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Labor and Economic Opportunity

Commission Newsletter

October 2000


President Clinton visited the Disability Network’s new Community Technology Center in Flint, September 21, that will offer access to cutting-edge technology for people with disabilities and others in the community. During his visit, the President saw demonstrations of advanced technologies such as an "Eyegaze System" that allows people with disabilities to operate a computer and send e-mail using only their eyes; speech recognition technology; and online college courses and electronic talking books that are accessible to people with disabilities.

Following the demonstrations at the Disability Network, the President went to Mott Community College, which will soon be opening a new $34 million Regional Technology Center, to address a gathering of more than 1,000 people with disabilities, advocates, students, service providers and community leaders. He was formally introduced at the event by Karla Hudson, Rehabilitation Counselor in MCB’s Central Region.

In her introductory remarks, Ms. Hudson spoke of the role technology has played in leveling the playing field for people with disabilities and how it has benefited her as a professional. She also outlined her vision for technology in the future, stating that accessibility must be built into technology from the beginning, not merely viewed as something which may be added or retro-fitted.

President Clinton announced 5 key goals for government and the private sector to ensure that people with disabilities can participate fully in the Information Age:
1. Increasing the accessibility and usability of existing information and communications products and services for people with disabilities;
2. Improving the state-of-the-art of assistive technology;
3. Ensuring that existing efforts to bridge the digital divide and create digital opportunity are accessible to people with disabilities;
4. Using information technologies to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities; and
5. Increasing access to technologies for people with disabilities who cannot currently afford it.

The President said that commitments by the Administration, businesses, universities and non-profits will help ensure that people with disabilities can fully participate in the Information Age.


A Delta County support group, started with assistance of MCB’s Escanaba office, met September 19, to discuss a variety of consumer issues, including transportation, low-vision aids and accessible voting. The Delta VIP (Visually Impaired Persons) meeting was also attended by MCB’s Beth Smedley, Pat Cannon, Bernie Kramer and Connie Kreiner.


Jim Buscetta attended the annual Michigan Works! conference in Grand Rapids during the first week of October. According to the federal representative in attendance, Michigan is being used as a model across the nation. Mike Zelley was elected to another term as president of the Michigan Works! Association. He has been responsible for keeping disability issues in the forefront of this program. Agreements have been signed with 19 of the 25 programs and the remaining agreements will be finished within the next few months. Jim also attended the groundbreaking for the new Lansing One-stop. MCB will have a presence in the form of one office that will be staffed part-time on a regular basis. The office should be ready for occupancy in February.


The Governor’s State Workforce Commission met in Grand Rapids, October 3, in conjunction with the annual Michigan Works! Conference. Issues addressed by the Commission included the implementation of the federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) in Michigan, building strategic partnerships, welfare reform and a data collection system for adult education. Jim Buscetta and Pat Cannon attended the meeting.


MCB’s Vision 2020 Process Design Team met in Detroit, October 4 through 6, joined by staff from the Southeast and Northwest Regions and the MCB Director’s Communications Committee. Staff training on the issue of “consumer choice” was also part of the three-day event.

The charge to the Design Team, which is representative of Commissioners and staff, is to develop a process that will enable all staff members, Commissioners and other identified stakeholders to participate in strategic visioning which will guide the agency through the next 20 years and beyond. The Vision 2020 initiative is being introduced to different components of the agency through various means. The group met at the MCB Training Center in Kalamazoo, August 28-29 to gain input from Center staff and consumers. The Detroit meeting was also designed to open up the Vision 2020 initiative to additional staff.

Members of the Vision 2020 Process Design Team are: John Boes, Cindy Caldwell, Amy Daniel, Bernie Kramer, Melody Lindsey, Roberta McCall, Janet McInnis, Gwen McNeal, Bob Robertson, Beth Smedley, Earl Steenstra, Tony VanStaveren, Sue Wilson and Fred Wurtzel. The Design Team process, which is being facilitated by John Victory, has enabled those interested in its work to be kept informed via “The Tilt,” a newsletter produced by the group, the MCB web site, a listserve and the agency's e-mail system.


Over 40 MCB clients will participate in a weeklong Mini-Adjustment Workshop in Woodhaven, October 8-13, the sixth such program scheduled for this year. Participants will be introduced to a variety of skills of blindness, such as cane travel, Braille, managing time and money, adaptive kitchen skills and other skills to enhance independence. An additional 250 consumers are expected to be served by six such workshops being scheduled for 2001.


The state’s two major blind consumer organizations will hold their annual state conventions this fall. The Michigan Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired (MCBVI), which is affiliated with the American council of the Blind, will meet in Sarnia, Ontario, October 13-15. The National Federation of the Blind’s (NFB) Michigan affiliate will hold its state convention in Grand Rapids, November 10-12.


