Skip to Main Content

Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services
Annual Report 2011

extended hand, inset of woman in a wheelchair at the beach, mother and two children, elderly couple

Meet our consumers. They are all ages, from newborns through late adulthood. Some were born with one or more disabilities. Others became disabled as children or adults. Some are veterans. They represent all ethnicities. They are boys and girls and men and women who live in big Texas cities and small Texas towns. They aspire to be independent and productive in their daily living.

Meet DARS, the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services. Our managers and our frontline staff work diligently to ensure that public funds reward all of us with a solid return on investment. ROI can be measured in numbers. But the most powerful measure is found in consumers who achieve success in their careers and schools, in their families and communities…that’s the bottom line.



The Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) administers programs that ensure Texas is a state where people with disabilities and children who have developmental delays enjoy the same opportunities as other Texans to live independent and productive lives.

The Department operates programs in four distinct units:

Through these program areas, DARS provides services that help Texans with disabilities find jobs through vocational rehabilitation and ensure that Texans with disabilities live independently in their communities. We also work with families to help children with disabilities and developmental delays reach their full potential. The Division for Disability Determination Services makes disability determinations for Texans who apply for Social Security benefits.

The 2011 Annual Report is a comprehensive resource for readers who want to know about DARS operations. The report features descriptions of each of our programs and introduces readers to some of the consumers who have benefited from those programs. It also includes statistics on DARS employees, brief biographies of the Department’s executive management team, and information on advisory boards, councils and committees.

It is a fundamental value of DARS to listen, to learn, and to be responsive to our stakeholders and our consumers in an ongoing effort to make programs and services even better.

If you have suggestions or comments about DARS or the 2011 DARS Annual Report, please call the Inquiries Unit at 800.628.5115, or email

back to top

Commissioner’s Message: The Bottom Line

women in a lively meetingAt DARS, the bottom line is measured not only in numbers, percentages, dollars, and cents, but also in our consumers’ everyday victories.

Debra Wanser, Commissioner

Debra Wanser, CommissionerThe bottom line—the net financial gain or loss a business or organization generates—is a popular measure of the worth of products or services. When this measure is applied to the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, we see a number of positive outcomes. For example, for every dollar spent on vocational rehabilitation, our consumers generate approximately $8 in personal taxable income. And consumers who can remain in their homes or live with their families, rather than a nursing home, save $24,000 per year. These and other DARS programs save public dollars and provide tangible benefits.

Other benefits are intangible. Depending on their goals and interests, our consumers may experience expanded educational opportunities or enjoy the freedom that assistive technology provides. Or they may acquire the dignity that comes from being able to “do it yourself,” whether that means getting in a truck and driving across the country or, in the case of our youngest consumers, pushing a toy basket across a room. These intangible benefits are the essence of the bottom line at DARS.

The 2011 Annual Report describes both components of the Department’s bottom line.

First we look at how our personnel budget was invested. Almost 90 percent of our employees were assigned to direct service delivery. These frontline employees partner with consumers, businesses, and community providers to bring us closer to the DARS vision: a Texas where people with disabilities and families with children who have developmental delays enjoy the same opportunities as other Texans to pursue independent and productive lives.

The report also examines budgets, consumer demographics, costs of services, total consumers served, successful closures, the number of new applicants, and other statistics.

But the most enlightening sections of the annual report are the stories that describe personal victories—our consumer success stories. A little boy born with heart problems that left him with little hope of surviving, who now enjoys football and playing with his brothers. A paralyzed survivor of a near-fatal accident who completed his education and became a soil conservationist. A young speech therapist who lost her vision and is continuing her career thanks to training provided by DARS. And there are many others.

I hope the 2011 Annual Report helps you better understand the bottom line at DARS— value you can measure and success you can celebrate.

back to top

Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services

woman in a wheelchair, in a field, with her fist raised in the airThe bottom line…In Fiscal Year 2011, the vast majority of DARS employees—almost 90 percent—were assigned to direct service delivery and served almost 500,000 consumers.

Vision: A Texas where people with disabilities and families with children who have developmental delays enjoy the same opportunities as other Texans to pursue independent and productive lives.

DARS Mission

To work in partnership with Texans with disabilities and families with children who have developmental delays to improve the quality of their lives and to enable their full participation in society.

Guiding Principles

We will deliver quality services in innovative and creative ways, individually suited to our consumers’ needs, and delivered with respect and courtesy.

Stakeholders, consumers, staff, and service providers will have meaningful opportunities to provide input on agency policies and services.

We will celebrate our successes and learn from our mistakes—as one team.

We will promote efficiency, effectiveness, and quality service delivery by building a program support system that aligns with the DARS mission.

We will create and maintain a work environment characterized by respect, trust, and open communication between staff and management.


DARS enjoys a stable, long-tenured workforce. More than half of our employees have at least 10 years of state service.

In Fiscal Year 2011, DARS had 3,134 full- and part-time employees. The majority of DARS employees (2,802) were assigned to direct service delivery and geographically dispersed throughout Texas.

DARS Workforce by Division. Click to show as table data.

Within the Texas Health and Human Services enterprise (composed of DARS, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services), DARS had the lowest employee turnover rate at 10 percent (including interagency transfers). Excluding retirements and involuntary separations, the turnover rate at DARS was 5 percent. (Note: This information is based on the 2011 report from the State Auditor’s Office.)

DARS Workforce by Age. Click to show as table data.

DARS Operating Budget - 2011

Expenditures by Division

Category Dollars
Rehabilitation Services $243,829,549
Early Childhood Intervention $189,349,655
Disability Determination Services $133,898,264
Blind Services $64,055,310
Program Support $24,467,140
Autism $3,140,143
TOTAL $658,740,061

Expenditures by Category

Category Dollars
Services/Grants $421,143,504
Salaries/Wages $160,739,459
Operating Expenses $76,857,098
TOTAL $658,740,061

Budget by Method of Finance

Method of Finance Dollars
Federal Funds $518,468,055
General Revenue Related (GR and GR Dedicated) $121,585,767
Other Funds $18,686,239
TOTAL $658,740,061

back to top

Division for Rehabilitation Services

man in wheelchair filing papersThe bottom line…DRS served 87,902 vocational rehabilitation consumers, 41,957 deaf or hard of hearing consumers, 1,478 independent living services consumers, and 488 comprehensive rehabilitation services consumers.

Mission: The DARS Division for Rehabilitation Services (DRS) works in partnership with Texans with disabilities to help them achieve their goals of suitable employment, living independently, and eliminating barriers to communication and community access.

DRS Overview

DRS is the principal authority on the vocational rehabilitation (VR) of Texans with disabilities, except persons who are blind. DRS offers five programs:

DRS works with the Rehabilitation Council of Texas (RCT) and the State Independent Living Council (SILC). The RCT, which is mandated by the federal Rehabilitation Act, provides reviews, analyses, and advice on policy and the effectiveness of VR services. The RCT also helps prepare the DRS State Plan for Vocational Rehabilitation. SILC helps develop the State Plan for Independent Living.

