September 2021 Meeting Minutes

State Rehabilitation Council (SRC)September 28-29, 2021 Quarterly Meeting
Zoom/Phone Meeting

Topic/Key Points

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

Excused: Joseph Amodeo

Absent:

Guests/Public: Jumoke Branco

Review of the agenda: Ellice Switzer 

Additional Agenda Items:

None

Review and approve March 2-3, 2021 minutes:

June 8-9,2021 minutes reviewed. Andy Sink motioned approval, Lafayette Williams seconded. No abstentions. All voted in favor of approval.

Public Comment

No public comment made

Presentation: The Quality Assurance and Improvement subcommittee coordinated a presentation on Be the Future: Transforming Employment for People with Disabilities. Presenters Hillary Nichols, Employment Coordinator, Resource Center for Accessible Living Inc., and Frank S. Falatyn, FALA Technologies-President, Council of Industry-Director/ Workforce Chair and STEPs Pre-apprenticeship-Founder / Executive.

The presentation provided an overview on:

  • The challenges faced by individuals with disabilities and employers in the changing employment landscape, particularly in the advanced manufacturing sector.
  • Forming partnerships with the State University at New York (SUNY) engineering programs, SUNY community colleges and high schools.
  • Emerging industries in need of talent including construction trades, food and beverage, advanced manufacturing, information technology and healthcare services.   
  • Opportunities for individuals to participate in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) & Technical Exploring Pathways (STEPS) program
    • STEPS is a fully integrated training and placement program using the principles of universal design to train and prepare individuals for STEM-based technology jobs in all sectors of in-demand industries.
    • Apprenticeship programs and related education requirements including how the STEPS model helps individuals with disabilities breakthrough barriers and enter apprenticeships. 

Every apprentice is mentored by a skilled journeyman for 2000 paid training hours, equaling 4 years of apprenticeship training.

SRC Business: Review of roles, expectations, and conflicts of interest – Joe Delgado, SRC Co-Chair

SRC Roles in Partnership with ACCES-VR:

  • SRC members are appointed to represent the constituencies of New Yorkers with disabilities and their families.
  • Advise ACCES-VR on policies and programs.
    • Review revisions and updates to ACCES-VR’s policies and provide feedback. 
  • Participate in the implementation of the Comprehensive Statewide Needs Assessment.
  • Provide comments during the development of the ACCES-VR section of the NYS Combined State Plan.
    • Review ACCES-VR’s goals and priorities for its section of the NYS Combined State Plan.
  • Coordinate efforts with other state agencies; and
  • Prepare and submit to Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) and the NYS Board of Regents the SRC annual report and make the report available to the public.

Conflicts of Interest:

  • No member of the SRC may cast a vote on any matter that would provide direct financial benefit to the member or the member's organization or otherwise give the appearance of a conflict of interest.
  • When sensitive information is shared within SRC, further disclosure to agencies, staff, and/or networks outside the SRC is prohibited.

Subcommittee Work:

  • Over this past year the subcommittees have been restructured to align with providing advice and input to ACCES-VR on its:
    • WIOA priorities, common performance measures
    • The ACCES-VR section of the NYS Combined State Plan
    • The Comprehensive Statewide Needs Assessment
    • The effectiveness of the ACCES-VR program
    • Completion of the annual report
  • Uniform workplan templates, an annual report template, calendars, times, and task have been created as tools to facilitate the development of the work of the subcommittees in advising ACCES-VR

Chairs or Co-Chairs will create a calendar event for subcommittee meetings.  ACCES-liaisons will assist if needed.

Interagency Reports:

Advisory Council on Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities:

Next meeting is scheduled for the end of October. A subcommittee meeting is scheduled for October 15, 2021.  Updates will be provided during the December SRC quarterly meeting.

Technology Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities (TRAID):

  • Centers are open and providing services in-person and virtually.
  • TRAID’s advisory council meeting will be held in January 2022.
  • October 1, 2021 starts the new 5-year contract cycle.
  • 11 of the 12 contracts will remain the same.
  • Buffalo TRAID is interested in putting together a network system that links SUNY schools; it is currently in the project development stage.

Activity totals:

  • 835 devices purchased
  • 196 short-term loans (typically 60 days or less)
  • 48 demonstrations
  • 60 open-ended loans
  • Presentation will be given to businesses in the future

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

  • Programs and services are re-opened and working toward building back to full capacity.
  • Currently looking at ways to alternatively provide services and how to best serve individuals in their home and community.
  • Community activities in Day Habilitation and Community Pre-Vocational programs are limited due to COVID-19.
  • Staffing shortages within OPWDD and providers are a challenge in providing services. There are ongoing efforts to recruit staff.   
  • Status on work centers: As of July 1, 2021, OPWDD no longer operates or funds any segregated employment sites.  Approximately between 16 - 20 work centers are integrated businesses, but they can still pay sub-minimum wage. Approximately 75% are under Source America contracts.
    •  A request for numbers and names of businesses that pay subminimum wage was made.  Note:  ACCES-VR provides Career Counseling Information and Referral (CC&I&R) services to businesses that hold a 14c certificate which allows them to pay subminimum wage to individuals with disabilities. ACCES-VR will provide this information.

