[nfbmi-talk] mcb report just recieved

joe harcz Comcast joeharcz at comcast.net
Wed Dec 8 21:13:09 UTC 2010



November 30, 2010





The Michigan Rehabilitation Conference was held in Traverse City November 3-5.  The luncheon keynote speaker, Brent Marlett of Camp Daggett, was recommended by MCB’s Julie Clark.  Brent shared his personal struggle with surviving a horrific car crash.  His topic “Attitude IS Everything” detailed his personal recovery and more importantly, his positive outlook on life.  


The awards were a part of the luncheon this year with special recognition given to MARO director Harry Smith and MCB’s Sherry Gordon, who both passed away this past year, for their lifetime commitment to rehabilitation and individuals with disabilities. 


Breakout sessions varied from job development techniques to personal growth, (i.e. team building, leadership skills, etc.) to informational presentations on community rehabilitation partners.  There was a clear employment theme.


Vendor booths again included businesses run by individuals with disabilities.  Attendees could purchase jewelry, t-shirts, even handmade furniture from Escanaba.  Although there was no banquet this year, the conference still provided networking opportunities at breakfasts.  


Informal staff feedback included comments from Danielle Smith of the Flint office: “I really enjoyed Larry Patton’s session on surviving the economic meltdown – he stressed knocking on all doors not picking specific employers”.  From Shawnese Laury-Johnson of the Detroit office “I liked this ethics session (Rural Consideration) because it helped put things together, a topic we never thought about.”  From Julie Brown, central region job developer “As a first time participant at the MRA conference, I found it to be an awesome experience.  The session with Alan Anderson allowed me to walk away with a skip in my step and a truck load of ideas in my head”.




 Nearly 100 administrators and professionals representing state agencies serving individuals who are blind or visually impaired gathered in San Diego, California, November 10-12, for the Annual Fall Conference of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB).  With a conference theme of “Partnering Strategies for Success,” attendees focused on a variety of topics important to blind rehab agencies, including effective ways to deal with challenged state economies, creative approaches to employment while state unemployment rates remain high, doing more with less, facing threats to the Randolph-Sheppard Program and sustaining strong consumer organization partnerships in difficult times. In addition to presentations by the NCSAB Committees on Employment, Training Centers, Randolph-Sheppard Programs, Independent Living, and Technology, those attending the conference also heard important presentations by LynnaeRuttledge, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) and other RSA officials; Chuck Young, President of the Hadley School for the Blind; Ron Brown, Second Vice-President, National Federation of the Blind; Mitch Pomerantz, President of the American Council of the Blind; and Andrea Guest, the new President of the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR). Ms. Guest spoke of the progress CSAVR is making in its efforts to recover from an internal financial situation and expressed confidence that the new CSAVR leadership is going in the right direction and wants to remain a strong partner with NCSAB. ACB President Pomerantz spoke of the ACB White Paper on public rehabilitation and said his organization wants to work collaboratively with NCSAB to advance sound principals for effective vocational rehabilitation services. On the subject of self-employment, Chuck Young, Hadley School for the Blind President, said Hadley has worked with experts in the field of self-employment for individuals who are blind and is currently developing a course on Self Employment for both consumers and professionals in the field of blindness.  It is expected to be available in early 2011.  There was also a panel presentation on State Experiences in Self-Employment in Rural and Urban Settings, which centered on what has worked well in rural and urban settings in the area of Self Employment. Attendees also heard update presentations from Brenda Cavanaugh, Research & Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision, Mississippi State University (the other MSU) and from Pris Rogers, American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). RSA Commissioner Lynnae Ruttledge spoke to the conference about some of the internal changes within RSA and her efforts to work more collaboratively with agencies throughout the country.  She briefly talked about efforts underway to reform the RSA process for monitoring state rehabilitation agencies, referring to a focus group she formed to meet in Washington, D.C. in June to identify what changes need to be made to make the monitoring process more constructive and positive. The Michigan Commission for the Blind, which was represented on the RSA focus group, was the subject of an RSA monitoring visit in March and April, 2009, and received its final RSA monitoring report, November 8, 2010, and is in the process of responding to its observations, findings and corrective action steps.  Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS), the Commission’s sister agency, was also monitored by RSA in 2009 and it, too, is in the process of responding to RSA’s final report. NCSAB and CSAVR will hold a joint Fall conference in 2011, which is currently scheduled to be held in Phoenix, Arizona, October 23-26, 2011.  Instead of scheduling their conferences adjacent to each other, the two organizations are conducting the joint conference on a trial basis, hoping that it will make more prudent utilization of human, fiscal and time resources. 




A recent survey sponsored by Kessler Foundation and the National Organization on Disability (NOD) finds that although corporations recognize that hiring employees with disabilities is important, most are hiring very few of these job seekers and few are proactively making efforts to improve the employment environment. These results, from the Kessler Foundation/National Organization on Disability 2010 Survey of Employment of Americans with Disabilities conducted by Harris Interactive, are especially important given the focus on employment by media and government and with October recognized as National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Data released in July 2010 from an earlier study, the Kessler Foundation/NOD Survey of Americans with Disabilities, found that little progress has been made in closing the employment gap between people with and without disabilities since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. In fact, according to the October 5 NOD announcement, only 21 percent of people with disabilities, ages 18 to 64, reported that they are working either full or part-time, compared to 59 percent of people without disabilities.

>From this latest survey, although 70 percent of corporations polled have diversity policies or programs in place, only two-thirds of those with programs include disability as a component. Only 18 percent of companies offer an education program aimed at integrating people with disabilities into the workplace. The low figures are particularly notable given that a majority of employers perceive the costs of hiring a person with a disability to be the same as hiring a person without a disability (62 percent).

"America's success in the global economy depends on how well we put to use the productive capacity of every person's talent, skill and ability. This new survey reveals that most employers are not aware of the unique contributions that workers with disabilities can make and do little to recruit them. The shockingly high unemployment rate among people with disabilities suggests that employers seeking dependable workers have a rich and ready talent pool of workers from which to draw," said NOD President Carol Glazer. "By following the leadership of companies like NOD partners Sam's Club and Lowe's, employers will see that hiring people with disabilities can expand the productive power of their workforce."

This marks the third effort since 1986 to determine the current attitudes of corporate employers toward employees with disabilities. Kessler, NOD, and Harris Interactive designed this survey and developed the questions that provide insight into the employment environment for people with disabilities. The findings may help explain why such a large gap exists between the employment of people with and without disabilities.

Among the findings:

  a.. One in five companies (19 percent) has a specific person or department that oversees the hiring of people with disabilities. This is in contrast to 1995 when 40 percent of companies hired someone specifically for this reason. 
  b.. Only 7 percent of companies with disability programs offer a disability affinity group. 
  c.. Of the 56 percent of managers and executives who estimated what percentage of new hires in the past three years was people with disabilities, the average was 2 percent. 
"These numbers are disappointing but give us deeper insight into the findings of the earlier survey," said Humphrey Taylor, Chairman of The Harris Poll and member of the NOD board. "The survey released in July focused on the gaps between people living with and without disabilities across 10 different areas. That survey showed that the largest gap was employment. Much work remains to be done in order to improve these numbers. We need employers and the disability community to work together to take action on both sides.”  To review the complete survey, go to  www.2010DisabilitySurveys.org.



Staff participated in the National Disability Conference held in Detroit on October 25-27, 2010.  This conference included Region V states.  There were several presentations and breakout sessions.  The conference emphasized innovative approaches to expand employment options.  MCB, MRS, and CIL’s participated on a panel that included successful small business entrepreneurs.   These individuals shared with the audience the importance of the holistic approach to the rehabilitation process.  MCB consumers have experienced the holistic approach for many years; although, some of the other agencies are embarking upon this concept as a means to help consumers to become successfully employed.  This concept of personal adjustment skill training will assist individuals to maintain their employment.  The small business panel discussed how this training assisted them in their business.  The conference underlined the importance of collaborating with a variety of stakeholders to heighten the awareness of job ready individuals with disabilities who are seeking gainful employment.  The states that were involved in the conference were Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota and Wisconsin.  There were several individuals from other states that shared ideas and expertise that helped to make the conference rich and stimulating.  




The White House announced, October 29, that the official Web site, http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/aim/index.html>  for the Advisory Commission on Accessible Instructional Materials in Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities has been officially launched.  The Commission, established by the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, has brought together government leaders, representatives from the publishing industry, individuals with print disabilities, representatives from two- and four-year institutions of higher education and leaders in accessible technology.


The Commission will study the current state of accessible materials for students with disabilities in postsecondary education and make recommendations to the U.S. Congress for improving access to and the distribution of instructional materials in accessible formats. The White House reports that this is the first commission in history charged with examining accessible instructional materials for postsecondary students with disabilities.  This Web site, http://www2.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/aim/index.html, showcases the work of the Commission, and provides information on Commission meeting schedules and documents, members, authorizing legislation, resources and contact information. The Commission welcomes any questions or public commentary and can be contacted at AIMCommission at ed.gov.




MCB conducted its fourth and final Mini Adjustment Program Workshop of the year, November 14-19, at the Holiday Inn Express and Suites, serving 37 MCB consumers, ranging in age from 26 to 95.  Commission clients attending the week-long Mini-Adjustment Program workshop are 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.


In conjunction with the workshop, the Commission also conducted an Employment Readiness Seminar, November 18, for 10 rehab clients who have advanced to the job-readiness stage of their rehabilitation program.  Consumers attending the seminars learn about various approaches to job searching, Michigan Works!, the Talent Bank, interview preparation and resume development.  They also participate in mock interviews and hear from local employers on their workforce needs.  Additionally, consumers receive information about social security benefits and work incentives, as well as information about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and how it relates to employment of persons with disabilities.  Plans are underway to conduct four Mini Adjustment Program and Employment Readiness Seminars in 2011, and will be held in Lansing, March 20-26; Gladstone (near Escanaba), May 1-6; Detroit, September 11-16; and in Gaylord, October 9-14.




The U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has made the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design available on-line. These standards were adopted as part of the revised regulations for Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. The standards can be found at www.ada.gov/2010ADAstandards_index.htm . 


 When the standards go into effect on March 15, 2012, they will set minimum requirements – both scoping and technical – for new construction and alterations of the facilities of more than 80,000 state and local governments and over seven million businesses. Until the 2012 compliance date, entities have the option to use the revised standards to plan current and future projects so that their buildings and facilities are accessible to millions of Americans with disabilities.   


“To protect the right of people with disabilities to participate in everyday life with family, friends, and colleagues, we must ensure access to buildings and facilities,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division.  “This online version of the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design will enable architects, contractors, local government service providers, small business owners, disability rights advocates, and others to find in one place the information they need to provide that accessibility. Whether they search the standards on laptops, desktops or smart phones, in offices, in the field or at home, they can find answers to their questions quickly and efficiently.” 


