Braille Monitor                                                                           November 1986


Of Vocational Rehabilitation in 1986

(This article appeared in the Summer, 1986, Barricades, the newsletter of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa.)

In some states rehabilitation counselors, ever on the lookout for status 26 case closures, tend to get a bit nervous when the fiscal year is drawing to a close and they don't know what to do with a particular client. All of a sudden a client is likely to find that his or her vocational goal has been changed to that of "homemaker" so the counselor can close the case before the end of the year and get credit for the "rehabilitation."

Of course, this never happens in the (pick one):

--Iowa Commission for the Blind
--Division for the Blind of the Department of Human Rights.

Or does it? On May 30, 1986, a client who had planned to be a teacher found that her goal was changed. Excerpts from the amendment to her Individualized Written Rehabilitation Program follow:

Vocational Objective: Homemaker (in her own home) 5999

To Be Attained By: 9 /1 / 8 6

Planned Services: Service Category--Placement and Follow-Up; How Provided--Client/counselor; Effective Date--Begin 5/86, end 9/86

Counselor Remarks: Health problems and non-acceptance into the college has compelled a change of vocational direction. At present the client is using learned skills to be a homemaker.

Client Views: "I am taking care of myself, and trying to get my college credits straight. Right now I'm keeping house for myself and my friend." (A handwritten note by the counselor referring to the client remarks states "not direct quote--gist of conversation.")

The document was signed by the counselor and the program manager of the Division's Field Operations Department.

What had happened was this: The client in question, who had not been visited by her counselor for some time, received a letter from the counselor in late May stating the intention to close the client's case unless the client contacted the counselor. (Choosing this particular method of communication instead of a personal visit or simple telephone call says a lot about this particular counselor.)

When the client telephoned, her counselor stated that a letter had not been received from college stating that the client had been accepted. The counselor also told the client that the Division for the Blind had paid an extra $152 for the client's medical bills and, "in order to justify it, I have to make you into a homemaker."

Federal law requires that the Individualized Written Rehabilitation Program and amendments to it be developed jointly between the client and the counselor. Yet, this client was met with a fait accompli; the counselor said there was no alternative but to put her into homemaker status.

For this client the rehabilitation process is coming to an end, despite the fact that she is trying to get her college credits straight, despite the fact that she plans to attend college when she has done so. Because the Division for the Blind paid extra for her medical expenses, and because she keeps house for herself and her roommate, she will henceforce have the vocational goal of "homemaker"--no matter what she wants. The client has never agreed to this change in goal. This drastic change was simply imposed upon her. The counselor neither proposed nor indicated a willingness to consider alternative vocational goals.

This is not the only instance of this type of thing, and it is not just one counselor who is at fault for doing something like this. (For example, it's a little known fact, but counselors at the Division for the Blind have also closed as working and rehabilitated clients who had "volunteer" jobs for which they received no pay.)

There is a temptation in this instance to fix all the blame on the individual counselor(s). However, it is only fair to note that counselors within the Division do not receive intensive training in rehabilitation law and regulations, nor do they receive adequate supervision by persons knowledgeable about these laws and regulations to keep such incidents from occurring. They do not receive the right kind of leadership from the administrator of the Division, who seems to have little interest in the internal workings of her own agency and no commitment to the just treatment of the agency's clients.

There are those at the Division for the Blind who maintain that nothing has changed, still use the old name of "Commission for the Blind," and still claim that quality services are provided to Iowa's blind people.

Things have changed. The change in agency structure, from that of independent commission to division of a larger agency, serves only to highlight the fact that Iowa's agency for the blind of the 1980's, unlike its counterpart of the 1970's, is neither exemplary nor unique.