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Winter 2002 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Change . . .

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

A framed copy of the well-known Serenity Prayer sits on a table by my desk; a copy is glued to my daily calendar; and I can quote it by heart. It has become an integral part of my life here at the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) because of its relevance to what I believe possible for every employee here as well as the consumers with whom we work in partnership. Grant me serenity, courage, and wisdom . . .

"Serenity to accept the things I cannot change." I can't say that I wear a halo of tranquility about things I cannot change, but I'm farther down the road than I used to be. For instance, blindness exists within our society, and state governments have finite resources. I have railed against both facts in the past, but I have reluctantly come to a point of acceptance because I cannot change either. The essence of this first phrase is also at the heart of one of our core services _ the "how-to's" of adjusting to blindness. I see people begin to flourish and open themselves to learning when they and their families begin to accept blindness as something they can't change. Being blind is acceptable.

"Courage to change the things I can." During my almost 30 years at the Commission I have been responsible for my fair share of changing service delivery methods, staffing, and funding priorities. Change, to me, is usually energizing, so I have to remind myself that others sometimes find it threatening. Recently the agency's administrative staff got together at year-end to celebrate jobs well done. After recognition awards, the group was then challenged the remainder of the day with techniques for adapting to change. During the meeting I heard one confused voice in back say, "If we did such a good job this year, why are we being asked to change?" Good question. One reason is that we are not always the ones calling for change.

The administrative functions in all health and human service agencies are under scrutiny today in an effort to reduce administrative overhead. Our job is to cooperate fully by providing information about our mission, the services we provide, and how we are getting the job done efficiently and effectively. If mandated changes come our way, we will adapt, but we must be diligent in ongoing discussions to educate decision makers about the uniqueness of blindness and the lack of alternative resources available elsewhere if agency services are diminished. Each proposed change must be analyzed carefully for its effect on specialized services. It's imperative that we safeguard the gains consumers and state employees who are blind have made in Texas in the work place, schools, and communities via services available through the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) .

"The wisdom to know the difference." Advocating for change just to stir the water is irresponsible. Even the simplest modification should be for the purpose of producing positive results. For instance, we are thinking about making a change that may seem simple on the surface, but its roots are deep. We plan to rename the Blind and Visually Impaired Children's Program. We may get some questions about making a change. Conventional wisdom might tell us to leave well enough alone because our program is the benchmark used by other states with a children's program or hoping to establish one. However, a name change is a wise decision in this changing climate of Texas government consolidation and streamlining. We do something no one else does and our program's name needs to reflect it. After stretching our meager funds for years to provide services not available elsewhere, other agencies have begun to step forward with funds for providing much of the medical assistance and prevention of blindness we once provided for blind and visually impaired children. We are already focusing our budget more on our main job, helping children with permanent and severe and visual losses.

We also need a new program name that tells legislators and decision-makers how we are fulfilling our mandate to provide services that will assist children with visual impairments to achieve financial self-sufficiency and a fuller and richer life. We promise a program that believes that the vast majority of blind children can look forward to a vocational future appropriate to their capabilities. We promise that all of our services will have a positive impact on the self-confidence of children, from newborn through secondary school age, as well as their families as they adjust to blindness. We promise a program that responds to children who are severely multiply impaired, including children who are deafblind. We will be there to help all children with visual impairments reach their highest potential on an individual level regardless of what the future may hold. Commission services can start the minute a child is born, and providing age- and ability-appropriate, blindness-specific services is our specialty.

Yes, blindness is a fact to be accepted, but we can still change what we can, as we can, to lay the groundwork for a better future. And, there's sometimes wisdom in a simple name change if it tells the world we have confidence that our services will have an indelible impact on your child's vocational and individual potential. By the time this article is published, we will have made a decision, so don't be surprised or alarmed when you hear that a new program's in town. It's just us, delivering the same quality of services we are known for, but working hard at delivering even better. Our children's program helps build a strong foundation of skills that last a lifetime.

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Last Revision: July 30, 2002