Feb 282010
 

Cuts target those residents who have disabilities

February 28, 2010

Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposal to consolidate disability service agencies into the Department of Rehabilitative Services, and thereby saving the commonwealth $0.8 million is a mistake. While the state Association of the Deaf cannot speak for department and VBPD, we can speak for the Va. Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

VDDHH was established by an Act of the General Assembly in 1973 because of a long hard fight by the deaf community for an agency which truly serves our community. VDDHH does just that. There is no other single service agency that understands the needs, the language, the culture and shared history of the deaf community. The quality assurance screening of interpreters performed by VDDHH is excellent, the Virginia Relay Services supervised by VDDHH are among the best in the nation, and the expertise, specialized knowledge and resources of the agency could never be provided by the juggernaut of the DRS, as the governor claims. There is nothing to guarantee services to the deaf community will continue to be available seamlessly through DRS. For the past few years, DRS has been providing services on a tier system, not opening all tiers to all people. We are afraid with this system, services to the deaf community will be spotty at best.

The governor’s proposal claims the savings associated with this consolidation comes from “eliminating the positions of the director from DBVI, DDHH and V.B.P.D., as well as other efficiencies.” It says “there are no deputy directors or clear successor at these agencies to assume the role of leadership and guide the services to the respective consumer groups.” We beg to differ. Ron Lanier has directed VDDHH ably and well for 12 years. The VAD has already written to the governor to reappoint Mr. Lanier.

Consolidating agencies, which serve such a diverse population into the DRS, is going to cost Virginia taxpayers much more than a “savings” of $0.8 million. The VAD is adamantly against this proposal.

Once again, our legislators are targeting a minority population in their hurry and haste to go back to the future.

RACHEL BAVISTER, Staunton

– Thanks to Staunton, VA’s NewsLeader