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Commissioner’s Corner: Issue 1

Welcome to the first edition of Commissioner’s Corner, a quarterly communication designed to provide information and resources that are important for maximizing the opportunity for competitive integrated employment and independence for individuals with disabilities leading to full community inclusion and economic self-sufficiency in the 21st century labor market.

Janet LaBreck

 

Contents

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Announcements!

The President’s 2017 Budget is now available! Please see the Resource section for links.

Sue Rankin-White has announced her retirement from RSA and the Federal government after 26 years of dedicated service. Sue’s passion for serving individuals with disabilities is founded in a lifetime of dedication, from her days as an English teacher in North Carolina to her work in private industry to her service in an Independent Living Center and with the North Carolina Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. Sue has devoted her career to improving the lives of youth and adults with disabilities through education, independent living, and employment.

Carol Dobak will serve as Acting Director of the State Monitoring & Program Improvement Division (SMPID) in RSA. Carol began her career in RSA in 2000 as a Program Specialist with responsibility for the Client Assistance Program and the Protection and Advocacy for Individual Rights Program. In 2004, she moved to the Office of Policy and Planning in OAS with responsibility for RSA’s programs, and in particular, the vocational rehabilitation (VR) program. In 2006, Carol became the Unit Chief of the VR Program in SMPID. Carol’s leadership, experience, and expertise will be critical over the next year as we continue finalizing the regulatory process for the VR and other programs under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

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Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) - Background

In July 2014, the President signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which revises and reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998. The passage of WIOA — a bipartisan and bicameral effort — marked the most significant reform of the Federal adult education and workforce development system in over a decade. WIOA presents tremendous opportunities to change the way Federal systems operate. Through the joint and individual promulgation of Federal regulations that govern the VR Program under WIOA, RSA promotes collaboration to streamline the way the VR Program operates in order to shape the nation’s employment and training system into one that continues to provide improved outcomes for all job seekers, workers, and employers. The new law supports advanced strategies to keep pace with changing economic conditions and calls for improved coordination between adult education, vocational rehabilitation, and workforce development agencies — not just at the state and local levels, but at the Federal level as well. WIOA provides expanded training and employment opportunities for the millions of youth and adults served annually by various systems. Together, with the vital partners at the Departments of Labor (DOL) and Health and Human Services (HHS) and the continued efforts and commitment of States and local providers performing the work on the front lines, the VR Program can make a difference for those individuals who have the greatest barriers to employment by offering enhanced access and clear pathways to good jobs making family-sustaining wages.

Since the inception of WIOA, RSA remains committed to assisting states in identifying and developing innovative strategies for addressing the wide range of rehabilitation issues, in addition to providing access to high quality Technical Assistance (TA) and guidance upon the release of final regulations, which are expected in June of 2016.

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Promoting Career Pathways

RSA strives to promote access to career pathways into education, training, and employment opportunities leading to economic self-sufficiency in the 21st century through the development of high quality formula and discretionary grants that align with the provisions under WIOA and the program’s mission.

Under the aegis of the Department of Education, RSA has initiated a five-year, $3.5 million per year Career Pathways for Individuals with Disabilities (CPID) model demonstration program in Georgia, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Virginia. The purpose of the program is to demonstrate replicable promising practices in the use of career pathways to enable VR-eligible individuals with disabilities, including youth with disabilities, to:

  • Acquire marketable skills and recognized postsecondary credentials.
  • Secure competitive integrated employment in high-demand, high-quality occupations.

The State VR agency grantees are expected to:

  • Create new career pathways and/or use existing career pathways in one or more high-demand occupations or occupational clusters, through partnerships with employers, education, training and employment programs, other federally-funded career pathways initiatives, and social services organizations.
  • Evaluate the project’s performance in achieving project goals and objectives, including an evaluation on the effectiveness of practices and strategies.
  • Disseminate project findings and knowledge to assist State and local agencies in adapting or replicating the model career pathways initiatives developed and implemented through this program.

Program activities will be designed and implemented in partnership with secondary and postsecondary educational institutions, American Job Centers, workforce training providers, social and human service organizations, employers, and other Federal career pathways initiatives.

Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency
Greg Schmieg, Project Director
Telephone: 404-232-1800
Email: greg.schmieg@gvra.ga.gov

Kentucky Office for the Blind
Allison Flanagan-Jessee, Project Director
Telephone: 502-564-4754
Email: allison.flanagan@ky.gov

Nebraska Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Mark Schultz, Project Director
Telephone: 402-471-3644
Email: mark.schultz@nebraska.gov

Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services
Including Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired
Joseph M. Ashley, Ph.D., CRC (DARS)
Telephone: 804-662-7624
Email: Joe.Ashley@dars.virginia.gov

Rick L. Mitchell (DBVI)
Telephone: 800-622-2155
Email: Rick.Mitchell@dbvi.virginia.gov

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Transitioning to a Job Driven Workforce

The Job-Driven Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center (JDVRTAC) is intended to address the Presidential Memorandum on job-driven activities, that directed the Departments of Labor, Education, and Commerce to revise and direct Department resources toward implementation of job-driven activities. The JDVRTAC topics nevertheless fit quite well with the emphasis on employer engagement and competitive integrated employment found in WIOA, making this center a key center in supporting WIOA implementation.

