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Congratulations to Bebe Chudeusz, who earned her national certification as a Rehabilitation Therapist by the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals.  Vision Rehabilitation Therapists instruct persons with vision impairments in the use of compensatory skills and assistive technology that will enable them to live safe, productive, and independent lives.  Chudeusz is also certified as an Orientation and Mobility Specialist.

Chudeusz is the Executive Director of New Vision for Independence, Inc., in Leesburg Florida.

Personnel Announcements

Please join me in welcoming Caroline McManus to the State Office MIS staff.  Caroline joins DBS with a variety of experience in State Govt. and the private sector.  Her primary duties will include Project coordination, business and data analysis of DBS-specific applications and databases, development of processes and procedures, contracts, audit analysis and responses, and application development.  Please join me in welcoming Caroline.

Whitney Paine recently joined the District One team as Rehabilitation Supervisor.  She has transferred from Jacksonville and immediately fit right into the group dynamic that makes the Pensacola office such a wonderful place to work.  Whitney has been a welcome addition and her intuitive and creative methods of case management have helped the District One counselors strive for future success.  Let’s welcome Whitney.

The following individuals have either joined the Division, retired, or were promoted.  For those who have joined us, we welcome you to our team.  Congratulations to those individuals who were recently promoted, and we wish the retiring employees best wishes for the next chapter in their lives.

Congratulations to the following employees who received promotions:

Welcome to our newest employees:

Thank you,
Joyce Hildreth

“Play” Goal Ball — District 2

by Tiffany Wilson

“Play!” was the referee’s resounding call to start the Goal Ball game, as eager students appealed for the opportunity to participate.  DBS staff members Walter Blackmon, Tiffany Wilson, and Wayne Jennings, as well as former National Goal Ball Team Member, Norris Coster, visited local high school students at Amos P Godby High School, and Taylor County High School to promote community awareness, and dispel possible myths regarding people with visual impairments and sports.  The presentation was arranged in conjunction with the Lighthouse of the Big Bend’s Community Awareness specialist, Linda Jones.

What began as a ‘presentation’ activity quickly became a ‘participation’ activity for all of the students in attendance.  Once the game was demonstrated and rules were explained the students soon found themselves gearing up with knee pads and blindfolds, and eagerly taking their place on the Goal Ball court. 

Two students diving for the ball As goal balls sped towards them, even reserved students found themselves enthusiastically diving across the court to protect their goal. Constant encouragement by the DBS staff and the cheers from spectator peers contributed to the infectious energy in the gym.

Between the Goal Ball matches, each member of the DBS staff presented a small biography about the area of sport which they participate.  Walter Blackmon presented information about his weight lifting accomplishments on National, and International teams. Tiffany Wilson discussed track and field, and how blind and visually impaired athletes compete, such as by tethering to a guide runner.  Norris Coster discussed his participation on the National Goal Ball Team, and Wayne Jennings discussed his coaching opportunities with blind and visually impaired youth and demonstrated his referee and coaching skills throughout the presentations.

The students were clearly awe inspired, and gained a new appreciation for the capabilities of people with visual impairments and blindness.  Neither lunch nor the end of the school day stopped the student’s questions or desire to participate in “just one more match.”

Walter Blackmon’s comment captures the benefit of community awareness presentations, when he stated, “It is these types of activities that have the most impact on changing people’s perceptions regarding people with visual impairments and blindness.”

Stepping Out and Standing Out

by Herbert Mejia

One of the most important customer service skills you can develop is the ability to understand, and effectively respond to the customer’s needs and concerns.  Reports indicate that 70% of customers’ complaints originate on the human side of doing business with the provider of the product or service.  The staff members of District 10, West Palm Beach, have recognized and made a collective commitment to accomplish two goals in serving our clients:  We will step out and we will stand out.  Our ultimate pursuit is to deliver an exceptional customer service, to do whatever it takes to serve our customers, and do it with a full pledge in our part to influence the outcome of every client in a positive way. 

