C-301: Legal Authorization

Federal law requires states to ensure that staff is made available, either directly by the designated state unit or through a contract, to address the individual communication needs of customers:

"The vocational rehabilitation services portion of the Unified or Combined State Plan must describe how the designated State unit includes among its personnel, or obtains the services of—

(1) Individuals able to communicate in the native languages of applicants, recipients of services, and eligible individuals who have limited English proficiency; and

(2) Individuals able to communicate with applicants, recipients of services, and eligible individuals in appropriate modes of communication.

(f) Coordination with personnel development under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The vocational rehabilitation services portion of the Unified or Combined State Plan must describe the procedures and activities the State agency will undertake to coordinate its comprehensive system of personnel development under the Act with personnel development under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act."

34 CFR §361.18(iii)(e)(1-2)

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C-302: Typical Services

Deaf, hard of hearing, blind, visually impaired, and/or deafblind customers may require services such as:

  • meeting with a VR counselor to evaluate the customer's needs, as related to the customer's sensory loss;
  • working with a VR counselor who has a specialty caseload to address:
    • communication issues and options;
    • diagnostics and evaluations;
    • adaptive devices and other accommodations for work, independent living, and vocational or academic training;
    • specialized training options;
    • ongoing support services, such as Medicaid waiver programs;
    • training options for teens and young adults; and
    • support services, resources, and adaptive devices for teens and young adults for use in an educational environment;
  • attending Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) meetings and participating in transition planning with the transition counselor;
  • facilitating communication and accommodations; and
  • ordering recommended adaptive devices, with the approval of the VR counselor.

C-302-1: Policy

Customers are referred to deafblind field support services when:

  • hearing loss is medically documented;
  • hearing loss is suspected; or
  • the customer is deafblind.

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C-303: Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program

C-303-1: Procedure

The HHS Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DHHS) and the Public Utility Commission (PUC) operate the Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP) for individuals whose disabilities interfere with their ability to effectively use the telephone network.

Through STAP, DHHS provides qualified individuals with disabilities vouchers to purchase basic specialized telecommunications equipment. For a list of acceptable telecommunications devices and the value of the voucher for each device, see DHHS Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP).

Individuals with disabilities who have not used a DHHS STAP voucher in the past five years may apply for help through DHHS.

DHHS does not purchase the device for the customer. The customer pays all costs above the STAP voucher amount.

To obtain a STAP application:

When submitting the application, include a copy of a document serving as valid proof of the customer's Texas residency as shown on the application.

The VR counselor may certify the customer's STAP application based on whether the customer meets the disability and program criteria.

Before signing the application, the VR counselor verifies the following forms of identification on the customer's application:

  • Social Security number
  • Proof of residency

The VR counselor mails the completed application with confirmation of identity and proof of residency to:

DHHS STAP
P.O. Box 12607
Austin, Texas 78711

DHHS does not accept applications by fax or email.

Once DHHS approves the application, DHHS issues a voucher to the eligible customer that identifies the type of device authorized.

The customer has 180 days after receiving the voucher to purchase the device from a registered PUC vendor.

For a list of registered vendors, see the STAP Vendor Search page. For additional information about the STAP program, see the DHHS Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP).

For questions concerning STAP, the VR counselor contacts DHHS:

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C-304: Hearing Aids

For policy and procedure on the purchase of hearing aids, see C-704: Durable Medical Equipment.

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C-305: Interpreter Services

An interpreter conveys messages between individuals without contributing to the dialogue. TWC Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) uses interpreter services to facilitate communication with customers during the rehabilitation process.

Interpreter services are provided by qualified interpreters and include:

  • sign language and oral interpretation for customers who are deaf or hard of hearing; and
  • tactile interpretation for customers who are deafblind.

C-305-1: Legal Authorization

When developing an individualized plan for employment (IPE), the designated state unit must provide all required information in the native language or mode of communication of the individual or the individual's representative. See 34 CFR §361.45(c).

Appropriate modes of communication are defined in 34 CFR §361.5(4) as "specialized aids and supports that enable an individual with a disability to comprehend and respond to information that is being communicated. Appropriate modes of communication include, but are not limited to, the use of interpreters, open and closed-captioned videos, specialized telecommunications services and audio recordings, Braille and large print materials, materials in electronic formats, augmentative communication devices, graphic presentations, and simple language materials."

