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District Spotlight

By Joyce Hildreth

Congratulations on a very, very, very good job!  We went from 666 successful employment outcomes last year to 720 this year, in spite of all the economic challenges.  Every person in the Division and all of our community partners can be proud of the results.  The true beneficiaries of this year's employment outcomes are our clients.

Personnel Actions


Donna WallerDivision Names Waller New Contracts and Compliance Manager

Donna Waller has joined the Division of Blind Services (DBS) as our Contracts and Compliance Manager.  Her diverse job responsibilities include coordination with the Department’s Procurement and Contracts office to develop, execute, and provide oversight.  She will develop all contract types for DBS and communicate with contractors throughout the contracting process. 

Prior to coming to DBS, she served as Operations and Management Consultant with the Department of Education and the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).  She also served for 10 years as an Accountant with DJJ and seven years with the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services.  Donna’s career spans 22 years of service with the State of Florida.  Congratulations Donna.

Congratulations to our Retiree

We wish Kristine Hires, Senior Rehabilitation Specialist in the Lakeland Office well as she embarks on her retirement journey! We will miss you.

We’d like to welcome our newest employees to the DBS family:

Meeting announcement

The Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind will hold its quarterly meeting in July.  Details of the event are as follows:

July 28, 2011
8:30 AM to 2:30 PM — Board Meeting
4:00 PM to 5:30 PM — Public Forum
July 29, 2011
8:30 AM to 12:00 PM — Board Meeting

Crowne Plaza
13051 Bell Tower Dr.
Fort Myers, FL  33907

New to the DBS Website

The Access Info Technology Newsletter
By Michael Elliott

The Access InfoTechnology Newsletter is published monthly to provide the latest updates to accessible technology software and hardware.  The newsletter provides informative reviews on popular useful products, and keeps staff aware of current trends in the ever-advancing world of technology.  In addition, articles are collected from a number of reliable resources in order to give a broad overview of varying technical devices being utilized by those who are blind and visually impaired, as well as by those who are teachers and guides.  This newsletter is written by DBS Rehab Engineer Technology Consultant, Michael Elliott, and is now located on the DBS website.

Listening to and Finding Podcasts

Taken from BlindCoolTech website

Blind Cool is a podcast that brings fun, education, and variety to your mp3 player. A link to this website is now on the DBS website listed with other resources.  The show provides interviews, shares sound seeing tours, and discusses life and cool technology- especially technology that blind people can use.  There is also a mailing list and chat room for people involved in developing technology for persons who are visually impaired and blind.  BlindCoolTech is funded through contributions from a variety of sources.  For more information go to

My New Born Daughter

By Kathy Burgess

When I learned that my newborn daughter, Addison, had Peter’s Anomaly I didn’t know where to turn, what to do, or how to do it.  The feelings of hopelessness and helplessness had consumed me.  I remember thinking I’ve never even met a blind person before, and how was I supposed to raise one?  Then I was told about The Lighthouse of Central Florida.

The first time I walked into the Lighthouse of Central Florida and a blind receptionist greeted me and my husband I knew we were in the right place.  Sadly, prior to going to the Lighthouse, I didn’t know that a blind person could hold a job.  In the first two seconds of being there, I was given hope that my daughter had a future, and  I immediately started getting services from them.

Each week, Lighthouse staff come to my house to work with Addison.  They set goals for her to reach age-appropriate milestones and help her master and surpass those goals.  While they teach my daughter, they also give me the tools necessary to work on these skills on my own.  More importantly, they have shown me how important it is to have expectations for my daughter.

Now, Addison is almost four years old, and I’m so blessed to still be receiving services.  She is a smart, confident and independent little girl.  I have the Lighthouse to thank for helping her become the strong willed girl she is.  I truly believe that the Lighthouse of Central Florida has the ability to take a family from merely surviving with a visual impairment to thriving with a visual impairment.  I am forever grateful for all they have done for me and my family.

Wakulla Senior Health Fair

By Ana Saint-Fort

health fair 2011 lavern The Wakulla County Senior Center held its Annual Health Fair on May 25.  There were 18 vendors including representatives of pharmacies, elder agencies, and health care providers. 
La’ Verne Scott, IL/CP Specialist of the Tallahassee District Office represented the Division of Blind Services (DBS) and Eva McElvy, Specialist from the Lighthouse of the Big Bend, shared a table at this event. Both staffers provided information about a wide range of services available to visually impaired individuals.  Seniors eagerly collected handouts, brochures, and other types of information available throughout the event.  There were door prizes and other freebies available to them as well.

