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NC Department of Health and Human Services Division of Services for the Blind
 
 

Annual Report 2011

RIDE THE WAVE TO SUCCESS

NORTH CAROLINA’S DIVISION OF SERVICES FOR THE BLIND
ANNUAL REPORT FOR 2011

N.C. DIVISION OF SERVICES FOR THE BLIND
STATE REHABILITATION COUNCIL
2010-2011

Beth Butler, Chairperson, former recipient of Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Richard Oliver, Vice Chairperson, Community Rehabilitation Program Service Provider
Brenda Savage, Workforce Development
Steve Harris, Business/Industry/Labor
Julie Kagy, N.C. Department of Public Instruction
Ruth Haines, Statewide Independent Living Council
John Marens, Director, Client Assistance Program
Kim Lambert, Director of Projects carried out under section 121 of the Rehabilitation Act
Brenda Monforti, Parent Training and Information Center
Vacant, Parent of Disabled Child

Ex Officio

Eddie Weaver, Director, Division of Services for the Blind
Erica Nail, DSB Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors


Chairperson’s Message

The North Carolina Commission for the Blind, serving as the State Rehabilitation Council, is honored to present the 2011 Annual Report of the Council and the North Carolina Division of Services for the Blind (DSB). Our theme this year is ‘Ride the wave to success.’ This year the Commission and Division are also celebrating 75 years of services to the residents of North Carolina who are blind or visually impaired. We want to continue to ‘ride the wave’ towards improving outcomes for North Carolinians we serve. In a strong partnership between Council members and DSB staff, we aim for greater opportunities and results in independent living, employment, Business Enterprise and transition. The success for all will be realized as we move forward together, with all of our skills and determination.

Please take time to review the various DSB programs and initiatives highlighted in this report. Whether you read about the Medical Eye Care Program, Rehabilitation Center, Business Enterprises Program, Transition Services, Independent Living Programs, DSB Employment Services or others, take note not only of the dedication and expertise of DSB staff, but also the strong partnerships forged with clients, families, eye doctors, schools, employers, Lions Clubs of North Carolina, and many other community stakeholders. These partnerships are the key to the true progress we all seek.

Many thanks go to the leadership and staff at DSB for their dedication to this better future. As many of us as Commission/Council members are legally blind, we sincerely appreciate the effort and skill that DSB staff bring in working for all North Carolinians, either through direct service or support.

"The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave"
~ Thomas Jefferson ~ 3rd American President (1762 - 1826)

Beth Butler
Chairperson, North Carolina State Rehabilitation Council for the Blind


 Director’s Message

On March 5, 2011, North Carolina Services for the blind celebrated its 75th anniversary achieving a milestone of success serving individuals who are blind or visually impaired.  I would like to share some of the history for this agency and show how we have been able to “ride the wave of success” since our inception. 

Helen Keller spoke to the NC General Assembly in 1934 urging them to establish a Commission for the Blind, and with her assistance, the agency was developed.  According to documents I reviewed, Mr. Cale Burgess piloted through the legislature the bill for the State Commission for the Blind, and this bill had been prepared with the assistance of Legislator Jensen, Lineberry, and the American Foundation for the Blind.  The bill passed March 5, 1935.  In June 1935, Governor Ehringhaas named the first Commission members:  Judge Sam M. Cathey, an eminent blind attorney of Asheville,   Dr. Jensen of  Durham, and Mrs. Meyer Sternberger of Greensboro.  The ex officio members were Dr. George E. Lineberry, Superintendent of the State School for the Blind, and H. L. Stanton, Rehabilitation Director.

Other historical dates of note are: A major step forward was taken toward employment of the blind in 1936 with the passage of the Randolph-Sheppard Act.  This Act provided that blind persons be given preference in the operation of vending stands on Federal property. 

In 1943, the Barden-LaFolletta Act was passed and this Act provides for rehabilitation services to the mentally disabled; and for the first time, separate state agencies for the blind were brought into the joint State-Federal program.

The North Carolina Rehabilitation Center for the Blind was created by legislative enactment in 1945, and began operations in November, 1945.  It was relocated from Butner, NC in 1984 to the Governor Morehead School campus in Raleigh where it still resides today.

This is just a brief review of the history of this agency, but as it can be seen, NC Services for the Blind has a long and rich history as an excellent agency providing valued, specialized services to the citizens of North Carolina.  We continue to “ride the wave of success” by having dedicated staff in all of our programs to assist our consumers in accomplishing and achieving their successful outcomes.  In the pages that follow, you will have the opportunity to read more about our programs and meet some of the consumers who have ridden their wave of success as a result of the services they received from this agency’s staff.