C-305-2: Maintaining Customer Confidentiality

Inform the interpreter and customer that information provided is maintained in confidence. For more information, refer to A-205: Confidentiality and Use of Customer Records and Information.

C-305-3: Using Certified Interpreters

TWC-VR must use certified interpreters when possible.

The Board for Evaluation of Interpreter (BEI) Registry to find a certified interpreter.

A certified interpreter holds at least one of the following certificates of competency from one of the following organizations:

  • The National Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID):
    • Interpretation Certificate
    • Transliteration Certificate
    • Reverse Skills Certificate
    • Comprehensive Skills Certificate
    • Master Comprehensive Skills Certificate
    • Specialist Certificate–Legal
  • BEI, under DHHS:
    • Level I Certificate
    • Level II Certificate
    • Level III Certificate
    • Level III–Intermediary Certificate
    • Level IV Certificate
    • Level V Certificate
    • Level V–Intermediary Certificate
    • Basic Certificate
    • Advanced Certificate
    • Master Certificate

If an interpreter is not available, a VR staff member who is fluent in sign language may facilitate communication by meeting in the office or a related setting with VR staff and the customer or other individuals who are deaf.

A VR staff member is prohibited from serving as an interpreter during an appeals process. See A-200: Customer Rights and Legal Issues.

VR employees who are fluent in sign language must not provide their services to communicate with a TWC customer outside of the office—except as a last resort.

Additional information on certification levels and recommended settings is available on the Situations and Recommended Interpreter Certification Levels page on the DHHS website.

C-305-4: Noncertified Interpreters

A noncertified interpreter lacks certification but can interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially, both receptively and expressively, using all necessary specialized vocabulary.

When a certified interpreter is not available, VR staff may use a noncertified interpreter who is otherwise competent to interpret.

A noncertified interpreter can be used with the customer's written consent. The customer must provide a written statement that includes the customer's signature, date of signature, and brief statement that they understand and agree to the use of a noncertified interpreter. The written statement is filed in the customer's paper casefile.

A noncertified interpreter may not be used in the following settings:

  • Medical
  • Legal
  • Psychiatric

C-305-5: Purchasing Interpreter Services

Ordinarily, payment for interpreter services must not exceed the cost listed on the DHHS Fee Schedule. Every effort must be made to deliver services at the regular (day) rates.

When vocational services are needed at night or on a weekend, the VR counselor must negotiate for the lowest rate.

For specific rates and interpreter policy, see DHHS Communication Access Maximum Rates.

C-305-6: Colleges and Universities

Fees in the DHHS Fee Schedule do not apply to contracted institutions—unless noted in the terms of the contract. VR shares contracts with several colleges and universities to offset part of the cost for interpreter services, and rates are determined by the contract.

Payments made to colleges and universities that are not under a VR contract must comply with the established DHHS Fee Schedule.

C-305-7: Paying an Out-of-State Provider

When an out-of-state provider performs interpreter services:

  • in Texas, the established fees apply; or
  • outside of Texas, the maximum allowable fee is the highest in-state fee for the applicable certification level.

C-305-8: Procedures for Purchasing Interpreter Services

The rate for interpreter services depends on the:

VR purchases interpreter services as follows:

  • The customer and VR counselor agree on:
    • the type of interpreter (oral or sign language);
    • the certification level needed (for appropriate certification levels, see the Interpreter Settings chart); and
    • the customer's preferred provider, if appropriate.
  • VR staff identifies in the customer's service record the appropriate HHS region where services will be provided. This must be done before selecting the service provider. For the appropriate HHS region, see the Table of Comparison (PDF).
  • The customer selects the provider from among those available.
  • VR staff contacts the interpreter service agency or the independent interpreter service provider to request services and indicates:
    • the certification level needed;
    • the date, time, and location; and
    • how the provider's quoted fee compares to the maximum allowable fee, negotiating with the service provider when necessary.
  • The service provider provides the name and level of the assigned interpreter.
  • VR staff informs the customer about the assigned interpreter.
  • VR staff obtains agreement from the customer.
  • VR staff issues a service authorization for the approved services.
  • VR staff:
  • VR staff authorizes payment for the services in RHW.

