U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

RSA-227 for FY-2021: Submission #1211

New Jersey
09/30/2021
General Information
Designated Agency Identification
Disability Rights New Jersey
210 S Broad Street
3rd Floor
Trenton
New Jersey
08608
6092929742
8009227233
{Empty}
Operating Agency (if different from Designated Agency)
{Empty}
{Empty}
{Empty}
{Empty}
{Empty}
{Empty}
{Empty}
{Empty}
{Empty}
{Empty}
{Empty}
{Empty}
{Empty}
Additional Information
Kathleen Redpath-Perez
Gwen Orlowski
6092929742
gorlowski@disabilityrightsnj.org
Part I. Non-case Services
A. Information and Referral Services (I&R)
5
0
0
0
0
0
5
B. Training Activities
23
774
This fiscal year, staff from Disability Rights New Jersey’s employment team presented an extensive number of trainings dedicated to the employment of people with disabilities. The trainings presented information about vocational rehabilitation services, workplace accommodations, employment discrimination, transition, and assistive technology. In addition to providing live trainings, Disability Rights NJ developed a range of self-advocacy materials relevant to transition aged youth and adults with disabilities seeking to be successfully employed. These materials include a webinar entitled “Self-Advocacy in the Workplace: Know your Rights” developed for those with IDD seeking a reasonable accommodation, and a publication titled, “Reasonable accommodations: The Americans with Disabilities Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination Frequently Asked Questions: A Basic Overview of the Laws”. In addition to these materials, Disability Rights NJ developed two additional self-advocacy publications about the availability and scope of vocational rehabilitation services, entitled “Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services for those with Developmental Disabilities: Frequently Asked Questions” and “Vocational Rehabilitation Transition Services: A Student’s Guide”. These materials reside on the agency’s website for access by underserved and unserved populations.

Disability Rights NJ co-sponsored a virtual conference with the Learning Disabilities Association of New Jersey, titled “Life in High School and Beyond”. The event included 36 workshops on a variety of topics including IEPs, 504 plans, transition, college or work readiness, and assistive technology. At the event, staff from the agency’s employment and special education teams presented a workshop, “14 Years Old and Beyond: How to Create a Seamless Transition”. Attendees were provided with examples and best practices for creating strong, effective transition plans for students with disabilities. Disability Rights NJ also informed attendees how to access individualized vocational rehabilitation services, including higher education services to enable students to transition successfully from school to employment.

Disability Rights NJ presented a live webinar titled “What Parents of Children with IDD Need to Know about Vocational Rehabilitation Transition Services.” The focus of the webinar was to inform parents about the wide scope of vocational rehabilitation transition services available to students with disabilities under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Attendees were informed about the importance of contacting the state vocational rehabilitation agency as soon as possible after their child reaches transition age, and how to access individualized vocational rehabilitation services, including post-secondary education services. Information was presented about common barriers accessing vocational rehabilitation services, and how the CAP program works to resolve these barriers.

Disability Rights NJ hosted the 5th Annual New Jersey Assistive Technology & Community Living Summit, a two-day event featuring more than 40 workshops. At the event, Disability Rights NJ presented workshops concerning reasonable accommodations, employment first and transition services. The transition workshop, entitled “Transition – Know the Facts!” provided information about creating an effective transition plan within the IEP and securing additional transition services through state VR agencies. A key intent of WIOA is that state vocational rehabilitation agencies collaborate with school districts early in the transition planning process and make available a range of vocational rehabilitation transition services to students with disabilities still in school. Disability Rights NJ provided information and strategies on how to engage the state vocational rehabilitation agency early in the transition process, including at their child’s IEP meeting. Information was provided about the CAP program and how CAP services can resolve barriers to accessing vocational rehabilitation services. Approximately 150 individuals attended the conference, while 20 family members and professionals attended the “Transition – Know the Facts!” workshop.

Disability Rights NJ staff presented a workshop for the Career Connection Employment Resource Institute of the Mental Health Association of New Jersey. The presenters provided an overview of protection and advocacy programs and services, including the CAP program, and how CAP services can benefit individuals seeking and receiving state vocational rehabilitation services. Approximately 20 individuals attended this training.
The managing attorney of Disability Rights NJ’s employment team provided a training about transition planning at The Training Institute at Garfield Park Academy. The workshop provided information about the legal requirements for transition planning, post-secondary service providers, and ADA accommodations as they relate to behavioral and mental health issues to approximately 150 attendees.

