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The Division of Blind Services 'Successful 75' Award Winners

The Florida Division of Blind Services is pleased to announce the recipients of the "Successful 75" Awards. The program recognizes individuals, organizations and businesses that have remained steadfast in the advancement of independence for persons who are blind and visually impaired. Throughout the year-long anniversary celebration, 75 honorees were bestowed with this honor.

"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."

The winners are listed below by category:

DBS Client Awards

Beau BrotenBeau Broten

Beau Broten is a great example of what individuals who are blind or visually impaired can accomplish when they remain focused on goals, work hard and make the most of every opportunity. Broten attended training at the Rehabilitation Center in Daytona then moved to Little Rock to attend training at Lions World for the Blind in the IRS program which provides training programs for various entry-level positions. He is now a lead customer representative for the IRS.

Rachel McCulloughRachel McCullough

Rachel McCullough is a general practitioner in private practice, specializing in land use law and civil litigation. At 17, McCullough was diagnosed with Stargardt's Disease, which caused her vision to deteriorate. After receiving the diagnosis, DBS helped her learn to live as a person with low vision. She is the founder and Executive Director of 4SITE, a scholarship organization granting private scholarships to students with low vision in our community who are "seeking independence through education."

Joshua EspinalJoshua Espinal

A graduate of the Rehabilitation Center, Joshua Espinal is the Criminal Investigation Department's victim aide for the Daytona Beach Police Department. Some of his duties include calling victims to verify their safety or answer questions about their respective cases. Prior to losing his vision, Joshua served in the U.S. Army where he completed four tours of active duty.

John DiMarco standing between Commissioner Pam Stewart and DBS District Administrator Bruce EmmertonJohn DiMarco

John DiMarco received his training from Lighthouse of Collier and the DBS Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Daytona Beach. Through his company, "Quest4Vision," he designs tools for assisted mobility and offers one-on-one training for individuals who need assistance learning how to use products for the blind and visually impaired. He has been instrumental in advocating for audible crosswalks and bus stop signs written in braille for his community. DiMarco remains active with the Lions Club of Fort Myers Beach and serves as the chair for Collier Area Transit.

Virginia Jacko standing between Commissioner Pam Stewart and DBS Director Robert DoyleVirginia Jacko

Virginia Jacko was a successful financial executive at Purdue University, when she experienced gradual vision loss. Before her permanent appointment as president and CEO of Miami Lighthouse in 2005, Jacko served as a member of the Board of Directors, treasurer, and acting president and CEO. Under her leadership, Miami Lighthouse moved from a two-star to a four-star charity, and it has achieved eight consecutive four-star ratings from Charity Navigator. This achievement has placed the organization among the top two percent of the 8,000 non-profits rated in the nation.

Dante Mickens standing between Commissioner Pam Stewart and DBS District Administrator Bruce EmmertonDanté Mickens

Overcoming his own personal adversities, Donté Mickens used his talents to become one of the most recognized advocates for persons with visual disabilities. He is a two-time paralympian, having competed in 2004 in Athens, Greece, and in 2008 in Beijing, China. Mickens serves on several nonprofit advocacy boards and is currently chair of the Lighthouse of the Palm Beaches board of directors and the Florida Rehabilitation Council.

Don Gerschick standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyDon Gerschick

Don Gerschick has been a vendor for the Bureau of Business Enterprise for more than 31 years. Don's Coffee Spot in the Palm Beach County Courthouse is the bright spot on a cloudy courthouse day. The customers are not the only ones who benefit from his special brand of service; Gershick has mentored a number of Bureau of Business Enterprise trainees during their work experience and on-the-job training. He says that it is his way of giving back to the program that has done so much for him.

Tiffany Bowman standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyTiffany Bowman

With the assistance of DBS, Tiffany Bowman earned her degree in elementary education from Florida Atlantic University. She is now a second grade teacher at Somerset Academy, where she serves as a leader for students and staff. Students enjoy working with Bowman as she uses her video magnifier and Zoomtext screen magnification program. Students view different objects using the CC TV, which makes lessons much more fun and interesting.

