Office of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Manual

Chapter 1: BEI

Chapter 2: Establishing DHHS Communication Access Maximum Rates

(Added 09/09)

2.1 Overview

DHHS' Communication Access Maximum Rates establish the maximum amount the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) pays for interpreter and Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) services. These rates are also the maximum amount payable to contractors providing services to DHHS consumers.

2.2 Establishing Rates

A Request for Information (RFI) is posted to the Texas Marketplace to gather information and establish Communication Access Maximum Rates, which vary by skill level and HHSC region. Regions and skill levels are combined whenever possible to reduce the complexity of the pay-rate scale.

Higher rates may apply to last-minute requests and for services on weekends, evenings, and holidays.

2.3 Annual Review

Rates are reviewed annually.

Chapter 3: Standards and Procedures for Interpreter Continuing Education

3.1 Purpose and Scope

The HHSC Office for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DHHS) must approve courses and workshops that provide continuing education to interpreters for the deaf and hard of hearing.

This chapter establishes a procedure for:

  • approving continuing education courses, and
  • awarding continuing education units (CEUs).

3.2 Definitions

The following words, where used in this chapter, have the following meanings, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise.

Applicant—a person or organization who applies to DHHS for approval of continuing education courses or workshops to award CEUs to interpreters for the deaf.

BEI—Board for Evaluation of Interpreters.

Certificate holder—an interpreter who is certified at a specified skill level by DHHS or BEI.

Class hours—contact hours of formal class instruction or the equivalent as defined and adopted by DHHS.

Continuing education course—any training component provided for interpreters that meets the content requirements for maintaining certification and enhancing skills and knowledge.

General studies—the content area that includes:

  • human services and leadership studies, with topics such as:
    • leadership skills,
    • public relations,
    • public speaking, and
    • community resources; and
  • general knowledge studies, including areas that are less obviously related to the field of interpreting and transliteration, but are educationally beneficial to the participant.

Instructor or presenter—a person approved by DHHS to provide instruction in the discipline of interpreting in an educational setting or workshop.

Professional studies—the content area that includes:

  • linguistic and cultural studies, which includes the study of any language or linguistic system, or the study of any specific culture;
  • theoretical and experiential studies, which includes interpreting and transliterating theory or skill building activities; and
  • specialization studies, which includes aspects of interpreting used in specialized settings such as the legal, medical, mental health, or substance abuse recovery fields.

Program specialist—the DHHS staff person designated to work with DHHS and BEI in administering the CEU program, and who may be reached by mail at the following address: HHSC DHHS, Attention: CEU Program, P.O. Box 12904, Austin, Texas 78711.

Training—the content of any course, workshop, event, program, or seminar, that provides information and activities to enhance the skill and knowledge of participating interpreters.

3.3 Continuing Education Units

3.3.1 Methods of Instruction

Approved methods of instruction for continuing education may include:

  • training related to either general studies or professional studies and presented as a:
    • workshop,
    • lecture,
    • seminar, and/or
    • self-study video, and
  • conferences that are designed to increase professional knowledge and skills related to the practice of interpreting.

3.3.2 Basic Unit of Measurement

CEUs are used to credit certificate holders for certification renewal.

One CEU is defined as 10 contact or clock hours of attendance and participation in an approved continuing education course.

3.3.3 Procedure for Approval

A training event sponsor, an instructor, or a presenter must request DHHS approval and CEU credits for a specific program at least 30 days before the date of the training.

3.3.4 Criteria for Approval

DHHS uses the following criteria to determine whether a training event is approved:

  • a completed Form 3913, Request for Approval of Proposed Training for General and Court Interpreters Continuing Education Units (CEUs);
  • whether the training will be:
    • general studies; or
    • professional studies;
  • a description of the activity;
  • the educational objectives;
  • an action plan;
  • a résumé or description of the instructor's or presenter's:
    • expertise related to the topics or workshops; and
    • formal trainings and workshops attended.

3.3.5 Forms DHHS Sends to the Applicant

After approving a training event, DHHS sends to the training event applicant

  • Form 3914, Continuing Education Unit (CEU) Attendance Sign-in Sheet, for verifying all participants in attendance; the presenter submits the completed form to the DHHS office within 10 business days after the training;
  • Form 3915, Certificate of Attendance, for the certificate holder to keep in his or her certification records; the presenter distributes the certificate to each participant after the participant successfully completes an approved workshop;
  • Form 3916, Sponsor Report, for DHHS's tracking and statistical purposes; the presenter, or person who submitted Form 3913, completes the form and submits it to the DHHS office within 10 business days after the training event is held; and
  • Form 3917, Approval Letter for Proposed Training Request, a letter from DHHS that is sent to the training event applicant.

3.3.6 Certificate Renewal

For information about the requirements and procedure for a certificate holder to renew his or her certificate, see Board for Evaluation of Interpreters, Chapter 4: BEI Interpreter Certification Policies and Procedures, 4.6 Five-Year Certificate Renewal.

For renewal requirements for a court interpreter's certificate, see Board for Evaluation of Interpreters, Chapter 1: Court Interpreter Certification, 1.6 Certification Renewal.

3.4 Certification Records

3.4.1 The Certificate Holder's Responsibility for Record Keeping

The certificate holders who successfully complete approved workshops or trainings are responsible for their own continuing education records. This includes preserving for five years copies of the certificates received upon completion of an approved workshop or training. The accuracy of a certificate holder's records is subject to verification at any time by DHHS.

3.5 DHHS-Approved Training

DHHS posts a list of approved workshops or training for continuing education of interpreters for the deaf and hard of hearing on the HHS DHHS website. Any continuing education activity must be provided by an approved instructor or presenter. (Note: this will be set up as a tool at a later date.)