To that effort, we have engaged in a four phase video training seminar entitled, “How to Give Exceptional Customer Service.”  The training focuses in helping with service excellence and customer partnership issues.  The program covers areas such as:  Delivering personalized customer service, how to calm down an angry customer, listening to uncover customer’s needs, learning what customers not only expect but really want, phone skills, knowing the importance of first and last (lasting) impressions, and many more service proven strategies.  Upon completion of this training, we envision more satisfied customers and will spotlight the way we serve our clients, each other, and the public in general.

Doors Opening at Big Bend High Schools

by Linda Jones

"It was a new and wonderful experience to listen to your knowledge about the eye and perform the activities you had for the class," said one Leon County high school student.

"It's important that everyone should learn a little bit about visually impaired people and realize that they’re not much different than other people," said another.

These messages from students following a presentation by the Lighthouse of the Big Bend are just the beginning.  After visits to all 19 high schools within the counties of the Big Bend, high school doors have begun to open.  Faculty has been drawn to the Lighthouse’s class activities that add real-life experiences to the words in their students’ textbooks.  Last year, the Public Awareness Specialist taught the psychology classes at Leon High School, and the English classes at Liberty County High School.  More presentations are scheduled this spring at three other area high schools.

Thanks to funding from the Division of Blind Services, the Lighthouse of the Big Bend has been able to offer presentations such as What Is It Like to Have A Visual Impairment, Playing Sports Without Vision, Cooking Without Looking, and How Do You Surf the Internet.  Students also wear blindfolds or goggles that simulate visual impairments as they do activities.  The students also have the unique opportunity to play Goal Ball with blind athletes who have traveled the world and won Olympic medals- a few of whom work at the State DBS Office!  Some high school administrators are realizing there may be unidentified visually impaired teens within their student body that are unable to meet their maximum potential.  However, this continues to be a difficult door to open.  Lighthouse of the Big Bend staff believe that, in time, more and more school administrators will see this need and recognize how much Lighthouse Transition Services can improve student academics, increase summer employment opportunities, expand college options, and enhance post graduate employment.

My DBS Work Experience at the Lighthouse of the Big Bend

by Jada Michaels

I learned about the Work Experience Program sponsored by the Division of Blind Services (DBS) when I called the Lighthouse of the Big Bend one Tuesday morning.  The Division works with businesses to establish training positions. When a client is interviewed and accepted, they literally go to work and receive on-the-job training.  Clients receive a small stipend for the hours they work.  A work experience can be for a few weeks, or up to of six months.  My DBS counselor requested that I be considered for the open receptionist position at the Lighthouse of the Big Bend.  An interview was scheduled for Thursday, and on Friday, I was hired.

My working motto is, “When in doubt, seek Wayne out.”  As my supervisor, Wayne Warner has been helpful in teaching me the job skills.  My main responsibility is to answer the telephone, announce the caller, and transfer the call to the appropriate staff member.  When telephone requests are simple, such as a request for information regarding the Talking Book Library, I assist the caller myself.  I also greet and announce clients and guests receive mail and packages, retrieve and forward after hours voice mail messages, record and submit referrals, collate and bind embossed Braille material, and perform any other projects as requested.  In addition, I ensure that public service projects and special requests for Brailed information are properly disseminated.

The Lighthouse staff operates as a team to reach the best outcome for each client.  My experience here has both encouraged and inspired me to seek permanent employment when my work experience ends.  Many thanks to DBS and the Lighthouse for this wonderful work experience!

Bradenton Client Shines Brightly

by Leigh Bellamy

Susan Wilburn started as a VR client with the Bradenton DBS office in 2008 following a four year period of adjustment to vision loss as a result of Stargardt’s Disease.  Meeting with Leigh Ann Bellamy, she stated that Susan stated she was ready to return to employment and became an active member in the EnLightenment Support Group with the Lighthouse of Manasota.  Susan participated in a work experience in the DBS office where proved to be a dedicated worker who interacted as part of our team.  She demonstrated her readiness for placement.