During 2011, DRS administered the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Medicaid Infrastructure Grant (MIG) to support collaboration with partners and stakeholders statewide. The MIG’s goal was to create sustainable infrastructure to support and promote life-long economic security and independence for Texans with disabilities through employment and health care options. Among the strategies used to achieve this goal were efforts to increase participation in the Medicaid Buy-In (MBI) program. MBI allows eligible Texans with disabilities, who are employed, to obtain Medicaid health coverage. DARS first received MIG funds in 2008; federal legislation discontinued the MIG program on December 31, 2011.

For more information about DRS programs and services and eligibility requirements, call the DARS Inquiries Unit at 800.628.5115 or visit the DARS Web site and select Division for Rehabilitation Services or Office for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services.

DRS Services

Two women working at a cash register

DRS at a Glance

For every dollar spent on vocational rehabilitation, consumers generate approximately $8 in personal taxable income through the remainder of their work lives. By retirement, the average rehabilitated consumer will have repaid the cost of services at least three and a half times through taxes paid.

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR)

This program helps people with disabilities prepare for, find, and keep jobs. Rehabilitation services are individualized and may include counseling, training, medical services, assistive devices, job placement assistance, and other services. The VR Program partners with businesses to help workers with disabilities keep their jobs and cultivate new employment opportunities for VR consumers. VR counselors work with public school personnel on campuses across the state to transition eligible students with disabilities from school to work and to serve consumers who need ongoing support to maintain employment.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DHHS)

DHHS works with people of all ages who are deaf or hard of hearing to eliminate communication barriers and ensure equal access and participation in their communities. This assistance is offered regardless of the consumer’s location, socioeconomic status, or degree of disability. The Office for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services maintains a statewide network of community partners and contracted resource specialists to coordinate and facilitate service delivery. These partners and specialists work with other state and local government agencies and the private sector. Interpreter services, assistance for locating and obtaining assistive devices, advocacy services, empowerment training, interpreter training, and interpreter certification are among the services offered.

Independent Living Services (ILS) and Centers for Independent Living (CILs)

These services promote self-sufficiency and enhanced quality of life for people with significant disabilities by focusing on mobility, communications, personal adjustment, and self-direction. The centers and DRS ILS counselors work together to coordinate services for consumers. CILs provide advocacy, information and referral, peer counseling, and independent living skills training. DRS provides equipment and technology that are not available through CILs, such as hearing aids, wheelchairs, and prosthetics.

Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services (CRS)

CRS provides intensive therapies to people who cannot function independently due to traumatic spinal cord or brain injuries.

DRS Consumer Success Stories

Delfino Rodriguez

Delfino Rodriguez: Finding Opportunities in Misfortune

Delfino “Dino” Rodriguez, a hard-working man from Lyford, Texas, has always loved being outdoors, whether it be working in the cotton fields or fishing the Laguna Madre. But one day his ability to enjoy these activities almost came to an end when a near-fatal car accident left him paralyzed from the chest down.

Each day brings not only new challenges, but also new opportunities. And DARS helped Dino realize just that. One might think that this accident would have slowed him down, but instead, with help from DARS, the accident motivated him to accomplish new goals. Dino met with a DARS vocational rehabilitation counselor and talked to her about his desire to go to college. He wanted to pursue training in science, so DARS helped Dino enroll at Texas State Technical College (TSTC).

After he completed his basic courses at TSTC, he transferred to Texas A&M University-Kingsville. During his time in college, DARS provided Dino with regular counseling and guidance, as well as assistive technology, including vehicle modification and a power chair and other mobility equipment.

The DARS Vocational Rehabilitation Program helped Dino get the training and the confidence to achieve his potential. In 2006, Dino earned his bachelor’s degree. He went on to earn a master’s degree in plant and soil science in 2008. Dino was recognized as Plant and Soil Science Student of the Year, graduated summa cum laude, and was given the Distinguished Undergraduate Student Award in the College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Human Sciences at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

Through his own hard work and with DARS’ help, Dino has become independent and productive.

Today he is a soil conservationist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, where he uses his knowledge to protect and improve our natural resources. His work contributes to a healthy agriculture, a healthy land, and healthy food that eventually reaches grocery stores and America’s dining tables.

“I owe a great debt of gratitude to the DARS counselors and staff in the Harlingen office,” Dino said. “I never would have been able to achieve what I have and get where I am today without DARS’ assistance.”

Guadalupe Ponce

Guadalupe Ponce: On the Road for Years to Come

Guadalupe Ponce and his wife Susie are a team. Their commute from the community of Combes, Texas, northwest of Harlingen, is impressive. Almost every week, the two drive all the way to Michigan. They’re a husband-and-wife truck driving team and have been making this drive in their big rig for 20 years.

Guadalupe wasn’t well, but he didn’t know what was wrong with him until he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy after an accident in 1999. “I always was able to work, but I was unable to run, so I knew something was wrong,” he explained.

He was introduced to DARS in 2002. The agency helped him purchase a lift and have it installed so he could enter the cab of his truck. Before he had the lift, Susie had to help him, but height, weight, and safety issues made it increasingly difficult for her to assist.

Without the lift, Guadalupe would not be able to work. His disability is progressive, and he is unable to enter and exit his truck without the vehicle modifications provided by DARS.

He recently bought a truck with an automatic transmission because clutching and shifting the manual transmission in his previous truck had become difficult. So DARS assisted with removing the lift from the first rig and placed it on his new truck.

With the push of a button, Guadalupe is lifted up to the driver’s seat and seats himself safely. Once in the truck, he can start it and shift gears with another button push; he has no problems driving the truck from that point. He’s also been able to purchase a new manual wheelchair and seat cushion with the assistance of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Guadalupe and Susie still live in Combes and still make the roughly 1,300-mile (one-way) weekly trip, traversing America’s roads in their 18-wheeler. Thanks to the vehicle modification provided by DARS, Guadalupe can continue his career, and he’s adamant that he has no intention of discontinuing work because of his disability.

“I have the option of other types of work when I am no longer able to drive my truck,” Guadalupe said. “I want to keep working until I am no longer able to, but I hope that is many years from now.”

Reuben Rodriguez

Reuben Rodriguez: DARS Business Partnership Pays Off for Aspiring Chef

Reuben Rodriguez came to DARS after moving from Louisiana to Texas. He was eager to go to work, but his bipolar disorder and associated behaviors made it difficult for him to be successful in a typical work setting. He previously had attended college, but his education was interrupted because of his condition.

Although Reuben had attempted vocational rehabilitation through a different program, he wasn’t happy with their services. He applied for DARS Vocational Rehabilitation Program and began developing a plan for employment.

Reuben had an interest in the culinary arts. He wanted to find himself in a kitchen, preparing food, and wearing a toque — a chef’s hat. That’s when a local business partnership between DARS and the Hyatt Regency in Houston came in handy for Reuben. A program called Hands on Education helped put Reuben in the kitchen of the Hyatt.