Chapter 4: Certificate of Deafness for Tuition Waiver

4.1 Overview

4.2 Eligibility

(Revised 03/12)

To be eligible for a Certificate of Deafness for Tuition Waiver, the applicant must

  • submit a completed Form 3900, Application for Certificate of Deafness for Tuition Waiver;
  • be at least 17 years old at the time of application or, if younger than 17, provide proof of being a high-school senior or having a high school diploma or equivalent; and
  • establish proof of functional deafness in the sense that the applicant's sense of hearing is nonfunctional, after all necessary medical treatment, surgery, and use of hearing aids, for understanding normal conversation.

To establish proof of functional deafness, an applicant whose mode of communication in the classroom is primarily visual must provide documentation verifying one of the following:

  • unaided average hearing loss in the better ear of 55 decibels (dB) or greater using 500, 1000, 2000, and 4000 Hz, as verified by a licensed audiologist or licensed fitter and dispenser of hearing instruments;
  • aided average hearing loss in the better ear of 30 dB or greater using 500, 1000, 2000, and 4000 Hz, as verified by a licensed audiologist or licensed fitter and dispenser of hearing instruments;
  • speech discrimination is less than 50 percent as verified by a licensed audiologist or a licensed fitter and dispenser of hearing instruments; or
  • other disabling conditions (with or without hearing loss) that result in a person's sense of hearing being nonfunctional as verified by a physician.

4.3 Duplicate Certificate of Deafness for Tuition Waiver

(Revised 03/12)

A certificate is kept for five years. An applicant may request a duplicate certificate when needed (for example, a change to a different program of study, college, or university) by contacting DHHS.

DHHS prints and mails a duplicate certificate with the same date of approval as that of the original certificate.

After five years, a recipient must apply for a new certificate.

4.4 Name Change

(Revised 03/12)

To request a name change, an applicant:

  • submits the request, and
  • includes one of the following as proof of name change:
    • marriage certificate,
    • divorce decree, or
    • legal name change document.

When DHHS receives the request and supporting document, DHHS prints and mails a certificate with:

  • the new name, and
  • the same date of approval as that of the original certificate.

Chapter 5: Overview of the Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP)

5.1 Introduction

(Revised 09/15)

The Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP) was created under authority of the Utilities Code, Chapter 56, Subchapter E. This chapter outlines the general program operations that provide assistance to people with disabilities in Texas.

STAP provides vouchers to assist with buying specialized telecommunications equipment or services for people with disabilities that impair their ability to access the telephone network.

For more specific program rules please see the Texas Administrative Code (TAC), Title 40, Chapter 109, Subchapter C.

5.2 Definitions

(Revised 09/15)

Application

The forms DHHS uses to gather and document information about a person applying for help under this program. See the DHHS Forms for an application.

Approved equipment or service

The equipment or service approved by HHSC DHHS for reimbursement under this program.

Basic specialized telecommunications equipment

A basic device or devices that work together as one device, determined by HHSC DHHS to be necessary to provide effective access to the telephone network for a person whose disability impairs his or her ability to access the telephone network.

Basic specialized telecommunications service

A service or services that work together as one service, determined by HHSC DHHS to be necessary to provide effective access to the telephone network for a person whose disability impairs his or her ability to access the telephone network, but which may be less expensive than basic specialized telecommunications equipment that meets the same need.

DHHS

The HHSC Office for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services.

Entity

Any individual owner, partner, company, or other business organization.

Financial assistance

A monetary value established by a voucher for a specialized equipment or service; the value might not cover the full price of the equipment or service.

Financial independence

A situation in which two or more otherwise eligible persons reside in the same household but are not dependent upon one another for financial support.

Functionally equivalent network access

Access to the telephone network that provides a person with a disability with communications access comparable to that of a person without a disability.

HHSC

Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Legal guardian

A person appointed by a court of competent jurisdiction to exercise the legal powers of another person such as a minor, elderly person, or person who is incapacitated.

Program

Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP) that assists people with disabilities to access telephone and communications networks through specialized telecommunications equipment and services.

PUC

Public Utility Commission of Texas.

Reimbursement amount

The amount, set by HHSC DHHS, that HHSC DHHS will reimburse to STAP vendors for an exchanged voucher.

Resident

A person who resides in the state of Texas and intends to remain in Texas.

Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP)

Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program that assists people with disabilities to access telephone and communications networks through specialized telecommunications equipment and services.

STAP Administrative Support Contractor

The entity that HHSC DHHS and/or PUC has contracted with to administer STAP vendor registration and voucher redemptions, including payments, on behalf of HHSC DHHS.

STAP Vendor

An entity that sells basic specialized telecommunication equipment or services, as defined under STAP, and is registered with the STAP Administrative Support contractor and approved by HHSC DHHS. Includes individual owners, partners, companies, or other entities with an ownership interest in the STAP vendor.

TUSF

The Texas Universal Service Fund.

Voucher

A financial assistance document issued by HHSC DHHS to eligible applicants that is used to purchase a specific type of basic specialized telecommunications equipment or service from a STAP vendor.

Voucher category

A specific class of equipment or services that provides the same or similar type of telephone network access.

Voucher category value

For a specific voucher category, HHSC DHHS will determine a reasonable price, which is the maximum reimbursement amount for any basic specialized telecommunications equipment or service within that voucher category.

5.3 Eligibility for Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program Services

5.3.1 Requirements for Eligibility

(Revised 09/15)

To be eligible for assistance from the Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP), a person must:

  • be a resident of Texas;
  • be certified, by an HHSC Office for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DHHS)-authorized person, as having a disability that interferes with the ability to effectively access the telephone network, per 5.3.2 Persons Authorized to Certify Disability;
  • be in a situation where no other person with a disability in the household has received a voucher for the same type of equipment, unless:
    • the people in the household are financially independent of each other;
  • not have received a voucher from HHSC DHHS for any specialized telecommunications equipment or services before the fifth anniversary of the date the person exchanged the previously issued voucher under this program unless:
    • before that anniversary, the person demonstrates need for a different type of specialized telecommunications equipment or service because of a change in the person’s disability status as described in 5.3.3 Change of Disability; and
  • be able to benefit from the specialized telecommunications equipment or service provided by the voucher.

