THE VISIONARY (Blind Services Newsletter) Winter 2007 From the Editors Welcome to the winter 2007 issue of The Visionary, the newsletter of the Department of Rehabilitation’s Blind Services units. We trust that it continues to be informative and provides what you seek from such a publication. The response from our readership has been great. As with past issues, this one will cover a wide variety of topics and we thank all who have helped us to bring this issue to “press.” The Visionary is undergoing small changes that will make it more fun to read. Two new features are “Editors’ Impressions” (observations about a pertinent issue in blindness, education or rehabilitation) and “Counselors’ Tool Box” (which will first appear in the next issue and describe useful resources, web sites, or other helpful items to put in your address book for use on the job). In this issue, long-time employee and colleague, Alice Hackney, who is one of our editors and the BFS training coordinator and who will have retired by our next issue, provides a few reminiscences and observations for us to consider as we go forward. We encourage you to send in articles, your impressions, and useful resource ideas. If you do not wish to write, send the “raw material” and we’ll do the work! Your submissions are essential to the continued vitality of The Visionary. We try to publish everything we receive, editing only for clarity, brevity, and to make sure articles are in accordance with our editorial policy, taking care always to maintain the heart and soul of what you meant to say. Our goal is to provide you with information that is pertinent to the work of the Department’s Blind Services units and varied enough to maintain your interest. *** EDITORIAL BOARD Editor, Mary Calloway - e-mail email@example.com Tony Candela Catharine Bailes Veronica Graff Alice Hackney *** Message from Director Tony Sauer to All DOR Employees February 13, 2008 I want to take this opportunity to communicate my appreciation for the valuable work you provide to our consumers and the DOR mission. Each of you plays a vital role in the provision of vocational rehabilitation and independent living services leading to employment, independence, and equality for people with disabilities. DOR’s most important resource is our staff. Whether you are working directly with consumers or providing internal support, I thank you for choosing to be here. Over the past six months, my field visits with the San Joaquin Valley, Santa Barbara, Van Nuys/Foothill, San Jose, and Greater East Bay districts and branches provided me with a sense of the consumers’ successes and challenges, the dedication and resourcefulness of DOR staff, and our community partners' reciprocal investment in our work. Each office visit was wonderfully unique, and it is gratifying to hear about the difference our Department makes in the lives of our consumers and their communities. I look forward to visiting and spending time with more of you in the near future. I also want to acknowledge our present challenges and share how we are responding to them as a Department. California is facing a significant budget deficit. To close the budget deficit, the Governor's Budget calls for a 10% across-the-board reduction to the State General Fund. In response, DOR is assertively employing organizational efficiencies to reduce costs and maintain quality services. DOR is working to focus reductions in a manner that will result in minimal impact to our consumers; including maintaining staffing levels sufficient to meet the needs of our consumers. In the last six months I made it a priority to make field visits, participate in the Rehabilitation Supervisor Orientation, survey our Central Office (CO) staff on pressing systems issues, and inspect the mechanics of our infrastructure. We are making significant progress in meeting our challenges, and I am confident we will continue to respond to and move through our challenges with due diligence. People The first-ever open Staff Services Manager I (SSMI) examination, made accessible to people with disabilities was conducted by California Health and Human Services (CHHS) Agency departments, including DOR. This collaborative effort resulted in 4,000+ applications from candidates throughout California, and a commitment from the State Personnel Board (SPB) to make all existing and future on-line exams accessible to people with disabilities using the same standard. This is an important step in our on-going succession planning, and a powerful step in assuring the inclusion of people with disabilities in the state workforce. The new on-line Senior Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor-Qualified Rehabilitation Professional (SVRC-QRP) examination, also accessible to people with disabilities, has significantly improved SVRC-QRP recruitment efforts. With the support of SPB, candidates who meet the minimum qualifications may now apply, take the exam on-line, and receive their score immediately on completion. Successful candidates are added to the eligible list every Tuesday. The exam went "live" on the SPB website October 12, 2007. After only 17 days, there were 100 candidates on the list. Systems The 2008 State Plan serves as a strategic plan for vocational rehabilitation and supported employment services, and is available on the newly redesigned DOR internet