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Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council 2006 Annual Report


3535 NW 58th Street, Suite 500

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73112-4824

(405) 951-3482 V/TTY

(405) 951-3532 Fax




The mission of the Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council is to facilitate consumer education and empowerment, to assure services are of high quality, and lead to employment of individuals with disabilities within the state of Oklahoma.


In accordance with the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998, which reauthorized the Rehabilitation Act and changed the Rehabilitation Advisory Council (RAC) to the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC), Section 105, the Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council (ORC) is to advise the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) regarding the operation and delivery of rehabilitation services.

The major purpose of the Council is laid out in the Rehabilitation Act, Section 105, which includes, among other items, the following:

ؠ To encourage the personal and vocational growth and development of individuals with disabilities

ؠ To promote barrier-free access for persons with disabilities

ؠ To ensure the full participation of persons with disabilities in their communities.

This document contains information highlighting the working partnership and accomplishments of the Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council, the Department of Rehabilitation Services, and other stakeholders.

If you need this material in an alternate format, please call (405) 951-3482.

ORC Duties as Cited in the Act

v Review, Analyze and Advise the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services regarding the performance of its responsibilities, particularly those related to eligibility (order of selection); the extent, scope and effectiveness of services provided; and the functions of state agencies that affect the ability of individuals with disabilities in achieving employment outcomes.

v In Partnership with the Department of Rehabilitation Services, develop, agree to, and review state goals and priorities and evaluate the effectiveness of the VR program and submit reports of progress to the commissioner of Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA).

v Advise the Department of Rehabilitation Services regarding activities authorized to be carried out and assist in the preparation of the State Plan and amendments to the plan, applications, reports, needs assessments and evaluations.

v Conduct a Review and Analysis of the effectiveness of vocational rehabilitation services and consumer satisfaction.

v Prepare and submit an annual review to the governor and the Commissioner of RSA on the status of vocational rehabilitation programs operated within the state.

v Coordinate the work of the council with the activities of other disability related councils.

v Establish working relationships between the Department of Rehabilitation Services, the Statewide Independent Living Council, and Centers for Independent Living within Oklahoma.

Establishment of the ORC

The Council was established in 1993 as mandated by the 1992 Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (P.L. 102-569). The ORC was originally established as the State Rehabilitation Advisory Council (SRAC) to advise the designated state agency regarding its performance in providing vocational rehabilitation services to individuals with disabilities. The passage of the 1998 Amendments to the Act changed the council’s name to the Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council.

Year in Review

Policy and Legislative Committee

Chairperson – Linda Jaco

v The Policy and Legislative Committee collaborated with the Department of Rehabilitation Services Public Information Office on Awareness Day 2006 for People with Disabilities at the State Capitol. On this day, more than 100 Alumni of DRS and approximately 250 advocates toured the Capitol to inform their legislators about how ‘DRS Makes Cents’ for Oklahoma. Committee members served as guides for Alumni requiring assistance when meeting with their representatives and senators. There was an opportunity for Alumni to fill out a questionnaire regarding their thoughts about services provided by the agency. Many success stories were receivedcaptured and a release was provided by the consumer in order for ORC to utilize the success stories during their visit ‘On the Hill’ in Washington, D.C. The committee provided badges for all to wear and ‘market’ the theme of ‘DRS Makes Cents’ for Oklahoma.

v Council staff and several ORC representatives participated in the Council of State Administrators for Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) spring conference in Bethesda, Maryland, as well as the fall conference in San Francisco, CA. While in the D.C. area, visits were made ‘On the Hill’ in D.C. and information packets prepared by the Policy and Legislative Committee, were shared with the Oklahoma delegation. Packets contained position papers on the Reauthorization of WIA, the Assistive Technology Act and AgrAbility. Additionally, information was shared regarding the impact of Oklahoma’s clientele on Return of Ivestment (ROI). Specific constituent success stories, gathered during Disability Awareness Day, were shared with each delegate.

v The Policy and Legislative Committee collaborated with the DRS External Relations Coordinator and the Public Information Office in their ‘Ambassadors for DRS’ program. This program was designed to give agency staff an opportunity to advocate for the Public VR program on their own time. As a result, staff is much more tuned in to consumers needs within Oklahoma.