If a voucher recipient has not exchanged or has returned an issued voucher within the last five years and in compliance with program rules, the person is eligible for another voucher if all other eligibility requirements are met.

A voucher recipient who returns specialized telecommunications equipment or stops a service received through a voucher and does so in compliance with program rules, the person may be eligible for another voucher if the situation meets criteria established in 5.6.2 STAP Vendor Duties and Responsibilities.

5.3.2 Persons Authorized to Certify Disability

Before HHSC DHHS can process and approve an application and issue a voucher under the Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP), the applicant must obtain certification as a person with a disability that impairs the ability to effectively access the telephone network. The applicant, defined as a person who has applied for eligibility under STAP, may obtain certification from authorized certifiers.

Authorized certifiers include the following licensed and/or certified professionals:

  • Hearing aid specialist;
  • Audiologist;
  • Physician;
  • Speech pathologist;
  • Social worker; or
  • State-certified education teacher:
    • deaf or hard of hearing;
    • visually impaired; or
    • speech impaired.

Authorized certifiers also include the following HHSC and/or HHSC DHHS approved professionals:

  • HHSC rehabilitation counselor;
  • HHSC-DHHS-approved state or federal employee or contractor;
  • STAP specialist as named in a DHHS STAP Outreach and Training contract;
  • HHSC DHHS-approved specialist working in a disability related field; and
  • Any professional approved by HHSC DHHS.

By certifying an application, a certifier attests that he or she:

  • is eligible to certify under the provisions of the program;
  • has personally met with the applicant and assessed the applicant's disability to determine that the applicant is eligible, in accordance with the program eligibility criteria;
  • has reviewed the information on the application to ensure that the form is completed properly and all requested information has been provided; and
  • has determined that the applicant will be able to benefit from access to the telephone network system provided by the specialized telecommunications equipment or services requested on the application.

An authorized certifier may be contacted to provide additional documentation as needed to confirm or supplement information provided on an application including:

  • physician's statements;
  • medical records;
  • auditory- or vision-care professional's records;
  • a copy of a certificate or license; and
  • updated certifier contact information.

A authorized certifier will not be allowed to certify under the program if found to have:

  • provided false or intentionally misleading information on or involving a STAP application;
  • encouraged an applicant to select specialized telecommunications equipment or services that are not needed for telephone access by the applicant;
  • provided certification for an applicant with whom the certifier has not met in person to assess the applicant's disability;
  • encouraged an applicant to exchange the voucher with a specific STAP vendor, unless only one STAP vendor carries the specialized telecommunications equipment or service required by the applicant;
  • refused to provide additional documentation to confirm or supplement information provided on an application; or
  • violated or is suspected of violating any HHSC DHHS rules, policies, or laws relating to the STAP program.

5.3.3 Change of Disability

(Revised 09/15)

An applicant applying for new or additional specialized telecommunications equipment or services because of a change of disability must have the authorized certifier explain why the previous specialized equipment or service is no longer sufficient to provide access to the telephone network. If Form 3906, Application for Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP), is being submitted, an authorized certifier must complete the change of disability section. If Form 3907, Application for Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP): Speech Generating Devices, is being submitted, a licensed speech-language pathologist must also complete and sign Form 3926, Change of Disability.

An applicant who received a voucher less than 5 five years ago and who is applying for another voucher because of a change of disability is not eligible for another piece of device specialized telecommunications equipment or service that functions similarly to the device specialized telecommunications equipment or service that was previously received. For example, an applicant who was issued an amplified telephone voucher less than 5 five years ago who is applying for a Bluetooth cell phone voucher is not eligible for another voucher under change of disability. A Bluetooth cell phone and an amplified phone function similarly, in that both devices rely on residual hearing. The applicant would be eligible to receive a voucher for a text-based device that does not require residual hearing.

An applicant requesting multiple devices specialized telecommunications equipment types or services because of a change of disability may receive a voucher only for devices specialized telecommunications equipment or services not previously issued on any voucher exchanged within the last 5 five years, unless the previously issued devices specialized telecommunications equipment types or services are not compatible with the equipment and/or service currently being requested.

5.3.4 Consumer Confidentiality

(Added 09/15)

All information HHSC DHHS receives throughout the STAP application process, including names and addresses of applicants, is confidential under Texas Administrative Code, Title 40, Part 2, Chapter 101, Subchapter D, (§101.811 of Title 40). HHSC DHHS is required to protect confidentiality by:

  • not advertising, distributing, or publishing the name, address, or other related information about a STAP applicant;
  • enforcing the fact that STAP applicant information is exempted from disclosure under the Public Information Act; and
  • ensuring that all STAP applicant information remains the sole property of HHSC DHHS.

5.4 Determination of Approved Equipment or Services

(Added 09/15)

HHSC DHHS determines and approves the makes and models of specialized telecommunications equipment and services that are eligible for reimbursement to STAP vendors through vouchers. While the approved makes and models are final, HHSC DHHS reviews them annually and makes any necessary changes.

5.5 Vouchers

(Revised 09/15)

A voucher recipient is issued an individually numbered voucher to be used to buy a specific type of specialized telecommunications equipment or service. The voucher must specify the:

  • dollar value,
  • specialized telecommunications equipment or service that may be purchased, and
  • expiration date of the voucher.

Vouchers are nontransferable and have no cash value.

A voucher guarantees payment to a STAP vendor, up to the amount specified on the voucher, if all applicable rules, policies, procedures, and laws are satisfied.

5.5.1 Voucher Categories and Values

(Revised 09/15)

Specialized telecommunications equipment or services are grouped into specific voucher categories according to similarity.