The Third Annual Rotary, VIP Boat Ride

By Sandy Martin

On May 7th, The Cape Coral Rotary Club sponsored a boat ride for the Visually Impaired Persons of South West Florida (VIP Center), several clients, staff of the VIP, and fellow Rotarians Everyone on board enjoyed the beautiful day filled with excitement and anticipation.

VIP Boat Ride and PicnicCruising to the Sanibel Lighthouse was an experience to remember.  More than 70 people attended the fun-filled event, and appetites were satisfied with a delicious lunch and refreshments.  Client Judy Sunday, said, “It was such a great opportunity to get out and enjoy ourselves doing something we normally would not do.”  Crystal Barrs, a visually impaired staff member remarked, “What a great stress release, having this feeling of such freedom.”  She got a chance to drive the boat and her golden retriever service dog Swifty, sniffed the sea air.

Susan Hoffman, a VIP staff member and a first time rider said, “It was wonderful and I was so impressed on how warm-hearted and informative the Rotarians were with the questions being asked regarding what the boats and scenery looked like, and the directions we were headed.”

This was an awesome opportunity for both the sighted and unsighted to share an experience that will be treasured forever.

My Story

By Sam Copeland

Four years ago I lost my vision due to diabetic retinopathy.  First in my right eye, and after various treatments all of my vision was gone.  Cooking, watching football on TV and fishing were no longer possible, andthis resulted in anger and depression.

I did not sign up with DBS until three years after my first contact with them.  DBS then referred me to the Lighthouse of the Big Bend.  After approval for Dial-A-Ride, the Lighthouse was my first destination.  Independent Living, Braille, and mobility were my classes, and now nothing can keep me from attending these classes. 

My sense of touch and smell helped me with cooking and cleaning, grocery shopping, organizing groceries, and identifying coins.  The adaptive items make it very easy for me to be independent.  Mobility class taught me how to find my way around the mall, maneuver steps, elevators, and escalators.  Fishing became possible with Wayne as a guide.  Many thanks go to my teachers Toni, Jeanine, Evelyn, and Amanda.

My plan is to finish Braille, take computer classes and then prepare for the Hadley GED course.  I can now see that my dream to become a restaurant chef can become a reality.  Thanks to the staff at the Lighthouse, DBS, and to the many other blind people who have inspired me. 

Perkins Braille Writers

By Susan Roberts

Braille writer picThe Bureau of Braille and Talking Books Library provides a service unique to Florida: free repair service for Perkins Braille Writers.  Anyone in Florida is eligible for this service.  Braille writers can be sent to the bureau to the attention of Al McPherson.  He unpacks the Braille writer and logs it in.  The writer is checked By John Harden, the repair technician, and disassembled and cleaned thoroughly.  If any parts need to be replaced, he installs new Perkins approved parts.  The machine is reassembled and allowed to sit unused for a day or two, and is then tested to see if the problem has been resolved.  If not, further repairs are made.  Finally our quality control expert, Candace Ball, really puts the writer through its paces.  A Braille writer is only considered repaired after it passes this rigorous testing.  It is packed securely and returned to its owner via insured shipping.

John Harden’s Repair Tip #1 - Do not spray lubricant on the escapement assembly to fix a sticking backspace key.  This will fix the problem for a short while, but then the key will stick worse and stop working altogether.  The hardest and most time consuming repair is cleaning machine parts after someone has used the wrong type of lubricant.  If you have a problem with your Braille writer, send it in for repair.  Do not try to fix it yourself.  For more information about this program, call the Bureau at 1-800-226-6075 or (386) 239-6000.

Florida Lions Conklin Center Wins Award

By Charlann Wrlak

braille logoFlorida Lions Conklin Center for the Blind’s Supported Employment program was awarded the annual Beverly Chapman Award for Outstanding Employment Placement Program by The Able Trust at its awards ceremony in Tallahassee.  The Able Trust selected the Conklin Center because the Center has always been an organization with high employment expectations for its clients, who are all blind along with such conditions as epilepsy, hearing impairments, brain injuries, mental health, or developmental disabilities.  The unemployment rate throughout the state has been high the last several years, and all grantees have reported difficulty in finding open positions at any skill level; however, the Conklin Center has not slowed in its searches and networking to find employment opportunities that are ready to go.

