questions or comments.


Meeting adjourned at approximately 2:25 p.m.



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