11,800 hours… This is the amount of time it has been since M’s initial contact with the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (Pennsylvania). In this time she has had only 6 (six) hours of Orientation and Mobility services. This is basically an evaluation phase and not really considered official training.
My own Orientation and Mobility training and first contact didn’t take nearly as long as this. In fact from my first contact with Montgomery County to the time I actually started O&M training I’d guess was about 4 months. After this it was basically uninterrupted services until I finished.
Why such a difference?
It truly is mind boggling the difference in the level of services provided. Simply put the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (BBVS) is a state run organization and they serve a vastly larger area then what the Montgomery County Association for the Blind does.
The reasons we chose to go with BBVS for M’s services as opposed to MCAB (where I had mine) where really simple. We knew some one who worked for them! The instructor had oodles of free time and would basically be able to see M at any time through out the week… even offering training on weekends if needed. – This would be a great option, because at the time M was still seeing multiple doctors, and could not really settle into a fixed schedule of weekly visits like I did.
Our instructor friend gathered all of the necessary paperwork they needed and submitted it to BBVS for review. Countless misplaced documents and lost faxes (otherwise known as the BBVS Business Office black hole) and some necessary certification red tape later – about 12 months later…!
Kit was finally cleared for her evaluation time of 6 hours around the middle of October 2011. The evaluation is a way for the O&M instructor to gather information about the student and assess their needs; and is a means of determining a lesson plan to continue future O&M training with set goals. – M obviously needs more training. So this was noted in the O&M report – this report is then sent to BBVS as a request for more training hours. (This is how instructors get paid for their time).
This is where we stand today.
The request for more training hours was submitted and we can only guess it’s sitting on some ones desk (or the quantum singularity of a black hole). – The latest we hear is that BBVS simply “does not have the budget” to provide training at this time. (as of February 2012).
I have contacted a few advocate groups. And it’s funny that the mere mention of the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (Philadelphia) office brings groans of dislike and drudgery. To be told that it’s COMMON for clients to wait 12-18 MONTHS before they receive services. This is truly disgraceful!
The fact of the matter is that M’s life – and to an extent mine… is on hold until she can get proper Orientation and Mobility training. She is not an independent traveler. She can not cross a street, navigate to a chosen location, travel in unfamiliar areas or ride the bus to meet up with friends. More importantly she can not independently travel to her doctors appointments! Also basic safety skills could be significantly improved if she had proper training. (blind people call this “self protection techniques”. – not knocking your head on the cabinet, for example). These are all things a properly trained Orientation and Mobility specialist would teach.
It seems the consensus in “Big Government” is that it’s OK to wait for services. After all, a disabled person has nothing better to do with their life. I suppose they think it’s cheaper to pay SSI benefits of $8000-$12,000 a year then pay for proper training that would allow the person to get off of SSI and off ‘the system’ to get a real job.
This is far from over.
Feel free to re-blog this article or link and distribute in any manor you see fit. If you know a representative, advocate, or a good lawyer, by all means pass it on! As always comments are very welcome. (Kindly use the form below.)
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