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DBS Releases ‘See Different’ PSA

October is Blindness Awareness Month. Approximately 180 million people worldwide suffer from blindness or some form of visual impairment. The Florida Division of Blind Services (DBS) has released its “See Different” public service announcement (PSA) to showcase how individuals with visual disabilities, like their sighted peers, possess qualities and capabilities to contribute to and succeed in the classroom, workforce and their communities.

This past year, DBS has hosted several interactive presentations at K-12 schools, universities and businesses. During these sessions, the See Different team demonstrated how people with visual impairments participate in daily living activities. The activities within these forums included personal testimonials, success stories and simulated experiences (i.e., activities with a blindfold or vision simulator).

The DBS Communications team created the PSA in an effort to effectively change perceptions on a wide scale and communicate values in a message that will move citizens to think and act differently. The goal is to have everyone to see individuals with visual disabilities – like everyone else – and recognize the benefits of the full inclusion for this segment of our society. By seeing this value, people will be motivated to act upon their changed perceptions. The individuals featured in the video are all current or former DBS clients.

In addition to the PSA, DBS will release biweekly breakout videos with each client sharing his or her story.

See Different: https://youtu.be/4i2Oi0BaK_M
See Different (with audio descriptions): https://youtu.be/3ENZlh86DsI

For more information, please contact Stephanie.Lambert@dbs.fldoe.org.

DBS Office Closures Due to Irma

As cleanup and power restoration efforts continue in the wake of hurricane Irma, the following DBS district offices and facilities are currently closed:

Friday 9/15

  • Ft. Myers
  • Jacksonville
  • Miami

Gov. Scott Directs State Offices to be Closed Friday through Monday in Preparation for Hurricane Irma

Governor Rick Scott has directed state offices to be closed in all 67 Florida counties, Friday, September 8 through Monday, September 11 in preparation for Hurricane Irma. Prior to Friday’s statewide closures, state office closures will follow the direction of county officials and will be announced as they are determined.

“Our state workforce is filled with dedicated individuals who go above and beyond every day in service to the families who call Florida home,” Governor Scott said. “Ensuring the safety of these hardworking individuals and their families is a top priority, and I am directing all state offices to be closed this Friday so our state employees can fully focus on preparing for this storm and keeping their families safe.”

Below is the list of additional closures at this time. Please note that this list will change frequently as we continually update this page with new information:

• Miami, Sunrise, Fort Myers offices are also closed Thursday, September 7

• Palmetto office will be closing at noon on Thursday, September 7

• West Palm office will be closing at 3 p.m. on Thursday, September 7.

• Jacksonville office will be closed on Monday, September 11.

• Offices located in following counties will be closed on Tuesday, September 12.
• Alachua
• Bradford
• Brevard
• Charlotte
• Citrus
• Clay
• Collier
• Columbia
• DeSoto
• Dixie
• Duval
• Flagler
• Gadsden
• Gilchrist
• Glades
• Hardee
• Hendry
• Hernando
• Highlands
• Hillsborough
• Indian River
• Jefferson
• Lafayette
• Lee
• Leon
• Levy
• Madison
• Manatee
• Marion
• Miami-Dade
• Monroe
• Nassau
• Okeechobee
• Osceola
• Palm Beach
• Pinellas
• Polk
• Putnam
• Seminole
• St. Johns
• St. Lucie
• Sumter
• Taylor
• Union
• Volusia
• Wakulla

Support Service Provider Survey for the Deaf-Blind Community

Teacher working with deaf studentThe below survey is for those who have combined vision and hearing loss, also known as Dual Sensory Impairment or Deaf-Blind.

What is a SSP?
Support Service Provider is someone who sight-guides, relays visual information, assists in communication needs (voice or sign) and in some cases, transportation for those who have combined vision and hearing loss that impacts functionality of daily activities.
https://survey.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_1TWbig79UtbeVHD.