Eddie Weaver,
Director of NC Division of services for the Blind 


Consumer Satisfaction Survey

Each year, the Division of Services for the Blind, in cooperation with the Rehabilitation Council, conducts a Consumer Satisfaction Survey of people who completed rehabilitation programs for the fiscal year.  We sent 753 surveys and 194 were returned completed. 
Here is what our consumers had to say:

Did DSB staff…

  • treat you with courtesy and respect most or all the time - 98 percent;
  • telephone calls were returned the same or next day – 95.9 percent;
  • appointments scheduled as soon as consumer thought it should be, most or all of the time – 92.8 percent

Did your DSB Rehabilitation Counselor…

  • provide information about your eye condition and how it may affect your employment, most or all the time – 83 percent
  • discuss your job skills, abilities and interests with you, most or all the time – 83 percent
  • if needed, refer you to other programs for assistance , yes – 60.3 percent

When developing your Individual Plan for Employment (IPE)…

  • counselor and consumer discussed your options together, then you chose your job goal – 89.2 percent
  • decisions about planned services were jointly made – 85.1 percent; and
  • overall rating of experience with the division as good, most or all the time – 98.4 percent.

Vocational Rehabilitation Services

People with blindness or visual impairment who want to go or return to work may be eligible for DSB-Vocational Rehabilitation (DSB-VR) services.  These individuals can choose from an array of programs and services that best suit their individual vocational needs with the DSB support and assistance provided by our Vocational and Transitional Rehabilitation Counselors, Business Services Representatives, Community Employment Specialists, Rehabilitation Engineers, Assistive Technology Specialists, Vocational Evaluators and Rehabilitation Center staff, as well as specialists to support and assist those with both blindness and hearing loss.

The DSB provides services through the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services to help individuals find, keep a job, or return to work. All services provided by this program are geared toward appropriate suitable employment.

VR Counselors assist with providing and coordinating the services necessary to go to work. The VR Counselor is the case manager; however, other DSB staff will provide additional services as needed in order to assist individuals with obtaining their goals.

The VR program can sponsor medical services as a part of the plan of services that are required for eligible individuals to obtain, maintain, or regain employment. These services may include diagnostic eye examinations, eye glasses or other types of corrective lens, eye treatment, eye surgery, low-vision evaluations, assistive technology evaluations and recommendations for equipment, video magnification evaluations (CCTV), and eye care education.

Accessible services are planned according to each individual’s employment goals and needs and may include services such as: the receipt of assistive technology and training on how to properly use the equipment, job placement, independent living training at the residential training program called the Rehabilitation Center for the Blind, medical services including glasses, eye exams, surgery and treatment, job modification, job retention counseling, job seeking skills training and classes, on-the-job training, vocational or academic training, orientation and mobility services which are services that teach individuals to use a sighted guide, white cane, and safety techniques to travel independently, school-to-work transition services, supported employment, vocational counseling, visual assessments and other assessments as required, vocational counseling, work adjustment job coaching, as well as other services as required by the individual to be successful on a specific job. Some services provided are based on economic need, while others are provided regardless of income.


Business Development and Placement Services

DSB Business Services

In 2000, the Division started its initiative, DSB Business Services, to identify and place individuals into competitive employment who would not get jobs without direct involvement of DSB professional staff with businesses in our communities.  By 2003, the initiative reported a 32.5% increase in people with blindness entering wage earning occupations. 

Our results

In Fiscal Year 2011,

  • 562 people entered wage earning employment;
  • 66 entered employment as a result of DSB-VR direct involvement with community businesses and employers through the DSB Business Servicesprogram. 
  •  $9.91 per hour average earned income. 
  • $952,000 in earned income returned to the economy.
  •  20% averaged, tax rate, and approximately $190,000 in income taxes paid. 
  • $146,000 in Social Security taxes paid as a result of this income.

Assistive Technology

There are six assistive technology specialists are located across the state to provide technology assessments and services. Four Assistive Technology Instructors are available to provide small group instruction and assistance to individuals across the state. Modifications may include making a change in lighting, adapting telephones, installing safety measures, adapting computer equipment and Braille displays. Services are provided until the best modification is found and the individual is capable of performing the tasks needed.

Technology Resource Center:  Located at the Rehabilitation Center for the Blind is the Technology Resource Center which has adaptive equipment for large print, speech, and Braille access. This equipment includes scanners, closed circuit TV’s, and notetakers which is available for demonstration and evaluation. The Center provides training on the use of adaptive technology.

Rehabilitation Engineering Services provide consumers whose jobs are in jeopardy with the information and assistance on modifications needed for training. This service is made available to program participants with the need of vocational outcomes or employment objectives.

Our Results

  • 402 Individuals served by the Assistive Technology program in last fiscal year

Business Enterprises Program

The Business Enterprises Program had gross sales for fiscal year 2011of $11,666,745 compared to $11,403,684 for 2010. There are currently 80 Business Enterprises facilities statewide providing an average annual operator income of $43,510. Newly opened locations were awarded to permanent operators at the Randolph County Visitor Center, the USPS Processing and Distribution Center in Raleigh and the Elizabeth City US Coast Guard Support Center. In addition a total of five new operators were trained and awarded facilities during this year.