HHSC DHHS sets a reasonable price, called the voucher category value, for each voucher category based on factors such as the types of specialized telecommunications equipment or services included. Voucher category values are used as the values for issued vouchers.

HHSC DHHS sets a reasonable price, called the voucher category value, for each voucher category based on factors such as the types of specialized telecommunications equipment or services included. Voucher category values are used as the values for issued vouchers.

The voucher category value as determined by HHSC DHHS might not cover the entire cost of the specialized telecommunications equipment or service. An eligible applicant is responsible for paying the difference between the issued voucher’s value and the price of the specialized telecommunications equipment or service.

HHSC DHHS reviews voucher category values at least annually and reviews eligibility criteria for voucher categories at least biennially.

Proposed voucher category values and eligibility criteria for voucher categories are posted to the HHSC DHHS STAP webpage for comments 45 calendar days before final determinations are made. Comments obtained from the advance posting are considered in determining voucher category values and eligibility criteria for a voucher category.

Determinations of HHSC DHHS voucher category values and eligibility criteria for voucher categories are final.

5.6 Vendors

(Added 09/15)

Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP) vendors must be approved according to STAP eligibility requirements. Once approved, the STAP vendor must comply with all general program rules as well as record retention and audit requirements, or the vendor may lose STAP eligibility and require reinstatement to continue acting as a vendor.

5.6.1 Vendor Eligibility Requirements

(Added 09/15)

An entity may be considered and approved as a Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP) vendor and receive reimbursements for vouchers appropriately exchanged, if the entity:

  • completes a registration process;
  • re-registers annually;
  • submits annual registration for each vendor location, such that all vendor locations and any new vendor locations are registered and approved by the STAP Administrative Support contractor and have been assigned vendor registration numbers;
  • maintains the following current contact information:
    • Owner(s), principal partner(s), officer(s), and/or company name(s);
    • Telephone number;
    • Email, physical, and mailing addresses;
    • Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) or Texas Identification Number (TIN);
    • Bank information for STAP vendor reimbursement payments by direct deposit;
  • notifies HHSC DHHS in writing at least 60 calendar days before the intended effective date of any change in legal entity status, such as ownership or control, name change, legal status with the Texas Secretary of State, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts' Texas Identification Number, bank routing information, or any contact information; and
  • exchanges or receives reimbursement for at least one voucher every six months.

An entity may not be considered or approved as an eligible STAP vendor if the entity:

  • has been debarred, suspended, proposed for debarment, declared ineligible, or excluded from participation in STAP by HHSC DHHS or any federal or state of Texas agency; and/or
  • owes any delinquent debts or outstanding obligations to the Texas Universal Service Fund or state of Texas agency.

5.6.2 Vendor Duties and Responsibilities

5.6.2.1 General

(Added 09/15)

Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP) vendors must comply with all applicable rules, policies, procedures, and laws governing the program in order to remain eligible to participate in and receive reimbursement under the program (see: Texas Administrative Code, Title 40, Chapter 109, Subchapter C).
STAP vendors’ general duties and responsibilities include the following:

  • Allow specialized telecommunications equipment to be returned or stop a service if requested by a voucher recipient, without penalty and in accordance with procedures and rules which state that the vendor must:
    • provide a voucher recipient with a receipt;
    • contact the HHSC Office for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DHHS) when specialized telecommunications equipment is returned, or when a service is not used or terminated by the voucher recipient; and
    • reimburse the Texas Universal Service Fund (TUSF) within 30 calendar days of specialized telecommunications equipment being returned or service terminated by the voucher recipient.
  • Provide specialized telecommunications equipment or services no later than 10 calendar days from the date of the voucher exchange, or communicate equipment or service delivery date to the voucher recipient.
  • Provide voucher recipients information or instructions, or a demonstration, on how to use and set up the specialized telecommunications equipment or services before completing the sale and submitting the voucher for reimbursement, as appropriate.
  • Ensure that when working with or acting as authorized certifiers, the appropriate specialized telecommunications equipment or service is selected for the applicant.
  • Charge a voucher recipient no additional fees, costs, or penalties, in excess of the STAP vendor price, except a reasonable shipping cost for mail orders.
  • Provide the voucher recipient all specialized telecommunications equipment or services authorized on the voucher.
  • Ensure individuals authorized to sign a voucher on behalf of the STAP vendor receive program training provided by HHSC DHHS before signing or exchanging a voucher.
  • Ensure no STAP-related promotional materials or applications include the STAP vendor’s company information.

5.6.2.2 Records Retention and Audit

(Added 09/15)

Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP) vendors must retain records related to the program. Records must be retained for a minimum of five years from the date of the voucher exchange, and include records on the purchase of the specialized telecommunications equipment or service exchanged, and the distribution or delivery of specialized telecommunications equipment or service to the voucher recipient.

STAP vendors must:

  • allow the HHSC Office for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DHHS) to conduct an audit, investigation, and/or program oversight of their business;
  • authorize HHSC DHHS, the State Auditor’s Office, the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC), or their successor agencies to conduct an audit or investigation of the STAP vendor in connection with funds received for reimbursement of a voucher during the five-year retention period;
  • provide any books, documents, papers, and records that are directly related to the exchange of a voucher for the purpose of conducting audits, examinations, or investigations or for making excerpts and transcriptions;
  • cooperate fully in an audit, examination, investigation, and funds validation efforts, or in the making of excerpts and transcriptions;
  • provide documentation from third parties reflecting equipment or services purchased, the purchase price, and records showing sales to non-STAP consumers;
  • permit HHSC DHHS to conduct monitoring on-site to review financial documents, other records, and management control systems relevant to the exchange of a voucher;
  • remedy within 30 calendar days any weaknesses, deficiencies, or program noncompliance found as a result of a review, audit, investigation, performance or fiscal exception found by HHSC DHHS, the State Auditor's Office, the PUC, or their successor agencies or any of their duly authorized representatives; and
  • refund disallowed costs or billed amounts, and pay any other appropriate sanctions or penalties imposed by HHSC DHHS to the Texas Universal Service Fund (TUSF).