v The Policy and Legislative Committee held meetings as necessary throughout the fiscal year and met regularly with the Oklahoma Rehabilitation Association legislative advocates, DRS Director, and DRS External Relations Coordinator.

v The Policy and Legislative Committee continued its involvement with the DRS Client Service Improvement (CSI) Committee, which reviews and analyzes agency policy and makes appropriate recommendations for change to the DRS Commission on an annual basis. The Committee met regularly and has the potential for significant impact in effecting agency policy change. Additionally, a new subcommittee was formed which is known as the Chapter 10 Policy Issues. The goal of this work group is to review and better align the Department’s policies with the Rehabilitation Act’s regulations. This work group will continue throughout the upcoming year comparing Oklahoma’s DRS policies comprehensively by each sub chapter.

v The ORC and the Policy and Legislative Committee collaborated with the Department of Rehabilitation Services in an Alert Project that is posted on the ORC website. This area of the Council’s website provides viewers with the Department’s latest information regarding legislative Public VR concerns. Additionally, the Committee in collaboration with the ORC and the newly hired DRS Legislative and Policy staff person, has begun work on an Advocacy Tool Box. The ORC received permission to use and edit the “Health Advocacy Tool Box” developed by the Connecticut Health Policy Project. Upon completion, this informative document will be placed on the ORC’s website for immediate use. Anticipated completion is December ’06 in order that the information will be available for advocates during the ’07 Oklahoma Legislative Session.

v The Policy and Legislative Committee continued its collaboration with DRS in the design and implementation of the Consumer Success Story form and Release of Privacy information form. The Success Story form is a voluntary form that consumers may utilize for the purpose of sharing their success(es) during the life of their VR case. Upon case closure, Rehab Techs across the State are responsible for dissemination and collection of the success stories on all successful cases. The forms are then sent to DRS’ Public Information Office. Copies are provided to the ORC upon request. The ORC will continue to utilize this information during legislative session visits. A copy of the Success Story form is attached following this report.

v The Policy and Legislative Committee assisted the DRS in its preparation of the State Plan. Committee members sought input from a variety of agencies and entities that DRS collaborated with on an ongoing basis. Committee members reviewed, edited and provided format recommendations to DRS prior to its submittal to the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA). Additionally, the ORC co-sponsored two public hearings on the State Plan prior to its submission to RSA.

v The Policy and Legislative Committee participated in the interim legislative study on employment of individuals with disabilities in state government. The study, requested by Rep. Kris Steele (R-Shawnee), focused specifically on HB-1340, which is also called the Persons with Severe Disabilities Employment Program.

v Finally, Reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) is still on-going. Should it pass, the Policy and Legislative Committee will eagerly work with the DRS to assist them with the implementation of the WIA. Should it not pass during the current Congressional session, the process must start anew with legislative language in both the House and Senate. The Policy and Legislative Committee awaits this decision and looks forward to its continued work.

Planning and Program Committee

Chairperson – Jack Roper

v In the FFY06 Quality and Effectiveness Report released by the Department of Rehabilitation Services the Consumer Satisfaction Results showed that 83% of consumers were satisfied or highly satisfied with VR and VS Services; 92.7% of consumers felt that the VR and VS staff treated them with courtesy and respect; 80% of the consumers felt they were informed of the services that were available; 76% of the consumers were satisfied that the services helped meet their needs for employment.

- 148,738 Oklahoman’s with disabilities & their families turned to DRS for assistance through vocational rehabilitation employment, independent living, residential and outreach educational programs and the determination of medical eligibility for disability benefits.

- As a result, 2,284 individuals started new jobs, reduced their need for government assistance and paid taxes on collective earnings of nearly $39 million during FFY06.

- DRS provided vocational rehabilitation and employment services to 20,973 during FFY06.

- DRS served all priority groups during FFY06.

- DRS expanded services to Spanish-speaking citizens with disabilities through a new Hispanic community services office.

- The overall satisfaction rate on the Consumer Satisfaction Survey was 83.1%.

v Throughout the year, the Planning and Program Committee meets with the agency Policy Development and Program Standards Unit (PDPS) to discuss surveys and data they produce. The Needs Assessment is another project the agency and this committee partner together on. The three-year plan for Needs Assessment beginning FFY06 is: Year 1) survey agency clients in an active case through a random sample in regard to needs. Year 2) survey employers within the state about needs. Year 3) survey agency VR/VS employees on their opinions of the biggest obstacle(s) for their clients in terms of employment.