Renovations were completed at the Cabarrus, Catawba, Davidson and Duplin County Rest Areas to provide better service for the traveling public while visiting North Carolina.

Negotiations are also on-going with the Armed Forces command or FORSCOM to open a new Business Enterprises facility as they have relocated to Fort Bragg. This new command center will employ over 2,000 military and civilian personnel.

Initial discussions were also begun with the new National Guard Joint Forces complex in Raleigh to provide food service to the 750 employed personnel.


School to Work/Transition Services

Transition Services is a coordinated set of activities for a student designed within an outcome-oriented process that promotes movement from school to post-school activities. Those activities may include postsecondary education, vocational training, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation.  The coordinated set of activities is based upon the individual student's needs, taking into account the student's preferences and interests, and include instruction, community experiences, the development of employment and other post-school adult living objectives, and, if appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation. Transition services facilitates achievement of the employment outcome identified in the student's individualized plan for employment.

A DSB VR counselor can begin working with students as early as age 14 to help them explore the world of work and identify career interests.  Skills and educational requirements, along with future job availability, are explored.  Activities such as visiting job sites that interest them, working side-by-side with someone in this career, or doing volunteer work are other options.

Students planning on continuing their education after high school receive assistance from a DSB VR counselor in finding a school that will prepare them for their job goal. The counselor can also help them to identify financial resources that might cover part or all of the costs of the training, possibly including financial assistance from DSB. The need for services such as readers or technology is also assessed. The counselor continues to work with the student throughout the post secondary program to ensure success.

Students planning to go to work after high school receive assistance in job exploration, job seeking, job development and placement from the DSB community employment specialist and counselor. If the students needs extra one-to-one assistance, a specialized job seeking and training program, supportedemployment, is available to help.

DSB Transition Services continues to offer summer programs for students who are blind or visually impaired, in collaboration with the Rehabilitation Center for the Blind in Raleigh. This program includes the World of Work (WOW) internship program, Summer Adjustment Vision for Youth (SAVVY), a college prep program and a recreation program.

Students who participate in a third party DSB transition program have opportunities in their home communities to participate in summer jobs, WOW internships and other summer programs which include mini-centers for learning independent living skills to recreation programs that included learning to surf, kayaking or canoe trip with overnight campout. Students in transition programs have input in the type of summer program that will be developed in their community, through the programs career clubs.

The WOW program provided paid internships in jobs in which the student expressed an interest. The SAVVY provided an opportunity to explore career interests, as well as specialized classes in Braille, safe travel, technology, and daily living skills. The college prep program included topics such as how to be a better advocate for themselves, visits to a disability service office both at a four-year college and a community college, introduction to various forms of assistive technology that could be useful to them while in college, information about different learning styles and study skills, and introduction to some daily living skills needed to survive in a dorm setting. The mini-centers in the students’ home communities were the result of collaboration between transition staff and the independent living staff, with assistance from orientation and mobility staff and assistive technology personnel. The program included basic cooking, which included developing a shopping list and the purchase of the food and preparation; budgeting; doing laundry; use of public transportation systems; and information about self advocacy.

The goal of the transition program is to work with the student as early as possible to assist them in the development of a career path of their choice and to be successful in reaching their goal of competitive, integrated employment. 

Our results
Total Students ages 14-21 active with DSB 290
Students active in transition programs where there are formal agreements with schools 258      
Student cases closed successfully, working 11
Student cases closed successfully working with supported employment 2

Summer Program Participation
Students in the WOW program (statewide) 42
Students in Summer Mini-Center/Rec. Programs in their home communities 43
Students in the SAVVY transition 11
Students in the college prep program 5
Total in summer programs 101


Supported Employment

Supported Employment facilitates competitive work in integrated work settings. It is meant for individuals with the most significant disabilities for whom competitive employment has not traditionally occurred, and who, because of the nature and severity of their disability, need ongoing support services in order to perform their job. Supported employment provides assistance such as job coaches, assistive technology, specialized job training, and individually tailored supervision.

Supported employment is a way to move people from dependence on a service delivery system to independence via competitive employment. Recent studies indicate that the provision of on-going support services for people with severe disabilities significantly increases their rates for employment retention. Supported employment encourages people to work within their communities and encourages work, social interaction, and integration.

A job coach is employed by the placement agency to provide specialized on-site training to assist the employee with a disability in learning and performing the job.

Natural supports are support from supervisors and co-workers, such as mentoring, friendships, socializing at breaks and/or after work, providing feedback on job performance, or learning a new skill when required. These natural supports are particularly effective enhancing the social integration between the employee with a disability and his/her co-workers and supervisor.  In addition, natural supports are more permanent, consistently and readily available, thereby facilitating long-term job retention.

