Press Release: President Trump’s federal hiring freeze suspends training programs that guarantee IRS jobs for people who are blind

For Immediate Release
CONTACT: Mel Jones, Director of Communications & Development

 

LITTLE ROCK, February 1—IRS job training programs at World Services for the Blind will be suspended until further notice because of an executive order from President Donald J. Trump that imposes a 90-day hiring freeze on civilian federal workers. The order, signed on January 23, 2017, states that “no vacant positions existing at noon on January 22, 2017, may be filled and no new positions may be created, except in limited circumstances.”  

The IRS programs, which are part of a 50-year partnership between WSB and the IRS, provide intensive training for people who are blind or visually impaired to work in a variety of positions within the federal agency. Participants interview for the positions prior to beginning the program, and those accepted are assigned to work at one of several IRS offices around the country. Participants are guaranteed those jobs upon successful completion of the program.

Immediately affected are the 10 students who, as of last week, were in their third week of a four-week evaluation for the Taxpayer Service Representative (TSR) Program. The 13-week program is designed to prepare a person to assist taxpayers with filing information at the Taxpayer Service Division of the IRS. The curriculum includes instruction in IRS tax law, accounts, procedures and forms. The students had been scheduled to begin their interviews on Friday, the same day staff confirmed the program’s cancellation with the IRS.

“Last week was one of the hardest weeks of my 17 months at WSB,” said Sharon Giovinazzo, president and CEO of the organization. “Standing before these 10 people and having to tell them that because of the hiring freeze they would not have a class was devastating. And while we are working to get these students into other programs that they may be interested in, they came here specifically for the guarantee of employment that the IRS programs offer. Instead they learned the lesson that the only guarantee is that there are no guarantees.”

The suspension comes at a time when WSB has experienced a turnaround under Giovinazzo’s leadership. With an expanded suite of career training programs, WSB has seen a renewed interest in programs that will help decrease the 70-percent unemployment rate among people who are blind. And while the hiring freeze is only effective for 90 days, the effects will last much longer.

“All exemptions under the Schedule A Hiring Authority, which allows preferential hiring for people with disabilities, must be placed by September 30. At the end of September those exemptions are no longer valid, and new exemptions will need to be reevaluated by each federal agency and will not be released until sometime in 2018,” Giovinazzo said.  

In addition to the TSR class, the executive order also affects the Service Center Collection Representative Program, scheduled for summer 2017. The IRS has not issued an official statement regarding the executive order’s effect on the programs. The partnership between WSB and the IRS is the only one of its kind. 

 

Happy Holidays from World Services for the Blind

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The staff at World Services for the Blind would like to extend holiday wishes to you and yours.

Our staff is committed to delivering quality programs and services that will allow clients to have the right tools in their tool box to secure not just a job but a career in their chosen field. After all, we know that a construction worker cannot build a house without the proper tools. Providing a solid foundation of skills with which to build their lives while helping chip away at the 70% unemployment rate among people who are blind or visually impaired is a gift we are honored to give.

World Services for the Blind offers pre-vocational programs for transitional-age youth, a comprehensive suite of life skills and career-path training programs that will arm them with the skills to secure not just a job but a career in their chosen field. We are the only program in the nation delivering these types of customized services that will help people who are blind or visually impaired achieve sustainable independence.

As we reflect on 2016 and move into 2017, our staff is committed to helping our partners navigate the new requirements under the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) in order to achieve successful outcomes and meet the demands of employers.

Thank you for being a committed partner of World Services for the Blind. We look forward to working with you in the New Year.

It's #GivingTuesday 2016! Donate Your Used Assistive Technology

On this #GivingTuesday 2016, World Services for the Blind is launching an assistive technology donation drive. Watch the video to learn more about how you can help! 


From iPhones and iPads to Braille displays and notetakers—if you would like to donate your used assistive technology devices, simply fill out this form and we will contact you to make arrangements for pickup or delivery. 

Don't have any devices but want to help support the AT lab? Visit our donations page and make a financial gift today!

Name *
Name
What kind(s) of devices would you like to donate?

Guaranteed Job Placement for IRS Program Grads—Enrollment Open!

