Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Oregon governor proposes eliminating services to blind community there

From a National Federation of the Blind of Oregon :

SALEM, Oregon -- In a swift, one-two-three punch, Governor Ted Kulongoski proposes to eliminate services and support to Oregon’s blind whether they're born blind, become blind, or lose their vision late in life.

The first punch was delivered by House Bill 2834, sponsored by Rep. Sarah Gelser (D-Corvallis), with support of the Governor. The bill would close and sell off the Oregon School for the Blind to private land developers. Their argument is that the school’s services should be provided by local Educational Service Districts.

The second punch came when the Oregon Senate Education Committee reorganized the Educational Service Districts, reducing the number from 22 to 13. These agencies employ itinerant teachers whose case loads are already so large that they spend nearly as much time driving between schools as they do teaching students.

The final blow was delivered Friday, May 15th, when Governor Kulongoski proposed total abolition of the Oregon Commission for the Blind, which currently provides job training and rehabilitation to blind adults and seniors. In his attempt to cover up his own lack of oversight of administrative misjudgments by his appointees who run the Commission, the Governor sacrifices the quality of life and future potential of the blind of Oregon.

Without a competitive education and training in the skills of blindness, Oregon's blind face the kind of life they lived in the 19th century. "It's like they want us out there with tin cups and pencils, begging for money," said Art Stevenson, president of the Oregon Federation.

Oregon’s blind face an approximate 70% unemployment rate. Under the current plan to reduce services and education, that number is likely to increase. The result will be greater dependence on welfare and social security by people who want nothing more than a chance to work and live a normal life.