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Spotlight - AWARE Update

Major enhancements in the Accessible Web-based Activity Reporting Environment (AWARE) case management system will soon be implemented.  Many DBS and Community Rehabilitation Program (CRP) providers’ staff along with Alliance Enterprises (makers of AWARE) have participated in what has become known as Process Simplification or ProSim project.  The goals of the project were to comply with Federal reporting while simplifying DBS and CRP processes and improving features of the AWARE case management system.   These enhancements will allow for easier navigation within AWARE resulting in increased productivity allowing more time with clients and less time entering data into AWARE.

A few of the significant improvements realized are:

The new AWARE system is called “AWARE 5.11” and projected launch date is for October 1, 2011.  AWARE users will receive training on the new system the week of September 6-9, 2011.  As always, contact for questions and assistance.

Personnel Actions

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

Congratulations to the following employees who received promotions:

Transition Students’ Summer Vacation

By Mary Ann Hastings

When 12 transition students heard that they were going to have a four-week work experience, they expressed the most excitement about the pay checks that they would be receiving.  As it turned out, they gave much more than they received.

The Florida Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Gainesville set up a fantastic schedule where the students attended classes on activities of daily living in the morning and then went to a job in the afternoon.  They all did a great job for the employers who ranged from Publix, Timber Ridge Nursing Home, to Paddock Park Animal Hospital, and the Veteran’s Memorial Park.

An overnight trip to Sea World was a combination of fun and learning.  There they experienced a “behind the scenes” look at all of the jobs (including the one already filled by Shamu and friends) that keep Sea World operating.

The best part of the program was the day dedicated to the blind babies and their families. The students gave hope to the families of babies and toddlers by sharing their experiences of growing up blind or visually impaired.  They encouraged the parents to resist the temptation of doing things for their child that the child could do independently or learn how if just given the chance.  The opportunity to give back through spending the day with these families was a favorite event.

District 9 Children Busy Learning New Skills During the Summer

By Barbara Cutrera

District 9 children learn new skillsThis summer, the children’s counselors in District 9 coordinated several events designed to help clients learn new skills and refine old ones.  The goals of the week-long summer program included improving social, mobility, computer, Braille, and food preparation skills, and introducing many of the children to low vision aids. 

Lynda Dotson and Angela Daughtry planned a variety of activities, with some held separately, while others brought the clients together.  In Fort Myers, the children were involved in making culinary treats, using the Internet to locate bus routes, and look up menus for restaurants.  They took the bus, used their mobility and money counting skills to get to the restaurant and pay for their meal and bus fare.  They played games like Uno, Dominoes, Checkers, and were involved in social activities to help them to get to know each another.  Angela Daughtry, from the Bradenton office, and Leah Burkett, a local Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI), took clients to Arts A Blaze Studio, where they made personalized t-shirts.  They also learned to purchase food items and make their lunch.

They went on field trips to Sun Splash Water Park in Cape Coral and Busch Gardens in Tampa.  Angie Pate, Christine Sheehan, Leigh Ann Bellamy and Michon Barker assisted with these activities.  The children had a wonderful summer camp experience, and the adults involved benefited greatly from interacting with them, seeing their progress, and sharing in their excitement.  At the end of the week, the children made special scrapbooks to help them remember the great time they had, and the many things they learned.

Pensacola Teens Learn Job and Life Skills

Independence for the blind logoThirteen Independence for the Blind of West Florida participants were involved in the 2011 Summer Transition Program, a two week overnight camp for teens followed by a two week internship at various job sites.  The purpose of Summer Transition is to give each student training that will prepare them for life after high school as they transition into adulthood.  Another extremely important aspect is that the teens learn how to socialize and interact with their peers.  By the end of the experience, all of the students have not only learned important skills ranging from slicing vegetables with a knife to preparing a resume for work, but they also have made new life-long friends.

The theme of Summer Transition this year was “Who are the people in my neighborhood?”  The students learned about the agencies and organizations that are available in communities throughout Florida.  Some highlights from the camp were visiting Ft. Pickens on Gulf Islands National Seashore, the T.T. Wentworth Museum, Hilton Pensacola Beach Gulf Front hotel to learn about jobs in the hospitality industry, riding the Pensacola Beach Trolley, and attending Bands on the Beach at Casino Beach.