Then Susan was hired as an Intern at the Southeastern Guide Dogs School.  She quickly moved up to Training Kennel Manager and is currently the Admissions and Student Service Manager.  Susan continued her success and was subsequently named Employee of the Year!  Susan has proven herself to be a shining example of what can happen when everyone works together. Congratulations to Susan.

Miami Lighthouse Offers Braille Music Instruction

by Virginia Jacko 

There are many talented musicians who happen to be blind.  They perform their music based on their unique listening skills.  However, blind musicians who cannot see a whole note, a half note, and so much more information contained on a score of music are unable to see the key and tempo of an arrangement.

Louis Braille solved this problem when he created the Braille music code.  Unfortunately there is little instruction available, and talented musicians are left with relying on their hearing if they do not have Braille music literacy.  The Miami Lighthouse Better Chance Music Production Program™ copyrighted its curriculum last year, and this year the Miami Lighthouse is in the process of doing the same.  The Hadley School for the Blind is also developing a Braille Music Curriculum, and many musicians throughout the country will now have access to musical arrangements through Braille music.  To learn more about this program contact:

A CRC Odyssey for A VR Counselor

by Louise Payton, Hillsborough County

Louise Peyton began her career with the Division of Blind Services in 1979 after graduating from FSU with a Masters degree in vocational rehabilitation counseling and awarded a Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRC).  Peyton stayed with the Division for 32 years during which time her CRC expired.  When she decided to become recertified in 2010, she faced the difficulty of preparing for an exam after so many years out of school.  She found out she passed the exam on December 1, 2010.  She now advises others, “Once you earn that CRC, or other credentialed certification, never allow it to lapse since you never know how it might prove beneficial in the future.  Finally, just because you’re a mature adult doesn’t mean you still cannot learn and achieve.  After all, isn’t that what we encourage our clients to accomplish despite the odds?”  Congratulations to Louise. 

Lighthouse of Broward Revitalization

by Karen Parparian

Picture of the front of the lighthouseHoneywell (NYSE: HON) and Rebuilding Together Broward County led an all-day revitalization project for the Lighthouse of Broward.  The renovations included painting the interior and exterior of the facility as well as repairing ceiling tile.  The Honeywell and Rebuilding Together Broward County team also restored the outdoor property by landscaping and revitalizing a unique part of the outdoor facility, the Lighthouse of Broward’s Sensory Garden.  

“We are very grateful for Honeywell and Rebuilding Together for teaming up to give back to the community in a lasting way,” said Elly du Pré, executive director of Lighthouse of Broward.  “Our organization relies on the generosity of corporations like Honeywell and the support of organizations like Rebuilding Together, to help make the Lighthouse of Broward community a better place to live for our residents in need.  We look forward to collaborating in the future.”

Transporting People to Better Health and Greater Independence — District 2

by JoAnn Carrin

District 2 staff members Tiffany Wilson and Wanda StokleyTransportation Disadvantaged (TD) Legislative Day is hosted by Florida Association of Coordinated Transportation Systems. This year the legislators are faced with extremely tough economic times.  This day is geared towards creating awareness and support for those in need of transportation services.  TD keeps thousands of Floridians independent and out of institutions while stimulating Florida’s economy.  For every dollar spent on transportation, the state receives more than $7 in return.  District 2 staff members Tiffany Wilson and Wanda Stokley participated in this event by sharing information and awareness of the services available through the Division of Blind services.

Job Fair Outreach — District 6

by Bridgette Williamson-Mack

The lead Senior Rehab Counselor and four staff from Orlando participated in a marketing and outreach opportunity at the Central Florida’s Job Fair on March 23, 2011. Our staff had a booth that marketed our services to the general public as well as being sighted guides for some of the clients that we serve to assist them in looking for employment.

The report back was that is was a wonderful opportunity to share our entire agencies goals, services, locations, and the myriad of other ways that we can facilitate serving the visually challenged or impaired.

End Zone

We hope you found this month’s newsletter interesting.  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 is the first of each month.  The deadline for submissions is the 24th 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

DBS Division of Blind Services:

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