The 13-week Taxpayer Service Representative (TSR) program is designed to prepare a person to assist taxpayers with filing information at the Taxpayer Service Division of the IRS. The program is scheduled for February 13-May 12, 2017, with the last day to begin evaluations January 9, 2017

The curriculum includes instruction in IRS tax law, accounts, procedures and forms. The client learns to use a personal computer to quickly and effectively access taxpayer information in the IRS database while assisting the taxpayer on the telephone. The client is also taught telephone etiquette to assist taxpayers with questions over the telephone. The computer equipment and assistive technology used in the classroom includes state-of-the-art adaptive systems utilizing JAWS and ZoomText, as well as refreshable Braille displays.

Hiring cities include: Cleveland, Indianapolis, Fresno, Portland, Seattle, St. Louis, Andover, Baltimore, Richmond, Buffalo, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Franklin/Nashville and Memphis.

PREREQUISITES

  • Print reading speed of 100 wpm with 75% comprehension and proficiency with ZoomText, or Braille reading speed of 60 wpm with 75% comprehension and proficiency with JAWS and the Focus 80 Blue Braille display
  • 90% accuracy on a math test (using a calculator)
  • 12th-grade spelling level, and good written communication skills
  • Keyboarding speed of 30 wpm
  • Ability to work well under pressure
  • Strong logical reasoning ability
  • Emotional maturity
  • Good independent living and orientation and mobility skills
  • Ability to work well with others

For more information or to begin the admissions process, email Rebecca Reid, director of recruiting and retention, at rreid@wsblind.org or call 800-248-0734.

IT Fundamentals Program Now Available

World Services for the Blind is now offering a new program—IT Fundamentals—that is designed to be a stepping stone to the Desktop Support Technician program. The IT Fundamentals program is based around the CompTIA certification of the same name, and covers software, hardware, networking and security basics, as well as fundamental IT literacy. Preparing for the IT Fundamentals exam is a great activity for anyone looking to gain a better understanding of how computing technology works, something that every modern PC or mobile device user can benefit from having.

The first session of IT Fundamentals is currently open to students who are considering the Desktop Support Technician program. Enrollment for the program will be open to all potential students in early 2017. 

Shana Kassel, who is a WSB graduate and member of WSB's IT team, developed the curriculum, and will be the program's instructor. Watch the video below to learn more about the IT Fundamentals program.

For more information or to begin the admissions process, contact Rebecca Reid, WSB's director of recruiting and retention, at 800-248-0734.


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Originally from Southern Orange County, California, Shana Kassel is the newest member of the IT team at World Services for the Blind. She was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa and Cystoid Macular Edema at age 19, but this hasn’t stopped her from doing what she enjoys in life. From technology to nature, sci-fi to wine, her interests are as far-reaching as she is. Since moving to Little Rock, she enjoys trying new local restaurants and spending time near the Arkansas River, the closest thing in Arkansas to the beaches from back home.

Video: 2016 Vision Award Speeches & Presentation

If you missed the 2016 Vision Award luncheon on October 27 at the Little Rock Marriott, you're in luck! Check out the videos below, and for photos of the event, have a look at this post.

World Services for the Blind president & CEO Sharon Giovinazzo addresses guests at the 2016 Vision Award luncheon honoring Dr. Joel E. Anderson, retired chancellor of UALR.


WSB graduate and Jr. IT administrator Shana Kassel shares her story with guests at the 2016 Vision Award luncheon honoring Dr. Joel E. Anderson, retired chancellor of UALR.


Ron Copeland, retired director of the University District Partnership in Little Rock, Arkansas, presents Dr. Joel E. Anderson with the 2016 Vision Award. Dr. Anderson is the recently retired chancellor of UALR, which has been a neighbor to WSB for decades.

2016 Vision Award Luncheon

Thursday, October 27, was the 16th annual Vision Award held by the World Services for the Blind Foundation. This year the Foundation honored Dr. Joel E. Anderson, retired chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. WSB and UALR have been neighbors for decades, and we remain grateful for the friendship and partnerships forged between the two organizations over the years.

Photo Set by Lee Rogers, WSB Administrative Assistant | Photographer