Commission for the Blind Assists with Independence, Employment

September 29, 2017

New York has a long history of helping those who are blind live independently.  For more than 100 years, the New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB) has assisted people in achieving their personal and vocational goals.  The commission was established by law in 1913 to maintain a "census of the blind" in New York State and to help individuals who are legally blind find suitable employment.  Today as a division of the Office of Children and Family Services, one of its primary objectives is to assist people of all ages to achieve full integration into society and economic self-sufficiency.

NYSCB provides counseling, rehabilitation training, and employment services to New Yorkers of all ages who are legally blind in conformance with federal regulations.  Sometimes these services come in the form of job training or simply helping someone find a new way to perform tasks in order to live fully.  Starting with a medical diagnosis, the commission provides services to children and works with parents to arrange for adaptive equipment either in the home or at school to promote independence.   Beginning at age 14, NYSCB helps kids transition from school to adulthood through educational and recreational opportunities so that they can live, learn, and work in their communities.  For people ages 21 and up, vocational counselors work to assist consumers who are legally blind find or retain employment.

Individualized plans are developed for each person to determine and coordinate services which sometimes involves multiple agencies.  In the case of those seeking employment, NYSCB helps with resume building and the job application process.  NYSCB also works with businesses to identify what the employers need to help match candidates with available jobs.  Once a placement is made, individuals have the opportunity to work with a job counselor on site.  The job counselor can help them with learning how to travel from home to their new job, becoming comfortable at the new work environment, and assess what adaptive equipment, if any, is needed to perform the job.  They can also be a bridge between the employer and the employee.

Adaptive equipment helps individuals in different environments including the job setting.  Some examples of adaptive equipment used in the workforce include computer screen reading technology or digital magnifiers and other large-print modifications that make it easier for people to do the job.  Regional assistive technology centers and other training resources are available throughout the state to help assess an individual's computer skills in order to determine training and the appropriate hardware or software.  Other times, the counselors use low-tech solutions such as tactile tape or other tactile symbols to help make certain tasks manageable.

There are incentives for businesses to work with NYSCB.  In some cases, NYSCB will cover the wages of the job candidate during a trial period.  There are also tax breaks available to businesses through the state's Workers Employment Tax Credit and the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit.  To learn more about the tax credits, visit https://labor.ny.gov/formsdocs/factsheets/pdfs/p438.pdf.  

The Commission provides these services and others through seven district offices and contracts with private, not-for-profit provider agencies.  To learn more about services provided through NYSCB, call the Syracuse regional office at 315-423-5417.  The public is encouraged to reach out to ask questions about eligible services.  Though eye doctors have an obligation to report legal blindness cases to the NYSCB, anyone from the public can report the blindness but will be asked to provide medical verification.  Those who are visually impaired but not legally blind may qualify for job help under Independent Living Services and help accessing other assisted living services.  For more, visit http://ocfs.ny.gov/main/cb/indep_living.asp.

Since 1964, the U.S. President has issued a proclamation on Oct. 15 to commemorate National White Cane Day.  This day is set aside to promote awareness, education and advocacy for issues that affect individuals with blindness and vision impairments.  The day also acknowledges and celebrates the abilities and successes achieved by those who are blind to honor their many contributions.  If you have any questions or comments regarding this or any other state issue, please contact me.  My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at barclaw@nyassembly.gov, or by calling (315) 598-5185.  You also can find me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.