Fort Sill sued for ending contract that employs the blind

OKLAHOMA CITY – An Oklahoma state agency is suing the federal government in an attempt to block a local military base from ending its contract with a vendor who employs blind workers.

The Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services filed the lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday. That agency is tasked with expanding independence and economic self-sufficiency for disabled Oklahomans. The lawsuit is against the United States of America, by and through Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of the Army Mark Esper.

The complaint requests a restraining order and injunctive relief to block Fort Sill, the Army post in Lawton, from ending its contract with a cafeteria services vendor.

The argument hinges on the Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Act. The law was passed in the 1930s and gives priority to blind vendors, who are licensed as so through the state, when choosing vendors operating on federal property, such as military installations.

The current vendor, David Altstatt, is the Department of Rehabilitation Services-appointed blind vendor for the Army post. The current contract includes one base year and four option years, and Altstatt’s company is in the second option year, according to the lawsuit. In February, the defendants notified rehabilitation services officials that they intended to terminate the contract. The department argues that the defendants didn’t give proper notification to the U.S. secretary of education, who oversees the program. The Oklahoma rehabilitation department requested arbitration with that secretary and defendants in April, according to the lawsuit. In August, the defendants issued a solicitation for a replacement vendor. That solicitation is what the lawsuit attempts to block.

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Disability agency serving 3,424 jobseekers transferred from waiting lists since January 1

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Department of Rehabilitation Services has transferred 3,424 job seekers with significant disabilities from waiting lists to active caseloads since January 1.

DRS’ Vocational Rehabilitation and Visual Services staff began providing career planning and employments services to 505 new clients in the most recent group moved from waiting lists on November 7.

In 2017, VR and VS staff helped 2,014 clients successfully prepare for and find employment and served 11,765 Oklahomans with disabilities working towards that goal. The new taxpayers earned an average of $22,212 per year and paid $3,332 in average taxes, while reducing or eliminating dependence on disability benefits and government services.

DRS’ waiting lists have been in place since March 13, 2017, due to prior year revenue reductions.

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Oklahoma ABLE Tech Device Demonstration and Device Loan Program

Oklahoma ABLE Tech and its statewide partners operate an assistive technology (AT) device demonstration center and short-term loan program to increase access to and utilization of AT for individuals with disabilities. The program is available to Oklahoma residents with disabilities, their family members, and the professionals that support them.

Demonstrations give individuals the ability to see, touch, and try AT to help them in the decision-making process by providing:

  • Hands-on exploration of devices

  • Information on the latest technology

  • Low-tech solutions and adaptations

  • Vendor sources

The short-term loan program provides individuals the opportunity to borrow AT to:

  • Make an informed decision before purchase

  • Ensure compatibility between the device and user

  • Have back-up equipment while waiting for repair

  • Have a device while waiting for new equipment

The equipment inventory offers a wide range of AT, including devices and equipment for: speech communication, computer access, hearing, vision, daily living, environmental adaptations, learning/development, recreation, mobility, seating and positioning. ABLE Tech staff also provides guidance on funding resources for AT equipment.

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HB-1244 UPDATE as of April 21, 2018

HB-1244 is moving.  The bill, known as the Jeri Cooper Act, is scheduled for a Senate floor vote on Monday, April 23rd.  On Monday, the Senate meets at 1:30 p.m.  It is expected Senator Griffin, the  Senate author, will move to restore the bill’s title, which was stricken in committee.  This move means the bill will be in exactly the same form as the House-passed version, so that if approved by the Senate, the bill can go directly to the Governor for signing.  A PDF copy of the bill is attached.


Remember you can watch/listen to the Senate floor activity by going to www.oksenate.gov and selecting the link for Live Floor Proceedings. 


Also be aware that legislative agendas are subject to change.  If for some reason HB-1244 is not voted on Monday, it could come up later in the week.


We expect state agency funding bills to be introduced this coming week, so legislative attention will shortly be focused on budget for all agencies besides Education.  Soon after the agency appropriations have been cleared, legislators will hope to adjourn.


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#SolidarityOEADeafAccess

OAD sent an open letter to Oklahoma Education Association in solidarity with other organizations and grassroots. This letter comes after prior solidarity efforts mentioned in their organizations vlog. 

March 28, 2018
Alicia Priest, President
Oklahoma Education Association

This is an open letter to the Oklahoma Education Association.

Dear President Alicia Priest,

On behalf of the organizations listed below, we stand in solidarity to extend our gratitude to the Oklahoma Education Association with respect to our collaborative efforts regarding effective communication with our community.

This community includes, but is not limited to, Deaf, Deaf-Blind, Hard of Hearing individuals, interpreters, professionals, parents, students, and other stakeholders who are wholly supportive of education in Oklahoma.

Our organizations and grassroots associations representing the interests of Oklahomans recognize the respect OEA demonstrated toward our community. Our coalition shares the same vested interest of ensuring that highly qualified, certified interpreters and Deaf Education teachers positively impact Oklahoma’s educational system. In order to establish a cooperative legacy, we are inviting OEA to collaborate with us to bridge a distinct alliance between associations. This collaborative effort will go a long way in benefiting the future of our communities.

We look forward to working with you. If you agree, we kindly request that you respond back at your convenience. Once again, thank you for stepping up, coordinating with us, and engaging in our concerns.