The Center is to provide universal, targeted, and intensive TA in four topic areas related to the President’s job-driven agenda, including:

  • Use of labor market and occupational information by VR counselors and VR consumers for purposes of career planning and IPE development;
  • Consultation with employers around individual needs of persons with disabilities in the workplace (services directed to help employers work with individuals with disabilities in the workplace at the individual level, including employer engagement…accommodations, assistive technology, etc.);
  • Building relationships with employers (by system level of employer engagement, employer account systems, VR business representatives, CSAVR’s TAP and Net, etc.)
  • Services to providers of customized training, which is training designed specifically to meet the needs of particular employers…in order to increase the participation of individuals with disabilities in these customized training programs, which often are linked to direct hires after completion.

The Center is in its second year of operation. The Center has developed tool kits for each of the topic areas for which it is responsible, and these tool kits can be found on the Explore VR website (www.explorevr.org/toolkits). The Center presented two webinars in December 2015 on job-driven activities, is developing presentations on job-driven topics for four states, and will be implementing one or more communities of practice this year. The Center began recruiting State VR agencies interested in receiving intensive TA on job-driven topics in July 2015 and is implementing intensive TA agreements in eleven State VR agencies.

These agencies are:

  • Delaware Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
  • Illinois Division of Rehabilitation Services
  • Massachusetts Commission for the Blind
  • Nebraska Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
  • New Hampshire Vocational Rehabilitation
  • New Jersey Commission for the Blind
  • New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
  • North Dakota Division of Rehabilitation
  • Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services
  • Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation
  • Washington Division of Vocational Rehabilitation

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Emerging Technologies

The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) awarded a grant to implement a pilot project through the Disability Innovation Fund - Automated Personalization Computing Project (APCP). The ultimate goal of this grant is to increase access to information and communication technologies (ICT) through the automatic personalization of required assistive technology (AT).

We are living in the age of technology, with information and interaction with our peers readily available. Individuals with disabilities often face barriers trying to access information or communication technologies in the various aspects of their lives, whether it is in education, employment, or day-to-day activities. There are varying obstacles with technology for people with different disabilities; these can range from inaccessible text-to-speech functionality to visually busy webpages or video conferencing without a script. People with disabilities use AT solutions to access features to help technology work for them.

In certain situations, AT can have its limitations. Students in the class setting cannot always have staff available for software that requires expert intervention. Employees who use AT in the office are limited to working on site and are made ineffectual during last minute emergencies that happen after hours if there are limited licensing agreements. Even daily activities have been absorbed into the technical world; movies, transportation systems, restaurants, and other establishments are starting to use kiosks and webpages for ordering and ticketing; communication has progressed to encompass so much more than phone calls, such as video conferencing, emails, and text messaging; the thermostat, television, refrigerator, and security systems have voice commands and wireless internet settings. In some way or form, technology has enhanced or replaced certain functions in the lives of a 21st century individual.

The Automated Personalization Computing Project is designed to increase access to ICT and reduce barriers for people with disabilities. With the APCP, an information technology (IT) infrastructure would be created to allow users of ICT to store their AT preferences in the cloud or other technology, which then would allow supported Internet-capable devices they are using to automatically run their preferred AT solutions (e.g., font size and color, language translation, speech readers, etc.). The APCP would identify AT preferences of the user and apply them accordingly, without the intervention of an AT specialist, thus reconfiguring the computer application in an accessible friendly format. People with disabilities would be able to access, on a secure basis, this computer information no matter where they were, no matter what type of computer they were on, or what software programs were being used, so long as the computer was APCP-enabled with Web access.

This grant requires coordination among several different sectors and the pilot program will demonstrate successful migration of AT across multiple sites and devices. The APCP has the chance to bring the maximum potential of the 21st century to the lives of people with disabilities and vice versa.

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Resources

2017 President’s Budget

Please find below various links to the 2017 President’s Budget.

Council State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR)

The Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation is composed of the chief administrators of the public rehabilitation agencies serving individuals with physical and mental disabilities in the States, District of Columbia, and the territories. These agencies constitute the state partners in the State-Federal program of rehabilitation services provided under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. The Council’s members supervise the rehabilitation of some 1.2 million persons with disabilities.

Website: http://www.rehabnetwork.org/

Federal Partners in Transition Webinar Materials

The Federal Partners in Transition (FPT) work group brings together political, senior executive, and career staff from federal agencies across multiple systems to improve transition services for youth with disabilities. The FPT formed a Strategic Planning Committee to publish The 2020 Federal Youth Transition Plan: A Federal Interagency Strategy (2020 Plan). The 2020 Plan outlines how FPT will enhance interagency coordination through compatible outcome goals and policy priorities, ultimately leading to improved outcomes for youth with disabilities by 2020.

FPT hosted its first webinar, “Connecting Partners and Resources to Prepare Youth for Careers,” on November 10, 2015, to better inform the transition community about federally funded programs and resources available for students and youth with disabilities. The link to the recording of the webinar and handouts is: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/4733558456817581058

Additionally, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) posted the archived materials on the Transition Activities website under Events located at:

http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/transition/index.html.

Institute on Rehabilitation Issues (IRI)

IRI publications and fields of study identify and discuss field-initiated topics of importance to the public rehabilitation program, develop materials which can be used by state VR agencies and others concerned about staff development in rehabilitation, and publish and disseminate the materials widely to persons who provide rehabilitation services to individuals with disabilities.

Website: http://www.iriforum.org/default.aspx

Latest Publications: http://www.iriforum.org/books.aspx

  • 38th IRI: Return on Investment and Economic Impact: Determining and Communicating the Value of Vocational Rehabilitation (2015)
  • Assume Nothing! A Monograph from the 38th Institute on Rehabilitation Issues to Address Underserved Populations, Including Individuals Who Are Deaf-Blind

Job-Driven Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center (JDVRTAC) Toolkit

The Center has developed tool kits for each of the topic areas for which it is responsible, and these tool kits can be found on the Explore VR website: www.explorevr.org/toolkits

National Clearinghouse of Rehabilitation Training Materials (NCRTM)

The NCRTM is RSA’s central portal that provides users access to a wide range of materials and the opportunity to disseminate their own rehabilitation training resources. RSA is particularly interested in showcasing resources developed through RSA grant funds as a way for grantees and RSA to demonstrate accountability for the Federal investment in training grants. Contributors can receive recognition for top-rated materials and reach target audiences for dissemination.

The NCRTM can be accessed at https://ncrtm.ed.gov/. Questions or requests for more information about the project can be directed to NCRTM@neweditions.net.

National Coalition of State Rehabilitation Councils, Inc. (NCSRC)

A national membership coalition, which advocates for and works in partnership with the national public vocational rehabilitation system’s continual quest for excellence, NCSRC vision is to enhance the employment opportunities of persons with disabilities through the public vocational rehabilitation system.

Website: http://www.ncsrc.net/

National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB)

The mission of the NCSAB is to promote through advocacy, coordination, and education the delivery of specialized services that enable individuals who are blind and visually impaired to achieve personal and vocational independence.

Website: http://www.ncsab.org/

Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) Blog

July 1, 2015, marked the day that many of the provisions of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) took effect. This new law has the potential to make a tremendous difference for tens of millions of workers, jobseekers, and students across this country. OSERS’ Assistant Secretary Michael Yudin, RSA’s Janet LaBreck, and OCTAE’s Johan Uvin, with our Federal partners, shared a blog to highlight why this day is an important day for the workforce development system.

Read the full blog at the link below!

https://www.ed.gov/edblogs/osers/2015/07/july-1-2015-making-a-shift-in-the-public-workforce-system/

Technical Assistance Centers

The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) is committed to providing leadership and resources to grantees and stakeholders for the purpose of improving services to individuals with disabilities to maximize their employment, independence and integration into the community and the competitive labor market. Accordingly, RSA announces a series of training and technical assistance centers (TACs) and demonstration projects to assist state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies and their partners in providing VR and other services to individuals with disabilities. Each TAC focuses its efforts on a specific set of topics designed to provide universal, targeted, and intensive technical assistance (TA).

Specific information about each TAC, how to receive TA services, latest projects and communities of practice can be obtained by visiting the individual TAC websites. Details about each grant and the TA continuum of services are on the RSA homepage: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/rsa/ta-centers.html

Workforce3One

An e-learning, knowledge sharing webspace that offers workforce professionals, employers, economic development, and education professionals a dynamic network featuring innovative workforce solutions. Online learning events, resource information, and tools help organizations learn how to develop strategies that enable individuals and businesses to be successful in the 21st century economy.

Website: https://www.workforce3one.org/

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To learn more about RSA—or use tools and download data—visit our Web portal at https://rsa.ed.gov or click on one of the links below.



   
Last Modified: 07/26/2016