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Spring 99 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

TCB Insight

By Terrell I. Murphy, Executive Director, Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind)

In December a large number of Texans who are blind came to Austin to testify about the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) . Some testified about what the agency did for them years ago. Others testified about the services they are receiving now. Their messages were similar, regardless of the span of years. Almost every person testified that the agency helped shape their future in a positive way and that the agency is vital to the state and people with visual disabilities.

This past year has reinforced even more in my mind that being open to change has earned us so much support from people who are blind. As good as we were in the 1970s when I started with the agency, we are better now because we listened. We will make additional changes in the future if it means that Texans who are blind will receive the services they need to participate fully in all that life offers.

The latest change we've made to our Blind and Visually Impaired Children's Program is a revised system whereby parents and the Commission are partners in the true sense of the word. Our new family service plan has been completely redesigned. The new plan fosters greater communication between our caseworkers and parents of children who are permanently severely visually impaired. The plan sets in motion the important strategies parents agree are needed by their child in building skills toward personal independence and potential employment.

Rules and procedures have been rewritten to remove as many restrictions as possible, and we will soon be publishing a new informational brochure in English and Spanish that explains parental rights. Parents are now given 30 days advance written notice before we close a child's case, and we now will pay for a physical exam when it's needed for a child to participate in a beneficial activity. We have adopted procedures for providing respite care and child care to families. Parents choose their own caregivers because the parents know the child's needs better. The information we require from parents to determine whether the Commission can pay for a service has been greatly simplified.

All these changes are still in their infancy and we are looking to parents and our other partners to give us feedback on how the system's working.

The upcoming summer months are full of opportunities for children with special needs. Watching children participate in these activities is always one of the highlights of the year. Have a great summer!

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Last Revision: September 4, 2003