BSBP Director Quarterly Update

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April, 2022

BSBP News and Updates - First Quarter 2022


Spring has sprung...

It is my pleasure to introduce the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons (BSBP) newsletter designed to keep our key stakeholders updated on programs and initiatives. This inaugural edition will highlight some of the key achievements during the 2021 calendar year as well as first quarter calendar year 2022 highlights.

The pandemic fundamentally changed the way the world of business operates. Employees shifted from working in offices to working from home or hybrid work. Likewise, BSBP shifted to a work from home model for field services professionals. This move allows for direct customer service professionals to maximize time with customers versus driving back and forth to an office. The new shift to hybrid and work from home is described in greater detail below.

Job candidates’ digital literacy also is now more important than ever. According to The New Landscape of Digital Literacy, Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, May 2020, “The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown a stark spotlight on need for digital skills among a wide swath of the American workforce.” BSBP is addressing digital literacy through training at its Kalamazoo Training Center, vendor provided access technology training and field teacher emphasis on technology as well as working with students as part of its pre-employment transition services. BSBP is also identifying opportunities for job candidates to utilize digital skills in work from home employment.

BSBP continues to look at improving services, processes, policies, and procedures. Partnership with its state and community partners is an important aspect of service delivery to Michiganders requiring services. It takes coordination as well as customer feedback to be successful. In the past, BSBP garnered feedback through a variety of venues including an annual stakeholder meeting. Going forward, BSBP would like to utilize newsletters like this to inform stakeholders and direct engagement of customers and consumer groups.

If you would like to ask a specific question about our progress or suggest a topic for a future newsletter, please do not hesitate to contact BSBP at

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Bill Robinson
BSBP Director

Pandemic and BSBP’s response:

In mid-March of 2020, the State of Michigan locked down. BSBP continued its work in the field for programs meeting the definition of “essential services” which included the Braille and Talking Book Library (BTBL) and the Business Enterprise Program (BEP). All other programs pivoted to virtual services.

BSBP returned to full in-person services for its Training Center (TC) in March 2021. In June 2021, field teachers returned to in-person services. In July 2021, counselors returned to in-person services and all other BSBP staff began Hybrid work (splitting days worked between in-office and from home).

Along the way back to in-person services, BSBP pivoted to new technologies for the delivery of services. Microsoft Teams and Zoom meetings became a normal way of conducting business. The Training Center led the way in designing and implementing virtual curricula. BEP shifted to a hybrid form of training new BEP candidates. Contactless delivery of technology and independent living aids resulted in maximization of services while respecting the safety protocols at the height of the pandemic.  Services never ceased.

BSBP also took the opportunity to re-examine its offices and policies for working from home. For many of our professionals, it was clear that a work from home policy would better serve the customer. Working with the department and Human Resources, BSBP implemented work from home for it field counselors, field teachers, and BEP professionals. Supported by dedicated in-office administrative support staff, the individuals assigned to work from home could focus more attention on customers saving drive time back and forth to an office location. BSBP still maintains its seven field offices, however, fixed professional desks are now replaced with office hoteling stations allowing for flexibility. BSBP offices, addresses and contact numbers are located on the BSBP website found at:

Success stories:

Through business engagement and working with the employer, the Detroit office has placed 5 customers with Amazon. Amazon has committed to become a disability friendly company, training hiring managers and supporting accommodations to allow employees to complete the essential duties of the job.

Goals and objectives:

BSBP continues to set goals and objectives by programmatic area. BSBP’s goals and objectives must be framed within the following guiding principles: 1) Financial Accountability and Responsibility; 2) Transformational Services and Processes; 3) Modernization; 4) Next Generation Leadership.

Financial Accountability and Responsibility:

Six years ago, when I arrived at the agency, the BSBP financial plan showed $1 million of expenditures in excess of budgeted revenues. With a focused effort, each fiscal year thereafter BSBP has operated within its financial plan. Financial accountability and responsibility are important to the taxpayers and allows for sustainable services.

BSBP Administrative Services worked with the BTBL and National Library Services to implement a new library system resulting in annual savings of over $300,000 per year.

The move to work from home and hybrid work environments has led to a shift from desk phones to mobile phones, less staff travel to/from office, and the use of Teams/Zoom as a replacement to recurring administrative meetings that otherwise would occur in person and involve travel time. The resulting cost, time and travel savings has been redirected to customer services.

