[NFBOK-Talk] Letter to Oklahoma House Appropriations and Budget Committee regarding HB1861

Jeannie Massay jmassay1 at cox.net
Sun Feb 26 22:50:07 UTC 2017

Federation family, 


The following letter was sent to the Oklahoma House of Representatives
Appropriations and Budget Committee Chair and members today. The letter was
also placed in an Ad. That appeared in the Oklahoman today, Sunday, February
26, 2017. It is crucial that each and every one of us show up at the Capitol
on Wednesday to let our legislature know that we  are here, that we are
citizens of Oklahoma and that we demand to be heard, particularly when it
comes to legislation having anything to do with the blind. Please show up on
Wednesday as a show of solidarity. This is what collective  action is! 







Jeannie M. Massay, President

National Federation of theBlind 

Of Oklahoma

505 Baker Street

Norman, OK 73072

Phone: 405-600-0695

Jeannie.massay at nfbok.org <mailto:Jeannie.massay at nfbok.org>  


Live the life you want!


The National Federation of the Blind knows that blindness is not the
characteristic that defines you or your future. Every day, we raise
expectations of the blind because low expectations create obstacles between
blind people and our dreams. Blindness is not what holds you back. You can
live the life you want.!. 






February 26, 2017


Dear Members of the House Committee on Appropriations and Budget: 


The National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Rehabilitation
Association, and the Oklahoma State Rehabilitation Council were shocked and
dismayed by the introduction of HB 1861, a bill establishing the
"Rehabilitation Services Disbursing Fund." This bill would diminish services
to older blind Oklahomans due to geographic limitations for services, limit
capacity, and expose the state to undue financial risk.


Currently, the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services Division of
Visual Services assigns experts; many of them blind themselves, to work with
clients in their home anywhere in the state. The current approach has many
advantages that may be compromised if the program is entirely implemented by
a private contractor. In contrast, HB 1861, upon which the House Committee
on Appropriations and Budget will vote in the near future, proposes that
funds for the older blind program be entirely granted to private entities
certified by the National Accreditation Council for Blind and Low Vision
Services (NAC). While a network of regional service providers is possible,
this is an unproven service model and will certainly result in diminished
services during the transition period. Moving this work to private entities
with only regional services will result in diminished services for clients
outside their service area, especially in rural parts of the state.


It will be a time consuming and costly process for another entity to
replicate the breadth and depth of services offered by Visual Services. For
example, Visual Services already has access technology, Braille, orientation
and mobility, and customized independent living classes. These customized
classes are based on years and years of experience working with older blind


Rehabilitation services are overseen at the federal level by the
Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA). The RSA is charged with
ensuring that state rehabilitation plans are submitted yearly, monitoring
their implementation, and disbursing federal funds to state rehabilitation
agencies to carry out these plans. If the RSA determines that a
rehabilitation plan has not been properly implemented, it can assess
substantial financial penalties against the state rehabilitation department
in order to recoup the federal funds received to implement the plan. It is
important to note that such assessments would be levied against the state of
Oklahoma, not against the private entities. In other words, if a private
entity fails to provide adequate services to older blind Oklahomans, tax
payers will be left on the hook. 


In summary, this bill will have the unintended consequences of diminishing
services for older blind Oklahomans, limiting consumer choice, and exposing
the state to uncertain financial penalties for services not directly
performed by the state. Furthermore, years of sad experience tell us that
NAC-accredited entities do not meet the needs of blind people because NAC'S
expectations and standards are very low. We therefore oppose this bill and
urge the committee to vote against it. 





Jeannie Massay


Jeannie Massay, President

National Federation of the Blind of Oklahoma


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