website. The following activities are examples of our progress outlined in this plan. · DOR collaborated with the American Indian Advisory Council in partnership with the Native Hope International Pow Wow to present the First Annual Native American Resources Summit in November 2007. · The San Jose and San Joaquin Districts are partnering to enhance services to migrant and seasonal workers. · Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services is nearing completion of the installation phase for video conferencing technology for staff and RCDs across the State, which provides both visual communication of ASL and video relay service between DOR, consumers, schools, and employers. The anticipated results of video conferencing capability are reduced travel and time costs for consumers and staff and increased organizational efficiencies. The Vocational Rehabilitation Service Delivery (VRSD) Project team will propose, design, and develop implementation strategies for a new VRSD system to assure the highest quality of rehabilitation professionals and paraprofessionals providing services to consumers, and to enhance efficient and professional use of the invaluable knowledge, skills, abilities and credentials of all staff. The Management Resources and Analysis Section is coordinating this exciting project that will include a motivated team representing field staff, the State Rehabilitation Council and Central Office staff. The Procurement Specialist Pilot consolidates the consumer goods and services procurement functions and transfers them from the SVRCs and support staff to a small group of trained individuals. The objectives are to streamline consumer service delivery, better use of specialized skills of SVRCs and support staff, and meet Department of General Services requirements to maintain delegated purchasing authority. The pilot is being tested in two districts, Van Nuys/Foothill and Northern Sierra. We anticipate including all districts in the future utilizing the lessons learned in the pilots. Orientation Center for the Blind (OCB) is actively marketing their fine training program by meeting with referring counselors and supervisors, attending statewide international conferences, and developing DOR internet visibility and access. Since December 2007, 50% more consumers with vision loss have enrolled in OCB, where they will learn vital skills to achieve independence, employment, and equality. Business Enterprises Program (BEP), in concert with its vendor stakeholders, has been in the process of revising its comprehensive set of regulations over the past year. The final completion date on all revisions is scheduled for March 2008, with implementation expected to occur this fall, after completion of the public comment period and Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) approval. The long awaited revised Self Employment Regulations have been submitted to the Office of Administrative Law and will soon be released. A new training manual along with a resource booklet is currently being developed for field use. Training on self-employment as an employment option for consumers will be provided by the Workforce Development Section. Infrastructure The Office Placement Workgroup (OPW), coordinated by the Business Services Section (BSS), has been formed to establish the criteria, method and protocols for office location planning for future and existing offices. The OPW will evaluate recent data indicating inequities between consumer base, caseload, and office placements, and develop options for effective use of available resources that include input from the field. The Carson and Eureka Field Offices relocated in November and December. During my field visits, I noticed that many of you take tremendous pride in your offices and work spaces. My thanks to you for your efforts in using your unique skills, dedication and resourcefulness that has resulted in the creation of a welcoming environment for consumers, as well as a pleasant work environment for staff. Central Office (CO) relocation to downtown Sacramento in October 2007 was a success, due to quality team participation by all staff. Special thanks go to the Northern Sierra District, BSS and Information Systems Services (ISS) for their considerable planning, diligence and hard work. The Electronic Record System (ERS) project officially began in July 2007. The goal is to procure an electronic case recording system that will result in increased counseling time with consumers, decreased redundancy and data entry, and improved consumer services, all while meeting RSA requirements. ISS is leading this high priority project to ensure cohesiveness and consideration of user input to system requirements that includes support from both field and CO staff. The Bandwidth Improvement Project will redesign the DOR Wide Area Network (WAN), currently under development by ISS and Department of Technology Services. A number of field offices currently experience personal computer bandwidth issues, including slow response rates and occasional crashes. Redesigning the WAN builds an infrastructure to improve bandwidth performance and meet future business needs, which requires a multi-year plan. Again, I commend and thank you for being such an integral part of our noble mission and Department successes. Without your dedication, hard work, and commitment, we