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Newsroom SRS expands access to services for Kansans who are blind or visually impaired

Topeka – Kansans who are blind or visually impaired will have greater access to services to support independent living and employment as a result of three major contracts recently awarded by the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS).

Contracts totaling $1.3 million over two years have been awarded for the provision of independent living services for persons who are age 55 and older who experience blindness or visual impairments.  The contracts also provide for development of increased capacity in specialized areas such as orientation and mobility, rehabilitation teaching (independent living skills training), Braille instruction, and assistive technology.

Contracts were awarded to a consortium of independent living centers headed by Prairie Independent Resource Center (PILR), Hutchinson; the Envision Vision Rehabilitation Center, Wichita; and Alphapointe Association for the Blind, Kansas City.

“We’re very pleased with the level of experience and expertise of these contractors,” Michael Donnelly, Director of Kansas Rehabilitation Services (KRS), said.  “Kansans who are blind or visually impaired statewide will have access to high quality, individualized services to help them meet their independent living and employment goals.”

The PILR consortium includes several subcontractors:  the Southeast Kansas Independent Living Center, Parsons; the Resource Center for Independent Living, Osage City; and the Independent Living Center of Southwest Kansas, Garden City.  This consortium will serve 76 counties, covering the West, Southcentral and Southeast SRS Regions, along with Shawnee and Osage counties.   

The counties served by the PILR consortium are:  Barber, Barton, Cheyenne, Clark, Comanche, Decatur, Edwards, Ellis, Finney, Ford, Gove, Graham, Grant, Gray, Greeley, Hamilton, Haskell, Hodgeman, Kearny, Kiowa, Lane, Logan, Meade, Morton, Ness, Norton, Osborne, Pawnee, Phillips, Pratt, Rawlins, Rooks, Rush, Russell, Scott, Seward, Sheridan, Sherman, Smith, Stafford, Stanton, Stevens, Thomas, Trego, Wallace, Wichita, Butler, Chase, Chautauqua, Coffey, Cowley, Elk, Greenwood, Harper, Harvey, Kingman, Lyon, Marion, McPherson, Morris, Reno, Rice, Sumner, Allen, Anderson, Bourbon, Cherokee, Crawford, Labette, Linn, Montgomery, Neosho, Wilson, Woodson, Shawnee and Osage.

Envision will serve 25 counties, covering the Wichita and Northeast SRS Regions.

The counties served by Envision area:  Sedgwick, Atchison, Brown, Clay, Cloud, Dickinson, Doniphan, Jackson, Jefferson, Ellsworth, Geary, Jewell, Lincoln, Marshall, Mitchell, Nemaha, Osage, Ottawa, Pottawatomie, Republic, Riley, Saline, Shawnee, Wabaunsee, and Washington. 

Alphapointe will provide services in the six counties comprising the Kansas City Metro SRS Region.

The counties served by Alphapointe are:  Douglas, Franklin, Johnson, Leavenworth, Miami, and Wyandotte.

“Each and every county of the State will be covered by a qualified service provider,” Donnelly said.  “As a result, persons needing services will be able to access them in the same communities and regions where they choose to live, work and raise their families.”

This initiative addresses two important issues – immediate access to services coupled with significant plans to expand and improve expertise statewide.  

“These organizations are ready to begin providing services immediately, and we encourage referrals and applications,” he said.  “At the same time, significant capacity-building will occur through training of additional staff in the specialized skills needed to serve this population.  This dual approach addresses current needs and builds a strong statewide service network for the future.”

For example, Donnelly said the State would realize a substantial gain in the number of Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialists (COMS).  Orientation and mobility training empowers an individual who is blind or visually impaired to travel independently and safely within a variety of environments, including at home, in the work place or throughout the community.  The contracts will also result in an increase in the number of qualified Braille/communications instructors, and independent living specialists with the knowledge and skills related to serving persons who are blind or visually impaired.

Each contractor will immediately begin outreach activities to inform individuals, communities, advocacy groups, and other interested entities about the availability of services.  Individuals who are age 55 or older who experience blindness or visual impairment may also contact the contractors directly to learn more about how to access customized services.  

Interested individuals may also contact KRS at 785-368-7471 or toll-free 1-866-213-9079 for referral.

In addition to the services available through these contracts, people who are blind or visually impaired and interested in employment may receive services through the state’s vocational rehabilitation (VR) program.  To learn more about VR services or to apply, interested persons should contact their local SRS Service Center.  A county-by-county listing of VR contact persons may also be found at the following SRS website: