State VR agencies are required to submit a state plan annually to RSA that identifies the goals and priorities of the state in carrying out the program. The IA-B goals and priorities for FY 2005 and the extent to which the state has achieved these goals are described below.
Goal 1: To increase the number of blind Iowans prepared for employment and independent living, thereby contributing to improving the self-sufficiency of Iowans.
IDB provided quality rehabilitation services to blind individuals in Iowa while facing a soft Iowa labor market and limited budget and staff. Iowa employers were provided with qualified blind job applicants who exhibit competitive performance, productivity, and reliability. Employers received vital support services including the screening of job-ready applicants, assistance with access issues, task analysis, job accommodation, supervisory training if needed, follow-up services after placement, and necessary information on complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
IDB also provided a significant, meaningful level of training in the following critical skill areas: mobility (travel with the long white cane); home management (cooking, cleaning, etc.); technology (instruction in the use of assistive technology and adaptive equipment); and communication (phone use, and instruction in alternative media including Braille). All individuals who sought training were served.
In FY 2005, Independent Living (IL) staff members were able to provide training on blindness to 25 service-providing organizations throughout Iowa to improve their ability to meet the unique needs of individuals who are blind. IL staff provided training to in-home health providers, hospital social workers, and staff in residential facilities including nursing homes.
Goal 2: To expand and improve job placement services so that blind persons can successfully find employment, pursue career advancement or retain jobs, thereby contributing to the improvement of Iowa's employment rate by increasing the employment of persons with disabilities.
IDB expanded and improved job placement services so that blind persons can successfully find employment, pursue career advancement, or retain jobs. Among the programs implemented in FY 2005, were the conduct of Career Seminars and the establishment of Job Clubs. The Career Seminars covered career exploration, job-seeking skills, the job application process, techniques for addressing blindness during the interview process, and career development. The Job Clubs are peer support networks for individuals who are blind and seeking employment.
IDB established a Career Resource room for all Iowans who are blind or visually impaired. The purpose of the Career Resource room is to help students and clients choose a career and find successful employment. In addition, three staff positions were modified to emphasize employer relations and career development. Two rehabilitation counselors became employment specialists. Their duties include establishing relationships with employers throughout Iowa, educating employers about the capabilities of blind Iowans, and working with clients on job seeking skills. One Orientation Teacher has been charged with helping clients explore career options and interests.
Goal 3: To develop a state-of-the-art program in the use of access technology in combination with other technological advances so that all Department staff can effectively and efficiently provide essential services, and so that consumers who are blind can participate and compete successfully in educational, training, and vocational pursuits, thereby increasing the productivity of Iowa's citizens.
IDB has made accessibility of its systems a top priority. All staff, including those who are using assistive technology, can remotely access the Department's network. In addition, Department staff have developed and implemented an accessible electronic case management system (eFORCE).
IDB received two National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) grants to fund its ASSIST With Windows program. The goal of the ASSIST program is to develop computer-training materials written specifically for individuals using screen access software. This program has also designed and implemented a distance-learning program in which computer training is provided to individuals from across the nation.
During FY 2005 the ASSIST program distributed 545 tutorials and course packets. In addition, 9 new tutorials and course packets were developed. 63 individuals participated in on-line Microsoft Office or Train the Trainer courses.
Goal 4: To improve the understanding of the general public, including newly blind persons, regarding the capabilities of persons who are blind, contributing to improvement in employment of persons with disabilities and the quality of life in Iowa's communities.
In FY 2005, IDB conducted 454 outreach events designed to improve the understanding of the general public, including newly blind persons, regarding the capabilities of persons who are blind. These events reached approximately 15,331 people.
Two staff members participated in the "Iowa Great Places" road trip, an event sponsored by the Governor's office. Representatives from state agencies traveled by bus to "Great Places" communities throughout Iowa. Community leaders had the opportunity to speak with state government personnel about their projects and obtain recommendations on resources and expertise available to them through state government.
Goal 5: Provide the resources and tools needed to effectively advocate for actions and policies that promote independence, self-sufficiency, and self-determination for blind citizens.
IDB staff attended a variety of professional conferences, presentations, and trainings to learn about the many resources and tools that blind Iowans can utilize to achieve independence, self-sufficiency, and self-determination. In addition, IDB issued several newsletters to inform Iowans about related resources, activities, and programs, to promote a positive philosophy about blindness, and to share success stories written by Iowans who have participated in IDB programs or training activities. Newsletter titles included the "White Cane Update," the "Open Door," "Independent Living," "Orientation Center," "Pathfinders," and "ASSIST With Windows." These newsletters were distributed in large print, cassette, and Braille and reached approximately 13,000 Iowans.
Goal 6: To expand rehabilitation services so that all segments of IDB's constituency are adequately served - children, the elderly, and multiply-disabled persons who are blind - without regard to age or severity of disabilities.
IDB expanded transition services to blind youth ages 14 and older who are beginning to exit the K-12 educational system. A Transition Specialist was hired to oversee all of the department's transition activities.
In 2003, IDB received a 5-year grant from NIDRR to develop and implement a mentoring program. During FY 2005, 32 mentors and mentees were paired up and participated in various activities of the Pathfinders program.
To encourage transitioning students to participate in IDB a number of activities took place in 2005. These included: two weekend retreats, where 26 young people participated; Camp Discovery where 15 students participated; and a College Day program where 61 new or current college students participated.
Goal 7: To support the activities of the Iowa Commission for the Blind and the Statewide Independent Living Council.
IDB supports the Iowa Commission for the Blind's activities by offering technical guidance and advice in the administration of programs that the Code of Iowa empowers the Commission to conduct and by providing clerical and other staff support.
IDB provided $10,000 in innovation and expansion dollars to the SILC. In addition, the Department provided technical assistance to the SILC in support of its incorporation and application for 501c3 status. Finally, IDB handled all of the SILC's accounting functions.