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Spring/ Summer 2008 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

 

By Michele Chauvin, TAPVI President-Elect, Sugar Land, TX

Abstract: Members of the Texas Association for Parents of children with Visual Impairments (TAPVI), a statewide parent group, participate as stakeholders in a public meeting for a state rehabilitation agency. TAPVI sponsors parent training at Texas Focus 2008.

Keywords: Family Wisdom, parent organization, parent support, parents of children with visual impairment, parent training

On January 15th, I learned at the TAPVI board meeting that DARS was considering a waiting list to address some of its funding and caseload issues. A public meeting to hear comments was scheduled for January 29th, two weeks later. As the president-elect of TAPVI, my family recognized the importance of this opportunity so I quickly made plans and traveled alone to Austin.

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During the meeting, DARS staff shared their proposal to create a waiting list for the Blind Children’s and Independent Living programs. Everyone listened while DARS stakeholders—TX consumers, families, and groups—expressed their concerns about a waiting list. DARS stakeholders asked questions and made comments about how much these programs meant to them. Some parents traveled for hours that morning just to attend the meeting and to share their DARS experiences.

Alma Granada, TAPVI Treasurer, gives her perspective:

I am a mother of a 10 year old with a vision impairment and I am very grateful for the assistance he has received from DARS. When I was advised that DARS was considering implementing a waiting list for services I immediately made calls to ask what could be done to overturn this action. To my amazement I was told that a parent’s voice could make a big difference and that I might consider getting a group of parents together to attend the public meeting held in Austin. I shared this information with the VI Family Leadership class and four of us made plans to attend the meeting.

I left from Brownsville at 3:00 a.m. to pick up the other mothers in Harlingen that were driving in from Edinburg and Mission along with the mother in Harlingen. As we were driving to Austin we were talking and reviewing the changes DARS was considering. The whole way we each kept saying that we were not going to get up and talk; we would just be there for support and to make a presence. We arrived at the meeting just as it was about to start. As the meeting progressed and we heard the proposal being presented, we felt so overwhelmed with emotions. I decided that I could not just sit there and not tell my story. I gathered my courage and turned in my request to speak and after I did, two of the other mothers turned in their requests also. We encouraged each other, and one by one we went up to speak, voice our concerns, and tell our story. It was the most rewarding feeling.

The panel was so impressed and moved that after the meeting we had several people that were at the meeting approach us to congratulate us and to assure us that we had made a big impact. We were so excited and filled with emotion we couldn’t stop talking about it all the way back. We heard a few days later that we had made such an impression that DARS had reconsidered and was seeking other alternatives.

Once I returned home, I was willing to do whatever necessary to help the DARS Division of Blind Services Children’s and Independent Living programs not only survive, but thrive. These much needed programs offer various services to their consumers, our children. Our family has not personally received many direct services from DARS, even though our daughter is totally blind. However, we know the value of this agency to other TX families with children who are VI. Currently, DARS continues to work, seeking solutions and assistance both internally and beyond for current and future budget and staffing concerns. The stakeholder relations page on the DARS website, offers communication and information about issues relevant to VI consumers and families. Undoubtedly, the Texas families who sacrificed their time and energy this January made an impact.

TAPVI, along with other Texas VI families, offers our sincere appreciation to the DARS–DBS staff statewide. Thank you to the Blind Children’s and the Independent Living specialists and staff who work tirelessly assisting TX families. Your efforts with our children are essential and meaningful, and we are grateful for all you do. Thank you to those who work on a statewide level planning and administering the BCP and IL programs. We appreciate that you provide opportunities for TX VI families to be meaningfully involved in the process of these important programs, from holding public meetings, to listening to stakeholders concerns, to creating a website for open communication with stakeholders, and beyond. Texans with visual impairments have a brighter future than ever before, and DARS–DBS has played an integral part in this. Thank you!

This leadership experience was invaluable, as I gained new understanding and insights into public policy making. For every door that is open and every road that is paved, someone has gone before us and made a way. Now it is our turn to knock on doors and build new roads.

Statewide Family Training

TAPVI was proud to sponsor a pre-conference for parents in conjunction with the 2008 Texas Focus conference at the Doubletree Hotel in Austin. The event, that was held June 16, 2008, featured a special keynote by Susan La Venture, Executive Director of NAVPI (National Association for Parents of children with Visual Impairments). TAPVI hosted a luncheon at the hotel, and parents had several opportunities to connect with other families.

Olga Uriegas, TVI/COMS from Region 11 ESC in Ft. Worth presented a session in Spanish to parents seeking information about the special education process. The afternoon session topics included Adapted P.E. for visually impaired students including those with multiple disabilities, Active Learning, and Describing the World to your child. The speakers were: Randy Foederer, Adapted P.E Consultant for Region 10 ESC; Vicki Mason-Foederer, Adapted P.E. Consultant for Dallas ISD; Laurel Hudson, TVI/COMS, DeKalb County Schools, Decatur, Georgia; and Sara Kitchen, TVI, TSBVI Outreach Specialist.

Editor’s note: TAPVI is planning a family conference to be held in Austin next year. The conference will be in collaboration with Texas Parent-to-Parent at the Omni South Austin. Save the dates: June 26–27, 2009.

To read more about how advocates and DARS-DBS worked together for positive change, read Barbara Madrigal’s article in News & Views (page 25) describing the recent progress DBS has made in enhancing the Blind Children’s Program.