Hands on Education offers training for positions in the hospitality industry, including culinary arts, housekeeping, laundry, PBX telephone networks, engineering and maintenance, shipping and receiving, banquet setup, and convention services. The student is an employee of the Hyatt and is paid minimum wage during the two weeks of training, which adds to the reality of the experience. A focus on employability skills, e.g., clocking in and out, being on time, and being held to high expectations makes trainees feel like part of the team.

Reuben says his work at the Hyatt helps him manage his disability. His bosses have been very satisfied with his performance — so much so that he was offered a full-time position. Although full-time at the Hyatt is a minimum of 25 hours, Reuben averages 30 to 35 hours per week. Working for a hotel offers a variety of perks, and he has the option to accept medical and retirement benefits through the Hyatt.

Reuben loves the friendly atmosphere at the hotel, and he is proud of the fact that he recently prepared meals for a banquet in honor of veterans hosted by the former First Lady Laura Bush.

He is thankful for the assistance he received from DARS and looks forward to having the successful career he has dreamed of. Working at the hotel proved to Reuben that he can live and work with his disability.

Seth Gerlis

Seth Gerlis: Spreading the News in the Deaf Community

Seth Gerlis is an Austinite who has his own media company that broadcasts news and information via the Internet to people who are deaf. Seth is the news anchor on the videos he produces for the site. Using sign language, Seth conveys the day’s news-making headlines around the globe and other stories that affect people who are deaf and hard of hearing. His journey in the creation of the Internet news site began with a goal of self-employment in DARS’ Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services.

Seth, who was born deaf, always has been interested in ways to spread news to the deaf community. Aeronautics was his first career choice, but opportunities in that field were limited due to his deafness. After a year working for communication companies and even being promoted to sales manager at one, Seth lost his job. Within months, he landed a creative and fulfilling position with a company known as an international leader in video content, news coverage, social networking, and special events for the greater deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Seth produced news, information, and public service videos from all over the world. Unfortunately, the poor economy claimed him as a victim and Seth was jobless again, but he still was interested in communicating with the deaf community.

He discovered DARS services through his interactions with other people who are deaf. When he came to DARS, Seth was paired with Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Amy Benner. Amy helped Seth through the eligibility process and, working as a team, they developed a plan for his goal of running his own business. Like any new business owner, Seth needed to learn how to keep track of cash flow and revenue, and Amy gave him ongoing technical assistance. DARS also provided him with interpreter services and helped him purchase a laptop, video camera, tripod, and other equipment necessary for his video production venture.

The efforts and determination Seth has put into the Internet news site have won the attention of his target audience. The number of visits from all over the world has grown to 35,000, and videos on his Facebook page have been viewed more than 25,000 times.

“Amy Benner is a very good counselor,” Seth said. “She had a goal to get my business started. And she provided equipment as fast as she could to help my company reach thousands of viewers who depend on the deaf and hard-of-hearing news.”

DRS Statistics



VR Expenditures by Type of Service. Click to show as table data.

*Total case service expenditures: $130,607,178

**All Other Goods & Services include: Job Placement Services, Halfway House Services, Employment Goods & Equipment, Miscellaneous Goods & Services



DHHS Consumers and Services Number
Individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing who Received Communication Access Services 48,287
Equipment/Service Vouchers Issued to Persons with Disabilities 28,389
Interpreter Certificates Issued 1,737
Consumers Educated & Interpreters Trained 1,137



DRS ILS Expenditures by Type of Service. Click to show as table data.

*Total service expenditures: $5,223,733

**All Other Goods & Services includes: Job Placement Services, Halfway House Services, Employment Goods & Equipment, Miscellaneous Goods & Services



Service Number of Services Provided*
Information & Referral (I & R) - General 3,014
Advocacy/Legal 1,651
IL Skills Training & Life Skills Training 1,018
Peer Counseling 782
Relocation from Nursing Home or Institution to Community 758
Vocational 712
Assistive Devices/Equipment 676
Communication 644
Transportation 558
Recreational 546
Housing, Home Modifications, & Shelter 465
Youth 331
I & R - Assistive Technology 99
Children’s Services 53
I & R - Transportation 41
Other 521
TOTAL 11,869

*CIL consumers (with a plan or waiver) may have accessed these services multiple times





CRS Expenditures by Type of Service. Click to show as table data.

*Total service expenditures: $11,429,436

**All Other Goods & Services include: Hearing Aids & Related Services, Prosthetics & Orthotics, Consumer Maintenance, Transportation, Miscellaneous Goods & Services


back to top

Division for Blind Services

two men walking through a splash pad with white canes The bottom line…DBS helps consumers live independently, participate in community life, find a high-quality job, or find training needed to succeed in school and beyond.

Mission: The DARS Division for Blind Services (DBS) works in partnership with Texans who are blind or visually impaired to reach their goals.

DBS Overview

DBS envisions a Texas where people who are blind or visually impaired enjoy the same opportunities as other Texans to pursue independence and employment.

Blind Services helps eligible individuals of all ages and their families by providing services based on their goals and needs. DBS helps Texans live independently, participate in community life, find high-quality jobs, or find the training needed to be successful in school and beyond.

In a society designed by sighted people for sighted people, barriers may be inadvertently created for people who are without sight. To overcome these barriers, a person who is blind or visually impaired must have specialized skills and a high level of confidence. An extensive continuum of services and an effective partnership between consumers and DBS are the keys to successfully acquiring these skills and bolstering confidence.

DBS strives to ensure that each rehabilitation program is tailored to fit individual needs. To ensure success, services must be matched to the consumer’s choices, skills, aptitudes, and capabilities.

For more information about DBS services and eligibility requirements, call the DARS Inquiries Unit at 800.628.5115 or visit the DARS Web site and select Division for Blind Services.

DBS Services

man using braille printer

DBS at a Glance

Helping individuals who are blind or significantly visually impaired go to work is the core of the DBS mission.

For businesses, finding and keeping good employees is one of the keys to success and is a major challenge in today’s market. DBS programs help businesses find the right employees to fill business needs.

By focusing on business needs, DBS is better able to help people who are blind or significantly visually impaired find and maintain employment.

DBS programs help consumers learn the skills and gain the confidence essential to live independently in their communities.

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR)

The VR Program helps adults who are deafblind or have a visual impairment obtain or maintain employment. Services may include mental and physical medical services (restoration); assistive technology; training in vocational and adaptive skills, orientation and mobility, and Braille; and/or assistance in adjusting to blindness. The Transition Program, a part of the VR program, serves consumers ages 10 to 23.

Business Enterprises of Texas (BET)

BET is a federally sponsored program administered by the State. BET collaborates with the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Program to identify VR consumers who are suitable for food service management training and employment opportunities. Managers in the program rely on profits produced by their businesses on state and federal properties for personal income. Managers hire and pay their own labor and purchase re-sale product.

