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New Job Readiness, Development and Placement Program

Last year was great for successful employment placements- up 8.1% over the previous year.  This year we are striving for even more success.  DBS has announced Job Readiness, Development, and Placement Program, a collaboration opportunity for the Districts and Community Rehabilitation Providers (CRPs).  Services would be done on a fee for service basis and allows for the combined efforts of District and CRP staff to build specific procedures related to the number of referrals, roles and responsibilities of both agencies, and how they will ensure this will be fulfilled.

Personnel Actions

I am pleased to announce that Shelanda Shaw has joined the Communications and Training Section as a Training Coordinator.  Shelanda has been with the Division for 10 years and brings a wealth of knowledge about DBS programs to our group.  Welcome Shelanda!

We would like to welcome our newest employees to the DBS family:

Donna Rhoades, Senior Rehabilitation Specialist - Orlando
Lisa Moore-Long, Senior Rehabilitation Specialist – Tallahassee

Congratulations to the following employees who received promotions:

Robert Risavy, Senior Rehabilitation Specialist – Lakeland
Danette Maldonado, Rehabilitation Specialist - Tampa
Dan O'Connor, Rehabilitation Supervisor - Jacksonville
Steven Smith, Library Services Supervisor at the Library in Daytona
Barbara Brown, Senior Word Processing Systems Operator - Lakeland

Paid Internships Available

Emerging Leaders Bringing New Talent to the Workforce

Are you looking for a meaningful summer internship?  Are you a student with a disability? Are you interested in building a network that will open doors to a fulfilling career?  If so, Emerging Leaders may be the program for you.  This is a competitive program of paid summer internships and leadership development opportunities for college and graduate students with disabilities.  The application deadline is Dec. 31, 2011.

To qualify you must:

To apply:

Visit for additional information

Upcoming Meeting

Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind 

The Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind will conduct its next quarterly meeting in Daytona Beach at the Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, 408 White Street, Daytona Beach, FL 32114 on Oct. 27, 2011, from 8:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. and Oct. 28, 2011, from 8:30 a.m. until 12:00 p.m.  For a copy of the agenda, when available, contact Phyllis Dill at (850) 245-0392 or

The Council will also conduct a Public Forum for consumer input on the effectiveness of services provided by the Florida Division of Blind Services in assisting individuals with visual impairments achieving employment and independence under Title I of the Rehabilitation Act on Oct. 27, 2011, from 4:00 until 5:30 p.m. at the same location.  This is an open meeting with no agenda.

In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, persons needing a special accommodation to participate in these meetings should contact the local DBS office in Daytona no later than five working days prior to the meeting at (386) 254-3800 or toll free (800) 329-3801 or through the Florida Telephone Relay System 711. 

October Month for Recognition and Celebrations

Vision Awareness Month

October is a great time to recognize all the hard work that you do to help raise the awareness of vision loss and enable those who are blind and visually impaired to have equal access to services.  We thank each of you for the services you provide. As we kick of the celebration of Vision Awareness Month, we would like to share with you the Proclamation Signed by Governor Rick Scott.  Please share this proclamation with others at the various events being held around the state. The Proclamation reads:


WHEREAS, understanding the effects of vision loss is essential; and

WHEREAS, obtaining knowledge about current laws, rights, skills and abilities of persons with visual loss or who are blind will enable this population to have equal access to services, businesses and activities benefiting them and the entire community; and

WHEREAS, as the public learns more about the Americans with Disabilities Act, greater opportunities will become available to persons who are blind or visually impaired; and

WHEREAS, all residents are encouraged to seek and learn information about the abilities of persons who are blind or visually impaired, to learn the most effective ways to provide assistance and to increase their knowledge about the rights and laws that provide assistance to this population in fully integrating them into all aspects of society.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Rick Scott, Governor of the State of Florida, do hereby extend greetings and best wishes to all observing October 2011 as Vision Awareness month.

Disability Employment Awareness Month

By JoAnn Carrin

Awareness PresentationDuring the October 4 Cabinet meeting, the Governor and Cabinet recognized Disability Employment Awareness month by adopting a Resolution offered by Attorney General Pam Bondi, commending the programs for their dedication and outstanding assistance toward improving the quality of life for the citizens of Florida with disabilities.  Organization representatives present to accept the Resolution included Joyce Hildreth, Division of Blind Services; Mike Hansen, Director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities;  Aleisa McKinlay, incoming Director of Vocational Rehabilitation; and Susanne Homant of the Able Trust. 

An award celebration will be held October 27 at the Tallahassee City Hall to recognize employers around the state who provide mentoring, job shadowing, and employment opportunities for students and job seekers with disabilities.

Disability History and Awareness Instruction

By Shelanda Shaw

Former Representative Curtis Richardson, District 2 employees Bertha Hyche and Laverne ScottIn 2008, Governor Charlie Crist signed the Disability History and Awareness Instruction Law.  It requires school districts to designate the first two weeks of October as Disability History and Awareness Weeks. This law encourages the promotion of awareness and instruction to students and the community about individuals with disabilities, disability history and the disability rights movement.

A kick-off ceremony was held Monday, October 3, at the Florida Capitol.  Success stories of students with disabilities were displayed during the ceremony and will also be on display at the Turlington Building until the closing event on October 14.  For the first time DBS transition students are featured on posters with their success stories.  There were ten student stories submitted by the districts and CRPs for this distinction.

White Cane Safety Day

By Aimee Mallini

In 1964, a joint resolution of Congress, HR 753, was signed into law authorizing the President of the United States to proclaim October 15 of each year as “White Cane Safety Day.”  This day has been set aside to celebrate the achievements of people who are blind or visually impaired and the important symbol of blindness and the tool of independence, the white cane.

Planned Activities:

Lighthouse of the Big Bend and DBS District 2 Office - White Cane Awareness Event
Lake Ella, Tallahassee
October 15, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
(850) 245-0373

Venice Chapter of the Florida Council of the Blind - White Cane Celebration
October 19, 11:00 a.m.
Gazebo Downtown Venice

Manatee Council of the Blind, Southeastern Guide Dogs, Lighthouse of Manasota, Division of Blind Services and Lions Club International - Awareness Walk
October 13, 11:00 a.m.
Walk begins at Manatee County Courthouse  

Lee County, Division of Blind Services, Cape Coral Lions Club, Fort Myers Beach Lions Club, Visually Impaired Persons of SW FL, Blind Veterans, and FL Radio Reading Service 
White Cane Day Walk
October 15, 9:00 a.m.
Lakes Park in Lee County

New Vision for Independence
“Close Your Eyes” event, don a blindfold and experience daily living and sighted guide
October 18, 9:00 a.m.
Tavares City Hall
(352) 435-5040

New Vision for Independence - Low Vision Expo, 5 k Run/Walk and Sensory Walk
October 29, 8:00 a.m.
Lake-Sumter Community College in Leesburg
(352) 435-5040

New Vision for Independence
Elementary School presentations that include guide dogs, white cane, assistive technology, Braille, orientation and independent living activities.
October 5 - Spring Creek Elementary, October 12 - Tavares Elementary
(352) 435-5040

Broward Lighthouse for the Blind and North Florida Council for the Blind 
White Cane Walk and Safety Day
October 14, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
Broward County Public Library, Fort Lauderdale
(954) 442-1855

Amerigroup Community Care and Miami Lighthouse for the Blind
White Cane Day Celebration
Miami Lighthouse for the Blind
October 14, 8:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
(786) 362-7515

Bureau of Business Enterprise Wins New Employment Opportunity

By Bill Findley

In July, Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) posted a solicitation for the new Lightning Dining food service facility scheduled to open this fall.  Initially, when asked if the Randolph-Sheppard priority was going to be recognized, the response was negative.  The contracting officer said the offer was only for a small business and that a blind vendor is contracted through a state agency and would not qualify.

This response was in violation of The Randolph-Sheppard Act (RSA).  A number of people from around the country, including Washington, D.C., contacted us and provided valuable instruction and encouragement to challenge Eglin’s position.

After receiving two letters from the Department of Education’s General Counsel explaining what the RSA priority means and how it should be applied, the Eglin contracting officers changed their position and posted an amendment on their solicitation recognizing the RSA priority, which meant DBS could participate in the bid process and be given strong consideration if the bid was competitive.

A licensed blind vendor responded to the Bureau of Business Enterprise’s request for applicants and was selected by special panel to pursue this opportunity.  The teaming partner and consulting firm provided extraordinary assistance throughout the process. Other steps were taken to assure a competitive proposal within the tight timeframe.  On September 26, the Eglin AFB awarded the contract for the soon to be opened, Lightning Dining facility, to the Florida DOE/DBS.

Experiencing the Darkness

By Aimee Mallini

Dining in the dark server and childOn October 2, I had the opportunity to attend the Lighthouse of the Big Bend’s “Paula Bailey Dining in the Dark” experience.  This event is an annual fundraiser named in honor of Paula Bailey who lost her sight and hearing as an adult and then after recovering overcame challenges and became an inspiration to many.

After learning of Ms. Bailey’s story it was time to go to the main ballroom for dinner.  As I exited the elevator the corridor was very dimly lit and I was met by a guide who would take me into the pitch black dining room. 

It is difficult to describe in words the awkwardness of trying to maneuver even with the sighted guide. It was difficult to completely trust him without asking a million questions.  I was completely unsure of what I was doing, where I was going and I was quite fearful of my next move. 

After being seated, figuring the layout of the table was entertaining in itself as well as actually feeding myself.  I gave up on utensils all together.  The food had a variety of shapes and textures.  And I realized just how much I rely on my sight.  The noise was deafening as I found it challenging to concentrate.  But the truth be told, it was exhausting to try and change a lifetime of relying on sight.

On the drive home, I thought about Paula’s story and the daily dedication and hard work of DBS to ensure blind and visually impaired Floridians have the tools, support and opportunities to achieve success.  I am so proud to be part of an agency that helps people triumph. 

