CALL TO ACTION to preserve independent blindness services in Pennsylvania

We need your help right now to preserve blindness services in Pennsylvania. The Secretary of Labor and Industry is considering doing away with the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services and rolling those services into the general disability services bureau. If this happens, all of the services now provided by BBVS will be in jeopardy, including individualized vocational rehabilitation, Independent Living Older Blind, Business Enterprise Program, and specialized services for children and adults.

Please email the Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor and Industry, Mr. Jerry Oleksiak, at to request that he immediately stop considering this merger and that he not ignore the unique needs of blind and visually impaired individuals. You can also say that the blind and visually-impaired community of Pennsylvania does not deserve to be treated like second-class citizens

When you email Secretary Oleksiak, please copy Joe Drenth, on the email.

Also, please contact Governor Tom Wolf to express the same sentiments. You can call his office at 717-787-2500 or you can complete an online form to submit your comments electronically at

Finally, you should also contact your state representatives to tell them about this issue and to ask them to do everything in their power to preserve independent blindness services. Meeting with them in person is the best way to reach them, but commenting on their social media channels and sending them phone and email messages are good ideas, as well.

Thank you for taking action on this important issue right away. You should contact these people as often as possible, even every day, so they cannot ignore the problem.

Here is more background information:

The idea of doing away with Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (BBVS) and lumping those services under the general disability vocational rehabilitation services bureau (BVRS) has been mentioned several times recently by the Secretary of Labor and Industry and by the Acting Executive Director of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR), under which BBVS and BVRS currently exist as independent bureaus.

This idea of merging the bureaus has been around for a long time, but it is being talked about by these individuals and a few others more and more frequently over the past months, such as at State Board of Vocational Rehabilitation meetings, Blindness Enterprise Program meetings, and several other events. Their increasing focus on this plan is alarming and should not be allowed to continue.

Although OVR’s official position is that no decision has been made to merge these services, they are doing more and more planning behind the scenes in preparation for taking this drastic step. They use the argument that this change would save money, but no reports or information is available that backs up this claim. Even if it saved a little money, we cannot allow them to continue considering this option in their numbers game to get OVR out of its budget shortfall. There are many other ways to save far more money that do not damage the lives and livelihoods of thousands of blind and visually-impaired Pennsylvanians.