The Vocational Rehabilitation Program through DSB provides intensive and on-going services to individuals with the most significant disabilities to achieve competitive employment. Services include assessment, direct job placement, intensive individualized on-site job training and coaching, and extended follow-up on the job site with the individuals and the employer to ensure a good job match.  Supported Employment services are purchase from 15 private non-profit Community Rehabilitation Programs (CRP) serving all 100 counties in North Carolina.  

Our results

  • 12 individuals were referred for supported employment services;
  • 34 individuals received services in community based assessments, job development, placement, job coaching and training;
  •  7 individuals received extended services;
  • 7  individuals were placed in competitive, integrated employment; and
  • 6 are continuing in successful employment.

Work Adjustment

The N.C. Division of Services for the Blind (DSB) created a community based work adjustment training program in 2010 which the services are purchased from  Community Rehabilitation Programs (CRP) who are accredited by a public authority or professional organization such as (Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, Council on Accreditation, or the Council on Quality Leadership). It is an outcome–based program involving a brief situational or community base assessment, work adjustment plan development, job placement services and job coaching services.

This program is designed for eligible individuals who are ready to go to work, but require intensive job placement services and initial on-the-job supports to be successful in employment. All services such as medical, adjustment to blindness, low vision and access technology, safe travel skills training (outside learning safe travel at the job site) and training services must be completed prior to referral for this service.

This program does not provide extended services, such as those provided through a Supported Employment (SE) program. Community-based employment is competitive integrated employment with employers in the community and is outside any type of community rehabilitation facility.

Our results

  • 7 individuals referred for services
  • 13 individuals received services
  • 6 individuals placed into competitive employment
  • 5 individual’s cases closed as successfully employment

NC DSB Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Evaluation Unit

The North Carolina Rehabilitation Center for the Blind (RCB) and Evaluation Unit are located on the campus of the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh. At RCB, consumers are given the opportunity to participate in assessments of their rehabilitation needs, comprehensive vocational evaluations and hands-on training to help them develop personal and pre-vocational goals and skills needed to obtain, regain and maintain employment and independence.  Evaluation and skills training areas available at RCB include specialized vocational and psychological testing, work readiness skills,  low vision services, assistive technology assessments and training in the use of adaptive equipment, personal and home management skills, safe travel skills, recreation therapy, leisure education, and community awareness and integration among others.  

DSB Evaluation Unit Result

  • 104 Total consumers received EU services
  • 77 Comprehensive evaluations
  • 7 Small Business Stand evaluations (BEP)
  • 2 college evaluations 
  • 3 psychological-only evaluations
  • 3 vocational-only assessment 

DSB Rehabilitation Center Results

  • 85 VR and ILR eligible individuals received adjustment to blindness training;
  • 73 eligible individuals were provided specialized training; and
  • 26 high school students were provided transitional services through the Summer Adjustment to blindness Vital to Visually Impaired Youth (SAVVY) College Prep, Transition and World of Work (WOW) programs.

Technology Support Services at the center also provided technical assistance, information, demonstrations and tours for visitors to the Technology Center throughout the year. 

In October of the center offered Adjustment to Blindness training to 25 recently hired DSB employees. The employees were provided the opportunity to experience aspects of the Rehab Center’s programs. 

Renovations and Acquisitions

The Rehabilitation Center’s renovation project was completed in April 2011. The project included remodeling of the restrooms, building of a fully accessible restroom, installation of new water fountains and replacement of all exterior windows with energy efficient and glare resistant panes.

During this Fiscal Year, a Merlin Color Video Magnifier was purchased for the Evaluation Unit which will assist consumers, who have low vision, with various assessments.  Other technology purchased included software packages for the WAIS IV, WISC IV, WRAT IV and Woodcock Johnson III, Large Print Version, thereby enhancing reporting by providing interpretive results. 

RCB has expanded the assistive technology program through the acquisition of iProducts (iMacs and iPod Touch units) and enrollment in Apple Business’ training programs. The iProducts were placed in various training areas including careers, college prep, computer applications, home management, leisure and consumer education. Apple offers built in VoiceOver speech and Zoom magnification accessibility options. The iPod Touch works with popular apps such as Say Text, Color Identifier, Look Tel Money Reader, Read2Go, Talking Calculator, Ariadne GPS and thousands more. With these products, consumers can have access to current technology that is being used in everyday situations. Consumers and staff attended accessibility workshops at the Crabtree Valley Apple store and RCB has developed a partnership with Apple JointVenture for staff training and support.  RCB now has WiFi-wireless capability throughout the center.

