Skip Nav

Rehabilitation Council of Texas 2015 Annual Report

Input and Recommendations of the State Rehabilitation Council

Boy in a wheelchair

Throughout 2015, the Rehabilitation Council of Texas (RCT) and Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) Division for Rehabilitation Services (DRS) and Division for Blind Services (DBS) staff held quarterly council meetings. These meetings were an opportunity for DRS and DBS staff to update RCT members on changes to the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) programs and for RCT members to offer their input and recommendations.

The RCT uses a committee structure to ensure that RCT members can closely review and provide detailed comments to DRS and DBS regarding specific aspects of the VR programs. Members of RCT's committees work closely with DRS and DBS staff to exchange information and strategize ways to innovate, adapt and problem-solve to better serve Texans with disabilities who receive VR services.

All final comments and recommendations resulting from RCT committee work are made in front of the full RCT. Comments and recommendations are provided to DRS and DBS orally at the RCT meetings and in writing throughout the year in the form of committee reports, RCT meeting minutes and a "to-do" list.

The following is a summary of the input and recommendations made from July 1, 2014 through July 31, 2015.

For additional information go to:

https://rsa.ed.gov/about-your-state.cfm?state=Texas

DARS Division for Rehabilitation Services
FY 2016 State Plan • Input and Recommendations

Input on Increased Collaboration:

The Rehabilitation Council of Texas (RCT) commends the increased collaboration between the Division for Rehabilitation Services (DRS) and the Division for Blind Services (DBS), which is evident in the state plan materials and policies in a number of areas for the benefit of Texans with multiple disabilities.

DRS Response: DRS appreciates the fact that the RCT has noticed the increased collaboration between DRS and DBS, and will continue collaborating in various areas.

Recommendation on understanding the vocational rehabilitation needs of Texas youths with disabilities in the comprehensive statewide needs assessment:

The RCT partnered with DBS, DRS and DARS to design and conduct the needs assessment. The RCT recommended that the needs assessment continue and focus more in-depth on the vocational rehabilitation (VR) needs of youth with disabilities, including those youth who are home schooled. The RCT also recommended that the contractor attend the committee meetings so that ongoing input could be provided on the needs assessment.

DRS Response: DRS appreciates the partnership with RCT on the comprehensive statewide needs assessment. We will continue to work together and consider these recommendations to improve the assessment.

Boy in wheelchair next to his mom

Recommendation on travel policy:

The RCT supports travel policy that ensures fiscal responsibility and does not create an undue hardship on the traveler with the most significant support needs. RCT members applauded the exception portion of the policy; however, the policy does not include feedback to the person if the request is denied. The RCT recommends that the policy include an explanation of the reason to the individual requesting the reimbursement if an exception to policy is denied.

DRS Response: DRS agrees. If the request for rate exception is denied, DARS will notify the requester and will document the reason on the Attendant Care Reimbursement Request for Rate Exception form (DARS 1628).

Recommendation on maintaining standards for vocational rehabilitation counselors:

The RCT strongly urges that the state of Texas continues its high standard for VR counselors. This standard requires a master's degree and qualifications consistent with the certified rehabilitation counselor.

DRS Response: DRS agrees with RCT's recommendation and will not make any changes at this time to the current qualified vocational rehabilitation counselor (QVRC) standard.

Recommendation on policy development process:

The RCT expressed its concern that it is not involved in the development of policy but rather responding to policy that has already been developed. The RCT requested a review of the policy development system, with focus on involving the RCT at an earlier point in time, and at the same time would not impede the progress of needed policy change.

DRS Response: DRS agrees and has implemented a process to consult with the RCT at an earlier point in the policy development process.

Woman speaking to a man in sign language

Recommendation on training for impartial hearing officers:

The RCT noted that the language of impartial hearing officer's (IHO) decision focused more on a negative bias of the person rather than providing information on why the VR service was denied to the individual. The RCT recommended that training for hearing officers should include being more factual and specific to the VR service delivery issues.

DRS Response: DARS agrees with the recommendation. This issue was included in training to the IHOs on July 8, 2015. DARS will provide additional written guidance to the IHOs emphasizing the RCT's recommendation.

Recommendation on the 2017 combined state plan and decrease in assistive device loans:

The RCT expressed concern that the number of assistive device loans for consumer demonstration and testing has dramatically decreased. The RCT recommends that DRS research to understand why the decrease occurred and develop strategies to ensure that consumers have access to assistive technology and devices for demonstration and testing.

DRS Response: DRS agrees with the concern and researched why there was a significant decrease in loans of assistive devices for consumers. One reason seems to be that staff is using loaner equipment from the University of Texas' Texas Technology Access Program (TTAP) as a viable resource for consumers. This program has more updated equipment than the DRS Rehabilitation Technology Resource Center. DRS will enhance partnership with the University of Texas' TTAP. Additionally, DRS needs to evaluate its staff capacity to maintain the DRS Rehabilitation Technology Resource Center. DRS will be exploring ways in which assistive technology can be more efficiently applied as a part of the division's services to students with disabilities and employers.

