You Paid For It: Pricey Manual

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by David Alan

WVEC.com

Posted on October 17, 2013 at 2:19 PM

RICHMOND -- The “Assessment of the Disability Services System in Virginia” is a 420-page manual filled with some very complex information. The manual, a comprehensive look at how state services meet the needs of people with disabilities, is put together largely for policy makers and advocacy groups.  

“We like to have the material available in as many formats as possible,” Heidi Lawyer, executive director of the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities told us.

There’s an online version of the manual on the state’s website.  A thousand CD’s were made.  There are even tapes for people who are visually impaired.

Yet at a time when the governor is encouraging state agencies to use online resources more to cuts costs and even use social media to get their message out, the board printed 1,500 copies of the assessment. 

That cost you more than $12,000 plus another $3,000 in postage for a total of close to $16,000.   That is about 10% of what the board gets in funding each year from the General Assembly. 

“I don’t have misgivings about printing them. I think that we made the absolute right decision,” Lawyer said.

But some people told us printing a 400-page manual filled with information that’s available online for free was an absolute waste of taxpayer money.

“My step dad’s disabled but he wouldn’t even open it, especially if it’s online,” Karina Rusnak told us. 

The board defended its decision to print the manual, telling us the complex information is easier for some to reference in a book.

Joey Jones agrees, “I know I sometimes I like to see it in a book more than the internet,” Jones added.

The board also told us it printed up the manual because not everyone has access to a computer.  But searching the list of who’s received a copy of the manual so far, it’s hard to imagine anyone here does not have access to a computer.

The governor’s office is on the list as is the Attorney General’s office and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.  Even Chesapeake Schools and VDOT also got a printed manual.  Everyone in the House of Delegates and the State Senate got a copy of the manual and they surely have access to the state’s web site. 

The WVEC newsroom got four copies of the manual.  The Richmond Times-Dispatch got 11copies.   In all, we learned the board sent 86 copies of the manual to members of media across the state in what we were told was a mistake.

“We certainly would have spent less money had we sent the CD’s as planned,” Lawyer said.

While the board stood by its decision to print the manual, we were told when the next assessment is done in 2014, fewer manuals will likely be printed.

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