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Labor and Economic Opportunity

Commission Newsletter

June 2000


In a bill-signing ceremony at the State Capitol, May 30, Governor John Engler signed into law Senate Bill 658, a measure promoting quality Braille instruction for blind and visually impaired students. The bill moved through the Legislature without one dissenting vote, passing the Senate and House unanimously. The proposal, sponsored by State Senator Ken Sikkema, would help assure the availability of Braille textbooks, call for standards of Braille instruction and assure the consideration of Braille instruction for blind and visually impaired students. Attending the ceremony were Earl Steenstra, MCB Chair, Pat Cannon, MCB Director, leaders from the Michigan Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired, the National Federation of the Blind, Department of Education representatives and others who participated in developing the initiative.


The U. S. Access Board established a special advisory committee to help draft a proposed rule that would govern pedestrian crossings and other public rights of way issues. The Public Rights of Way Access Advisory Committee (PROWAAC) held a three-day meeting in Washington, D.C., May 18-20, which was attended by Pat Cannon, the Access Board's liaison to the committee. Detectable warning systems, broadcast signage, roundabouts, vertical deflection devices, depressed corners and accessible pedestrian signals were among the many issues addressed. The committee will meet next in San Francisco, August 17-19.


Agency Directors and Field Services Administrators from Regions V and VII met in Chicago June 5-8 to address a number of rehabilitation implementation issues. Pat Cannon and Bernie Kramer, Supervisor of MCB’s Western Region, attended the meetings where there was considerable attention given to the challenges of coordinating the requirements of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and the newly amended Rehabilitation Act. The Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act (TWWIIA) was also a major topic of discussion and training, along with the new federal mandate for a Comprehensive System for Personnel Development (CSPD).


The next meeting of MCB's Vision 2020 Process Design Team will be held in Lansing, June 22-23. The charge to the group, 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. MCB managers and supervisors will focus on the Vision 2020 Initiative at a special meeting, June 20.

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 agency's e-mail system.


Approximately 40 MCB clients are expected to participate in a weeklong Mini-Adjustment Workshop in Sault Ste. Marie, July 17-21, the fourth of six such programs planned 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. Additional Mini-Adjustment Workshops are scheduled for the year in Clare and Woodhaven.


Continued progress has been achieved on both agency computer applications. Shannon Hengesbach, a student at Central Michigan University, has been added as a student intern and has been doing excellent work on enhancing the agency’s web site.

Word was received that MCB has received a new, five-year training grant of $19,975 per year. Congratulations to Bob Robertson for the good work he put in on this project.

Larry Best and Melody Lindsey met with a team of architectural consultants at the Training Center to prepare a list of capital outlay projects needed at the center over the next five years. An addition to the existing building, additional space for BEP training and meeting rooms, expansion of the technology classroom to provide more services in this area, off-campus apartments for a complete independent living experience, sidewalk, roofing, and parking lot repairs were some of the items suggested. A draft report from the consultants will be available for review during the third week of June.


There are now ten Memorandums of Understanding with MCB’s Workforce Development partners. Several other new agreements including one with the United States Department of Agriculture, and agreement with the Michigan Supreme Court mediation services and a new supported employment agreement with Van Buren County Community Mental Health agency have been completed.

A co-location sight is being finalized with the Lansing area Michigan Works office. MCB will have one itinerate office in a new facility to be located at Cedar and Mt. Hope in Lansing. Possible co-locations are being explored in other regions, as well.

Procedures have been developed to insure continuous improvement in our employment seminars, held in conjunction with the Mini-Adjustment programs. The experience to date has been quite good. The programs have not been identical, but equally good. Significant participation from community partners and employers will continue.

A training program that will address such issues as skills of blindness, mediation service, United States Department of Agriculture services and job placement is being developed for September or October.

The Independent Living Program is establishing a pilot project with selected senior centers to enlist their participation in providing critical information to the state's burgeoning older blind population. The purpose of the project is to train volunteers to provide critical information to older blind persons when they come to the attention of senior center staff.

The senior center volunteers will be called "Visually Impaired Volunteer Assistants" or "VIVA Workers" for short. The hope is that visually impaired seniors will eventually become VIVA workers in local communities throughout the state. VIVA workers will be responsible for getting critical resource information to older blind seniors--information about the MCB, consumer groups, the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Newsline, Bible Alliance, Dial 0 telephone service, and much more.

Bob Utrup and Mike Welch have met with senior center personnel in the Upper Peninsula to discuss their participation with the VIVA Project. The response has been very encouraging because senior programs are looking for volunteer projects with substance. Mike and Bob are hoping for a September in-service training and project kick off in Escanaba. Two other pilot project sites are being planned.


William (he prefers to be called Will) Droll, the new Industrial Arts Instructor, underwent extensive training in working with the blind in industrial arts at the Iowa Commission for the Blind. Will indicated that he received a lot of new and valuable information. He said he now understands the importance of high expectations in the rehabilitation process.

Will has also had the benefit of working with Doug Boone in the industrial arts classroom at the Center. Doug has trained 10 shop instructors from around the country and has extensive experience in working with blind persons in industrial arts. All of Will's training has been conducted under sleep shades which gives him a better idea of how blind individuals can perform woodworking tasks independently and safely.

An executive secretary has been hired at the Center. Corda Moss has worked as a secretary in the Probation Office at the Department of Corrections in Berrien County. She begins work at the Center on June 12 and will be introduced at the June 19 Board meeting.

Frank Driscoll, who has been the maintenance supervisor at the Center for almost 30 years, retired on May 31. Frank will be greatly missed. Consequently, the Center is now in the process of hiring a new maintenance supervisor. The target date for having someone on board is July 31.