Recommendation on the 2017 combined state plan goals and plans related to the supported employment program under Title VI, Part B Funds:

Smiling woman in wheelchair

With regard to the goals and plans for Title VI, Part B Funds, the goals should include the number of persons that are expected to be served along with the goal for successful supported employment outcomes.

DRS Response: DRS agrees with the RCT's recommendation and will work closely with the Program, Reporting and Analysis unit to develop methodology for reporting the number of individuals expected to be served under Title VI, Part B funds.

Recommendation on the 2017 combined state plan to coordinate with education officials to facilitate student transition:

With regard to coordination with the education officials to facilitate the transition of students with disabilities from school to the receipt of VR services, the RCT recommends that VR counselors liaison with the transition and employment designee, as required by §29.011 of the Texas Education Code, for local education agency, or shared services arrangement. The purpose of this relationship should include sharing information about VR services, including how to apply for VR services and identifying youth who might benefit from VR services.

DRS Response: DRS agrees with this recommendation. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) and DARS have coordinated a stakeholder group for the purpose of sharing information, processes and service coordination strategies. This will enable both the TEA and DARS to collaborate more effectively in the transition of students with disabilities.

Recommendation on the 2017 combined state plan to facilitate transition of students in public schools and living in state supported living centers:

The RCT is concerned about the inclusion of all students with disabilities who could benefit from vocational rehabilitation services. The RCT recommends coordination with the education officials to ensure information about vocational rehabilitation services is provided to the transition of students with disabilities who reside in the state supported living centers and attend public school.

DRS Response: While DARS does not maintain data pertaining to students residing in state supported living centers who are attending public schools, DARS agrees that these students, like other students with disabilities, should be provided information about VR services. DARS will contact TEA and the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) to discuss and coordinate strategies for providing this information.

Store employee in produce section

Recommendation on the 2017 Combined State Plan to support informed choice by providing more information on services:

The RCT understands that the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 (WIOA) strengthens the requirement to provide consumers with information about providers, including specific information, such as cost, duration, customer satisfaction, qualifications of service providers, types of services offered, and outcomes achieved by individuals working with service providers, to the extent that the information is available. With regard to increasing informed choice related to Goal 3 strategies contributing to successful VR performance measures, the RCT recommends that DRS consider adding mechanisms to provide more information about providers to increase informed choice.

DRS Response: DRS has been working toward adding mechanisms to provide more information about providers to increase consumer informed choice. As DRS prepares to transition to TWC, additional research will be conducted to inform the creation and implementation of additional processes and systems.

Recommendation on the 2017 Combined State Plan to increase awareness of vocational rehabilitation services by educating medical professionals:

With regard to strategies DRS is using to address the lack of awareness of VR services among consumers, parents, doctors and medical professionals, the RCT recommends making concerted efforts to educate medical professionals, medical organizations and disability organizations as a means to address the lack of awareness about VR services.

DRS Response: DRS agrees with RCT's recommendation and will work closely with staff to enhance current efforts being made to increase the awareness of VR services among medical professionals, organizations, and disability groups.

Recommendation on the 2017 Combined State Plan regarding DRS representation on state workforce boards:

Man helping another man learn sign language

The plan states that DRS has representation on 22 of the 28 local workforce development boards. The RCT would like to know why DRS is not represented on all 28 of the boards.

DRS Response: Texas Government Code, Chapter 2308.256 states that a workforce board is composed of representatives of the private sector, organized labor and community-based organizations, educational agencies, vocational rehabilitation agencies, public assistance agencies, economic development agencies, the public employment service, local literacy councils, and adult basic and continuing education organizations. Since the law does not specify that the workforce board include a representative of the public vocational rehabilitation agency, the chief elected officials in a workforce area may appoint someone from DARS, or someone from a number of other organizations that provide VR services.

DARS Division for Blind Services
FY 2015 State Plan • Input and Recommendations

Input on Increased Collaboration:

The RCT commends the increased collaboration between DRS and DBS which is evident in the state plan materials and policies in a number of areas for the benefit of Texans with multiple disabilities.

DBS Response: DBS appreciates RCT recognizing this increased collaboration.

Blind woman reading a braille document

Recommendation on timeliness of securing a vendor to conduct consumer satisfaction survey:

The RCT is concerned about the delay in securing a vendor to conduct the consumer satisfaction surveys for the Division for Blind Services. The procurement process for the DBS consumer satisfaction survey was initiated over 12 months ago. We are concerned about the timeliness in receiving consumer satisfaction data for the Division for Blind Services to report for FY 2015, which is required as a part of the required annual vocational rehabilitation state plan and the independent living annual report. The RCT is deeply concerned that not only will we not be able to meet a federal requirement but, as important, we will not be able to ascertain whether consumers are satisfied or dissatisfied with the services that they have received. Feedback from consumers is a critical part of program evaluation and this lack of information impedes the program's ability to evaluate itself.

