Board of Education
and Services for the Blind
DR. DONNA BALASKI,
Established - 1893
Statutory authority - CGS Chapter 174,
Oldest continually running Agency for people
who are blind in the United States.
Central office - 184 Windsor Avenue,
Windsor, CT 06095
Total employees and clients in workshop – 235
Recurring operating expenses - $14,917,839
The Board of Education and Services for the Blind is dedicated to providing quality educational and rehabilitative services to all Connecticut adults who are legally blind or deaf-blind, and all Connecticut children who are legally blind or visually impaired. The Board of Education and Services for the Blind envisions a society in which all people who are legally blind, deaf-blind and children who are visually impaired have equal opportunities and benefits within schools, communities and workplaces.
The Board of Education and Services for the Blind (BESB) recently completed its 109th year of comprehensive statewide services to Connecticut’s visually-impaired residents. Under C.G.S. Chapter 174, BESB is responsible for the confidential Registry of Persons who are blind in Connecticut, and provides, within available resources, comprehensive services, supports, and adaptive equipment to people of all ages who are legally blind, and to children who are visually impaired. Board members for fiscal year 2001-2002 were Dr. Richard Fairbanks (Chairperson), Mary Brunoli, Salvatore D’Amico, Kenneth Olson, Eileen Akers, Caroline Dodd, and Patricia Wilson-Coker, Commissioner of the Department of Social Services, who serves ex officio. The agency is attached to the Department of Social Services for administrative purposes only. Agency administration is the responsibility of the Executive Director, Dr. Donna Balaski, who was appointed by Governor John G. Rowland.
The Connecticut Board of Education and Services for the Blind is the lead state agency in serving adults who are blind and children who are blind or visually impaired. The agency’s primary goal is to help adults and children achieve or maintain their independence and self-sufficiency as fully contributing members of an integrated society. BESB provides (1) certification of legal blindness; (2) social work and referrals for people who are blind; (3) low-vision evaluations and aids to adults who are blind and children who are blind or visually impaired; (4) employment training, job placement, worker retention support, and adaptive technology/equipment to adults who are blind; (5) transitional school-to-career services to adolescents who are blind or visually impaired; (6) financial and technical training and support to women and men who own or want to own their own business; (7) independent travel instruction and training in activities of daily living for adults and children.
Services, Equipment, and Books to Increased Number of Clients
The leading causes of blindness are age-related, and as more people live longer, more people call upon services from BESB. As required by law, BESB maintains a registry of residents who are legally blind. In 1990, BESB’s registry contained the names of about 10,100 blind residents. By the end of fiscal year 2002, the registry contained the names of about 13,200 blind residents, most of whom required, at one time or another, specialized services, supports, and equipment from BESB.
§ Increased Outreach to and Advocacy Training for Seniors and Minority Populations: The agency has continued expanding upon its outreach and advocacy training for seniors and minority populations, including Spanish speakers. We also increased the number and sites of our “Hope When Vision Fails” seminars, in which we help newly-blind residents overcome the new challenges in their lives.
§ Special programs for children: In FY 2002, we offered a number of expanded services and programs for children, including job-shadowing, computer camps, independent-living camps, and upward bound experiences. More than 30 children participated in social/recreational/mobility field trips during the school year. Our Career Day at Gateway Community Technical College attracted more than 70 youth and their parents or guardians.
§ Increased Employer Recruitment: Over the course of the year, BESB increased our outreach efforts to potential employers, partnering with groups such as the Connecticut Business and Industry Association so that employers across the state understand that we have a workforce that is ready, willing, and able.
§ Training for professionals who work with children: BESB continued to provide training programs for classroom teachers and other education professionals to help them acquire information, techniques, and experience to better serve children who are blind, visually impaired, or multiply-disabled. We also helped establish an Internet classroom, through which more people can become fully certified as teachers of children who are blind and visually impaired.
§ Established paperless process for business operations.
§ Through our own internal and external processes, we continued working with various private and public stakeholders to identify ways to improve the current state-local system intended to deliver educational and life-skills support and training to children who are blind or visually impaired.
§ BESB developed a comprehensive business plan for the expanded service-delivery system made possible through increased vending machine revenues.
§ BESB worked with deaf-blind clients and their parents or guardians, to identify programmatic and regulatory improvements needed in the statutorily-mandated program that serves people who are both deaf and blind. The program itself was originally created at the behest of parents whose children were disabled as the result of rubella (German measles).
§ Leveraged support from community-based organizations: BESB expanded its Independent Living Skills program for senior citizens into New Britain and Torrington, adding to our programs in Fairfield, Norwich, and Bloomfield.
§ Improved workshop operations and services: In FY 2002 BESB continued our daily production meetings. We reviewed all production lines to determine profitability, efficiency, and suitability to clients’ needs and interests. Based upon this study, some product lines will be discontinued while others will be increased, leading to increased efficiencies and a stronger bottom line. We also established a new Evaluation and Training Program, through which we cross-trained several clients. Gross sales in this fiscal year reached $4.7 million.
§ Established and implemented a bar-coding system to track the availability of Braille and large-print textbooks needed by Connecticut’s children.
§ Increased vending income and business opportunities: In FY 2002, working under our agreement with an outside contractor, BESB placed additional vending machines on approximately 700 new federal, state, and local public sites across the state.
The Board of Education and Services for the Blind’s Affirmative Action Plan for 2001 was approved and granted an annual filing status by the Commission on Human Right and Opportunities. BESB continues in its strong commitment to the policies, principles and practices that promote equal employment opportunity in contracts, programs and policies, including affirmative action. The board has developed and implemented hiring goals to maintain a diversified work force, which includes individuals who are blind. All BESB policies and procedures are consistent with state and federal reporting procedures.