Community Partner Update: April 2013

Assistant Director's Office

The Asians with Disabilities Outreach Project Think Tank (ADOPT) was formed in January 2010 as a collaborative, systems change outreach project to serve as a hub of resources to help Asians, immigrants, and refugees with disabilities receive the support they need to get a job. To address the alarming gap between the obvious needs of this group and the programs that can serve them, ADOPT identified culturally sensitive outreach strategies that VR and immigrant/refugee-serving community-based providers can implement to help Asian jobseekers with disabilities secure access to employment and training opportunities in their communities.

In Phase I of the project, ADOPT created an outreach toolkit to help VR providers effectively serve the Asian population. ADOPT also equipped community-based groups to navigate the state VR system, generating a total of 311 referrals to state rehabilitation services (72 were Asian; others were of diverse ethnic and cultural groups).

Funded by DHS-DRS, ADOPT, in Phase II, will continue to connect Asians, immigrants, and refugees with disabilities to state VR service providers, community-based groups, and local businesses in mutually beneficial ways. Goals include: strengthen and increase partnerships; build relationships with twenty new local AAPI CBOs, advocacy groups, and businesses; develop an Asian/Immigrant Business Disabilities Leadership Network; expand awareness, training, and capacity building resources; generate 50 new referrals of disabled Asians, immigrants and refugees to state services through a multicultural VR outreach campaign; conduct cultural brokering training for regional Chicago-area VR offices; organize and co-facilitate four consultation mini workshops on work related topics in the context of the Asian and immigrant/refugee cultures; update and distribute a comprehensive outreach toolkit to DRS staff, VR counselors, and partners.

Collaborators include the Center for Capacity Building on Minorities with Disabilities Research (CCBMDR) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS), and many local Asian, immigrant, and refugee serving agencies.

For more information, contact 217-557-0401 (V), 888-440-8994 (TTY) or .

Training Unit

The DRS Training and Contract Unit staff held an informational webinar last week that included both VR counselors and community providers. The focus was to have all parties together to discuss the current updates to the Walgreens Retail Employees with Disabilities Initiative (REDI). Participants were given a comprehensive overview of the initiative so that they can work together to make this initiative a success. Many of the initial retail locations have already began meeting and working with local community providers and VR staff.

Independent Living

The Independent Living Unit has been short-handed for quite some time due to staff illnesses. In order to assist the unit, Jeff Standerfer, who retired in 2010, has accepted an emergency position to administer the unit on a part-time basis. Hopefully very soon, the unit will welcome Ken Williams and Sue Johnson-Smith back to their jobs. Jeff can be reached at (217)782-9689 on Tuesdays and Thursdays or at

Bureau of Field Services

Louis Hamer, Elayne Weathersby, Charlene Anthony, and Deborah Norfleat met with staff from Garfield Hospital to explore and possibly develop a relationship to serve some mentally ill customers. Garfield Hospital is a new hospital on the Westside of Chicago that serves mentally ill youth up to age 18. This hospital opened February 18 and will serve 150 adolescences. The hospital works very closely with Chicago Public Schools in stabilizing these young individuals so they can function in their community and school environment.

The hospital is looking for ways to collaborate with DRS regarding providing services to its customers. Because these are high school students, we were not able to develop a cooperative working agreement, but we were able to discuss the possibility of getting adult customers employment at the hospital. The hospital is planning to hire a substantial number of employees over the next year and is willing to allow DRS to develop an On-the-Job-Training agreement for VR customers in many of their departments. This could mean an upward of 30 customers finding employment at the hospital. Garfield Hospital is also a training hospital for psychology students and wants to work with DRS in doing psychological and neuropsychological evaluations for VR customers.

Education Services

In March, Governor Quinn announced the appointment of Serena Preston as the superintendent of the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired and Dr. Janice Warshaw as the superintendent of the Illinois School for the Deaf. Both await confirmation from the Illinois Senate.

Bureau of Blind Services

Through the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind and their contract with the US Army to provide supplies, completing construction projects, or any other task considered in support of the Army's mission, the first group of six BBS customers, five Contract Closeout Specialists, and one Warehouse Clerk, were hired on September of 2011. Since then, one additional Warehouse Clerk has been hired, and four additional Contract Closeout Specialists started in December 2012. These employees work at least 40 hours per week and earn an average salary of $19 per hour. All are legally blind/low vision as required by the contract. One of the customers hired in September of 2011 has already moved on to a higher level job with the Army.

Once the service contracts have been completed, the product or project is shipped to the Rock Island Arsenal where it is filed by the Warehouse Clerks. The Contract Closeout Specialist then reviews the files and complete of all the necessary forms to "close out" the contract. A big part of the mission of the contract with the Rock Island Arsenal is to ensure all aspects of the jobs were done appropriately and accurately.

Currently there are two additional openings for Contract Closeout Specialists, and we are in the process of finding suitable candidates for these new positions.

Spectrios Institute is hosting two after-hour events especially for employers, Chamber of Commerce, and Human Resource professionals. The purpose of these events is to demonstrate to this population the potential for hiring or retaining qualified individuals who have a visual impairment. Never before has the playing field been more equal for people with vision loss. Through specialized optics and adaptive technology, almost any job is attainable by a person with impaired vision. Come learn about the possibilities and the benefits of hiring or retaining a valued employee, even if he/she is having vision issues. An Employer Open House is scheduled for April 16, 2013 and May 9, 2013, from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm at 219 E. Cole Avenue, Wheaton, IL. RSVP by calling (630) 690-7115 at least one day prior to the event.

