Florida Division of Blind Services logo


News Archive 2016

News Logo

Rehab Council Meeting to be Held in Tampa

TAMPA, Fla., January 5, 2017 – The DBS Rehabilitation Council Quarterly Meeting and Public Forum is scheduled for February 9-10 in Tampa. DBS helps individuals with visual impairments to achieve employment and independence under Title I of the Rehab Act. The Public Forum is for consumer input on the effectiveness of those services.

February 9: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. – The Double-Tree Tampa Airport Westshore (4500 West Cypress Street, Tampa, Fla., 33607)

February 10: 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. – The Double-Tree Tampa Airport Westshore (4500 West Cypress Street, Tampa, Florida, 33607)

Sign-in cards will be available outside the entrance to the meeting room for anyone wishing to speak.

To Participate by Telephone

Telephone 1(888) 670-3525
Passcode 1242528392#

A copy of the agenda may be obtained by contacting Selena Sickler at the Division of Blind Services, 325 West Gaines St., Room 1114, Turlington Building, Tallahassee, Fla. 32399, 850- 245-0329, Selena.Sickler@dbs.fldoe.org or through the Florida Telephone Relay system 711.

Deadline Approaches for 2017 Scholarship Program Submissions

The American Council of the Blind's scholarship program is accepting applications for the 2017-2018 academic year. ACB annually awards approximately 20 scholarships ranging in amounts from $1,000 to $4,000 to vocational, entering freshmen, undergraduate and graduate college students who are legally blind, maintain a 3.3 GPA and are involved in their school/local community.

If you are interested in applying, or know someone who is, please visit http://www.acb.org/scholarship-application or contact the ACB Minnesota office at (612) 332-3242 for more information. All application materials must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern on February 15, 2017.

DBS Encourages Motorists to #BrakeForTheCane During 2016 White Cane Day and 75th Anniversary Ceremony and Expo

Ten-year old DBS client Kiersten McCans shares her story of living successfully with a visually impairment. Kiersten, who was born with Ocular Albinism, was joined by her parents, Mike and Jennifer, at the podium during the White Cane Safety Day ceremony.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., October 13, 2016 – Today, the Department of Education’s (FDOE) Division of Blind Services (DBS), in partnership with the Florida State University (FSU) College of Education, recognized the successes achieved by persons who are blind or visually impaired during the DBS 75th Anniversary and White Cane Safety Day Ceremony and Expo in Tallahassee.

“As a state and nation, we have come a long way over the last 75 years in terms of how individuals with disabilities are treated, a fact in which all Floridians can take great pride,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart. “I am honored that the Department of Education has been able to increase accessibility and inclusion for Floridians in the blind and visually impaired community, and we are committed to continue this progress so everyone benefiting from our system has the greatest opportunity for a successful future.”

Through DBS, blind and visually impaired Floridians have access to many educational, vocational, medical, social and recreational services beginning at birth. In addition to helping younger clients learn to navigate the many aspects of life that may be more difficult for persons with visual impairments, DBS works with adults to obtain independent living solutions and career and vocational education skills so they can accomplish their life goals.

“Since 1941, DBS has made vast strides in attacking the barriers that have hindered persons with visual disabilities from fully participating in our society and our workforce,” said DBS Director Robert L. Doyle, III. “This year, we provided services to 557 individuals in Leon and the surrounding counties, which included 264 jobseekers who were preparing for or looking to retain employment. As we look to the future, we must continue to charge toward our goal of Florida being a barrier-free environment for residents with visual disabilities.”

Nearly 200 guests attended the ceremony and expo, which featured educational sessions, business networking opportunities and a community and technology showcase. Speakers included Representative Alan Williams, Commissioner Stewart, Director Doyle, Captain Jeffrey Bissainthe of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and current and past members of consumer organizations and direct service providers. Talent Development Manager Angela Hendrieth of the City of Tallahassee presented a proclamation to the Division in honor of White Cane Safety Day.

White Cane Safety Day is national observance to celebrate the abilities of persons who are blind or visually impaired. The day is also intended to educate the public of the White Cane Law, which requires motorists to stop when a pedestrian carrying a white cane or accompanied by a guide dog is crossing a street.