Disability Rights NJ staff presented training to designated juvenile liaison officers for Mercer County under the new Attorney General’s directive to promote juvenile justice reform. Information presented included Disability Rights NJ programs and services, including the CAP program and the agency’s intake process. Attendees were provided an overview of some of the most common disabilities seen in children in the juvenile justice system, and best practices when working with youth with disabilities. Approximately 22 professionals attended this training.

This fiscal year, Disability Rights NJ completed training about the CAP program to 5 remaining DVRS local offices in the State previously unavailable to receive this training. The purpose of the training was to familiarize DVRS staff with CAP staff and services and provide examples of how we can assist vocational rehabilitation clients. Approximately 42 professionals attended these presentations. Disability Rights NJ staff provided virtual trainings to staff at 7 centers for independent living. The training highlighted the CAP program and the importance of referring CIL clients to CAP when they encounter barriers seeking or receiving state vocational rehabilitation services. Approximately 53 professionals attended these presentations.

Disability Rights NJ staff conducted in-person trainings at 5 five sheltered workshop sites throughout the state. The presentations consisted of an overview of protection and advocacy services, with an emphasis on the CAP program and how CAP services can assist individuals seeking vocational rehabilitation services and competitive integrated employment. The presentations included a testimonial from a self-advocate who began work in a sheltered workshop setting and moved on to become competitively employed.
C. Agency Outreach
Despite in person restrictions imposed by COVID-19, this fiscal year Disability Rights NJ collaborated with multiple organizations to provide information and resources about the agency’s protection and advocacy services, and CAP program in virtual formats to un-served and underserved communities.

Disability Rights NJ’s Director of Training and Outreach participated in the Annual Legislative Conference sponsored by the Latino Action Network. Attendees were provided with information about the agency’s programs and services, including the availability of CAP services. Approximately 25 consumers, 100 family members and 100 professionals attended this event.

Disability Rights NJ was a panel participant at the New Jersey Statewide Network for Cultural Competence Annual Conference: Building Bridges, Breaking Barriers & Cultivating Cultural Competency with the Diverse Deaf, Deaf-Blind & Hard of Hearing Community. Approximately 75 individuals attended this event.
Disability Rights NJ’s advocate assistant exhibited virtually at the NJ Self-Advocacy Project: Annual Spring into Action event. Approximately 145 registered for this event.

Disability Rights NJ exhibited virtually to teachers and school personnel at the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) Annual Convention. Materials and information about Disability Rights NJ programs and services were available, with an emphasis on special education, assistive technology and CAP services for transition aged youth and students with disabilities. Approximately 2500 individuals attended the NJEA event.

Disability Rights NJ provided information and resources about CAP services and Disability Rights NJ programs at the Center for Independent Living of South Jersey Drive Thru Resource Fair event. Approximately 100 individuals participated in this event.

Disability Rights NJ co-sponsored a virtual conference with the Learning Disabilities Association of NJ: Life in High School and Beyond Virtual Conference & Resource Expo. In addition to presenting multiple workshops on a variety of topics relating to transition, Disability Rights NJ staff were available in post session virtual forums to provide information and resources to the 150 individuals attending this event.
D. Information Disseminated To The Public By Your Agency
1
0
0
4746
12
0
{Empty}
E. Information Disseminated About Your Agency By External Media Coverage
To increase public awareness about New Jersey’s CAP program, Disability Rights NJ regularly posts on social media to over 4,000 followers about the agency’s events, programs and services including the CAP program. Disability Rights NJ regularly sends e-blasts to over 5,000 individuals about current issues, including transition, and disseminates information about self-advocacy publications the agency has developed. Information about the CAP program is also accessible on the agency’s redesigned website. We also redesigned our print CAP brochure for dissemination at local VR offices, which began re-opening after closing at the beginning of the pandemic.
Part II. Individual Case Services
A. Individuals served
10
20
30
6
13
B. Problem areas
4
5
16
2
0
13
0
1
C. Intervention Strategies for closed cases
9
1
15
0
0
1
27
D. Reasons for closing individuals' case files
15
7
0
2
0
2
0
0
1
0
0
0
{Empty}
E. Results achieved for individuals
8
3
2
0
10
2
0
0
0
2
Alternate funding source secured
Part III. Program Data
A. Age
5
8
7
9
1
30
B. Gender
13
17
30
C. Race/ethnicity of Individuals Served
2
0
2
8
0
17
0
1
D. Primary disabling condition of individuals served
3
1
0
0
0
0
2
2
2
2
0
2
1
1
0
0
0
0
0
2
4
0
1
1
0
0
0
0
0
5
0
1
0
0
30
E. Types of Individuals Served
8
0
19
0
3
0
Part IV. Systemic Activities and Litigation
A. Non-Litigation Systemic Activities
2
In September 2019, Disability Rights NJ conducted monitoring of 22 sheltered workshops throughout New Jersey to learn more about how they operate, and to gather data about individuals working at these facilities. As a result of interviews conducted, we discovered that workshop participants had infrequent, and less than meaningful contact with the State vocational rehabilitation agency, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (DVRS) regarding opportunities to transition to competitive integrated employment. A non-public report was generated regarding the results of that monitoring project, along with suggested reform of the sheltered workshop system in New Jersey. During the Covid-19 pandemic starting in March 2020, sheltered workshops were closed to participants. After the passage of the CARES Act in 2020, the states were provided financial assistance because of the unprecedented closure of private and public business and entities. New Jersey used some of that assistance to continue paying sheltered workshops with respect to vendor contracts with DVRS.

