An Act creating a State Commission for the Blind, specifying the powers and duties of the Commission, transferring functions otherwise assigned; and for other purposes
SECTION 1 This Act may be cited as the "Commission for the Blind Act."
(a) PURPOSE: The purpose of this Act is to establish and authorize a coordinated program of services which will be available to individuals who are blind throughout the state. The program shall be designed to maximize employment opportunities for such individuals and to increase their independence and self-sufficiency.
(b) POLICY: It is the policy of the State that all programs, projects, and activities of the Commission shall be carried out in a manner consistent with the following principles'
- Respect for individual dignity, personal responsibility, self-determination, and pursuit of meaningful careers, based on informed choice;
- Support for the involvement of an individual's representative if an individual requests, desires, or needs such support;
- Respect for the individual's privacy and equal access including the use of information in accessible formats; and
- Integration and full participation of individuals who are blind in society on equal terms with others.
(a) The Commission for the Blind is hereby created. The Commission shall consist of five members appointed by the governor and qualified to serve based on knowledge and experience in rehabilitation and related services for the blind. A majority of the members shall be blind. No member of the Commission shall be employed by the Commission during the term of such membership.
(b) The Governor shall consult with recognized consumer groups of blind people in the state to obtain their recommendations of individuals to be appointed.
(c) The appointment of each Commissioner shall be for a three-year term, except that the Governor shall specify shorter terms in the initial appointment in order to establish a rotation. Two of the initial appointments shall be for two-year terms and two of the initial appointments shall be for one-year terms as specified by the Governor. Thereafter, all Commissioners shall be appointed for three-year terms.
(d) The Commission shall meet quarterly and at such other times as the Commissioners shall determine. The chairman of the Commission shall be elected by the members present and voting at the first meeting of the Commission and annually thereafter. Commissioners shall receive no salary, but shall be allowed the usual mileage, subsistence and per diem as authorized by law. A majority of the members of the Commission shall constitute a quorum to transact business.
(a) The Commission shall appoint an Executive Director with knowledge and experience in rehabilitation and related services for the blind. The Executive Director shall serve as secretary to the Commission and shall be the chief administrative officer of the agency. The Executive Director's appointment shall be for an indefinite period but may be terminated for cause as determined by a majority of the Commission. Preference shall be given to employing an individual who is blind and meets the qualifications specified by the Commission.
(b) The Executive Director shall employ such personnel as are needed and shall fix their compensation in a manner consistent with state law.
(a) The Commission shall'
- Develop and carry out a state plan for vocational rehabilitation services for individuals who are blind pursuant to section 101 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended;
- Provide independent living services for blind and visually impaired individuals, including services for older individuals who are blind pursuant to Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended;
- Establish, equip, and maintain an orientation and adjustment center or centers to provide prevocational and other training (such as, but not limited to, instruction in Braille, use of the long white cane for independent travel, homemaking and home-management skills, and communications skills, including the use of computer technology) to prepare blind and visually impaired persons for eventual vocational training, job placement, and independence;
- Establish and carry out a small business enterprises program and serve as the state licensing agency for blind individuals pursuant to the federal Randolph-Sheppard Act;
- Establish and administer a statewide program to certify individuals who are qualified to teach Braille to blind individuals (including individuals attending elementary and secondary schools), using performance criteria based on the National Literary Braille competency examination administered by the Library of Congress;
- Purchase and distribute specialized equipment, devices, and technology (including low-vision aides) obtained directly from specialty vendors without state centralized purchasing procedures;
- Provide library services to persons who are blind and persons with physical disabilities in cooperation with the Library of Congress;
- Create and maintain an instructional media center for the production, purchase, distribution, reallocation, and warehousing of accessible materials for blind children and adults;
- Provide technical assistance in cooperation with other appropriate agencies to assist the state education agency and local education agencies in the provision of auxiliary aids and services to blind students and their parents to complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as amended;
- Provide technical assistance to agencies within the state in order to assure that information technology purchased or used by such agencies is accessible to and useable by individuals who are blind at the time the technology is purchased or used;
- Participate, through the designation of the Executive Director or an appropriate staff member of the Commission, on boards, commissions, or bodies which may exist or be established within the state for the purpose of coordination and planning of services;
- Conduct a review of consumer satisfaction with programs of the Commission and perform other functions of the statewide rehabilitation council specified in section 105 (c) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended;
- Promulgate rules to carry out programs of the Commission;
- Apply for and receive money from any state or federal agency to support the programs of the Commission and receive on behalf of the state any gifts, donations or bequests from any source, to be used in carrying out the Commission's duties as described herein; and
- Develop and administer any other program which will further the provision of services to the blind and is determined by the commission to fall within its scope of responsibility.
(b) The Commission may carry out any of the powers and duties enumerated in this section by contract or cooperative agreement or by the direct administration of any program.
The Commission shall publish an annual report including a list of accomplishments, findings, and recommendations for improvement based on the agency's performance during the year. The report shall contain information needed to evaluate the progress of the Commission in meeting the needs of blind individuals in the state.
(a) Any applicant for or recipient of services from the Commission who is dissatisfied with any action taken or decision made regarding such services may file a complaint setting forth the basis for the dissatisfaction and the remedy sought. Upon receipt of the complaint the Executive Director shall inform the individual of the voluntary process available for mediation of the dispute. The mediation, if chosen by the individual, shall be conducted by a qualified and impartial mediator, and the cost shall be paid by the Commission.
(b) If the dispute cannot be resolved by mediation or other informal means, the Executive Director shall, upon request of the individual, convene an arbitration panel, which shall give notice, conduct a hearing and render a decision. The arbitration panel shall be composed of three members appointed as follows:
- One individual designated by the individual filing the complaint;
- One individual designated by the Executive Director; and
- One individual chosen by the other designees who is an impartial hearing officer as defined in section 102 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, who shall serve as chair of the arbitration panel and issue the decision.
The commission shall promulgate rules sufficient to regulate the conduct of all proceedings required in this section and to assure the rights of all parties participating therein.
(a) All appropriations, real and personal property, equipment, supplies, personnel, positions, and money which, prior to the effective date of the Commission for the Blind Act, were owned or controlled by any other agency providing services to the blind are hereby transferred to the Commission.
(b) All existing contracts and agreements in effect concerning services for the blind shall be binding upon the Commission to the same extent that such contracts or agreements were binding upon the agency from which they were transferred.
(c) All proceeds from claims filed with any agency (including the Social Security Administration) which relate to the provision of services for the blind shall be transferred to the Commission from any agency receiving such proceeds.
This act shall take effect on the first day of the fiscal year following the enactment of this Act.