New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB):

  • The Regional Coordinator, Deputy Director and Associate Commissioner announced their retirements.  NYSCB is looking to fill these positions.
  • The NYSCB section of the NYS Combined State Plan is being drafted and an open forum for public feedback and comment will be held on Monday October 4, 2021.
  • NYSCB’s Comprehensive Statewide Needs Assessment is in final draft and will be published soon.
  • Progress in Measurable Skills Gains (MSGs) has been made and NYSCB has documented 90.3% rate in the last quarter.

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

  • Staff continue to work remotely until further notice.
  • DRNY was awarded a grant to assist in expanded access to COVID-19 vaccines for individuals with disabilities.  
    • How DRNY will utilize the grant is under review.  Some ideas include, but are not limited to, creating toolkits, holding round table sessions and information on accessible vaccination sites.
  • The Committee on Advancing Racial Equity (C.A.R.E.) continues their work with DRNY to continuously reflect internally on matters such as racism, privilege, bias, and intersectionality of social change.

Office of Mental Health (OMH):

  • Significant work on how current services, employment principles and practices are embedded and intentional within the psychiatric rehabilitation model with the goal to increase employment outcomes.
  • Proposals are being evaluated for Home Community Based Services (HCBS) to be delivered in a different way including consolidating some service and increasing accessibility of services.
  • In collaboration with DOL, OMH is looking to scale the Disability Employment Initiative (DEI) models around the State. 
    • Utilizing Disability Resource Coordinators, OHM and DOL served approximately 31,000 – 32,000 people with disabilities including approximately 550 youth.
  • An Office of State Comptroller (OSC) report was completed with the focus on Benefits Advisement Services for Individuals with Disabilities Seeking Employment.  OMH is reviewing the findings around Benefits Advisement and Employment First. Action steps are being implemented.
  • The Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Council (MISCC) will meet 9/29/2021. Suggestion was made to have regular updates from MISCC subcommittee members to the SRC.

New York State Office of Special Education:

New York State Education Department Summary Guide

  • August 10, 2021 - The New York State Education Department (NYSED) has released a summary guide based on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools and the American Academy of Pediatrics’ COVID-19 Guidance for Safe Schools, to aid schools and districts as they prepare for the 2021-2022 school year. Additional resources maybe referenced at:

Health and Safety Guide for the 2021-2022 School Year

New York’s Perkins V State Plan:

  • September 3, 2021 - As part of NYSED’s Perkins V State Plan, a content advisory panel (CAP) was convened to review work-based learning in New York and to develop a statewide definition and vision of work-based learning to guide all future initiatives. The CAP will be meeting again in the last week of October and the first week of November.  Additional information may be referenced at:

Updated Work-Based Learning Manual Memo

Governor Hochul’s School Reopening Guidance:

New State Performance Plan:

  • At least every six years a new State Performance Plan (SPP) is required.  Next year’s report is due February 2022 for Federal fiscal years (FFY) 2020-2025.  For the FFYs 2020-2025 SPP the NYSED is soliciting broad stakeholder input on setting New York State’s new targets and improvement activities. This is an opportunity for NYSED to receive input and feedback from parents, school administrators, educators, advocacy organizations, community members and other stakeholders on improving educational outcomes for students with disabilities. Further information may be accessed at: State Performance Plan (SPP)/Annual Performance Report (APR) – Stakeholder Involvement
  • Meetings will be held in November and the information on the meetings will be on the Stakeholder Involvement page.  Transition Indicators are:   Indicator-1- Graduation Rate, Indicator- 2- Dropout rates, Indicator-13 Secondary Transition and Indicator-14- Post school Outcomes.

At-a-Glance; State Performance Plan, Summary of Indicators 1-17

New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL): 

  • Career Centers continue to operate remotely.
  • The Disability Employment Initiative (DEI) Round 8 will end 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 Career Center system to serve youth with disabilities using a career-development approach. To date, approximately 550 youth with disabilities have been served, 216 were placed into unsubsidized employment and 121 in work experiences.

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

No update at this time.

Committee Reports:

Executive Committee Report:

  • Work continued on updating bylaws and Guiding Principles document. Language around Public Meeting law and minor changes are being reviewed in October.

