June 2021 Meeting Minutes

State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) June 8-9, 2021 Quarterly Meeting

Zoom/Phone Meeting

Topic/ Key Points

Call to Order (Roll Call), Andrew Sink, Anthony Morano, Brenda Shannon, Ceylane Meyers-Ruff, Chana Meir, David Morgan, Diane Woodward, Ellice Switzer, Evelyn Pugh, Gregory Lau, Hillary Nichols, Jennifer Machucki, Jennifer Semonite, Jenny Hutkowski, Joseph Amodeo, Joseph Delgado, Kathleen Grosvenor, Lafayette Williams, Lorie Boyd, Megan Brown, Melinda Dolezal, Miranda Harms, Nancy Grant, Naomi Brickel, Peter Herrig, Robert Statham, Sebastian Chittilappilly, Toni Sullivan, Valarie Gambino-Carelli

Excused: Laura Hartmann

Absent: Alan Gallagher, Lynne Thibdeau

Guests/Public: John Jurkin

Review of the agenda: Ellice Switzer

Additional Agenda Items:

  • None

Review and approve March 2-3, 2021 minutes:

  • March 2-3, 2021 minutes reviewed. No abstentions. All voted in favor of approval.

Public Comment

  • No public comment made

New member introduction:

  • Lafayette Williams, representative of the New York State Independent Living Council (NYSILC) was introduced as new member of SRC.

NYS SRC Guiding Principles and Vision Statement Reviewed:

A review of the Guiding Principles and Vision Statement for alignment with the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) was conducted.  It was noted the Guiding Principles were amended and finalized last year (2020).

  • Member Discussion on the Vision Statement:
    • Discussion: Shall the SRC change the vision statement to include the word inclusion in the community resulting in Competitive Integrated Employment?
    • Recommendation: The following recommendation to amend the vision statement was made:
      • The New York State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) encourages, supports and challenges ACCES-VR to make transformational change that results in competitive integrated employment, self-sufficiency, and meaningful community participation and inclusion of New York State citizens with disabilities.
  • Motion to approve adopting Vision Statement as amended:
    • Andy Sink motioned to adopt amendment. Toni Sullivan seconded. None opposed and no abstention. Vision Statement was adopted as amended. The date will be added on the Guiding Principles document to reflect the approved change.

Subcommittee Work:

SRC subcommittees, and their membership, have been restructured to align with ACCES-VR’s priorities in its section of the NYS Combined State Plan. The following are restructured-standing subcommittees:

  • Executive
  • Annual Report
  • Membership
  • Quality Assurance and Improvement
  • Workforce Development / Business Engagement

The following was identified as ad hoc committee due to the variable nature of their work:

  • Policy Planning Committee

Subcommittees’ Scope of Work:

In collaboration with the SRC Chair, Vice-Chair, ACCES-VR leadership and SRC members, each subcommittee will create a work plan, associated calendars, timelines, and tasks including descriptions of the purpose, mission and expected inputs and outputs from members of subcommittees and ACCES-VR staff. 

Annual Report Subcommittee:

Purpose:

Prepare and submit the NYS SRC annual report in collaboration with ACCES-VR.

Membership Subcommittee:

Purpose:

The Membership Committee recruits, interviews, and recommends members of the SRC per the requirements of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended under Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The committee is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion when identifying, recruiting, and recommending new members to the SRC.

Quality Assurance and Improvement (QAI) Subcommittee:

Purpose:

The QAI Committee collaborates with ACCES-VR on ways to improve services that would result in the number of satisfied individuals receiving vocational rehabilitation services. This also includes providing advisement on the quality and improvement of vendor services. 

Workforce Development / Business Engagement Subcommittee:

Purpose:

To review current business engagement initiatives and provide feedback and suggestions to ACCES-VR to support improved performance under WIOA business engagement.

Subcommittee Request:

Request data from ACCES-VR about partnerships with businesses.