In the summer of 2021, Disability Rights NJ began identifying and reviewing workshop sites that our office would visit a second time, as part of our monitoring authority over sheltered workshops. Disability Rights NJ selected five workshop sites to re-visit and announced our intention to each site that we would be visiting and our purpose in doing so. Prior to visiting these workshop sites, we engaged with ACCSES-NJ, a trade association for sheltered workshops in New Jersey. The purpose in speaking with this organization was to better understand the nature and work of extended employment and their relationship with DVRS. In addition, Disability Rights NJ met with experts at the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMass Boston regarding approaches taken by other states to close sheltered workshops. Disability Rights NJ intends to continue research on sheltered workshops for FY 2022 to determine appropriate next steps for advocacy on this issue.

Educating Policy Makers – Community Rehabilitation Programs
This fiscal year, Disability Rights NJ provided comments to the legislature on proposed bill S995 requiring DVRS to conduct individual assessments of all community rehabilitation programs to determine whether they constitute competitive integrated employment. Although we supported the requirement that DVRS annually assess the community rehabilitation programs, we raised concerns that the bill as drafted had a presumption that employment in community rehabilitation programs was competitive and integrated. Disability Rights NJ objected to the presumption, and the language of the bill was modified, and the presumption was removed. The bill was signed into law.

Educating Policy Makers - Vocational Rehabilitation Services

This fiscal year, Disability Rights NJ initiated regular meetings with the leadership of both general and blind vocational rehabilitation agencies to informally resolve systemic service problems CAP staff have identified through individual client representation. Some of the recurring issues addressed at these meetings include the responsibilities of state agencies to refer individuals seeking or receiving vocational rehabilitation services to CAP at four specific points in the service process; the content and timeliness of IPEs; requirement to provide notice to clients regarding adverse decisions; CAP input on the DVRS consumer handbook; sponsorship of SSI/SSDI recipients concerning college tuition; and sheltered workshops.

Additionally, through individual case representation, CAP has encountered numerous cases of eligible vocational rehabilitation clients who have taken out significant student loans after the application of comparable benefits to finance funding shortfalls after the financial contribution from the state agency. Prior to addressing this issue with the state agencies, Disability Rights NJ conducted legal research which resulted in a memo on graduate school tuition, especially for STEM/medicine/law/business programs, and reasonable fee schedules under WIOA. The memo, which was shared with the leadership of both vocational rehabilitation agencies emphasizes that a fee schedule to ensure a reasonable cost for each VR service, may not be so low as to effectively deny a necessary service and must permit exceptions so that individual needs can be addressed.

Disability Rights NJ has emphasized that the fee schedule must be reasonable, and not so low as to deny access to advanced training required by WIOA: at a minimum, the fee schedule should be based on the flagship state university and should be specific to different graduate programs. Disability Rights New Jersey has advised both agencies that as the designated CAP agency we stand ready to provide the technical assistance to remove barriers for people with disabilities seeking advanced training envisioned by Congress and the RSA. In part, as result of our advocacy, DVRS amended their 2021 college fee schedule to align more closes with NJ's state university.

