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 2006 and the extent to which the state has achieved these goals are described below.
Using the results of its comprehensive needs assessment, the Department identified seven "needs" categories and set goals to address those needs. Over the past year, the Department has made significant progress toward achieving the defined goals.
1. Adjustment to Blindness
Goal: The. Department will increase confidence and independence of blind Iowans so that they may live independently, work competitively, and be active in their community.
The Department 's Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center is an effective forum for blind Iowans to obtain the skills and positive philosophy of blindness. The Orientation Center is a residential training program for adults who are blind. Students receive training in four areas:
1) Development of self-confidence. Students learn that "It's okay to be blind."
2) Blindness skills. Students take classes in cane travel, home and personal management, industrial arts, Braille, and computer to learn the alternative or non-visual techniques of blindness that will enable them to perform everyday tasks effectively and efficiently.
3) Job readiness. Center students prepare for competitive employment by participating in career exploration, job shadowing, volunteering, and other job-related activities.
4) Public education. Since Center training is based on the fact that the real problems of blindness are caused by the misconceptions that are widely held about it, students learn how to deal with the situations they encounter when in public and participate in speaking engagements to share their experiences with others.
Since September 2005, thirty students have enrolled in the Center for training, and twenty-three have completed the program as of 3/31/2007. Eleven students are scheduled to enroll over the remainder of the current federal fiscal year. The Department's success in assisting Iowans achieve their employment goals is evident in the number of applications taken and the percentage of clients who achieve competitive employment outcomes in relation to all employment outcomes. In FY 2006, 174 new applications for VR services were taken. Also, 89% of clients with an employment outcome were in competitive employment, with an average hourly wage of $12.97.
2. Technology Accessibility and Training
Goal: The Department will improve the technology skills of blind Iowans by providing support and training in the use of assistive technology.
The Department's Technology Resource Center offers clients the opportunity to evaluate and learn to use a wide variety of assistive technology. In FY 2006, 44 individual technology skills assessments were performed.
All technology training activities focus on teaching troubleshooting and problem-solving skills so that clients learn to apply the knowledge and skills they acquire to new or updated technology. In FY 2006, 156 individuals received access technology training.
Goal: The Department will work to increase employer know/edge on software and web accessibility issues.
Education and technical assistance are key to increasing employer knowledge on accessibility of technology. The technology staff support employers through the performance of worksite assessments and through training and technical assistance that is customized to their employment situation. Our technology staff also offer information and advice on assistive technology and accessibility to employers through seminars, e-mail, telephone calls, and in-service demonstrations. In FY 2006, staff completed 27 worksite assessments and handled 121 contacts for technical support. ssistants.
3. Student Preparation for Higher Education and Employment
Goal: The Department will improve outreach services to transition age and college students and their families and educators.
A Transition Specialist oversees all of the Department's transition activities and coordinates services with the VR counselors. Last year, we provided transition services to 25 blind youths ages 14 to 18 through special programs and vocational rehabilitation services.
In 2006, the Department, the Iowa Braille School, and the Iowa Department of Education began a cooperative effort to improve the coordination and delivery of services to blind and visually impaired children in Iowa.
For older students, the Department hosts an annual two-day College Days workshop for students currently or newly enrolled in an institution of higher education. On the post-workshop assessment, 83% participants indicated that the information they obtained at the workshop would be beneficial to their success at college.
In 2003, the Department received a 5-year grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) to develop and implement a mentoring program. In FY 2006, 18 mentors and mentees participated in the program. The impact of the program on the participants has been carefully measured using assessment tools. Most recent assessments clearly show that participation in the program is having a measurable positive effect on the youth involved.
Goal: The Department will establish relationships with institutes of higher education in Iowa and educate these institutions about the Department's services and our positive philosophy of blindness.
The Department has secured an interagency agreement with the Iowa Board of Regents, representing the three major institutes of higher education in Iowa: Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa. In addition, the Department has interagency agreements with each of the 15 community colleges in Iowa. Through these agreements, all signatories agree to a cost allocation plan to meet the needs of blind and visually impaired students in Iowa.
4. Employer Knowledge and Attitudes toward Applicants who are Blind
Goal: The Department will improve the understanding of employers and newly blind persons about the vocational capabilities of persons who are blind.
Focusing on Employers Developing positive relationships with employers directly benefits our clients who are seeking high-quality employment.
The Employer Disability Resource Network (EDRN) is a collaborative effort by the Department, IVRS, Iowa Workforce Development, SCORE, Division of Persons with Disabilities, Small Business Administration, Progress Industries, and Veterans Affairs to identify and mobilize resources, supports, and services that will add value to Iowa businesses hiring persons with disabilities. Currently, this group is working on developing a web portal where Iowa employers can obtain information about the benefits of hiring a person with a disability and access the services provided by these partner agencies.
In partnership with Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IVRS), the Department hosted an Employers for Excellence Appreciation Day luncheon in October 2006. Nineteen employers from around metro Des Moines came to the Department to learn about assistive technology, tour the Department, and speak with Department and IVRS staff.
Finally, the Department has signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Des Moines Area Community College, IVRS, and Veterans Affairs to work together to address anticipated worker shortage in Iowa's labor market.
Working with Employees To ensure that all blind Iowans have access to specialized employment services, the employment specialists travel across the state to provide career assessment and development training to Iowans in the communities where they live and plan to work. Some programs that have been implemented include Career Seminars and Job Clubs. The Career Seminars cover job seeking skills, career development, addressing blindness at the interview, the job application process, career exploration, and more. The Job Clubs are peer support networks for individuals who are blind and seeking employment.