Triathlete and military veteran David Bigoney served as the keynote speaker. After receiving an honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy, Bigoney moved to Tallahassee to pursue college in the mid-1990s. In December 1996, while visiting his family in South Florida, Bigoney was a victim of violence, leaving him completely blind. However, he did not allow his disability to hinder his goals.

In March 2001, with the help of a sighted guide, he completed his first triathlon. Bigoney was immediately hooked, and thrilled that he had found a sport that challenged him physically and mentally. In 2004, Bigoney graduated from Florida State University with degrees in Information Technology and Nutrition and Fitness. In 2005, he made history by becoming the first totally blind individual to complete an Ironman Triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run). During the last three years, Bigoney has also become active in Goalball, a team sport designed for blind and visually impaired athletes.

“For me, life has always been an adventure worth pursuing and living to the fullest,” said Bigoney, the father of an 11-year old son. “I was determined in 1996 that losing my sight wouldn’t change that.”

As part of the anniversary ceremony, DBS inducted new members into the "Successful 75," an award program that recognizes individuals, organizations and businesses who have remained steadfast in the advancement of independence for persons who are blind and visually impaired. 

AAPD Now Accepting Applications for Summer Internship Program

The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is a grassroots membership organization that advocates for the rights of people with disabilities. One of the AAPD’s most valuable programs is its Summer Internship Program.

The AAPD Summer Internship Program develops the next generation of leaders with disabilities and offers host employers access to a talented, diverse workforce. Each summer, AAPD places college students, graduate students, law students, and recent graduates with all types of disabilities in paid 10-week summer internships in Congressional offices, federal agencies, non-profit, and for-profit organizations in the Washington, DC area.

Each intern is matched with a mentor who will assist the intern with his or her career goals. AAPD provides the interns with a stipend, transportation to and from Washington, DC, and fully-accessible housing.

At the beginning of the summer, interns participate in a 1-week orientation session to learn about AAPD as well as the disability rights movement, meet the other interns, and participate in a variety of engaging workshops and events. As part of the AAPD network, interns also receive opportunities to attend events on Capitol Hill, conferences, community events , and more.

The AAPD Summer Internship Program is an excellent opportunity for VR consumers to gain valuable work experience.

Deadline to Apply: November 7; 5:00 p.m. Eastern

Apply for the AAPD 2017 Summer Internship Program

DBS to Host White Cane Day and 75th Anniversary Ceremony and Expo in Tallahassee

Image with White Cane Safety logo and DBS 75th logo. Image reads FLORIDA DIVISION OF BLIND SERVICES 75th Anniversary and White Cane Safety Day Ceremony and Expo, Florida State University Student Services Building (Room 203), 874 Traditions Way Tallahassee, Florida

The Division of Blind Services, in partnership with the Florida State University College of Education, will host its White Cane Day and 75th Anniversary Ceremony and Expo in Tallahassee on Thursday, October 13 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Join us for educational sessions, business networking opportunities and a technology/community expo.

White Cane Day is intended to educate the public about the White Cane Law, which requires motorists to stop when a pedestrian carrying a white cane or accompanied by a guide dog is crossing a street. It is also a time to celebrate the abilities and successes achieved by blind people in a sighted world.

The 75th Anniversary and White Cane Safety Day Ceremony, beginning at 11 a.m., will feature current and former DBS client testimonials, as well as guest speakers who have been influential throughout DBS' history.

DBS 75th Anniversary Fort Myers Ceremony and Expo Schedule of Events

75th anniversary banner

Date, Time, and Location

Thursday, July 28, 2016 from 12:00 to 6:00 p.m.
Florida SouthWestern State College
8099 College Parkway - Building U
Fort Myers, FL 33919

Parking is available around Building U and in Lot 6.

Schedule of Events

12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Technology Expo (U Building Lobby)
Visit Assistive Technology (AT) vendors and explore the latest innovations in low vision, blindness and deaf-blind technologies.

Community Expo (Room U-102)
Meet and learn about DBS partner organizations and the services they provide to the Fort Myers community.

