Resolution 2020-02 Regarding improving employment programs and other services at the Division of Rehabilitation Services


WHEREAS, according to the Maryland Division of Rehabilitation Services, “our shared vision is that Maryland is the best place in our nation for persons with disabilities to live, work and raise a family; to provide leadership and support in promoting employment, economic self-sufficiency for persons with disabilities in Maryland"; and to ensure that “individuals with disabilities are welcome, fully included, and participate actively in all Maryland communities”, but this shared vision is hardly a reality; and
WHEREAS, in 2005, through the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, the Office of Blindness and Vision Services (OBVS) was established to ensure that people who are blind, visually impaired or deaf-blind receive the specialized services and training needed to become competitively employed; and

WHEREAS, in recent years there has been much turnover of OBVS staff, with new hires having little or no previous knowledge of the value of specialized skills of orientation and mobility, braille, access technology and daily living which contribute to the overall success of their consumers; and

WHEREAS, little or no training about blindness has been provided to these staff, and they exhibit the same low expectations about blindness held by many in society; and

WHEREAS, many OBVS consumers who come to DORS need training in the skills of blindness to become competitively employed; and

WHEREAS, blind consumers are poorly served by DORS because few, if any, training programs are available for OBVS consumers at the Workforce and Technology Center, or from Maryland agencies outside of DORS; and

WHEREAS, career-oriented programs such as credit counseling, hospitality, customer service, medical billing and others are already being offered by agencies serving blind people in other states, and there is no reason why these programs should not be offered to blind Marylanders; and

WHEREAS, little initiative has been undertaken to include OBVS consumers in new employment-related programs available at the Workforce and Technology Center, nor little exploration and consideration of training opportunities offered by other agencies; and

WHEREAS, DORS' failure to provide such training opportunities means that few OBVS consumers achieve successful employment outcomes from an agency that exists to promote employment; and

WHEREAS, housing DORS in the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), has led to a further decline in DORS services because counselors must concentrate on policies, procedures and paperwork instead of devoting time and creativity to reduce employment barriers faced by consumers; and

WHEREAS, according to MSDE, its mission is to

“BE EFFECTIVE. Provide every student with highly effective teachers and educational leaders;

BE INCLUSIVE. Engage with parents, families, and community members to improve student outcomes;

BE INNOVATIVE. Integrate evolving technologies, instructional strategies, and emerging skills that enable all students to reach their fullest potential in a globally competitive environment;

BE ACCOUNTABLE. Enhance learning for every student through use of objective, data-driven measures of success determined by state and national standards; and

BE SAFE. Promote a safe, healthy environment for students,”

all of which demonstrates that the emphasis of MSDE is on K-12 education and there is no understanding or awareness of the functions of DORS: Now, Therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland, in convention assembled this __ day of November 2020, that this organization insist that OBVS develop a robust blindness training program for its staff, in consultation with the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland; and

That this intensive training be required for all OBVS staff and supervisors; and

That this training program be implemented within the next six months; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that at least two initiatives for career-oriented training of OBVS consumers be explored and presented to DORS leadership for implementation by the end of 2021; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly urge the Maryland General Assembly and the Hogan Administration to investigate the proper placement of DORS in the executive branch.