On July 26, 2010, the 20th anniversary of the ADA, President Obama announced newly revised ADA regulations. The final regulations were published in the Federal Register on Sept. 15, 2010. The 2010 Standards, which were adopted as part of the revised regulations, consist of regulatory text and the 2004 ADA Accessibility Guidelines, originally published in the Federal Register as 36 CFR part 1191, appendices B and D. To make it easier for readers to find the necessary requirements for their projects, the department assembled this online version that brings together the information in one easy-to-access location and enables individuals to search the text efficiently with their Internet browsers. 


In addition to the official version of the 2010 Standards, the department has also posted on the website important guidance about the standards that is compiled from material in the Title II and Title III regulations. This guidance provides detailed information about the department’s adoption of the 2010 Standards, including changes to the standards, the reasoning behind those changes, and response to public comments received on these topics.


Title II of the ADA applies to state and local government entities and protects qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination on the basis of disability in services, programs, and activities provided by state and local government entities. 


Title III prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the activities of places of public accommodation (businesses that are generally open to the public and that fall into one of twelve categories listed in the ADA, such as restaurants, movie theaters, schools, day care facilities, recreational facilities and doctors’ offices) and requires newly constructed or altered places of public accommodation—as well as commercial facilities (privately owned, nonresidential facilities like factories, warehouses or office buildings)—to comply with the ADA Standards.


People interested in finding out more about the ADA or the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design can call the toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (Voice) or 800-514-0383 (TTY), or access the ADA website at www.ada.gov.  Additional ADA information may be obtained by contacting the Great Lakes ADA Center in Chicago, toll-free, at 800-949-4232.





Over the last three months, the Consumer Services Division worked collaboratively with a host of community partners, stakeholders and agencies; such as, intermediate school districts, Community Mental Health, Michigan Works!, National Disability Conference, community rehabilitation organizations and employers throughout the state.  The Consumer Services staff continues to participate in a variety of teams and committees within the agency and with outside community partners to improve and cultivate new opportunities for blind and visually impaired individuals to become trained and employed.


The agency continues to provide the staff with opportunities for professional growth and development through the Michigan Rehabilitation Conference and the Culture & Race in Rehabilitation Services training and appropriate state provided Civil Service training.   The agency also attended both of the consumer organization conferences in October, the Michigan Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired held in Wyoming, Michigan and the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan Conference held in Dearborn, Michigan.  


Transition Services


The Consumer Services Division staff are working to obtain and improve transition programs for blind and visually impaired students.  Each of the agreements developed with the ISD’s emphasizes the expanded core curriculum that goes beyond what the schools ordinarily provide for each student.  MCB staff collaborates with the VI staff and the transition coordinators, as well as community partners to meet the goals and objectives of each agreement that outlines the skills and services to be provided resulting in a greater involvement on behalf of the respected communities.


Community Mental Health


The staff continues to work with the Department of Community Mental Health (CMH) and Michigan Rehabilitation Services to provide regional training programs to improve working relations with the local CMH’s.   During this time period, the staff has participated in four regional meetings.  In September, a regional meeting was conducted in Troy, Michigan for Oakland/Macomb/Genesee county CMH’s.  The Detroit/Wayne county CMH training was conducted in early October and the December 3rd meeting will provide training for Montcalm/Ionia/Gratiot/Shiawassee, and Clinton/Eaton/Ingham counties.  The December 7, meeting will provide training for Kent and other surrounding counties.  The overall objective is to improve working relations between agencies resulting in increased referrals for MCB with the main goal to increase employment opportunities for eligible consumers with dual impairments.  Some of the CMH’s have began discussions with the staff about the number of potential eligible consumers that may be referred for services.  The staff will follow through to obtain the appropriate referrals.  As we continue to work with the various CMH’s, the supported employment consumers will increase.


Michigan Works!


The Consumer Services staff in various areas are developing job clubs at local Michigan Works! offices.  The objective is to link the job clubs with the talent bank which provides up to date job leads for job ready seekers.  This activity will increase employment opportunities for job ready consumers.  The staff will continue to monitor the participation on the part of the job ready consumers to determine their readiness for employment.  Staff are working with the Michigan Works! in several rural counties to ascertain the availability of services and accessible technology in the areas.  Relationships are continuing to be fostered with the navigators at Michigan Works! to assist MCB’s consumers in entry to a variety of programs that they offer.  


Community Organizations


A number of the staff are working collegiately with an array of community rehabilitation organizations to obtain job placement services, as well as vocational training opportunities.  Some staff are involved in community employment collaborations to become aware of local employment outlook for persons who are blind and visually impaired.  Other staff have participated in transition conferences emphasizing the importance of involving MCB’s consumers in transition activities in the local intermediate school districts.  MCB will participate in a transition conference, TOPS, in January 2011.  Further, staff continues to collaborate with centers for independent living, and college special needs offices to inform them of the various services and assistance that MCB can provide to assist students in their academic pursuits.  Additionally, staff continues to collaborate with university advisory boards to improve their rehabilitation counseling programs.  West region staff is focusing on assisting consumers to become involved in on the job training (OJT) leading to placement at the culmination of training.  At this time, there are three potential participants for OJT.  The regions are reviewing their office needs to determine a feasible placement of interns within appropriate offices.  The assistant manager continues to work with the Marquette CIL and local senior service agencies.




