BESB: SRC Annual Report 2013




STATE REHABILITATION COUNCIL to the Department of Rehabilitation Services- Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind.  



A.  Council Purpose:



The State Rehabilitation Council (the Council or SRC), comprised of individuals appointed by the Governor, works in partnership with, and provides advice to the Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS)- Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind (BESB) Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Unit in Connecticut.


BESB serves Connecticut’s adults who are legally blind through ongoing educational, vocational and living skills programs in order to empower them to achieve employment success and to enhance their self-sufficiency.


It is the purpose of the Council to advise the Governor of the State of Connecticut and BESB’s VR Unit pertaining to the provision of Title 1 Vocational Rehabilitation Services as described in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, to individuals who are blind so that such individuals may prepare for and engage in employment.


B.  Council Duties:


The federal law under which the Council was formed, Section 105 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in 1998, specifies the functions of the Council.  They are:


1. Review, analyze and advise BESB’s VR Program regarding its performance related to:

a)  Eligibility of VR consumers, including order of selection;

b)  Extent, scope and effectiveness of services provided; and

c) Functions performed by state agencies that affect the ability of individuals to achieve an employment outcome.


2. In partnership with VR:

a)   Develop, agree to and review Voc. Rehab Unit goals and priorities;

b)   Evaluate the VR program’s effectiveness and submit annual progress reports to the federal Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration, RSA Commissioner;

c)   Conduct statewide needs assessments every three years.


3.   Assist in the development of the State Plan for service provision, strategic plan and any amendments to the Plan.


4.   Determine the level of consumer satisfaction.


5.   Make recommendations annually to the Governor for continuous improvement of the effectiveness of rehabilitation services in the state.


6.   Coordinate with the State Independent Living Council and other councils and advisory groups to form beneficial partnerships.


7.   Perform other appropriate and compatible functions.


C. Council Activities in 2013:


Summary of Activities of the State Rehabilitation Council for federal fiscal year 2013.


The State Rehabilitation Council to the BESB-VR Unit continues to be a valuable and active contributing partner to the Vocational Rehabilitation Unit and the bureau as a whole.  Over the course of the past fiscal year, the Council members have participated in many activities on behalf of the bureau, as well as continuing their existing responsibilities as identified in the Rehabilitation Act. These activities include:


VR Success Story:


During the 2013 fiscal year, the State Rehabilitation Council continued its initiative for the Vocational Rehabilitation Unit whereby a standing agenda item for every Council meeting consists of a “VR Success Story”, in the form of a presentation by a BESB consumer who has achieved an employment outcome, together with their employer.  Typically explaining the type of work they are involved in and how BESB supports helped them with that work,   both the agency and consumers continue to respond positively to this initiative, as it provides the SRC with an opportunity to hear value-added and diverse perspectives on BESB’s ability to support consumers and employers in the workplace. In addition to being a valuable resource in BESB’s ongoing efforts, these consumer presentations can also be very uplifting and inspiring.




It has been long recognized that higher earnings are correlated with higher education degree achievement. Toward that end, the SRC and the VR Unit worked collaboratively to review the policies on higher education to encourage more consumers to consider coursework in higher education. The revisions to the policy went forward to public hearing and will ultimately be adopted after further revision with assistance from Rehabilitation Services Administration occurs.


The higher education policy was also revised to permit for a more up-to-date level of funding for books and supplies necessary to participate in higher education training. The prior policy had not been updated in several years and the increase in funding made available for books and supplies received favorable support and has gone on to become current policy.


The SRC also worked with the VR Unit to identify goals and strategies for the 2014 state plan that are geared toward increasing the level of understanding amongst college and university disability services coordinators on the services that are available through BESB.


Consumer Satisfaction Survey:


The SRC commissioned the Center for Public Policy and Social Research (CPPSR) at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) to conduct a consumer satisfaction survey of VR service recipients for fiscal year 2013. Similar surveys have been conducted in previous fiscal years. The purpose of these surveys is to evaluate the services that consumers received from the Vocational Rehabilitation Unit at BESB. 


Programming and Sponsorships:


The State Rehabilitation Council continued to support consumer access to the National Federation of the Blind’s Newsline Service, which features a robust job search option for consumers through the use of their touch-tone telephones.  The SRC also supported sponsorship of numerous statewide mentoring and leadership development initiatives.


The State Rehabilitation Council continues to sponsor programs that focus on providing leadership and educational opportunities to transition age youth with disabilities:


1.  The Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) is an annual week-long leadership training program for transition age youth with disabilities. The SRC is a co-sponsor of this program and considers both its co-sponsorship and continued funding to be very important and worthwhile.