ACCES-VR response to request:

The WIOA performance measure, effectively service business, that all required State partners, (ACCES-VR, Adult Education and NYS Department of Labor), will be measured on in the future is still being piloted at the Federal level. ACCES-VR currently captures business engagement information in the NYS Department of Labor’s One-Stop Operating System (OSOS).  ACCES-VR can discuss with the subcommittee what is currently being captured to support understanding of what data may or may not be available. 

Subcommittee Request: 

Are there other places the SRC may access data on Business Engagement trends such as the New York Employment Services System (NYESS)?

SRC Member Response:

Andy Sink shared the following:  Under New York Employment Services System (NYESS) business data as discussed by the SRC are not collected.  This employment system consists of the NYS Department of Labor's One-Stop Operating System (OSOS) which connects job seekers with employment opportunities in the NYS Job Bank, as well as a data warehouse of employment-related information operated by OMH.

The BenchmarkAbility Initiative on Employment First was suggested as a future topic for gauging business engagement and effectiveness in servicing business.

SRC Business – subcommittees:

  • All subcommittee recommendations are due to the SRC Chair by Friday June 11, 2021. Final document will be voted on for approval at the Executive Committee meeting in July.
  • The SRC Chair to send a template for each subcommittee to consider for use in development of work plans and calendar of actives
  • Any member of the SRC is welcome to join an additional subcommittee

Interagency Reports:

Advisory Council on Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities:

  • Discussion and development of methods to make Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) more accommodating for students with disabilities. Updates will follow.
  • Students Empowerment Day was a success. On February 25, 2021 college campuses throughout New York State hosted the event in support of college students with disabilities.
  • Presentation given by Christopher Hromalik on a pilot study conducted at Onondaga Community College on training community college instructors on how to create a framework for designing curriculum to be more inclusive and accessible to all learners. Focus of training was twofold:
    • Helping student learners become more motivated and enabling them to access information, and
    • It challenged the instructors to maintain a rigorous curriculum while ensuring student learners demonstrate knowledge in various ways.
    • A summary of the research was published online by the Association for Educational Communication and Technology, (November 2019) titled “All Faculty Should Take this, A Universal Design for Learning Training for Community College Faculty” by Hromalik, Myhill and Carr.   

Technology Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities (TRAID):

  • As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted more TRAID Centers are opening to the public.
  • All 12 TRAID Centers are open for remote services and site visits are beginning to be offered.
  • The TRAID Directors’ Meeting was held virtually at the end of April and will continue to be held virtually for the foreseeable future.
  • The Interagency Partnership on Assistive Technology (IPAT), TRAID’s advisory council, will be meeting on 06/30/21 from 1:00PM-3:00PM.  Discussion from the January meeting will continue on the potential for a financial training aimed at borrowers of Assistive Technology.
  • New members are invited to join IPAT, especially individuals who use assistive technology and their family members.

The Request for Proposal (RFP) for the next TRAID contract is almost complete.

  • The Justice Center continues to work with ACCES-VR to update the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that establishes the TRAID partnership.

Activity totals for 1/1/21-6/8/21:

  • 359 devices purchased
  • 117 short-term loans (typically 60 days or less)
  • 17 demonstrations
  • 47 open-ended loans or 82 devices (Cost savings of $27,668.07)

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

  • Staff continue to work remotely
  • Staff are beginning to outreach to individuals
  • DRNY received $208,000 grant to increase access to Covid-19 vaccines for individuals with disabilities.

Office of Mental Health (OMH):

  • Office of Mental Health is focusing on their State aid funded programs to engage affirmative businesses to identify training and best practices in employment.

Staff update:

  • Katie Merrill is now the Director of Rehabilitation Services.  She will provide programmatic oversight and technical assistance for community-based adult rehabilitation programs and services statewide, including Personalized Recovery Oriented Services (PROS), Adult Behavioral Health Home and Community Based Services (BH HCBS), and Community-Oriented Recovery and Empowerment (CORE) Services. Responsibilities include supervision of unit staff, program design, policy development, and associated implementation activities.
  • The New York Employment Services System (NYESS) and the NYS Department of Labor’s Disability Resource Coordinators are working together building resources and partnerships for data fidelity and to support staff.
  • A neurodiversity initiative that provided training and technical assistance to staff to improve business engagement will end in June.  This was a collaboration between the Employment First Commission, OPWDD and OMH and an update will be provided when available.

