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Panella Promoted to New Statewide Employment Program Consultant

On February 11, Kristin Panella was named statewide employment program consultant for the Florida Division of Blind Services (DBS). She previously served for two years as a DBS customer-service specialist and four years in the field of vocational rehabilitation. Panella holds a Bachelor of Arts in interpersonal and organizational communication from the University of Central Florida, and is pursuing a master's degree in exceptional-student education.

In her new position, she will provide technical assistance to employment-placement specialists and help increase employer contacts around the state. She will also represent the division with the National Employment Team (NET) and the Southeast NET.

Personnel Actions

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

Congratulations to the following employees who received a promotion:

Council Recognizes Ability 1st

By Phyllis Dill

Award Presentation

On February 6, the Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind recognized Ability 1st for employing two DBS clients. Ability 1st is a non-profit center for independent living that provides services to persons with disabilities and their families in north Florida. The agency encourages clients to learn self-advocacy skills and to increase independence in daily living. They also provide assistance to crime victims, community education, mental-health outreach, nursing-home services, and school-to-work transition services.

District Administrator Ana Saint-Fort presented a summary of Ability 1st and its relationship with the district. Bruce Weaver, a former DBS client, is employed by Ability 1st as an independent-living coordinator. He attended the council meeting to express his appreciation to DBS, the Lighthouse of the Big Bend, and Ability 1st for giving him the opportunity to be where he is today. Executive Director Judith Barrett and Director of Programs and Services Dan Moore represented Ability 1st at the meeting. Dan Moore accepted the award.

Mobility on the Move

By Deb Dirmeir


Holly Idler, Steve Perry, and Liz Griggs

The Mobility Team has been off and running this month at the Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Daytona Beach. As many of you know, the center offers intense one-on-one mobility instruction. Cane navigation is not the only option available at the rehabilitation center. If you use a guide dog, you can opt to have mobility training with your dog. Students with dogs may also choose to learn cane travel as an option to use along with their dogs. Instructors Steven Perry and Holly Idler are always out and about on Friday mornings with individual students and in group settings with the community connect group and residential staff.

Liz Griggs, an intern from Florida State University, joined the center in January. She works with Steve daily, sharpening her skills to become a certified orientation and mobility instructor. Liz is currently working with five students, facilitating the Friday afternoon guide-dog class, and assisting with student activities. Liz will earn a Master of Science in visual disabilities at the end of this semester, and she is looking forward to joining the workforce after graduation and certification.

Originally from Wisconsin, Liz relocated to Florida at age three and grew up in Clearwater. During her free time, she enjoys the outdoors, gardening, long walks, reading, and traveling. In addition, and despite her fear of heights, she enjoys hiking and has traveled to areas outside of San Diego, Calif., where hiking can be adventurous. Liz is a great addition to our staff, and we wish her continued success.

Standing Up for Your Health

By Mary Ann Hastings


Hastings standing by deskLast year, I had enough of the cloudy thinking, lessened productivity, nodding off after lunch, and general crankiness, which are fruits of long-term sleep deprivation. As I read more about sleep hygiene, I found more and more information indicating that the abysmal number of nightly ZZZ's I was getting was not my only problem. I had never been concerned about the amount of sitting I had done in the jobs of my 40-plus working years because I have also enjoyed playing tennis, hiking, cross-country skiing, and biking outside of work. But, to my horror, I found that none of those things will ever trump the negative effects of sitting for extended periods of time. Here are some stats on how bad sitting is for me (and you, if you are doing what I have been doing).

1. Men who sit for more than six hours of their leisure time each day have a 20-percent higher death rate than those who sit for three hours or less.
2. More calories are burned chewing gum than slouching in your chair. Your heart rate, calorie burn, insulin effectiveness, and levels of good cholesterol all drop. Your body also stops producing lipoprotein lipase and other molecules that are only released when you flex your muscles. Think standing and walking.
3. Studies have shown that exercise does not counteract the negative effects of sitting.

Standup deskWhen I read that standing for one minute was enough to turn around the negative effects of sitting, this "green" girl sprang into action; I sat down and called the help desk! With the information technology expertise of Adam Gaffney in the information technology office, I have fashioned a stand-up desk using these simple steps:

1. I brought in a table from home and covered two Office Depot boxes with contact paper to create the different heights I needed for a laptop (liberated from its docking station), and an external keyboard and mouse.
2. The laptop is connected to the monitor on my desk via another cable, which enables me to have everything I need to work simultaneously displayed on both.

I have been alternating between my sit-down and stand-up desks for about a month now and find that my stamina and productively have not only increased, but my Christmas bulge has also melted away. So join the ranks of the likes of Thomas Jefferson and Olivia Judson and stand up for your health!

Case Management Training: Orlando North at Altamonte Springs

By Gina White


Small group participationOn February 18-21, the energy ran high in the Altamonte Springs, Fla., area, and overflowed into the case-management training room, as well. With the dynamic delivery of our trainer, Dr. Lee Ann Rawlins, all participants were at full attention. Not only did her expertise lend to great tools for practical use, but the class was given the opportunity to incorporate those tools by means of small-group practices. Those who had never met were able to get acquainted and share their own ideas and styles of client services. The exchanges were not only useful, but also helped to build staff unity within the division.