could not have accomplished such great progress in these important milestones. Let us all strive to be the people who work to bring about positive changes in the lives of Californians with disabilities. Keep up the good work! *** Deputy Director’s Message By Tony Candela In the interest of saving space (this issue of The Visionary is already chocked full), I’ll go straight to the punch-line. The topic is succession planning. Counselors, teachers, and Business Enterprises Consultants (the heart and soul of our blind services work force), please seriously consider developing your leadership skills. Above is a message from our Director, Tony Sauer and later you will read a message from BFS program manager, Catharine Bailes. Both extol your virtues and thank you for your service and I wholeheartedly echo their sentiments. I’d like to make a request: Consider your future and that of DOR. Without your leadership, your good deeds and experience will not reach full fruition. By mentoring your colleagues and taking on other leadership tasks, you will translate your past and present into someone else’s future. Consider becoming a supervisor. Join committees, Do volunteer work and lead an effort. Study the habits of supervisors and managers you admire. Prepare for written and interview-based examinations and take them. Keep your resume up to date and continually take stock of where you are in your career. Indeed, do think about your career. Most important, develop your leadership “persona.” When you lead, you provide perspective and service to others. Since you are already familiar with this, it is only a small jump to applying the feeling to your colleagues. The future of our organization depends upon your going to the next level. This is what we mean by “succession planning” and I hope you will be a part of it. We need you! *** Editor’s Impressions REFLECTION By Alice Hackney It all began on a beautiful fall day in 1978 while teaching cooking at the Intercommunity Blind Center in Whittier, California. My two students were graduating that day and we put together their favorite dishes: oven fried chicken, corn bread, pickled onion rings with snow peas and a skillet baked pineapple upside down cake. The students were setting the table when the Director, Charlie Mason, walked into the kitchen with the Program Coordinator for Blind Services with the Department of Rehabilitation. I asked the Program Coordinator, John Millen, to join us for lunch and to this day, I think it was the fried chicken that convinced him that I would make a wonderful counselor teacher. By the time we finished the pineapple upside down cake, John offered me a job and 2 months later, I was a counselor teacher in the West Covina District. We had 21 districts then and 38 counselor teachers. It didn’t take long to realize that my job was all about people and that the need was great. I had a caseload of 50 clients most of whom were elderly. My first challenge was to teach the newly blind older client how to continue to prepare and cook their meals. This is when I became known as the microwave lady. By creating a microwave cooking class at a local vocational trade school, I was able to teach cooking to clients who would have otherwise been dependent on outside help. The class caught on and soon other counselor teachers throughout the state were doing the same thing. I remember standing in the hall talking to the district administrator when the switchboard operator called out on the intercom: “Who’s the microwave lady? People are calling up wanting a free microwave oven.” One of my most memorable clients was a totally blind 19-year-old young man who was placed in a convalescent home because he had no relatives and could not live independently. When I arrived at the home, he was in bed with the blankets pulled up over his head. He did not want to talk to me and told me to leave. My guide dog, Hanna, stuck her nose under the blankets and began to lick his hand. That broke the ice. The client did not realize that I was blind. Two hours later he was excited about beginning a rehabilitation program. I sent this client to the Orientation Center for the Blind (OCB) and 9 months later he left the Center to begin college. I heard later that he went on to law school, married and probably has grown-up children by now. In 1987, I transferred out of the counselor teacher program and became a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the blind with half generalist cases. The average caseload size for most counselors ranged between 100 and 140 cases. Job placement became another challenge and I loved it. I used my contact at the trade school where I had the microwave cooking class and now proposed to put together a work evaluation component for blind and visually impaired clients. I ran my own job club, trained job developers who had no experience working with the blind and served on 2 boards which were extremely helpful with employer contacts. Assisting clients with job placement was a humbling experience. I learned not to put my own limitation on any of my clients. Whenever I was faced with a vocational goal which my supervisor believed was unrealistic because my client was blind, I was always able to find someone either locally or nationally who was actually doing the job and doing it well. My most memorable placements were a 30 year old