Independent Living (IL)

The IL Program helps adults who are blind or visually impaired learn skills to continue to live independently. Services focus on sharing information about vision loss, teaching alternative ways to perform daily activities, helping consumers participate in social and recreational activities in the community, and providing adaptive devices that help people achieve their independent living goals.

Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center (CCRC)

CCRC, a residential program in Austin, offers an intensive training program that empowers consumers with the skills, confidence, and positive attitude that are needed to fully participate in employment, their community, and society.

Blind Children’s Vocational Discovery and Development Program (BCVDDP)

BCVDDP helps visually impaired children and their families by providing information and teaching the skills required for personal independence, potential employment, and other pursuits.

Blindness Education, Screening, and Treatment (BEST)

BEST helps Texans keep their vision healthy and prevent blindness. It is funded with voluntary donations when Texans renew their driver’s licenses.

DBS Consumer Success Story

Sara Nichols

Sara Nichols: Continuing Her Career with Help from DARS

Sara Nichols, 31, is a speech therapist from Atlanta, close to where the borders of Arkansas and Louisiana meet Texas. She is legally blind as a result of macular dystrophy, a rare, genetic eye disorder.

Sara works in several schools in Cass County. She came to DARS for assistance with job retention when her vision loss caused her to have difficulty completing her job duties. With help from DARS, Sara kept her job.

DARS Field Specialist Stacey Sewell guided Sara through an array of low-vision services, including Braille instruction, orientation and mobility training, and assistive technology purchases.

A video magnifier helps Sara access print material. Magnification software enables her to complete reports and assessments. Orientation and mobility training allows Sara to travel around her schools independently with her cane. She also learned Braille and can make special Braille labels for her file folders. Sara has used all the services provided by DARS to continue her career as a speech therapist.

“I would not be where I am today without your help,” Sara told Stacey. In fact, Sara told a story about how she was able to complete tasks when her non-disabled co-workers literally were left in the dark.

“When the electricity went out at school, some of the teachers were frantically trying to get around the school and figure out some way to be productive,” Sara explained. “All the teachers were standing in the hallways because they couldn’t really do anything else. After about 30 to 45 minutes in the dark, I came out of my classroom and was headed to the front office. Some of the teachers stopped me and asked what I was doing in my room. I told them that I was organizing folders and reading.”

“They all appeared pretty confused, so one teacher said, ‘How are you getting anything done with no lights?’ I responded to her by saying, ‘Well, I was using Braille. Who’s disabled now? Not me!’” said Sara.

“One teacher told me that was the first time she realized that there are times when completely ‘normal’ people are disabled. She said she never had considered that there may be a time or a situation when a person with a disability is more ‘abled’ than she is.”

Sara continued, “And personally, this was the first time in my ‘disabled’ life that I could do more than someone who was not disabled!”

Velia Garcia

Velia Garcia: Moving Forward with a Local Network and DARS Services

Velia Garcia of Baytown has an artist’s touch when it comes to adapting materials to meet her students’ individual needs. She studied graphics and design and can communicate her ideas to students who are blind or visually impaired.

As a fourth grader, Velia was diagnosed with Usher syndrome, a rare inherited disorder characterized by deafness and progressive vision loss. She started receiving DARS services as a young girl to help her get the support she needed throughout her education.

In high school, Velia became interested in design. She later enrolled at Texas State Technical College (TSTC) in Waco to pursue an associate’s degree in drafting and design technology. As one of her final projects, she designed a building to be used by the Waco Zoo to house flamingos.

When Velia returned to live with her family in Baytown, she didn’t know where to turn. Being recently divorced, this definitely was a new beginning in her life. She tried to remain positive, but with limited community resources and transportation, she was not sure how to move forward. Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Pat Foster and Deafblind Specialist Jackie Souhrada helped Velia direct her job search.

“As we got to know Ms. Garcia, it became obvious she was highly creative. She showed us her art work and photography,” Jackie said. “She kept mentioning her high school teachers from Goose Creek Independent School District (GCISD) and expressed her gratitude for their support over the years.”

Pat worked with Velia on her resume to better reflect her interests and encouraged her to visit her teachers to learn if there were any opportunities in GCISD. Based on her knowledge of graphics and design and her ability to communicate in sign language and in writing, GCISD hired Velia to convert printed material into Braille. She also helps teachers adapt their lessons for students who are blind or visually impaired.

Velia is clear about one thing: she got this job herself by networking with people in her own community who knew and cared about her. “I’m a very focused and serious person. I’ve always been motivated to try a variety of experiences. I’m not the kind of person to give up,” she said.

And what would she tell another person with a disability?

“Go for it! DARS helped me and will be there to help you with a variety of services and job opportunities.”

Julio Castillo

Julio Castillo: Living a Dream and Drawing a Paycheck

Everyone strives to find their dream job, and Julio Castillo of Fort Worth has “cooked up” his dream—literally. Legally blind since birth, Julio is a chef at the prestigious Hyatt Regency at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW). The hotel is described as offering “a superb combination of impeccable service and outstanding amenities.”

Julio first came to DARS through the Blind Children’s Program and later transitioned to the Vocational Rehabilitation Program for help with his career. Although he knew he wanted to be a chef, he didn’t know how to accomplish his goal since he was unable to drive and had no formal training in culinary arts.

Due to his low vision, Julio had trouble reading print, travelling, and seeing recipes, temperature settings, and dials on kitchen equipment. He also had trouble arranging for job accommodations or even talking about his disability to an employer.

DARS helped Julio begin his culinary arts studies through Hyatt’s Hands on Education program at the Hyatt Regency at DFW. This is how Julio was discovered by Hyatt Executive Chef Mark Rowston, who invited Julio to apply for a job at the Hyatt. Rowston worked closely with Julio and VR Counselor Elizabeth El Aiady to determine the kitchen accommodations necessary for Julio to be successful.

Julio was provided with low-vision assistive devices and technology. He also received mobility training on how to travel to work every day via public transportation.

Now Julio is seizing opportunities, meeting challenges, living life confidently, and drawing a paycheck. DARS helped Julio gain confidence in himself and his abilities. Julio works full time at the Hyatt Regency at DFW as an entry-level chef. His boss said that he would love to have more people like Julio and that he is “a competent and enthusiastic employee, a cooking natural, and an asset to the kitchen.”

Recently, Elizabeth stopped by the Hyatt to check on Julio and he told her, “You know, I love my work. It’s worth the trip every day. It’s a real life. Do you know when I got this job, I didn’t know what a benefit was? I was shocked to discover that I have medical and dental, retirement, vacation—they even pay me when I am not here! I never knew what that was. This is more than my job; it’s my career. Thank you for your help.”

DBS Statistics



DBS VR Expenditures by Type of Service. Click to show as table data.