MCB’s job placement personnel continue to work with job ready consumers within each region.  They have begun to develop job clubs within the major cities.  These activities are to help consumers to become active job seekers.  One of the employment specialists has been successful in securing gainful employment for several consumers.  The other placement staff are obtaining interviews for consumers and anticipating placements as a result of these activities.  The agency is aware of the importance of job placement staff to assist in increasing as well as developing more opportunities for job ready consumers.


Maintenance Policy


The Consumer Services Division (Service Delivery Design Team) has presented to the Planning and Quality (PAQ) team a maintenance policy for their review and adoption.  This policy has been approved by the PAQ team and the CIC with an additional statement to be submitted for Commissioner consideration as a part of the maintenance policy.  This maintenance policy is taken from the Rehabilitation Act and its amendments and its regulations regarding maintenance.




The Consumer Services Division would like to acknowledge the promotion of Lisa Kisiel to the Assistant West Regional Manager.    As a result of the promotion, a counselor vacancy has occurred and the position has been posted.  Further, MCB would like to acknowledge the dedication and commitment of several of the Consumer Services staff that are completing their work with the Commission family thanking each of them for their hard work in providing support to the individuals who are blind and visually impaired in achieving their desired outcomes.  Congratulations to Nancy Lapekas, Lori Curtis, Sue Anderson, Judi Terwilliger, Roz Byers-Lang, Aliyamma Lukose, Claudette Peatross and Bernie Kramer.  Thank you all in many ways.


Honor Roll Awards


Each year, MCB has the honor of recognizing many consumers, community partners and employers.  This year MCB will recognize six consumers, two community partners and one employer.  The consumers that were selected have demonstrated courage and commitment to learning and effectively utilizing the skills of blindness to enhance their independence and successfully achieving their goals.  The community partners are being honored for their commitment and dedication in working with MCB and consumers and the employer that MCB is honoring exemplifies the qualities and commitment to providing employment opportunities for persons who are blind and visually impaired. 





Training Center Move


Arrangements have been made for the Training Center to be entirely moved out of the Oakland Drive location on Saturday December 6th. A warehouse space is being procured to store most of the Center’s possessions for the next year. There have been several months of exploration and negotiations to secure a suitable alternative site to run the program at and staff is well on the way to securing a site in the Kalamazoo area. Classes are expected to resume at the beginning of January.




On the subject of moving, four of the Training Center staff are pursuing retirement at the end of the year after many years of dedicated service to Training Center consumers.  Congratulations and thanks to Dave Greenwald, Bob Savage, Betty Lujan-Roberts and Barb Wile for all that you have done.


MCBTC Client Satisfaction Survey


Attached are the results of the most recent MCBTC Client Satisfaction Survey.  The Survey was conducted by phone by a staff member from the Michigan Commission on Disability Concerns (MCDC).  One hundred and eighty nine students that attended MCBTC from March 2008 through August 2010 were contacted with 71 of those (40%) that actually responded. 


The Training Center staff should be proud of the results of this survey as it validates the excellent service they provide.   As a whole, the responses were graded on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the highest). Ninety-three percent of the respondents answered 4 or above that they would recommend this program to a friend or relative who is blind or visually impaired.  This survey will be used as a baseline for the next survey scheduled to be completed next September.  In addition, the survey information will be used by MCBTC staff for 2011 goals, objectives and strategic planning.     


Community Involvement 


The Center has again held a holiday charity auction raising over $4,000 to be given to local nonprofit organizations. Staff donated household items, collectibles and other items which were bid on with enthusiasm. 


New Sidewalk


MCBTC staff had a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new sidewalk that runs in front of the Training Center on Oakland Drive.  Bob Savage has been working with the City of Kalamazoo for 3 years on this project and ironically this project was retired at the same time that Bob Savage is retiring.  The TC staff provided Bob a plaque that expressed gratitude for his effort and aptly named the new sidewalk the “Robert C. Savage Miracle Mobility Mile”. 



This year the legislature and Governor’s budget office were able to adopt the 2011 budget, so there was no delay in the budget process at the State level and the Commission was able to continue, and in some cases begin, providing services to consumers and B E P licensees.  MCB continues to expend American Reinvestment and Recovery (ARRA) funding.  This funding not only improves MCB's ability to serve clients but provides value to MCB with added staff to assist with new and expanded projects.  Using ARRA funding, the Commission has hired 3 job developers:  Jules Brown, Alicia Lurry and Gale Merwyn.  The Commission also has several student assistants who work with seasoned staff and are gaining valuable work experience to assist them in their career quest.

In addition to completing several annual 2010 federal reports for the V R, I L and B E P programs, Agency staff have been busy completing the DE LEG 2010 Annual Program Performance Measures document; and very shortly will begin work on the DE LEG 2011 COSO Control Environment Survey.  In response to the recently received 2009 107 Monitoring Report , Administrative staff are part of the team compiling the agency’s response to the report, as well as developing policies and procedures to follow up on the report’s recommendations.
The Monitoring Report also requires the Commission to treat matching funds in a different way than past practices.  In response, Administrative staff is re-working the 2011 Agency budget.

The V R System 7 data program has been updated.  V R and I L staff were trained on the upgraded system during the week of November 29th.  The updated system will go live on December 6th.   Administrative staff and Corda Moss from the Training Center are embarking on developing a System 7 component to document consumer activities while at the Center.