Transition and Employment

Chairperson – B. J. Nevels

v The Transition and Employment Committee formerly known as the Education Committee in years past elected to restructure their focus and areas of interest. The change came about as a result of many programmatic changes with the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), U.S. Department of Education in Washington D.C. The Transition and Employment Committee remains committed to the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services. They will

also continue to be involved with the Workforce and Economic Development Partnerships in an effort to improve vocational outcomes for Oklahomans with disabilities throughout the state.

v There were several meetings to brainstorm and establish a mission statement for the committee that will serve as a tool for the members to maintain focus and to establish goals and objectives to strive to achieve. Presently, there are many new committee members with a new chair that will require them to revisit progress to date and make changes as necessary. There was a large turnover in September of new members to the Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council and therefore to each of the committees.

v A common theme to date among the Transition and Employment Committee members is their need to become more aware of the processes for consumers to achieve a transition or employment outcome. The committee will begin to forward a set of questions each quarter for the DRS Administrators to respond to at the quarterly Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council meetings, which may be in addition to established information that they would like to receive on a regular basis.

v In summary, the Transition and Employment Committee is still in the infancy stages of development and will continue to work closely with DRS personnel. We know that the many changes over the past couple of years have been a challenge for all of us, but we have only two choices. Ignore change and loose energy or embrace change and make a difference!

v The committee is actively involved in the Oklahoma State Department of Education Transition Team. In FFY06 the first statewide Transition Institute was hosted. Teams were set around the state and projects were determined. Each team discussed issues and ideas to determine team project. Transition regional meetings are held at eight locations around the state for the teams to update the progress on their projects.

Customer Services Improvement Committee

The Department of Rehabilitation Services Customer Service Improvement Committee (CSI) is made up of members representing the agency and the council. This committee is charged with reviewing and renewing policy issues for the agency. The committee meets on an as needed basis and continues policy discussions throughout the year.

The committee worked this fiscal year on various policy issues. Public Hearings were co-hosted by DRS and the Council on February 6, 2006 in Oklahoma City and February 7, 2006 in Lawton.

The policy changes this year affect language regarding the counselor's regular review of the IPE, amended language regarding consumer's abstinence from drug or alcohol abuse, and requiring treatment as a condition of vocational rehabilitation services, revised Order of Selection to three priority groups instead of four, redefining criteria for each group, revised language relating todental services, textbook allowance, and distance learning, revised policies related to supported employment and contracts for supported employment services, revised transition services policies coordinating IEP with IPE to include section 504 plan for students with disabilities who do not fall under special education services, deleted policies related to independent living services provided directly to consumers, adopted comprehensive policies for IL Services for Older Individuals who are Blind, gave program managers discretion to override the once-in-five-years limit for hearing aid purchase when there are mitigating circumstances, allowed for provision of cochlear implants when there is Field Service Coordinator approval, provided clarification of our policy on payment for tutorial services, and policy for purchasing assistive technology needed by individuals who are self-employed.

Independent Living

The Department of Rehabilitation Services administrators are working to develop a positive relationship with the Statewide Independent Living Council and the Centers for Independent Living to serve people with disabilities in Oklahoma as effectively as possible with the available funding. The ORC attends the Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) meetings. The ORC and SILC have and will continue to coordinate projects together. The ORC will continue working with DRS and SILC to develop and foster a strong, positive working relationship to further enhance services provided to persons with disabilities in Oklahoma.

State Plan

The Department of Rehabilitation Services and the ORC co-hosted public hearings on the State Plan for DRS and public hearings on policy issues. The hearings for the policy issues were held February 6th in Oklahoma City and February 7th in Lawton, Oklahoma. The public hearings on the State Plan were held on April 3rd in Lawton, April 4th in Tulsa and April 5th in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma City public hearing for the State Plan was done on the same day as the Disability Awareness Day at the State Capital where more than 350 DRS Alumni and Consumer Advocates were in attendance.

Transportation Coalition

The council continues to support the mission and goals of Oklahomans for Public Transportation (OPT) and providing partnership as an advocate for increased public transportation throughout Oklahoma. Oklahomans for Public Transportation (OPT) was formed in December 2003 to advocate for increased public transportation throughout Oklahoma. The mission of OPT is to “expand and enhance public transportation services and pedestrian access to communities so that all Oklahomans have the freedom to travel where and when they want.”

