September 2022 Meeting Minutes

State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) September 14-15, 2022, Quarterly Meeting

Albany Hilton Garden Inn – Albany Medical Center

Topic/ Key Points

Day 1 Call to Order - Present: Pam Brehm-Bisaillon, Naomi Brickel, Megan Brown, Sebastian Chittilappilly, Joseph Delgado, Melinda Dolezal, Alan Gallagher, Valerie Gambino-Carelli, Connie Glover, Kathleen Grosvenor, Peter Herrig, Jenny Hutkowski, Julia Kelly, Ceylane Meyers-Ruff, Anthony Morano, Hillary Nichols, Evelyn Pugh, Jennifer Semonite, Linda Schramm, Brenda Shannon, Andy Sink, Robert Statham, Toni Sullivan, Diane Woodward

Excused Day 1:  Lorie Boyd, Nancy Grant, Ellice Switzer

Absent Day 1: None

Guests/Public Day 1: None

Day 2 Call to Order - Present: Pam Brehm-Bisaillon, Naomi Brickel, Sebastian Chittilappilly, Joseph Delgado, Melinda Dolezal, Alan Gallagher, Valerie Gambino-Carelli, Connie Glover, Kathleen Grosvenor, Julia Kelly, Ceylane Meyers-Ruff, Anthony Morano, Hillary Nichols, Evelyn Pugh, Jennifer Semonite, Linda Schramm, Brenda Shannon, Andy Sink, Robert Statham, Toni Sullivan

Excused Day 2: Megan Brown, Lorie Boyd, Nancy Grant, Diane Woodward, Peter Herrig, Jenny Hutkowski

Absent Day 2: None

Guests/ Public Day 2: Guest Speaker: Richard T. Turner

Review of the agenda: Joe Delgado

Additional Agenda Items:

  • None

Review and approve June 7-8, 2022, minutes:

  • June 7-8, 2022, Minutes reviewed. No abstentions. Sebastian motioned to approve; Anthony seconded. All voted in favor of approval.

Public Comment

  • No public comment.

Nomination of Officers: Annual nominations of Chair and Co-Chair positions were held. Joe Delgado was nominated for Chair and Hillary Nichols was nominated for Vice-Chair.  Election for nominated officers to be held during December quarterly meeting.

Election of New Members - Summary of candidate slate: Thirteen exceptionally qualified candidates applied for the SRC term 2023-2025.  Six candidates were selected to move forward for Board of Regents approval.  Candidates were selected based on the SRC’s vacancies and the composition and specific constituencies as identified by Federal regulations to be represented on the SRC.

Interagency Reports:  

Advisory Council on Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities:

No update.

Technology Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities (TRAID):

Services Provided:

Since 1/1/2022 the TRAID Centers have:

  • Completed 51 demonstrations
  • Provided 150 loans
  • Purchased 101 devices

Conferences, Partner Collaborations and Trainings:

  • TRAID, the NYS Department of Labor (DOL), and the New York State Systems Change and Inclusive Opportunities Network (SCION), are coordinating Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) trainings for staff and providing digital accessibility trainings.
  • The Interagency Partnership on Assistive Technology met in July. The Hudson Valley TRAID Center presented information on their 3D printing program.

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

  • Continuing to work remotely. Offices are open to the public by appointment.
  • In the process of re-branding and updating marketing material. New material will be distributed when available.

New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH):

Grants and Funding Opportunities:

  • Funding was made available to increase state aid to Personalized Recovery Oriented Services (PROS) programs. It is anticipated aid will be used to bolster pay rates and increase the retention of employees. Additionally, two new employment liaison positions were created to establish a stronger connection between Central Office, regional offices, and employment programs.

The Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) audit of the New York Employment Services System (NYESS) and Ticket-to-Work (TTW) program:

  • The Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) published their findings of an audit of NYESS, used as an employment network under the TTW program. The primary finding stated OMH must increase utilization of NYESS and participation in the TTW program. OMH should collaborate with employment service providers, both to explain the benefits of the system and assess their needs, and to better serve the providers. Some additional oversight of policies and procedures related to NYESS, as well as monitoring and verifying data entered in NYESS, was also noted by OSC. OMH has taken steps to implement the recommendations.