The client services division continues an active program of staff development and services to clients. In September staff got a very thorough introduction to mediation services as a means of reaching an agreement regarding policy and practice issues. This service will be provided by the Community Dispute Resolution Center in Lansing. The mediators have received training in the Rehabilitation Act and in our policy manual. The service was implemented for the new fiscal year.

Karla Hudson and Jim Buscetta attended the Rehabilitation Services Administration national program in Philadelphia on employment and job placement services. This program highlighted the role of rehabilitation in the Workforce Development system. There was a significant effort to introduce the Medicaid buy-in program, which was discussed last month, as a significant commitment to increase the success in employment of individuals with severe impediments to employment.

In early November, several staff members will participate in the annual Michigan Rehabilitation Conference. Services to individuals who are blind will be highlighted this year due to the joint sponsorship by MAER. There will be at least two programs highlighting the Michigan Commission for the Blind and Jim Buscetta will represent MCB on a panel regarding the coordination of services with the Statewide Independent Living Council. All commissioners are invited and encouraged to attend.

A call for nominations for the rehabilitant, employer, IL client and BEP operator of the year has gone out to fieldstaff. These awards will be presented at the December Commission meeting in Lansing.


A committee has been formed to address technology services at the Center. Over the past couple of months they have been meeting to gather information for a report to the Center Director which will outline their suggestions for providing technology services to Center consumers in the future. They have indicated that this report will be finished by November 1. Fred Wurtzel from the MCB Technology Committee has indicated that he will submit a written document from the MCB's Technology Committee perspective. These documents will all need to be thoroughly discussed and other input solicited from interested partners before the plan for technology services at the Center is implemented.

Over the last few months, braille teachers at the Center have been working on strategies to promote and measure braille proficiency. Currently, they are addressing two main issues: Should the assumption be made that all students would benefit from learning braille unless a compelling reason prevents them from doing so; and specific ways of measuring and reporting braille proficiency levels of Center consumers. The goal is to have a comprehensive braille proficiency tool in place by January 1, 2001.

On Tuesday, October 10, the Policies and Guidelines Committee will complete its work on the proposed guidelines for Center consumers. These guidelines have been divided into three categories: General guidelines for all consumers, guidelines for minors, and the apartment experience guidelines. The guidelines will be submitted to staff and consumers for their input by November 30. The Center Policies and Guidelines Committee plans to have the new guidelines implemented by January 1, 2001.

Randy Cook has been a substitute teacher at MCBTC for a few years. Just recently, he has accepted a full-time position at a rehabilitation center in Rockford, Illinois. His last day at the Center will be October 20. Randy has been a very dependable and skilled substitute teacher at the Center who will be missed. He has served as an excellent role model for consumers and their families. The MCBTC staff wishes Randy great success as he begins his new job.

On October 19 and 20, interviews will be held for the Maintenance Mechanic 9 position. On October 31, interviews will be held for a substitute position for an OandM instructor. In the near future, it is anticipated that the Center will be interviewing people for two substitute rehabilitation teacher positions and a rehabilitation coordinator position in supportive services.

On October 4-6, John Boes and Melody Lindsey participated in the combined staff meeting of the Detroit office and the Northwest region. The topic for discussion, in addition to 2020, was informed choice for consumers. This was a very interesting topic and one that will involve further discussion.

On October 11 and 12, the Northland Library for the Blind will sponsor an “Investing in Abilities Week” in-service for blind consumers and their families. Melody Lindsey will kick off the activities on Wednesday by talking about the future of the Training Center; she will then address the issue of coping with blindness.


The Administrative Services Division continues to work on continuing projects such as the computer systems for clients and BEP. Work was finalized on MCB’s five-year capital outlay program that will be part of FIA’s overall plan to be submitted to the Department of Management and Budget. In addition to the $400,000 in FY 2001 to repair the roof, paving, and provide a backup generator at the Training Center, the plan requests $580,000 in FY 2003 to upgrade the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. For FY 2004, $272,000 is requested for upgraded lighting, ceiling panels and remaining ADA issues. For FY 2005, $500,000 is indicated to provide off-campus housing for students and for FY 2006, $1,350,000 is requested for an addition to the building to house the BEP training program, additional beds for the trainees, and to free up space for a larger meeting room. The amounts above were provided by a consulting architectural firm which thoroughly reviewed the Training Center during the summer. As the request is part of an overall State of Michigan plan, there is no guarantee that funding for these items will be received aside from the first $400,000 for the roof and generator. However, the plan is still valuable in that it clearly indicates future needs for the Training Center to those parties who will ultimately make the budget decisions.

Fred Wurtzel has successfully recovered from his surgery and is back at work. He recovered in time to attend the graduation of seven new potential BEP operators who were trained at the Training Center for seven weeks by our trainer, Carol Curneal, and the other BEP staff.