TWC-VR only pays a no-show fee to interpreters that have a current contract with TWC; if the interpreter does not have a contract with TWC, they cannot be paid for a service that was not provided (no-show fee). For more information about processing payments for no-shows, refer to D-204-5: No-Show Payments.

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C-306: Translator Services

C-306-1: Legal Authorization

The federal regulations in 34 CFR §361.51(c) require the designated state unit to ensure that providers of VR services can communicate—

"(1) In the native language of applicants and eligible individuals who have limited English proficiency; and

(2) By using appropriate modes of communication used by applicants and eligible individuals."

For TWC policy and procedures, see TWC Language Services Guide.

All VR managers or their designee must:

  • keep on file a list of translators that includes each translator's name, address, phone number, and language spoken; and
  • update the list at least annually.

The VR manager contacts TWC Procurement and Contract Services about updates to ensure that the provider list, which is available to all staff, stays current.

The VR managers or their designee also includes the list in the Regional Communications Plan that TWC submits to the HHS Office for Civil Rights.

When using a translator, the VR staff member informs the translator and customer that information provided is kept in confidence.

For additional information, see VRSM A-300: Confidentiality and Use of Customer Records and Information.

C-306-2: Guidelines for Translator Services

When the customer has limited English proficiency, VR staff makes every effort to locate a translator who:

  • can effectively communicate in the customer's native language;
  • is impartial;
  • maintains the confidentiality of the customer's information; and
  • is acceptable to the customer.

To find appropriate translators, VR staff asks for help from entities such as high schools, colleges, universities, the local chamber of commerce, churches, or private translation businesses that are located in areas where representatives of the customer's ethnic group can be found.

When it is not practical for the translator to meet in person with the VR staff and the customer, VR staff uses a speakerphone to communicate with the translator.

When VR sponsors a service, the VR staff r ensures that the customer who has limited English proficiency is provided adequate help from:

  • the service provider;
  • an individual volunteer;
  • a community organization; or
  • other resources.

C-306-3: Language Line

When a translator is not available, VR may use the Language Line telephone interpreter service.

For questions about how to access Language Line, contact TWC Telephone Support.

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C-307: Print and Braille Materials

VR also communicates with customers who are blind by using materials that are printed and materials that are braille.

Print can be accessible to customers who are blind or visually impaired by:

  • supporting print and color contrast preferences for readability;
  • educating staff about print and color preferences through VR teacher services;
  • using large print (22-point font); and
  • providing information on print preferences and color contrast.

Braille is a tactile communication system that uses a six-dot cell system.

TWC-VR:

  • supports the use of braille;
  • teaches braille through VR teacher services;
  • uses braille materials;
  • provides information about braille;
  • refers customers to the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired, for courses on the Nemeth code and braille; and
  • provides counseling and guidance on literacy.

C-307-1: Braille Training

Braille is an essential skill for customers who are blind.

The VR teacher and VR counselor must encourage any customer who cannot read print (including large print) efficiently and effectively to learn braille.

To help customers make an informed choice about whether to receive training in braille, the VR counselor offers customers the opportunity to receive a braille assessment using nonvisual techniques. Information on the components of a braille assessment can be found in Best Practices for Braille Training.

After the assessment, the VR counselor offers customers who would benefit an opportunity to learn braille.

For more information, refer to the Simply Braille presentation (PPTX).

C-307-2: Requesting Braille Services

TWC Braille Unit

The Braille Unit uses Duxbury 11.2, the latest braille translation software. Duxbury 11.2 provides greater accuracy and higher quality. It also allows for a rapid turn-around time to better serve the customer. The Braille Unit also is equipped with a high-speed Braille 200 Interpoint embosser, which produces 200 characters per second.

To request braille translation services, any TWC staff (including TWC staff that are not part of VR):

  • creates an email message;
  • attaches the Word document to be translated;
  • types in the subject line "Request for braille";
  • types in the body the:
  • title of the document;
  • number of braille copies needed;
  • due date for receiving the materials;
  • the TWC staff member's name and phone number, in case the Braille Unit needs to ask questions or negotiate the due date; and
  • sends the email message to bj.cepeda@twc.state.tx.us.

Note: Requests are completed on a first-come, first-served basis unless otherwise negotiated.

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C-308: Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services

For information, see HHS Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services on the Texas Health and Human Services (HHS) website.