Sincerely,

Presidents/Leaders, on behalf of our organizations/grassroots:
Renee’ Sites, Oklahoma Association of the Deaf (OAD) 
Anne Byrd, Oklahoma Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (OKRID) 
Donna Fine, Deaf Grassroots Movement United-Oklahoma (DGMU-OK)
Tiara Oakes, Sight-Hearing Encouragement Program (SHEP)
Andrew Pitchford, Central Oklahoma Association for the Deaf and HoH (COADHI)
Christina Williams, Oklahoma Black Deaf Advocates (OKBDA)
Jennifer Grigsby-Fannon, Oklahoma City Association of the Deaf (OKCAD) 
Caroline Crawford, Enid Association of the Deaf (EAD)

Capitol event shows ‘people with disabilities can succeed’

Parker Simpson is a freshman in high school. He makes straight A’s and is the starting quarterback of his football team. He’s on the academic team and hopes, one day, to be an electrical engineer.

Simpson also has major hearing loss in both of his ears and is one of the many students who attend the Oklahoma School for the Deaf in Sulphur.

At the Capitol last week, Simpson and other students from OSD gathered to raise awareness for individuals with disabilities for People with Disabilities Awareness Day in hopes of spreading a simple message: disabilities aren’t definitive.

“People with disabilities can succeed, work and do just about anything if you give them a chance,” said Larry Hawkins, superintendent of OSD.

According to a 2016 report, Oklahoma has one of the highest percentages of people with disabilities along with many states in the South. Gallaudet University estimated that 3.1 percent, or 71,442 individuals ages 18-64, are deaf in Oklahoma. This year marked the 24th consecutive year People with Disabilities Awareness Day had been held at the Capitol, and in 2018, supporters of both OSD and the Oklahoma School for the Blind hoped to converse with lawmakers about the expansion of employment resources for individuals with disabilities.

After Gov. Mary Fallin signed a proclamation declaring March 13 as People With Disabilities Day on the southern steps of the Capitol, Simpson delivered a speech about his struggles with hearing loss and the service that OSD provided that allowed him to succeed academically.

Click here to read more from original article

New Deaf/Hard of Hearing Car Visors in Oklahoma

Look whats new! Car visors for police interaction!! DRS partnered with OAD and also DGMU-Ok last fall to create these. These will replace the current visors. 

These for Oklahoma residents, can be picked up at DRS Deaf Services in OKC and Tulsa. We thank DRS, for including us in input and also for creating and ordering these for our community. 

DRS information and location pick up:
Services to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
2401 NW 23rd Street, Suite 51
Oklahoma City, OK 73107
Office: (405) 522-7930 Email: SDHH@okdrs.gov 

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Support Services Provider/Jeri Cooper Act of 2017

This morning HB-1244, the Support Services Provider Act of 2017 (also being called the Jeri Cooper Act) passed in the House Public Health Committee on a 6-0 vote. Members who voted for the bill were Representatives Bush, Derby, Lawson, McEntire , Ritze and Sean Roberts. The committee substitute bill that passed is attached. Lepak’s bill directs DRS to establish a grant program to expand availability of Support Service Providers for Oklahomans who are deaf-blind. The program would only be implemented if and when funds are available. An annual funding cap of $300,000 is set in the bill – but no specific funding sources are designated. The measure is essentially enabling legislation that would make action possible at such time funds are made available. Next stop for the bill is the House floor. To thank Rep. Lepak and Public Health Committee members for their support of this legislation to assist deaf-blind Oklahomans, go towww.okhouse.gov. Then select the Representatives menu item, and scroll to the name of the appropriate Representative. On this main list of Representatives, beside each name you will find an “Email” box to click on for sending email. However, this feature may not work on your system – it does not work on mine. Instead, you should be able to send an email by clicking on the Representative name, which will take you to the Member’s bio page where you will again find an “Email Me” box. Click on this one, and a web form will come up.

To read the full copy of the Jeri Cooper Act please click here.

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Public Invited to Disability Program Policy Hearings

OKLAHOMA CITY - Proposed rule changes potentially affecting several programs for Oklahomans with disabilities will be the focus of a public hearing held by the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services and the Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council.

The public is encouraged to attend the meetings in Oklahoma City on Feb. 5, Tulsa on Feb. 6 and Lawton on Feb. 7.

Programs affected by the proposed new rules are administered by DRS and include vocational rehabilitation and employment services for Oklahomans with all types of disabilities.

DRS provides a variety of services that help individuals with disabilities achieve employment, personal independence and self-sufficiency. The Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council advises DRS on development of policies and plans for rehabilitation services.

Proposed policy changes effect the following chapters: Chapter 1 - Administrative Operations, Chapter 3 - Management Services Division and Chapter 10 - Vocational Rehabilitation and Visual Services.

The changes include housekeeping items such as removing the references to the Independent Living Program, which is no longer operated by the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, or adding language to clarify the Division of Visual Services may serve individuals with sight threatening progressive conditions or functional limitations due to sight loss. As well as an updating agency and program names to remove obsolete references.

Other changes include definition updates, removal of extended evaluation language and removal of homemaker employment outcome language to reflect recent federal law changes.

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Ginnie Graham: Broken Arrow brothers honored for being pioneers in self-advocacy for people with disabilities

Going through high school, James Meadours was kept separate in special education classes from his Broken Arrow classmates, never really getting to know them.

After graduating in 1986, he was put in a 10-bedroom group home and felt isolated from the world, being at the mercy of other adults.

Joining a singles group at Christ the King Church changed that.

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