APD, DBS and VR Host 2017 Disability Employment Awareness Celebration Kick Off in Tallahassee

Abilities Work LogoJoin the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and Division of Blind Services (DBS) in celebration of Disability Employment Awareness Month, Wednesday, October 4 in Tallahassee. Together these agencies will honor outstanding employers for their commitment to hiring people with disabilities. Come hear success stories, learn more about what these organizations offer, explore other community organizations and more. Please RSVP by September 22 to APD at 850-488-4257.

2017 Disability Employment Awareness Celebration Kick Off

Wednesday, October 4
8:30 a.m. – Informational Displays
9:30 a.m. – Disability Employer Awards Ceremony
300 South Adams St. (Tallahassee City Hall, Commission Chambers)

Blind and Visually Impaired Students Participate in Summer Reading Program and Learn About the Upcoming Solar Eclipse

Daytona Beach, Fla., August 17, 2017 – The Florida Department of Education’s Division of Blind Services’ (DBS) teamed up with the Center for the Visually Impaired of Central Florida to help local blind and visually impaired students experience the joys of summer reading. The participants, ages 6-12, were provided with embossed braille excerpts of children’s books and teaching tools from the National Library Service. NASA also presented participants with a braille tactile map, to learn about the upcoming solar eclipse, which will take place August 21.

A young male traces with his fingers the letters of the braille alphabet.

“It is critical that all students make an effort to read every single day,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart. “It is proven that when students read regularly, they gain more confidence and ultimately do better in school and in life. I hope these students enjoyed participating in the reading program and learning about the upcoming solar eclipse."

Using the national 2017 Collaborative Summer Library Program’s theme, the reading program kept the traditional goal of encouraging reading during summer vacation, while concurrently building a community among visually impaired children. “Build a Better World” exposed the children to engineering, architecture and astronomy in the reading materials and crafts. The students also enjoyed the merits of volunteering in their community by donating a project to a cause – creating dog toys for the local animal shelter.

“The ‘Build a Better World’ summer reading program offered students an enhanced learning environment and provided them with the opportunity to engage with their peers, participate in hands-on activities and learn more about the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields,” said DBS Director Robert Doyle. “This collaboration brought together the expertise and resources of organizations that are committed to the betterment of the blind and visually impaired community.”

The NLS Braille and Talking Book Library has more than 2.4 million items (audio books, braille, large print, etc.) available. The NLS Braille and Audio Download (BARD) collection contains 97,324 books, 17,086 braille and 80,238 digital. There are nearly 32,000 patrons, individuals and institutions, around the state enrolled in the Florida Talking Books network.

FAER to Host Membership Conference in Orlando

The Florida Association for the Education and Rehabilitation (FAER) membership conference is quickly approaching. Scheduled for Sept. 27-29 at the Holiday Inn Resort Lake Buena Vista in Orlando, the conference will include several breakout sessions, a keynote speaker and exhibit rooms.

FAER is a national organization catered to people who work within the blind or visually impaired community.  If you are interested in attending the conference, early bird registration ends Sept. 15.

For more information, visit http://www.flaer.org or call 407-239-4500.

Governor Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott Invite K-12 Students to Participate in 2017 Hispanic Heritage Month Contests

~ Student winners will earn a four-year Florida College Plan scholarship ~

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., August 15 – Today, Governor Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott announced the 2017 Hispanic Heritage Month contests for students and educators. Florida K-12 students are invited to participate in the essay and art contests. Parents, students, teachers and principals are also invited to nominate full-time, outstanding educators for the Hispanic Heritage Month Excellence in Education Award.

Governor Rick Scott said, “Hispanic Heritage Month contests give students an opportunity to win a four-year Florida College Plan scholarship while learning about the influential Hispanic Floridians who have shaped our state’s history. I encourage all of Florida’s students to participate.”

First Lady Ann Scott said, “I am proud to join Floridians across the state in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. This is an exciting opportunity to recognize the many influential Hispanic Floridians in our state and throughout its history. I am also honored to highlight the work of the enormously gifted Carmen Sasieta, our 2017 Hispanic Heritage Month featured artist. I am so impressed with the students’ enthusiasm at the schools I visit and I look forward to seeing this year’s contest entries.”