B. Litigation
1
2
2
Disability Rights NJ has been litigating the reasonableness of DVRS and CBVI's college and graduate school tuition fee schedules as well as de facto financial participation requirements for SSI/SSDI client since FY 2020. Two of these cases, at the impartial fair hearing stage, were on-going at the start of the fiscal year and carried into FY 2021. In both instances, Disability Rights NJ settled the cases such that VR client was made whole with respect to financial support for a reasonable fee schedule based on the state university.

One new appeal was filed in FY 2021 regarding graduate school tuition, CBVI's fee schedule, and the de facto requirement that a client on SSI financially participate in the cost of his college tuition. That matter was heard through the informal internal appeals process, and DRNJ filed for an impartial fair hearing in that case in November 2021.
Part V. Agency Information
A. Designated Agency
External-Protection and Advocacy agency
Disability Rights New jersey
No
{Empty}
B. Staff Employed
During FY 2021, the FTE allocations for the CAP program are as follows:
Attorney 1.56 FTE
Advocate .59 FTE
Support staff .20 FTE
Intake staff .12 FTE
Part VI. Case Examples
Case Examples
Disability Rights intervened on behalf of a 43-year-old female resident of Burlington County diagnosed with physical/orthopedic impairments and a traumatic brain injury secondary to a stroke. The client contacted Disability Rights NJ when the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (DVRS) determined she was not able to perform competitive integrated employment following a work trial in a community rehabilitation facility. After speaking with DVRS personnel and reviewing documentation, Disability Rights NJ determined that not only was the work trial site selected by DVRS inappropriate based on the client’s work goal, DVRS had not provided the client with any assistive technology to address client’s left side hemiparesis. Disability Rights NJ requested DVRS commission an assistive technology evaluation for the client and provide technology recommended in the assessment. After the client had been provided with appropriate technology, Disability Rights NJ advocated that DVRS schedule a work trial in an appropriate setting based on her employment goal of administrative assistant. With access to appropriate technology, the client successfully completed the work trial. Disability Rights NJ then represented the client with respect to the development of a new IPE that incorporated services consistent with the client’s employment goal, including additional computer software, a Microsoft Office 2019 Master Certification Training, and cognitive therapy.

Disability Rights intervened on behalf of a 41-year-old female resident of Ocean County diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. The client, an SSI recipient contacted Disability Rights NJ after being unable to reach agreement with DVRS with respect to the services to be provided. Without the client’s consent, DVRS had closed the client’s case. Disability Rights NJ investigated the facts by speaking with DVRS personnel and by reviewing DVRS documentation. Disability Rights NJ represented the client regarding receipt of appropriate services, including reminding DVRS that as an SSI recipient, the client was not required to financially contribute to the cost of services. DVRS declined to sponsor the client’s master’s degree, but at Disability Rights NJ’s request, agreed to fund several services to help the client maintain employment as a digital and video editor. These services included an assistive technology evaluation to assess the client’s technology needs and a modified vehicle pre-evaluation. Based on the recommendations in the assistive technology evaluation, DVRS agreed to provide the client with a specialized gaming desktop computer and documented this agreement in an IPE. After the client successfully completed the driving pre-evaluation, DVRS approved additional driving instruction hours at the request of the driving evaluator and revised the client’s IPE to include this service. Disability Rights NJ advised the client that as the driving lessons may take several months to complete her case would be closed. However, should the driving evaluator determine she is able to drive a modified vehicle and DVRS denies funding for this service she may contact our agency. Disability Rights NJ also explained that if DVRS approves funding for vehicle modifications but requires that she financially contribute to the cost of these services, she may contact our agency to request assistance.

Disability Rights NJ intervened on behalf of a 62-year-old male resident of Atlantic County diagnosed with paranoid personality disorder, bi-polar and cerebral palsy. The client contacted Disability Rights NJ in December 2019 when DVRS closed his case. Disability Rights NJ has assisted this client regarding receipt DVRS services for several years. This service request concerns the client’s request for DVRS financial sponsorship to continue his education in funeral science and pursue employment in the funeral industry. DVRS had closed his case and did not want to assist the client because of behavior he engaged in and language he used. Disability Rights NJ investigated the clients request for assistance by speaking with DVRS personnel, reviewing DVRS documentation and obtaining updated recommendations from the client’s clinical providers. Based on the facts, Disability Rights NJ represented the client regarding the development of a new IPE in line with the client’s employment goal to work in the funeral industry. The fully executed IPE included the provision of hearing aids, glasses, and supported employment services. Disability Rights NJ also worked with the client and his VR counselor to connect him with a clinical social worker regarding a consultation for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). As the CBT consultation was scheduled after the client’s Disability Rights NJ case was to be closed, the client was provided with advice and counsel regarding access to CBT services, including that should the evaluation recommend the provision of CBT, he should request DVRS amend his IPE to include this service.