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C-309: Reader Services

Reader services include reading to a customer who is blind material that is otherwise unavailable to the customer. Reader services may also include assisting with research.

Reader services may be used for vocational or academic training.

The VR counselor explores the availability of other nonvisual media before purchasing reader services.

C-309-1: Legal Authorization

34 CFR §361.48(b)

"Services for individuals who have applied for or been determined eligible for vocational rehabilitation services. As appropriate to the vocational rehabilitation needs of each individual and consistent with each individual's individualized plan for employment, the designated State unit must ensure that the following vocational rehabilitation services are available to assist the individual with a disability in preparing for, securing, retaining, advancing in or regaining an employment outcome that is consistent with the individual's unique strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests, and informed choice:

(11) Reader services, rehabilitation teaching services, and orientation and mobility services for individuals who are blind."

C-309-2: Reader Services for Students in an Academic Setting

Eligibility for Reader Services

Customers who are blind are eligible for reader services if the customer needs the services to support vocational or academic training.

Customer participation in cost of services, also referred to as "BLR", does not apply to providing reader services.

Comparable Benefits

Before requesting reader services, the VR counselor or customer must contact the disability coordinator at the training institution that the customer plans to attend to determine whether other services are available that are comparable to reader services (that is, are considered a comparable benefit).

When a comparable benefit is available, it must be used instead of reader services.

Reader services that are provided through a volunteer are used whenever possible, including services that are offered by certain public training programs or community service agencies.

How to Purchase Reader Services

Reader services are purchased as follows:

  • The VR counselor, customer, and reader agree on an hourly rate when planning for services in the IPE. The rate must be documented in the IPE, or in an IPE amendment, and in the DARS2011, Reader Services Log.
  • VR staff issues a service authorization—before the month the services are provided. The service authorization is based on the number of credit hours that the customer is enrolled in for that training period (semester, term, or class). VR then issues a service authorization each month, for the remainder of the training period.
  • The customer completes and submits DARS2011, Reader Services Log to the VR counselor.
  • At the end of the month, the VR counselor:
    • verifies that the DARS2011 includes the number of hours, the agreed-on hourly rate, and the student's and reader's signatures;
    • authorizes payment; and
    • places a copy of DARS2011 in the case folder.

Note: VR does not pay for reader services rendered by a member of the customer's family or another VR customer.

Customer's Responsibilities

It is the customer's responsibility to:

  • use all other reading-related resources to the extent possible before seeking reimbursement from VR;
  • make every effort to identify and use reader services that are offered by a volunteer;
  • comply with TWC policies that prohibit payment of reader services when rendered by an immediate family member or other VR customer; and
  • submit reader services forms to the VR counselor at the end of each month (DARS2011, Reader Services Log, is due no later than the 15th of the month that follows the service dates).

Once reader services are authorized, the customer has sole responsibility for:

  • interviewing and hiring the reader;
  • determining the scope of work, including the materials to be read and the date, time, duration, and location of the services;
  • establishing and enforcing all terms and conditions of employment; and
  • terminating the agreement, when necessary.

VR Counselor's Responsibilities

The VR counselor must:

  • evaluate the number of hours of reader services needed by the customer;
  • issue a service authorizations in a timely manner;
  • inform the customer that the VR counselor or other VR staff member may directly contact the reader to verify the number of hours that were provided and paid for;
  • authorize payment; and
  • ensure that a copy of DARS2011, Reader Services Log, in the customer's case file.

Note: If reader services are not an approved contracted service offered through the training program, or if comparable benefits are not available, the provider must be set up as a vendor in RHW and paid directly.

The customer must not pay for, or be reimbursed for paying for, reader services.

C-309-3: Contracting for Reader Services

Reader services that are provided through a contract with the customer's training program offer the following benefits when the service is not available through a comparable benefit:

  • Payment rates for reader services are already established and agreed upon; and
  • If the customer loses a reader at a crucial time during the semester, he or she is not burdened with finding a new reader; the university helps the customer find a new one.

Using a contract or designating a vendor for reader services does not infringe on a customer's independence because the customer is still directly involved in evaluating and documenting the services that are purchased.

C-309-4: Resource for Recorded Texts

VR customers can obtain information about recorded textbooks at Transition Resources.

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