FAIRFIELD, CT – State Representative Jennifer Leeper (D-Fairfield, Southport) hosted a virtual community conversation on Monday, March 28, with Commissioner Amy Porter of Aging and Disability Services (ADS) and Cheryl Cepelak, Interim Director of the Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind (BESB) to discuss the programs and services the state provides for blind and visually impaired residents, as well as seniors losing their vision.
ADS offers programs designed to deliver aging and disability services responsive to the needs of Connecticut residents and provide leadership on aging and disability issues statewide. Their services are focused in the areas of employment, education, independent living, and accessibility.
BESB is the state's leading bureau for the coordination of services to all Connecticut residents who are legally blind or have significant visual impairments. Their service programs include training, adaptive technology, and devices that help people who are blind or losing their vision to function independently in their homes, communities, and work places. They also work with children in school settings to implement adaptive strategies and technology, and support educators in ensuring children who are blind can fully access the curriculum.
As Vice Chair of the Human Services Committee, Rep. Leeper is committed to not only passing legislation toserve the most vulnerable residents but also connecting residents with the valuable programs that already exist to meet their needs.
"I was brought into this work when a blind Fairfield resident and advocate for the blind community, Nathanael Wales, reached out with questions and concerns regarding the services offered by BESB. The community conversation was an opportunity to directly connect the blind and visually impaired community with the Commissioner of ADS and the Interim Director of BESB to ensure agency leadership was hearing directly from them on ways to strengthen current services and suggest opportunities for improvement. Thank you to Commissioner Porter and Cheryl Cepelak for taking the time to engage in this important conversation, and to all those who attended to share their thoughts and ideas," said Rep. Leeper.
"We are grateful to Representative Leeper and her team for organizing this community conversation. With the ever-changing environment we find ourselves in, having the opportunity to provide information and address questions directly from our community is invaluable. We look forward to continued conversation," said ADS Commissioner Amy Porter and Interim Director of BESB, Cheryl Cepelak.
“As a constituent and member of the National Federation of the Blind, I thank Representative Leeper for taking leadership in addressing the concerns of blind Connecticut residents about the services they are receiving right now from the Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind. Services to seniors losing vision are a serious concern; there is much more that BESB should and could be doing," said Nathanael Wales. "Representative Leeper’s leadership and the community conversation that she graciously hosted Monday evening led to concerns being effectively shared and tangible action items being developed. I am hopeful that this conversation will ultimately lead to best-in-class services for blind residents—best-in-class like our UConn basketball.”
During the conversation many topics were discussed including better ways to communicate with the agency about services available, qualifications for the new Director of BESB and a new survey coming out about the delivery of BESB service. The full conversation can be found here.
For more information about BESB Services, including Independent Living Services, Services for Children, Vocational Rehabilitation Services, Business Enterprises, or other issue, call 860-602-4000 or contact Rep. Leeper’s Office.