Alton Palmore standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyAlton Palmore

Alton Palmore is a blind veteran who served in the United States Army. Palmore began to lose his sight due to glaucoma and accessed services from the Veteran Affairs Medical Center's Blind Rehab Department. Through the Bureau of Business Enterprise program, he operates a vending area at the prison in Marianna, where he has managed the facility for two years. In October of 2015, Palmore was awarded the contract to operate a military dining facility at Panama City Naval Air Station.

Chris Sacca

Chris Sacca is a Lighthouse Central Florida Vision Rehabilitation Specialist who teaches independent living skills to visually impaired adults. Prior to this, he worked for DBS as a children's counselor, assisting families of blind and visually impaired children and providing critical educational and social resources. Sacca lost the majority of his eyesight in 2005, due to a secondary eye disease and he credits DBS with giving him a second chance to earn a living helping him realize that he had untapped talents.

Dwight Sayer

Dwight Sayer, served in the Air Force and was honorably/medically discharged in 1969 due to blindness. He is a strong advocate for the blind community. He is the president of the National Association of Blind Veterans, a division of the National Federation of the Blind. Other positions include Immediate past first vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida; past president of the Greater Orlando Chapter of the NFB of Florida; and a past gubernatorial appointee to the Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind. Sayer recently retired from the Consumer Advocate and Community Relations Manager position for MV Transportation, Inc.

Tom Spiliotis (Posthumously)

Bureau of Business Enterprise vendor Tom Spiliotis was completely blind by the age of 5 and served as the chairman of the Committee of Vendors prior to his passing in 2016. For 22 of the last 24 years, he served on the State Committee, first for two years as vice chair and then as chairman for 20 years. As vendor and chairman, Spiliotis encouraged and assisted hundreds of blind and visually impaired individuals in the Randolph-Sheppard food and vending program. He was completely blind by the age of 5. Spiliotis made a lasting impression on many of the people currently in the program, as well as many who have moved on from it.

JoAnna Neely

JoAnna Neely has a positive attitude that shows in everything she does. She has been described as eager to learn, and her positive attitude was often displayed in her orientation and mobility class. Neely, who works on her family farm, shows all she encounters that people who are blind or visually impaired can be independent and self-sufficient.

Transition student Kacie Hurlston standing with DBS administrators Cynthia Lyons and Allison FlanaganKacie Hurlston

Kacie Hurlston's willingness to help others and put their needs ahead of her own is a characteristic that is most admired by her classmates. The high school student is a motivational speaker and provides testimonials about overcoming personal stereotypes and disability challenges. She always has a positive outlook and motivates her peers to do their best no matter how difficult.

Erica TurnerErica Turner

Erica Turner has suffered her entire life with Albinism, hearing loss, and eventually total blindness. She earned a bachelor's degree in English and creative writing in May 2014. After significant visual deterioration, Turner was referred to the Vision Education & Rehabilitation Center (VERC) in 2012. She excelled in virtually all training classes and now volunteers with VERC and the Foundation Fighting Blindness. She has worked as a tutor with Florida State College at Jacksonville since 2013 and is described as a true role model, not because of what she has overcome, but because of her ceaseless energy and enthusiasm for life. She maintains a sense of gratitude and never stops learning and achieving.

Community Advocate Awards

Carl McCoyCarl McCoy

Carl McCoy was one of the first students enrolled in training at the Rehabilitation Center in 1946 and was a charter member of the Florida Council for the Blind when it was formed in 1952. In 1989, he became director of the Florida Division of Blind Services where he remained until his retirement in 1992. For several decades, he was in the forefront of advocating for the rights of blind individuals in Florida through the Florida Council for the Blind.

Paul EdwardsPaul Edwards

In the late 1970s, Paul Edwards worked for DBS as a rehabilitation teacher where he went to homes and taught people skills that would enable them to adjust to visual impairment. After three years, he became a rehabilitation counselor and worked mostly with high school and college students. In 1983, Edwards moved to Jacksonville to take over as executive director of an agency serving the blind. In 1986, he moved to Miami to serve as the director of Services to Students with Disabilities on the North Campus of Miami Dade College. During his career, he has worked at the local, state and national level to advocate for persons who are blind.

Bruce MilesBruce Miles

Bruce Miles is no stranger to DBS, serving on the Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind, beginning in 1985. His current appointment was made July 2016. Miles also serves as the treasurer of the Blind Services Foundation. He is a three-term past president of the Marco Island Lions Club, currently serving as their "Tail Twister" and a board member. He is also the past director on the board of the Lighthouse of Collier.