5.6.3 Suspension of Loss of Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP) Vendor Eligibility

(Added 09/15)

A STAP vendor may be suspended from or lose eligibility to participate in the STAP program for any of the following reasons:

  • Failing to comply with the requirements of the program;
  • Seeking or receiving reimbursement for specialized telecommunications equipment or services that are not new or were not provided;
  • Seeking or receiving reimbursement for specialized telecommunications equipment or services on a voucher that is not valid;
  • Violating or suspicion of violating any HHSC Office for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DHHS) or other applicable rules, policies, or laws relating to STAP;
  • Failing to repay the Texas Universal Service Fund (TUSF) for specialized telecommunications equipment or services the STAP vendor received reimbursement for but did not provide or was not entitled to reimbursement for; and
  • Being debarred or suspended from doing business with, or receiving payments from, the federal or state of Texas government.

HHSC DHHS will notify a STAP vendor in writing if HHSC DHHS determines that the STAP vendor is suspended from the program or is ineligible to participate in the program.

5.6.4 Reinstatement of Vendors

(Added 09/15)

A Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP) vendor that has been suspended from or determined to be ineligible to participate as a STAP vendor in the program may be reinstated by the HHSC Office for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DHHS) by submitting:

  • a written request to HHSC DHHS for reinstatement; and
  • written documentation showing that:
    • all program eligibility requirements have been satisfied; and
    • any violations or deficiencies that resulted in the suspension or ineligibility determination have been remedied.
HHSC DHHS decisions about vendors’ reinstatement requests are final.

5.7 Voucher Reimbursement

(Added 09/15)

The HHSC Office for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DHHS) determines a reasonable reimbursement amount for approved makes and models of specialized telecommunications equipment and services. Reimbursement amounts are paid to Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP) vendors for issued vouchers that are exchanged.

HHSC DHHS reviews reimbursement amounts at least annually. Reimbursement amounts are determined by best value and are based on factors such as reasonable and customary industry standards for approved specialized telecommunications equipment and services.

Proposed reimbursement amounts for approved specialized telecommunications equipment or services are posted to the HHSC DHHS STAP webpage for comments 45 calendar days before final determinations are made. Comments received are considered in determining reimbursement amounts.

The STAP vendor reimbursement amounts determined by HHSC DHHS are final.

5.7.1 Reimbursement Process

(Added 09/15)

To be successfully reimbursed, Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP) vendors must follow the HHSC DHHS STAP reimbursement process. STAP vendors must:

  • supply only new specialized telecommunications equipment or services that were purchased by the STAP vendor directly from a supplier;
  • include all supporting documentation (see 5.7.2 Supporting Documentation);
  • not submit the reimbursement request before 10 calendar days from the date of the voucher exchange or before the specialized telecommunications equipment or service is delivered; and
  • submit the reimbursement request within 120 calendar days of the date of the voucher exchange or proven delivery of the specialized telecommunications equipment or service.

STAP vendors cannot receive reimbursement for:

  • used equipment;
  • equipment paid for directly by a customer;
  • vouchers on which the vendor or vendor employee is named as the authorized certifier, without prior approval by HHSC DHHS;
  • vouchers that are not properly completed or redeemed in accordance with the voucher terms, conditions, and instructions; or
  • returned equipment and services that the voucher recipient has requested to terminate.

The HHSC DHHS/STAP Administrative Support contractor reimburses the STAP vendor:

  • no later than 45 calendar days after receiving the copy of the voucher for payment from the vendor;
  • from the Texas Universal Service Fund (TUSF);
  • at the lowest reimbursement amount, out of the possible amounts below:
    • HHSC DHHS established reimbursement amount;
    • STAP vendor’s advertised purchase price for a voucher properly exchanged for specialized telecommunications equipment or a service for which a voucher recipient exchanges the voucher; or
    • voucher value established by HHSC DHHS for the voucher category of the specialized telecommunications equipment or service exchanged.

STAP vendors seeking reimbursement for the sale of specialized telecommunications equipment or services from an additional source (such as Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance) in conjunction with a voucher exchange may not receive more than the total price of the specialized telecommunications equipment or services from all sources.

Vouchers will not be reimbursed for partial exchanges. All specialized telecommunications equipment or services must be exchanged as authorized on the voucher.

STAP vendors will not be reimbursed for voucher exchanges that are made during any time the STAP vendor is noncompliant, suspended, ineligible, debarred, or inactive.

5.7.2 Supporting Documentation

(Added 09/15)

A voucher recipient can exchange his or her issued voucher in person or by mail.
When a voucher recipient exchanges an issued voucher to purchase approved specialized telecommunications equipment or services from a STAP vendor in person, the STAP vendor must provide the following supporting documentation to the HHSC DHHS/STAP Administrative Support contractor to receive reimbursement:

  • copy of the voucher, with Section 2 of the voucher completed and signed by an individual who the STAP vendor authorizes to exchange and sign vouchers to certify that:
    • the specialized telecommunications equipment or service has been delivered to the voucher recipient; and
    • the specialized telecommunications equipment or service was new when delivered and was not used, re-conditioned, or obsolete; and
  • receipt that describes the specialized telecommunications equipment or service exchanged for the voucher and includes the total price charged to the voucher recipient, including the amount to be reimbursed by HHSC DHHS/STAP Administrative Support contractor from the Texas Universal Service Fund (TUSF) for the specialized telecommunications equipment or service exchanged.