Consumer Involvement Council


Susan Turney is the new Consumer Involvement Council liaison, and Carrie Martin is the new secretary to the group.  The CIC met in person on September 15.  The group met again by teleconference on November 19 to discuss the maintenance policy.


Communications & Outreach Update


MCB Director Pat Cannon’s article titled “We Restore Hope” is featured in the December edition magazines distributed to members of the Michigan Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons (MiSEPS) and the Michigan Optometric Association (MOA).  The article emphasizes MCB’s role in restoring hope through rehabilitation after vision loss.  


A Comcast Newsmakers interview with Pat Cannon, also on the topic of restoring hope through rehabilitation, was filmed on October 29 and broadcast in the Detroit and Lansing areas during November and early December.  Video of the interview is available on the DELEG YouTube page.


Christine Movalson, editor of MCB Insight and an MCB client intern in the Lansing central office, participated in a November DELEG social media meeting and is preparing MCB information for possible inclusion in the existing DELEG pages on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.  She is also working with Nichole Sunstrum, who coordinates the DELEG social media sites, to learn how to create these pages for MCB in the future.


October was investing in Abilities Month, and Governor Jennifer M. Granholm issued a proclamation to mark this observance and encourage employers to focus on the abilities of persons with disabilities. The complete text is available on the governor’s website at www.michigan.gov/gov under Proclamations.


On October 28, the Alliance of State Employees with Disabilities (A S E D) held its annual conference, this year at Peckham headquarters in Lansing.  MCB staff were an active part of the day’s agenda. Participants were welcomed to the conference by Scott Norris, ASED President as well as librarian and reader advisor at the MCB Braille and Talking Book Library.  MCB Director Pat Cannon participated in a panel discussion together with representatives from several other state agencies on the current status of employment of workers with disabilities in government service.  He also spoke as part of a group presentation on disability networks.  


MCB hosted a booth at the Michigan Rehabilitation Conference in Acme near Traverse City November 3-5 with MCB publications available in multiple formats.


A first draft of the MCB Vocational Rehabilitation brochure is being edited and prepared for the brochure committee’s review in January.  The 2010 Annual Report is in draft and will be distributed in January. The MCB DeafBlind brochure has been sent to layout with distribution of the publication planned for February.  A new highway vending brochure is in layout with distribution planned for February or March.  Christine Movalson and BEP Promotional Agent Chris Elliot have started work on a BEP recruiting audio spot or video.  


During August through November, several positive media articles were published regarding MCB and MCB consumers, and these are posted online on the MCB website’s Press Room page.


MCB continues to fill requests every week for informational materials from eye doctors, Michigan Secretary of State branch offices, health care professionals, and individuals seeking information for themselves or family members.  Materials are distributed in the formats requested, which may include one or more of these:  large print, Braille, audio CD, audio cassette, and electronic text.  MCB publications are also available on the MCB website in accessible format.


In addition, MCB continues to update MCB information in various directories, websites, and community telephone information services, to ensure that potential consumers seeking rehabilitation information will be aware of MCB and its services and how to contact the commission.


MCB continues to provide new consumers with MCB Consumer Information packets, which contains information about MCB and other organizations and services useful to individuals who are blind or visually impaired.  These packets are distributed in multiple formats.



MCB Website Highlight—MCB Braille & Talking Book Library, 

Digital and Cassette Talking Book Machines


A quick and easy way to locate information about the MCB Braille and Talking Book Library’s digital and cassette talking books and machines is to visit the library’s section of the MCB website. Like the rest of the MCB website, the library pages are ADA compliant and allow individuals using assistive technologies to access and browse the pages with ease. Large text ensures that individuals with low vision can view and comprehend the content.  The pages are easily navigable and contain links to other sites as well as images of the machines.


For information on digital talking books and machines, start at the MCB home page at www.michigan.gov/mcb, click on Braille and Talking Book Library in the main menu.  Then click on Digital Talking Books and Talking Book Machines. This page provides an overview of the digital player and the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) service, and it provides a description of digital books. An image of a digital player is displayed along with a digital cartridge in the upper right corner of the page.  For supplemental information, there are links throughout the page to various sites such as BARD and the National Library Service fact sheets. 


For information on cassette talking books and machines, again start at the MCB home page, click on Braille and Talking Book library in the main menu.  Then click on Cassette Talking Books and Talking Book Machines. This page provides an overview of the cassette player and provides a description of a cassette book. An image of a cassette player is displayed in the upper right corner, as well as a staff member repairing a cassette player at the bottom of the page. 


Information is also provided about accessories such as headphones and headphone adaptors that enhance both of the machines’ usability. For more information, please contact the library staff by phone at (517) 373-5614, toll-free at (800) 992-9012.  The current e-mail address is sbph at michigan.gov. A new BTBL e-mail address will be available soon on the website under Hours/Contact Us.  




MCB has 15 employees retiring on or before January 1, 2011.  Of those 15, four are from the Training Center, eight are from the Consumer Services Division, one from BEP, one from the Library and one from the Commissions Central Office, Sally Postal, who is retiring after several years of work with the Commission.  It has not yet been announced how many of these vacancies will be approved to fill. Steps are being taken to have all the paperwork ready to go so when the people leave, the agency will be ready to act. This process includes updating the Position Descriptions for all those persons retiring. 