Robert KellyRobert Kelly

Robert Kelly is a certified rehabilitation counselor who has more than 30 years of experience in direct service provision and administration of services for people who are blind and visually impaired. He currently serves as chair of the Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind and executive director of the Florida Lions Conklin Center for the Blind in Daytona Beach.

Carolyn Lapp standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyCarolyn Lapp

Carolyn Lapp is the founder and director of the Florida Outreach Center where she has developed a nurturing environment that fosters growth for the blind and visually impaired population. The Florida Outreach Center is not just a training facility, but also a home away from home for many DBS clients. Lapp is a strong proponent of integrated employment and her employment practices demonstrate that.

Dr. Elly Du Pre standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyDr. Elly Du Pre

Dr. Elly Du Pre has been an instrumental advocate for persons with visual impairments in Miami-Dade and Broward counties with 45 years of experience in the field. She has consistently had a leading role in creating initiatives and developing new opportunities for children, adults and seniors who are blind or visually impaired. In her position as executive director of the Lighthouse of Broward, Dr. Du Pre encourages her staff to engage in the community and she supports clients' desires to interact independently with their sighted community partners.

Manes Pacius standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyManes Pacius

Manes Pacius is an inspirational advocate for DBS clients. He tutors and trains DBS clients so that they may reach their full potential. At the Florida Outreach Center, he works to better the lives of clients. He always makes sure that training is timely and effective and works with DBS on every level.

Larry McDowell standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyLarry McDowell

Larry McDowell provides countless opportunities for training, learning and socialization at no cost for many members of the blind community in West Palm Beach through the Braille Club.  He is always willing to support DBS and its clients by providing volunteer and employment opportunities.

Lee Nasehi

As the President and CEO of Lighthouse Central Florida, Lee Nasehi's mission is to make independent living, learning and earning a reality for every person who is blind or living with severely impaired sight. Through the Lighthouse, Nasehi has the opportunity to share the amazing success stories she has witnessed and educate a wider audience about the issues affecting those with vision loss.

Cathy Matthews

For the past several years, Cathy Matthews has worked to improve regional paratransit options. This is a cause she took up after her son, who is enrolled in the DBS transition program, experienced several unfortunate incidents while using a shared ride door-to-door transportation service. Matthews has been vocal and testified before MetroPlan Orlando's Transportation Disadvantaged Local Coordinating Board.

Pat Devine

Vision loss brought Pat Devine to seek training through the DBS Independent Living Skills program. She was later elected to the Lighthouse of Central Florida Board in November 2009. She is currently serving her third three-year term and is currently the board's secretary. Devine has been active on Board committees, and began volunteering with the independent living skills students after her own graduation. She has been a faithful ambassador for the program ever since.

Michael Elliott

Michael Elliott is the CEO of SOAR Consultants, which provides services for blind clients in Florida. Through his company, Elliott promotes positive action for blind persons and has been a mentor for younger clients who have recently lost their vision. As the CEO of the small business, Elliott has provided former and current DBS clients with work opportunities. He is a previous recipient of the Paula Bailey Dining in the Dark Award.

Teri Newsome

Teri Newsome is a certified teacher of students with visual impairments for Leon County Schools. In her position, she travels to schools within the district and provides direct and/or consultative special education services relating to visual impairments.

Nancy Folsom

Prior to losing her vision, Nancy Folsom was a word processor for the Tallahassee district office. She is customer oriented and always open to provide support to others in the community. Folsom currently works for the Department of Management Services as a Central Office Operator.

Sherri MyersSherri Myers

Sherri Myers serves on the Pensacola City Council. She is passionate about working throughout the Pensacola community to improve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Myers worked with the Center for Independent Living to establish and enhance public transportation for persons with disabilities in Pensacola. She also serves on the local Disabilities Summit Council, a local council that advocates for better relations between employers and persons with disabilities.

Bruce Watson standing with DBS administrators Cynthia Lyons and Allison FlanaganWalter “Bruce” Watson

Captain, United States Navy (Ret.) Walter "Bruce" Watson currently serves as the executive director of the Early Learning Coalition of Escambia County. There, he ensures work spaces are accessible and adaptable for staff members who are visually impaired. He often goes above and beyond to advocate for those in the community through various service organizations. He formerly served as a board member and the executive director of Independence for the Blind of West Florida, Inc.

