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Finance chief scrambles to restore disability board


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POSTED: Saturday, April 04, 2009

State House Finance Chairman Marcus Oshiro apologized “;for getting anyone upset”; when the House deleted $1.4 million in funding for the Disability and Communication Access Board.

After receiving e-mails, calls and faxes and meeting the board supporters, Oshiro said he is working with the Senate Ways and Means Committee to find money to restore the board's funding.

“;In our first pass on the budget, we felt the American Disability Act requirements were already embedded into the standard of practice in architectural and engineering firms in town, so we thought there may have been some duplication,”; said Oshiro (D, Wahiawa-Poamoho).

Finance Committee members learned the disability board provides services not only to the public, but to state and county agencies, Oshiro said. “;They review all plans, and they don't extract from that any fee or service charge.”;

The board coordinates state compliance with state, federal and county disability access and civil rights laws affecting people with disabilities.

Says its plan of action, “;While people with disabilities, approximately 20 percent of our population, are the beneficiaries of the board's work, many of our activities are directed to other entities and individuals, including government (state and county), private service providers, employers and human resource personnel, architects and other design professionals, families and the general public.”;

Among its broad responsibilities: It administers the statewide program on parking for disabled people; advocates for people with disabilities; establishes administrative rules for the design of buildings, facilities and sites to comply with state law on access; reviews problems, needs and availability of services and resources for people with disabilities; and establishes administrative rules for communication access services for the deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind.

Patty Sakai, locally certified interpreter for the deaf and hard of hearing, said 25 to 35 interpreters such as herself are certified under the Hawaii Quality Assurance System, and their certifications would become void if the disability board is eliminated. “;This will be devastating for the deaf community.”;

The 17-member volunteer Disability and Communication Access Board has 17.5 employees, including two federally funded who work only on education and training for parents who have children with disabilities in the school system, Wai said.

In its funding, the board receives about $400,000 for the counties to issue parking placards to people with disabilities, she said. The board administers the statewide program and buys all the supplies to give to the counties.

Oshiro said he has been meeting with many community groups and different stakeholders, including the board's executive director, Francine Wai.

“;It speaks well of the program and Francine that so many folks, public and private, have reached out to support them.”;

He said he has received “;personalized letters with attachments and examples lauding the work they do. This is an opportunity to really highlight services they provide.

“;More importantly, we're also looking at a way of having these other agencies that receive these services, architectural plans and drawings provide a revenue stream”; to the board, Oshiro said.