*Total case service expenditures: $18,475,870

**All Other Goods & Services include: Diabetes Education, Rehabilitation Supplies & Equipment, Job Placement Services, Personal Attendant Services, Miscellaneous Goods & Services



Operating Budget: $2,675,265

Service Amount Percent*
Purchase of New Equipment (new facilities) $394,000 28%
Replacement of Existing Equipment (capital projects) $300,000 21%
Repair of Existing Equipment $230,000 16%
Replacement of Outdated Equipment $200,000 14%
Professional Fees $135,000 9%
New Product Inventories for Managers $90,000 6%
Liability Insurance $52,000 4%
Training $25,000 2%
TOTAL $1,426,600 100%

*Percentages are rounded and may not add up to 100%




DBS IL Expenditures by Type of Service. Click to show as table data.

*Total case service expenditures: $1,420,851

**All Other Goods & Services include: Consumer Maintenance, Transportation, Restoration, Personal Attendant Services, Miscellaneous Goods & Services




BCVDDP Expenditures by Type of Service. Click to show as table data.

*Total case service expenditures: $1,269,485

**All Other Goods & Services include: Personal Attendant Services, Diabetes Education, Miscellaneous Goods & Services




Expenditures by Type of Treatment Service. Click to show as table data.

*Total Expenditures for Treatment Services: $214,238


back to top

Early Childhood Intervention Services

two men walking through a splash pad with white canes The bottom line…the vast majority of families served -- 87 percent--reported that ECI was very helpful in showingthem how to help their children develop and learn.

Mission: The DARS Division for Early Childhood Intervention Services helps families with young children with developmental delays or disabilities access the resources and supports they need to reach their goals.

ECI Overview

ECI serves families with children from birth to 36 months of age by contracting with local agencies that serve all Texas counties. Contractors include community centers, school districts, education service centers, and private nonprofit organizations. ECI services are financed through federal, state, and local funds; Medicaid; private insurance; and family fees.

ECI determines eligibility for infants and toddlers living in Texas based on:

To find an ECI program or for more information, call the DARS Inquiries Unit at 800.628.5115 or visit the DARS Web site at

ECI Services

man using braille printer

ECI at a Glance

ECI specializes in infants and toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities.

Individualized services are based on the needs of each child and family.

Families are involved in services that incorporate therapeutic intervention strategies.

A team of licensed or credentialed professionals provides services in the child’s home and community settings.

Outcomes can be measured.

Case managers help children and their families access and coordinate other community services.

Most referrals to ECI come from the medical community or directly from families. Other sources include the Department of Family and Protective Services, childcare providers, and social service agencies.

ECI services feature:

Individualized Planning Process
Once eligibility is determined, an interdisciplinary team, which includes the family, develops an individualized family service plan. The services in the plan are provided in a location chosen by the family.

Family-Centered Services
Services are based on the needs and concerns of each family and child. ECI professionals and family members incorporate activities into the child and family’s daily activities to promote the child’s development.

Case Management
Service coordinators help families access and receive the services, resources, and supports they need to support their child’s development. Supports include helping the child and family transition to special education services as appropriate for children exiting ECI at age 3. ECI programs provide comprehensive case management for all members of the child’s family as their needs relate to the child’s growth and development.

Familiar Settings
Though most ECI services are provided at home, they can be provided in other places where the child goes regularly (e.g., a childcare center, park, library, or other community setting).

Professional Providers
The team that evaluates the child and plans services includes licensed or credentialed early intervention specialists, speech and language pathologists, physical and occupational therapists, psychologists, registered nurses, dietitians, social workers, and counselors.

Plans for Continuing Services
ECI services end when the child turns three. Well before that time, the ECI team, including the family, decides on next steps. Children may transition to public school, preschool, Head Start, childcare centers, or other community activities and programs or they may stay home with their family. For those children who need further intervention services, the goal is a smooth transition with no service gaps.

ECI Consumer Success Stories

Debra Wanser, Commissioner

Luke Rehurek: Mom’s Persistence Pays Off

Rebecca and Jay Rehurek of Cedar Park had been to doctor after doctor trying to figure out why their one-year-old son Luke was experiencing speech delays, exhibiting unusual eating habits, and avoiding interacting or socializing with other kids. “I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t have a clue what it could be,” said Rebecca. Rebecca became Luke’s strongest advocate, and as she persisted in her efforts to find help for her son, she was referred to DARS Division for Early Childhood Intervention Services (ECI).

Luke’s evaluation and assessment revealed that speech and occupational therapy from specialists in early childhood development could help. ECI professionals and family members identified goals for Luke and developed a plan for services that would support Luke’s family as they helped him develop.

One of Luke’s goals was to improve his speech and language. ECI staff recognized that Luke loved trains, and they created techniques his family could use that incorporated trains and encouraged him to become more vocal. Luke began creating stories with his train cars and identifying them by their letter and colors. He really enjoyed building his train set with the assistance of his older sister Kate. “We had a game plan, and it was exciting to see him progressing,” said his dad Jay.

left bracket

"We are so grateful to ECI. I hate to think of where Luke would be if it hadn’t been for ECI.”

Jay and Rebecca were also very concerned about Luke’s unusual eating habits and behaviors at mealtime. A visit to a restaurant became unbearable, and the family began to feel confined, unable to do things together. Rebecca, unsure of what to do, shared her concerns with the ECI staff. “This is what was great about ECI. It was so easy to change our plan and add new goals. It was always about what was best for Luke,” Rebecca recalled.

Trains also were incorporated in his therapy to help with mealtime. Allowing Luke to play with his favorite toys in close association with different foods seemed to help. “They taught us to use things from around the home to help my child progress better,” said Rebecca.

Luke is a happy and rambunctious little boy who enjoys playing with his dog Lucy. He enjoys going to school and is academically ahead of his classmates. “Early intervention is absolutely everything. We are so grateful to ECI. I hate to think of where Luke would be if it hadn’t been for ECI,” said Rebecca.

Young boy wearing a baret

Kolt McDaniel: The Cry that was Music to His Parents’ Ears

Going into their ultrasound appointment, J.D. and Shay McDaniel were focused on expectant parents’ typical questions: “Who will he look like? His brother Seth or Luke?” But a few minutes into the appointment, they heard the devastating diagnosis for their third child, Kolt.

Kolt had congenital heart defects and at best, a 20 percent chance of living. “The doctors told us that we probably would never hear him cry,” Shay said.

To everyone’s surprise, when Kolt was born that February morning, his parents heard their son cry. “It was music to our ears,” Shay said. Doctors performed an angioplasty and open-heart surgery within the first week of Kolt’s life. Six months later he had a second heart surgery and is awaiting a third. While Kolt was in the pediatric intensive care unit, the hospital staff told the family about the DARS Division for Early Childhood Intervention Services (ECI). ECI professionals immediately stepped in to coordinate nutritional, physical, and occupational therapy for Kolt and his family.

