This past legislative session, the Arkansas executive branch underwent a “government transformation.” In doing so, the Division of Services for the Blind (DSB) transferred from underneath the Department of Human Services to the Department of Commerce, Division of Workforce Services. This transfer of DSB required them to change their name with the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), who awards them their federal dollars. As we understand it, the name change requires them to start the designation process all over again, and they will not receive any federal money until they do.

DSB has represented to us that they will not be providing all necessary services to all of their consumers, despite the requirements of the federal regulations governing them. Individuals who were once able to receive tuition assistance through DSB have now been told, mere weeks before school starts, that their tuition will be drastically cut through a mandated cap on assistance, with no room for exceptions, contrary to the federal regulations. They did not even inform their consumers until last week.

Even though information relayed to consumers does not indicate that DSB is able to help, we urge persons affected to contact their counselor immediately to see if they can arrange a payment plan with their school.

The State has created an unnecessary barrier to accessing services so that individuals can obtain competitive, integrated employment due to their wholesale failure to plan with RSA regarding the governmental transformation. Existing clients are wholly without services and new clients will be unable to start services. This can only be remedied with swift action from the State, which we are told is not planned.

“We find this action totally unacceptable and a complete failure on all departments and divisions involved,” said DRA Executive Tom Masseau. “The State’s actions have left individuals with disabilities without access to education, employment, and other opportunities due to the State’s failure to follow federal requirements. Even as the country just celebrated the 29th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, here in Arkansas we have taken yet another step backwards for people with disabilities, under the guise of ‘efficiencies’ within state government. A so-called efficiency gained at the expense of people with disabilities is no efficiency at all. DRA calls upon the Governor, Department and Division directors to investigate and correct this wrongdoing immediately. Arkansans with disabilities should never be an afterthought by the State.”

If this development will impact your employment or education, please contact DRA at 800-482-1174 or email info@disabilityrightsar.org.

UPDATE 8/2/2019:

We are relieved to hear that DSB has received its federal funding. We hope that this is the end of hard caps on services.

The federal regulations do not permit caps on services in duration or expense. The policy directive instituting a hard cap on tuition was illegal and we will fight to ensure that it is never enforced.

We strongly encourage anyone who is unable to receive all services they require to obtain competitive integrated employment to contact us. We are your advocate.