I am writing this blog from Charleston, SC, where I am attending the Vision Serve Alliance CEO Summit. This annual meeting brings together more than 65 executive directors from across the country who are working in the field of vision loss and blindness.
Vision Serve Alliance (VSA) members represent rehabilitation centers like Society for the Blind, Schools for the Blind, Guide Dog Schools, National Industries for the Blind, Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, and other affiliated agencies. California is well represented with seven people attending.
The CEO Summit offers educational training, networking and collaboration on national legislation and policy issues. Transformational Leadership was the topic of our educational sessions. With many organizations undergoing major changes in service delivery and others going through leadership transition, having tools and resources for leaders to guide the change is essential.
Significant time was given to the impact of two major pieces of legislation. The Cogswell-Macy Act is a bill before Congress seeking to direct more funding to the education of children who have vision loss or blindness and children who are deaf or hard of hearing. VSA members stand in support of this bill: HR 1120.
The other piece of legislation affecting nearly all VSA members is the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). This law led to the elimination of services in late 2016 for adults between ages 25-54 who have lost vision and do not yet know if they can work. In addition, WIOA now mandates that people who are blind work in “integrated, competitive employment.” This means they cannot receive financial support if they are employed at an agency or worksite where more than 50% of the employees are blind or have low vision.
Vision Serve Alliance knows that we can and must do more for the people we serve to ensure that funding is restored for people who are newly blind and need to acquire basic blindness skills and have time for adjustment so they can consider employment options. We also will work for change to the regulations in WIOA so that people who are blind can pursue employment that they choose.