December 2020 Meeting Minutes

State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) December 8-9, 2020 Quarterly Meeting

Zoom/Phone meeting

Topic/ Key Points

Call to Order (Roll Call-In Person):  Tonya Robinson, Ceylane Meyers-Ruff, Joseph Delgado, Gregory Lau, Ellice Switzer, Susan Scheer, Erica Molina, Diane Woodward, Jennifer Semonite, David Morgan, Laura Hartmann, Sebastian Chittilappilly, Hillary Nichols, Melinda Dolezal, Lorie Boyd, Peter Herring, Alan Gallagher, Lynne Thibdeau, Miranda Harms, Megan Brown, Naomi Brickel, Jennifer Machucki, Jenny Hutkowski, Joanie Parker

Excused: Lindsay Miller, Liam McNabb

Guests/Public: Joseph Amodeo, Nancy Grant, Toni Sullivan, Chana Meir, Anthony Morano, Kathleen Grosvenor, Valarie Gambino-Carelli, Evelyn Pugh, Robert Statham, Monica Toye-Smith, Dora Lee Stanley, Valerie Celentano, Pat Dowse, Maria Lombardi, Alan Sessions, Kathy DeAngelo

Review of the agenda: Tonya Robinson-Mayer

Additional Agenda Items:

  • None

Review and approve September 29-30, 2020 minutes:

  • September 29-30, 2020 Minutes reviewed.  No abstentions.  All voted in favor of approval.

Public Comment

  • No public comment noted.

Welcome New members:

  • New members were invited to the December SRC quarterly meeting to observe as members of the public.   

Presentation – Comprehensive Statewide Needs Assessment and State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) dialogue:

  • Diane Woodward, Manager for Policy, Training and WIOA implementation Units
  • Overview on Comprehensive Statewide Needs Assessment (CSNA) was presented including a recap from the September 2020 Quarterly meeting presentation on this topic (see September 2020 Quarterly meeting notes):
    • Proposed Needs Assessment activities:
      • Comparative assessment of needs in New York State
      • Conduct a brief literature review of emerging national trends from available data and among California, Florida and Texas drawing comparison in employment outcomes.
    • Refining the needs through group concept mapping:
      • Collect information from constituents on what does an effective, progressive, and culturally responsive vocational rehabilitation program that services the diverse needs of youth and adults with disabilities include?
    • Finalize the identified needs after conducting focus groups for feedback
    • SRC involvement in the process:
      • Planning
      • Data collection
      • Review findings
      • Develop recommendations
      • Information for inclusion in ACCES-VR’s section of the State Plan
  • SRC review of presentation and discussion:
    • Topic:  Ability to review feedback received by race or disability type.
      • SRC comment:
        • What method will be used to identify subgroups of people by race and/or disability?
      • ACCES-VR response:
        • Question will be posed to Cornell and national data will be linked to data sets inclusive of race and disability type.
    • Topic:  Impact of COVID-19.
      •  SRC comment:
        •  Will the Needs Assessment take into consideration the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic?
      • ACCES-VR response:
        •  ACCES-VR will share this question with Cornell.  The Needs Assessment is completed every three years and data collected will be available to evaluate trends in the workforce.

Presentation – Order of Selection

  • Monica Toye-Smith, Manger Quality Assurance and Monitoring Unit (QAMU)
  • Overview of Order of Selection was presented including:
    • General provisions – ACCES-VR must be able to provide a full range of services to eligible individuals as indicated in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).
    • If vocational rehabilitation services cannot be provided to all eligible individuals, Order of Selection criteria are established by State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies to provide services to individuals based on established categories. 
    • There is no one indicator that triggers a State Vocational Rehabilitation Agency to provide services under an Order of Selection.
    • Capacity to provide services is evaluated based on projected fiscal and personnel resources and assessment of the rehabilitation needs of individuals with significant disabilities.  
    • ACCES-VR evaluates the number of applicants, the timeliness of processing applications and establishing an Individualized Employment Plan (IPE), case load size of each vocational rehabilitation counselor as required under the federal guidelines.
    • ACCES-VR continues to not elect to use an Order of Selection and the SRC Quality Assurance subcommittee continues to work together with ACCES-VR to provide feedback on Order of Selection processes.
  • SRC review of presentation and discussion:
    • Topic:   Eligibility Determination and Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE)
      • SRC comment/question:
        • How does ACCES-VR get reports showing compliance with the Federally required timelines for Eligibility Determination and development of Individualized Plan of Employment?
      • ACCES-VR response:
        • The ACCES Data Unit provides Central Office and District Office leadership with weekly reports by District Office and by counselor showing the rates of compliance. 
    • Topic:  List of Order of Selection Indicators
      • SRC comment/question:
        • Is there a list of indicators to trigger an Order of Selection?
      • ACCES-VR response:
        • There is not a list of indicators. No one indicator triggers an Order of Selection.

Presentation – Disability Employment Initiative (DEI) – Resources Advocacy and the Job Search.

The DEI Initiative and Disability Resource Coordinators.

  • Pat Dowse, moderator, Maria Lombardi, Disability Resource Coordinator (DRC), Hempstead Works, Alan Sessions, DRC, Chenango-Delaware-Otsego Workforce, Kathy DeAngelo, DRC, Chenango-Delaware-Otsego Workforce.
  • Overview of the DEI program:
    • The Disability Employment Initiative (DEI) is jointly funded and administered by the United States Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration and the Office of Disability Employment Policy.
  • The DEI’s purposes includes:
    • Improve educational, training, and employment opportunities and outcomes for adults with disabilities who are unemployed, underemployed, and/or receiving Social Security disability benefits.
    • Improve coordination and collaboration among workforce partners.
    • Build effective community partnerships to better serve individuals with disabilities and improve employment outcomes.
  • The role of the Disability Resource Coordinators (DRCs):
    • Help expand the workforce development system to serve as Employment Networks under the Ticket to Work program.
    • Provide services to individuals who have a Ticket to Work Ticket.
    • Develop and maintain partnerships and collaborative activities.
    • Help ensure job seekers with disabilities access all relevant programs.
    • Assist with training Career Center staff and partner staff.
    • Assist in maintaining and ensuring the accessibility of the Career Centers.
  • Information and resources on Your Dream Your Team, ABLE accounts and benefits and counseling and advisement were shared.
  • Resources for can be found at:
    https://www.cdoworkforce.org/toolkit
    https://www.ablenrc.org/what-is-able/what-are-able-acounts/
    https://labor.ny.gov/career-center-locator/

Presentation – Adult Career Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR) 2021 Satisfaction Survey

  • Dora Lee Stanley, Manager Recruitment and Staff Development, Valerie Celentano Program Research Specialist, ACCES Data Unit.
  • ACCES-VR provided drafts of the Participant, Provider and Youth Satisfaction Surveys in advance of the meeting for the SRC to review. Presentation on the surveys was provided and break out rooms were used for SRC members to provide comment and feedback.
  • Overview of survey parameters and SRC participation was presented.
  • Additional presentation information included:
    • A newly established survey was designed to reach youth in New York State who had exited ACCES-VR services before an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) was developed.
    • Method of survey development and distribution:
      • Surveys will be developed on Microsoft Forms and distributed via email and paper surveys to maximize distribution options.
      • Participant Satisfaction Survey will be distributed in English and Spanish.
    • Survey development inclusive of SRC input and feedback
    • ACCES-VR will distribute the surveys
  • Participant Satisfaction Survey:
    • Surveys will be mailed and provide an option to electronically complete via NYSED website.
    • Survey will consist of approximately 15 questions. 
    • A random selection of 10,000 Participants will be surveyed.
  • Provider (Vendor) Satisfaction Survey:
    • Surveys will be distributed via email to be complete on Microsoft Forms.
    • Survey consists of 23 questions.
    • All Core Rehabilitation Services (CRS) providers and Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision (BPSS) vendors, active during the 2019 calendar year will be invited to complete the survey.
    • Approximately 362 CRS providers and 139 BPSS providers were active during the 2019 calendar year.
  • Youth Survey:
    • This survey was developed in response to a recommendation from RSA.
    • It is anticipated that the results will assist ACCES-VR in developing goals with measurable targets to decrease the number of youths exiting from ACCES-VR before the development of an IPE and identify strategies to achieve these goals.
    • Surveys will be distributed via email invitations to complete Microsoft Form Survey.
    • Survey will consist of approximately 20 questions. 
    • Survey will be sent to approximately 2,450 youth
  • Survey Techniques:
    • Questions will be formatted to generate cleaner data and eliminate varying perceptions of what a question is asking.
    • Surveys will use ‘Other’ option when appropriate to identify what answers could be missing from the options.  This can be analyzed and incorporated into future surveys and programs.
    • Likert Scales will be utilized allowing a survey respondent to rate their satisfaction or agreement with a statement.
    • Omitting neutral answers to eliminate indifferent answers has been incorporated in survey design.
    • Subtitles are incorporated to allow for more specific directions to the question, or to clarify what is being asked in a question.
  • SRC review of presentation and discussion:
    • Topic: Next steps in considering feedback:
      • Comments and feedback will be sent to the Chair of the SRC, compiled and forwarded to ACCES-VR for consideration.