Kolt’s condition and medication made it hard for him to gain weight. During his first six months of life, he struggled to eat just six ounces of formula a day. Once he could eat solid food, an ECI dietician worked with the family and created techniques that helped Kolt with his eating habits. After a while, Kolt was out-eating his big brothers.

left bracket symbol

"ECI understood Kolt’s fragility, yet pushed him to do his best...”

While Kolt advanced mentally, his physical development remained a challenge. The ECI physical therapist recommended activities that the family could include in their daily routines to help Kolt. “They showed us how to use things from our home, which was very convenient,” said Shay. The family filled a basket with toys and Kolt pushed it across the room as he learned to walk. This and other practical suggestions were very helpful to the McDaniel family.

Providing ECI services at home helped reduce exposure to bad weather and infectious surroundings for Kolt, who was at higher risk for infection. Each of Kolt’s ECI team members travelled more than 70 miles round-trip each visit to work with him and his family in the Lubbock area. “They always kept our family’s best interest in mind, and we were so grateful for that,” said Shay.

Now Kolt loves football and playing with his brothers. “We set big goals for him,” said Shay. “ECI understood Kolt’s fragility, yet pushed him to do his best. He met his goals through his hard work and his ECI team’s hard work. We are so thankful to ECI.”

ECI Statistics



ECI Consumer's Age at Enrollment. Click to show as table data.

ECI Consumer's Eligibility. Click to show as table data.

ECI ReferralSources. Click to show as table data.


Planned Service Types Percent*
Developmental Services 85%
Speech Language Therapy 49%
Occupational Therapy 27%
Physical Therapy 21%
Nutrition 11%
Psychological/Social Work 6%
Family Education/Training 4%
Behavioral Intervention 3%
Vision Services 2%
Recreational 2%

*Total Planned Service Types add up to more than 100% because consumers may receive multiple services



Outcome Area Percent*
Knowledge & Skills 76%
Action to Meet Needs (self-care) 75%
Social Relationships 71%

**Outcomes reflect substantial increases in rates of growth and changes in development beyond what would be expected without intervention

back to top

DARS Autism Program

three children on playground monkey barsThe bottom line…the majority ofchildrenwith autism who receive appropriate intervention and treatment experience marked improvement -- 47 percent recover typical function and 40 percent make significant improvement.

Mission:The DARS Autism Program funds services for children ages 3 through with an autism spectrum disorder.


Autism Program Overview

The DARS Autism Program champions excellence in the delivery of services for families of children with autism. Services are provided through grant contracts with local community agencies and organizations that provide applied behavioral analysis (ABA) and other positive behavior support strategies. The program helps improve the quality of life for children on the autism spectrum and their families.

Children do not “outgrow” autism, but studies show that early diagnosis and intervention lead to significantly improved outcomes. Signs that a child may have an autism spectrum disorder include:

Lack of or delay in spoken language

For more information on the Autism Program, call the DARS Inquiries Unit at 800.628.5115 or visit the DARS Web site at and select Find Services at the top of the page.


Two women working at a cash register


Autism spectrum disorders occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, but are four times more likely to occur in boys than in girls.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that between about 1 in 80 and 1 in 240, with an average of 1 in 110, children in the United States have an ASD (www.cdc. gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html).

The increasing number of children diagnosed with autism has created a national health emergency in the United States. It is more common than childhood cancer, juvenile diabetes, and pediatric AIDS combined (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2011 Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorder Research, January 18, 2011).

During 2011, the DARS Autism Program provided services to 202 children.





Autism Program services feature:











Toddler hugging tire tube

Rhett: Measurable Improvements

Rhett is a 5-year-old boy with pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified. This diagnosis means that someone has autistic characteristics, but some of their symptoms are mild, or they have symptoms in one area (like social deficits), but none in another key area (like restricted, repetitive behaviors). Rhett also had problems getting his messages across to others and understanding messages from others.


When Rhett was admitted to the Child Study Center (CSC) in Fort Worth for DARS-funded autism services, he asked for things using single words and could not identify common objects. He rarely made eye contact and was severely delayed in play and social skills. He was not toilet trained and wore a diaper. During his first month of treatment, Rhett’s problem behavior occurred during 18 percent of five-minute intervals on average, mostly when he was denied access to preferred items and activities.

left bracket

At the end of his treatment, Rhett’s problem behavior had been reduced by 78 percent.


Rhett attended the CSC three days per week for two years. During that time, he learned how to make eye contact with others, how to mimic words (vocal imitation) and actions of others (motor imitation), as well as skills in playing, listening, speaking, paying attention, and having conversations. He now can ask for things he wants and activities he likes using full sentences. He’s able to identify and label common items and activities.

His therapists also used a program of scheduled trips to the restroom, differential reinforcement (rewarding desired behaviors), and visual reminders that helped Rhett learn to use the toilet independently.

When he was discharged from CSC, Rhett had mastered 323 instructional targets in 11 skill domains. Although it’s still difficult for him to create certain sounds, he has made great gains in vocal imitation. He also has mastered several play skills programs, including pretend play.

At the end of his treatment, Rhett’s problem behavior had been reduced by 78 percent.

Thanks to the DARS Autism Program, Rhett is ready to enroll in programs that will help him learn more play and social skills.

Autism Statistics




Payer of Total Cost of Services:

Autism Payer of Total Cost of Services. Click to show as table data.



Service Total number of Children Who Recived Service Percent of Toal Number of Children Who Recieved Service
Applied Behavior Analysis 202 100%
Testing 108 53%
Home-Based Services 47 23
Speech-Language Therapy 38 19
Pediatrics 11 5
Occupational Therapy 8 4
Audiology Evaluations 2 1
Physical Therapy 1 0

*Consumers may receive more than one service


back to top

Disability Determination Services

man in wheelchair filing papersThe bottom line...Texans Receive $805 million each month in Social Security disability funds

Mission: The DARS Division for Disability Determination Services (DDS) improves the quality of life for Texans with disabilities who apply for or receive Social Security Administration disability benefits by making timely and accurate disability determinations.


DDS Overview

DDS makes disability determinations for Texans with severe disabilities who apply for Social Security Disability Insurance and/or Supplemental Security Income. The division is funded by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Texans with physical and/or mental impairments apply for benefits at their local SSA field office, and their applications are forwarded to DDS, which determines whether the applicant is disabled, according to federal criteria. SSA makes the final decision about whether a person is eligible to receive benefits.

DDS develops medical evidence and determines whether a claimant is disabled under the law. Usually, the division first tries to obtain evidence from the claimant’s own medical sources. If that evidence is unavailable or insufficient to make a determination, arrangements are made for a consultative examination to obtain additional information.

After the evidence is developed, a trained DDS staff member makes the disability determination and returns the case to the SSA field office for appropriate action. If the staff member determines that the claimant is disabled, SSA completes an eligibility determination, computes the benefit amount, and begins paying benefits. If the claimant is found not to be disabled, the file is kept in the SSA field office in case the claimant decides to appeal the determination.