plumber who began to lose his vision due to RP. At the time he contacted my office, he was working for a large company. His vision was rapidly deteriorating and he could no longer continue to carry out his job duties. This client also attended OCB and a year later he formed his own plumbing business. Then there was the young woman who operated the switchboard at the FBI building in Los Angeles; the 70 ear old professor who lost his vision suddenly and was able to continue to teach his philosophy classes without missing a day while taking ILS (independent living skills) instruction and the 25 year old young woman with 2 small children who was abandoned by her husband after she lost her vision. She was amazed that I was the mother of a 16-year-old son and could not imagine how a blind mother could raise children. I know we are not supposed to become emotionally involved with our clients, but this young woman really touched my heart. She was bright with good people skills and I enrolled her at the university where she obtained her PHD in sociology. She is now a tenured professor at a well-known university and I occasionally hear from her. In 1992, I applied for the position of Program Coordinator for Blind Field Services. This new position opened up a whole new world of rehabilitation. I was now looking at it from the viewpoint of management. My boss, Manuel Urena, gave me the opportunity to try out my ideas and I found myself emerged in everything from policy making to contract administrator, community liaison, training coordinator and trouble shooter. Manuel and I used to visit each district every year to discuss production and other issues related to blind and visually impaired clients. One year it was necessary to visit the Monterey branch office and Manuel and I left from John Wayne Airport in pouring rain on a 7 seater plane. Half way there, it started to thunder, and lightning surrounded the shaking and bouncing plane. Manuel slept all the way up the coast and didn’t wake up until we landed. I swore I would never get in a small plane again and I haven’t. When the Division was formed in 2003, I became the Training Coordinator for the new district. I come from a teaching background so I fell quite naturally into my new job duties. I enjoy teaching and will probably get back into it again teaching English as a second language. Looking back over my career with the Department, I don’t think I would have changed anything. I met a lot of wonderful people, many of whom became lifetime friends, and I know that in some small way I have influenced and changed the lives of blind and visually impaired consumers who came to us for help. The only sad part in leaving is that I won’t be there to see the Division grow. *** Accessibility experience teaches how to include PDF presentations into Word documents Reprinted from AccessibleWorld.org Sent by BlindNews@FreeLists.org Thursday, December 06, 2007 By Ron Graham I want to present something today that isn't exactly what Access Ability is about, but it is related as it comes from my own experience in creating accessible documents from inaccessible files. What prompted the theme for this post was a phone call I received earlier this week, seeking a work-around solution to a document problem. The main file of a particular report was a Microsoft Word document, but there were other parts that included an Excel spreadsheet as well as a 4-page Adobe PDF document. Of course, the Excel portion was able to be placed directly into the Word document as both applications are Microsoft products and made to be integrated in reports such as this, but the PDF file was still an additional piece to the main report. The recipient of the document wanted the electronic report to be all-inclusive, not a Word document with an additional PDF document to be viewed separately. The caller was asking me if I knew of any solution that would save or convert the PDF document into a Word document, so that it could be integrated into the body of the other, main report. This dilemma caused me to call upon my own experience of taking something and making it accessible, applying a work-around that I've used in the past. However, this expertise was something I had learned a few years ago, a time when PDF documents weren't near as accessible as they are today. What I used to do was to open the PDF document, then print it up. I would then scan it back into the computer and process it with my Kurzweil 1000 OCR software to get the text of the document. (Of course, that was before I figured out what the Kurzweil virtual printer was!) Now, to solve the caller's dilemma, I suggested first that they print the PDF file. Then, they would only need to scan it into an open Word document. That's it. That would basically take the visual presentation and formatting features of the PDF document and put them directly into a Word document, assuring compatibility with the main body of the report. They would then only need to copy and paste that document into the proper place in the main report. It is what sounds like a simple solution to an apparently complex problem. What causes me to take pride in this solution is that I was the one who presented it. I was the one who was called after the university's own tech help desk and other resources had already been called upon, only to leave the caller with no working