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LOCAL, STATE, AND FEDERAL SERVICES

The agencies listed below are administered under federal or state guidelines and are likewise funded through federal or state sources. A few agencies may obtain a portion of their funding through outside sources and have some latitude in their organizational structure, but all are agencies with purposes and mandates related to some aspect of public benefit. Each heading has a short description of the agency.

 

INDEPENDENT LIVING CENTERS

Independent Living Centers (ILCs) are federal, state and donor funded nonprofit agencies that are run by and for persons with disabilities. ILCs are mandated under federal regulations and through a State Independent Living Council (SILC) to provide specific services that are not covered by other local or regional public agencies. ILCs are cross-disability oriented and usually provide services related to four specific areas:

  1. Disability information, resources, and referrals
  2. Consumer advocacy
  3. Peer mentoring or support
  4. Independent living skills training

Other disability related programs not previously addressed under the four above areas, and not otherwise
addressed within a region or community, may also be provided for within a local ILC; so it is always important to verify what services may be obtain through any local center. Whenever you have an unanswered question concerning a disability related subject, check out your closest ILC. If you need more information, call the Oregon SILC Office at (503) 945-6204.

A list of Oregon ILC's follows:

CORIL - Central Oregon Resources for Independent Living
20436 Clay Pigeon Court
Bend, OR 97702
(541) 388-8103

DASIL - Disability Advocacy for Social Independent Living
29 North Ivy Street
Medford, OR 97501
(541) 608-6746

Eastern Oregon Center for Independent Living
144S. Oregon Street
Ontario, OR 97914
(541) 889-3119

HASL - Handicap Awareness and Support League
1252 Redwood Avenue
Grants Pass, OR 97527
(541) 479-4275

ILAN - Independent Living Advocacy Network
567 Hawthorne Avenue NE
Salem, OR 97301
(503) 945-5837

ILR - Independent Living Resources
2410 SE 11th Avenue
Portland, OR 97214
(503) 232-7411

LILA - Lane Independent Living Alliance (Eugene)
99 W. 10th Avenue, Suite 117 (Atrium Building)
Eugene, OR 97401
(541) 607-7020
E-mail: helpmelila@qwest.net
www.lilaoregon.org

Progressive Options, Inc. (Newport)
7150 SW Hurbel Street
Newport, OR 97365
(541) 574-3684 1866 374-0384
www.progressive-options.org

South Coast Independent Living Services (Brookings)
16399 Lower Harbor Road
Brookings, OR 97415
(541) 469-5306 ext. 303

SPOKES, Unlimited (Klamath, Falls)
415 Main Street
Klamath Falls, OR 97601
(541) 883-7547

Umqua Valley Disability Network (Roseburg)
419 NE Winchester Street
Roseburg, OR 97470
(541) 672-6336


OREGON STATE AGENCIES

Oregon Commission For The Blind (OCB)

Portland Main Office: (888) 202-5463 or (503) 731-3221
Salem: (503) 378-8479
Eugene: (541) 686-7990
www.oregon.gov/Blind/index.shtml

Luckily, in our state we have a separate agency for blind and visually impaired adults who want training, retraining or program benefits that will get them into the mainstream and general workforce. The primary goal of the OCB, as is the goal of other Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) agencies, like the Oregon Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), is to get people working, rather than have them rely on Social Security or other benefits programs that rely on taxpayer dollars.

OCB local offices are definitely assets to those who are experiencing vision loss or are familiar with vision impairment. Individual services vary greatly depending on what a person's current vision is assessed to be, what goals are expressed, and what a person's current and past abilities are as related to their stated goals.

First though, one must be sure that upon application, legal blindness is evident. For federal and state programs, legal blindness is regarded as 20/200 non-correctable vision in each eye and/or less than 20 degrees of non-correctable vision in each eye. Such an assessment by an ophthalmologist (if needed, OCB will refer you to and pay for a visit for eligibility purposes) will allow initial eligibility. Even if you have already been told that you are going blind or that your vision is equal to legal blindness, the OCB will probably refer you to their own ophthalmologist upon your initial visit and intake application. After the initial client intake and eligibility approval, an an OCB Counselor will usually offer vocational guidance or sometimes personal counseling, independent living skills training (ILS or ADL), pre-vocational training or school (often college), job placement assistance, and a host of related prevocational and vocational services that may extend several months into initial employment.

Independent Living Skills training or more commonly called Adaptive Daily Living (ADL) is a basic foundation for independence for persons dealing with vision loss, and usually consists of classes and sessions that will enhance an independent lifestyle for blind and visually impaired persons. Often blind or vision impaired professionals will teach ADL and other classes, and these mentors can actually relate to overcoming the myriad problems involving vision loss. Depending on individual need, classes may include Orientation and Mobility training (O&M skills basically equal adequate use of the white cane for independent travel), adaptive kitchen and household skills, Braille - communications skills, keyboarding, and computer skills. Many centers, such as Oregon's Portland Orientation Center, offer other outlets for students to learn positive adaptive vision skills, such as adaptive shop, remedial educational skills, or recreational outings involving activities that most sighted persons would envy. Many newcomers to the world of blindness or visual impairment often resist some of these learning experiences, feeling that they will be stigmatized by taking things like Braille, cane training, or other "blind skills." Try to think with an open mind, for most training in blind skills are, at the least, positive choices to learn about and possibly use throughout your entire life. All classes and activities are directed towards independence prior to school, further vocational training, and/or the inevitable workforce reentry.