Transformational Services and Processes:

As Bureau Director, my goal has been to bring innovation and consistency to BSBP. Accordingly, in January 2021, BSBP created the Training Innovation Policy and Procedure (TIPP) unit within the Executive Office. Danielle Smith, West Region Manager was moved into the new role of TIPP Manager. Sue Luzenski, Departmental Specialist, was moved to the TIPP Unit from her executive support role and Shenique White, Departmental Analyst was moved into the TIPP Unit from her role with pre-employment transition services.

For the calendar year 2022:

  • The TIPP Unit is working to implement a modernized policy and procedure platform that will provide accountability and consistency for application of policy and procedure as well as a consistent approach to updating and maintenance of policy and procedure.
  • The TIPP Unit also launched a modern learning management system known as YesLMS. The platform allows for continuous learning and professional growth for BSBP employees.
  • Document management is always a challenge and managing by email is not always the best approach. To address these challenges, BSBP implemented a system known as ShareFile which allows for simplified document management and unlimited e-signature capability at a very low cost. This system was invaluable during the pandemic and BSBP continues to explore ways to leverage it to reduce paperwork burdens on professional staff and service providers.

Field Services continues to explore transformational service models. Roughly 3 years ago, BSBP joined a collaborative initiative to implement customized employment. What is customized employment and why is it significant? Customized Employment uses an approach called “Discovery” to identify strengths of an individual which facilitates customizing a job for the individual matching those strengths to a business’ needs. It is significant because BSBP customers often have multiple barriers to employment that go beyond sight impairment. Several pilots are in process and BSBP is one of the few blind agencies in the nation to successfully place individuals into customized employment. One individual who had never been able to work now can proudly boast of 40 hour a week employment!

Apprenticeships have been a challenge for all vocational agencies. BSBP has partnered with a company founded by a blind information technology engineer to offer apprenticeships to BSBP customers. The individuals are screened for computer and JAWS skills and if they qualify, they are enrolled in training which leads to high paid employment that is work from home – solving the transportation issue many of our customers face. The program has just started, and we will be providing updates on progress.

BSBP has been a leader in pre-employment transition services (Pre-ETS) thanks to the work of Shannon McVoy, Statewide Transition Manager, and her team. Approximately, 400 students were served in fiscal year 2021.

Collaboration with regional BSBP professionals, the Training Center, community, and education partners, is a cornerstone of BSBP Pre-ETS. Challenges during the pandemic included school closings and lack of in-person services. Virtual programs were designed in partnership with the Training Center. A family engagement expert trained staff and worked with families. In 2022, in-person services returned. In collaboration with Michigan Department of Education – Low Incidence Outreach (MDE-LIO), BSBP hosted a three-day event in Lansing in March of 2022, which included professionals, parents, and students. Upcoming Pre-ETS programs may be found at the BSBP website -

The Training Center developed a culinary program with Kalamazoo Valley Community College that offers interested participants an opportunity to pursue a career in the culinary arts. New virtual curricula developed by the Training Center, during the pandemic, continues to be offered to individuals interested in gaining knowledge of adjustment to blindness skills who are not able to attend in person. The Training Center also developed recorded presentations to assist potential participants in understanding the instructional courses and environment. A mini-adjustment was held in November 2021 in Detroit which hosted 47 participants. There is an upcoming mini-adjustment scheduled for Detroit the week of April 24, 2022.

The Braille and Talking Book Library (BTBL) has over 125,000 audio books and 23,000 braille books in its collection. BTBL sends out approximately 850,000 audio books on digital cartridges and over 1,250 volumes of Braille to 7000 plus patrons. The newly implemented library software allowed professional staff to serve individuals effectively and efficiently during the pandemic. The software also allowed a reduction in existing cartridges and containers. During 2021, BTBL staff with help from Central office staff packaged over 96,000 book cartridges and containers to be sent back to the National Library Service for distribution to other libraries. The Library without Walls program is back – May 10, 2022! Register for the program.