The unemployment rate for working age adults who are blind is 70 percent according to the American Foundation for the Blind– even before the economic downturn.  Publix, Papa John’s Pizza, Olive Garden, Red Lobster and Metra Electronics have employed Conklin Center students and graduates, but as the economy deteriorated, new positions became difficult to find.  In response, the Center’s Supported Employment Team made more than 200 cold calls to local businesses.  This resulted in new relationships with Miller’s Ale House in Daytona Beach (where one of the owners is visually impaired) and with K-Mart.

The Hadley School for the Blind’s High School Program

By Randy Morgan

hadley logoDid you know that Florida students can earn their high school diploma through Hadley or take courses to supplement their local high school curriculum?  These courses are available at no charge to Florida students.  The program features year-round open enrollment.

The Hadley School for the Blind offers a 16 Carnegie Unit nationally-recognized High School Program, and has been fully accredited by The Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council since 1958, and by the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement since 1978.  Hadley does not offer a General Equivalency Diploma (GED); this is a diploma program that supports local schools.

The courses offered through the High School Program offer many advantages.  They are free of charge and available in the student’s medium of choice:  Braille, large print, audio, or online.  All courses at Hadley are offered in a distance education format.  Students take courses from home at their own pace.  Hadley is an excellent option for adults who were not able to earn their high school diploma in the past.

Students receive one-on-one instruction from qualified instructors who specialize in working with individuals who are blind or visually impaired.  Instructors are available via telephone, email, postal mail or fax, and students submit their lessons via these mediums as well.  One lesson per month is required.  Self-tests are provided in course materials.  This allows the student the opportunity to practice the skills taught in the lesson prior to submitting the assignment for grading.  No exit exam is required upon completion of the total credits earned at Hadley.  Many students who have been unsuccessful at completing the GED requirements have successfully completed Hadley’s High School Program.

Hadley courses are not only for those who have a visual impairment.  Anyone with a family member who is visually impaired can enroll in courses offered through the Family Education Program at Hadley.  In addition, The Hadley School for Professional Studies (HSPS), is a unique distance education program that provides a convenient alternative to traditional professional continuing education.  Courses are available to anyone who works directly with blind or visually impaired individuals in a work, school, or community setting, whether as a paid employee or volunteer.  Students currently enrolled in a college or university program preparing for a career in the blindness filed may apply for enrollment, as well.  HSPS also allows you to earn Continuing Education Credits.  Due to the grant provided to Hadley by the Florida Division of Blind Services, tuition is waived for enrollees that reside in Florida!  For more information or to enroll, visit or contact Student Services at or 800-526-9909.

Lighthouse of Broward’s Book Club

By Elly du Pre, Executive Director

bookclubThe Lighthouse of Broward’s (LHOB) Book Club was chosen by the Braille and Talking Book Library to test new machines. 

Dear Ellen Meyers and Wayne Draper,

Thank you both for collaborating on a super book club project that is so meaningful.  I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in on the club meeting today as you inaugurated the digital downloading approach the club will be using to get their monthly discussion books.  The explanation of the new downloading was well done, and the subsequent discussion of the book was lively.  I appreciate the amount of preparation that goes into leading a book club as well as teaching even "simple" technology.  So again, I can't thank you both enough.

Making the whole thing sweeter is we are the first in the state of Florida to be doing this.  It lets people enjoy books, which is number one, but also provides a great venue for socialization, intellectual challenge, and an opportunity to use technological skills they will need to use anyway to fully enjoy the new digital talking book machines.  They will be learning to download digital audio books from the Talking Book Library's Braille and Audio Recording Downloads (BARD) system, which means they don't have to wait for a book, and the club can all have a copy of the same book without worrying about availability of sufficient copies.  I also think another key element is that two of the club members are providing telephone support on procedures to the other club members.  How great is that?

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:

To request a Braille version of this edition of Inside DBS may contact the Braille and Talking Book Library at or call 800-226-6075.

MIS Help Desk:
Phone:  850-245-0360

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

DBS Division of Blind Services (external):

Correction: In the May edition of Inside DBS we misspelled the name of new employee Dolores Nino, Customer Services Specialist in Fort Myers.

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