John D. Rood, Florida Prepaid College Foundation Board Chairman said, "We are so pleased to have the opportunity to award the gift of education through these Hispanic Heritage Month awards. Our Florida College Plans are a great option for any student. More students are earning their degrees at one of our 28 state colleges, so we hope these scholarships pave the way for the academic success of these students.”

Cynthia F. O’Connell, Director of the Florida Prepaid College Foundation said, “This Foundation looks forward to awarding the winners of these initiatives. These essay and art contests are a wonderful illustration of our commitment to working with partners like Volunteer Florida and the Governor’s Office to find and support Florida’s next generation of talent.”

The theme for this year’s essay and art contests is “A Recognition of the Role of Hispanic-Americans in Shaping Florida Today.” Students are asked to share how Hispanic Floridians have impacted our state’s history and culture. More information about the contests and Florida’s Hispanic Heritage Month is available at www.FloridaHispanicHeritage.com.  

This year’s Hispanic Heritage Month featured artist is Carmen Sasieta.

About the Student Contests

Art Contest for Grades K-3: The Hispanic Heritage Month art contest is open to all Florida students in grades K-3, and two winners will be selected.

Essay Contest for Grades 4-12: The Hispanic Heritage Month essay contest is open to all Florida students in grades 4 through 12. Three winners will be selected: one elementary school 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.

About the Excellence in Education Award

Governor Scott’s annual Hispanic Heritage Month Excellence in Education Award Contest is open to all full-time educators in an elementary, middle or high school in Florida. 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.

Contest Entries and Nominations

Student contest forms and educator nomination forms must be mailed to Volunteer Florida or submitted online at www.FloridaHispanicHeritage.com.  Please mail your forms to:

Volunteer Florida
3800 Esplanade Way
Suite 180
Tallahassee, FL 32311

All entries must be mailed to Volunteer Florida or submitted online and received by 5 p.m. on September 12.

For additional information about Florida’s Hispanic Heritage, contests and other related events, please visit www.FloridaHispanicHeritage.com.

Florida Department of Education Recognizes 75 Recipients for the DBS ‘Successful 75’ Award

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., May 30, 2017 – Today, the Department of Education’s Division of Blind Services (DBS) announced all 75 recipients of the “Successful 75” Award. Over the last year, DBS celebrated its 75th Anniversary with a series of informative, family-friendly events throughout Florida. At each event, local individuals, organizations and businesses were recognized for their outstanding contributions to the blind and visually impaired community.

“It is with great pleasure that I congratulate and thank these individuals for the difference they are making in our blind and visually impaired communities,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart. “We have come a long way in just 75 years, thanks in large part to the individuals, organizations and businesses who have supported our efforts to continue opening doors for blind and visually impaired Floridians. We remain committed to increasing accessibility, and I hope that these recipients will serve as an inspiration for more Floridians to get involved.”

"We are pleased to recognize these dedicated individuals as members of the Division of Blind Services' Successful 75," said DBS Director Robert L. Doyle. "The recipients have worked tirelessly to make a difference in their communities through outreach, advocacy, hiring practices and via their individual commitments to achieve self-sufficiency. Through these efforts, Florida continues to strive to become a barrier-free environment for residents with visual disabilities."

To view the winners in each category, please visit:

Florida Division of Blind Services Wraps Up Year-long 75th Anniversary Celebration with Expo in Pensacola

PENSACOLA, Fla., May 10, 2017 – Today, the Department of Education’s Division of Blind Services (DBS) commemorated its commitment to fostering independence for individuals who are blind and visually impaired during its final 75th Anniversary Regional Ceremony and Expo in Pensacola.

DBS Pensacola 2: Rep. Frank White (L) with Division of Blind Services Director Robert L. Doyle, III, during the DBS 75th Anniversary Ceremony in Pensacola.