DBS Response: DBS has awarded and executed a contract to conduct the consumer satisfaction survey. The contractor is collecting data and will report 2015 consumer satisfaction data.

Recommendation on understanding the vocational rehabilitation needs of Texas youths with disabilities in the comprehensive statewide needs assessment:

The RCT partnered with DBS, DRS and DARS to design and conduct the needs assessment. The RCT recommended that the needs assessment continue and focus more in-depth on the vocational rehabilitation (VR) needs of youth with disabilities including those youth who are home schooled. The RCT also recommended that the contractor attend the committee meetings so that ongoing input could be provided on the needs assessment.

DBS Response: DBS appreciates the partnership with RCT on the comprehensive statewide needs assessment. We will continue to work together and consider these recommendations to improve the assessment.

Recommendation on travel policy:

Woman using crutches in an exercise class

The RCT supports travel policy that ensures fiscal responsibility and does not create an undue hardship on the traveler with the most significant support needs. RCT members applauded the exception portion of the policy; however, the policy does not include feedback to the person if the request is denied.

The RCT recommends that the policy include an explanation of the reason the individual requesting the reimbursement if an exception to policy is denied.

DBS Response: DBS agrees. If the request for rate exception is denied, DARS will notify the requester and will document the reason on the Attendant Care Reimbursement Request for Rate Exception form (DARS 1628).

Recommendation on maintaining standards for vocational rehabilitation counselors:

The RCT strongly urges that the state of Texas continues its high standard for VR counselors. This standard requires a master's degree and qualifications consistent with the certified rehabilitation counselor.

DBS Response: DBS agrees and plans to continue its high standard for VR counselors and the system to recruit and hire individuals as VR counselors who have master's degrees and qualifications consistent with the certified rehabilitation counselor.

Recommendation on policy development process:

The RCT expressed its concern that it is not involved in the development of policy but rather responding to policy that has already been developed. The RCT requested a review of the policy development system, with focus on involving the RCT at an earlier point in time, and at the same time would not impede the progress of needed policy change.

DBS Response: DARS agrees and has implemented a process to involve the RCT in policy development and review at an earlier point in time.

Hands reading a braille document

Recommendation on training for impartial hearing officers:

The RCT noted that the language of an impartial hearing officer's (IHO) decision focused more on a negative bias of the person rather than providing information on why the VR service was denied the individual. The RCT recommended that training for hearing officers should include being more factual and specific to the VR service delivery issues.

DBS Response: DARS agrees with the recommendation. This issue was included in training to the IHOs on July 8, 2015. DARS will provide additional written guidance to the IHOs emphasizing RCT's recommendation.

Recommendation on the 2017 combined state plan regarding goals and plans related to the supported employment program for Title VI, Part B Funds:

With regard to the Goals and Plans for Title VI, Part B Funds, the goals should include the number of persons that are expected to be served along with the goal for successful supported employment outcomes.

DBS Response: DBS agrees with the RCT recommendation and will work closely with the DARS Program Reporting and Analysis unit to develop the methodology for reporting the number of individuals expected to be served under Title VI, Part B funds.

Recommendation on 2017 combined state plan to coordinate with education officials to facilitate student transition:

With regard to coordination with the education officials to facilitate the transition of students with disabilities from school to the receipt of VR services, the RCT recommends that VR counselors liaison with the transition and employment designee, as required by §29.011 of the Texas Education Code, for local education agency, or shared services arrangement. The purpose of this relationship should include sharing information about VR services, including how to apply for VR services and identifying youth who might benefit from VR services.

DBS Response: DBS agrees with this recommendation. The Texas Education Agency and DARS convened a stakeholder group and a work group for the purpose of sharing information, processes, and service coordination strategies. This initiative will enable TEA and DARS to collaborate more effectively in the transition of students with disabilities.

Recommendation on 2017 Combined State Plan to facilitate transition of students in public schools and living in State Supported Living Centers:

Woman walking with guide dog

The RCT is concerned about the inclusion of all students with disabilities who could benefit from vocational rehabilitation services. The RCT recommends coordination with the education officials to ensure information about vocational rehabilitation services is provided to facilitate the transition of students with disabilities who reside in the state supported living centers and attend public school.

DBS Response: DARS agrees that students residing in state supported living centers who are attending public schools students, like other students with disabilities, should be provided information about VR services. As DARS does not maintain data pertaining to these students, DARS will contact the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) to discuss and coordinate strategies for providing this information.

Recommendation on the 2017 combined state plan regarding documenting vocational rehabilitation counselors' caseloads:

With regard to the Comprehensive System of Personnel Development (CSPD) portion of the VR plan and to better understand the work load expectations of VR counselors, the RCT recommends that two references be added to explain the numbers of consumers DBS counselors are expected to serve. These references should include the number of persons estimated to be blind relative to the current general population, and relative to an estimate of future Texas population growth. This information is to be provided in the form of a percentage and a numerical total.

DBS Response: DBS agrees and has added information to the CSPD addressing the effects of population growth.