To apply for disability benefits or learn more about the application process, call the Social Security Administration at 800.772.1213 or visit the SSA Web site at If a claim already has been filed, claimants may contact DDS at 512.437.8000 or 800.252.7009 for additional information or questions regarding the status of the claim.

DDS Services

DDS Services

Two women working at a cash register

DRS at a Glance

Texans receive $805 million each month in Social Security disability benefits (SSA Office of Research, Statistics, and Policy Analysis, December 2010). DARS DDS is the nation’s largest centralized DDS.

In 2011, the SSA Commissioner’s Citation was awarded to the Texas Disability Determination Services for overall leadership, work, dedication, quality, and performance.

DARS DDS employees are experts who serve and lead national workgroups and committees. Their efforts and dedication have been recognized by SSA on multiple occasions through awards and Commissioner’s Citations. In 2011, several DDS adjudicators were awarded the SSA Commissioner’s Citation for superior performance by a DDS employee.

DARS DDS hosts many visits from SSA’s headquarters and regional office staff, as they seek out best practices to share around the country.

DARS DDS’ accuracy rate of 97 percent exceeded the national rate for federal fiscal year 2011 (SSA Office of Quality Performance).






SSA administers two disability programs that provide cash benefits and medical coverage to people who are unable to work because they have severe physical or mental impairments. Cash benefits are designed to replace part of the income lost if a person becomes disabled. Many people apply and qualify for both of these programs. Regardless of the program, DDS makes the disability determination for SSA, but only SSA can determine who is eligible to receive benefits.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

SSDI is related to work. People earn coverage for themselves and family members by paying Social Security tax. SSDI covers workers age 18 to 65 who are disabled, disabled widows/widowers, and disabled adult children of workers. Claimants must wait five months from the onset of their disability before getting their first SSDI check; they must wait 24 months after the first check before medical coverage through Medicare starts.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSI is related to what a person has or owns. A person who does not own much or have much income may qualify for this program. SSI covers adults age 18 to 65 and children from birth to age 18. There is no waiting period for benefits to start; Medicaid coverage for medical care begins with the first SSI check.










DDS Statistics


DDS is federally funded, and statistics are based on Federal Fiscal Year 2011

DDS Stats. Click to show as table data.

*Total cases received: 367,599

Total cases determined: 366,676
Percent of initial disability cases allowed
Texas: 38%
National average: 34
Average initial case processing time (in days)
Texas: 85
National: 89
Accuracy Rate
Texas: 97%
National: 96
back to top

DARS Councils, Committees, and Boards

Four people in a meetingThe bottom line...."Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much." --Helen Keller

Guiding Principles: Stakeholders, consumers, staff, and service providers will have meaningful opportunities to provide input on agency policies and services.


Councils, Committees, and Boards

The DARS Council

The DARS Council helps the DARS commissioner and the Health and Human Services executive commissioner develop rules and policies for the Department. The council is composed of nine members of the public appointed by the Governor. To be eligible for appointment to the council, a person must have demonstrated an interest in and knowledge of problems and available services related to early childhood intervention services or to people with disabilities other than developmental delay and mental retardation and people who are blind, deaf, or hard of hearing.

More information on the council is available on the Internet at

Rehabilitation Council of Texas

The Rehabilitation Council of Texas (RCT) advises DARS on policy and the scope and effectiveness of vocational rehabilitation services and eligibility requirements. The RCT works with the divisions to develop, agree to, and review state goals and priorities. The council also contributes to the preparation of the state plans for vocational rehabilitation. Council members are appointed by the Governor.

More information on the council is available on the Internet at

Members of the Rehabilitation Council of Texas
Larry Evans, San Angelo, chair Shawn Patrick Saladin, Edinburg
Richard Giles Hatfield, Austin, vice chair Mark Schroeder, Wichita Falls
Corbett “Chase” Bearden, Austin Thelma Scott, Houston
Michelle Crain, Lubbock Karen Stanfill, Houston
Lori Henning Crutchfield, Austin Carolyn Todd, Georgetown
Rames Gonzalez, Jr., Palmview Amy Woolsey, Cypress
Mike Halligan, Georgetown Elizabeth Ann Gentry, Schertz, ex officio
Paula Jean Margeson, Plano Brenda Stone, Austin, ex officio

State Independent Living Council

The State Independent Living Council (SILC) is an equal partner with DARS in the development, approval, and implementation of the State Plan for Independent Living. The Texas SILC leads, promotes, and advances the independent living philosophy and advocates for the rights of individuals with disabilities. The Governor appoints council members, with the majority being individuals with disabilities.

More information on the council is available on the Internet at

Members of the State Independent Living Council
Michelle Crain, Lubbock, chair Donald Landry, Groves
Kristen Jones, Austin, vice chair Randall Resneder, Lubbock
Gloria N. Greeder, El Paso, secretary Scotty Sherrill, Nacogdoches
Saul Herrera, Midland, treasurer Karen Swearington, Rowlett
Peggy Cosner, Belton Marc Gold, Austin, ex officio
Susie Grona, Hideaway  

Early Childhood Intervention Advisory Committee

The ECI Advisory Committee, which is required by Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, advises the DARS Division for Early Childhood Intervention Services on development and implementation of policies that constitute the statewide ECI system. The Governor appoints the committee members.

More information on the committee is available on the Internet at

Members of the Early Childhood Intervention Committee
Pamela M. Perez, El Paso, chair Laura Logan Kender, Lubbock
Harvey Salinas, Corpus Christi, vice chair Barbara Knighton, Spring
Richard Adams, MD, Dallas Katherine (Kathy) Lee, Temple
Terry Beattie, Austin Karen Meyer, San Antonio
LaShonda Brown, Houston Alba A. Ortiz, PhD, Austin
John Cissik, McKinney Rumisha Rice, Spring
Katrina Daniel, Austin Pattie Rosenlund, McAllen
State Rep. John Davis, Houston Holly Sanchez, McKinney
Barbara Fountain, Austin Lynn Sullivan, Fort Worth
Teresa Hernandez, Austin Kathy Teutsch, Austin
Jonel Huggins, Austin Berkley Dyer, Austin, DARS Council representative
Barbara W. James, Austin Michelle Gee, Austin, ex officio
Diane Kazlow, McKinney Benna Timperlake, Corpus Christi, ex officio


Board for Evaluation of Interpreters

The Board for Evaluation of Interpreters advises the DARS Division for Rehabilitation Services, Office for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services on administering the interpreter certification program. The DARS commissioner appoints the board members.

More information on the board is available on the Internet at

Board of Evaluation of Interpreters Members
Allison Randolph, Fort Worth, chair Kristin Lund, Austin
Roger Brown, Austin, vice chair Marcus Myers, Corpus Christi
Sharon Grigsby Hill, Humble, secretary Dr. Cynthia Sturkie, Amarillo
Daniel Diffee, Fort Worth  

back to top

DARS Executive Team

man in wheelchair filing papersThe bottom line…DRS served 87,902 vocational rehabilitation consumers, 41,957 deaf or hard of hearing consumers, 1,478 independent living services consumers, and 488 comprehensive rehabilitation services consumers.