Kids Zone (Room U-205)
Visually impaired and sighted children, ages 6-13, can learn about blindness and participate in multi-sensory activities and games. Children participating in this session will meet Peach, a puppy being raised to become a guide dog, and Billy, a service dog trained to detect low blood sugar in his owner. Come learn how guide dogs help persons who are blind to live independently. Participants may also create tactile art and have their faces painted. 

12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Business Luncheon (Room U-106)
Facilitated by John Ficca, Director of Hands on Educational Services, this presentation will illustrate the business-based partnership approach to rehabilitation. Lunch will be prepared and served by two “Hands On” graduates who want to give back to the counselors and the agency that helped them get started. RSVP-only. To RSVP, please contact Albert Bsales at albert.bsales@dbs.fldoe.org.

1:10 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

See Different
A fun and interactive forum to showcase how individuals with visual impairments, like everyone else, possess qualities and capabilities to contribute to and successfully live, work and play in their communities  

2:10 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Panel Discussion
An informative dialogue and Q&A session with Director Doyle, DBS clients, staff, advocates, and others who will discuss their personal journeys of overcoming barriers and striving toward self-sufficiency. Together, we can talk, share and learn from one another.

3:10 p.m. to 3:40 p.m.

Assistive Technology 101
Assistive Technology (AT) devices are tools that help people with disabilities overcome challenges and lead independent lives. Learn how these devices can help at school, work and home.

3:45 p.m. to -4:15 p.m.

Real Stories of the Business Enterprise
Learn how to become a successful business owner and financially independent through the DBS Business Enterprise program, which provides training, vending and food service opportunities, start-up capital, and support to blind entrepreneurs.

4:30 p.m.

75th Anniversary Ceremony (Room U-102)

  • Prelude – Mr. Bryan Huling (Singer)
  • Welcome – Director Robert Doyle (Division of Blind Services)
  • Greetings – Commissioner Pam Stewart (Florida Department of Education)
  • Greetings – Rep. Matthew Hudson (Florida House of Representatives, District 80)
  • Presentation – Director of External Affairs Cameron Sisser (Miami Lighthouse for the Blind & Visually Impaired, Inc.)
  • Greetings – Chairman Robert Kelly (Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind)
  • Historical Perspective – Mr. Paul Edwards (Former President, American Council of the Blind)
  • Greetings – Director Angela Hartsell (Florida SouthWestern State College Office of Adaptive Services)
  • Testimonial – Ms. Crystle Fliss (Florida SouthWestern State College)
  • Entertainment – Mr. Bryan Huling (Singer)
  • Keynote Address – Mr. John DiMarco (Entrepreneur)
  • Testimonial – Ms. Rachel Weeks (Triathlete)
  •  “Successful 75” Presentation – Director Doyle and Commissioner Stewart
  • Closing Remarks – Director Doyle

*Guests are encouraged to stay for the Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind Public Forum to begin at 6 p.m.*

Volunteers Needed for World Blind Union and the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment Joint General Assembly

The World Blind Union (WBU) and the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI) Joint General Assembly, hosted by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), will take place in Orlando, Florida, August 18 through 25, at the Rosen Centre Hotel, 9840 International Dr. WBU/ICEVI 2016 aims to improve the quality of life of those who are blind and low-vision by providing a common platform on which advocates, innovators, consumers, and service providers can expand both intra-regional and international networks, share information, and learn about new techniques and service models.  

Volunteers are needed to assist with various aspects of the conference. Proficiency in a foreign language is NOT required, but is certainly welcomed. Volunteers are needed Aug. 18 through 24.  Shifts will begin at 7 a.m. and conclude by 7 p.m. each day.  Shifts are available for various lengths of time from two to five hours.  Free parking is provided for volunteers; volunteers do not need to register for the conference. 

Please contact Pamela Allen at 318-251-2891 or pallen@louisianacenter.org  for more information.

Full Agenda: http://www.wbu-icevi2016.org/en_agenda.htm.

