One of the Best Kept Secrets in Texas Revealed!
Authors: Debbie L. Brackett Grimaldi, DeafBlind Program Specialist IV, Texas Workforce Commission—Blind Services Division
Keywords: Texas Workforce Commission, DeafBlind, Blind Services Division, vocational rehabilitation, employment, independence, visual impairments, hearing loss
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Would you like to learn one of the best kept secrets in Texas? If the answer is yes, then keep on reading!
I’m surprised every day at how many people don’t know about the services available through the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and some who don’t even know we exist. Many who do know about TWC think we only provide help finding jobs through the Texas Workforce Solutions offices whereas TWC actually provides a myriad of services and resources to those from age 14 years and up with various needs. I’d like to tell you the success stories of just two of the people who were helped with services available through the DeafBlind program of the Blind Services Division.
Kris Cue worked at Austin Community College (ACC) as an Access Assistant for 16 years. She worked with many students who were Deaf and/or DeafBlind as well as those with autism to help them gain access to the knowledge available through ACC. She also is the founder and chairperson of the DeafBlind Service Center of Austin and co-leader of the Texas DeafBlind Coalition which is a legislative effort to get the Support Service Provider/Co-Navigator (SSP/CN) bill passed.
Kris is also DeafBlind herself. She applied for services with the Texas Workforce Commission because she was told they could help her with various aspects of her vision and hearing loss. TWC has provided her with services and equipment to help her be successful in her employment and continues to provide services to help her remain independent. Kris was unable to see or hear well enough to continue her job with the Austin Community College and received vision and hearing exams as well as glasses, hearing aids, and hearing accessories from TWC. She was provided with diagnostic job evaluations and training, job placement training, counseling services, an assistive technology evaluation, equipment such as a desktop computer with augmentative communication software, and referrals to outside local, statewide, and national resources.
Kris received a DeafBlind assessment to determine her needs for equipment both at work and in the home. The equipment was provided based on her vision and hearing loss in order to increase her independence in the workplace, at home, and in the community. She received devices such as an alerting system with an alarm clock to help her awaken in order to be on time for work, a lighted/vibrating doorbell to alert her when someone came to pick her up for work, and a smoke detector with a vibrating bed shaker to keep her safe. Kris also received a bed mat transmitter that alerted her whenever her mother, for whom she is the primary caregiver, would leave her bed. This provided Kris with peace of mind knowing she would be awakened whenever her mother got out of bed so she would no longer have to worry.
Kris has this to say about her experience with her TWC Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor and her DeafBlind Program Specialist:
In my experience and from listening to others in other states, our TWC counselors and our DeafBlind Program Specialists here in Texas provide excellent service. They are insightful, attentive, respectful, and empathetic. It is so nice to have people on board who have insight into deafblindness and many who are living that life as well.
Another successful person for whom TWC has provided services is an accomplished musician. He currently works with a jazz band and as a sound designer for school musicals. He also has some contracted positions such as working as a vocal coach and other school positions. He reports that he was recently invited to try out for a musical talent show due to his music, piano playing, and singing and is awaiting his claim to fame.
He also has dual sensory loss due to his combined vision and hearing loss. He has been blind since birth due to optic nerve hypoplasia and optic atrophy. He can see hand motion only in his right eye and has light perception only in his left eye. He recently received a hearing aid from TWC due to his hearing loss in order to help him be better able to work on writing music.
He has received specialized training in a variety of areas such as piano lessons, braille music reading, karate lessons, attendance at Tech Camp, attendance at Shockey stables and Camp VILLA, the Summer Earn and Learn (SEAL) program, and attendance at other work training programs.
He has also received equipment to help him be successful in his employment including hearing aids, braille notetakers, an embosser, a braille labeler, and technology and accessories. All in all, he has used the resources provided to him to become a successful contributing member of society.
If you or someone you know has both vision and hearing loss and/or other medical issues and needs help to become more independent in their work or in the community, or to gain or retain employment, please consider applying for services with the Texas Workforce Commission.
Those aged 14 years and up who are in school and/or wish to obtain or retain work should apply for the TWC Vocational Rehabilitation program: Vocational Rehabilitation Self-Referral ServiceNow or 512-936-6400.
Those aged 55 years and up with vision loss who need help to retain their independence in their home and community should apply for the Older Individuals with Blindness Program: OIB (Older Independent Blind) Self-Referral or 512-936-3388.
Once you have an active case with a counselor or caseworker, if you have both vision and hearing loss, you may request to be referred to the DeafBlind Specialist in your area. That’s where we begin our work to support you, your counselor, and your family in your quest to be a more independent you!