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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

New federal bill impacts employment

The Workforce Investment Opportunity Act has passed both the Senate and the House and is now on its way to President Obama for his signature.  It is expected that the President will sign the bill into law because of its overwhelming support in both Houses of Congress.
Some highlights of the bill include:
  • The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) stays in the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Both the independent living programs as well as the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) will be moved to the Administration for Community Living at HHS.  NIDRR will be renamed The National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research.
  • The bill defines "supported employment" as competitive integrated employment, including customized employment, or employment in an integrated work setting in which individuals are working on a short-term basis toward competitive integrated employment, that is individualized and customized consistent with the strengths, abilities, interests, and informed choice of the individuals involved, for individuals with the most significant disabilities-
    (A)(i) for whom competitive integrated employment has not historically occurred; or
    (ii) for whom competitive integrated employment has been interrupted or intermittent
    as a result of a significant disability; and
    (B) who, because of the nature and severity of their disability, need intensive supported
    employment services and extended services after the transition in order to perform the work involved.
  • The length of time for supported employment has also been expanded from 18 to 24 months.
  • Congress listened to parents and people with significant disabilities and strengthened the bill to include Section 511 which ensures that young people with disabilities try competitive integrated employment first before other employment options are on the table.  Congress was wise in not taking away any employment options available to people with disabilities and understood that people with disabilities, like any other individuals, are able to chose their own jobs in the settings they prefer.
  • The National Council on Disability will shrink from 15 to 9 members and changes to the process for appointment have been put into place.  Previously, the president appointed all 15 members of the Council.  Now, the Majority Leader of the Senate, Minority Leader of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives will each get one appointee of the 9.  A transition period for the reduction has been put into place through the bill.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Community Partners Come Together to Make Teen’s Life Easier

Thanks to a group of volunteers, a 14-year-old girl can now use an accessible bathroom in her home built through funds from the nonprofit, “Rebuilding Together.”
Molly McCullough, has cerebral palsy, and is non-verbal. She lives in her family’s West Bloomfield two-story home with her parents, and her four siblings.
There was no accessible bathroom on the first floor of their home and it was becoming increasingly difficult for Molly’s parents, Scott and Kristen, to give her a bath or use the toilet since it meant carrying her up a flight of stairs to the bathroom.
Support coordinator Karen Hollingsworth, who visits the home monthly, helped the family find a way to build an accessible bathroom for Molly in the garage. Rebuilding Together had a budget of $2,000 for the project. Hollingsworth, who has worked for MORC since July 1972, said materials cost $1,300 and “donated” materials and labor was worth about $13,000.
The room is nine-feet by 10-feet with beautiful tile on the floors and walls. It also has a roll-in shower and a roll-in-shower chair that was donated for Molly’s use.
Quotes from home remodelers for an accessible bathroom were in the range of “$20,000 and above,” she said. However, Hollingsworth’s son-in-law, Chuck Riley, and her daughter, Becky, volunteer through “Rebuilding Together.”
An application was made to Rebuilding Together and a gift of $2,000 was approved.
Each department in the Home Depot store in White Lake Township gave discounts on materials and there was an additional   corporate discount, she said.
“The original supply list was under $2,000 but when the discounts were applied, it was under $1,000.”
Volunteers included electricians, plumbers and other trade workers who installed everything for the bathroom, including drywall, insulation and extending heating ducts to warm the bathroom.
The 90-square-foot bathroom contains a shower that is six-feet wide and three-feet deep as well as a vanity, toilet and sink. Parts of the walls were reinforced so grab bars can be installed, if needed. The donated roll-in-shower chair would have cost about $2,000 if the McCullough    family had to purchase one.
Hollingsworth noted that Molly is ecstatic with the new addition to their home. “Now that her new bathroom is done, Molly has had her first shower in it and loved it,” McCullough’s mother said.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

DIA artists to work with people MORC serves

Buses were sent to the Auburn Hills office of the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center on Monday and another to the Clinton Township today (7.8) to pick up the people we serve for four weeks to begin an arrangement between the Detroit Institute of Arts and MORC to open the world of art to some of the 4,500 people we serve.

The people MORC serves will be touring galleries and then working with the DIA artists in the classroom. The effort is part of the DIA outreach program.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Fishing Derby set for children with disabilities

Sponsors and volunteers are needed for this event. For more information on helping or attending, please call Doris Clarkston, president of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Benefit for the Disabled at (248) 618-8900 or William FitzGerald (CQ), the vice president of the nonprofit at (248) 736-9023. Those interested can visit the website at


The 28th Annual Disabled Children’s Fishing Derby, sponsored by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office, is scheduled for Aug. 13 at Dodge Park No. 4 in Waterford between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

More than 100 volunteers will help an estimated 700 children with physical and cognitive impairments have a “great day of boat rides, games, and food and fun,” according to Doris Clarkston, the president of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Benefit for the Disabled.

“We also will have the command staff at the fishing derby to help cook and serve food,” Clarkston said. She added that the Sheriff’s Department’s Marine Safety Division/Dive Team and an EMS unit will be at the Cass Lake location where the park is located “to ensure the safety of the children and other participants on the water.”

Our Lady of the Lakes High School Football team will be in attendance at the park at 4250 Parkway to help load the children into and off of Pontoon boats. Owners of the boats have volunteered them for the outing.

“A lot of these children seldom have opportunities to go boating and be in a park,” she said. “We are working as an organization to build an accessible playground to enhance the park experience.”
The department will provide lunch, fishing poles, games, and fun for each child. The children with disabilities will come from all over Oakland County “to have a great day,” Clarkston said.

Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence/advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586 263-8950.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Summer Activity Tips for Families


AUBURN HILLS -- For many families, the summer transition from daily routines guided by the education system to a less formal schedule can be challenging. This is especially true for families who rely on special education services to support children who have a serious emotional disturbance or developmental disability
Experts from Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority are encouraging parents to remember that after school lets out, it is important that children and their families maintain a structured day. The amount of structure depends on each family.

They recommend that parents establish at least three goals to identify new learning experiences. 

At the top of their list are ideas for activities in Oakland County that have little or no cost:
·         Explore your local, County and State parks
·         Attend day and/or overnight camps
·         Plant and maintain a garden
·         Take an art class
·         Learn to cook, sew or repair something
·         Visit your local library
·         Help a neighbor in need
·         Attend movie nights or concerts in the parks.

More suggestions for inexpensive summer family fun experiences can be found online at Oakland County,, and 

Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at (586) 263-8950.