“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,” DBS Director Robert L. Doyle, III, said. “This year, we provided services to 562 individuals in Escambia and nearby counties, which included 317 jobseekers who were preparing for or looking to retain employment. As we look to the future, we continue to charge toward our goal of Florida being a barrier-free environment for residents with visual disabilities.”

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, the agency works with adults to attain independent living solutions and career and vocational education skills so they can accomplish their life goals.

The 75th Anniversary Regional Ceremony and Expo featured informational sessions, networking opportunities, a community and technology showcase and inspirational testimonials from former DBS clients.

Pamela Wirick, who was born with only 10 percent of her vision due to macular degeneration, shared her story with the audience during the ceremony.

“I am very grateful for the Division of Blind Services and its resources that came to my rescue,” said Wirick, a child care resource and referral specialist for the Early Learning Coalition. “I am meeting goals and completing tasks that I never thought I could do. Thank you to the DBS staff who go beyond their job expectations to assist, teach, support and listen.”

As part of the celebration, 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. 

For more information about the Division of Blind Services and its programs, visit dbs.fldoe.org

Division of Blind Services Policy Discussion with the Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind

June 13 from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Telephone Number:          1-888-809-7262
Participant Passcode:        246-528-68#

A copy of the agenda may be obtained by contacting Selena Sickler at the Division of Blind Services, 325 West Gaines Street., Room 1114, Turlington Building, Tallahassee, FL  32399, 850-245-0329, Selena.Sickler@dbs.fldoe.org

For a list of current DBS policies, please go to the DBS website by using the link DBS Policies.

DBS Celebrates 75th Anniversary with Regional Ceremony and Expo in Orlando

ORLANDO, Fla., February 24, 2017 – Today, the Department of Education’s Division of Blind Services (DBS) commemorated its commitment to fostering independence for individuals who are blind and visually impaired during its 75th Anniversary Regional Ceremony and Expo in Orlando. 

“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,” DBS Director Robert L. Doyle, III, said. “This year, we provided services to 3,011 individuals in the Central Florida area, which included 1,323 jobseekers who were preparing for or looking to retain employment. As we look to the future, we continue to charge toward our goal of Florida being a barrier-free environment for residents with visual disabilities.”

Jeff Whitehead, DBS district administrator; Dwight Sayer,

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, the agency works with adults to attain independent living solutions and career and vocational education skills so they can accomplish their life goals.

The 75th Anniversary Regional Ceremony and Expo, which took place at the Ronald Blocker Educational Leadership Center, featured informational sessions, networking opportunities, a community and technology showcase and inspirational testimonials from former DBS clients.

Dwight D. Sayer, who currently serves as the president of the National Association of Blind Veterans, shared his story with the crowd of more than 100. He was honorably/medically discharged from the Air Force in 1969 due to blindness.

“Loss of sight is just an event,” said the Rochester, N.Y. native. “A lot depends on your attitude. There are no barriers you can’t get beyond. It takes time and persistence. The more you invest in yourself, the better you will be.”

For former DBS client Wanda Walerius, the biggest transition for her was the overwhelming feeling of being rejected by society. “After many months of counseling before and during visual rehabilitation, I learned that I am still the person I always was -- just functioning a little differently,” said Walerius, who has found gainful employment at Walt Disney World. “My low vision does not define me, but rather shows  the world that I do have something to contribute.”

As part of the celebration, DBS inducted nine 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. 

Department of Education Celebrates Braille Literacy Month at Tallahassee Elementary School

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., January 18, 2017 – In honor of National Braille Literacy Month, staff from the Florida Department of Education’s (FDOE) Division of Blind Services (DBS) read the braille version of “Three Little Pigs” to 60 Pre-K students at J. Michael Conley Elementary School in Tallahassee.

Walter Blackmon of the Florida Division of Blind Services reads 'The Three Little Pigs' in braille to the several pre-k students at Conley Elementary for Braille Literacy Month.

Following the reading, students learned about the varying levels of blindness, as they participated in activities using vision simulators. The students were later presented with copies of their names written in braille and the braille alphabet.