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

Update will be provided at September Quarterly

New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB):

No update at this time

New York State Office of Special Education:

Providing over-age students opportunity to return in 2021-2022 school year:

  • April 13, 2021 - To ensure that students who are 21 years old have the chance to earn their high school diploma and fully prepare for the transition to their planned postsecondary experiences, the Board of Regents and the New York State Education Department (SED) are strongly encouraging schools and school districts to allow those students who will age out of school the opportunity to return for summer school and, if necessary, attend school in the 2021-2022 school year.  This would provide students with the ability to complete their education and earn a diploma, credential, or endorsement. Additional information may be references at:  Providing Over-Age Students, the Opportunity to Return to School in the 2021-22 School Year Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic 

Regents Examinations:

  • March 19, 2021 - The New York State Education Department (NYSED) is cancelling all but four of the Regents Examinations scheduled to be administered in June 2021.  NYSED plans to administer the following Regents Examinations in June 2021: Algebra I, Earth Science (written test only), English Language Arts, and Living Environment. NYSED is required to administer these four exams to comply with the Federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The August 2021 administration of Regents Examinations will be cancelled as this administration period is not required to comply with ESSA. 

Additional information about diploma requirements may be referenced in the NYSED’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

Frequently Asked Questions Related to the June 2021 and August 2021 Exemptions from Diploma Requirements

Any questions about the exemptions from examination requirements or the effect of such exemptions on student qualifications for a diploma should be directed to: emscgradreq@nysed.gov

Further information may be accessed at:

Exemptions from Diploma Requirements and Cancellation of the August 2021 Administration of the New York State (NYS) High School Regents Examination Program in Response to the Ongoing Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic

New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL):  

  • Career Centers continue to operate remotely.
  • Training on Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Medicaid and Medicare were provided to NYSDOL staff in preparation of returning to in-person services.
    • The Disability Employment Initiative (DEI) Round 8 will end on September 30, 2021.  The DEI funds three Disability Resource Coordinators (DRC) to implement activities that improve education and employment outcomes for youth with disabilities by increasing their participation in existing Career Pathways programs.  Additionally, it expands the capacity of the New York State (NYS) Career Center system to serve youth with disabilities using a career-development approach. Approximately 500 youth with disabilities have been served and almost 160 placed into unsubsidized employment.
    • The DEI has created a new resource to address business needs and developing a sustainable talent pipeline. 

          Additional information may be references at:  www.yourdreamyourteam.com

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

No update at this time.

Committee Reports:

Executive Committee Report:

  • Created quarterly agenda, work plans and template of calendar for subcommittees tasks

Membership Committee Report:

  • Approved amended changes to Membership committee’s description of purpose
  • Voted to elect Joe Delgado as Chair
  • Working toward completing work plan

Transition Committee Report:

  • Subcommittee was disbanded as transition to adult life is infused in all areas of SRC work.  New liaison to be identified to work with the SRC.

Policy and Planning Committee Report:

  • Subcommittee was determined to be ad hoc.  SRC members will be selected based on the document(s) to be reviewed. 

Workforce Development / Business Engagement Committee Report:

  • Work continued on developing the purposes and activities of the subcommittee needed to complete the work plan.

