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j. 1. A. With the most significant disabilities, including their need for supported employment services;

Current Narrative:

Statewide Assessment

The Division commissioned a three-year comprehensive statewide needs assessment (CSNA) to determine vocational rehabilitation needs of individuals with visual disabilities. The purpose of the CSNA is to identify and describe the rehabilitation needs of individuals with blindness and visual impairments residing in Florida. Dr. Chaz Compton, Project Director of San Diego State University Interwork Institute (SDSU) led the completion of the CSNA in 2019. The CSNA addressed requirements of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, which states that each state unit and the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) must conduct a comprehensive statewide assessment of the rehabilitation needs of its residents and in particular, needs for supported employment services, needs of minorities and other unserved/underserved populations, needs of persons served through other components of the statewide workforce investment system, and the need to establish, develop, or improve community rehabilitation programs. Interviews were conducted with FDBS staff, community partners, consumers, and businesses. A total of 49 people were interviewed individually and 288 as part of a focus group. The interviews took place July through September 2018 in each district office. The assessment is driven by the needs in several categories.

  • Section I - Overall agency performance
  • Section II - Needs of individuals with the most significant disabilities, including their need for supported employment
  • Section III - Needs of individuals with blindness or visual impairments form different ethnic groups, including needs of individuals who have been unserved or underserved by the VR program
  • Section IV -  Needs of youth and students with blindness or visual impairments in transition
  • Section V - Needs of individuals with blindness or visual impairments served through other components of the statewide Workforce Development System
  • Section VI - Need to establish, develop or improve Community Rehabilitation Programs in Florida
  • Section VII - Needs of businesses

The CSNA utilizes quantitative data for FFY 2015 through 2017 and qualitative data from FFY 2015 through September 2018. The following details the specific methods used for gathering the data for this assessment. The project team at SDSU reviewed a variety of existing data sources to identify and describe demographic data within Florida, including the total possible target population and sub-populations potentially served by FDBS. Data relevant to the population of Florida, the population of persons with blindness or visual impairments in Florida, the ethnicity of individuals, the number of Veterans, income level, educational levels, and other relevant population characteristics were used in this analysis. Sources analyzed include the following:

  • The 2016 American Community Survey, 1- and 5-Year Estimates
  • U.S. Census Annual Estimates of Resident Population, 2017
  • 2018 Social Security Administration SSI/SSDI Data
  • The Florida Department of Education
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Cornell University’s disabilitystatistics.org;
  • DBS case service data compiled at the request of the project team
  • The Federal Rehabilitation Services Administration’s RSA-911 data for DBS and data submitted and entered into RSA’s Management Information System (MIS)

Additional sources used were key informant and focus group interviews, and surveys of individuals with visual impairments, FDBS staff, partners, and businesses. The CSNA identified the most relevant and pressing needs of the Division, consumers, and community partners. Strategies developed to address these needs are covered in Section O of this plan. 

Overall Agency Performance

  • Staff turnover presents a challenge that has an effect on service delivery speed and the continuity of partner relationships. Staff turnover is a common challenge faced by VR agencies across the country.
  • The Division needs to more effectively market services to the community and increase public awareness of the organization.
  • Staff training is an essential need.

The Needs of Individuals with the Most Significant Disabilities, including their Need for Supported Employment

  • Transportation was cited most frequently as a significant need of consumers; this is especially true in rural areas where options for public transportation are extremely limited. The lack of available public transportation for individuals with disabilities, including individuals with blindness and visual impairments, is often cited as a significant barrier to employment. 
  • Assistive technology, independent living skills, and self-advocacy skills training were cited as significant needs of individuals with blindness and visual impairments by those interviewed and surveyed for the CSNA.
  • The fear of the loss of SSA benefits affects the return-to-work behavior of individuals with blindness and visual impairments in Florida; this is also a common concern of SSA beneficiaries across the nation.
  • Supported employment services are purchased from one primary provider - with the ability to contract with other providers as needed.