DARS Philosophy: Employees are treated with respect and guided to perform to their highest ability. Management will exemplify positive attitudes and the ability to lead by example. They will foster an environment that consistently encourages growth through open communication and trust.

Executive Team

Debra Wanser, Commissioner

Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Tom Suehs appointed Debra Wanser as DARS commissioner in June 2011. For the previous four years, Ms. Wanser was the DARS deputy commissioner. Ms. Wanser is a registered nurse and has more than 32 years of healthcare administration experience. Before coming to DARS, she was assistant commissioner for adult protective services at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and associate commissioner for family health with the Texas Department of Health. She has a master’s degree from the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs as well as degrees from St. Edward’s University and Oklahoma State University School of Nursing.

Glenn Neal, Deputy Commissioner

Glenn Neal was named deputy commissioner in July 2011. Mr. Neal works closely with the commissioner on day-to-day operations and provides strategic direction to programs. The DARS Center for Policy and External Relations and the Center for Learning Management report to the deputy commissioner. Mr. Neal has been with DARS since its creation in 2004. Before becoming deputy commissioner, he was the director of the DARS Center for Program and External Relations. He was previously director of external relations for the Texas Rehabilitation Commission, a strategic planner for the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission, and coordinator of the Texas Secretary of State’s Project V.O.T.E., which introduces students to voting. Mr. Neal graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s degree in government and from Texas State University with a master’s degree in public administration.


Alvin Miller, Chief Operating Officer

Alvin Miller became chief operating officer (COO) for DARS in March 2004. Before coming to DARS, Mr. Miller was in senior management positions with several state agencies. He joined the Comptroller’s Field Operations Division in 1973 as a state tax auditor and later was assistant regional director of the Northeast Texas Field Operations Region. He was promoted to director of field operations audit in 1981. He also served as director of the Comptroller’s Human Resources, Training, Revenue Management, and Internal Audit Divisions. In 1992, Mr. Miller joined the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) as chief fiscal officer. While with the OAG, he served as chief administrative officer of the State Employee Workers’ Compensation System. He also was director of the OAG Child Support Enforcement Information Systems Development Division, where he led the systems implementation of federal welfare reform. He was chief financial officer for the Texas Commission for the Blind from 1999 until he joined DARS as COO. Mr. Miller is a certified public accountant, a certified governmental financial manager, and a project management professional.

Mary Wright, Chief Financial Officer

Mary Wright joined DARS in July 2011. She began her state government career with the Texas State Auditor’s Office. She went on to spend eight years with the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (PRS), which now is the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). She served in several roles at PRS/DFPS, including acting deputy director of finance, director of budget and federal funds, and director of internal audit. She also was the chief financial officer/director of administrative resources at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for six years and deputy chief financial officer at the Texas Department of State Health Services. As a member of the State Health Services and Parks and Wildlife executive management teams, Ms. Wright participated in key strategic and policy decisions. She has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Texas State University in San Marcos and is a certified public accountant.

Jim Hanophy, Assistant Commissioner for Rehabilitation Services

Jim Hanophy began his role as assistant commissioner for rehabilitation services in March 2008. He has more than 30 years of professional and volunteer experience working with children and adults with disabilities in Texas, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Mr. Hanophy first came to DARS in 2006 as a program specialist responsible for customized employment services, case consultation, and business development. Before joining DARS, he was an organizational consultant with the University of North Texas and a faculty member in the Department of Rehabilitation, Social Work, and Addictions. Mr. Hanophy has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Binghamton University and a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from West Virginia University.

Barbara J. Madrigal, Assistant Commissioner for Blind Services

Barbara J. Madrigal has provided services to Texans who are blind for more than 30 years, working in direct service delivery, program development and implementation, and management. Ms. Madrigal has a bachelor’s degree in education for the deaf and master’s degrees in counseling and human services administration. She has taught deaf and hearing-impaired students, served as an instructor for the migrant program at St. Edward’s University, and worked with the American Red Cross in its services to military families. She is president of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind. She also serves on the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation Executive Committee as chair of the Employment Committee. Her many honors include Texas Commission for the Blind Employee of the Year, recognition from the Texas House of Representatives for her efforts to enhance employment opportunities for blind Texans, the State Agency Council’s Outstanding Women in State Government award in management, and the Texas RehabAction Network Award for Lifetime Achievement in Public Vocational Rehabilitation.

Kim Wedel, Assistant Commissioner for Early Childhood Intervention Services

Kim Wedel joined DARS in August 2006. She began her state service in 1998 at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Prevention and Early Intervention Services and later led their Contract Administration Division. In 2004 she became the director of community services in the Provider Services Division at the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services. Before entering the public sector, she spent 17 years working with community-based nonprofits in California, New York and Texas. Ms. Wedel holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University and a master’s degree in social work (licensed master of social work) from Hunter College School of Social Work of the City University of New York.

Mary Wolfe, Assistant Commissioner for Disability Determination Services

Mary Wolfe became the assistant commissioner for disability determination services (DDS) in March 2004. She started her public service career with the Texas Rehabilitation Commission (TRC). For more than 33 years, Ms. Wolfe has worked in TRC and DARS, holding both staff and management positions. Ms. Wolfe worked in various divisions and assignments in the offices/units of Disability Determination Services field services in regional and satellite offices and in the central office in Austin. She also served as the interim commissioner of TRC and was responsible for administering policy, oversight, and administrative functions, including DDS and DRS. Ms. Wolfe is a graduate of St. Edward’s University in Austin with a degree in public administration. Among the honors and recognitions she has received are Texas Rehabilitation Commission Manager of the Year, National and Texas Rehabilitation Association Rehabilitation Professional of the Year, Texas Rehab Action Network (TRAN) Ken Vogel Leadership Award, TRAN Max Arrell Lifetime Achievement Award, recognition from the Texas Senate as a rehabilitation expert and professional, Outstanding Women in Texas Government, and numerous Social Security Administration Commissioner Citations for Leadership and Excellence.

Sylvia Hardman-Dingle, General Counsel/Director of Legal Services

Sylvia Hardman-Dingle has served as general counsel and ethics advisor for DARS since its inception in 2004. She works closely with executive management providing legal and ethical guidance to staff, as well as administering the Public Information Act and administrative and due process hearings. Before joining DARS, Mrs. Hardman-Dingle served as the deputy commissioner for legal services, general counsel, and ethics advisor for the Texas Rehabilitation Commission from 1998 to 2004. She was a staff attorney in the Fraud Unit of the Texas Department of Insurance for two years and an assistant attorney general in the Tax Division of the Office of Attorney General for six years. Mrs. Hardman-Dingle received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan and a doctor of jurisprudence degree from the University of Texas School of Law. She also is a graduate of the Governor’s Executive Development Program.

back to top


Blue and green dots on Texas map indicating DBS and DRS office locations

back to top