The College Prep curriculum has been redesigned, adding new technology and resources. The freshman seminar textbook, On Course: Strategies for Success in College and in Life by Skip Downing was purchased, along with a digital copy. APH Federal Quota funds were utilized to obtain the text in large print and Braille formats. Book Port Plus, Victor Reader Stream and LiveScribe Echo Smartpens were also purchased to assist students in developing better note taking skills. IMacs were added to the class and students attended workshops on accessibility at the Crabtree Valley Apple Store. Our growing knowledge of Apple computers was evident when the accessibility lab at North Carolina State University added an iMac at the recommendation of the RCB College Prep instructor!


Collaborations

SAVVY

The primary theme of the 2011 Savvy Summer Program at RCB was based on the musical “Hairspray”. Daily workshops were provided to build character and equip the teens with the life skills needed to successfully transition into young adulthood. The workshops also supported the three major themes highlighted in the musical; “changing and forming healthy lifestyles/ relationships/communities.”  “Being Yourself” and “bullying/peer pressure”.  The workshops were led by several of our DSB staff as well as a number of guest speakers from community agencies including Interact of Wake County, UNC, and the Employment Rights Commission. The students also attended the stage production of “Hairspray” performed at the Progress Energy Center in Raleigh NC. Tickets to the stage show were donated by the NC Theatre.

Recreation Aides

For the first time, RCB hired two Recreation Aides to assist residential staff during the SAVVY summer program.  The Rec. Aides made a huge contribution to the overall quality of the program. They brought energy and enthusiasm to the job which was displayed through their engagement with the students in social activities, games and outings. They encouraged the teens to participate in activities and built their confidence by giving them reassurance. This was the best summer program ever!       

College Prep

During the 2011 SAVVY College Prep Program, the teens were provided opportunities to interact with college professors and learn what college professors expect. Students attended workshops at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University and Wake Technical Community College. Skype was used to conduct weekly freshman seminar videoconferences with the University of North Carolina Charlotte.  The College Prep program continues to prepare our consumers for success in college and in life.

NCCU

RCB developed a partnership with North Carolina Central University in Durham, NC.  NCCU offers a Vision Education program at the graduate level.  NCCU used the RCB facility for hands on training in the independent living area and RCB staff provided support and networked with NCCU staff and students to stay abreast of the changes in this field. RCB also offered opportunities for student observations and other assistance when possible.

 APH – American Printing House for the Blind

RCB was once again selected by APH to serve as a field test site to evaluate a prototype of The Game of Squares, an APH product in the final stages of development. Several teens from the SAVVY program tested the game and submitted their recommendations to make the game more suitable for those with visual impairments and blindness.  

Rehabilitation Center Advisory Committee Re-established

DSB has re-established the Rehabilitation Center Advisory Committee. The goal of the Rehabilitation Center Advisory Committee is to determine if the RCB is meeting the needs of the consumers, and if not, what needs to be done to ensure that consumers are better prepared to reach their vocational and independent living goals. The committee members include the DSB Asst Director, the Chief of Programs and Facilities, the RCB Director and Supervisors, and a representative from each of the field offices. Meetings are conducted quarterly. Members are asked to provide input and feedback towards the improvement of Center programs and services. 


Independent Living Services Program

Independent Living Social Work Services
The Independent Living Social Work (ILS) program is operated through third party agreements with all 100 county Department of Social Services (DSS) offices in N.C. DSB employs 57 Social Workers for the Blind who are readily accessible in every county of the state. They are the front line of services for many new referrals since initially assistance is often sought through local DSS offices. The primary goal of the ILS program is to provide assistance to individuals who are blind, deaf-blind and visually impaired in their homes in order to assist them with obtaining the skills to live independently. Services are available to qualified North Carolina residents at no cost although some services are based on financial eligibility.

The ILS program services are available to assist persons of all ages who are blind, visually impaired and deaf-blind with developing skills that enable them to independently manage their activities of daily living. Basic instruction is provided by Social Workers for the Blind in the consumer’s home usually on a short-term basis to help them achieve their goals.

Since the inception of DSB, it has consistently provided in-home trainings and visits to all consumers. DSB does not expect consumers to present in the office for any appointments or services. Remote areas do not exist for DSB because consumer contacts are conducted through home visits. If appointments are necessary outside the home, DSB provides transportation, interpreters and support for these appointments.

Medical Eye Care Program
The Medical Eye Care Program (MEC) is available to all eligible participants. The MEC uses comparable benefits and resource to prevent blindness, when possible, and to restore vision in people who have suffered treatable loss of sight using preventative and corrective services. Based on the availability of funds, the following services may be provided: sponsorship for treatment and surgery, children’s vision screenings, low-vision evaluations, correction of limited vision with low vision aids, and eye care education are delivered by Registered Nurses. Services are available in all counties in the state.