When a voucher recipient exchanges an issued voucher with a STAP vendor for the purchase of approved specialized telecommunications equipment or services by mail, the STAP vendor must provide the following supporting documentation to the HHSC DHHS/STAP Administrative Support contractor to receive reimbursement:

  • proof of delivery of the specialized telecommunications equipment or service to the voucher recipient; and
  • a receipt that describes the specialized telecommunications equipment or service exchanged by mail for the voucher and includes the total price charged to the voucher recipient, including the amount to be reimbursed by the HHSC DHHS/STAP Administrative Support contractor from the TUSF for the specialized telecommunications equipment or service exchanged.

5.7.3 Dispute Resolution

(Added 09/15)

The HHSC Office for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DHHS) may investigate whether the presentation of a voucher for payment represents a valid transaction for specialized telecommunications equipment or a service under the Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP).

If there is a dispute regarding the amount or propriety of the payment, or whether the specialized telecommunications equipment or service is appropriate or adequate to meet the needs of the voucher recipient, the HHSC DHHS/STAP Administrative Support contractor may:

  • delay or deny payment of a voucher to a STAP vendor until the dispute is resolved;
  • provide payment of a voucher, conditional upon the return of the payment if the specialized telecommunications equipment is returned to the STAP vendor or if the service is not used by the voucher recipient; or
  • provide an alternative dispute resolution process for resolving a dispute regarding a subject described by this subsection.

Reimbursements may also be subject to other limitations or conditions as determined by HHSC DHHS to be just and reasonable, including investigation of whether the presentation of an issued voucher represents a valid transaction for specialized telecommunications equipment or services under STAP.

If a dispute arises as to whether the submitted documentation is sufficient to presume a valid STAP sales transaction, HHSC DHHS will make the final determination on the sufficiency of the documentation.

Chapter 6: Camp SIGN Program

6.1 Overview

Camp SIGN is a training program for Texas youths who are deaf or hard of hearing. The camp offers an environment of acceptance and encouragement that helps youth gain the skills and confidence they need to lead independent lives. Youth who are deaf or hard of hearing may participate regardless of their communication mode.

No person shall be excluded from or discriminated against in participating in the Camp SIGN program on account of race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin or sexual orientation. HHSC DHHS strives to provide a safe, respectful, and supportive learning environment in which all participants can thrive and succeed.

6.2 Definitions

The following words, where used in this chapter, have the following meanings, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise.

Gender expression—the manner in which a person represents or expresses gender to others, often through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, activities, voice, or mannerisms.

Gender identity—a person's gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person's physiology or assigned sex at birth.

Gender nonconforming—a term used to describe people whose gender expression differs from stereotypic expectations. The terms "gender variant" or "gender atypical" are also used.

Transgender—an umbrella term used to describe a person whose gender identity or gender expression is different from that traditionally associated with the assigned sex at birth.

6.3 Camp SIGN Campers

6.3.1 Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible to participate in Camp SIGN, a young person must be:

  • at least 8 years old but not more than 17 years old;
  • a resident of Texas; and
  • deaf or hard of hearing.

6.3.2 Application Process

A young person who wants to participate in Camp SIGN must:

  1. complete Form 3930, Camp SIGN Application for Campers; and
  2. send it to DHHS.

DHHS approves Camp SIGN applicants for pre-acceptance based on:

  • payment of the nonrefundable application fee;
  • the date that the application is received (that is, on a first come, first served); and
  • the applicant's gender or gender identity and age.

Gender or gender identify and age are used to determine sleeping space in the cabins. When the cabins for a certain gender and age group are filled, applications are no longer accepted for that gender and age group.

An applicant who is not approved for pre-acceptance is placed on a list (on a first-come, first-served basis) for consideration when a slot becomes available, as appropriate using the same criteria used for pre-acceptance. An applicant approved for pre-acceptance is sent a pre-acceptance letter that:

  • explains the cost of participation (based on a sliding scale according to income);
  • includes a medical form (Form 3935, Camp SIGN Camper Medical Information; HHSC staff members only); and
  • includes a release form (Form 3938, Camp SIGN Pre-Acceptance Letter; HHSC staff members only).

When a pre-accepted applicant submits the required paperwork, the applicant is moved to accepted status.

An HHSC DHHS staff member then sends the accepted applicant a final letter that includes:

  • general information about the camp;
  • a list of items to bring to the camp; and
  • directions to the camp.

6.4 Camp SIGN Counselors

6.4.1 Job Responsibilities for Counselors

Counselors are to:

  • assist in the responsibility of keeping campers safe;
  • supervise counselors-in-training;
  • coordinate and execute activities for campers;
  • live in a cabin with assigned campers and be responsible for them;
  • keep track of the whereabouts of each camper in their cabin group;
  • oversee cleaning of cabin;
  • assist in assigned camper work responsibilities;
  • help campers to understand and follow the camp rules;
  • line up campers at the appropriate times;
  • encourage campers to learn and to develop new skills; and
  • serve as a role model to the campers, junior counselors and counselors-in-training.

Junior counselors are to:

  • assist in the responsibility of keeping campers safe;
  • assist counselors to ensure activities for campers are carried out;
  • live in a cabin with assigned campers and be responsible for them;
  • keep track of the whereabouts of each camper in their cabin group;
  • assist the counselor to ensure the cleaning of cabin;
  • assist in assigned camper work responsibilities;
  • help campers to understand and follow the camp rules;
  • line up campers at the appropriate times;
  • encourage campers to learn and to develop new skills; and
  • serve as a role model to the campers.

Counselors-in-training are to:

  • assist in the responsibility of keeping campers safe;
  • assist counselors to ensure activities for campers are carried out;
  • live in cabin with assigned campers and be responsible for them;
  • keep track of the whereabouts of each camper in their cabin group;
  • assist the counselor and junior counselor to ensure the cleaning of cabin;
  • assist in assigned camper work responsibilities;
  • help campers to understand and follow the camp rules;
  • line up campers at the appropriate times;
  • encourage campers to learn and to develop new skills; and
  • serve as a role model to the campers.

6.4.2 How to Apply

To serve as a Camp SIGN counselor or junior counselor, a person must:

  1. complete Form 3932, Camp SIGN Application for Counselors; and
  2. send it to DHHS.

