Bill for Center to Aid Elderly Blind Is Vetoed

Times Staff Writer

A measure intended to create a center to provide educational, recreational, vocational and other assistance for the elderly blind and partially sighted in the San Fernando Valley was vetoed Monday by Gov. George Deukmejian.

The bill, which passed the Legislature with little opposition, would have required the state Department of Aging to develop a pilot project in the Valley "to identify and address the unique and special needs of older persons who are blind or partially sighted."

The department would have had until Feb. 1, 1989, to submit a plan to the Legislature.

In his veto message, Deukmejian called it premature to establish such a mandate, which would cost an estimated $350,000 in its first year. Rather, the initiative should be submitted in the proposed 1989-90 state budget to allow officials to "review the relative merits of this program in comparison with all other funding projects," he said.

The bill was introduced by state Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Van Nuys) after he realized that there was no program specifically for those who become blind later in life. And existing services for the blind are often geographically dispersed, said Bob Hayes, a consultant to the Senate Select Committee on Governmental Efficiency.

"No one really focuses on their needs exclusively and all of their needs," Hayes said of the elderly blind.

"What we envisioned here was one center for all of the services to help all of the blind . . . particularly seniors, with all of the services under one roof: vocational, social, counseling, Braille training and sight improvement for the partially sighted."

The Valley was chosen as the site for the pilot project because Robbins had established the need for such a program in his district, Hayes said. If the project proved successful, it would have been replicated elsewhere in the state.

Hayes said he plans to meet with the Department of Aging, which has acknowledged the need for such a program, "to see if they have some direction they might suggest to us."

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