Strategic Management

The Training Unit conducted New Employee Orientation (NEO) training March 12-15 in Springfield. NEO sessions are scheduled quarterly and provide new staff with an overview of the agency and disability awareness training on the first day, followed by three days of intense counselor or coordinator training, depending on their position and whether they are Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) staff or Home Services Program (HSP) staff. New supervisors also attend and follow the counselor tract. A three day follow up session is also required for counselors and is scheduled for April 10-12.

During the Rehabilitation Service Supervisor's meeting held on March 19-21 in Peoria, each of the Vocational Rehabilitation office supervisors were given equipment that will be used for future Interactive Webinar Trainings. Each of the offices has now received the following items: laptop, projector, speakers, camera microphone, and whiteboard for projection. The equipment will be used by the Staff Development Unit to provide training throughout the state to all of the VR offices. This will allow for training to be delivered in a more cost effective manner by reducing the need for travel. The trainings will include both policy and human development trainings.

VR program data through February 28 show that DRS staff have assisted customers in obtaining 3,288 competitive employment outcomes for FY2013, a level which is 2.9 percent higher than that achieved in the previous fiscal year. DRS is on track for two consecutive fiscal years of positive growth in employment outcomes, a result that has not been achieved in several years. Also, DRS recognized 28 high-performing rehabilitation counselors who have each assisted 25 or more customers in achieving employment outcomes through the end of February.

Legislation and Policy

The following School rules are in various stages of the Joint Committee of Administrative Rule process; the dates reflect the day they were posted in the Illinois Register for First Notice:


The following School rules are on Executive Review and are being prepared for JCAR submission:



Home Services rules to address an enhanced rate for homemaker health insurance have been prepared and have been submitted to the Department of Healthcare and Family Services and the Budget Office for review. Once finalized, they will be submitted for Executive Review and once approved, will be submitted to JCAR.

The Division has had several meetings with various members of the Facility Advisory Council to review, revise and update the Part 530 rules, which pertain to Community Rehabilitation Programs.

The Division is monitoring legislation that impacts persons with disabilities and the Division. Some measures in particular are:

Senate Bill 63, which revises the statute pertaining to the State Rehabilitation Council. The measure more closely aligns the State requirements with the federal Rehabilitation Act requirements.

House Bill 2591 creates the Employment First Act which seeks to enhanced employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

House Bill 948 creates the Adult Protective Services Act which transfers some duties of the Office of the Inspector General to the Department of Aging.

House Bill 1231 and Senate Bill 38, pertain to insurance coverage for hearing aids.

Staff from DRS met with staff from the Secretary of State's Office regarding disabled parking placards and disabled license plates. The Secretary of State will begin a re-certification program on April 1, 2013, for any person currently holding a disabled parking placard or disabled license plates. The re-certification is a result of changes to the program due to legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2012. A frequently asked questions sheet is attached for your information and use.

Budget: Governor Quinn introduced a Fiscal Year 2014 budget that contained no cuts to DRS. Overall, the DRS budget includes an increase of $86.4 million in General Revenue Funds (GRF) over FY13 estimated spending. The following are notable highlights:

  • The FY14 Introduced Budget reflects a $20.0M Care Coordination appropriation for customers in the Home Services Program transitioning to Managed Care.
  • The Home Services Program includes $10.5M to invest in the wages and health care benefits for Personal Assistants.
  • Consistent with provisions in the SMART Act, funding of $10.0 million is included for the implementation of an electronic timekeeping system for the Home Services Program.
  • Allocations for the Illinois School for the Deaf, Illinois School for the Visually Impaired, and the Illinois Center for the Rehabilitation and Education - Roosevelt have been adjusted and/or realigned to meet the expected operating needs in FY14.

Home Services Program

Bids for the electronic visit verification (EVV) system for Timekeeping Systems have been received and are being evaluated. The Request for Proposal asks for implementation in January 2014. Conversion to an EVV system for both Homemaker and PA services is required by the SMART Act (Medicaid reform bill). The initial movement of about 1,450 HSP customers to the Medicaid Managed Care program took place in February for individuals on Medicaid but who do not also have Medicare and reside in suburban Cook and the collar counties. We continue to work with the Department of Healthcare and Family Services and the managed care entities to implement the change. We are now preparing for the next wave of managed care to impact HSP. Enrollment will start July 1 for Medicaid only individuals in the Central Illinois, Rockford, Quad Cities, and Metro East areas.

HSP continues to work with SEIU to implement paid mandatory orientation for new Personal Assistants as required by the new SEIU collective bargaining agreement. CILs also have been consulted on development of the program. The initial pilot program will start in Rockford, Chicago South Pulaski, Decatur, and Jacksonville.

There has been no movement on the $25 M supplemental request for FY 13. They money has been included in the Governor's FY 14 budget as well. There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that was circulating the program was closing at the end of March. We think it was related to the Department on Aging having to stop payments because they have not received the additional funds they need to finish the year. They are not closing either.

Illinois School for the Visually Impaired

ISVI formally received continuing Accreditation with the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. The certificate from AdvancEd will be framed and displayed in the outer area of the Superintendent's Office. The letter accompanying the certificate indicates that AdvancEd is instituting an additional rubric-based evaluation which delineates various levels of accreditation. ISVI will receive a letter later in the year reflecting the results of that supplementary process. This is wonderful news and a positive reflection on all the hard work that goes on continually to ensure our students receive a quality education that meets rigorous standards and prepares them for promising futures.