Disability Rights NJ intervened on behalf of a 46-year-old female resident of Essex County diagnosed with autoimmune disease, physical/orthopedic impairments, and mental illness. The client, who is an SSI recipient, contacted Disability Rights NJ seeking assistance in obtaining reimbursement from DVRS for tuition and fees paid for a graduate study program at Montclair University, begun in 2015 and completed in 2019, pursuant to an IPE. During the period of enrollment for this program, DVRS failed to pay approximately $17,000 in tuition and related fees, which the client funded using credit cards and student loans. Disability Rights NJ negotiated on the client's behalf with DVRS regarding the reimbursement for tuition and related fees for her graduate study program. Disability Rights NJ was able to secure a $17,420.99 settlement agreement with DVRS on her behalf, with the settlement funds being sent directly to client’s loan provider to be applied to any outstanding balance. Client’s settlement was fully executed on February 17, 2021. Following the execution of the settlement, Disability Rights NJ worked with DVRS and Nelnet federal loan provider, to have Nelnet registered as a vendor with the State of New Jersey to facilitate the payment process. On June 15, 2021, the client advised us that Nelnet had received the funds which had been successfully applied to her student loan account.

Disability Rights NJ intervened on behalf of a 57-year-old female resident of Essex County diagnosed with mental illness. The client contacted Disability Rights NJ for assistance when DVRS denied client’s request to fund a laptop to enable her to complete course work necessary to obtain a GED. In the absence of a computer, the client was completing the GED coursework on her phone. This situation was exacerbated when because of the pandemic, GED classes moved entirely to virtual instruction. Following negotiation, DVRS agreed to fund a laptop for the client and developed an IPE in line with this agreement.
Disability Rights NJ intervened on behalf of a 44-year-old male resident of Essex County diagnosed with keratoconus, a condition that causes significant visual impairment. The client, who receives SSDI was referred to the CAP program as a client of the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CBVI) under a prior service request after CBVI failed to pay the full balance of his Fall 2019 and the Spring of 2020 semesters of college. The current service request represents a third case for this client and involves CBVI sponsorship for the Fall of 2020 and the Spring of 2021. In this third service request, Disability Rights NJ advocated on behalf of client with both DVRS and Rutgers, the flagship state university concerning tuition, fees, and room and board for the Fall of 2020. Following Disability Rights NJ advocacy which included obtaining relevant educational records, Rutgers agreed to use NJ CARES funds to pay the entirety of the tuition, fees, and room and board for the Fall of 2020. As a result, client's school balance was reduced to zero, allowing him to graduate in the Spring of 2021. While client initially requested that Disability Rights NJ advocate to CBVI for sponsorship of his Spring 2021 semester to allow him to take the remaining course he needed for a second minor, client ultimately decided graduation would be in his best interests.

Disability Rights NJ intervened on behalf of a 25-year-old male resident of Cape May County diagnosed with Becker Muscular Dystrophy, anxiety, OCD, depression, and asthma. by providing advice and counsel regarding client’s rights and legal avenues he could pursue under state and federal discrimination laws concerning a failure to hire claim. Disability Rights NJ collected information regarding the matter and thereafter provided client with information about the Americans with Disabilities Act; the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; the New Jersey Law against Discrimination; the Division of Civil Rights; and a referral to the local county bar association as well as to the National Employment Lawyer's Association, NJ Chapter. Specifically, the client was provided with background information about these laws, what criteria must apply for the ADA and NJLAD to be implicated, the statute of limitations that apply to discrimination claims, and the procedural prerequisites for filing suit.
Certification
Approved
Gwen Orlowski
Executive Director
2021-12-21
OMB Notice

OMB Control Number: 1820-0528, approved for use through 07/31/2023

According to the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, no persons are required to respond to a collection of information unless such collection displays a valid OMB control number. Public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average 16 hours per response, including time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information. The obligation to respond to this collection is required to obtain or retain a benefit (Section 13 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended). Send comments regarding the burden estimate or any other aspect of this collection of information, including suggestions for reducing this burden, to U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C. 20202-4537 or email ICDocketMgr@ed.gov and reference the OMB Control Number 1820-0528. Note: Please do not return the completed form to this address.