Tag: disability services

The Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Programs and Services

MCDHH-bannerThe Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is the principal agency in the Commonwealth for enabling Deaf, late-deafened, DeafBlind and hard of hearing people full participation in all areas of life. This is accomplished through efforts to facilitate effective public policy, provision of technical assistance, offering specialized services, advocacy, and public education.

Debra Lobsitz, Information and Referral Specialist from MCDHH

This month we are pleased to introduce Debra Lobsitz, Information and Referral Specialist from the Commission to share her expertise and personal experience at the Commission.


Addressing Questions

As the Information and Referral Specialist, I try to provide people with up to date information on topics of interest to the people we serve. Most recently, The Children’s Hearing Aid Bill – Chapter 233 of the Acts of 2012 (HB 52) was implemented. As of January 1, 2013, on the date of renewal for your medical insurance, hearing aids for children must be covered by your medical insurance. There have been several questions about the details and I want to address some that are most frequently asked.

Who is covered?

Children 21 years old or younger with fully insured medical plans. Self-funded/self-insured plans are not required to conform to this legislation. Here is a list of self-insured employers in Massachusetts.

What is covered?

Expenses up to $2,000 for one hearing aid per ear requiring a device are covered every 36 months. In addition to that, the initial evaluation, fittings, adjustments, and supplies are also covered. Batteries are considered supplies.

Where can I find more information?

The Massachusetts Hearing Aids for Children Coalition or MassHAFCC , a grassroots statewide network that focused on the passage of the Bill provides a blog. This blog offers guidance on what steps to take if coverage is denied.

Consumer Affairs and Business Regulations issued a bulletin on December 31, 2012

Topics for the upcoming weeks will include improvements in our educational system for Deaf and hard of hearing students, a personal account of receiving a cochlear implant, and technological solutions for communication access.

Join us in the weeks ahead to learn more.

Managing Your MS Support Network

Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week, March 11-17, 2013

Over the past few weeks we have talked about the impact of invisible symptoms of MS. Symptoms can impact a person’s job, relationships, and ability to manage independently. Some resources to help provide support are listed below.

Medical Team

The medical team for a person with MS should include a variety of professionals. The neurologist is usually the primary healthcare professional and can often be the gateway to other professionals through referrals.

The MS Clinical Care Network: Available through the NMSS website, this resource offers information tailored specifically to different professionals. Clinicians can also sign up for a professional e-newsletter.

Partners in MS Care: Health care professionals recognized as Partners in MS Care demonstrate knowledge and experience in MS care, have a special interest in treating people living with MS and work closely with the National MS Society. To find a Partner in your area visit Partners in MS Care.

Emotional Support

Emotional support or services can be critical to keeping a family afloat. It may be important to have a therapist familiar with MS or chronic illnesses.

The National MS Society maintains a database of professionals with experience and interest in treating people with MS and a network of peer-led support groups. Please call 800-344-4867 to request referrals in your area.

Msconnection.org is a website for people with MS to connect with other people with MS. The site offers one-to-one peer connections, forums and resources.

Caregiver.com and the National Family Caregivers Association both offer a variety of resources to support caregivers.

Your own network

Some people have a hard time accepting help and an even harder time telling people what would truly be helpful. There are programs to help coordinate the efforts of caring friends and family and to guide them toward what would be most useful.

CaringBridge is a free service that connects and updates your network about ongoing health status, treatment, surgeries, progress in therapies and recovery. In return, family and friends give support and coordinate volunteering for tasks.

Lotsa Helping Hands is a free web-based service that allows family and friends to more easily assist with household tasks. It’s an easy-to-use, private group calendar, specifically designed for organizing helpers. It’s also a place to keep your network informed with status updates, photo galleries, message boards, and more.

I hope you found the information about MS posted this month to be informative and interesting. Please feel free to contact the National MS Society at 800-344-4867 with any additional questions.

March 11-17th is MS Awareness Week!!! It is the perfect time to join and help build the MS Movement. Visit msnewengland.org and look for the MS awareness week banner for ideas about how can get involved!

A Positive Future: How Employment Has Made a Difference

This week we welcome our Guest Blogger, Shelande Laws, a client of The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission and employee of a local laundry services company.

Finding the right job

My name is Shelande Laws. I found out about The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) from one of my counselors at the East Boston Counseling Center.
Two women reading a book

I called MRC and made an appointment for orientation. At the orientation, I was told what the MRC program is about. I got a caseworker whose name is Amelia Robbins-Cureau, and we had our first interview. Then I signed up to be a member of the One Stop Career Center. They have workshops to help you look for a job, work on your resume and find the right job for you.

Amelia and I worked together every three weeks on what I needed to accomplish a goal that would get me a job. I went on interviews, but they were not good jobs for me. I got to meet with a job specialist, Drew Ritter, at MRC who helped me look for work and go to job fairs. On my first interview with Drew, , someone came to our meeting looking for employees. I was interviewed for a job as a laundry attendant and I went on an On the Job Evaluation (OJE) for six weeks.

