A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n Report on the Section 504 Self-Evaluation - May 1996

Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

Overview

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) consists of four main divisions; the Office of the Assistant Secretary (OAS), the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) and Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).

OSERS formulates policy, directs and coordinates the administration of programs for special education to meet the needs and develop the full potential of children with disabilities and for programs for independent living and vocational rehabilitation services to reduce human dependency and restore the productive capabilities of persons with disabilities. The Office also administers grants to increase knowledge about, foster innovation in, and improve the delivery of services for disabled persons through research and demonstration activities. The Office disseminates information about services, programs, and laws affecting disabled persons.

This Office is located primarily in the Mary E. Switzer Building in Washington, D.C., and in the Regional Offices.

OSERS Evaluation: Program Accessibility

There are a few limited circumstances in which persons with disabilities may be restricted or excluded from full participation in OSERS programs. At NIDRR, peer reviewers who are large print or Braille users are often excluded or restricted from full participation on various peer review panels. The reason for this is that the regulations governing applications for grant and/or contract monies do not require applications to be submitted in electronic format (disk with WordPerfect or ASCII). In addition, blind reviewers (or otherwise disabled reviewers who cannot write with pen and paper) are not always provided with laptop computers with speech output and a printer so that they can prepare their comments and print them. Readers are currently recruited on a case by case basis; no pool of readers provides ready availability.

At RSA and NIDRR, late deafened adults with significant hearing loss who may not be able to benefit from the services of interpreters because of the lack of skills necessary to utilize this auxiliary aid, may be restricted in their participation in the program if alternative auxiliary aids, such as CART or CAN, are not available, often because of the cost.

Staff throughout OSERS are aware that it may be necessary to modify program policies or practices to enable persons with disabilities to participate in and benefit from the program although not all staff are aware of the specific modifications needed or available. However, because of the nature of the services this Office provides concerning people with disabilities, the provision of auxiliary aids and accommodations is expected and almost routinely provided. Similarly, the public is informed that programs are prepared to make reasonable modifications. Federal Register notices, job announcements, meeting announcements, and peer reviewer solicitations and orientations contain information on the availability of alternative formats and reasonable accommodations. All OSERS contractors have been notified of their responsibilities regarding Section 504 nondiscrimination and access requirements.

OSERS informs individuals that TTYs and sign language interpreters are available. Most notices regarding meetings, conferences, and peer review information request that participants indicate special accommodation needs. RSA disseminates a fact sheet to the employees describing the services provided. Advertisements in Office newsletters list the communication aids and services available. Information about the availability of interpreter services is included, but it is rarely mentioned that ALD's or CART systems are available for use by individuals that rely on these types of services. Individuals are made aware of the availability of such aids by verbal exchange, telephone conversation, and occasionally in writing (letters and announcements, for example).

OSERS informs its customers about the availability of alternative formats and reasonable accommodations as part of the routine invitational process in program brochures and through oral communication and direct correspondence. OSERS routinely captions its videotapes, and has a number of TTYs installed in various offices with several people trained to use them. Persons who request auxiliary aids or accommodations generally have their first preference fulfilled by OSERS; otherwise OSERS will work with requesters to determine a means effectively to communicate the information. OSERS asks the people it serves for evaluations of its efforts to provide communications aids.

Existing Auxiliary Aids and Services

Specific OSERS Services

Braille Documents
Available within the Principal Office

Braille Signs
Available within the Principal Office and from the Department

ADA Accessible Copier
Available within the Principal Office

Personal Readers
Available within the Principal Office and through a Principal Office contract

Audio Tape
Available within the Principal Office

Verbal Description
Available within the Principal Office

Pictorial Signage
Available through a Principal Office contract

Computer Adaptations
Available within the Principal Office

Assistive Listening Devices
Available within the Principal Office and from the Department

TTYs (both central and local)
Available within the Principal Office and from the Department

Computer Assisted Notetaking
Available within the Principal Office, from the Department, and through a Principal Office contract

Computer Assisted Real-Time Captioning
Available through a Principal Office contract

Caption Decoder
Available from the Department

Audio Loops
Available within the Principal Office

Amplified Telephone Headsets
Available within the Principal Office

Commonly Available Services

All Principal Offices have available the following auxiliary aids and services: Large Print, Sign Language, Interpreters, Paper and Pen, and the Federal Information Relay System (FIRS). This Principal Office recognized its ability to provide the following:
Sign Language Interpreters
Available within the Principal Office, from the Department, and through a Principal Office contract

Computer Diskette
Available within the Principal Office

Large Print
Available within the Principal Office

Pen and Paper
Available within the Principal Office

Federal Information Relay System (FIRS)
Available through the Department

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