Telephone Focus Group for Transition-aged VR Clients

Are you 18–24 years of age and have a disability? You may be interested in our study of young adults who received services from vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselors to find and keep employment. Researchers at the KTER Center (Knowledge Translation for Employment Research Center) invite you to participate in a research study related to looking for work while living with a disability. If you are interested in participating in a focus group, please go to the following link and complete our registration.

Gov. Scott Hosts Essay and Art Contest for Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month LogoGov. Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott invited Florida K-12 students to participate in the 2016 Hispanic Heritage Month essay and art contests. This year’s theme, “Honoring Hispanic American Heroes: Veterans, Military, Law Enforcement and First Responders,” focuses on the brave men and women who have and continue to protect the state and country.

The Hispanic Heritage Month art contest is open to all Florida students in grades K-3; two winners will be selected. The Hispanic Heritage Month essay contest is open to all Florida students in grades 4 through 12. Three winners will be selected: one elementary student (grades 4-5), one middle school student (grades 6-8) and one high school student (grades 9-12). Winners will receive a four-year Florida College Plan scholarship provided by the Florida Prepaid College Foundation.

Parents, students, teachers and principals are also encouraged to nominate outstanding Hispanic educators for the Hispanic Heritage Month Excellence in Education Award. This award is open to all Hispanic, full-time educators in a Florida elementary, middle or high school. Three winners will be selected: one elementary school (grades K-5) teacher, one middle school (grades 6-8) teacher and one high school (grades 9-12) teacher.

All entry forms and guidelines for the contests, as well as additional information about Florida’s Hispanic Heritage Month and other related events, can be found at www.FloridaHispanicHeritage.com. Completed forms must be mailed to Volunteer Florida, Hispanic Heritage Month Committee, 3800 Esplanade Way, Suite 180, Tallahassee, Florida 32311; faxed to 850-921-5146 or emailed to HHM@VolunteerFlorida.org.

All entries must be received no later than 5 p.m. (EDT) on September 9.

The Florida RA Online Claims Process

Florida Reemployment Assistance (RA) claims MUST be filed online. If you require special assistance, you may call the assisted claims line and a representative will help guide you. You may also stop into a local one-stop career center to seek help with your claim.

Visit www.Floridajobs.org to File your RA Claim. Call Assisted Claims: 1-800-681-8102.

More than 100 One-Stop Career Centers
*By rule, the following people are exempt from online filing: (a) Is legally prohibited from using a computer.
(b) Has impairment enabling the use of a computer.
(c) Is unable to read or write effectively the language in which the Online Reemployment Assistance System has made available.
Florida Administrative Rule 73B-11.013


Los reclamos de Asistencia de Reempleo (RA) deben presentarse en línea. Si requiere algún tipo de asistencia especial, puede llamar al número de Asistencia de Reclamos y un representante le asistirá en orientarse. También puede visitar un centro de carreras One-Stop y obtener ayuda con su reclamo.

Visite www.Floridajobs.org para presentar su reclamo RA. Llame al número de Asistencia de Reclamos 1-800-681-8102.

Más de 100 Centros de Carrera One-Stop
*Según las normas las siguientes personas están exentas de presentar su reclamo en línea:
(a) Si legalmente está prohibido que use una computadora (b) Si sufre de algún impedimento que no le permita usar la computadora
(c) No puede leer o escribir eficientemente el idioma que el sistema de Asistencia de Reempleo tiene disponible en línea.
Norma Administrativa de Florida 73B-11.013


Asistans Reyanbochaj Florid (RA) reklamasyon dwe ranpli nan entènèt. Si ou bezwen asistans espesyal* ou ka rele ede reklamasyon liy lan epi yon reprezantan pral ede gide ou. Ou ka sispann nan yon sant karyè One-Stop lokal yo pou chache èd ak reklamasyon w lan.

Vizite www.Floridajobs.org pou ranpli Reklamasyon RA ou. Rele Assisted Reklamasyon 1-800-681-8102.

Plis pase 100 Sant One-Stop Career
** Pa gouvènen, pèp sa yo egzante nan ranpli sou entènèt:
(A) Eske l legalman entèdi pou l sèvi avèk yon òdinatè.
(B) Èske l gen pwoblèm pèmèt itilize nan yon òdinatè.
(C) Èske l pa kapab li oswa ekri lang lan ki nan sistèm Asistans Reyanbochaj la nan entènèt ki te disponib.
Règ Administratif Florid 73B- 11.013.

Florida Department of Education Suit Drive Provides Thousands of Items to Jobseekers

The Florida Department of Education’s (FDOE) Division of Blind Services (DBS) professional attire drive, “Suit Up!,” brought in more than 1,500 high-quality items statewide during its month-long initiative.

Florida Division of Blind Services Director Robert L. Doyle III standing with a few of the donated items

The clothing will be provided to DBS clients who are in need of professional wear for job training courses, entering or re-entering the workforce, or looking to advance their careers. Some of the items collected included men’s and women’s suits, ties, blazers, shirts, pants, belts and shoes.

“We are appreciative of the generosity and support of those who participated in this initiative that will benefit individuals who are striving for self-sufficiency and stability,” said DBS Director Robert L. Doyle III. “By providing these essential items, jobseekers may be better prepared for opportunities in Florida’s thriving workforce.

DBS Director Robert L. Doyle III and staff member Carlotta Marquez sort through the assortment of donated items, which included men's and women's suits, ties, blazers, shirts, pants, belts and shoes.

The Division of Blind Services mission is to ensure blind and visually impaired Floridians have the tools, support and opportunity to achieve success. A priority for the agency is to assist these clients in obtaining and maintaining employment. Last year, the Division exceeded its employment goals by providing employment services to 5,203 customers and helped 761 individuals gain, maintain or advance in successful employment. This was the highest level of employment outcomes for DBS in more than nine years.

no descriptionDBS Director Robert L. Doyle III says he believes these donated items will serve as a step toward independence for many DBS clients.

“As those we serve seek employment, the items we are making available today may lead to a greater opportunity tomorrow,” Director Doyle said. “Jobseekers can go into an interview with confidence and be better prepared. ‘Suit Up!’ was a necessary initiative that will help position our clients who want or need these items to achieve success. On behalf of the Division of Blind Services, thank you to everyone who participated.”

Many of DBS’ statewide district offices and community rehabilitation partners served as collection sites for the donated goods.

Volunteer Florida and Uber hosted a first-of-its-kind SuitsForSession service project March 1 that also benefited DBS clients. With their donated items, which were collected from Florida’s state agencies, DBS will be able to make available more than 2,400 items to clients.

Innovative Projects Program

The DBS Innovative Projects Program provides funding to support projects and programs that benefit Floridians who are blind or visually impaired. This year, DBS will award up to $300,000.00 to not-for-profit organizations who have innovative ideas or approaches to providing services to our target population. Learn more about the program and application process here.

To have your project considered for funding, please apply by 5 p.m. on Monday, March 14. To ensure fairness to all applicants, guidance concerning the application process will only be available during this conference call.

New Online Referral and Application for Services

We are excited to announce that the Florida Division of Blind Services Online Referral and Application for Services system is now available. Floridians who are blind or visually impaired, or their caregivers, can easily inquire about or apply for DBS services through the self-service portal. This new system allows DBS staff to process and track applications more efficiently. The Online Referral and Application are available online or for download in English and Spanish. A Doctor Referral Form (also known as an Eye Medical Report) is also available for download by doctors referring a client to DBS.

To get started, visit the Online Referral and Application System.

Abilities Work Web Portal

Abilities Work LogoFlorida’s employers have a new tool where they can find information about hiring qualified employees with disabilities, The Abilities Work Web Portal, located on the Department of Economic Opportunities’ Employ Florida Marketplace website. The Abilities Work Web Portal is a group effort between disability agencies and organizations in Florida, and it was created with you, the employer, in mind.

A team of professionals is available to help employers who are interested in hiring a person with a disability or want information that will make hiring employees with disabilities easier. Staff at the Abilities Work Help Desk are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to make a connection between Florida employers seeking to hire individuals with disabilities and job candidates who have disabilities. Call 844-245-3405 or email at abilitiesworkhd@vr.fldoe.org to find your next employee!