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Fall 2005 Table of Contents
Versión español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Inspiration in a Challenging Time

By Barbara J. Madrigal, Assistant Commissioner, Division for Blind Services

Abstract: In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there are resources for people with blindness and visual impairment to access. The Assistant Commissioner of DARS-DBS shares these resources and offers an end of the year update on the activities of DBS.

Key Words:News & Views, blind, visually impaired, deafblind, disability, Hurricane Katrina, Department for Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, Division for Blind Services

As I write this, it is just over three weeks since Hurricane Katrina blasted through the Gulf Coast region leaving unspeakable destruction and misery in her wake, and the Gulf Coast waits with uncertainty as Hurricane Rita approaches. The news is full of stories about the people who evacuated, the people who stayed behind, the people who lost everything and are having to rebuild their lives from scratch, and even the poor animals that were left behind.

Something we haven't seen as much coverage of, though, is what happened to the Gulf Coast residents who are blind or have other physical or mental disabilities. We do know two important things. First, we know there are thousands of people with disabilities among the evacuees in Texas and elsewhere. Second, we know that staff from state agencies across Texas has made a special effort to share their extensive knowledge about blindness and other disabilities with disaster relief and emergency preparedness organizations at all levels.

I am not going to dwell on Hurricane Katrina issues in this article, and I'm sure you are already getting good information from a lot of different sources. However, I would like to share some websites that have been useful to me in learning about the ongoing relief efforts and emergency preparedness, especially for people with disabilities.

Before leaving the topic of Katrina entirely, I want to express my extreme pride in being associated with so many wonderful DBS staff members whose response to persons devastated by the hurricane went way beyond the call of duty. The details of all the things they did and all the people they helped, often on their own time and at their own expense, would fill this newsletter. I am never surprised by the caring and generosity of my colleagues — and I'm always inspired.

Speaking of inspired, the year-end program statistics are in, and it appears our Transition, Independent Living, and Blind Children's Vocational Discovery and Development programs found some special source of inspiration! All three exceeded their program targets for the year in a big way!

In the VR program, we closed the year with numbers that clearly indicate our focus on getting more people who are blind into the competitive job market is working, and the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center staff not only exceeded their anticipated goals but also increased their outreach efforts to bring CCRC mini-trainings to more local communities across the state.

The Blindness Education, Screening and Treatment (BEST) program continued to provide critical eye screenings and treatment to uninsured Texans throughout the year (don't forget to check that voluntary donation box when you renew your driver's license!), and our Business Enterprises of Texas (BET) ended the 2005 fiscal year with six new facilities and a total of 119 facilities across the state!

I'll spare you a list of all the detailed numbers and statistics (if you're interested in them, feel free to contact me!) and simply express my appreciation for the perseverance and positive attitude of DBS staff in a year marked with many changes and challenges.

For fiscal year 2005, the bottom line is that more blind Texans received important services and supports than we anticipated thanks to the hard work and enthusiasm of our staff in all program areas. We're looking forward to 2006 now and, although we know we will likely encounter additional challenges like Katrina, we fully expect to have another banner year!

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Last Revision: September 1, 2010