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i. 5. Personnel to Address Individual Communication Needs

Describe how the designated State unit has personnel or obtains the services of other individuals who are able to communicate in appropriate modes of communication with or in the native language of applicants or eligible individuals who have limited English speaking ability.

Current Narrative:

ADRS maintains regular communication with programs providing specialized training in the areas of deafness and blindness. Communication is maintained with Western Oregon University to train staff in the area of deafness. Staff members serving the deaf and hard of hearing populations attend an annual training conference to address issues relative to deaf services and to meet with students at the Alabama School for the Deaf. The department also remains actively involved with Mississippi State University’s blind program. Mississippi State also assists the blind programs with consumer satisfaction surveys. Staff members serving the blind and low vision populations attend training programs annually to address issues relative to blind services. The department possesses Braille and large print producing capabilities in local offices to address the needs of Braille and large print users. UbiDuos and video phones are available in the reception areas, resource rooms and counselor offices to assist staff and consumers with communication and hearing difficulties. ADRS requires all counselors for the deaf to be proficient in sign language to communicate with deaf consumers in their native language. To qualify for both the VR counselor and deaf support specialist positions, a person must possess an Intermediate rating on the Sign Language Proficiency Interview (SLPI). In addition, ADRS employs 8 full-time, nationally certified sign language interpreters. These interpreters help to facilitate communication between the deaf community and any ADRS staff. Our staff interpreters make every effort to provide services as needed but when necessary, qualified contract interpreters are also made available.

ADRS continues to work with Alabama A&M University to target and recruit candidates for the rehabilitation counseling program in either the blindness or deafness tract. This two-year master's program includes the second year in Mississippi (MSU Vision Specialist) or Tennessee (UT's Orientation to Deafness) for the specialized training. Troy University and Winston-Salem University in North Carolina both have new deaf concentrations in their rehabilitation counseling programs and work closely with ADRS.

ADRS applicants and eligible individuals who speak limited English can be provided interpreters or are able to access vendors for remote interpreter services. The ADRS consumer guide has been translated into Spanish. Spanish instruction is encouraged by using technology and individual instruction either online or in person for staff.