Rights and Review
An applicant or eligible individual has a right to request a review of any decision made by DBS concerning the provision or denial of services. At any time an applicant/client is entitled to request one of the four review processes that are described below. A district review conducted by a Supervisor or District Administrator, an administrative review conducted by the Program Specialist of Client Issues, or mediation which is conducted by a certified mediator or an administrative hearing as outlined below.
DBS does not suspend, reduce, or terminate services being provided under an evaluation, assessment, or Individual Plan of Services (IPS). Such services will be provided pending a final resolution through district review, administrative review, mediation, or an administrative hearing, unless there is evidence that such services have been obtained through misrepresentation, fraud, collusion, or criminal conduct on the part of the individual.
DBS has three procedures for conducting informal reviews as requested by an applicant or eligible individual with regard to decisions made by a rehabilitation specialist or supervisor concerning the provision or denial of services.
- A District review is to be conducted by the specialist's direct supervisor or district administrator at the verbal or written request of an applicant or eligible individual or, as appropriate his/her representative.
- If the individual is dissatisfied with the results of a district review or chooses to bypass a district review, he/she may make a request for an administrative review to be conducted by the Client Advocate or designee. The Client Advocate shall act on behalf of the client and may take a position adverse to that of Client Services.
The Client Advocate shall contact the District Office involved to ascertain facts and law that the District Office relies upon. If the Client Advocate determines the action of the District Office to be incorrect, he shall recommend the District Office take corrective action. If the District Office disagrees with the recommendation of the Client Advocate, the issue shall be brought before the Division Director for resolution. If the Client Advocate concurs with the action of the District Office, he shall so inform the client in writing.
- If an individual prefers mediation, the individual can request mediation at any time during the informal or formal procedures.
An applicant/client has the right to pursue mediation with respect to any decision concerning the furnishing or denial of services by DBS. The process of mediation is voluntary, must not be used to delay or deny an individual's right to a formal hearing, and will be conducted by a certified and impartial mediator who is trained in effective mediation techniques. The cost of mediation is the sole responsibility of DBS.
The DBS representative must have full authority to settle with an applicant/client demand without further consultation.
Each session in the mediation process must be scheduled within 60 days of an applicant/client's written request. The individual must submit such a request within 30 days of the decision regarding service provision to the Program Specialist of Client Issues and Program Support. If the parties of the dispute in the mediation process reach an agreement, it will be set forth in a written mediation agreement.
Discussions that occur during the mediation process are confidential and will not be used as evidence in any subsequent due process or civil proceedings. Each party to the mediation may be required to sign a pledge of confidentiality prior to the commencement of the mediation process.
The process of mediation must not delay a formal hearing, if so desired by the individual unless the individual agrees upon an extended time frame or, as appropriate his/her representative.
Each of the informal reviews must be conducted and a written decision provided within a time frame agreed upon by both parties. A written decision resulting from either a supervisory review or administrative review must be included in the individual's record of services.
An applicant/client may request a formal review of a decision concerning the furnishing or denial of services through an administrative hearing. Such hearings are available under Florida's Administrative Procedures Act (ch. 120) for persons whose substantial interests are affected by a state agency's action. These hearings are conducted by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) assigned by the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH).
The individual, or individual's representative, must be afforded the opportunity to provide evidence, information, and witnesses, as well as the opportunity to examine all witnesses and other relevant information and evidence. The individual may elect to be represented by counsel or other appropriate advocate including a representative from the Client Assistance Program.
The ALJ will submit a Recommended Order (RO) to the parties based upon the evidentiary record of the hearing and consisting of findings of fact, conclusions of law, and disposition based on the provisions of the approved State Plan, the Rehabilitation Act, Chapter 413, Part I, Florida Statutes, and federal and state regulations and policies. The Department of Education may adopt the RO as the Final Order (FO) in the matter, or it may issue a FO based upon rejection or modification of the findings of fact, conclusions of law or disposition to the extent and in the manner permitted by law. The FO is normally rendered within 90 days of the RO. A party who is adversely affected by the FO is entitled to judicial review in either the first appellate district or the appellate district where the applicant/client resides.
Rights Under the IDEA Legislation
Students who are blind or visually impaired and who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) prepared under the local school system are provided rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Rehabilitation specialists will inform parents of these rights and assist parents in receiving services. Disability Rights Florida can provide information regarding rights of school aged students. Disability Rights Florida may be reached by calling (800) 342-0823.