DREAM Symposium

  • New York State’s first annual Disability Rights and Employment Awareness Month (D.R.E.A.M.) Symposium will be held on October 4th at the Empire State Plaza Concourse from 10:00am to 4:30pm. This inaugural event will include a vendor fair for organizations of all types who assist individuals with disabilities in obtaining employment. There will also be four individual workshops, each with a topic pertaining to improving the employment rate of people with disabilities. Tickets for this event are online.

SRC Comments/Questions:


When psychiatric rehabilitation is mentioned, the field hears about Personalized Recovery Oriented Services (PROS). There are other models of psychiatric rehabilitation other than PROS programs. 


Yes, thank you for highlighting that as psychiatric rehabilitation is at the core of everything we do.  PROS is the most widespread model. 


Employer outreach is an important part of the equation when assisting individuals to obtain and maintain employment. Are there strategies that OMH uses to provide education, training, and support to businesses for their employees with mental health issues? In addition, what type of ongoing support is available?


In our employment plan, employer engagement is an area of focus, including making sure our service delivery models are set up to address ongoing needs.


Are there employment services and opportunities for people who have both a mental health and developmental disability diagnosis?


Joint guidance for staff at OMH and ACCES-VR is under development to provide information and instructions on types of employment services available to individuals who may be served by both organizations. Updates will be provided when available.

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

  • No update.

New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB):

Program updates:

  • On 06/30/22 the program year closed, and outcome numbers are rebounding and reaching pre-pandemic levels, specifically work experiences for youth.
  • Staff recognition and trainings are held at the close of the program year.  They were held in Albany and well attended with a focus on WIOA outcome measures including measurable skills gains and credential attainment.
  • A new case management system is being considered implementation.  

Staff Updates:

  • Backfills for Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors, Senior Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors, and Directors of Counseling staff in the district offices are ongoing priorities. At this time, the agency is almost fully staffed in the district offices. Interviews for district offices are scheduled in Syracuse and Long Island. Central Office and fiscal staff backfills are still needed.

Conferences, Partner Collaborations, and Trainings:

  • Discussions with the Department of Labor and other partners have resumed regarding the status of the accessible equipment provided to 96 career centers pre-pandemic. Inventory and condition of that equipment is being evaluated. Re-training on how to use the equipment will be provided as needed.
  • An increased focus on braille literacy is underway, including the removal of barriers to access and use of braille services. A Braille Advisory Committee has been established. Providers to deliver the services and financial incentives are being considered for the next service contract.  
  • The Commission is continuing its focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, including disability and accessibility issues.  A Diversity and Inclusion Committee has been established to provide recommendations and advice. 

SRC Comments/Questions:


Have there been any advances in technology that will translate documents to braille?


Yes, there is a refreshable braille display that can be hooked to your phone, iPad or computer.


Melinda Dolezal from TRAID offered assistance to the Commission on accessibility issues and technology.


Thank you. The Commission will follow up with an email. We are looking to make things not only accessible, but usable.


Independent Living Centers are appreciative of all the work being done on assisting in making the career center accessible for all New Yorkers.

New York State Education Department- Office of Special Education (OSE):

Emergency Adoption of the Amendments to the Commissioner’s Regulations:

  • At the September Board of Regents meeting there was an emergency adoption of amendments to the Commissioner’s regulations relating to remote instruction, and its delivery under emergency conditions, for students with disabilities in approved private schools, state-supported schools, state-operated schools, and approved preschool special education programs.
    • It was recommended that this amendment be effective September 13, 2022, as an emergency action to permit approved special education providers to provide remote instruction in the 2022-2023 school year on days they would otherwise close due to an emergency and to count such instructional days towards minimum requirements and to identify the ways in which such remote instruction may be delivered.
    • This amendment will provide the same flexibility for remote instruction under emergency conditions that was proposed for districts at the April 2022 Board of Regents meeting.
    • The motion passed unanimously.
    • A Notice of Emergency Adoption and Proposed Rule Making will be published in the State Register on September 28, 2022, for a 60-day public comment period.  Additional information may be accessed at the P12 Regents Page.

New York State Department of Labor (DOL):

NY Systems Change and Innovative Opportunities Network (SCION) program is going well.