Membership Committee Report:

Chair and Co-Chair confirmed:

  • Joe Delgado, Chair
  • Sebastian Chittilappilly, Co-Chair

Actions and discussions:

  • Strategies for outreach and recruitment of new members to make the SRC inclusive and representative of a broad range of individuals are being developed.
  • Upcoming vacancies are being monitored to maintain required membership and target timelines for onboarding new members.
  • The orientation materials and process for new members are being evaluated.
  • Qualifications for membership are being reviewed.  The committee is exploring the possibility and logistics of a high school student as a member to represent students/youth with a disability. 
  • Ways to use social media are being explored.

Workforce Development / Business Engagement Committee Report:

Chair and Co-Chair Confirmed:

  • Ellice Switzer is the temporary Chair
  • Nancy Grant, Co-Chair

Actions and discussions:

  • Discussed the summary for the SRC annual report as well as the scope of work for the Business Engagement Committee.
  • Reviewed Business Engagement metrics and benchmarks.
  • Discussed outreach and messaging to the business community as well as school districts.
  • Presentation topics for future SRC meetings are being discussed.

Quality Assurance Improvement (QAI) Committee Report:

Chair and Co-Chair Confirmed:

  • Hillary Nichols, Chair
  • Andy Sink, Co-Chair

Actions and discussions:

  • The committee is in the process of getting clarification on outputs to ACCES-VR.
  • Work continued on updating the committee’s work plan.
  • The QAI section of the SRC annual report is almost complete.

Annual Report Committee Report:

Chair and Co-Chair Confirmed:

  • Greg Lau, Chair
  • Kathy Grosvenor, Co-Chair

Actions and discussions:

  • SRC annual report summaries from Subcommittee Chairs are due by 10/12/21
  • Google poll to select artwork for SRC annual report will be forthcoming.
  • Reminder, committee is soliciting success stories for inclusion in the report.
  • Past SRC annual reports were reviewed by the subcommittee to learn what is included, the format and content.  The process of requesting ACCES-VR data, success stories and artwork for annual report were shared.

4.2 Recommendations:  None

ACCES updates:

Ceylane Meyers-Ruff, ACCES Deputy Commissioner

Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision (BPSS):

  • At the September Board of Regents meeting regulations were finalized in response to the New York State Office for the Comptroller (OSC) 2020 audit. BPSS is now working on implementing the new regulations.  These regulations address the following: 
    • Financial viability: Creates a framework for the improvement of the oversight for licensed career schools and certified English as a Second Language (ESL) schools.  The final regulation defines the processes and triggers to place a school on probation or require a bond to protect the tuition of students.
    • Data collection: Clarifies the types of data career schools should be reporting and collecting.  This includes data collection by ESL schools.
    • Consumer protection: When students have an enrollment agreement with a BPSS school:
      • Social Security numbers are not required for the enrollment agreement
      • Schools must give 30 days’ notice if they are to close. 
      • If BPSS denies a license and prohibits a school from renewing their license, schools are not allowed to enroll new students
  • BPSS has restructured and added new staff to review and identify potential financial issues with schools

High School Equivalency (HSE)

  • The Request for Proposal (RFP) for a new HSE vendor is in process and on track. The current contact ends December 2021 and it is anticipated that by early November HSE may have a signed contract and an official announcement of the new vendor.  The new contract is anticipated to begin January 1, 2022.
  • There is an increased discussion between ACCES-VR and HSE to obtain data related to Measurable Skills Gain (MSG) and Credential Attainment.

Adult Education: 

  • Marisa Boomhower has been appointed Director of Adult Education Programs and Policy replacing Bob Purga who retired.
  • Adult Education programs have begun to return to in-person learning. A variety of methods for teaching are being evaluated taking into consideration the logistics and programmatic variations across the State. 

ACCES-VR update:

  • On August 2, 2021 all District Offices opened to the public by appointment only.
  • Applications are down 46% overall, however ACCES-VR expects to see increases as applications are trending upwards in some parts of the State.  ACCES-VR leadership continues to monitor the number of applications closely.
    • ACCES-VR welcomes recommendations from the SRC on how to increase applications.
  • ACCES-VR remains in compliance with meeting eligibility determination and IPE development requirements and is working on exceeding compliance by evaluating best practices and the frequency of participant engagement.
  • The NYS Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) recently audited ACCES-VR’s Supported Employment services.
    • Results focused on timeliness of eligibility determination within 60 days of application and IPE development within 90 days of eligibility determination.  Compliance in these areas has already been addressed through ACCES-VR’s corrective action plan with RSA and monitoring of each ACCES-VR office continues on a weekly basis.
  • The number of Measurable Skills Gains (MSG) are increasing.  The RSA negotiated MSG rate was exceeded. This is attributed to an increased collective understanding of what is required, including how to collect and properly document the information.
  • Work on the Provider, Participant, and Youth Surveys are in process.
    • 385 provider surveys were sent and 149 have been returned. The results are being analyzed.
    • 5,000 youth surveys were sent by email and Yak Chat (text to email application). Results are anticipated by mid-November.
    • 10,0000 participant surveys will be mailed in December with a February 2022 return date.
  • ACCES-VR is working with NYS Civil Service to address staffing changes and challenges to fill vacant positions.  For example, civil service eligibility lists for vocational rehabilitation counselors (VRCs) are only updated twice annually.  This can make it difficult for otherwise qualified candidates to be considered for state employment. 
  • October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)
    • ACCES-VR is hosting events across the state celebrating all partners working to connect businesses with qualified workers who also have a disability.

