Addressing concerns about NY Licensure Bill
Message written March 11, 2012 in response to concerns raised on the O&M listserv about the New York Licensure Bill for O&M Specialists and Vision Rehabilitation Therapists:
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Hi everyone! Maria, you raise some great questions about the licensure bill. I will do my best to address them and explain why I strongly support the bill and plan to join the others on Lobby Day to advocate for its passage.
One of your concerns was the "sloppiness of the language" of the bill. I assume you're describing what ACVREP explained was a problem with the bill's requirements not being clearly defined, and lacking clarity. Specifically, ACVREP says the approved curriculum and who approves it are not defined, and the certificate program and exam are not described.
But that kind of detail doesn't belong in bills like this. It is after the bills are passed that it is determined how the bill can best be implemented. A good example is the bill we know as the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which stated that public facilities and programs had to be accessible. Specifics for how accessibility was to be provided for rights-of-way were not in the bill -- they were debated for years by the Public Rights-of-Way Access Advisory Committee (which included AER, NFB and ACB) and research was done to determine what would be effective. In fact, 20 years after passage of that bill, details are STILL being worked out! Proposed requirements for accessibility in the Public Rights of Way were just out for comments last month, we are eagerly waiting to find what the final regulations will be.
So, back to the licensure bill. If that bill specified details such as who would approve the curriculum and how, and described the certificate program in detail and specified what exam would be used, there would be no room to strengthen the licensure program as we gain experience and new resources / technology are developed. ACVREP itself has drastically revised its requirements over the years and I'm sure it would not want to be tied down to a charter that spells these details out in great specifity -- its charter to establish certification is general, as should be the bill that establishes the licensure for our profession.
There is a process used nowadays for developing the regulations of bills that helps assure that everyone affected will have input. This is the process that was used to develop the Public Rights of Way accessibility regulations. It's called Facilitated Rule-Making, described in the letter of support that is posted on my website at www.sauerburger.org/dona/license and signed by hundreds of professionals and consumers.
I encourage you to read that if you are concerned about how the bill gets implemented after it passes if these specifics are not included in the bill itself.
Another of your concerns was "Are the proponents of this bill suggesting that the current available certifications are not rigorous enough to make sure that consumers have been receiving appropriate services? If this is the case, than by all means, we should all work to increase the standards which are set to meet minimum competency."
You're so right, Maria -- if the standards of available certifications were not adequate, we should fix them! But no, that is not the problem -- the standards of certification are fine.
The problem is that certification just verifies that an individual professional has met certain standards. Licensure requires that the professional must meet those standards in order to claim to be a professional and practice that profession.
So even though professionals such as plumbers, electricians, doctors, nurses and hairdressers can practice their profession only if they can demonstrate that they have met certain standards, no certification or even minimum standards are required in order to claim to be an O&M professional and teach blind people to cross streets.
For example (I swear I'm not making this up!) three days ago I got a call from a woman asking about O&M services in Maryland. I thought she was looking for an O&M specialist but it turned out her organization had already paid someone who said she was qualified to provide O&M, rehab teaching and vocational training. I don't know how long this had gone on before someone in the organization started to question whether she really was qualified. The woman who called me was shocked when I told her that our state has no licensure, and that anyone can claim to be qualified to teach O&M and there is no recourse.
That, Maria, is what licensure provides. Consumers can have some assurance that the professional meets minimal standards, and they have recourse if they don't get appropriate services. Of course licensure doesn't guarantee that your doctor or nurse or electrician or hair dresser won't be a dud, but it's the best thing we have.
You had other questions and concerns but I've gone on long enough. I hope that others will join me to support this bill and begin the process of getting our professions licensed.
Dona Sauerburger, COMS
1606 Huntcliff Way, Gambrills, Maryland 21054
Licensure for O&M - Will It Happen This Year? Please Help!
Letter of support for NYS licensure bill S. 3880/A. 06179