Update on Initiative:

  • 23 Disability Resource Coordinators (DRCs) have been hired across the state and it is anticipated of 30 will be hired in total.
  • Partnerships with DRCs are going well; a regional collaborative workgroup was formed to share best practices.
  • Training for the newly hired DRCs is being done in collaboration with Melinda Dolezal from TRAID.

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

Initiatives and Goals:

  • Systemic barriers that prevent people from accessing multiple services or moving easily between services are being evaluated.
  • Work on developing and implementing a continuum of community engagement and employment services so individuals will have more opportunities is under way.
  • A service redesign process will be encouraged to develop alternative service delivery and schedules that support individuals who no longer desire traditional services. 
  • Work to reduce administrative barriers to providing these services and reducing gaps in transitioning to services is ongoing.
  • Vocational and day habilitation services will improve curricula and community experiences to move individuals more effectively toward gaining community integrated employment.  The targeted outcome will be an increase in OPWDD participants in vocational, employment and more individualized day services delivered in the broader community.
  • A Request for Application (RFA) for Career-Specific Skill Training is being developed.  Preference will be given to providers who partner with corporations, businesses, colleges/schools, or trade associations knowledgeable in the skills needed for today’s workforce and applicable to jobs accessible to individuals with individuals with developmental disabilities (I/DD).    .
  • Reduced dependence on site-based programs and increased community engagement activities are the goals of the service delivery redesign. 

SRC Comments/Questions:


Does OPWDD have a strategy to hire and retain job coaches?


OPWDD is looking at funding options as available and is open to suggestions. 


Are there conversations on collaborating with ACCES-VR to assist college students to be made OPWDD eligible?


ACCES-VR will consider this further.


Is there an update on the Disability Innovation Fund- Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment grant (SWTCIE)?


It is anticipated by late September or early October awards will be announced. Information will be shared with the SRC when made available.


What type of trainings are available to Care Coordinators and are there methods ACCES-VR has to assesses skill attainment after the training?

ACCES-VR response:

ACCES-VR and OPWDD meet regularly and share information on ACCES-VR. This information can be incorporated into the OPWDD and provider training for Care Coordinators. It is not ACCES-VR’s role to assess another organization’s staff training.

OPWDD Response:

Meetings are held with the Directors of Care Coordination and training is always being evaluated. Internal processes are also evaluated to streamline services and implement best practices. Meetings with agencies offering OPWDD Supported Employment (SEMP) services focusing on internal tracking methods are ongoing to increase the accurate and timely movement of individuals through the various employment training opportunities at OPWDD such as Employment Training Program (ETP) and Pathway to Employment. Additionally, trainings have been created through OPWDD Innovation and as gaps in skill sets are identified, updates to trainings are made.

ACCES Updates:

Ceylane Meyers-Ruff, Deputy Commissioner, and

Linda Schramm, Assistant Commissioner

ACCES Staffing Updates:

  • Dora Lee Stanley will retire at the end of September. Her job duties and responsibilities will be reassigned to ACCES-VR Central Office staff.
  • Rich Evans, ACCES’ head of data unit, is retiring.
  • Kaitlynn White has been promoted to Associate Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor in the Mid-Hudson District.
  • Andrew Tunison has been promoted to Associate Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor in the Southern Tier District.
  • Suzanne Pearson has been promoted to Associate Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor of the Transition and Youth Services (TAYS) unit.
  • Marissa Boomhower has been appointed as Director of the Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision (BPSS). 

ACCES-VR Updates:

Media Campaign:

  • ACCES and Adult Education are in the process of engaging in an educational media campaign.  ACCES-VR’s is anticipated to launch sometime in 2023, and Adult Education’s is anticipated to launch by the end of 2022.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) in October: 

  • Each year, ACCES-VR recognizes businesses across the state through collaborative events with local Chambers of Commerce and other organizations, including in-person events, social media awareness, and virtual job fairs. This year at the October 3, 2022, Board of Regents meeting, ACCES-VR will present to the full Board on how NYS agencies and businesses partner to promote employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

Post-secondary Advisory Council:

  • The Post-secondary Advisory Council meets twice per year in April and October.
  • Prior to COVID-19, issues around transitioning students with disabilities from secondary to post-secondary education were being evaluated.  One specific area of focus is attaining information on students with disability and the needs they have in a post-secondary setting.  
  • Post COVID, there was a shift in focus to the experiences students with disabilities were having during COVID. During this time, issues of accommodations for remote learning became a more prominent focus, including access to technology, materials, and the ability to learn in a virtual classroom. In response to these identified areas, recommendations around Universal Design in learning environments and diversity, equity and inclusion are being discussed.