Those represented at the training were staff members from the Daytona/Cocoa, District 5 office; Orlando, District 6 office; and Tampa, District 7 office. There were also a few who attended from the Jacksonville/Gainesville, District 3 office, as well as from the Bradenton, District S-9 office.

Wayne Jennings and Lynn RitterAt the close of Dr. Rawlins' session, Lynn Ritter and Wayne Jennings gave additional training. They presented their expertise by applying what we had just learned to our individual case management styles. They also answered questions from staff members who wanted more clarification in areas of policies and procedures. All in all, the four days proved helpful to all attending. Staff left with skills that will make case management run more efficiently, as well as skills to use in personal time management.

Lighthouse Creates Exciting Children’s Audio Book

By Ed Largaespada

Miami Lighthouse logoThe Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired announced the unveiling of its first children's audio book for the blind and visually impaired on January 31. The audio book consists of four magical stories, both in Spanish and English, for children three and older. These stories form a series of highly entertaining adventures, filled with engaging music and sound effects that help children cope with some of the issues they encounter on the journey to adulthood. Each story opens a channel of communication through the wonder of story time. This empowers children with self-esteem, values, and ideals that will impart the tools they need to become more productive and positive members of society throughout their lives.

The series includes the following four collections of stories:

The audio edition is narrated by Heidys Hernandez, Miami Lighthouse Better Chance Music Production teacher and volunteer. "The victory of success is half won when one gains the habit of setting goals and achieving them, and this is one of my major achievements," said Hernandez.

For more information regarding the audio book CD, please contact the Miami Lighthouse at or call (305) 856-9100.

Lighthouse Students Created Valentine's Day Collages

By Kathleen Peck


Collier Lighthouse logoThe von Liebig Art Center treated the Lighthouse of Collier students to a morning of tactile relief collage activities. The creative Valentine's Day project was led by art instructor Kim Walbert. She encouraged students to use buttons, coins, rope, paper clips, Popsicle sticks, cotton swabs and wood shapes to create a design on self-adhesive mounting boards. After the design was created, they wrapped their creation with foil while pressing around all the tactile objects. Feeling the tactile objects helped them determine where to add color. One student said, "I am making this for my mommy for Valentine's Day." Another student said, "I never knew I could be this creative!" Thanks to Kim Walbert, Aimme Schlehr, and everyone at the von Liebig Art Center for such a wonderful program.

Miami Lighthouse Collaborates to Enhance Education

By Virginia A. Jacko

Miami Lighthouse logoOn February 1, Miami Lighthouse hosted an in-service training event for 60 Miami-Dade County teachers of the visually impaired and general-education teachers. Sessions were led by Miami Lighthouse instructors Paul Edwards, retired director of access services, and José R. Izquierdo, access-technology specialist from Miami-Dade County School District.

Session topics featured a wide variety of access-technology devices. The general session was "Working with Visually-Impaired Children in Public Schools." The presentation was conducted by Joseph Greene, teacher of the visually impaired, and a certified orientation and mobility specialist. Greene will join the Miami Lighthouse team next fall as manager of education services and will work with blind students on mathematics.

Deborah Wehking of Merrick Educational Center said, "I was pleased how the day turned out, and it was an outstanding day of learning. Attendees were exposed to information from people with high degrees of expertise. Our students are the ones who will ultimately benefit. I appreciate the wonderful opportunity." Each teacher was provided with an abacus from the Miami Lighthouse to take back to his or her classroom.

Hadley School Presents Outstanding Veteran Award

By Kate Streit


Hadley logoOn February 13, The Hadley School for the Blind presented its first Outstanding Veteran Award to Florida resident Steve Beres. The award, presented in Naples, Fla., recognizes commitment to lifelong learning and service to others, and was created to support Hadley's Blinded Veterans' Initiative. Beres exemplifies a life of serving others. He joined the U.S. Army in the late 1980s and served as a special-operations forces officer. He was called up for numerous combat tours in the Middle East, until becoming blind due to a traumatic-impact injury in 2002.

Beres is an ambassador for Hadley and has taken a number of courses, including those that focus on business and technology. He is very active in the focus group process that helps Hadley's work compliment the work of the Veterans Administration. In January, Beres was named Lighthouse Central Florida adult rehabilitation services program manager. He is in charge of all blind rehabilitation services for adults, including supervising independent-living skills, orientation and mobility, access technologies, and braille. He also manages volunteers, support groups, and alumni.

The award was presented by Hadley trustee, Terry Faulk of Bonita Springs, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. Other hosts included trustees Patricia Buehler Blankenship and David Montross of Naples, and Clyde Willian of Marco Island. On Veterans Day 2011, Hadley launched the Blinded Veterans' Initiative to educate and inspire blind or visually-impaired veterans to pursue their personal and professional goals, and help support their families. Visit for more information.

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 Visionary newsletter is the first week of each month.  The deadline for submissions is the 24th of each month.  Comments, suggestions, and submissions should be directed to:

DBS Communications

Additional useful links and telephone numbers:

To request a Braille version of this edition of the Visionary contact the Braille and Talking Book Library: 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 website (external):

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