2.  The Governor’s Coalition for Youth with Disabilities, which awards scholarships every spring to high achieving students with disabilities.

3.  Career and Transition Fair which provided students and parents the opportunity to gain knowledge on summer youth programs, career opportunities, community resources, and college / certificate programs.


NCSAB / CSAVR 2013 Spring Conference:


This year, the SRC chairperson was able to attend both the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB) and the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) national conferences in April. The chairperson attended conference seminars as well as participated in the visit to Washington, DC to meet with Connecticut’s Congressional delegation to educate them on how the VR Program assists people who are blind to achieve employment and self-sufficiency.



State Rehabilitation Council Forum:


This year the SRC chairperson was able to attend the SRC forum in Arlington Virginia in June. The chairperson attended all seminars and training sessions that provided guidance on the role and functions of the SRC, with opportunities to learn how other State Rehabilitation Councils across the country address these responsibilities.


RSA Monitoring of DORS – BESB:


The SRC chairperson was given the opportunity to participate in the monitoring audit and exit interview that took place in June.  The monitoring process was a valuable learning opportunity for the SRC chairperson. The opportunity to dialogue with staff of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, particularly on their perspective regarding the timelines for the development of Individualized Plans for Employment was very informative. The SRC is looking forward to participating in the development of draft policy updates that embrace some of the best practices in place in other states.


The SRC also continues to participate in the development and approval of the annual updates of the VR State Plan, as well as reviewing comments received from the public and from the Rehabilitation Services Administration. Based upon that review, and reflecting back upon the content of the draft annual updates as well as proposed policy changes, the State Rehabilitation Council approved the submission of the State Plan annual updates.





Study Background:


The State of Connecticut, Department of Rehabilitation Services, Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind (BESB), commissioned the Center for Public Policy and Social Research (CPPSR) at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) to conduct a consumer satisfaction survey of their service recipients for fiscal year 2013.  This work represents a continuation of research conducted by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis (CSRA) at the University of Connecticut (UConn) in prior years.  The purpose of this survey is to evaluate the level of satisfaction with the services that consumers received from the Vocational Rehabilitation Unit at BESB.  CPPSR completed a total of 46 interviews with consumers using the survey instrument and methodology employed in the prior years.


Notable Findings for Fiscal Year 2013




In 2013, BESB continued to receive high marks for their Vocational Rehabilitation Services and counselors.  Ninety-one percent of survey respondents reported that they would recommend BESB Vocational Rehabilitation Services to a friend.  Ratings for services registered notable improvement from last year.


Low Vision Services were the most widely used service in 2013 with 78% of consumers receiving this service. Rehabilitation and Adaptive Equipment Services were provided to 76% of consumers. Skills Training and Higher Education Training saw the largest percentage increases in use.  Skills Training rose by 11 percentage points to 48% reaching an all-time high, with just shy of half of all clients receiving this service.  Higher Education Training also rose by 11 percentage points, up to 22%, recording its second-highest percentage of use in the history of the survey, four percentage points off of the record high set in 2011. 




On average, BESB clients reported higher levels of satisfaction with services compared to 2012.  Five services had an increase in mean satisfaction rating.  Only three services experienced a decline, all of which were modest downturns.  These findings continue the general positive trend set in 2012.


Higher Education Training Services registered the largest increase in mean satisfaction rating (7.8, up 2.8 in mean rating).  This represents the highest rating since 2009.  Personal Care Attendant Services recorded the second-highest mean increase (8.0, up 2.0 in mean rating).  Transportation Services also saw a sizable uptick in satisfaction (7.71, up 1.71 in mean rating), the highest rating since 2010.  Skills Training saw record satisfaction, continuing the upward trend set last year (9.09, up .4 in mean rating).  Low Vision Services (8.79, up .04 in mean rating) continues to be a well-regarded service.  Among the services experiencing a decline in mean satisfaction ratings, Small Business Services (6.75, down .68 in mean rating) saw the most sizable downturn.




Counselors had a slight decrease in ratings since the 2012 survey.  Last year, eight out of the nine dimensions of counselors measured saw an increase in average satisfaction ratings.  This year, three dimensions saw improvements.


The aspect of counselors that experienced the increases in satisfaction was their ability to provide information in a format that clients could use (8.09, up .39 in mean rating); the ability to develop an Individualized Plan for Employment (8.23, up .15 in mean rating); and knowledge of BESB counselors (8.67, up .13 in mean rating).