I am proud to say that I was hired in October 2012.

Interview with Shelande

Amelia: What do you like most about your job?

Shelande: I have been able to learn the job easily. Even when things were a little more difficult to learn, like the cash register, I have been able to learn it after a few times. The managers were so impressed with me that they asked me to do more than folding and washing. I also am enjoying having money to spend on things I need.

Amelia: What are you most proud of?

Shelande: I am proud of myself for being in good enough shape for this job. I did volunteer work at The Greater Boston Food Bank in order to get work experience and learn new skills. I am able to use those skills for a paid job.

Amelia: What advice would you give to other job seekers?

Shelande: Put your mind toward what you want to do and work toward it. Don’t give up whether you are trying to get through school, or a job. Even if a job doesn’t exactly match what you thought you would do, you might want to try it anyway. It will help you have money to spend, and be able to afford to live more independently. You will feel better about yourself, and see where you can get in the future.

Amelia: Any final thoughts?

Shelande: I want to give my deepest thanks to The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.Woman sitting in a chair

For additional information on resources for employment, be sure to check out New England INDEX’s Employment Resources Fact Sheet and Employment Support Services / Benefit Programs Fact Sheet .

INDEX Provides Resources to Individuals with Autism in Massachusetts

Multicolored Puzzle Piece Symbolizing Autism Awareness


This month we were fortunate to hear from Amy Weinstock , Director of the Autism Insurance Resource Center, (AIRC) at New England INDEX.  The Center provides information and support to self-advocates, family members, providers, employers and educators on issues related to medical insurance for autism treatment.

Amy spearheaded the passage of , “An Act Relative to Insurance Coverage for Autism” (ARICA), which took effect in Massachusetts on January 1, 2011. Since passage, there have been many questions relating to the implementation of the law, including who is eligible, what treatments are covered and how to access coverage.

For information on any issues concerning insurance coverage for autism-related treatments & services, call AIRC at (800) 642-0249 or email at info@disabilityinfo.org.  Be sure to check out Amy Weinstock’s  monthly webinars, FAQs and to sign up for the insurance updates

Other Helpful Links

New England INDEX  also has an extensive database of disability resources for individuals with ASD; check out our MNIP Autism Fact Sheet for an overview of information.

Autism Speaks also offers a listing of autism resources in Massachusetts  listed by age group & categories.

Autism Support

  • Autism Support Centers
    The Autism Support Centers are a great starting point for parents to get guidance and support with information about autism, services in their area, and future trainings. Many of the staff are parents themselves, bringing a personal perspective.
  • Advocates for Autism of Massachusetts (AFAM)
    AFAM is dedicated to improving and expanding the funding and resources for Massachusetts citizens with an ASD by educating and informing legislators and policy-makers.
  •  Asperger’s Association of New England (AANE)
    A resource and support center serving the Boston / New England area for individuals with Asperger Syndrome, high-functioning autism and their families. AANE website has a database of support groups, family grants, specialized programs, conferences, trainings and more. For more information and how AANE can help you, call 617-393-3824.

5 Reasons Why We Need Another Disability Blog

As budget cuts wreak havoc on services for people with disabilities, we have a choice.

We can continue to advocate for more funding.  Another option is to really listen to one another and learn what supports do exist.

At New England INDEX we choose the second option. As a  respected leader in providing information and resources to the disability community,  we are now offering a venue for people to give  suggestions and share their personal experiences in regards to the resources we write about.

Thus our blog begins.

And our Blog Coordinator is…

My name is Sue Crossley and I am the Blog Coordinator, which basically means I will either be writing the blogs or editing those written by others.

I have over 30 years of experience working for people with disabilities and their families during which time I learned a few important lessons.

  1. A person with a disability is very capable of choosing their own dream.
  2. To reach that dream in life, whether you have a disability or not, you need support to be successful.
  3. The people who support you may be your family or paid staff from an organization that only serves people with disabilities.

But they also must include people from your community who realize that you have something to offer

I have seen many people with disabilities reach their dreams, including home ownership, because people in their communities supported them.

As Blog Coordinator, I want to find the people and programs in your community who want to help others reach their dreams.

A Blog like no other

Five hands coming together like spokes of a wheel

Our blog will be unique for five reasons.
1. A different topic will be presented each month based on what you have been researching on our website.
2. Your stories will be shared so that we can learn what resources have truly made a difference in supporting people with disabilities in the community
3. Exemplary programs will be highlighted each month, programs that may not just serve people with disabilities, but rather the community at large
4. Guest bloggers will be introduced frequently to share diverse opinions and experience
5. Most important, this blog will provide an opportunity for you to become empowered by learning what is working in your community.

Know your community despite cuts

We all stand together at a crossroads as budget cuts are impacting the life of everyone in our state. At the INDEX we believe that our communities still provide a wealth of resources regardless of funding and we need to learn more about these resources together.

Our blog begins next week with the topic of holiday assistance.

We look forward to hearing from you.