ACCES updates:

Ceylane Meyers-Ruff, ACCES Acting Deputy Commissioner

New York State Education Department update:

  • Kevin Smith, Adult Career Continuing Education Services (ACCES) Deputy Commissioner has officially retired.
  • Ceylane Meyers-Ruff has been appointed as Acting Deputy Commissioner of ACCES.
  • Broad overview of all the departments within ACCES was provided:
    • ACCES-VR, Adult Education, Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision (BPSS), Adult Education Programs and Policy, High School Equivalency (HSE) including Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC™)/programs and services.

ACCES-VR update:

  • Case management system:
    • It is anticipated the ACCES-VR’s new case management system, AWARE, will be implemented in 2022.
  • Email to Text update:
    • New technology called Yak Chat allows ACCES-VR counselors to send an email that will be received as a text by participants. This technology is being currently being rolled out after a successful pilot and it is anticipated that it will be available in all District Office by
    •  by Spring 2021.
  • National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) update:
    • Activities were conducted via virtual events and partnering with organizations and businesses across the state. Activities including virtual job fairs, panel discussions with employers, how to complete a virtual interview, and identifying labor industries that are hiring.
  • Remote service delivery update:
    • In late May, ACCES-VR began accepting electronic applications.
    • A series of orientation videos have been created and posted on the website including:
      • ACCES-VR: Your Journey to Employment Begins Today.
      • ACCES-VR: How to Apply for ACCES-VR Services.
      • ACCES-VR: Do You Want a Job That Requires a College Degree?
    • Further information can be found at: http://www.acces.nysed.gov/vr/apply-vocational-rehabilitation-services#orientation
    • Additional videos on vocational training and transition services will be developed.
  • Update on Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) for Potentially Eligible students.
    • Currently each District Office has one Pre-ETS vendor. The Bronx is the only NYC school district affiliated with the current contract.
    • It is anticipating a new contract for the NYC area will begin in 2021.
  • Impact of COVID-19 on vendors:
    • Applications for services have decreased having a direct impact on the number of referral vendors are receiving. 
    • A 20% withholding is in effect for services receiving State funding due to the significant State budget deficit as a result of COVID-19. This is not considered an official cut in funding.  Federally funded programs are not subject to the withholding.
    • The State Extended Supported Employment for adults and the Independent Living Centers have been impacted.
    • In some areas of the State organizations serving individuals with Intellectual and/or Development Disabilities have merged.
    • A significant number of individuals with disabilities have lost their jobs and ACCES-VR is evaluating any potential impact on service demand.
  • SRC discussion:
    • Topic:  Ways to utilize unused monies.
      • SRC comment/question:
        • Are there any unused or underutilized dollars that may be redistributed?
      • ACCES-VR response:
        • There currently are no plans to redistribute funds.  Vendors are paid via fee-for-service contracts.  Contract amendments can take up to 6 months or longer.  Issuing new RFPs and new contracts can take a least 1 year.
        • The COVID timeline is unclear.  We don’t know how long it will take for spending to return to per COVID-19 levels. 
  • Topic: Impact of COVID-19 on reporting requirements.
    • SRC comment/question:
      • As vendors potentially are unable to remain viable, at what point will this effect ACCES-VR reporting requirements?
    • ACCES-VR response:
      • We are getting some new applications, making eligibility determinations, and authorizing new services.  There are ACCES-VR participants who are receiving services. That said the strain on vendors is very difficult.
      • In the short-term, there is currently no impact to ACCES-VR’s reporting requirements. Every state vocational rehabilitation agency is having the same experience.
      • We will continue to monitor the situation
  • Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC) certification sponsorship update:
    • ACCES-VR and the NYS Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) are evaluating the standard fee structure of programs.  Guidance will be issued.
  • Council on Postsecondary Education update:
    • Priorities for the council are increasing supports for individuals with disabilities in Postsecondary education including:
    • Readers Aid – A program coordinated that provides funding each academic year to participating Institutions of Higher Education to help to meet the costs of note-taker, reader and/or interpreter services.
  • Ceylane will present the need for universal design and accommodations at the December Board of Regents meeting.

Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) conference update:

  • Topics at the conference included:
    • Performance Measures
    • Increasing equality, inclusion, and diversity - Some states have dedicated committees addressing the issues of equity, inclusion and diversity and State Ed is looking at internal options for training/discussion.

Interagency Reports:

Advisory Council on Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities:

  • The SRC was provided information on:
    • Higher Education’s Next Great Challenge: Ensuring Full Inclusion for Students with Disabilities.
    • Educause Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) Study of the Technology Needs of Students with Disabilities, 2020.
    • The State of Digital Accessibility 2020.
  • It was recommended at a future SRC meeting the presentation from the college students about universal design and accessibility shown to the Postsecondary Advisory Council be viewed.

Technology Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities (TRIAD):

  • There are 12 TRIAD centers across the New York State that are connected through the National Assistive Technology Data System. TRAID receives funding from ACCES-VR for employment and education services related to assistive technology. TRAID partners with Money Follows the Person (MFP) to assist older New Yorkers with Assistive Technology needs as well as Early Intervention (EI) to assist with the needs of children aged 0-3.
  • Impact of COVID-19:
    • Most of the TRAID centers have seen increases in the demand for devices for older adults to maintain independence at home and for distance learning and education.
    • Many loans have been requested for longer than usual due to COVID-19.
  • TRAID/ACCS-VR totals as of 12/8/2020:
    • 206 short-term loans of 421 devices (typically no more than 60 days).
    • 20 open-ended loans of 33 devices (more than 60 days).
    • 59 demonstrations of 72 devices.
    • 7 trainings.

Disability Rights New York/ Client Assistance Program/ Protection & Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (DRNY/CAP/BAPSS:

  • The CAP annual report is being completed and will be shared when available.
  • Two recent trends have been identified from CAP –Individuals not meeting Financial Need and access to technology to participate in services

Office of Mental Health:

  • No update at this time.

New York State Independent Living Council, Inc. (NYSILC):

  • No update at this time.

New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB):

  • The Commission continues to develop and implemented strategies to provide services remotely and continues to develop their technology systems.
  • Staff continue to work remotely, and they began providing some in person services.
  • Applications for services continue to be accepted.

New York State Office of Special Education:

  • Ongoing technical assistance to staff has been provided.
  • Reopening of Schools Frequently Asked Questions has been posted.

New York State Department of Labor (DOL):

  • DOL offices remain closed to the public but partner agencies are open.
  • The DOL continues to process unemployment claims and provide resources for individuals seeking employment.

New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD):

  • No update at this time.

SRC Business:

  • The Annual SRC report is being completed. Success stories and artwork have been submitted.
  • A survey was sent to SRC members to vote on the artwork to be included in the report.
  • Joe Delgado was nominated and accepted the nomination to be the new SRC representative for the Council on Postsecondary Education.
  • Tonya Robinson is sending a survey to SRC members to vote on finalizing the SRC Guiding Principles.

Executive Committee Report:

  • Committee chairs gathered and submitted annual report information to ACCES-VR.
  • The December meeting agenda and process for new members to join the December meeting was developed.
  • Breakout groups to review the Participant, Provider and Youth surveys were established.
  • The proposed 2021 meeting schedule was developed and will be shared.

Membership Committee:

  • Recommending developing a strategy to recruit individuals to represent Native American constituency.
  • It was recommended a review of the existing committees be conducted.  Feedback submitted will be reviewed at the next Executive Committee meeting and shared with full SRC.
  • Tonya Robinson will review the applications of the newly appointed members and select subcommittees based on their preferences indicated on their SRC application.

Transition Committee:

  • A presentation on the Potentially Eligible students’ contract will be present to SRC in March 2021.

Policy and Planning Committee:

  • No update at this time.

Workforce Development:

  • Developed the presentation for this SRC Quarterly meeting on Resources and Strategies for a Proactive Job Search During COVID-19.  

Quality Assurance Improvement:

  • No updates at this time.

4.2 Recommendations:  None at this time

Old Business: 

  • None

Next Meeting March 2-3, 2021

It is suggested from 9am – 11am for New Member Orientation and full meeting to follow.