Photo: Graur Codrin (click photo to link)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Michigan Rehabilitation Services Shell Game. Priorities Misplaced.

Once upon a time, Michigan had a Department of Labor and Economic Growth (DLEG).  Its purpose was to oversee programs that would put people to work, and develop new jobs.  Included among the programs within DLEG was Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS), an agency that offers evaluation, training and placement of persons with disabilities in jobs.  This agency, woefully underfunded and an essential part of successful work placement for many people with both visible and invisible disabilities, has enabled many people with disabilities to find work, and live more fulfilling lives... 

According to their home page "MRS partners with individuals and employers to achieve quality employment outcomes and independence for persons with disabilities."

Enter Governor Rick Snyder and his executive orders to streamline the management of government offices:
One day, I had a need for information about a Michigan Rehabilitation matter. I went to look for it under the Department of Labor and Economic Growth (DLEG)...and it was gone!!  Suddenly Michigan Rehabilitation has become the purvue of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA).  

Now, this was confusing to me because Michigan Rehabilitation is not a regulatory agency--it is a human service agency, and it is not a licensing agency--it verifies a person's disability, and helps with training and placement for those with disabilities.  So I posted an inquiry on LARA's facebook page:
Kathleen Kosobud  What is the logic for including Michigan Rehabilitation Services under "Licensing and Regulatory Affairs"? Inquiring people would like to know.. (6/2/11)
Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) Hi Kathleen - I've asked a representative from MRS to help me with getting you the best response possible. As soon as I have one I will get it to you :) (6/3/11)
Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA)
Kathleen - The organizational placement of Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS) was part of Governor Snyder’s EXECUTIVE ORDER 2011 – 4. MRS is a Bureau within the Employment Security and Workplace Safety Division of the DEPARTMENT OF LICENSING AND REGULATORY AFFAIRS and is joined there by Michigan Commission for the Blind, Wage and Hour, MIOSHA, Unemployment Agency and the Worker’s Compensation Agency. You can find a copy of the EO here: If you have any other questions please let me know. Thanks! (6/6/11)
Kathleen Kosobud Thank you for the thorough response. I'll read the executive order. (6/6/11)
Kathleen Kosobud Having read through the EO, the placement of MRS within LARA still defies any reason I can see. It would better serve the public, especially those with disabilities, if it were placed in the Workforce Development Agency, within the Michigan Strategic Fund, along with Michigan Commission for the Blind, and other disability related services. MRS is a service that is primarily focused on skill development and placement of persons with disabilities in jobs, and its regulatory functions appear secondary. The disability community is generally underemployed even during good economic times and dispersion of disability related services does little good toward helping to improve the situation. (6/11/11)
Now this is only a little annoying to me, but if I were a person working on behalf of a family member with a disability, I might think that the governor's executive order had been informed by people whose chief objectives were to hide as many of the human benefits of government as technologically possible.

Meanwhile, the governor has decided that it makes sense to coordinate all 84 separate early childhood funding streams currently managed throughout various state government agencies. I guess that he has better advisors on early childhood than he does for persons with disabilities in need of work.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Post-script to Comments to the Michigan Board of Education

This is a post-script to a previous entry.

I just heard from the mother of the young woman who was not offered a personal curriculum until her senior year of high school.  She called to tell me that her daughter was graduating...with her class...and had passed all of her courses! Today was her open house.

This could only have happened through the combined efforts of a team of people who believed that this young woman had value:  her family, her teachers, her friends, her school administrators--and most importantly--the young woman, herself!

This is a story of triumph over adversity; but it is also a cautionary tale.  Even while holding high expectations for achievement, we need to remember to be considerate of circumstances that may make such achievements very challenging.  We need to be proactive in planning to allow the playing field to be truly leveled for students with disabilities. It is unfair to withhold a fair accommodation from a person who needs it until they have reached the point of despair. It is a form of taunting that amounts to bullying.

It is my hope that Michigan districts will be more proactive and consider requests for accommodation through creative course selection, differentiation of instruction, alternative formats for course completion, and through the option for developing a plan for a personal curriculum.  Our common objective is to see to it that many more students successfully complete high school with diplomas, and are able to continue their educations or training for successful entry into the workforce.