Restarting or beginning a new life with independence as a blind or visually impaired person is not swift nor always easy; but it definitely can be done with rewarding results. It is best to make an appointment with a counselor or teacher at your nearest OCB Office and consult them. Then talk to someone who is familiar with the RSA guidelines for direct services (like someone recommended as a peer counselor) just to be sure you understand the entire process. Remember to be patient, because where there is a will to succeed there is a way; vision impaired or not.

 

Oregon Disabilities Commission (ODC)

(800) 358-3117
www.oregon.gov/DHS/spd/Pages/adv/odc/index.aspx
Oregon is a state that has its own agency devoted to the rights and services that involve persons with disabilities, and we are very lucky to have such a separate commission. By calling the ODC, one can locate state services related to disability and find the majority of public services, programs and agencies that are located in your area.

Aside from providing general and specific information about disability, the ODC advises, monitors and often regulates certain agencies and commissions related to disability within Oregon. The ODC provides the governor and legislature with information regarding disabilities within and without the state and monitors national and other states' laws and issues related to disability. The ODC also oversees a select group of commission boards and committees that deal with specific concerns regarding Oregon's citizens with disabilities, such as the Client Assistance Program, the State Access Committee, and the Committee on Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services. If you have a concern or need to find a particular service or person involved with a certain service agency related to disability, go to their website or call the toll free ODC number.

 

Oregon State Library - Braille and Talking Book Program

250 Winter Street NE
Salem, OR 97310-0645
(800) 452-0292

The Oregon State Braille and Talking Book Library is a National Library Services (NLS) regional outlet, which is administered by the U.S. Library of Congress. The program is specifically for persons who are blind or do not have access to print due to a significant disability that limits their ability to read print. NLS Talking Books are 4-track tape version copies of countless books and are provided with tape players free of charge to registered users. Each tape within each book set, when played on a special NLS player, will play for close to six hours. (The tapes run at 15/16 inches per second, rather than at standard 1 7/8 IPS.)

The NLS tape player and the associated accessible format books are all sent "Free Matter for the Blind" which is a US Postal Service category, specifically for accessible format materials (see details under US Postal Service). Generally, blind or visually impaired users obtain registration forms through the Commission for the Blind, though anyone who can be verified as print-disabled can register by calling the number above to request an application. This service is probably one of the most frequently used federal programs for the blind and visually impaired and is simply awesome in it's capacity to allow personal freedom and enjoyment through literature.


Public Transportation Services

In nearly every large community in Oregon, the local (publicly-funded) bus or transit system can provide transportation to most areas one needs to visit. It is a federal mandate that persons with disabilities are to be accessed at reduced rates and provided equal transportation service within their community. Most cities' transit systems have a large percentage of their ridership come from the disabled community. Therefore, buses and mass transit lines are very familiar with persons with disabilities, especially persons who are blind or visually impaired. So take advantage of the public transportation opportunities that are readily available to you.

Persons with a disability who cannot negotiate the fixed route bus system and can verify their limitations have the option to use the local para-transit system. This may be an early option for those who have recently become blind or visually impaired.

The vehicles used for para-transit differ greatly from fixed route busses. They are very obvious and familiar to most persons with disabilities; they are usually large lift-equipped, accessible vans that provide curbside to curbside service and usually work similar to a reserved taxi service. Each community para-transit service operates differently, however. So checking all the criteria of your local para-transit service is very important if disability is new to you.

It is important to note that para-transit should not be used if blindness or visual impairment is your only disability. Other people with more severe disabling conditions (wheelchairs, developmental disability) need this service, and para-transit services in every community are usually very busy. In fact, most community para-transit agencies discourage persons who are blind or visually impaired from using their service, preferring to prioritized use by disability-based need. Para-transit is not usually timely, is often inconvenient, and riders usually pay a small fee per ride. Call your local transit or bus system to locate para-transit services. Then check on their eligibility criteria before you have them send you an application. Remember that in most agencies involving the disabled, blindness or severe visual impairment are NOT considered mobility impairments; hence they will expect you to primarily utilize the local fixed route bus system.

 

Seniors and People With Disabilities Services (SPD)

General information: (800) 232-3020

SPD offices are generally not an information or support center for local or statewide consumers. Rather, SPD provides services, administration, and information on related services in your local county that are available to persons who are elderly or disabled.

One service that SPD provides (administers) is the In-Home Care Program, which could be an important help to persons who are newly blind or visually impaired. Basically, the program contracts with and pays for Home Care Providers who do home visits (at an SPD-approved rate) to assist with homemaking chores and other duties within a client's home. If the applying individual does not have the ability to manage their own activities of daily living, then they may be eligible for the In-Home Care Program.

One other function of SPD is to administer and monitor Oregon Health Plan medical cards for persons who are disabled or elderly, or who cannot maintain the responsibilities involved with managing their own card. This SPD function is important for persons who might be unable to read or handle the responsibilities involved with their medical card (as a newly disabled or blind person might).

SPD has lots of contact with persons who are disabled in each area and is usually overseen and advised locally by a Disabled and Seniors Advisory Committee (DSAC), which is composed of local elders, persons with disabilities, and SPD related staff. If you are newly disabled, elderly, and/or very limited in your ability to do household duties, it might be a good idea to call SPD to inquire about what services you might be eligible for.

 

Social Security Administration (SSA)

General Information: (800) 772-1213
www.ssa.gov

Most people in our country have heard of SSA, but many do not realize that they administer two separate benefits programs that are concerned with persons with disabilities. If you believe that you are permanently and severely disabled and cannot presently work to support yourself or your dependents, then you may be eligible for SSA benefits through either the Supplemental Support Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits programs.

US Citizens 18 to 65 years of age and certified as permanently disabled may be eligible. However, all benefits applications and subsequent decisions take time and are related directly to the applicant's work history (quarters paid through paycheck withholding into the SSA Disability Insurance Fund) and the severity of the individual's disability as related to their work capacity. It is a long and tedious process, so if you think you are eligible based on a disability like vision impairment or loss, get on it immediately!

The SSI program is generally for those who have little or no employment history or have not gained enough quarterly credits to qualify for the SSDI program. Persons who are very young and fully disabled and/or those who did not have their taxes adequately deducted for SSA (SDI portion on your pay stubs) will not qualify for SSDI and therefore end up on the SSI benefits program. Often no one knows which program they will end up on until a full review and several SSA office visits. Call or write the contact information or number above and investigate the options available to you, and then definitely ask for the address and phone number for your local office for a personal visit with a SSA Eligibility Worker. Walking into a SSA local office works, but calling the 800 number in advance will help you with your application significantly.


US Postal Service: Free Matter For The Blind

Answer line: (888) 275-8777
Postal Service General Information: (800) 275-8777

Put simply for those who are not familiar with the Postal Service "Free Matter For The Blind" privilege, persons who are legally blind may mail certain materials free of charge via the US Postal Service, BUT ONLY UNDER SPECIFIC POSTAL SERVICE GUIDELINES. Congress established the "Free Matter for the Blind" postal statute (Domestic Mail Manual Code E 040) in 1904. This DMM Code was meant to provide reading materials for the blind when sent by public institutions (libraries) when those materials were loaned, and when said materials were returned by the blind readers to those institutions or libraries. This privilege was sponsored by the Library of Congress (LOC) to provide blind citizens in all areas of the country (including our territories and the District of Columbia) an affordable way to receive and return reading materials produced by the LOC and related government institutions.

At that time, Braille was the predominant medium for blind readers and for those who were considered blind and could read Braille. When the DMM E 040 law was established, the Free Matter privilege was utilized mainly by the LOC within their National Library Service (NLS) program, because sending and receiving Braille materials at the postal rates of the day created even then an undue burden on the blind recipients of the LOC-NLS materials. Basically, bulky and heavy Braille books sent through the mail might be afforded by the LOC, but no blind person in those days, nor few even today, could afford the cost of returning heavy and large Braille books in a timely manner. Hence, the burden of cost for the readers returning books was the origin of Free Matter For The Blind or DMM E 040.

In 1966, Congress expanded the Free Matter law in several ways: the LOC Books for the Blind program would include other persons with physical handicaps which limit their ability to read print; large print materials (14 point or larger) were allowed ; non-print materials other than Braille were allowed, such as the NLS four-track taped books and their respective NLS players; and items specifically related to blindness were also allowed, i.e. Braille slates and typewriters.

Presently, all of the above information is correct, though various changes have been consistently proposed by both the blind community and the Postal Service. As of 2002 though, certification of the inability to read or utilize standard printed material is TECHNICALLY required. However, it is extremely rare for anyone to be requested to prove their vision impairment upon a mailing; blindness related organizations are more often the target of Postal Service inquiry.

Therefore, persons with visual disabilities may send or receive certain printed materials at no cost, such as Braille documents, periodicals, books, or materials in large print, which must be 14 point print or larger. Additionally, certain items that are considered specifically for use by the blind, such as Braille printers, slate and stylus, and prerecorded tapes specifically related to blindness, are also allowed to go Free Matter. For those who are new to vision impairment or blindness, it is a good idea to visit your local Post Office or call to have a Postal Service worker read the DMM E 040 statute, and avoid having any difficulty in mailing items covered under this beneficial law.

 

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