Orientation and Mobility Services
Orientation and mobility (O&M) is a type of training designed to promote safe, independent movement of persons with blindness or visual impairment. Orientation training is designed to help such individuals determine their location in space and how to plan travel from one point to another. Mobility training involves teaching visually impaired persons to move safely from one place to another, which often requires the use of a mobility device, such as a long cane. Using a combination of orientation and mobility techniques, persons who are blind or visually impaired can learn to move around their homes, communities and the world at large with greater independence.

There are a variety of skills that help persons with visual impairments to achieve greater independence. Orientation and Mobility Specialist provide instruction or recommendations to maximize independent movement.

Our results
4947 people served and they received one or more of the following services:  Adjustment Services for the Blind, Health Support Services, Family Adjustment Services, Employment and Training, Housing and Home Improvement.

  • 97 people received In-Home Aide Services for the Blind and enabled them to continue living in their homes and/or communities.
  • 1781 clients received specialized Orientation and Mobility Services and were able to travel about more safely and with greater independence.

Veronica’s O&M Story

In the fall of 2010, Veronica Puente arrived in Raleigh at the NC Rehabilitation Center for the Blind, (RCB) to participate in our adjustment to blindness program.  Veronica was planning on going to college in the near future but she recognized the need for her to refine her overall independent living skills.  It was quickly evident that Veronica had very good O&M skills but she lacked confidence in her ability to travel in unfamiliar areas so we hit the streets to get her college ready!

We traveled many routes in O&M class that allowed Veronica to build up her repertoire of travel skills.  Her confidence in her ability to familiarize herself to new areas improved with each new neighborhood that we traveled.  During her last few weeks of class, she traveled unfamiliar routes by using her newly refined skills analyze unfamiliar intersections and to follow directions to locate her destinations.   

Veronica showed a lot of growth and maturity as she faced many decisions towards the end of her program.  While traveling a variety of routes and neighborhoods on foot, riding city buses and also with paratransit (Tier II) during her O&M program, Veronica was exposed to many travel opportunities that she would not have in her home town.  She made the decision to move to Raleigh, obtained housing and began college in the fall of 2011 at Wake Technical Community College.  In planning for this move and attending college, Veronica recognized a need for additional O&M to familiarize her to her new home area and her college campus routes.  She contacted the DSB O&M staff person for Wake County, who came out and worked with Veronica at her new apartment and also with routes on the campus.   

Currently, Veronica continues to take classes at Wake Tech, maintaining a good GPA.  She successfully travels to school via paratransit taxi service and uses her cane and orientation skills to navigate her campus.  She has definitely met her goal of becoming more independent with her travels and overall with all of her daily tasks.  Veronica would like everyone to know that O&M lessons at RCB and with DSB have guided her to be a much more confident traveler and that she has also become much more comfortable with soliciting assistance when needed. 


Independent Living Rehabilitation Programs (ILR)

If extensive instruction is needed in the home, referrals can be made to the Independent Living Rehabilitation Program (ILR). Independent Living Rehabilitation Counselors are available to provide training in the consumer’s home or through community based learning-centers known as Mini Centers. These services are often located close to the consumer’s home, in senior centers, local churches, or other accessible spaces. DSB provides transportation to and from these training opportunities. Mini Centers provide an encouraging environment for group instruction and peer support.  ILR services may include training in the following areas: cooking, daily living skills, Braille, assistive technology, access to printed materials, aids and appliances, community services, safe travel, deaf-blind services, and low vision rehabilitation.

The Division of Services for the Blind’s independent living rehabilitation programs provide extensive services and supports to help maximize the leadership, empowerment, independence and productivity of individuals with significant vision loss.  These statewide programs serve all 100 counties in North Carolina.  Independent living rehabilitation counselors (ILRCs) are the case managers for individuals receiving services in these programs.  We have 15 ILRCs who work out of our seven district offices.  The specialized and individualized services of the independent living rehabilitation programs can be provided in participants’ homes and in small community-based sites called Mini Centers.

The available services include, but are not limited to:

  • diagnostic and assessment services;
  • adjustment to vision loss counseling;
  • information and referral services and;
  • extensive independent living skills training in which detailed instruction is provided over an extended period of time in areas such as kitchen safety and meal preparation, self-advocacy, communications, personal management/self-care, home management and the use of assistive technology and adaptive aids and devices.

The ILR program also uses the expertise of social workers for the blind, orientation and mobility specialists, nurse eye care consultants, deaf blind specialists, AT specialists /instructors and vocational rehabilitation counselors to provide a variety of services that help empower individuals to reach their independent living rehabilitation goals. 