Business Enterprise Program (BEP) currently has 41 licensed operators. For the 2021 calendar year, total sales were $5,137,623 and average operator net income was $70,790 (which included pandemic relief). The pandemic has significantly impacted BEP results due to lower state building occupancy. BSBP distributed over $500,000 in one-time special pandemic aid to operators based on input and the active participation of the Elected Operators Committee. 


Many of the transformational processes involved elements of modernization. Listed below is a recap.

  • Libera InSights Data Analytics Platform (empowers counselors to actively manage workflows, highlighting movement of cases throughout the rehabilitation process and allows management to view snapshots of counselor, office, region, bureau level real-time information to better inform services).
  • Acquisition of licenses for document management and e-signature software to promote accountability, consistency while saving professional staff time. In addition, offers an additional layer of security for third party provider document management. The e-signature function was especially useful during the pandemic.
  • Acquisition of licenses for online learning management system to promote training and professional growth.
  • Acquisition of licenses for online policy and procedure platform to promote accountability and consistency.

Next Generation Leadership:

Team Members on the move! Catching you up on new hires and internal moves in 2021 and the first quarter of 2022.  

Field Services:

  • Sharday Lawrence, West Region Manager (Sharday previously held the position of West Region Assistant Manager)
  • Rosemarie Van Ham, Vocational Rehabilitation Assistant Manager, West Region (Rosemarie previously held the position of counselor in the Central Region)
  • Mary Shackley, Departmental Analyst – Pre-ETS Unit (Mary previously held the position of Secretary at the Training Center prior to moving to the Pre-ETS Unit)

Training Center:

  • Juan Ortiz, Training Center Division Director (Juan previously held the position of Training Center Assistant Manager)
  • Scott Lacey, Training Center Assistant Manager (Scott previously held the position of teacher/counselor at the Training Center)

Business Enterprise Program:

  • James Hull, BEP Manager (James previously held the position of BEP Assistant Manager)

Braille and Talking Book Library:

  • Scott Norris, Braille Talking Book Manager (Scott previously held the position of Lead Worker and Adaptive Technology Librarian)

Training Innovation Policy and Procedure (TIPP Unit):

  • Danielle Smith, TIPP Unit Manager (Danielle previously held the position of West Region Manager)
  • Sue Luzenski, TIPP Unit Departmental Specialist (Sue previously reported to the BSBP Director supporting the Executive)
  • Shenique White, TIPP Unit Departmental Analyst (Shenique previously held the position of Departmental Analyst in the Pre-ETS Unit)

New Team Members:

East Region Field Services:

  • Kristen Taylor, Counselor, Detroit office

Central Region Field Services:

  • Amy Lamiman, Central Region Manager
  • Tiffany “April” Dungan, Counselor, Gaylord office

West Region Field Services:

  • Temitope Omotayo, Counselor, Kalamazoo

Training Center:

  • Alyssa McCoy, Rehabilitation Services Coordinator
  • Victor Marques, Rehabilitation Services Coordinator

Braille and Talking Book Library

  • Meagan Daniels, Librarian - Reader/Advisor

Team members by area/program

Executive Office - 5

Central Services - 5

Field Services - 41

Pre-employment transition services - 3

Training Center - 26

Braille and Talking Book Library - 10

Business Enterprise - 7

Student Assistants - 4

Total 101


Customers seeking vocational rehabilitation services significantly declined during the pandemic years. Total VR applications did increase by 34% during fiscal year 2021, (FY21). However, total VR customers for FY21 continued to decline (12.6% decrease to 747 customers served).

BSBP has experienced historic staff retirements and turnover because of the pandemic. Openings in some field offices have resulted in service challenges. BSBP is aggressively recruiting new staff for open positions. Additionally, BSBP has adopted on-boarding procedures and checklists to ensure that new staff are properly trained. BSBP’s new on-line learning management system and policy and procedure platform will contribute to onboarding of new staff and consistency of training.

The pandemic significantly impacted the number of customers served by vocational rehabilitation. As new counselors and managers are brought on board and customer hesitancy regarding in-person services declines, BSBP expects that customers served will return to historic levels.

The Business Enterprise Program (BEP) has seen a historic decrease in sales for many State-owned/occupied buildings. BEP is addressing the new remote work environment with micro-markets and other initiatives with the active participation of the Elected Operators Committee.


Bureau of Services for Blind Persons
Office of Employment and Training
Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity