Waiting list for employment services reopens for thousands of Oklahomans with disabilities
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services moved 1,500 Oklahomans with disabilities off waiting lists, making them eligible for vocational rehabilitation and employment services. The agency permanently ended the waiting list on May 8 for jobseekers with the most significant barriers to employment.
Since July 2012, DRS’ Vocational Rehabilitation and Visual Services divisions have gradually moved a total of 4,426 eligible clients off waiting lists as soon as funds were available to pay for their services.
DRS must continue to defer services to another 1,821 applicants whose disabilities are less significant in terms of reaching employment goals.
Only new applicants are affected by waiting lists. Current clients will continue to be served at the same level.
“We felt comfortable about the large release from the waiting list for several reasons,” Interim Executive Director David Ligon said. “First, actual client expenditures are significantly below our budgeted projections per client. Second, there are less than two months left in the state fiscal year, meaning we can be much more confident in how much can be spent between now and the end of the state fiscal year. And, third, we now know what our state appropriation will be, which allows us to plan DRS’ 2014 budget accordingly.”
-Services Opened story continued
Former Rehabilitation Services client appointed to DRS Commission for Rehabilitation Services
Dr. Perry Sanders, a former Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services client, was appointed to the Commission for Rehabilitation Services, the governing board for DRS. He is the first person from Tulsa ever to serve on the commission.
Sanders was appointed by Brian Bingman (R – District 12), president pro tempore of the state Senate.
DRS annually serves more than 92,000 Oklahomans with disabilities through employment, vocational rehabilitation, education and independent living programs, and the determination of medical eligibility for disability benefits.
Sanders, who is legally blind, worked from 1975 until 1976 as rehabilitation teacher of the blind for DRS’ Division of Visual Services, which he now governs as a commission member.
—Sanders story continued
Disability Agency Invites Public to Comment on 2014 Vocational Rehabilitation and Supported Employment Plan
OKLAHOMA CITY – Public Hearings will be hosted by Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) and the Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council (ORC) on May 14 in Lawton, May 15 in Tulsa and May 16 in Oklahoma City. Comments will be heard regarding updates to the DRS State Plan for programs that focus on services for Oklahomans with disabilities.
Programs affected by the proposed new State Plan are administered by DRS and include vocational rehabilitation for people with all types of disabilities and supported employment services for individuals with the most significant disabilities who need assistance on and off their jobs to obtain and maintain employment.
DRS provides a variety of services that help individuals with disabilities achieve employment, personal independence and self-sufficiency. The ORC advises DRS on development of policies and plans for rehabilitation services.
The comments from current or former clients and disability advocates will assist DRS in making annual updates to the Title I, State Plan for Vocational Rehabilitation Services and Title VI, Part B, Supported Employment Services.
—State Plan story continued
OSB students’ annual service day to “Give Back” to Muskogee and Tahlequah communities
The Oklahoma School for the Blind Jazz Band will entertain at Eastgate Village Retirement Community in Muskogee on OSB Gives Back Day, May
6. Band members (from left) Josh Reid , Logan McCoy, Charity Pickup, Briar Lostlen, Billy Reaume, and Brittany Donley recently performed at the center. Riley Fly, the second drummer, was present but not visible.
Forty-eight School for the Blind students will trade their year-end field trip to volunteer May
6 for the school’s second annual “OSB Gives Back Day.” This year, organizers added three new Muskogee locations to the community service event, which last year focused exclusively on an Illinois River clean-up in Tahlequah.
“A field trip would be cool, “Briar Lostlen, a junior from Enid. Explained, “but this is our way of saying ‘thanks’ for everything the community does for us all year long.”
Three groups of students and sponsors will divide up from nine to noon to brighten the entrance to Kids’ Space Child Advocacy Center with flowers, walk and brush dogs at Muskogee Animal Shelter and entertain residents and play games at Eastgate Village Retirement Community in Muskogee.
The Tahlequah group will wade in and pull trash out of the Illinois River and pick up litter on the river bank until 2 p.m.
When students get back to OSB, cafeteria employees have planned a cookout. Then volunteers will have a chance to help out on campus with chores, such as washing windows and vans, and cleaning out the OSB Future Farmers of America bunny cages.
“OSB Gives Back Day” was developed by OSB science teacher Cheryl Daniels, who convinced the students to give community service a try in 2012.
—OSB Give Back story continued
Students participate in School for the Blind Regional Braille Challenge
The Braille Challenge competition was hosted by the Oklahoma School for the Blind. Ariana Richardson, a sixth-grader from Enid, earned third place in the sophomore category.
Twenty-four students from Muskogee to Norman participated in at the Oklahoma Regional Braille Challenge.
The competition was hosted by the Oklahoma School for the Blind, headquartered in Muskogee. OSB is a division of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.
Braille Challenge is a national program sponsored by the Braille Institute, nonprofit organization that eliminates barriers caused by blindness and severe sight loss.
The academic contest measures students’ proficiency in braille reading and comprehension, speed and accuracy, spelling, proofreading and tactile graphics.
National prize sponsors are Braille Institute, Humanware, National Braille Press and Seedlings.
Regional sponsors are the Oklahoma School for the Blind, Oklahoma Association for the Education and Rehabilitation for Blind and Visually Impaired, Oklahoma Council for the Blind, Robert Goolsby with C-21 First Choice Realty and Liberty Braille, LLC. Additional regional sponsors are Muskogee County Lions Club, Muskogee Noon Lions Club, NanoPac, Inc., Okvision, Precision Optical, Inc., Ruth Kelly Studio, Amanda Pugh Jewelry and Parkhill Oklahoma Home Community Education Club.
“Braille literacy is the key to employability,” Sherry Holder, OSB outreach specialist and Braille Challenge director told the students during the award presentations. “The statistics say over 80 percent of those (people who are blind) hired after graduation are braille users.”
700 ignore winter rain to advocate at the state Capitol
Gov. Mary Fallin accepted the disability leadership award at People with Disabilities Awareness Day for her work to improve employment opportunities for Oklahomans with disabilities.
Gov. Mary Fallin joined 701 Oklahomans with disabilities who ignored winter rain to attend the 19th People with Disabilities Awareness Day at the state Capitol on Apr. 3.
Mike O’Brien, Ed.D., executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, presented Gov. Fallin with a disability leadership award for her work for the National Governors Association to advance employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
Organizers have lost count of the times Gov. Fallin has attended and emceed the Awareness Day event over the years.
“We are absolutely thrilled that 700 disability advocates came out to the Capitol for Awareness Day in spite of the weather,” DRS Communications Director Jody Harlan said. “Gov. Fallin shared so much of her time with people at this event, which is truly a unique opportunity for individuals to visit with Legislators and their staff about their own success stories and critical disability issues.”
—Awareness Day story continued