Currently, a number of positions are in various steps of the process for being filled:


-          Rehabilitation Counselor, Flint Regional Office

-          Domestic Services Aide, MCBTC

-          Rehabilitation Services Coordinator, MCBTC

-          State Administrative Manager, Central Office

-          Blind Rehabilitation Instructor, MCBTC

-          Departmental Analyst, MCBTC

-          Secretary, Detroit Regional Office

-          Student Assistant, Braille & Talking Book Library


Staff Development


An in-service program called “Culture & Race in Rehabilitation Services” is scheduled for December 13 in Lansing. Approximately, 60 staff, as well as members of the MCB Diversity Team, will participate. The presenter will be Dr. John Lee from the Michigan State University Counseling Center. The purpose for this program is to make the distinction between culture and race and to demonstrate that both cultural competency and racial responsiveness are necessary when delivering services to consumers. 


The MCB Blindness Training group continues to meet to make suggestions for improving training to all staff, especially new hires. Changes to the new employee orientation have been suggested and will be incorporated into the orientation process at the Training Center. Other ideas for staff in-service training programs such as problem-solving, eye diseases, and VR case studies have come out of those meetings and plans are being made to develop and schedule those in-service programs during the coming calendar year. The group continues to meet to discuss additional ideas. Conversations continue with the Region V TACE Center to see what kinds of staff development they may be able to provide for new counselors and teachers from MCB and the Minnesota blind VR agency. The next meeting for this group is set for December 7.




The MCB Safety Team continues to meet monthly to discuss various issues identified by staff as safety priorities. One of those priorities was driver safety so arrangements are being made to offer training for any MCB employee who spends time on the road. For those with drivers, the drivers will be allowed to sign up. The Michigan State Police offer different kinds of training and staff will be allowed to choose which programs they wish to participate in. More information is needed and members of the Safety Team are working with MSP and DMB’s Safety Coordinator to sort thru the various options. All new employees will be required to participate in driver safety training as part of the new employee orientation. 


Other issues coming out of the safety meetings include evacuation procedures at the Cadillac Place and Flint State Office Building as well as the need for in-service training on blood borne pathogens. 




MCB Braille and Talking Book Library (BTBL) is the new name of the former Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Consumer groups and staff were involved in the name selection process which was underway during most of the library’s first year with MCB.

Wendy Flournoy, Reader Advisor for the past 2 years, will retire December 31st after 30 years of employment with the State of Michigan.


Richard Vogt, narrator for 44 years, has retired from volunteer service with over 800 titles to his credit. He has moved to Minnesota to be with family. Richard is best known as “the voice” of Michigan History Magazine.


The Department of Education’s Low Incidence Outreach program will be moving into the Michigan Library and Historical Center in early 2011. Staff are hopeful that opportunities to collaborate will arise.


BARD statistics show that 375 BTBL patrons are using the download to access books.  The BARD site now has more than 19,000 titles. 


Computer Club 


Computer Club continues to draw patrons to the library on a monthly basis. Unless otherwise noted, Computer Club meets in the BTBL Lobby on the first floor of the Library of Michigan from 10:30-12:30. The recent addition of the OPAL online meeting room allows individuals to attend from home using text and or microphone/speakers to chime in. 


Book Club


On September 11th BTBL held the first meeting of the newly established Book Club.  Book Club meets in the same location, immediately following Computer Club after a short lunch break. Patrons may attend either in person or over the OPAL online meeting room, which can be accessed at: www.conference321.com/masteradmin/room.asp?id=rsb8c86b1df295 

Enter any user name you wish and leave password blank.


Recording Studio


BTBL has shipped hardware components of the digital studio to the supplier for diagnostics. Staff hope to be recording again in late January.







In late October, 2010, the legislature and Governor passed legislation allowing for the early retirement of some individuals within state government.  BEP is sad to announce that John McEntee, the BEP Trainer, has chosen to take advantage of this retirement and will be leaving state government at the end of December.  While John, his dedication to the program and his outstanding knowledge and experience will be missed, MCB wishes him well as he moves into this new part of his life.


As a part of the early retirement legislation, BEP Licensees were also eligible to take advantage of the option to retire.  To date, approximately 13 Licensees have chosen to retire.  Staff would like to congratulate and thank each of these individuals and wish each of them the best as they embark on this new journey.  The new vacancies created by these retirements have added to the number of BEP facilities available in the program.  The agency has taken steps to bid out and award all facilities as quickly as possible so that no retirees are asked to stay past their desired end date.  Additionally, Commission staff has taken steps to recruit temporary operators who would have a vested interest in BEP including spouses of licensees, employees of licensees, and other blind persons who may be interested in coming into the program.  Staff has also initiated additional steps for monitoring these temporary operators including weekly communications to discuss the business and bi-weekly visits to facilities to monitor compliance.




On October 4, 2010, the Fall Vending Stand Training began with 9 students.  This class was housed at the Ramada Inn on the west side of Lansing.  This class was hampered by the sudden need for a medical leave by the BEP trainer and has been supplemented by BEP staff, BEP licensees, and other third party sources.  BEP would again like to thank the Training Center for allowing BEP students the opportunity to work for a week at the MCBTC cafeteria to gain some practical food service training.  While some of the aspects of this training have not gone as planned, all of the students have successfully completed their classroom portion of training and will begin the On-the-Job Experiences (OJE) on December 13.  Upon successful completion of the OJE, they will be eligible to bid on facilities in mid-February 2011.