High School Equivalency Updates:

  • In January, New York State went from the Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC) back to the General Education Development Test (GED).
  • Testing options include a computer-based or a paper test option.
  • The GED is made up of four subjects, broken into separate exams including, Math, Language Arts, Social Studies, and Science.
  • Since January 20, 2022, approximately 1,100 GED exams have been taken.
  • The implementation of the GED exam test sites continues.
  • There are multiple options for accommodations for the exams.

Bureau of Proprietary Schools Updates:

  • New regulations establishing clear criteria for assessing the financial viability of proprietary schools, including identified triggering events that may indicate concerns, were adopted by the New York State Board of Regents and have been instituted. As a result of these regulations, the Commissioner may deny, suspend, revoke, or decline to renew any license or certification. 

Satisfaction Survey Workgroup Update:

ACCES-VR is working on next steps in the process, further updates will be provided at the December meeting.

SRC Comments/Questions:


How is ACCES-VR doing with staffing the finance department regarding contract utilization?


Each District Office has a business office with a business office manager and support staff.  We have had some staff turnover; however, payments are being processed and vendors are getting paid.  There are specific processes for evaluating contract utilization by the District Office, including the business office staff responsible for processing payments for services.


Will the media campaign also be targeting business to hire individuals with disabilities? Have you considered tying these concepts together so businesses can get information about what ACCES-VR does?


Right now, the focus of the media campaign is on educating the public on ACCES-VR services.  There is an opportunity to add a business component.


Has ACCES-VR considered using the Integrated Employment Specialist positions to increase awareness of businesses for the D.R.E.A.M symposium events and to expand attendance beyond providers of disability services?


Yes, Integrated Employment Specialists are involved in identifying businesses for the job fair. Timing this year has created some challenges to bringing businesses to Albany due to coinciding NDEAM events around the state.  


Independent Living Centers are also part of ACCES-VR. Are they being utilized to support implementing Universal Design strategies at the post-secondary level?


The Post-Secondary Advisory Council does not have the authority to implement the recommendations. The Advisory Council can make recommendations to the Board of Regents.  A survey is being developed to identify what type of accommodations are needed and what accommodations are currently being offered.  One area that some community colleges have identified are low retention rates among first year students with disabilities. This may be a space where Independent Living Centers may be able to engage in the dialogue.


The New York Times has been putting out articles regarding private secondary schools and the substantially equivalent requirements.  Is ACCES-VR concerned about this and its impact on students with disabilities?


There have been on going conversations among the Office of State Education regarding the substantially equivalent requirements and final regulations have been issued requiring private schools provide a substantially equivalent education as public schools.  This is not an ACCES-VR issue it is a P-12 issue and the New York State Education Department wants to see all student receive a quality education.


Is there a distinction among students with disabilities retention rates who commute to college versus students with disabilities who live on campus?


National data does not differentiate retention rates among commuting students versus those who live on campus. Several years ago, a presentation was given to the Post-secondary Advisory Council on students’ comfort level in requesting accommodations.  The presentation indicated students are not comfortable requesting accommodations.  A Board of Regents’ priority in the State budget was an initiative called Enhancing Supports and Services to Students with Disabilities.  The funding the initiative can be used in several ways including training professors in the use of accommodations.   There also may be opportunities through Pre-ETS peer mentoring services that students can utilize to advocate for their accommodations and their educational needs.


Why was the TASC changed to GED?


The Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC™ Test) contract ended, and the company is no longer in the business of administrating tests.  NYS Education Department selected the General Educational Development Test (GED® Test) to replace the TASC™ Test.  This is a 5-year contract that started on January 18, 2022.


What is ACESS-VR role in the GED exam?