The remaining six dimensions of counselors measured in the survey saw declines in average ratings. Opinions regarding the professionalism of counselors declined by 0.21 points, to an overall satisfaction rating of 8.79.  Satisfaction of referrals also saw a decline, down by 0.29 to an overall rating of 8.40.  Counselors’ ability to recognize the special needs of their clients declined by .038 to an overall rating of 8.22.  The largest decrease in satisfaction ratings was seen in counselors’ ability to identify career goals of their clients (7.78, down 0.58 in mean rating). 


Rehabilitation Technology and Adaptive Equipment Services:


Client satisfaction with Rehabilitation Technology and Adaptive Equipment Services remained unchanged from 2012, mirroring last year’s figures in all categories.  This service remains extremely well regarded among clients.  Nearly nine out of ten reported high levels of satisfaction. 


Skills Training Services:


Like Rehabilitation Technology and Adaptive Equipment Services, ratings of Skills Training Services closely mirrored findings from 2012.  More than four in five clients reported high satisfaction ratings.



Higher Education Training:


Higher Education Training Services experienced a sizable increase in ratings from last year.  Seven in ten clients (70%, up 13 percentage points) reported high levels of satisfaction with the service.  This figure represents a four-year high. 


A few new survey questions were added in 2011 regarding Higher Education Training Services.  For 2013, the number of clients enrolled in a traditional college program experienced a noticeable increase.  Nine in ten (90%, up 19 percentage points) reported such enrollment, with one in ten (10%, down 19 percentage points) enrolled in a vocational program.  There was a sizeable uptick in the number of clients who were enrolled full time.  Seven in ten (70%) respondents classified themselves as full time, an increase of 13 percentage points from 2012.  Three in ten (30%, down 14 percentage points) described themselves as part time.  Graduation rates also increased from last year.  Seven in ten (70%, up 27 percentage points) graduated, while the remainder (30%, down 27 percentage points) did not.


Small Business Ventures Services:


Reports of high satisfaction from BESB’s Small Business Venture Services spiked from 2012 findings.  Three in five clients (60%, up 17% percentage points) offered a high satisfaction rating, the highest percentage since 2009. 


E.   Membership Committee:


In 2013, the BESB State Rehabilitation Council continued recruitment, as well as filling the seats vacated by retiring members.  The Council focused on the categories of state education agency, statewide parent organization, representatives of consumer- based organizations for individuals who are blind, and current or former recipients of vocational rehabilitation services. The membership of the State Rehabilitation Council extends their appreciation to the Office of the Governor for assisting in these appointments and we look forward, with appreciation, to processing appointments of new members in this coming year.


In the coming year, the State Rehabilitation Council will continue to seek new members in the categories of labor, representatives of consumer-based organizations for individuals who are blind, and Native American Vocational Rehabilitation.


F.  Youth Leadership Project:


The SRC is a cosponsor of the Connecticut Youth Leadership Project (CT-YLP) which is an intensive summer program to provide young adults with disabilities an opportunity to explore the meaning of leadership and to develop career plans.


The key to the forum is leadership by example. Adults with disabilities who have traveled the same path as these young adults serve as faculty and staff.  Forum alumni take with them an obligation to follow through on goals outlined in “team leadership plans” that they have written for themselves. In addition, follow-up activities have been established in order to continue networking activities. Often alumni return to the YLP in later years as volunteer staff.


G.  BESB Vocational Rehabilitation Highlights for 2013:


The Vocational Rehabilitation Program achieved 113 employment outcomes in FY 2013, surpassing the prior year’s performance.


Combined annualized earnings exceeded $2.8 million for the consumers served, with average hourly earnings reaching $18.39.


For clients who exited the Vocational Rehabilitation Program after employment plan development in FY 2013, 86 percent achieved their established employment goals.


Vocational Rehabilitation Program staff delivered nearly 3,600 hours of direct services to consumers in categories such as rehabilitation counseling, adaptive technology assessment and training, and mobility instruction. More than 1,400 hours of job development, employer outreach and consultation services to community providers were also provided.


In FY 2013 consumers reported high levels of satisfaction with services and the staff who provide these services. Counselors received a 90 percent satisfaction rating and 91 percent of consumers would recommend BESB Vocational Rehabilitation services to a friend.


Transition School to Work services continued as a high priority for the Bureau with seven summer program offerings that provided 112 training opportunities, including 45 paid work experiences for youth.


The Bureau experienced increases in new referrals, employment plans developed and plans implemented in FY 2013.


All clients found eligible for services were able to be served with the existing resources of the Bureau without the need to go on a waiting list (order of selection) in FY 2013.