On September 29, 2010, the Commission and EOC sponsored a meeting of all highway vendors at the Victor Office Center in Lansing.  This meeting was in response to some concerns that MDOT had expressed regarding the services on the highways.  As there has been a lot of turn-over in the highway vending locations, the Memorandum of Understanding between MDOT and MCB was discussed.  Additional topics included the refund policy, energy reduction equipment, and ended with an opportunity for licensees to present concerns to the agency that have been forwarded to MDOT for their review and action.


Site Development


At the last meeting the Commission spoke of a submission for a full food service contract with the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) in Sault Ste. Marie.  Unfortunately, MCB’s proposal has been deemed to be outside of the competitive range and was not considered for award of the contract.  After additional discussions with the USCG, the parties have agreed to discuss the proposal further and attempt to work through the process of direct negotiations to settle on a potential contract.


On November 8, 2010, the Commission began the operations of its full food service contract at the Ft. Custer Training Center in Augusta, Michigan.  The first licensee who worked through the BEP’s reciprocity agreement has begun operations and sales volumes are higher than projected.  Staff is excited by the opportunity and look forward to continuing success at the facility.


Commission staff has begun working with DTMB and DELEG in order to proceed with the renovation and expansion of two facilities in Lansing.  The Grand Tower facility is being expanded to twice its current size in order to accommodate an expanded menu and provide for limited seating in the facility.  It is hoped that the entire construction can be completed within the next 6 months and should not cause for the closure of the facility at any time during the project.  Additionally, the Ingham County Human Services building is in the plans for a complete remodel.  The facility is over 30 years old and no longer meets the profile of a snack bar facility with the ability to provide necessary services.  Therefore, Commission staff has initiated the process with the County Board to agree on a final design for the space and construction is hoped to begin this winter.


Cadillac Place Update and Plan


At a Special Commission Board meeting held on July 20, 2010, the Commission was charged with the development and implementation of a plan for the competing food services at the Cadillac Place facility in Detroit.  The agency has worked with the Attorney General’s office in order to finalize allowable sales from vendors outside of the BEP in that facility according to current lease arrangements and hopes to have this finalized agreement in place before the end of the calendar year.  Additionally, commission staff is preparing to take over operations of the facility once the current lease expires in several years.  Plans also continue to move forward on adding additional lines of food service within the building.


BEP/EOC relations


As stated in the last report, the BEP and the EOC have begun participation in an Ad Hoc Committee in order to think creatively and find new solutions to long-standing concerns within the program.  DELEG Purchasing is working to issue an RFP and finalize a Purchase Order to retain the services of an outside facilitator to assist the Ad Hoc Committee as it continues it’s work.  


In late August, 2010, the seniority and Promotions sub-committee met to discuss concerns and possible changes to the current Operator Selection System.  While the agency worked with the committee, they acted very carefully and independently to develop a system that maintained the goals and objectives of the current system while addressing some of the shortfalls that have caused issues in the past.  All parties are confident that this new system will more adequately meet the needs of the program.


At the September, 2010 EOC meeting it was determined that the policies regarding Upward Mobility in the BEP Operations Manual did not comply with the language in the Rehab Act of 1973.  Agency staff and the EOC have worked to develop draft language that is more in line with the Act and will be meeting with VR staff in order to ensure that it meets all of the requirements as outlined in the Act.











By Pat Cannon



As Governor Jennifer M. Granholm heads into the final weeks of her eight years of serving as Michigan’s Governor it seems fitting to reflect upon her impact on the Michigan Commission for the Blind, our clients, as well as people with disabilities generally.  In addition to serving as the Commission’s current State Director, it has been my privilege to serve as her Disability Policy Advisor, as well as her State ADA Coordinator, so I’d like to offer my perspective on some of the advances we’ve achieved since 2002.


For starters, in my first meeting with her as our new Governor, January 2, 2003, I asked for two things on behalf of the Commission and our clients.  First, the transfer of MCB from the Family Independence Agency (FIA) to a department which better aligns with our mission and, secondly, to support an adjustment in the split of Title I funds under the Rehabilitation Act so blind persons in our state could receive a more equitable share of the federal pie.  Later that year, we were transferred from FIA to the newly created Department of Labor and Economic Growth and, thanks to the active involvement and support of the new director of Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS), Jaye Shamsiddeen, we reached an agreement to increase MCB’s share from 12 percent to 15 percent, which put us on par with other blind rehab agencies throughout the country which receive, on average, 15 percent of allocated rehab funds.


Since then, under the Granholm Administration and the leadership in the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth (DELEG), we have enjoyed strong support and involvement from individuals like former directors David Hollister, Bob Swanson, Keith Cooley, Skip Pruss and Andy Levin, Deputy Directors Dennis Sykes, Sharon Bommarito, Irma Zuckerberg and Liza Estlund-Olson.  Many, many others in DELEG have been so very supportive of us as well, including Al Pohl, Patty Gamin, Debbie Huntley, and on and on.  While I will not attempt to include the names of everyone who has been so helpful to us, suffice to say, that we could have not enjoyed the successes we’ve had without the strong support, guidance and assistance of very many fine individuals in DELEG, not to mention, of course, all of the terrific staff of MCB and our Commissioners.


Inclusion has been an integral part of the Granholm Administration.  The Governor has attempted to ensure representation for people with disabilities throughout state government and has made it a priority to consider people with disabilities as we advance public policy affecting the lives of all of our citizens.  Governor Granholm knows well that during these very difficult times, we cannot afford to waste the talent, ingenuity and resourcefulness of people with disabilities in Michigan.  The appointment of people with disabilities to various boards, commissions and jobs in state government, including the Governor’s Cabinet, is evidence of this commitment.


