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Winter 2004 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

TCB Ending Its 72-year History

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

Abstract: A discussion of TCB changes resulting from agency consolidation; a review of an inspirational article about services for blind children in Tibet.

Key Words: blind, Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, DARS, consolidation, accessibility, self-confidence.

The last months of 2003 at the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) , as you would suspect, have been unlike any others in its 72 years. Our staff has continued to provide top quality services to Texans who are blind, while simultaneously participating in the abolishment of TCB as a state agency. By the time this Winter See/Hear issue is published, the merger of rehabilitation services, services for blind, services for the deaf and hard of hearing, and early childhood intervention services into the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services will be well on its way. (You can bet the new state agency will soon be known by its simplified acronym, DARS.)

The projected date for creating an operational DARS is by January 30, 2004. HHSC's transition plan states that it will seek to maintain the identities of key service areas (such as blind or deaf services) to minimize confusion among clients looking for and receiving such services. Exactly what that means in the way of establishing offices or units has yet to be clarified.

For you readers who contacted our agency to voice your concern about the accessibility of information published by HHSC thus far during consolidation activities, I have some encouraging follow-up. In recent conversations with various HHSC officials, I had the opportunity to share concerns about the consolidation's effects on the Commission's blind employees and other blind individuals interested in the transition. This issue received quick attention and I am confident that the new enterprise led by HHSC is working diligently toward making jobs and information more accessible to Texans who are blind and other Texans who depend on alternative media and assistive technology to read.

This is the last article See/Hear will receive from me in my capacity as the executive director of the country's top-ranking independent agency for the blind. I wanted somehow to sum up the most important accomplishments of the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) over its long lifetime of service, but I soon gave up because it would require a lengthy book. Instead, I'm choosing to once again pass on a bit of inspiration I received from others who also have made a career working in the field of blindness. It's in the sharing of messages of hope and encouragement that I find the most satisfaction.

One such inspiring article sent to me months ago made its way into "that" stack in my computer—the ones I save to wander through from time to time when I need a lift. The short article appeared in the The New York Times in September and was written by Jim Yardley about a lady named Sabriye Tenberken, who happens to be blind. Yardley writes about Ms. Tenberken's school for blind Tibetan children in the land she has adopted where she and her partner, Paul Kronenberg, also run Braille Without Borders. The moving details talk about Ms. Tenbergken's distress at the lack of learning opportunities for the children when she first visited Tibet several years ago and her determination to improve the situation. She first tried to get a job with different international aid groups, but she says she was told that blind people were prohibited from doing "field work" and that there wasn't anyone to "take care of her" in Tibet. This attitude didn't surprise her after finding four- and five-year-old blind children in her travels who had yet to be taught how to walk! Having come from a German family and a high school for the blind that had encouraged her to discover her own boundaries, Ms. Tenbergken's determination to be an agent of change became even stronger. The article goes on to talk about how she is now a role model for 29 Tibetan students, ages 4 to 21. In August, the group went white-water rafting, and they plan to climb a nearby Himalayan peak next year! It reminded me of the activities our own blind children's specialists and transition counselors plan with youths here in Texas to counter society's lower expectations.

The main reason I saved the article was one paragraph at the end that bears reading again and again: The main goal [of Ms. Tenbergken] remains instilling self-confidence and self-esteem so that blind children will "not be embarrassed anymore." A blind child, she notes, will never be able to drive a truck. "But they can read and write in the dark," she said. "And who can do that?"

What a neat way to declare their "special-ness" when talking to young children who are learning to read and write braille. In fact, what a neat way to verbalize the value of knowing how to read and write in the dark, regardless of a person's age.

The emphasis on the value of braille and the teaching of braille has made a dramatic turnaround in Texas in the last few years. The Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) ensures that learning braille is available and encouraged as a core skill. TCB's rehabilitation teachers are required to have the ability to teach, read and write all aspects of Grades I and II Braille. In November, the draft VI standards that form the basis for the Braille and VI Professional competency testing for Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments, require teachers of students with visual impairments to know how to read and produce uncontracted and contracted literary braille and Nemeth Code.

I have learned much during my 30 plus years at TCB simply by observing confident, successful professionals who are blind. Without exception, they don't drive trucks, but they sure can read and write in the dark!

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Last Revision: September 1, 2010