To serve as a Camp SIGN Counselor-in-Training, a person must:

  1. complete Form 3931, Camp SIGN Application for Counselors-in-Training; and
  2. send it to DHHS.

6.4.3 Criteria for Hiring Counselors

DHHS approves applications for the pre-offering and hiring of counselors on a first-come, first-served basis, according to the applicant's:

  • age (minimum 21 years old);
  • level of education (high school diploma required);
  • sign language skills and the ability to communicate effectively with campers required;
  • experience working at a camp (preferred);
  • experience training and supervising children (preferred);
  • gender or gender identity; and
  • score, as determined by established evaluation criteria that include:
    • camp experience;
    • communication skills;
    • lip-reading skills;
    • camp skills;
    • certifications maintained; and
    • responses to essay questions.

Gender or gender identity and age are used to determine sleeping space in the cabins. Cabins are divided by gender and age. A counselor is assigned to a cabin based on gender or gender identity.

6.4.4 Criteria for Hiring Junior Counselors

DHHS approves applications for the pre offering and hiring of junior counselors on a first-come, first-served basis, according to:

  • age (minimum18 years old);
  • level of education (high school diploma required);
  • sign language skills and the ability to communicate effectively with campers;
  • experience working at a camp (preferred);
  • experience training and supervising children (preferred);
  • experience as a counselor-in-training experience (preferred);
  • gender or gender identify; and
  • score, as determined by established evaluation criteria that include:
    • camp experience;
    • communication skills;
    • lip-reading skills;
    • camp skills;
    • certifications maintained; and
    • responses to essay questions.

Gender or gender identity and age are used to determine sleeping space in the cabins. Cabins are divided by gender and age. A junior counselor is assigned to a cabin based on gender or gender identity.

6.4.5 Criteria for Hiring Counselors-in-Training

DHHS approves applications for the pre-offering and hiring of counselors-in-training on a first-come, first-served basis, according to:

  • age (at least 16 years old but not more than 17 years old);
  • hearing loss (must be deaf or hard of hearing);
  • ability to communicate effectively with campers using sign language skills;
  • camp experience for persons who are deaf in the last 2 years; that is, attendance at camps such as:
    • Camp SIGN;
    • Camp Aspen; or
    • Texas Lion's Camp;
  • letters of recommendation from a former camp counselor or camp director;
  • Texas residency;
  • gender or gender identity; and
  • score, as determined by established evaluation criteria that include:
    • camp experience;
    • communication skills;
    • lip-reading skills;
    • camp skills;
    • certifications maintained; and
    • responses to essay questions.

Gender or gender identity and age are used to determine sleeping space in the cabins. Cabins are divided by gender and age. A counselor-in-training is assigned to a cabin based on gender or gender identity.

6.5 Process for Pre-Acceptance and Hiring

An applicant for a counselor position who is approved for pre-acceptance and hiring is:

  1. checked for criminal background (convictions); and
  2. sent a pre-acceptance letter that includes:
    • a medical form Form 3939, Camp SIGN Counselor Medical Information (HHSC staff members only);
    • W-4 and I-9 forms;
    • Form 3940, Camp SIGN Counselor Release (HHSC staff members only); and
    • position, salary, and cabin group information.

A pre-accepted applicant who submits the required paperwork is moved to hired status and is sent a final letter, which includes:

  • general information;
  • items to bring; and
  • directions to camp.

An applicant not approved for pre-acceptance is:

  1. placed on a list based on pre-acceptance order; and
  2. selected as slots become available as appropriate.

6.6 Gender Identity Policy

6.6.1 Gender Identity

HHSC DHHS acceptance of a participant's assertion of his or her gender identity is contingent upon a consistent and uniform assertion of the gender-related identity, or any other evidence that the gender-related identity is sincerely held as part of a person's core identity. If a participant's gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior meets this standard, the only circumstance in which the HHSC DHHS may question a participant's asserted gender identity is where HHSC DHHS staff have a credible basis for believing that the participant's gender-related identity is being asserted for some improper purpose.

Gender-related identity may be shown by providing evidence including, but not limited to, medical history, care or treatment of the gender-related identity, consistent and uniform assertion of the gender-related identity or any other evidence that the gender-related identity is sincerely held as part of a person's core identity; provided, however, that gender-related identity shall not be asserted for any improper purpose.

6.6.2 Names and Pronouns

HHSC DHHS will accept a participant's assertion of her or his gender identity when there is consistent and uniform assertion of the gender-related identity, or any other evidence that the gender-related identity is sincerely held as part of a person's core identity. If a participant's gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior meets this standard, the only circumstance in which HHSC DHHS may question a participant's asserted gender identity is where HHSC DHHS staff have a credible basis for believing that the participant's gender-related identity is being asserted for some improper purpose. Hence, when requested, HHSC DHHS will accurately use the participant's chosen name on any records or for any interaction whether or not the participant, parent, or guardian provides HHSC DHHS with a court order formalizing a name change.

6.6.3 Restrooms, Sleeping Areas, and Changing Facilities

Participants are entitled to have access to restrooms, sleeping facilities and changing facilities that are sanitary, safe, and adequate, so they can comfortably and fully engage in the Youth Training Program and activities. Each situation will be reviewed and addressed with the participant and parent on a case-by-case basis and based on the particular circumstances of the participant and the facilities available. Options may include:

  • access to the restroom, sleeping facility and changing facility that corresponds to the participant's gender identity;
  • access to a single unisex restroom; or
  • access to the restroom, sleeping facility and changing facility that corresponds to the participant's birth sex.