H.  Future State Rehabilitation Council Activities:


In 2014 the Council will continue its role as a partner with the BESB Vocational Rehabilitation Unit to ensure the delivery of services that give consumers the tools they need to prepare for, obtain and maintain meaningful careers.   The SRC worked together with BESB to develop the annual update to the State Plan, including the development of goals for 2014 and strategies that will lead to the achievement of these goals. These goals include:

1.  Assisting individuals who are blind to obtain or retain quality jobs.

2. Expanding and promoting vocational services to groups of individuals who are legally blind who want to obtain, retain or advance in employment.


The strategies that will be undertaken to achieve these goals are:


1. Vocational Rehabilitation clients will be trained in the use of new internet-based job search engine technologies to identify and apply for job openings.

2. The Vocational Rehabilitation Program will facilitate a job seekers skills training on resume writing and interviewing techniques.

3. Vocational Rehabilitation staff that have job placement as a primary responsibility will each conduct ongoing employer outreach activities.

4. Vocational Rehabilitation clients will receive training in the use of new smart-phone and tablet technologies that have built in accommodation features. 

5. Vocational Rehabilitation staff will conduct training sessions for disability coordinators at Connecticut colleges to become familiar with the supports and services that are available through Vocational Rehabilitation for students who are blind.

6. Vocational Rehabilitation staff will develop a support and mentoring group for college students who are blind.

7. The Vocational Rehabilitation Program will cosponsor NFB Newsline for clients of the agency to access educational, career and occupational outlook information.
8. Community-based adaptive technology centers will receive updated adaptive technology for people who are blind to engage in vocational preparation and job seeking activities.
9. The Vocational Rehabilitation Program will support and fund State Rehabilitation Council activities that promote awareness of services and supports available to people who are blind.
10. The Vocational Rehabilitation Program will cosponsor and implement leadership development opportunities for transition school-to-work students who are legally blind.

11. The State Rehabilitation Council will implement a client satisfaction survey to identify areas where improvements are necessary to better meet the rehabilitation goals of clients served by the Program.

I.  Members of the State Rehabilitation Council:


The Council is required by state and federal regulation to ensure representation of the agency’s constituents and employers.  It is committed to seeking appointments of members most qualified to advise the director.  The Council is further committed to diversity in gender, race, disability, geography, and affiliation.  The Council continuously recruits prospective members who can enhance its diversity.  The Council has enjoyed success this year through an active membership, committed to the delivery of quality services to BESB consumers. 


By federal law, membership comprises:


      One Connecticut Independent Living Centers representative

      One parent training and information center representative

      One client assistance program representative

      One representative of community rehabilitation program service providers

      Four representatives of business, industry and labor

      One vocational rehabilitation counselor (nonvoting)

      Representatives of disability advocacy groups

      One representative of the State Education Agency with knowledge of the Individuals with Disabilities Act 

      Director of Vocational Rehabilitation Unit (nonvoting)

      One State Workforce Investment Board representative

      One representative of a Section 121 Native American Vocational Rehabilitation Program



J. The 2013 Council members and their affiliations were:


Concettina Rafala, Chair (Recipient of Services)

Marisel  DeCordova (Client Assistance Program, CAP)

Colleen Hayles (Department of Education)

Brian Sigman, Ex Officio (BESB State Director)

Robert Gorman, Secretary (Independent Living Council)

Diane Weaver Dunne (Community Provider)

Steven Famiglietti (Community Rehabilitation Provider)

Mary Silverberg, Vice Chair (Recipient of Services)

Nyema Pinkney (Employer)

Michael Ferris, Ex Officio (Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor)

Ellen Telker (Employer)

Diann Murray, Treasurer (Recipient of Services)

Christine Ford (Recipient of Services)

Carl Noll (Parent Representative of Client)

Billie Alban (Recipient of Services)

William Baiocchi (Recipient of Services)

Michelle Bidwell (Statewide Parent Organization)



VR Success Story


Kasey Negron relocated to Connecticut from Puerto Rico about five years ago. She is a young Latina with deafblindness. She sought out services from the Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind to become employed in a new career that would be accessible to her.

She worked very hard to increase her English speaking skills by participating in the program “Ingles sin Barrera’s.” In addition, she was provided with services through the Access Through Technology program of the CT Tech Act Project funded by the FCC National Deaf Blind equipment distribution program. With the provision of low vision aids and hearing aids through Vocational Rehabilitation, Kasey was ready to enter the labor market once again.


Funding available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and Vocational Rehabilitation funds made it possible for Kasey to participate in working interviews and internships that prepared her for employment. The success of her most recent placement resulted in her being hired as the Assistant Property Manager of the Sigourney Mews Apartments. Her success shines through in the praise offered by her Supervisor Judy Barratt who refers to Kasey as “a wonderful Property Manager in the making.” Congratulations to Kasey for your determination and accomplishments.

Content Last Modified on 1/14/2014 11:09:31 AM