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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.

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.