Since each student stays overnight for the week camp, counselors are able to learn how the students function in their daily home lives, and thus can give more appropriate, intensive training.

After the camp concluded, each student was placed in different job sites depending on their skills, abilities and interests.  Some worked in warehouses while others worked in offices.  One of the most important lessons that the students learned was that no matter what type of career you pursue, good communication and teamwork skills are a must.

Transition Program Field Trip

By Sarah Whiddon

Sixteen transition students from the Lighthouse of the Big Bend’s Summer Transition Program, Year End Activity, went for an end of the summer field trip to the Billy Joe Rish State Recreational Park in Cape San Blas.  The students were up bright and early each day to cook breakfast and prepare for various activities.  It was great to watch them complete tasks that relate to their independent living and other training.  We were inspired to see this group of students with positive motivation, and a real camaraderie.  Sarah Whiddon, from the District 2 office, and Wayne Jennings, from the state office, joined the Lighthouse staff and the students on this trip.

Employer Recognition

By Carla Craver and Bruce Emmerton

Group of people with plaqueThe Florida Council for the Rehabilitation of the Blind met in Fort Myers on July 28.  The Council took this opportunity to recognize Lee Memorial Health System and Suncoast Communities Blood Bank (SCBB) for their efforts in providing employment opportunities for persons who are blind or visually impaired.

Lee Memorial Health System is the largest employer in Lee County with 9,500 employees.  The Division of Blind Services (DBS) counselors have had the opportunity to work with managers at various levels, in different locations and different departments within the Lee Memorial System to assist clients with maintaining or obtaining employment.  One employee was promoted after eight years of successful employment and Lee Memorial worked with DBS to make accommodations so this client could do well in their new position.  Another client completed the Bureau of Business Enterprise training in Fort Myers and wanted to stay in the area.  Lee Memorial gave the client an opportunity to open a café at one of their locations.

Group of people with plaqueOne client began her employment at the SCBB that started on Jan. 9, 2002, and over the years the technology that her job requires has changed in which additional AT training and/of JAWS scripting is needed.  Staff from DBS and the SCBB have continued to provide support, equipment, and technology necessary for her success.  She has been promoted to a position that requires additional specialized skills and continues to be a valuable employee.  Suncoast Communities Blood Bank is recognized for its continued support of this employee.

Ms. Laura Williams accepted the award on behalf of Suncoast Communities Blood Bank and Dr. Steve Brown accepted on behalf of Lee Memorial.

Business Enterprise Biennial Seminar

By Alan Rish

Attendees at the 2011 Biennial SeminarThe DBS Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE) held its Biennial Seminar, August 11-14 at the Rosen Plaza in Orlando.  More than 100 BBE facility operators, trainees, and BBE staff attended this rewarding four day event where attendees received information, instruction, and training from guest companies and organizations.  The seminar included an exciting Food Service Trade Show at the Gaylord Palms Hotel in Kissimmee, a sentimental tribute to recently retired Compliance Officer Gene Newcomb, and re-election to the State Committee of Mr. Tom Spiliotis and Mr. John Klindtworth as Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson, respectively. 

The following vendors were awarded engraved plaques for surpassing special milestones of service with Business Enterprise:  James Parkman for 45 years; Krekor Sampadian and Don Gerschick for 35 years; Jennifer Zavala, James Lover, Don Felder, Debby Malmberg, Mary Hayes, Todd Bowen, Genny Greene, and James Anderson for 30 years; Shirley Zonnevylle, Richard Draper, Faustino Rodriguez, Gene Harper, John Kalivoda, Paul Prescott, George Colson, Bill Perret, and Debbie Hietala for 25 years; Gyorke Alger, Spencer Henderson, Tom Saunders, Lourena Mellott, Aruna Kapdia, Hugh Moss, and Randall Crosby for 20 years; Michel Renaud, Renee Byrd, Steven Schneider, and Manuel Herrero for 15 years; and Chris Clark, Victor Rosario, Jim Gaudette, Dennis Horn, Dana Ingram, Chuck Fickett, and Kathy Warth for 10 years.  Additionally, Steven Schneider and Shirley Smart were honored by the Committee of Vendors for outstanding contributions to the Business Enterprise Program.