Mary Ann GrignonMary Ann Grignon

Mary Ann Grignon currently serves as president of the Southwest Florida Council of the Blind (FCB) and on several FCB committees. Grignon has advocated before political entities, organized and hosted advocacy events regarding accessible voting, adaptive transportation and life skills for persons with vision loss. She has written numerous articles advocating for accessibility, dignity, and equality for persons with vision loss.

Lisa KretschmerLisa Kretschmer

Lesa Kretschmer, president of Florida Reading and Vision Technology, is a dedicated advocate for the blind and visually impaired. Through her organization, she has worked extensively with individuals, occupational therapists, low vision doctors and others to provide adaptive technology in the hands of the end user. Kretschmer has conducted hundreds of seminars, workshops and vision fairs around the state and she has been a guest on national and local television and radio programs.

Jim KratchJim Kracht

A retired assistant county attorney from Miami-Dade County, Jim Kracht is an advocate for making life better for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. He has served on the Florida Council of the Blind for more than 25 years, and is currently the organization's president. Through his organization, Kracht works to provide resources - educational, social and economic - to the blind and visually impaired community.

Denyece RobertsDenyece Roberts

Denyece Roberts is a registered clinical social worker and CEO of DR Peaceful Solutions Inc. She has spent more than 20 years providing mental health services including grief and loss, domestic violence, anger management, and mental health counseling throughout the state of Florida. Her experience working with persons with disabilities centers around the strong belief that anyone can accomplish anything if they put themselves in a positive environment that promotes growth and empowerment. She is certified as a Guardian Ad Litem, Adoption Competency Therapist, HIV Counselor, and Big Bend Hospice Loss & Grief Counselor.

Paul MartinezPaul Martinez

Paul Martinez, is passionate about learning policies and procedures that help the blind and visually impaired community. A resident of Tampa, Martinez is currently majoring in social work. He has proudly held several positions within the National Federation of the Blind of Florida since 2011. He currently serves as first vice president of the state board of directors, president of the Florida Association of Blind Students, and president of the Florida State Wide Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida.

Community Partner Awards

GoodwillGoodwill

Throughout the years, the Daytona Beach Goodwill has provided a great partnership and support to DBS clients. They assist with job placement, job development, workshops, and they have provided vouchers for employment, training and work experiences. Goodwill also works alongside DBS employment placement specialists to assist clients seeking employment.

John Ficca standing between female Hands on Educational Services employee and DBS District Administrator Bruce EmmertonHands on Educational Services, Inc.

Hands on Educational Services, a training and employment provider, has partnered with DBS and the Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation since 1998. This organization has provided training to 60 clients with visual impairments. Affectionately referred to as "Hands On @ Hyatt," the training program started as a culinary training program at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay. The "Hands On" program expanded quickly, and is currently operating at 35 Hyatt Hotels across the country, and persons with disabilities are now training in all hotel departments.

 Genie Salzverg standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyGenie Salzverg

Genie Salzverg works as a certified vision rehabilitation therapist for the Lighthouse for the Blind of the Palm Beaches where she ensure clients are able to receive the training needed for their own independent living and successful employment. With regards to the students she serves, Salzverg demonstrates various methods of how to complete a daily living task so that students can make informed decisions. In collaboration with the local police department, Salzverg created "Cane Fu," a self-defense course for individuals who are blind.

Sarah Smedley standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevySarah Smedley

Sarah Smedley runs the Braille and Talking Books Library in Palm Beach County. She oversees the daily operations of the library to ensure that patrons who are blind and visually impaired are able to access reading materials in the format of their choice. She has assisted DBS counselors with getting Learning Ally books into a format that could be accessed on the digital National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) player. Because of her diligence, students have been able to succeed in their course work using the NLS player. She has also been willing to provide work experience opportunities to job-ready participants.

Crystal Samuels standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyCrystal Samuels

St. Lucie Eye Associates has been the source of at least five referrals per year. Crystal Samuels coordinates eye medical care for DBS clients and works with DBS to ensure that clients receive surgery and follow-up care. She also connects clients to other resources when necessary. Samuels not only advocates for her patients, but also ensures they receive quality services. She has assisted many clients in maintaining employment in cooperation with DBS.