SRC Comment:

NYS has two vocational rehabilitation (VR) programs, ACCES-VR and the NYS Commission for the Blind. A letter went to the NYS Comptroller’s Office requesting that the HSE procurement be reviewed to address accessibility issues.   How might this change the vendor timeline?  Will the new HSE vendor have the ability to address and increase accessibility to the exam for individuals with disabilities?

ACCES-VR Response:

This has been brought to the attention of the anticipated HSE vendor and the areas of concern have been addressed.

SRC Comment:

If ACCES-VR applications are down, do the numbers differ across the state?

ACCES-VR Response:

Yes, certain parts of the state have returned to pre-COVID numbers for applications while other areas of the state are not there yet.

SRC Comment:

What is the process for changing a vocational goal and/or services? For example, what if someone starts training, then changes their mind? Can a person be sponsored for training or school for more than once?

ACCES-VR Response:

When a person wants to change their vocational goal, they first need to reach out to their ACCES-VR counselor for a discussion. The vocational goal and services can be amended and the person’s plan, the Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE), can then be updated.  There is no limit on how many times ACCES-VR can sponsor training, however, all training needs to be tied to a vocational goal and the person needs to attempt work.

SRC Comment:

There was an Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE) survey related to reallotment of state vocational rehabilitation funds. What is this and how does this work?

ACCES-VR Response:

  • The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) reallots annual Federal vocational rehabilitation (VR) funds between State VR agencies who are unable to use all of their grant funds to State VR agencies who request additional grant funds for that year.
  • There are two requirements for reallotment: State match and Maintenance of Effort (MOE). If a State VR agency’s MOE is not met, then a portion of its Federal VR funds are given back to RSA. These funds are then available for reallotment to State VR agencies that have met their MOE and request additional funds from RSA.
    • States VR agencies that want more Federal funds may apply for these reallotment dollars. These funds can only be used for providing VR services. They cannot be used to create new services and they must be spent in one year.
    • In 2020, due to COVID-19, for that year’s annual reallotment RSA had more money returned from State VR agencies than requests for additional funds from State VR agencies.  Therefore, RSA created a Disability Innovation Fund (DIF) Discretionary/Competitive Grant that State VR agencies could apply for.  This is different and separate from the yearly reallotment process and funds for this grant were allowed to be used more flexibly.   ACCES-VR considered applying for this grant, however, due to staffing shortages there were no available staff to develop a concept and write the grant yet alone administer and operationalize the grant if awarded funds.  Therefore, ACCES-VR did not apply for the DIF grant. 

SRC Comment:

Does ACCES-VR sponsor education beyond the bachelor’s degree level?

ACCES-VR Response

Yes. ACCES-VR may sponsor education beyond the bachelor’s level. ACCES-VR can fund a graduate program if required for employment or career advancement.

SRC Comment:

Was there a shift away from ACCES-VR applications, even pre-COVID?

ACCES-VR Response:

Nationally, there had been a decrease in the number of applications to State VR agencies for several years.  Rachel Anderson touched on this in her presentation to the SRC in June.  ACCES-VR continues to be open to suggestions by the SRC on ways to increase applications.

Follow up comment from SRC:

OMH and OPWDD have similar issues regarding getting people with disabilities interested in employment. There are often many reasons for this (e.g., some people and families do not believe they can work) it would be great if all providers can look to see where people will be served best.

Follow up comment from SRC:

Pre-Employment Transition Services (Pre-ETS) are an opportunity to help both students with disabilities and their families to learn about the world of work, how people with disabilities can work, help them understand what ACCES-VR does and may increase referrals for individuals with disabilities seeking employment.

SRC Comment:

Is it possible to engage with more businesses to increase employment outcomes?

ACCES-VR Response:

ACCES-VR is partnering and presenting with the DOL and has a team of ACCES-VR staff that work directly with businesses.  ACCES-VR is open to any additional suggestions from the SRC.

Old Business:  None 

Meeting adjourned.

Next Meeting December 14 -15, 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

Next Meeting Date

December 6-7, 2022
Hilton Garden Inn, Albany Medical Center
62 New Scotland Ave.
Albany, NY 12208

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

coming soon