Quality Assurance Improvement (QAI) Committee Report:

  • Work continued on developing the purpose and activities of the subcommittee needed to complete the work plan.
  • A new Chair and Co-Vice Chair are needed.  Hillary Nichols volunteered to facilitate in the interim. Ellice Switzer recommend QAI discuss nominating a Chair and Co-chair at next subcommittee meeting.
  • Topics for presentation were discussed

Annual Report Committee Report:

  • Work continued on developing the purpose and activities of the subcommittee needed to complete the work plan.
  • Past annual reports reviewed for content and process of requesting ACCES-VR data, success stories and artwork for annual report were discussed

Workgroup Update on Satisfaction Surveys:

  • Provider survey and participant survey translated into Spanish
  • ACCES-VR is working with a contractor to translate document

4.2 Recommendations:  None

ACCES updates:

Ceylane Meyers-Ruff, ACCES Deputy Commissioner

New York State Education Department Update:

  • The State Education Department has started implicated bias training sponsored by the  NYS Civil Service. The training is for all of State Education Department staff.
    • ACCES-VR is in process of developing a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee. The committee’s focus is currently two-fold:
      • Staff training focusing on interactions among other staff, customers, and stakeholders, and  
      • Is there implicit bias in how referrals are made and how services are delivered

Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision (BPSS):

  • At the June Board of Regents meeting, proposed regulations were put forward in response to a New York State Office for the Comptroller (OSC) 2020 audit. There are three areas of focus:
  1. Financial viability: Proposal to create a framework for the improvement of the oversight for licensed career schools and certified English as a Second Language (ESL) schools.  Regulations currently allow Board Proprietary School Supervision (BPSS) to place a school on probation or get a bond to protect the tuition of students.  The proposed regulation will define what are the processes and triggers to place a school on probation or require a bond.
  2. Data collection: Proposal to clarify the type of data career schools should be reporting and collecting.  This would also and include data collection by ESL schools.
  3. Consumer protection: Often there are student agreements when students enroll in a school (known as enrollment agreements). When students have an enrollment agreement the following has been proposed:
    • Remove the Social Security number as a requirement for the enrollment agreement
    • Schools must give 30 days’ notice if they are to close.  Additionally, if BPSS denies a license and prohibits a school from renewing their license, schools are not allowed to enroll new students.

Proposed changes are available for public comment as posted in New York State register.

High School Equivalence (HSE)

  • A Request for Proposal (RFP) for the HSE is in process and on track. It is anticipated that a new contract will start January 1, 2022.
  • Due to COVID-19 restrictions, waivers for taking the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC) were issued.  The waivers expire June 2021.  Test centers and testing preparation programs are opening and classes filling up.

Adult Education: 

  • Bob Purga retired in May after 43 years of service. ACCES is in the process of posting his position to be filled.
  • ACCES continues the procurement process for Adult Education and WIOA funding.  Due to COVID-19, the required in-person pre- and post-testing of students has created challenges. ACCES is working collaboratively to find a solution.

ACCES-VR update:

  • Applications are beginning to increase. Buffalo, Albany, and Malone District Offices are close to pre-COVID-19 application levels.  All other District Offices are trending up.
  • Due to the pandemic, some vendors have not returned to full staffing capacity and have requested referrals be slowed until they build capacity to provide services. 
  • ACCES-VR will be re-opening its District Offices to public, by appointment only, on August 2, 2021.
  • Further guidance from the State Education Department is expected regarding a continued telecommuting policy.
  • ACCES-VR and the Department of Labor (DOL) are working collaboratively to provide a platform to provide remote training services.
    • Twice a month ACCES-VR Integrated Employment Specialists provide presentations to New Yorkers who are looking for assistance from DOL.  One presentation is an overview of ACCES-VR service and how to apply.  The second monthly presentation is on a topic of interest to those looking for work.  Current topics include information about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and how to request a reasonable accommodation.
  • Staff update: ACCES-VR has staff retirements.  While ACCES-VR continues to recruit for vocational rehabilitation counselor positions, the number of eligible counselors has declined with the decrease in the number of master’s programs and declining enrollment in those programs. A meeting with the graduate programs is scheduled to discuss curriculum related to WIOA, the expectations of ACCES-VR and the role of counselors.
  • The American Families Plan: ACCES-VR is monitoring the Federal administration’s proposed increased funding for community colleges and if there will be an impact on how ACCES-VR may be providing services. 
  • Subminimum wage employment and Competitive Integrated Employment: 
    • Under Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act employers may be authorized to pay individuals with disabilities less than Federal minimum wage, after receiving a certificate from the US Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. Prior to and during employment, these businesses also must follow all the requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act and WIOA.  
    • NYS through the OPWDD Transformations initiative has been working with work centers to transition to integrated businesses that employ people both with and without disabilities.
      • Request for an update from OPWDD will be made at Septembers meeting