The council continues to work on the United We Ride Project. The Oklahoma United We Ride Council has been appointed by the Governor to coordinate the most appropriate and cost efficient service that can be accomplished through the coordination or consolidation of human service transportation resources.

Impartial Hearing Officers

During the months of August and September 2006, one council member and the council program manager worked with two agency representatives to select three new impartial hearing officers.

The council continues to receive confidential hearing reports from the agency on all impartial hearings. The reports are reviewed by members of the executive committee.

People with Disabilities Awareness Day

Over 350 people attended the Oklahoma People with Disabilities Awareness Day 2006 at the State Capitol and proudly wore the ORC sponsored “DRS makes Cents” buttons and “Alumni” ribbons. An ORC member and staff participated on the planning committee for this annual event.

The purpose of Disability Awareness Day is to make senators and representatives more aware of the employment and education needs of 480,000 Oklahomans with disabilities. The ORC’s donation of buttons and ribbons helped legislators and staff to identify DRS supporters and disability advocates during office visits. This event was a huge success because so many other supporters of the agency and people with disabilities participated. DRS plans to make the Alumni addition to this event annual.

Accountability Program

The Department of Rehabilitation Services began an Accountability program in August 2005 for organizational development. The agency brought the Impaq Corporation to Oklahoma to start working with staff on the Agreements for Excellence Team System which is implemented to develop cross-functional accountability in management teams, project teams, and critical department teams. This two-day working session focuses on achieving measurable results for achieving business priorities, improving performance execution and enhancing team relationships. After developing clear stretch goals, agreements are created to improve performance, achieve project deliverables and improve team interactions. Territorialism and non-productive competition is minimized; open sharing of information and resources is maximized.

The agency will also have the Impaq Corporation deliver the Power of Personal Accountability, a one-day highly interactive program that challenges participants to rethink the way they respond to challenges, difficulties to problems, while helping them create greater accountability and success in their lives. The ORC membership had an opportunity to participate in this one-day program.

The Committee on Improving Vocational Rehabilitation and Visual Services Relationships has been working on communication to ensure it is consistent through both divisions. Information is distributed to both divisions simultaneously to ensure everyone has the most updated information. The 2006 conference was a combined event with both divisions attending together. The DRS Administrators felt that the combined conference would be an excellent step forward and from the feedback it was a great success. Much of the feedback stated the conference was the best yet and it is believed it was due, in part, to both agencies being together all the time.

The DRS Division Administrators have worked very hard to reflect a “united front”, by coming together on issues and concerns of both divisions.


In closing, the Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council continues to value its partnership with the state agency and works to be utilized by DRS as a resourceful advocate. The membership of the Council is committed to learn the systemic issues faced by DRS and how they impact the quality of successful employment outcomes for persons with disabilities.

Quarterly Meetings

The Council met quarterly during FFY06. Meeting dates were:

November 17, 2005

February 16, 2006

May 18, 2006

August 17, 2006

October 16, 2006 (retreat)

Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council

Cathy Bates

Randy Buettner
Workforce Oklahoma

Marilyn Burr
Client Assistance Program
Office of Handicapped Concerns

Patricia Casey
Administrative Assistant
University of Central Oklahoma

Cindy Gallup
DHS Social Worker
Stratford School System

Milissa Gofourth
Associate Program Manager
Seretean Wellness Center
Oklahoma State University

Kathleen Kennedy

Doug MacMillan, Jr.
Executive Director
OK One-Call System

Hugh McCrabb
Director of Tech & Occu. Activity
Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education

B.J. Nevels - Chair
Physicial Relations
Rehabilitation Hospital

Kim Nickerson
State Improvement Grant, Project Coordinator
Oklahoma State Department of Education

Jon Ringlero
Delaware Tribe Vocational Rehabilitation Program

Alisa Roberson - Vice Chair
Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist
Department of Rehabilitation Services

Jack Roper

DeLorna Strong
Apache Vocational Rehabilitation Program

Sabrina Ware
Coordinator, Employment, & Training
Goodwill Industries of Tulsa, Inc.

Sue Williams
Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist
Department of Rehabilitation Services

Linda Parks - Ex-Officio
Department of Rehabilitation Services