With the dedication and hard work of many, we have been able to make advances in several areas which benefit people with disabilities in Michigan and following are a few examples:


·        Implementation of the Freedom to Work Program has enabled many individuals with disabilities to go to work without fear of losing critical health care coverage.  Today, approximately 4,500 persons with disabilities are enrolled in this program, which has often been referred to as the Medicaid buy-in initiative, meaning they did not have to choose between the dignity of working and keeping health care coverage.


·        Our commitment to providing a range of long-term care options is making it increasingly possible to choose alternatives to institutional care, enabling many people with disabilities to receive care at home so they may remain in their home and community.  The Governor’s establishment of her Long Term Care Task Force, then upon its recommendation, the Long Term Care Commission, has significantly moved this important issue forward and, today, providing a real choice to more and more individuals.


·        Five years ago, Governor Granholm and then-DLEG Director Hollister worked to support and advocate for catering by Business Enterprise Program Operators in state-owned facilities.  Director Hollister sent a letter to all department directors and subsequently he and I made a joint presentation to the Governor’s Cabinet Council to promote Catering by BEP operators in state facilities.


·        Our state’s various websites and other communication technologies and tools have been developed with accessibility in mind, often modeling the Section 508 standards, to ensure that everyone can access the wealth of information we provide.  While we’re not yet perfect in this quest, we’ve made great progress thanks to the tenacity of people like Scott Norris, Sherri Heibeck, Susan Turney, Sue Luzenski and others.


·        We’ve used technology to increase access for people with disabilities so they may participate and interact in public meetings remotely and weigh in on policy development.  For example, Commission for the Blind meetings are routinely audio streamed so consumers may listen and participate by submitting comments via email.


·        We’ve also strengthened our resolve to ensure that all meeting sites are accessible and barrier-free to persons with disabilities.  While this was initially underscored in a letter from the Governor to all departments, it was subsequently made part of DTMB’s Administrative Guide to State Government under the Section on Accessibility, which also requires accessible alternative formats as needed.


·        Most video productions procured, produced or otherwise used by state government now include captioning and audio description.  This, too, was originally directed by the Governor and is now part of the Administrative Guide to State Government.


·        Through critical public/private partnerships we have significantly enhanced recreational opportunities for people with disabilities throughout the state.  Advances in this priority include accessible hiking trails, boat docks, fishing peers, parks and accessible play areas at some highway rest stops, part of the very successful collaborative “So that all may play” initiative.  These accessibility enhancements to recreational opportunities have truly captured the spirit of the ADA and its promise to provide the full integration of people with disabilities into all aspects of our society.


·        The Michigan Equal Opportunity and Diversity Council continues its work to ensure that people with disabilities are well-represented in state government and that they are effectively accommodated.  Training on disability for managers is one of several products of this good work. Both Governor Granholm and the First Gentleman participated in disability training, Windmills, along with all Executive Office staff.


·        Department diversity plans also cover recruitment as a critical step to promoting more diversity in state government.  And, thanks to the leadership of Civil Service Director Jeremy Stevens, commitment to diversity will be part of the competencies assessed as part of the state performance appraisal system.


·        We continue to ensure that all the programs, services and activities of state government are readily accessible to, and usable by, people with disabilities.


·        There are several things that we have done and continue to do to promote the employment of people with a disability, including our efforts to help the employer community understand the importance of focusing on the abilities of people with disabilities rather than the disabilities.  People with disabilities do not want a gift or a handout.  We don’t want to be given a job for which we are not qualified.  We simply want an opportunity to compete for jobs on the basis of our abilities and what we can do.  Further, our increased activities to promote entrepreneurship, job training and re-training definitely include people with disabilities.  We’re also using federal grants to help provide work experience and employment opportunities for people with disabilities, MCB’s Client Internship Program being just one example.


·        Governor Granholm has been present and visible in many, many settings and events for people with disabilities throughout the state in the past eight years.  For example, her participation in the Commission’s 25th Anniversary Celebration at the MCB Training Center, her attendance at several DELEG events, in meetings with all Department ADA Coordinators and at numerous bill-signing ceremonies and ribbon-cutting events.  In the past eight years she has been very approachable, very open and truly dedicated to the inclusion of people with disabilities in all that we do.


While it has been a privilege for me to be involved on the fringes of many of these achievements, it’s important to note that all of these and many other successes have been the result of the hard work and involvement of many, many talented and hard working individuals.  Further, it has been my observation through more than 30 years of working in the disability arena that advancement’s and victories that have been won on behalf of people with disabilities have often been incremental and have almost always come with strong bi-partisan support.  The hard-fought enactment of the Michigan Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and many other important disability laws are the result of strong, cooperative, bi-partisan collaborations.  So, with this background of achievements, we can look forward to future support and successes with the incoming Administration of Governor-Elect Rick Snyder.


In the coming weeks and months, MCB and DELEG will be involved with the transition of the Snyder Administration and I am confident that our cooperation and support for all of those involved in the new Administration will help to pave the way for a smooth transition, and also lay the groundwork for more successes on behalf of the blind clients we strive to effectively serve.  To MCB Commissioners, our excellent staff, our community partners, consumers, consumer organizations, our stakeholders and to Governor Jennifer Granholm, I thank all of you – and each of you – for your dedication to help restore hope for blind persons in our state.

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