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Shift in Client Services

by Antionette Williams

I am proud to announce that effective September 24th, Beth Crain assumed Program Management responsibilities in the State Office. Specifically, she receives and coordinates all email communication from district staff related to Client Services. This does not include leave request, personnel issues, or performance evaluations. Beth is very involved in program coordination, state plan tracking/monitoring, training and other project management activities. On the other hand, David Heron is responsible for district budget allocations/amendments, district authorization tracking and monitoring, federal and state reporting, Quality Assurance Administration, and other project management activities.

Additionally, Mary Ellen Ottman serves as the IL/CP Consultant. She is your go to person for IL/CP questions. Mondi Azpeitia and Chris Masal have assumed 80% of contract management and monitoring activities and 20% IL/CP support. Note that Mary Ellen is the first line of communication for IL/CP program questions and activities.

As Bureau Chief, I will continue to oversee stimulus and personnel activities, provide guidance, direction and forecasting related to Client Services. I am confident that this shift in Client Services will be very instrumental as we accelerate towards the Division's Mission. It is my hope that you embrace this shift by working collaboratively with each individual to ensure quality services.

A Warm Welcome in District 11

by Ivy Romero

I would like to welcome Mr. Brian Michaels, VR Supervisor, who started September 20th and Elizabeth Aragon-Duque, Senior Rehabilitation Specialist who began October 5th.

Making the Most of Transportation Resources

by Mary Ellen Ottman

Almost without exception, people with vision impairments or blindness state that lack of transportation is their number one difficulty. Moreover, employment options are greatly reduced if people cannot get to and from work. This is why it is imperative that rehabilitation professionals who work with clients understand the transportation resources available in their area. In order to assist our clients in obtaining the transportation they need, it is important to understand the differences between services provided under programs for those who are transportation disadvantaged (TD), and those eligible under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The Transportation Disadvantaged Program

People who are unable to obtain their own transportation because of a disability, advanced age, or limited income are considered to be "transportation disadvantaged." The Transportation Disadvantaged Program in Florida is a coordinated effort, in all 67 counties, to group riders together for shared trips. Federal and state agencies join forces to provide transportation to medical appointments, educational locations, and other necessary life activities; but the availability and quality of service varies widely from county to county. Also, under the TD program, transportation authorities are permitted to prioritize trips. For example, if funding is low, people with medical needs might be served first, while other types of trips might be eliminated.

The Florida TD Commission has a helpline to answer questions and concerns. The toll free number is 800-983-2435. More information is also available at the TD Website:

ADA Services and Eligibility

Under the ADA, public transportation systems that run a fixed route service must provide comparable paratransit services covering the same area and extending at least ¾ of a mile beyond. Transit authorities are not permitted to prioritize ADA trips according to importance as they are when using TD funds. Having a disability does not automatically make someone eligible for paratransit service. The individual must show why he or she is unable to use the fixed route system. Under the law, public transportation providers are permitted to implement three categories of eligibility for paratransit service. They are as follows:

  1. Because of a disability, the individual is unable to ride fixed route service.
  2. Due to a disability, the individual is unable to ride some fixed route services because they are inaccessible. This was more of an issue when the ADA was first implemented and many buses did not have wheel chair equipment. Now all fixed route buses and trains are required to meet accessibility guidelines; but accessibility could still be an issue because of the lack of sidewalks and/or rough terrain in some areas.
  3. Because of a disability, the individual is able to use the fixed route system for some trips, but not others. Some examples of this would include an individual with a visual impairment not being able to get across a dangerous intersection for one half of a trip, but the issue is eliminated on the other half when the bus is traveling in the opposite direction. Another example might be that someone with multiple sclerosis has the stamina to ride the fixed route on one day, but not another due to fluctuations in health.

How can we best assist our clients with their transportation needs?

  1. Encourage clients to live within an accessible distance of fixed route services whenever possible. If they live out of this range, they would be funded under TD services. If funds run out, transportation would most likely be significantly reduced or discontinued until funding is restored. Fixed route services and the ADA mandated paratransit services are not usually subject to these fluctuations.
  2. Teach clients to look at transportation resources in a new area before they move. If at all possible, clients should be encouraged to live in areas where fixed route services are used abundantly to reduce the chance of service being eliminated during funding shortages.
  3. Encourage clients to use the fixed route service whenever it is safe instead of depending on paratransit services. Individualized paratransit services are much more expensive to provide, and do not allow for flexibility in the time or duration of trips. Paratransit trips must be scheduled a day in advance, so spontaneity is not an option. It should be noted that, in some smaller locations in other states, fixed route services were eliminated because the demand for paratransit service was too great to fund. Also, paratransit trips are more expensive for the rider because they can, and usually do, cost double the rate of a fixed route trip.

Community Infrastructure

The best transportation services in the world will not be useful to our clients in getting from place to place if the community infrastructure is not pedestrian friendly. In many places, sidewalks are nonexistent, the ground is too rough, and it is too dangerous to walk in the streets. Traffic engineers think about moving vehicles with very little, if any, thought to pedestrian safety. City officials are more inclined to listen when the public attends community meetings and presents their needs. Whenever possible, our staff and the clients we serve should take an active role in promoting walkable communities. To learn more about walkable communities, visit the Web site

End Zone

We hope you found this month’s newsletter interesting and enlightening.  Remember, we need your submissions each month.  Let us know what’s going on in your district or facility.  The publication date for the Inside DBS newsletter should be the tenth of each month.  The deadline for submissions is the fifth of each month.  Comments, suggestions, and submissions should be directed to:

Ashley Evans
Phone:  (850) 245-0310

Additional useful links and telephone numbers:

MIS Help Desk:
Phone:  (850) 245-0360

AWARE Help Desk:
Phone:  (850) 245-0395 or 1-866-841-0912

Division of Blind Services Website:

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