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Labor and Economic Opportunity

Commission Newsletter

April 2000


The Michigan House of Representatives’ Education Committee is expected to review this spring, SB 658, legislation promoting quality Braille instruction for blind and visually impaired students. The bill won Senate approval February 10, passing unanimously, 34-0. 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.


The McDonald’s fast-food chain recently introduced a new addition to its feel-good television commercials, with a spot featuring a young girl learning to read a Braille book. The ad, which highlights the commonalties of children with and without disabilities, is also designed to help drive an underserved segment of the population--blind people--into McDonald’s restaurants, calling attention to the availability of Braille menus.


Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman announced on February 7, 2000, that President Clinton included in his Budget a request for funds to establish in the US Department of Labor an Office of Disability Policy, Evaluation and Technical Assistance (ODPET). This new office will subsume the responsibilities of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities (PCEPD) and work with employers to encourage the creation of training and job opportunities. ODPET will bring a heightened and permanent disability focus within the US Department of Labor through policy evaluation, technical assistance and development of best practices.


The internal MCB Marketing and PR Committee held its first meeting, February 25, in Lansing. The Committee, which includes Bob Robertson, Karla Hudson, John McMahon, Rosalind Byers-Lang, Mary Zemlick and Pat Cannon, was formed to help implement the recently developed MCB Communications Strategy.

Numerous issues were identified and discussed, including: A new General Agency Brochure and other specific program brochures, Braille alphabet card with the MCB logo and information on it, a speakers bureau, exhibits and a variety of handout items. There was also discussion about having a “slogan contest” asking Commissioners and staff to propose a short, four-to-six word slogan consistent with the mission of the Commission. The adopted slogan could then appear on give-away items, brochures, etc.


Nearly 600 staff members of the Detroit Tigers have received disability awareness training in preparation for the grand opening of Comerica Park and the 2000 baseball season, which gets underway April 11. Pat Cannon and representatives from the Michigan Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) conducted several 90-minute sessions during February and March for ushers, concession staff, box office staff, guest services representatives and office staff. John McHale, President and CEO of the Tigers, attended the trainings to stress the commitment of the Tigers to ensure an enjoyable, accessible Comerica Park experience for all guests.


The second meeting of MCB's Vision 2020 Process Design Team was held in Lansing, March 27-28. 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. Members of the Vision 2020 Process Design Team are: John Boes, Cindy Caldwell, Amy Daniel, Bernie Kramer, Melody Lindsey, Roberta McCall-Gaither, Gwen McNeal, Bob Robertson, Earl Steenstra, Tony VanStaveren, Sue Wilson and Fred Wurtzel. The Design Team process, which is being facilitated by John Victory, will enable those interested in its work to be kept informed via the agency's web site or e-mail system.


A newly formed support group in the Battle Creek area invited Pat Cannon and Bernie Kramer to join them at their March 20 meeting. A variety of blindness issues were discussed and an overview of Commission services provided.


Nearly 50 MCB clients participated in a week-long Mini-Adjustment Workshop in Battle Creek, March 20-24, the second of six such programs planned for the year 2000. Participants were 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 Farmington Hills, Saulte Ste. Marie, Mount Pleasant and Woodhaven.


The Ninth Annual Legislative Workshop was conducted March 23 at the State Capitol in Lansing. Pat Cannon was on a panel of presenters assembled by the Michigan Commission on Disability concerns to discuss general disability issues and services, Commission services, and blindness issues. The event was attended by more than 40 lawmakers and legislative staff.


The Consumer Services Division continues to expand programming and the staff is actively participating at a variety of levels throughout the country. On March 20 and 21 six staff participated in the Statewide Transition Conference for Students with Disabilities. MCB has been asked to make a presentation to the conference next year. Many pertinent contacts with school districts were made during this conference. In addition, Joe Willett and Sherry Gordon coordinated, with other staff and outside experts, a very fine Employment Readiness Seminar March 23 and 24. This was the first of many such seminars to be conducted in conjunction with the Mini-Adjustment Programs. Later in the spring, MCB will hold a Mini-Adjustment Program and Employment Readiness Seminar in Farmington Hills.

Jim Buscetta represented MCB at the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce debate regarding school vouchers. MCB was also represented at the Michigan Association for Training and Employment Legislative Luncheon, March 14, where several legislators were apprised of the needs of individuals who are blind in Michigan.


Mr. James Omvig conducted a thorough consultation with MCBTC staff and students, February 15-25. This activity was an opportunity for MCBTC to work with a consultant on emphasizing its strengths and creating solutions to expressed weaknesses. The final report will function as part of the process by which the Center can formulate strategic planning for future program delivery methods and practices.

As a result of Mr. Omvig's visit, the Center director has begun holding weekly discussion sessions with students in which blindness-related issues are discussed. The response from students to these meetings has been extremely positive. Issues discussed thus far include: Why it is important to use canes around the building and on Center activities, partially blind students identifying themselves as blind instead of trying to function as sighted individuals which causes many students great frustration, blindness as a characteristic, making a choice in the attitude students have about their blindness, and the MCBTC Director's experiences going through a training center program. In the future these discussions will be continued and blind role models will be invited to share their experiences and insights with Center students.

During the week of March 19, Center and Commission staff conducted another successful mini adjustment program in Battle Creek. The Center was represented at the open house sponsored by the MCB regional office on Tuesday, and both Melody Lindsey and Larry King participated in the mini by teaching consumers in some of the classes Barb Mundell, who is from the U.P. and is a student at the Center, helped out with the presentation by telling the audience how the training at the Center has given her a new perspective on her life as a blind person.

The MCBTC Director was invited by Good Will to take a tour of the Kalamazoo facility and to learn more about the vocational evaluations MCBTC students participate in while they are at the Center.


Considerable attention has been paid to the computer system for client recordkeeping and reporting in order to get it functional for field staff. MCB has also accepted phase one of the BEP computer application. Also, 60 new computers for staff have been received, appropriate software was installed and have set up over 30 of them to date.

Business Enterprise Program staff have been busy attempting to negotiate with the Department of Management and Budget for adequate space for a cafeteria in the new 525 Building which will house the Department of Environmental Quality. They have also been informed that MCB can take over the operation of an existing cafeteria in the old General Motors Building in Detroit. And, on May 1, MCB will open a new non-mandated location in the Coldwater Prison.

Bob Robertson has managed to re-invigorate the statewide needs assessment that will be conducted in conjunction with Michigan Rehabilitation Services. Larry Best continues to work on the matching funds and FTE issues with department staff.