August 11, 2009

Evaluation and Developmental Center earns praise

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A Southern Illinois University Carbondale organization that serves state residents with disabilities won high praise and an endorsement from an international body that reviews such groups.

The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, based in Tucson, Ariz., this spring assessed the efficiency, service delivery and fiscal health of both SIUC’s Evaluation and Developmental Center and the programs it provides. In addition to granting accreditation for three years -- the longest possible term -- the commission cited the center’s vocational services as “exemplary,” a designation reflecting “unique, innovative, creative, above and beyond conformance to the standard.”

“The Evaluation and Developmental Center is a vitally important service component of the Rehabilitation Institute, and the three-year, full accreditation provides ample evidence that our clients are receiving the best services possible,” said Institute Director John J. Benshoff.

“An exemplary rating is an honor accorded to about five percent of accredited facilities and suggests our services to clients are truly state of the art.“

The center has for decades helped those with a wide range of physical, mental and developmental disabilities with everything from psychological assessment to skills training.

“Our overall goal is employment -- all our services lead to helping individuals find and maintain jobs,” said Interim Director Jack R. Musgrave.

“One of the reasons we earned the exemplary rating was our ‘Learn to Work’ program. It’s a simulated employment setting that helps individuals understand the expectations of their employers and develop better employment skills.”

The commission also singled out the center’s independent living and driver’s education programs as unique components in vocational rehabilitation.

The transitional living program, which includes a residential unit, “provides a meaningful curriculum of independent living skills that prepare individuals for the ultimate goal of functioning and living independently,” the commission’s report said. “(The center) does an excellent job of follow-along well after program completion.”

Musgrave said that particular program allowed the center’s staff to reach beyond the bounds of Carbondale to people throughout the state, particularly those in metropolitan areas.

“At any point in time, about 20 percent of those clients are from the Chicago area,” he noted.

Clients enrolled in the driver’s education program first undergo an evaluation to determine what aids they need to operate a vehicle, then receive training in using those tools.

“If you have quadriplegia or some other severe impairment, this is the place where you can learn to drive,” Musgrave said.

In addition to client-oriented services, the center also serves as a resource for area employers who want to learn more about such things as Americans With Disabilities Act regulations, available tax credits and modifications that could make their worksites more accessible. This component also garnered high marks from the commission, which cited the center’s work with a Walgreen’s distribution facility in Mt. Vernon as “an excellent example of community collaboration.”

“Walgreen’s had made a commitment to increase the number of individuals with disabilities in their workforce,” Musgrave said.

“They wanted an assessment aimed at determining how well people could do the various jobs, so we developed a one-day procedure to better identify performance potential.”

Finally, the commission commended the center, which serves as a training ground for the Rehabilitation Institute, for providing both hands-on experience and research opportunities.

“We employ about 20 graduate assistants, and over the years, we’ve been the site for research projects, dissertations and internships,” Musgrave said.

“As a result, we’re known not just throughout the state, but throughout the country and even internationally, because we place our graduates all over the world.”

To learn more about the Evaluation and Developmental Center, which also offers services, for a fee, to the general public, visit it on the Web at