"BBE is not a rehabilitation program, but a business opportunity for rehabilitated people,” said Debbie Hietala.  Workshops and presentations offered at the seminar provide our BBE vendors the tools necessary to increase productivity and succeed in the midst of the current business climate.  The overall consensus from attendees was that this “was the best seminar yet.”

2011 White Cane Day Walk -- Celebrate 80 years of Miami Lighthouse!

Miami lighthouse logoThe Miami Lighthouse has organized a fun-filled day of entertainment and education to promote awareness about blindness issues and the White Cane Law, which protects blind and visually impaired pedestrians.  The celebration will be held on Friday, October 14, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.  Activities will include the annual White Cane Day Walk, keynote speaker David New, President and Founder of Ability Explosion, and lunch honoring DBS District Administrator Gail Sterner.  Miami Lighthouse for the Blind is located at 601 Southwest 8th Avenue, Miami.  A $5 contribution is suggested by visually impaired participants and $20 for others.   To register or obtain additional information contact Kristina at or (786) 362-7514.

Rehabilitation Resources Library and Information Center

By Diane Scot

Diane ScotThe Bureau of Braille and Talking Books Library is pleased to announce the opening of the Rehabilitation Resources Library and Information Center (RRLAIC).  My name is Diane Scot and I have filled the role of Librarian for the Center.  I have an ALA-accredited MLIS from the University of Hawaii and have been in the library and information field for 35 years.  I look forward to communicating and providing assistance to the DBS staff.    
There is a variety of information evaluation tools, such as pathfinders, user-friendly guides, annotated bibliographies, and web-biographies available through the Center.   In addition, I am working to identify a wide variety of free electronic resources that are available to help staff members work with blind and visually impaired clients across the state. Library staff is exploring the possible grants for library material acquisition and expansion. 
If you have questions or need information pertaining to RRLAIC, please contact me at

Angel in Our Midst

By Bruce Watson, Jr.

Independence for the blind logoChannel 3 in Pensacola recently featured Micki Weidbrauk in their “Angel in Our Midst” series.  Micki is the Marketing Coordinator for Independence for the Blind of West Florida, Inc (IB).  She was a volunteer for several years before she was hired with funding provided in a public awareness contract.  She has done a fantastic job the past year promoting both IB as well as DBS interest throughout the ten county districts that IB covers.  She has gone to just about every hospital, eye doctor offices, most eye clinics, schools, assisted living facilities, tax offices, and numerous other businesses to make them aware of who we are and what we do.  She also has been our representative to health fairs, aging councils, and similar events.

Most important, however, is the care and consideration she has for clients and the blind community in general.  She genuinely has their best interest in mind and it is evident in everything she does.  This summer she was the job coach for three of our Transition teens during their work experience at the Humana Food Pantry in Pensacola.  Under Micki’s tutelage they excelled and impressed everyone at the Food Pantry.  Their production rate for packing meals for the homeless was well above average for the variety of groups that serve there.  These three teens in particular, and IB West as a company, have been asked to come back and do this again next year. 

Gainesville/Archer County Americans with Disability Act (ADA) Expo Celebration

By Karen Compton, Rehabilitation Technician

On July 28, three staff members manned a table at the annual ADA Expo at the Sidney Lanier School in Gainesville.  The theme of this year's program was Emergency Preparedness for Individuals with Disabilities.  There were a number of speakers from various Alachua County organizations that spoke on the different ways someone with a disability can prepare ahead of time for a natural disaster.  The focus was primarily on hurricane preparedness.  There was also an exhibition hall with tables from agencies and organizations that provide services and/or assistance to people with disabilities.  The DBS table offered attendees the chance to ask questions about available programs, pick up an application for services, browse sample blindness aids, and even try on vision simulator goggles.  The DBS table had a number of individuals, including past and present clients, who stopped by to say hello and see what we are all about. 

Employee Support

By Bryan McKernan

The Pensacola office of District 1 would like to announce the start of our Office Support Group.  The group meets on the third Friday of each month, and each member provides various types of help, insight into blindness, and opinions on how it affects the human condition.  The group shares personal experiences that provide understanding and familiarity to the others in attendance.  It has been a great way to bring people together to make them aware that there are others with a similar situation, and that they can make it through it.  Contact for more details:

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):

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