Should Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services be Outsourced to Centers for Independent Living?
Opportunity for Public Discussion About Potential Changes Impacting Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services
When the Texas Sunset Commission’s review came out last year with recommendations that Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) outsource some of its services to Centers for Independent Living (CILs) under Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) or Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), DAC raised immediate concerns.
To review what our concerns were at that time, here is the post we made (in English/ASL) last year: http://dactexas.org/sunsetreview/
For in-depth explanation of the entities involved and what the changes proposed would bring, please view DARS DHHS’ vlog by Christine Buchholz: https://youtu.be/BtFn3wXUUuw
While Centers for Independent Living are run by people with disabilities, we do not yet know if there will be an adequate number of Deaf/hard of hearing individuals employed within these entities to consult Deaf and hard of hearing all over Texas. We have reservations about whether or not CILs will be truly accessible to our community.
Full access to us doesn’t just mean interpreters at the occasional job interview or public events, it means total inclusion: Deaf and hard of hearing issues at the forefront, always. Total inclusion happens when Deaf and hard of hearing can walk into a building and find people like us; people that share their culture and their language. It is a rare occurrence and we must take measures to guard these surroundings to preserve our identity.
It is not inclusion if a Deaf or hard of hearing individual encounters barriers while attempting to receive services from an entity that may not be as informed of their needs for unhindered access. No question about it, our community is an incredibly diverse one: but will CILs have adequate training to accommodate the wide range of services we require to be empowered?
Are there, or will there be, frameworks in place to ensure that Deaf and hard of hearing get complete access and representation when receiving services from CILs? We are concerned that there will not be sufficient staff employed that intrinsically understand our needs, our cultures and our rights.
I can tell you that some unpleasant changes are happening right now. The state of Texas has already changed our advocacy programs to only focus on vocational rehabilitation/employment issues which has extremely limited our Deafness Resource Specialists’ scope. This shrinking of resources has already significantly impacted the Deaf and hard of hearing community of Dallas-Fort Worth. This has transcended us to provide extremely limited services- that is still not found elsewhere! It is a worrying precedent: DHHS being outsourced to CILs could result in our community losing our autonomy. It is not yet clear if this issue is as large of a priority for CILs as it is for DAC.
Our predecessors (Texas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, now Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services) did not fight decades for our basic civil rights for our representation through DHHS to only have it be chipped away into an unrecognizable entity that cannot adequately service and support the disenfranchised in our community.
Deaf and hard of hearing people, interpreters and allies: the time has come for you to join us in making our concerns about the integrity of these changes transparent.
There will be a public meeting at Fort Worth Botanic Gardens this Wednesday, February 17th from 10 am to 1 pm and again at 4 pm to 7 pm. There will be only one more opportunity to attend this meeting on Thursday, February 18th from 4 pm to 7 pm.
If you are unable to attend in person, consider writing a letter to TXCILContact@pcgus.com. Comments will be accepted until 5:00 PM February 29th, 2016.
Thank you for your continued support to DAC and our community.
Heather M. Hughes
Deaf Action Center