To date, two job clubs have been organized: one in the Des Moines area and another in western Iowa. Thirty individuals participated in Job Club in 2006. Recently, the club in western Iowa disbanded because all members became employed.
Since 2006, the employment specialists have hosted six career-related seminars. Twenty people have achieved a successful employment outcome as a direct result of these seminars. The college days seminars, which are strictly informational, had approximately 69 students in attendance in 2006.
Goal: The Department will improve staff knowledge of employers in Iowa by developing a resource of potential employers
To ensure that relationships with employers are maintained, our employment specialists have developed a database of those employers with whom we are working to create jobs on behalf of our clients. The database currently has records for 313 employers. The database is a valuable resource to all staff who use it to identify local employers who have been contacted and to obtain basic contact information that can help in placing clients and networking.
5. Services to Unserved / Underserved Populations
Goal: The Department will identify unserved and underserved populations in Iowa.
Analysis of RSA 911 and U.S. Census data found that the Department is serving minority groups at a comparable rate with their representation in the state. Demographic projections show that Iowa is likely to experience an increase in minorities, especially among the Hispanic population, in the next 5 years and beyond.
The results of the needs assessment survey indicated that women may be an underserved population. However, analysis of current caseload data show that women are served equally to men. Data from the FY 2005 RSA 911 report showed that more women than men were closed in competitive employment. In FY 2006, women represented nearly half of the case load (48 percent) and represented exactly half (50 percent) of the competitive employment closures. Further, the average wage at closure for women ($13.08) was slightly higher than men at closure ($12.90).
Goal: The Department will raise the awareness in Iowa's minority populations of the Department's services.
Because demographic projections indicate a possible increase in Iowa's minority populations, especially, the Hispanic population, the Department's Marketing team is studying how new materials can be provided in Spanish and how outreach activities can be tailored to this population.
Recently, the Meskwaki tribal council submitted a grant application to provide rehabilitation services to its members. As part of their grant application process, the Meskwaki, the Department, and IVRS developed a cooperative agreement to ensure that these entities work together to provide effective rehabilitation services.
Through its involvement with the regional Workforce System partnerships and the statewide Governance Group, the Department has established a network of referral sources to tap into populations who may not be directly contacted by the Department or may not initially believe or realize the Department is a resource for them.
Finally, the Department performed 399 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 over 10,000 people. 6. Independent Access to Information
Goal: The Department will improve the ability of blind Iowans to independently access information.
The Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped is housed in the same building as the Department. The Library provides materials to over 8,000 eligible Iowans. The following table lists the items in alternative media circulated by the Library.
The technology staff also work to keep Department staff up to date on technology trends. In order to facilitate timely access to current print news media, the Department works closely with the NFB-NEWSLINE® and the Iowa Radio Reading Information Service for the Blind and Print Handicapped (IRIS). The NFBNEWSLINE® services gives individuals who cannot read standard print access to hundreds of newspapers using a touch-tone telephone. Through IRIS, Iowans can listen to news read from Iowa newspapers, magazines, and other publications in their own homes. The Department often refers individuals to NEWSLINE and IRIS. Applications for these services are available at the Department, and staff provide assistance in completing the application when necessary.
Goal: The Department will promote Braille literacy so that more blind Iowans are able to read and write Braille.
All clients who enroll in the Department's Orientation center receive intensive Braille instruction. In FY 2006, 30 students enrolled in the Orientation Center received instruction on Grade 1 and Grade 2 Braille. In FY2006 Rehabilitation Teachers provided 256 training units in Braille to 97 individuals.
7. Collaboration with Other Components of the Workforce Investment System
Goal: To provide training and technical support to partners in the Workforce Investment System
The Department has signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with all 16 boards. Through these MOU, the partners agree to provide cross-training on services and eligibility, share strategies for working with mutual clients, and provide and receive referrals. All VR counselors are charged with participating in the Workforce Investment partner meetings in their area. Governance Group partners have been successful at seeking funding for a variety of grant projects, most recently receiving a Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) grant from the Spcial Security Administration.
Supported Employment The Department provided supported employment services to fourteen individuals in FY 2006. These services included job development and placement, provision of skilled job coaches who provided intensive skills training at the individual's work site.
Highest priority is given to obtaining competitive employment at wages which match or exceed average wages for all Iowans in accordance with the informed choice of the individuals served. To support this priority, emphasis is placed on promoting a positive philosophy of blind and quality training in the alternative skills of blindness including travel, keyboarding and computer skills, Braille, home management, and self-care.
Standards and Indicators The Department met the RSA standards and indicators during FY 2006. The Department's performance average of FY 2005 and 2006 based on RSA's standards and indicators was as follows:
Performance Indicator 1.1 (Number of Individuals with Employment Outcomes)128. Performance Indicator 1.2 (Individuals Receiving Services under an Individualized Plan for Employment and Percentage with an Employment Outcome) 80.5%. Performance Indicator 1.3 (Competitive Employment Outcomes as a Percentage of all Employment Outcomes) 89.84%. Performance Indicator 1.4 (Competitive Employment Outcomes for Individuals with Significant Disabilities as a Percentage of all Individuals with Significant Disabilities) 100%. Performance Indicator 1.5 (Ratio of Average VR Wage to State Wage as a Percentage) 92.96% Performance Indicator 1.6 (Percentage of Individuals Achieving Competitive Employment Outcomes Reporting Own Income as Primary Source of Support at Application and Closure) 22.27% Performance Indicator 2.1 (Access to Services for Minorities)75.68%