Our Results

  • 1486 consumers served
  • 534 consumers rehabilitated

Success Stories

James
James seemed fairly upbeat when the counselor met with him to open his case. On the first day of the Mini Center, he opened up to the group and stated that he was having a really hard time with his vision loss. He got choked up when talking about his granddaughter, who has been there for him and really looked out for him after he lost his vision. He pulled the counselor aside at the end of the class and said that he would definitely be at every class. You could see his orientation and mobility skills improve each week as well. He told the counselor that he went to Dollywood and was able to navigate through the crowd safely. He also informed the counselor that he hasn’t fallen since he got the cane.  James was an active participant during the class and his family came every week to learn along with him. One week his granddaughter came to class on her day off of school because she wanted to see the class her grandpa was so excited about and learning so much from.

James told the class on the final day that he wasn’t sure about coming to the class originally. After that first week he decided would keep coming. He told the class that he lost a lot of friends when he lost his vision and that after coming to the class, though, he made a lot better friends than when he started. He learned that “people care”. James stated that he hadn’t seen a lot of that until the Mini Center class.

Alonzo
Alonzo was in an accident at work last December that rendered him instantly blind.  After a lengthy stay in the hospital and a long recuperation, he was still smiling and ready for the Mini Center classes!  His attitude was outstanding and he enjoyed a good laugh!  He participated in every class with great enthusiasm and learned something new every day.   His favorite classes were Braille and orientation and mobility.  He liked cooking too, but doesn’t want his wife to know!  Alonzo is continuing to learn Braille and uses his mobility skills.   He stated that “The Mini Center classes are the best offering to a blind or visually impaired person; not only do the classes have good information, but the other people that you meet are wonderful.”  He stated that the classes have opened up new ways for him to live and to look at his life.

As the end of the fiscal year drew to a close, there was a small bit of money and a small window of time that provided the opportunity for DSB to obtain a SARA for Alonzo.  The SARA is a “Scanning and Reading Appliance”.   Upon the counselor’s last visit with Alonzo, he said, “Ms. Sara is scanning and reading my mail, check statements, recipes, medications, important documents, instructions, playing CDs, and storing information for me.”  The independent classes at the Mini Center coupled with the SARA have enabled Alonzo to continue to live more confidently and with greater coping skills of his blindness.

Michael
Michael is a retired teacher in a mountain county of NC, attended a ten week Mini Center program, and his experience was life changing.  When the counselor initially met him, he was struggling with adjusting to his vision loss and all the barriers that come with it.  He agreed to come to an independent living Mini Center program in his county and he used the local transportation to get there.  This was the first time he had used the bus and it was a definite need for him as he had limited access to transportation.  He came to every session with enthusiasm and a hunger to learn how to live with the vision loss he was experiencing in his life.   

After the classes, he stated the classes were successful as he met others who were going through similar issues and he did not feel so alone.  He learned about library services for the visually impaired and now reads books.   He also learned different independent living techniques such as cooking, Braille, and labeling (to identify items in his home).  He now cooks using the aids and techniques taught in the program.   He now uses transportation on a regular basis.  In a survey given to the participants of the Mini Center program, He reported “This has been a lifesaver for me!  I feel much better about myself, future and ability to become more independent!”


DSB Deaf-Blind Services

The DSB is proud of its history of services to individuals who are deaf-blind. As mentioned earlier, DSB was founded with the assistance of Helen Keller.  For that reason, the agency has a strong commitment to serve individuals with hearing and vision loss since its inception. Although DSB has always served individuals who are deaf-blind, in 1976, DSB formalized its commitment to this population by establishing the first formal position in the state of North Carolina, dedicated solely to the provision of services to individuals with hearing and vision loss. The Deaf-Blind Program Consultant recognized the need to develop and provide specialized accessible services to individuals who are deaf-blind and help connect individuals who are deaf-blind to agency and community programs and services.  Just as specified in the Helen Keller stated definition of deaf-blindness, programs designed specifically for the deaf and programs designed specifically for the blind are not adequate enough to meet the unique needs of individuals with dual sensory impairments. DSB challenged other state agencies to focus on making their services accessible to individuals who were deaf-blind and formally advocated to the inclusion of individuals who were deaf-blind by establishing a Deaf-Blind State Team.

In 1976, the DSB became an affiliate of the Helen Keller National Center (HKNC), and consequently DSB began receiving annual training in deaf-blindness from the affiliate program. This reciprocal partnership has enabled many DSB staff to participate in training at the HKNC, and HKNC staff to travel to NC to provide a variety of training programs for DSB’s technology specialists, rehabilitation teachers, deaf-blind specialists, orientation and mobility specialists and  rehabilitation center staff.

In 1981, under the direction of the DSB, a formal agreement was established with the NC Lions Foundation to establish a camp specifically for individuals who were deaf-blind. This year, with the assistance of DSB and its partners, Camp Dogwood celebrated 30 years of bringing individuals who are deaf-blind together for a weekend of accessible fun, friendship, educational seminars and independent living workshops.

