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FRCB Meeting

By Phyllis Dill

The Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind will hold its next quarterly business meeting January 18, at the SpringHill Suites by Marriott, 1300 Executive Center Drive, Tallahassee, FL.

Please notify Phyllis Dill if you or any of your staff will attend and/or need a copy of the meeting agenda. She can be reached via email at

2012 Vision Summit

By Aimee Mallini

The Florida Association of Agencies Serving the Blind (FAASB) sixth annual Florida Vision Summit will be held Jan. 19, 2012. This one-day summit is designed to raise public awareness and prompt state government to address the concerns and issues impacting Florida's blind and visually impaired citizens.

The activities during the summit are designed to define the problems, raise public awareness, and urge state leaders to address critical issues. Attendees will hear from state government policymakers including legislators, agency heads and education officials; leading experts from the private sector, including eye care physicians and professionals; leaders of statewide professional associations; leaders of community based non-profit organizations; and most importantly, inspiring Floridians who are blind or visually impaired. If you are unable to attend, the Summit will be aired on the Florida Channel in live streaming video.

See below details for the event.

Date: Thursday, Jan. 19, 2011
Time: 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Location: Cabinet Room in the Lower Level (LL-24) of the Florida Capitol

Contact: Skip Koch, FAASB Executive Director
Phone: (850) 942-0641

The 2012 Braille Challenge Coming to a City Near You

By Aimee Mallini

Braille challenge logoThe Braille Challenge is an annual two-stage Braille literacy competition designed to motivate blind students to emphasize their study of Braille. The program parallels with the importance and educational purpose of a spelling bee for sighted children. In the competition, students transcribe and read Braille using a device called a Perkins Brailler. Their speed and accuracy, comprehension, ability to decode charts and graphs in Braille and spelling are all tested.
Below is a listing of cities participating in the 2012 Braille Challenge activities:

For more specific information please visit the web page for The Florida Instructional Materials Center for the Visually Impaired at or contact Ms. Sue Galser by phone at 813-695-8193 or by email at

Personnel Actions

Congratulations to our Retiree

Helen Thomas

We wish Helen Thomas, Senior Rehabilitation Specialist in the Orlando Office, well as she embarks on her retirement journey! We will miss you.

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

Congratulations to the following employees who received a promotion:

Blind Ambitions Catering and Baking Company

By Linda Brown

Gabriella Lozano in white coat and chef's hatGabrielle "Gabby" Lozano is realizing her dream. As a child, Gabby was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. The subsequent operation left her totally blind. Her parents refused to believe that she would not live a normal life and encouraged her to participate in all types of activities and earn a regular high school diploma. After graduation she was adamant about enrolling in the culinary program at Manatee Technical Institute (MTI).

With the support of the DBS staff, Gabby was the first blind student accepted into the program began. She immediately excelled and was a three time gold and silver medal winner at national and state competitions that included developing business plans, projecting start up costs, developing menus and other activities. She earned a Chef's Certificate and then volunteered two additional years in MTI's kitchen as their Assistant Sous Chef.

This past November Gabby launched the "Blind Ambitions Catering and Baking Company." Her opening event attracted 80 people and resulted in multiple orders for catered luncheons, holiday dinners, and numerous cakes, pies and cookies. She was hired to cater the recent District 9 luncheon and we were able to taste some of her delicious recipes---chicken cordon bleu, baked ziti and much more.

Clearly Gabby's success is due to her perseverance, diligence, work ethic and strong support network. We are so proud of this former transition student who is now a successful entrepreneur.

Way to go Gabby!!!

A Time for Transition

By Patricia Marshall

Christmas ornamentThe ILAB Transition group proposed the idea of sharing the holiday joy with their fellow Transition students from CVI of Central Florida. A party seemed like a perfect venue. Planning and preparations began as soon as CVI graciously accepted our invitation. Pre-party lessons included menu planning, proper hosting techniques and tasteful decorating.

The weeks flew by and the holiday party was held on December 10 on the campus of Florida Community College at Jacksonville. More than 50 students and staff enjoyed great food, a holiday fashion "catwalk" and an amazing talent show with our very own "DJ Bing". We delighted in the singing, dancing and pottery exhibit. Students graced us with tunes played on the saxophone, guitar, harmonica and flute.

Transition studentTransition studentTransition student

A special thank you goes out to Dan Pekich and Ben Fischer from CVI for allowing us to get together with their group as well as for sharing their time and talent.

Transition studentTransition studentTransition student

We at ILAB are grateful to work with these incredible students. They continue to teach us essential life lessons on a daily basis. Our participants are committed to learning from the past, staying grounded in the present, and keeping their eyes on the future. Here's to a tremendous 2012!

Transition studentTransition studentTransition student

Access Technology Team Evaluates Virtual Learning Websites

By Cynthia Slater

Assistive Technology staff at the rehab centerThe 2011 Legislature passed the Digital Learning Act that requires students entering the ninth grade in fall 2011 and thereafter to take at least one online course for high school graduation. The issue: Are the virtual courses required by this act accessible to blind or visually impaired students? Blind or visually impaired students must have equal access and are guaranteed the same opportunities as their sighted peers. While the virtual learning private providers demonstrate that they comply with ADA requirements it has been difficult for the Department of Education (DOE) to verify. The Division of Blind Services (DBS) joined with the Bureau of Exceptional Student Education and the Office of Virtual Learning to determine to what extent these classes are accessible.