SRC Comment:

Will telecommuting and remote services be allowed to continue?

ACCES-VR Response:

RSA has not disallowed the delivery of services remotely. ACCES-VR anticipates continuing to provide both in-person and remote service delivery opportunities.

SRC Comment:

What is ACCES-VR doing to encourage training for individuals with most significant disabilities?

ACCES-VR Response:

A dialogue with training schools needs to happen and ACCES-VR will seek opportunities for this discussion.  As part of the upcoming Comprehensive Needs Assessment ACCES-VR and the SRC will be looking at the vocational rehabilitation needs of individuals with most significant disabilities.

SRC Comment:

There is national lobby advocating ACCES-VR to use a workshop as a placement.

ACCES-VR Response:

ACCES-VR has provided training on Competitive Integrated Employment. Sheltered, non-integrated and/or subminimum wage employment has not been allowed Federally as an employment outcome for many years. 

SRC Comment:

Can student who has not received their master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling apply for a position as a vocational rehabilitation counselor?

ACCES-VR Response:

ACCES-VR is considering different opportunities in hiring practices.

SRC Comment:

How creative is NYS in job carving?

ACCES-VR Response:

The use of customized employment could be utilized more.

SRC Comment:

Is there an update on the implementation of the roll-out of ACCES-VR’s new case management system (AWARE)?

ACCES-VR response:

ACCES-VR continues to move forward with the implementation and roll out of AWARE.  Due to the volume of data that needs to be migrated, the implementation is taking longer than expected. Additionally, ACCES-VR is working on building an interface for electronic reporting, contracts, and other interactions. The anticipated go live date is currently December 2022.

Presentation: The Policy Planning Committee (PPC) coordinated a presentation on WIOA Performance Accountability and Other Measures that Matter. Presenter Rachel Anderson, Program Director & Technical Assistance Liaison to NYS, from the Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center for Quality Management (VRTAC-QM)

The presentation provided an overview on:

  • The Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center for Quality Management (VRTAC - QM) program
  • Differences between reporting requirement from the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)
  • WIOA six core programs
  • Foundations of vocational rehabilitation principles and competitive integrated employment
  • Common performance measures
  • Measurable skills gains (MSGs)
  • Review of publicly available data for ACCES-VR and other states’ vocational rehabilitation agencies data. 

Old Business:  None

  • Update on the upcoming travel procedure training was provided.
  • Committee descriptions for subcommittees are due Friday and the Chairs of subcommittees are to send it directly to their committee

Meeting adjourned.

Next Meeting September 28 – 29 2021

State Rehabilitation Council

The Council provides advice and support to The State Education Department’s Office of Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR) on behalf of people with disabilities and their families regarding the delivery of effective rehabilitation services that leads to employment for New Yorker's with disabilities.

State Council

Meeting Dates

The following meetings will be held virtually by zoom:
(Join the meeting via Zoom)

March 02-03, 2021
June 08-09, 2021

The following meetings will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn Albany Medical Center, 62 New Scotland Ave., Albany, NY  12208:

September 28-29, 2021
December 14-15, 2021

For confirmation of meeting dates or any additional information, contact (518) 486-7490.

Please note:  Interpreters are provided only upon request.  To request an interpreter or other accommodations, contact ACCES-VR as soon as possible at accessrc@nysed.gov  but no latter than 10 days prior to the meeting date.

Agenda for upcoming meeting

September 28-29, 2021