solution. There is some irony in that a man who is blind and cannot see the visual presentation of PDF documents being the person who resolved this problem when other, more technologically trained folks couldn't. I hope this doesn't come across as being overly proud. I'm just presenting it here, as it may be of use to others. It is really an easy to resolve problem. I feel certain that there are software solutions that could have achieved the same end result in some fashion, but the method I presented worked and didn't send the caller scrambling to find some program or add-on when time was of the essence. I hope that this work-around is of assistance to others some time in the future. *** My Brain Injury Story by Andrea Meyer (Printed with permission of Andrea Meyer) On January 25, 1996, I was driving home from work on Garden Highway to meet a friend for dinner. I was slowing down to come to a red light, when the person in front of me decided to turn right, and I remember nothing after that. What I do remember is waking up in an unfamiliar place, the hospital. With my friend sitting next to me when I awoke, I asked,”Where am I, what happened to my hair, and what happened?” He replied,”You don’t remember?” Remember what?” I replied. I was a victim of a head on collision. A man, who was a career criminal, (in and out of jail and prison his entire life) had shot a family member over a drug dispute, car jacked a government vehicle and was fleeing from the police. He was also under the influence of alcohol and an illegal narcotic drug. He literally ran over the top of my car, backed up, and tried to flee from the police once again. The impact sent my car down into a ravine, landing on its top next to a tree. The roof of my car had been crushed. That is how severe the impact was and without my seat belt on I would have been killed instantly. Seat belts DO save lives. I sustained my head injury from the severity of the impact and, when my car was tumbling down into the ravine, from being flipped upside down, where and how I landed. Ever heard of Shaken Baby Syndrome? That is exactly what I sustained through the car tumbling down. I spent three weeks in a coma, and my chances of survival were extremely low, 10% was all I was given. My head had been split open and suffered a brain hemorrhage. I lost so much blood that I required a blood transfusion. Because my injury was so similar to “Shaken Baby Syndrome” this was the cause of my Optic Nerve damage and my vision loss. Once I woke up in the Rehabilitation Unit of UC Davis Medical Center I had extensive physical and speech therapy. The joint that connects your pelvic bone to your thigh was fractured, so I could not walk on my left leg. The Speech Therapy was to evaluate my cognitive thinking skills. When a brain injury occurs evaluation is critical to a patient’s recovery to find out what, if any, part of my brain had been affected from the injury. Four months after my release from the hospital I saw a Neurological Eye Specialist. This doctor is the only specialist in this field who has knowledge of the optic nerves and the severity of the injury to them. Tests were done and the prognoses was given; my vision was 20/400. I was declared legally blind. I started to cry. I was left alone for approximately fifteen minutes when the doctor returned. He looked at me and said,”I am sorry that I do not have better news for you.” I wiped my tear filled eyes and replied,”I am thankful for the little vision I do have. I have just enough to watch my children grow up. That is enough for me. It doesn’t matter that I’ll never drive again, or maybe even work again, as long as I can see my children grow up that is all that matters to me.” I now had to find the ways and means of doing and completing life’s daily tasks. How was I going to help my children with their homework? How was I going to read the prescription bottles? I had so many questions and I needed to research to find the answers. I found that magnifying glasses were my savior. But that wasn’t enough; I needed more devices to accommodate my visual needs. Eight years after my automobile accident I made a decision to contact the Department of Rehabilitation. I wanted to go back to work and I wanted to know what steps I would need to take to get there. The counselor that I met with, Irene Kehoe, asked me if I had considered going back to school. I had to admit, at this point school didn’t seem like a choice I wanted to think about. After our meeting, I was talking with my dad, and asked his opinion on the suggestion. My dad turned to me and asked, “Andrea, where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?” My reply was, “I don’t know.” Education is key and that is something that no one can take from you. I thought about it, and he was right, going back to school was the best thing for me to do. With all of the special technological devices such as a CCTV, the Magic Program for my computer, a talking dictionary, and a Pocket Viewer, (smaller version of the big CCTV) I was on my way to a better future. Let’s not forget the mobility training I received and the Magic Program training I received. With perseverance and determination, I enrolled at American River College in August of 2004. I met a wonderful man, became engaged, began the planning for my wedding day, and remained focused on my educational