The Assistive Technology staff at the Rehabilitation Center was asked to review six virtual learning providers to determine the accessibility of their websites. The team, under the supervision of Cynthia Slater includes: Anna Johnson, Kati Lear, Jane Pikula, Charles Randall, Dave Wasko, and Maryanne West. The technology team has more than 150 years of combined experience. Mark Lear, from the spell out Bureau of Braille and Talking Books Library, was also a part of the team.

Staff developed an assessment tool to measure each site's accessibility. The programs used in testing the sites included Internet Explorer 8, Screen Reader and Screen Magnification; JAWS 12 and 13; ZoomText, MAGic; and System Access. The team presented the findings to the Division Director.

The AT team's expertise in creating the tool to evaluate the accessibility of virtual learning websites will not go unnoticed and their work will continue as we begin to evaluate actual online courses. Congratulations!

Library Volunteer Recognized

By Dorothy Minor

Norm Smith

Norm Smith, a Palm Coast Lion and a loyal volunteer in the Cassette Inspection at the Library, received national recognition in the November issue of Lion Magazine. Norm, a WWII veteran, spent 99 days behind enemy lines in Europe when the B-24 he was on was shot down over Italy. He and his companion walked over the Alps into Yugoslavia where they met British forces and then were able to get back to the United States. He became active in the Palm Coast Lions Club when he retired to Florida and co-chaired the Sight Conservation Committee for many years. We salute Norm Smith.

Lighthouse of Manasota Honors Two DBS Employees

By Linda Brown

At their annual board meeting on December 15, the Lighthouse of Manasota recognized Leigh Ann Bellamy, Division of Blind Services (DBS) Transition counselor, and Angela Daughtry, DBS Independent Living Children's Program counselor with framed certificates that say "In recognition of your assistance with implementation, follow through, and provision of services for our clients. We thank you for your dedication and contribution to the success of our programs." At the holiday party the following afternoon, Janice Felski, Lighthouse Executive Director, publicly acknowledged and thanked Leigh Ann and Angela for their dedication in making these programs a true team effort.

Community Involvement

By Bryan McKernan

The Pensacola office in District 1 has been diligently involved with the surrounding community for the last two months. In November, the office participated in the local breast cancer walk, which took place at Cordova Mall. In the build-up to the breast cancer walk, the office held a bake sale for the cause, which increased the awareness of the office in the community. The office then participated in the Holiday Trolley event that involved individuals riding a trolley down 12th Avenue and visiting local businesses. Through these endeavors, the Pensacola office has increased its exposure to the community and that has paid off with new participants.

Library Donates Food

By Dorothy Minor

Table full of donated food

Staff and volunteers at the Braille and Talking Books Library chose to donate food items to the needy rather than having a gift exchange. This is the second year that we have collected food for local charities. This year we collected a large U.S. Post Office hamper full of food and plan.

District 5 and Halifax Council for the Blind Unite for Christmas

By Jim Woolyhand

Food baskets under Christmas tree

The District 5 staff in Daytona, in cooperation with the Halifax Council for the Blind, worked together in assembling nine food baskets for families in need served by the Division of Blind Services (DBS) district office. Food baskets included turkeys, canned and prepared foods, and paper items. Families and individuals were touched by the outreach efforts provided by the DBS office and the Halifax Council. A special thank you to Debbie Camara, DBS Rehab Tech, for coordinating the information and efforts in making this holiday time special for those in need!

Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology (FAAST) Lending Program

By Shelanda Shaw

FAAST LogoIf you believe assistive technology could benefit you or someone you know, do what over 2000 Floridians did last year and borrow an Assistive Technology (AT) device from FAAST. AT is any item that helps to increase, maintain or improve a person's everyday functioning. FAAST's AT Lending program is a free service that loans devices to people with disabilities of all ages. A request for a device can be made by the person intending to use the device, a family member, friend or someone who is helping the individual with his or her assistive technology needs, such as a therapist, teacher or rehabilitation counselor.

Device lending allows borrowers to try a device or software program before buying it. Items are loaned for 30 days, a period which may be extended. Device loans can also be used to "fill-in" for a device that is being repaired or awaiting delivery. The process of borrowing a device is quick and easy. Simply submit the device lending agreement and FAAST will arrange for shipping. If you would like to participate in the program, contact the regional demonstration center nearest you or browse FAAST's website at and make a request online.

Historic Hiring Goal for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors Proposed

U.S. Labor Department, Press Release

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Labor is proposing a new rule that would require federal contractors and subcontractors to set a hiring goal of having seven percent of their workforces be people with disabilities. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) invites public comment on this proposal, which was published in the Dec. 9, 2011 edition of the Federal Register.

OFCCP's proposed rule would strengthen the affirmative action requirements established in Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 obligating federal contractors and subcontractors to ensure equal employment opportunities for qualified workers with disabilities. The proposed regulatory changes detail specific actions contractors must take in the areas of recruitment, training, record keeping and policy dissemination - similar to those that have long been required to promote workplace equality for women and minorities. In addition, the rule would clarify OFCCP's expectations for contractors by providing specific guidance on how to comply with the law.

"This proposed rule represents one of the most significant advances in protecting the civil rights of workers with disabilities since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "President Obama has demonstrated a commitment to people with disabilities. This proposed rule would help federal contractors better fulfill their legal responsibility to hire qualified workers with disabilities."

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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