6.7 Dismissal of Campers, Counselors or Other Camp Staff Members

Certain camper, counselor, or other camp staff actions and behaviors can and most likely will result in dismissal from camp, and include offenses such as:

  • violence including physically assaulting or threatening to physically assault another person;
  • harassment, intimidation, or bullying;
  • threaten to, or make, unauthorized physical contact with a camper, counselor, or other camp staff;
  • gross misconduct;
  • failure to self-report criminal offenses;
  • theft or other unlawful activity;
  • possession or use of alcohol or illegal drugs on location;
  • being under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs on location;
  • intentional falsification of documents;
  • intentional destruction of state or facility property;
  • criminal misconduct;
  • taking camp youth off camp grounds without DHHS approval;
  • failure of a counselor to be in the vicinity of the group of campers assigned including not being attentive to the group which includes engaging in activities that are distracting such as texting, phone calls, and so on; and
  • job abandonment.

Job abandonment is defined as being unable to perform the tasks assigned; or repeated offenses, including but not limited to:

  • absenteeism;
  • tardiness;
  • failure to obey the rules of Camp SIGN;
  • negligence in the performance of duties; and
  • failure to work in harmony with coworkers.

Campers dismissed for an offense will not be refunded the camp fees paid. Counselors or other camp staff who are dismissed for an offense are not compensated for the remainder of the camp period following the dismissal.

6.8 Responsibilities of Parents and Legal Guardians

Parents or legal guardians are responsible for ensuring that campers arrive on the date and time specified and are picked up by the date and time specified unless arrangements have been made with and approved by DHHS management. Campers who have not been picked up by a parent or legal guardian by the specified date and time for pick up will be released into the care or custody of Child Protective Services (CPS) or other appropriate legal authority.

Parents or legal guardians cannot make other arrangements for child pickup without the prior approval from DHHS management. If prior approval is not obtained, DHHS management will determine the appropriateness of any alternate arrangements requested by a parent or legal guardian and determine whether to approve the alternate arrangement or whether the child will be turned over to CPS or other appropriate legal authority.

Chapter 7: Special Needs Funds

7.1 Overview

The Special Needs Funds (SNF) program is designed to provide communication services for one-time events to persons who are deaf or hard of hearing. Services include:

  • interpreting, and
  • Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART).

Funding through this program is not intended for demonstrating interpreting and CART services or for use for state agency events. Applicants for the funds are the organizers who want to offer communication services at their events.

Funds are available on a limited first-come, first-served basis and must be used for funding the following approved events, which must be related to issues of concern for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing:

  • local workshops or conferences, and
  • statewide workshops or conferences. National events held in state are considered statewide conferences.

7.2 Application Requirements

To request funds, applicants must complete Form 3925, Special Needs Funds Request for Communication Access. DHHS must receive the completed form at least 30 calendar days before the event to be considered for funding. This allows time for the applicant to ensure that the event is properly advertised.

7.3 Selection Criteria

DHHS evaluates funding requests on a first-come, first-served basis and ranks them based on the following:

Criteria Score
Not-for-profit organization 20
Number of persons anticipated to attend who are deaf or hard of hearing
less than 20 0
21 to 50 5
more than 50 10
Services are for persons who cannot benefit from assistive listening devices 5
Request received
30 to 45 days in advance 5
more than 45 days in advance 10
Applicant has sought other resources
yes 15
no 5
Request is not for an ongoing event 15
Applicant has not requested SNF within the last two years 5
Attendance to the event
is free and open to the public 10
has a minimal cost 5
is not open to the public 0

An applicant receiving a total score of 70 or more is eligible for funding.

If funds are limited or multiple requests are received, applicants with the highest score will receive funds in rank order, highest to lowest, until funds are depleted.

7.4 Funding Approval

An applicant approved for funding will receive an award letter from DHHS stating the amount approved. For reimbursement up to the approved amount, the applicant must submit

  • an invoice on organizational letterhead that includes the number of persons who are deaf or hard of hearing that used the communication access services, and
  • a copy of the CART and/or interpreter services billing.

The applicant must submit the invoice within 60 days from the last day of the event in order to receive reimbursement.

The applicant must

  • recognize DHHS as a co-sponsor on all written materials advertising the event, and
  • agree to allow a DHHS representative to address the full audience for no more than 10 minutes as a part of recognition of the office's sponsorship.

DHHS will notify the applicant within 5 days before the event if a DHHS representative will address the audience.

7.5 Disbursing Funds

An approved applicant is reimbursed up to the approved amount. The funding is awarded after the applicant submits to DHHS a complete and accurate invoice within 60 days from the last day of the event.

Funds can be used only to provide certified interpreters or certified CART providers and are reimbursed up to and in accordance with the HHSC communication access service rates  located on the HHS website at https://hhs.texas.gov/doing-business-hhs/vendor-contractor-information/cssa-maximum-rates.

Chapter 8: Deaf or Hard of Hearing Driver Identification Program

8.1 Overview

The deaf or hard of hearing driver identification program issues Visor Identification Cards to eligible persons to carry in their vehicles and use when they need to identify themselves as drivers who are deaf or hard of hearing.

8.2 Applying for a Visor Identification Card

To apply for a Visor Identification Card, the applicant completes and submits a Form 3955, Application for Driver Identification Visor Card.

8.3 Eligibility

To be eligible for a Visor Identification Card, an applicant must:

  • submit Form 3955 to DHHS with the applicant information section completed,
  • provide verification of a hearing difficulty that interferes with communication,
  • be a resident of Texas, and
  • have a valid Texas driver’s license.

Acceptable verification of a hearing difficulty that interferes with communication includes:

  • a copy of the front of a Texas-issued driver’s license that indicates that the holder is deaf or hard of hearing, or
  • certification on Form 3955 by a licensed physician or audiologist that the applicant is deaf or hard of hearing and likely to have difficulty communicating in traffic stop situations.

8.4 Processing Visor Card Applications

DHHS processes applications on a first-come, first-served basis. An eligible applicant receives a visor card with

  • his or her name,
  • a registration number, and
  • a validation date.