Within ACCES there are two connected program areas, the Office of High School Equivalency which administers, collects results, and issues the diplomas, and the Office of Adult Education. ACCES-VR is not directly involved in the GED exam.


Can ACCES-VR pay for GED exam preparation?


This is funded through the Office of Adult Education through WIOA funding under Title II.

AWARE Update:

ACCES-VR anticipates going live with AWARE in the Spring of 2023. There are improved features including real time information on vendor contract utilization. A new vendor portal is being tested now. Features include electronic authorizations and communications. A possible AWARE demo at future SRC meeting is being considered.

Presentation- Career, Apprenticeship Opportunities & Training for Advanced Manufacturing Richard T. Turner, Director of Workforce Development-Rochester Technology & Manufacturing Association (RTMA)

A presentation on Careers, Apprenticeship Opportunities, and Training for Advanced Manufacturing was provided by the Rochester Technology and Manufacturing Association (RTMA).  RTMA is a membership-based trade organization of over 150 members. It strives to promote and support advanced manufacturing in the greater Rochester and Finger Lakes region. RTMA has several programs to assists members and non-members with recruitment, retention, and training of a qualified and skilled workforce.

RTMA is a regional sponsor of the NYS Registered Apprenticeship Program for Advanced Manufacturing, a formal training program where individuals work as apprentices while earning wages. They also participate in college coursework and/or training programs to learn needed skills, and as they progress through the program, their pay increases. Currently, the RTMA serves over 30 companies, 15 trades, and 180 apprentices.

The Finger Lakes Youth Apprenticeship Program (FYLAP) aims to address the skills gap in the region in advanced manufacturing. This program connects high school juniors and seniors to local manufacturing companies for unpaid job-shadowing at the junior level and 200 hours of paid, on-the-job training at the senior level. The goal is to create a talent pipeline for advanced manufacturing and bridge the gap from high school to the workforce. This year FYLAP hopes to register 300 students, participating in 150 local businesses in the region.

The Genesee Valley Pre-Apprenticeship Boot Camp is a six-week summer program in mechatronics training. Students attend classes in the morning, Monday through Thursday, and they work in the afternoons and all-day Friday. Each student receives more than 100 hours in paid, work-site training. Started in 2021, the program has placed 13 individuals who have completed the program.

New in 2022, ROC With Your Hands is a career exploration event for all schools in Monroe County, including those in the city of Rochester. Students in grades seven through twelve will be introduced to different fields of employment through activities, videos, and hands-on demonstrations. Fields of focus include advanced manufacturing, heavy equipment operation, automotive technology, and skilled trades. Participation in this year’s event is anticipated to be between 1000 and 1500 students.

SRC Business:

Committee Reports:

Executive Committee Report:

  • Preparation of SRC quarterly meetings and guest speakers with a focus on succession planning and end of the year SRC tasks.

Membership Committee:

  • Interviews with proposed members have been held. Seven candidates are being recommended for membership.
  • Recommended applicants will be moved for Board of Regents approval.
  • Ballots for officers were submitted. Joseph Delgado and Hillary Nichols have been nominated for Chair and Vice-Chair, respectively. Official election to be held at December meeting.

Annual Report Committee:

  • Revised methods for requesting and collecting information earlier for the annual report, including requests for success stories and artwork applications.
  • Reminder from the SRC Chair to submit subcommittee reports for inclusion in the report.
  • Request for information on agency and SRC member initiatives and collaborations.
  • Request for member photos.
  • Seeking input from SRC members for content and theme.
  • Committee draft reports due October 1, 2022.
  • Annual report due December 1, 2022.

Business Engagement:

  • Committee focused on bringing presentations to SRC on effective initiatives inclusive of individuals with disabilities.

Quality Assurance Improvement:

  • Committee discussed and formulated recommendations from the guided discussion on Pre-ETS in NYS. Recommendations submitted to Chair for compilation. 

Proposed 2023 meeting dates:

  • March 21-22, 2023.
  • June 6-7, 2023.
  • September 13-14, 2023.
  • December 5-6, 2023.

4.2 Recommendations:  None.

Old Business:  None

Next Meeting December 6-7, 2022

Hilton Albany Medical Center