Betty Stenberg standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyBetty Stenberg

Betty Stenberg is the manager of Walgreens in Boynton Beach. For the past two years, Stenberg has helped DBS clients at health fairs and open houses by providing them with talking pill bottles, free flu shots and personable service. Stenberg has also made herself available to many of the DBS community rehabilitation partners in the Palm Beaches and maintains contact to service clients.

Lighthouse Central Florida / Lighthouse Works

The Lighthouse of Central Florida offers a comprehensive range of services to people living with sight impairment in the tri-county area. Through effective programs, proven curricula, certified instructors and years of personal and professional experience, Lighthouse helps ensure that individuals of all backgrounds have the tools they need to lead productive, independent lives while pursuing their goals. Through a wide range of businesses, Lighthouse Works provides job training, employment and career opportunities for the advancement of people who are blind and visually impaired.

Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind

Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind has provided services in the Tampa Bay area for more than 60 years. Tampa Lighthouse provides on-site comprehensive rehabilitation programs for persons who are blind or visually impaired. Its training programs are designed to help individuals who have recently lost part or all of their vision to gain the skills needed to perform daily living tasks independently and maintain their employment through the use of assistive technology and devices.

FSU College of Education Visual Disabilities Program

As the only Visual Disabilities program in the southeast, FSU offers one of the most respected and longest-standing programs with an elite, nationally recognized faculty who have blindness experience in all majors. The overall mission of the Curriculum and Instruction for the Visual Disabilities program is to prepare highly qualified individuals who have a personal and professional commitment to improving opportunities for individuals who are blind or who have low vision.

Lighthouse of the Big Bend

The Lighthouse of the Big Bend is a nonprofit agency dedicated to assisting people with vision loss through direct services, community engagement and education. Some of their services include independent living, assistive technology, orientation and mobility, employment skills and individual and family adjustment counseling. This is the second year of their Children's Program.

Tallahassee Community College Student Accessibility Services Office

TCC is committed to creating an accessible environment where individuals are viewed on the basis of their ability, not their disability. It has the highest percentage of graduates with disabilities among all state and community colleges in Florida. Currently, Student Accessibility Services provides educational support services to nearly 1,000 students with disabilities.

Emerald Coast Vision Aids Presidents Mike Hage standing with DBS administrators Cynthia Lyons and Allison FlanaganEmerald Coast Vision Aids

Emerald Coast Vision Aids, Inc. is an independent distributor for the leading world-wide developers, manufacturers and marketers of innovative products designed to assist people with low vision and blindness needs. They have been providing DBS clients with state-of-the-art low vision and blindness products since 1998.

Pensacola Lions Club member Larry Hatchstanding with DBS administrators Cynthia Lyons and Allison Flanagan.Pensacola Lions Club

For more than 90 years, the Pensacola Lions Club has continued to be "Knights for the Blind" by sharing their time and talents to better the lives of visually impaired individuals in Northwest Florida. Through selfless advocacy, the organizations brings awareness to the needs of the blind though fundraising activities and community outreach.

DBS Employee Awards

Anna JohnsonAnna Johnson

Anna Johnson has worked for the DBS Rehabilitation Center for the Blind for more than 26 years. She has been described as a leader and team player, and she believes that her students come first. Her goal is to ensure students receive quality training to reach their full potential and achieve their career and life goals.

Angela Daughtry and DBS District Administrator Bruce EmmertonAngela Daughtry

Angela Daughtry has been dedicated to DBS for more than 20 years. As a rehabilitation specialist, she serves babies and children with vision loss, as well as adults who are not involved in the vocational program. Daughtry has been committed to providing superior services to these individuals. In 2007, she received a Davis Productivity Award for her work developing a children's summer camp program. She continues to plan and operate summer camps for the school-aged children on her caseload each year. She also provides services throughout the school year, including outreach to the community in order to inform people of services available to DBS.

Leigh Ann Bellamy standing between Commissioner Pam Stewart and DBS District Administrator Bruce EmmertonLeigh Ann Bellamy

Leigh Ann Bellamy is both a follower and a leader in her supervisor position in the Palmetto DBS office. In FY 2014-2015, Bellamy received an award for the most Vocational Rehabilitation placements in a fiscal year (32). She understands client services and has consistently demonstrated her competence in that area for the past nine years.

