Following collaborative input from Michigan residents with disabilities, Gov. Rick Snyder today issued Executive Order 2012-10 with changes that will better leverage expertise and resources to meet their needs.
Today's Executive Order transfers the duties of the Michigan Rehabilitation Services to the Department of Human Services and reconfigures the Michigan Commission for the Blind as the Bureau of Services to Blind Persons within the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA).
Snyder previously issued Executive Order 2012-2 last February, but it was rescinded in April to work with advocates to ensure the best possible services for residents who are blind or visually impaired. The new E.O. maintains two separate entities to address needs of people with disabilities and keeps services to blind persons, including the Business Enterprise Program (BEP), within LARA. Today's E.O. reflects the recommendations of federal and state advocates to provide the best customer service and resources to Michigan citizens.
"After discussion and collaboration with disability advocacy groups and individuals throughout Michigan, this executive order provides for efficient delivery of services while, at the same time, addressing the specific concerns and suggestions of citizens," Snyder said. "I want to thank those who participated in this productive process to ensure the very best services for Michigan residents with disabilities."
Richard Bernstein, an attorney and advocate for protecting the rights of people with disabilities stated, "I thank the governor for his willingness to work with the blind community and their advocates to address our concerns. By working together, we've been able to ensure the continuation of essential services for the blind in Michigan."
One of the recommendations implemented in the executive order, and based on stakeholder input, is assurance that BEP related to businesses on federal property and the Business Opportunity Act will remain within LARA.
"We are pleased that the Governor and other involved officials have been very receptive to our input," said Joe Sibley, president of the Michigan Council of the Blind and Visually Impaired. "I am confident when the dust settles that we will have fine services for the blind and visually impaired in Michigan, and the amazing staff of the Commission for the Blind will be able to continue the great work that they do."
The E.O. also appoints the director of the new Bureau of Services for Blind Persons and Michigan Rehabilitation Services to serve as ex officio members of the newly-created Michigan Council for Rehabilitation Services, which will include a range of individuals with disabilities and advocacy groups. It also clarifies the requirement in the federal regulations for the Talent Investment Board representative on the Michigan Council for Rehabilitation Services.
The order also mandates an implementation date of Oct. 1, 2012 for all portions of the order except matters related to the Disability Concerns Commission, whose transfer to Department of Civil Rights takes effect 60 days after the order is filed. This provides time for public meetings and amendments to the two new bureaus' state plans.
"We appreciate the Governor's willingness to work openly with us in developing plans to strengthen services for the blind," said Dr. Fredric K. Schroeder, first vice president of the National Federation of the Blind. "In particular, we appreciate his commitment to keeping these services within a single agency to ensure that programs are coordinated and administered by individuals with specialized training and experience in blindness."