Community Partner Update: October 2013

Policy and Legislation:

The Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) addressed questions and provided information to staff of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) regarding Part 750 - Role of the Residential Education Facilities Operated by the Department of Human Services and Part 755 - Admission Procedures, both of which pertain to the DRS residential schools. Both rules were heard before the full JCAR committee without objections.

Independent Living:

One of our fine Independent Living Centers, Achieving Independence and Mobility (AIM) Center for Independent Living moved to a new location and has reopened on October 1, 2013. The new address is AIM Center for Independent Living, 3130 Finley Avenue Suite 500, Downers Grove, Il 60515. 630-469-2300 (phone/TTY) and 630-469-2606 (fax). We wish AIM well with their new place of business!

Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing:

DRS and the Commission of Volunteerism and Community Services, along with Northwestern Illinois Center for Independent Living (NICIL), and Sauk Valley Community College, hosted the 2013 disABILITIES Expo on Wednesday Oct 2, 2013 from 11:30 am to 7:00 pm at Sauk Valley Community College. This expo provided education to the community in regards to disability awareness, highlighted abilities of individuals with disabilities, and promoted access for individuals with disabilities. Events included a performance by Chris Errera, composer and pianist; Traveling Museum on Deafness; Empowerment and Self Advocacy by Michele Miller, Executive Director of NICIL; Traveling Hands Troupe performance; and The Americans With Disabilities Act, and What You Need to Know presented by Jessica Madrigal of Great Lakes ADA.

Deaf Awareness Day was celebrated on October 2, 2013, in the atrium at the James R. Thompson Center and was considered a HUGE success in many ways! This year, twenty-two exhibitors were available to discuss the services they provide to the Deaf and hard of hearing communities. Exhibitors included community rehabilitation programs, educational programs including colleges and support service providers, other State and City of Chicago government agencies, interpreter referral agencies, CART providers, and advocacy organizations.

DRS has been working closely for several years with transition age high school students from the Chicago metropolitan area. The work has really been rewarding as well as fun to be able to meet and talk with students. The students and teachers alike have seemed to enjoy hearing from VR staff and employers about the "world of work" from a variety of workshops held in the fall and the spring.

This year several of the high schools also included the students taking American Sign Language (ASL) classes for foreign language credit. Many of the 'hearing' students attempted to use their newly acquired ASL skills when communicating with exhibitors. Some of the students found this to be very challenging and frustrating. These students got a taste of what it is like to be deaf in an environment that is mainly hearing. A couple of the teachers remarked that their students were very excited to have a chance to come to Chicago and mix with Deaf adults and other Deaf students from area high schools. Eight high schools and one middle school were in attendance. To help students become more aware and knowledgeable about the services and agencies that are available to Deaf and hard of hearing people in the area, students had an opportunity to answer ten questions about the exhibitors and their agencies. When they finished answering their questions by interviewing the exhibitors, they were provided the answers as well as 'prizes' for their efforts at the DRS Exhibit table. The kids really seem to enjoy using the questions to as a way to approach the exhibitor as the structure seemed to reduce the awkwardness of meeting 'strangers' in a public place.

One of the educational activities that the high school students who visit had is an opportunity to participate in a "Scavenger Hunt" for information about the agencies. Participants were given a sheet with questions about the exhibitors, and they then went around and met the exhibitors and got the answers to the questions on their sheet. When they completed their "hunt," they were awarded a token for their effort. This was a positive learning experience for many students, as well as being a fun way for the exhibitors to share their information.

This year, DHS/DRS used Social Media (Facebook and Twitter) for outreach to help inform people about Deaf Awareness Day.

Contract Unit:

After a late start due to procurement issues, the DRS Contract Unit has established contracts for FY14 for vendors. The unit has also been working with the DHS Contract Compliance Unit to ensure that all budgets have been completed for non-rate base community service programs.

Bureau of Field Services:

The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, in concert with the Alliance for Regional Development and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, hosted a webinar on September 27, to discuss the topic of how the region is to sustain its role as a driver of national growth and of global competitiveness. At issue is how to go about developing these action plans in a meaningful way, how to put them into place effectively, and how to monitor progress and measure success over time.

Speakers included Austan Goolsbee, Former Chairman, Council of Economic Advisors; Daniel Sullivan, Executive Vice President and Director of Research, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago; the Governors of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin; Tom Easterday, Executive Vice President, Subaru of Indiana Automotive; Reggie Newson, Secretary, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development; Karin Norington-Reaves, CEO, Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership; Linda Woloshansky, President & CEO, Center of Workforce Innovations; and many other high ranking CEOs and government leaders.

Discussion items included how the region faces challenges associated with articulating and implementing region-wide plans. All key public and private sector stakeholders know what needs to be done and why it needs to be done if the region is to sustain its role as a driver of national growth and of global competitiveness. At issue is how to go about developing these action plans in a meaningful way, how to put them into place effectively, and how to monitor progress and measure success over time. This Summit was a historic opportunity to begin the "how" discussion.

This Tri-State economic discussion also included the "how to include" disabled individuals in the regional economic growth that continues drive the Tri-State growth that has made this region a leader in economic growth. The discussion highlights the matching skills to jobs in the region and developing transportation and logistics in the region. As we all know, individuals with disabilities continue to have a higher unemployment rate than the non-disabled population. DRS continues to sit on WIA boards and is always looking for ways to help individuals with disabilities participate in economic growth in Illinois and our sisters states when appropriate.