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a. 3. The designated State unit’s explanations for rejecting any of the Council’s input or recommendations.

Current Narrative:

Recommendation 1. Deaf and Hard of Hearing

  • The FRC recommends the creation of a Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Bureau be considered by VR and the DOE.

Agency Response:
The Division appreciates FRC’s concerns about how the needs of individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing are addressed; however, VR disagrees with this recommendation.

  • As a cross-disability organization, VR strives to create organizational structures and strategies to build capacity to meet the needs of people with all types of disabilities, including those who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Deafblind.  VR also relies on the recommendations of the Comprehensive Statewide Needs Assessment (CSNA), conducted in conjunction with FRC, to make data and research-driven strategic decisions. 
  • Section Three of the CSNA, “Needs of Individuals with Disabilities from Different Ethnic Groups, Including Needs of Individuals Who May Have Been Underserved or Unserved by the VR Program,” provides the following observation: “Deaf individuals were characterized as potentially underserved because there is a shortage of qualified interpreters in many parts of the State.”  The CSNA goes on to recommend that VR “recruit and hire bilingual staff, including those that are fluent in sign language,” 
  • VR agrees with this assessment and recommendation and has taken action in anticipation of it.
  • In recent years, VR has:
    • Elevated Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deafblind Services to a specific unit, rather than being a part of the general VR policy team.  Moved Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deafblind Services to the Bureau of Field Services to strengthen the connection between the technical assistance and coordination services the unit provides and the field staff who deliver the services, thus increasing the capacity of all field staff.  Creating a separate bureau would risk severing the connection. 
    • Recognizing that one of the main barriers to serving individuals who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Deafblind, is the lack of qualified sign language interpreters, and the difficulty in retaining staff interpreters, VR has entered into a contract with ServiceSource to increase the number of staff interpreters that are available.  This contract added nine interpreters in geographic areas of need identified by field staff.  VR staff members who are qualified interpreters are eligible for salary enhancements during the hiring process or if they obtain credentials while employed by VR.  To the extent this has not been sufficient, the ServiceSource contract is intended to expand capacity further.