Linda Brown and DBS District Administrator Bruce EmmertonLinda Brown

Throughout her career, Linda Brown has demonstrated a long-term commitment to the blind population, which has continued since her retirement. For several years, she served as a DBS administrator, which thrived under her leadership. As a supervisor, Brown was known for her responsiveness to the needs of DBS clients, including Community Rehabilitation Partners, clients, employees and vendors. She is currently chair of the Board of the Manasota Lighthouse.

Linda Hernandez standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyLinda Hernandez

Linda Hernandez has been a dedicated employee of the DBS since March 2003. This past year, Hernandez had the distinguished honor of facilitating the highest number of individual cases to achieve successful employment goals of all the districts in the state. She was able to close 34 cases - a milestone few have accomplished in their careers with DBS.

Grazyna Grace Golasz standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyGrazyna “Grace” Golasz

Grace Golasz provided exemplary service to clients for more than 35 years. Golasz started with DBS as a secretary, and went on to serve as a rehabilitation technician and then a rehabilitation specialist. Golasz showed devotion to the clients she served, staff she worked with and to the agency's mission and values. By educating herself on the changes being made so that she could provide the most current, information to her clients.

Herbert Mejia standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyHerbert Mejia

Herbert Mejia is a West Palm Beach team liaison who consistently goes the extra mile for his clients and colleagues. He is described as always cordial and ready to share uplifting messages that give clients hope and reasons to stay connected to the agency.

Louise Peyton

Louise Peyton worked tirelessly for DBS for 36 years before retiring in December 2015. The agency was her first employment opportunity, and she was extremely proud of serving in her capacity for as long as she did. As a senior rehabilitation specialist, she was a role model, demonstrating a high degree of integrity and drive while working in the Tampa office. Peyton touched many lives during her service with DBS, often serving with the medical students at University of South Florida and sharing her extensive knowledge with them on topics related to vision.

Mireya Hernandez

Mireya Hernandez has worked with DBS for more than 10 years. Hernandez came to DBS with experience in early childhood education and a background in health care and management services. She has served in the capacity of children's counselor, VR supervisor and currently as district administrator for the Tampa/Lakeland area. Hernandez has served on local transportation boards, is a current member of the Quality Assurance and Policy team and has coordinated numerous children's program activities.

Antoinette Williams

Antionette Williams worked with DBS for nearly 20 years. As deputy director, Williams provided supervision and oversight to four bureaus: Client Services, Business Enterprise, the Rehabilitation Center and the Braille and Talking Books Library. Additionally, she oversaw the Division's strategic plan and unified state plan for vocational rehabilitation, federal and state reporting, and compliance and audits. She also served as senior management analyst, where she worked on projects such as stimulus funding, internal and external audits, federal and state reporting and other special projects.

Wanda Stokley

Wanda Stokley has been with the Division for 31 years. She remains an active advocate for citizens who are blind or visually impaired through organizations such as the Florida Council of the Blind. Stokley, who is visually impaired, is currently serving her second term as president of the Tallahassee Council of the Blind.

DBS staff member Gail Christian standing with DBS administrators Cynthia Lyons and Allison FlanaganGail Christian

Gail Christian has been with DBS for more than 23 years. She and her guide dog, "Halo," bring positive attitudes to the office environment. Christian, a former DBS client, has worked in the Fort Myers and Pensacola offices as a word processor and now as a rehabilitation technician.

Ed HudsonEd Hudson

Edward Hudson is the bureau chief of the Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Daytona Beach, Fla., and he is responsible for the overall operation of the center. He has been with the division since 1992 and was instrumental in establishing Blind Services as a division under the Florida Department of Education.

Dolores Hanley McDiarmidDolores Hanley McDiarmid

Dolores Hanley McDiarmid worked for the DBS in the Fort Lauderdale office as an orientation and mobility specialist. Since 2010, she has been the public awareness project manager at Lighthouse of Broward in Fort Lauderdale. McDiarmid recently wrote the book, "Moved by the Spirit; A Call to Work with People Living with Blindness and Visual Impairments," which educates medical professionals and the sighted population about living with vision loss and how people can live productive lives if they receive rehabilitation training.