Starbucks Celebrates National Disability Awareness Month

From Starbucks Announcement

Starbucks is releasing its first Card with Braille lettering during National Disability Awareness Month.  The Starbucks Card was first suggested at a community symposium hosted by Starbucks and attended by national disability leaders in 2007.  The Starbucks partners (employees) from the Starbucks Access Alliance initiated the work internally, and helped bring the first Starbucks Card in Braille to fruition for the 2011 launch.

Starbucks has taken a number of steps to make our stores accessible and welcoming to customers.  Our new and remodeled stores include universal design elements, including a lower height counter for beverages.  And at participating stores in the U.S. we have offered a large print Braille menu available upon request since 2008.

The reloadable Card is available now at participating Starbucks stores in the U.S. and Canada for a limited time.  The Starbucks Card in Braille will also be available online at and at while supplies last.

Tampa Lighthouse Instructor Wins Statewide Award

By Sheryl Brown

Congratulations to Rebecca Leng, Lighthouse Mobility Instructor (Winter Haven), for winning the Sheila Winitzer Shining Star Award from the Florida Commission on Transportation Disadvantaged in Daytona on  August 10th for outstanding service in improving transit and door-to-door services. It was a big night for Polk County, as its Local Coordinating Board on which Rebecca serves as Vice Chair, won Transportation Disadvantaged Board of the Year. Two Polk Transit employees also won awards: Brenda Bland won Driver of the Year, and Delisia Pelt-Washington won Dispatcher/Scheduler of the Year. Polk Transit also won Innovator of the Year for creating a volunteer driver program. Rebecca accepted her award and also the one for the Local Coordinating Board.

My Experience in Washington State

By Michelle Lamm

A family friend told me about a blind piano technician who had his own business and lives independently.  My parents and I researched and found Emil Fries’s School of Piano Technology for the Blind, located in Vancouver.  This is the only school in the world that serves blind piano technicians.

After high school I attended two years of intensive training.  All of my training met standards set by the nationally recognized Piano Technicians Guild.  I learned how to tune, regulate, and do minor repairs to uprights, grand, and spinet pianos.  The curriculum included developing a business plan and running your own business.  If I had not had the chance to go to the state of Washington and train at this wonderful school, my future would be much dimmer.

The School of Piano Technology for the Blind gave me the tools to earn a living and trade that I can use anywhere in the world.  Learning Independence for Today and Tomorrow program gave me the tools I needed to live independently.  In conclusion, I am well on my way to reaching my goal of becoming a Registered Piano Technician.

The Braille Production Unit

By Dorothy Minor

Dave Jollymore proof reading BrailleThe Braille Production Unit began producing locally transcribed and embossed Braille magazines for distribution to customers in Florida as the technology developed.  Today three staff members and many volunteers emboss six magazines in Braille:  Biography Today; Elder Update; Discover; Florida Naturalist; Kiplinger’s Retirement Report; and Your Dog.  Offsite volunteers prepare an electronic file of the contents of an issue and send it to the Library.  Staff members check the file for errors, make corrections and add Duxbury commands to translate the contents into Braille.  A sample copy is embossed in Braille and is proofread for accuracy.  After proofreading and after the corrections have been made, the final Braille edition is embossed, bound, and sent to customers in Florida and other states.  Your Dog, the Newsletter for Caring Dog Owners, published by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine is embossed here and sent to other libraries serving customers with visual and physical disabilities.

Danielle Christian Retires

By Bryan McKernan

Danielle Christian, the furriest member of the Pensacola officeIt gives District One great pride and sadness to announce the impending retirement of Danielle Christian, the furriest member of the Pensacola office.  Danielle has been with Gail Christian for more than 5½ years and has been bringing joy to those around her for even longer.  From her love of our Monday district meetings to her slight ice cube addiction, she has been a ray of sunshine every day that she comes to the office.  We are happy for Danielle that she will be retiring to a nice home that will treat her in the way she deserves, although we are saddened by the fact that she will no longer be here to greet us when we come in.  We love you, Danielle, and we will always have a special place for you in our hearts! 
With the retirement of Danielle, we will have a new furry friend entering our ranks.  While we do not have a concrete arrival date, we are eagerly awaiting our new staff member.

My New Furry Friend

By Christina Panczak-Smith

On October 1, I will leave for the Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey, where I will begin my journey to getting my second Guide Dog.  Not only will my new guide enhance my independence, both in the workplace and at home, but it will provide me with a wonderful companion to share my life with.

I will be at the Seeing Eye for three weeks getting to know my new companion, and learning how to work with him or her.  I consider being able to go up to Morristown during the fall season a blessing!  The weather forecast is expected to be splendid.  I hold wonderful memories from my first time going to the Seeing Eye to get my guide dog, Joanie.  She brought me so much joy during the ten years we worked together.  I still hold my memories of Joanie so dear, but I look forward to new experiences with my next pup.  I am truly excited about the opportunity, and I look forward to introducing my new furry friend to the division upon my return.

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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