goals. With the assistance of the Disabled Student Program Services and the Department of Rehabilitation I was able to complete my education at the college. I graduated in May 2007 with three AA Degrees. Two in Management and one in Marketing. Four days prior to graduation I got married, and have been accepted to a private university, the University of San Francisco. I attended classes at the Sacramento Regional Campus and will graduate from the university with a Bachelor’s Degree in Organization, Behavioral, and Leadership Management. With two small children to raise I was determined that I was not going to let this disability keep me from doing what I wanted. I had to show my children that no matter what things happen to you in life, you get right back on your feet and move forward. You can do any thing you put your mind to. *** MESSAGE FROM THE PROGRAM MANAGER Conquering “Burnout” By Catharine Bailes Have you ever faced the feeling of “burnout?” Has someone told you that a colleague appears to be “retired on the job?” What is the difference between these people and those who make it to the end of their careers without burning out? I’ve attended retirement celebrations for staff that have served Californians with disabilities anywhere from 25 to 40 years and asked them their secret to preventing burnout. How did they keep the “fire within” going to continue serving their clientele? The responses are often as unique as the individuals themselves. Those who have kept the fire alive appear to have found ways to be continually inspired and to inspire others. I just celebrated my 21st anniversary with DOR, and I am looking forward to several more years of service. I know I’m not immune to burnout or other such feelings so I am continually introspective and talk to others who I trust. Over the past few months, Blind Field Services has hired 11 new SVRC QRPs, and I’ve had the privilege of participating in some of the selection interviews. It’s really been inspirational to listen to the new Counselors and hear their excitement about working with BFS. These counselors represent BFS’s future. They have worked hard to earn their degrees and now are ready to put their knowledge and skills to work. Do you remember when your supervisor offered you your first position with DOR? I remember that moment as if it were yesterday. I felt a thrill from within. What about you? Do you remember that moment? What are your techniques for conquering burnout? What inspires you when you need to complete another price quote in order to purchase equipment or research a service for one of our Consumers? Yes, sometimes our work can be tedious, but I encourage each of you to recall the day you received that job offer. Take time to recall your first interview with a new Consumer. Who were the people who acted as your mentors? Our new Counselors also need mentors to help guide them along the way. You might be that person. Serving as a mentor could certainly help conquer any feelings of burnout you may be feeling. So many of you have wonderful counseling skills and great stories to share with your new colleagues. I also strongly encourage you to listen to them; they may have new and exciting approaches to share with you. BFS has such an exciting mission to fulfill and it would be a shame for any of our Consumers to miss the opportunity to change their lives from dependence and fear to one of independence and hope because of their counselor’s burnout. Each of you has the ability to facilitate change for our Consumers. We owe it to them to conquer any feelings of burnout we may be experiencing. I believe in each of our staff and the incredible work you are doing to change people’s lives. I hope you always remember the wonderful work you do and that you will continue to provide top-notch service to people who are blind or visually impaired. Reach down deep inside and continually ignite the fire within. Conquer feelings of burnout. We need each of you. Thank you for your service! Editor’s note: For information on the warning signs of burnout go to http://www.assessment.com/mappmembers/avoidingburnout.asp?Accnum=06-5210-010.00 For information on coping with burnout go to http://www.coping.org/growth/burnout.htm#experiencing *** The Visionary on the Web and Telephone You can find The Visionary on the California Department of Rehabilitation’s web site. Just go to http://www.dor.ca.gov/ssd/blindser.htm and find the links to this newsletter there. While in the site, read about the variety of services the Department’s Rehabilitation Counselors of the Blind offer to blind Californians who seek vocational rehabilitation services. You also can read the on line version of the Blind Field Services brochure and a brochure on Transition services for blind and visually impaired youths. Don’t forget to dive into the links on: *Orientation Center for the Blind *Business Enterprises Program *Title VII, Chapter 2 Grants for service to Older Blind Individuals The Visionary can also be found on NFB Newsline in California and the telephone listening service of the Sacramento Society for the Blind where its articles are read aloud using synthetic speech. For general information and assistance, call NFB Newsline at (866) 504-7300. When calling Newsline, use a local number if available. To get the local number for your area, call Tim Ford at 916-440-7822.