Business Awards

Sloppy Joes Manager Sloppy Joe’s 

Sloppy Joe's Restaurant has worked closely with the Daytona Rehabilitation Center for the Blind to train and prepare blind and visually impaired clients for competitive employment. Sloppy Joe's has participated in both informational and employment interviews with Rehab Center clients and has provided work experiences that led to employment opportunities for the agency's clients.

Manatee Diagnostics Center Logo Written in BlueManatee Diagnostics Center

Manatee Diagnostic Center provides a variety of radiology services throughout Manatee and DeSoto counties. Manatee Diagnostic Center is a great model for other major businesses when hiring persons who are blind or visually impaired. The Center provides visually impaired staff with the screen reader program Job Access with Speech (JAWS). Manatee Diagnostic Center has partnered with DBS to attain Rehabilitation Engineering Services whenever the need arises.

Representatives from MV Transportation standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyMV Transportation

For more than 35 years, MV Transportation has provided safe, reliable, affordable transportation services. Drivers receive diversity and other special training to handle and work with individuals with visual impairments. MV Transportation is committed to working with and providing reasonable accommodations to individuals with all types of disabilities through their services and hiring practices.

Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World has been an excellent working partner with DBS. Staff members collaborate with DBS to ensure all areas are accessible and ready on the first day of training. Walt Disney World has individuals with visual impairments working in all areas of the resort and has accommodations for guests with visual disabilities to maximize their enjoyment of the theme parks with tools like Audio Description devices, Braille guidebooks and stationary Braille maps.

Florida Department of Health

The Department of Health has hired four individuals with visual impairments over the last four years. When vision loss begins to impact their employees' abilities to perform their respective duties, Department of Health HR Personnel Liaison often seek DBS technical advice. In addition, DBS and DOH have often collaborated for effective communication training team meetings with the Coordinating Council for the Deaf and Blind Project Team.

Publix

Publix has hired several DBS clients throughout the years - most recently in 2015. The grocery chain has always been open to provide DBS clients with work experiences and job opportunities.

Inisfree President Julian MacQueen standing with DBS administrators Cynthia Lyons and Allison FlanaganInnisfree Hotels

Innisfree Hotels has hired and accommodated many DBS clients by encouraging them to utilize assistive technology, orientation and mobility and special skill training needed to accomplish their work. The Founder/CEO of Innisfree Hotels, Julian MacQueen, is a founding member of Independence for the Blind's Board of Directors.

DotzDotz

DOTZ (Direct Occupational Training Zone) is a public self-service coffee and snack bar that currently serves as a place for blind and visually impaired volunteers and employees to learn about the various aspects of running a business. Located in St. Augustine, individuals who are blind or visually impaired gain job skills in a hands-on environment. Some of the skills learned are customer service, inventory control, money math and marketing strategy.

Wal-MartWal-Mart

Building upon its diversity and inclusion success, Wal-Mart has broadened its efforts to embed diversity and inclusion across the company to drive exceptional business results. Wal-Mart has hired more than 130 DBS clients, which showcases the company's commitment to fostering a trust-based inclusive environment where associates are provided unlimited opportunities to develop and grow.

Pizza HutPizza Hut

Pizza Hut understands that diversity and inclusion are critical to the long-term success of their business. They believe that diverse teams yield better and more creative solutions, and inclusion is a business priority. Statewide, Pizza Hut has provided employment to 64 DBS clients.

ConvergysConvergys

Convergys, a marketing company, provides room for careers to grow and evolve at an individual pace. Convergys promotes active inclusion of minority, women, small disadvantage, HUBZone and service-disabled veteran-owned businesses in its procurement processes. Convergys has hired more than 60 DBS clients - with one client working with the company for more than 17 years. Convergys' work-from-home positions allow clients to use Zoom text and JAWS to complete their daily tasks.

Home DepotHome Depot

The foundation of Home Depot's commitment to diversity and inclusion was established more than 35 years ago. The company is committed to creating a work environment where there are no limits on achieving personal and professional goals. In addition, the organization advocates for full access to social, recreational and employment opportunities for associates and customers with challenges or disabilities. The Home Depot has also actively sought a diverse set of suppliers in its sourcing and procurement process. Statewide, the company has hired 36 DBS clients.