In 1984, the DSB facilitated the establishment of the NC Deaf-Blind Associates, a consumer group that was born out of DSB bringing individuals to Camp Dogwood. This year the NCDBA celebrated 25 years of services. Since the inception of Camp Dogwood and the NCDBA, DSB’s commitment to serving individuals who are deaf-blind has not waned. DSB continues to teach individuals who are deaf-blind the skills necessary to be independent and employed.

DSB has specialized services for individuals who are blind or who have a combined loss of vision and hearing. Individuals coming to the Rehabilitation Center for the Blind will learn adaptive skills to cope with the progressive loss of vision or the progressive loss of hearing. In this residential program, individuals have the opportunity to try various devices and technology that can enhance their ability to function more independently. Instruction is provided directly by staff that is fluent in American Sign Language. Interpreter services are available for those whose primary mode of communication is sign language.

The DSB is committed to serving individuals with hearing and vision loss, and maintains specialized staff to provide the exceptional services needed to serve individuals with hearing and vision loss.

Our results

  • 265 individuals served last fiscal year

Success Story

Joann
This is not a story of my personal success, but that of the Deaf-Blind Program.  With every consumer the Deaf-Blind Specialist serves, we provide the consumer with information in regards to getting involved with the Deaf, Blind, and Deaf-Blind communities as well as community resources.  Sometimes this information is ignored and sometimes it brings out results we never expected. 

Five years ago I met a consumer, from the eastern part of the state, at The Deaf-Blind Weekend at Camp Dogwood.  Her Deaf-Blind Specialist worked very hard to get Joann to come, because her family did not feel she should come; due to her health.  Joann had suffered from strokes that caused her hearing and vision impairments.  Her family took care of her and worried about her so much that they did not allow Joann to do for herself.  When Joann arrived at the Deaf-Blind Weekend at Camp Dogwood, she was very depressed.  I and the other Deaf-Blind Specialists, noticing that she seemed depressed and withdrawn, spent many hours talking with her and introducing her to others with Deaf-Blindness.  Joann saw from other Deaf-Blind Campers that she met that she could live a happy and productive life as Deaf-Blind person.  One of the things I stressed to Joann was how to work with her family members by educating them and saying to them, “let me try to do this myself and if I can’t do it, I will ask for your help.”

Joann attended Deaf-Blind Camp at Camp Dogwood this past September.  Wow! What a change!  Joann is now attending a Community College and wants to be a Social Worker.  Her Deaf-Blind Specialist is assisting her in obtaining the accommodations she needs to be successful in college.  She informs me that her family has learned to let go and let her do for herself.  Best of all Joann recently got married.  The Joann I met this time is a happy woman that knows she still has many obstacles to face and is ready to face them.  Joann thanked me for spending time with her and was thankful her Deaf-Blind Specialist encouraged her to get out and get involved with her Deaf-Blind Community as well as her own home community.  We never know how our words and actions will affect the life of another.


HOW TO CONTACT DSB

Office of the Director: (919) 733-9822
Aids and Appliances: (919) 715-0249
Business Enterprises Program: (919) 733-9703
Communications Unit (Produces Materials in Alternate Format for Blind and Visually Impaired):  (919) 715-2436
Evaluation Unit: (919) 733-4281 Voice/TTY
Independent Living Services: (919) 733-9744
Medical Eye Care Program: (919) 733-9744
Rehabilitation Center for the Blind: (919) 733-5897
Rehabilitation Services: (919) 733-9700 Voice/TTY

Community Rehabilitation Program
Deaf/Blind Services
Independent Living Rehabilitation
Supported Employment Services
Rehabilitation Engineer

Technology Resource Center: (919) 733-5897
CARE-LINE 1-800-622-7030 for access to a Spanish Interpreter
Website: http://www.ncdhhs.gov/dsb/

District Offices

Asheville
50 South French Broad Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801
(828) 251-6732 Voice/TTY
1 (800) 422-1881

Charlotte
5855 Executive Center Drive, Suite 100
Charlotte, NC 28212
(704) 563-4168 Voice/TTY
1 (800) 422-1895

Fayetteville
225 Green Street
Fayetteville, NC 28301
(910) 486-1582 Voice/TTY
1 (800) 422-1897

Greenville
404 St. Andrews Drive
Greenville, NC 27834
(252) 355-9016 Voice/TTY
1 (800) 422-1877

Raleigh
309 Ashe Avenue
Raleigh, NC 27606
(919) 733-4234 Voice/TTY
1 (800) 422-1871

Wilmington
3240 Burnt Mill Road, Suite 7
Wilmington, NC 28403
(910) 251-5743Voice/TTY
1 (800) 422-1884

Winston-Salem
4265 Brownsboro Road, Suite 100
Winston-Salem, NC 27106
(336) 896-2227 Voice/TTY
1 (800) 422-0373

 

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