Table of Contents


Success Stories

Tech Tip

Employee Recognition

DBS News

End Zone


Town Hall Meeting with Commissioner Tony Bennett

By Robin Frydenborg

Commissioner Tony Bennett held his first town hall meeting April 23, 2013, with Tallahassee Florida Department of Education (FDOE) staff in the Turlington Building. Bennett emphasized that all employees have a stake in improving the educational and employment outcomes of Florida’s children.

FDOE staff attending town hall meeting

Chief of Staff Dale Chu and Deputy Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives Anna Shults presented the new FDOE scoreboard and provided an overview of the Common Core State Standards implementation. The scoreboard will track the progress in meeting projected goals for achieving excellence. Specifically:

The Division of Blind Services’ (DBS) strategic initiatives are to ensure that blind and visually-impaired Floridians have the tools and support they need to be successful in school and work.

2013 Legislative Session

By JoAnn Carrin

The best news about the end of the 2013 Legislative Session is that no legislation or funding appropriations adversely affecting DBS passed. There are salary increases for state employees, major education reforms, contracting and procurement revisions, as well as many other changes to law and funding. A more detailed summary of legislation will be available in a few weeks.

Personnel Actions

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

Congratulations to Peggy Aikens who received a promotion to senior library clerk in Daytona Beach.

Success Stories

Miss Florida USA Pageant Contestant and Student with Visual Impairment

By American Federation for the Blind

Connor Boss

A DBS client is breaking down barriers in the pageant world. You may or may not have heard the name, Connor Boss, in the news recently. Boss is an 18-year-old recent contestant in the Miss Florida USA pageant and the current Miss Delray Beach. She also has an eye disorder called Stargardt Disease. Stargardt is a visual impairment that affects the macula of the retina, responsible for a person's "detail" vision, commonly used for reading and seeing faces and signs. This condition is degenerative, but typically at a very slow pace and may also stabilize for long periods. Boss is majoring in communications at Florida State University.

Bright Spot on a Cloudy Courthouse Day

By Janet Chernoff

Don GerschickSpending time at a courthouse is rarely a pleasant experience. Whether you are there to deal with legal problems, serve on a jury or just going to work, you would probably want to be somewhere else. Don’s Coffee Spot in the Palm Beach County Courthouse is the bright spot on a cloudy courthouse day.

The customer is always welcome at Don’s newly renovated facility, where Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE) licensed Food Service Vendor Don Gerschick has been serving coffee, food and a smile for more than 16 years. Customers are greeted with a laugh or a joke, quick service and good food. And when there is a break at the always busy snack bar, Don brings out the guitar to serenade guests while they dine.

Don enjoys serving all his customers, but has a special place for family, the people who work at the Palm Beach County Courthouse. The customers are not the only ones who benefit from his special brand of service; Don has mentored a number of BBE trainees during their work experience and on-the-job training. Don says that it is his way of giving back to the program that has done so much for him. The trainees who have worked with him sing his praises, and it is rare not to hear one of them say “well at Don’s place...” and then rave about something they learned! Stop by Don’s Coffee Spot in the Palm Beach County Courthouse for good food, exceptional service and a smile.

Tech Tip

How to Deal with Spam Reports

By Kendra Jahnke

Have you ever received a “My Spam Report” email from McAfee? This email can be confusing. The purpose of this email is to alert you of messages that have been quarantined as possible spam. However, not all quarantined messages are spam.

Spam message

The first thing you need to do is view the list of possible spam messages by selecting the link “view list of all quarantined messages.” This will open a web page where you can review the messages and determine if they need to be deleted because they are spam or allowed because they are not spam.

Spam window

Next to each message is a checkbox to select the message. Once you have selected a message, then you can select one of the menu options listed: “release” (moves the email to your inbox), “always allow” (moves the email to your inbox and adds sender to your allowed list), “delete” (deletes the spam email) or “view” (allows you to view the email, but does not send to your inbox).

Make a selection for each message listed. You will no longer receive a “My Spam Report” email for those messages since they have been removed from your quarantined list; however, you will receive a new report when a new message has been quarantined.

Employee Recognition

District 1 Recognizes Employment Specialist Haynes

By Whitney Paine

Cedric HaynesDistrict 1 would like to acknowledge the diligent efforts of our Employment Placement Specialist Cedric Haynes. Although Cedric works every day to obtain employment for our clients, we would like to specifically acknowledge his efforts in establishing a quality working relationship with Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, Fla.

Through his tireless efforts, including facing numerous changes in management, Cedric has been able to establish a relationship with the housekeeping department which has led to successful placements for our clients. To date, his work has led to four successful placements. These clients have said that they plan to stay with the hospital as long as possible. Clients who started working a year ago in part-time positions have advanced to full-time positions with benefits.

Cedric’s commitment to finding a job for the client, and also a career that they can stay in as long as they choose, is admired and should be mirrored by staff across the state.
District 1 would like to voice our appreciation for all his work. Keep up the good work Cedric and we hope the rest of the districts are lucky enough to have an employment placement specialist like you.

Brinson-Scott Honored at Luncheon

By JoAnn Carrin

Zarien Daniels, Valerie Mixon, Trelloney Finklin and La' Verne Brinson-ScottLa’ Verne Brinson-Scott was honored at the Florida State Hospital (FSH) Annual Recognition Luncheon April 25, 2013. She was presented with an "Essential Volunteer" Certificate at the luncheon for volunteers and outreach workers in the community for the services they provide to the FSH residents and local citizens. This year the luncheon had a Mexican theme, with deliciously prepared Mexican food. The event was held in the large chapel, on the FSH grounds, and beautifully decorated with large ferns, sombreros, cacti and hot chili peppers! FSH wanted to reiterate that all of the volunteers are essential and HOT, HOT, HOT!

DBS News

Shedding Some Light about Blindness to Daughters and Sons

By Adam Gaffney and Walter Blackmon

In April, FDOE participated in the annual Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. Walter Blackmon, Keith Flowers and Adam Gaffney shared experiences and answered many good questions from young people in three sessions. While all three visually-impaired staff provided a different perspective when answering questions, each explained what their general job functions entailed, as well as shared some personal experiences about how blind people travel and maintain a social life.

Children listening to presentation

Walter showed off a goal ball and talked about recreational activities. Keith introduced and talked about his new guide dog, Sunny. Adam presented some neat and helpful technology, demonstrated JAWS on a laptop and featured Siri on an iPhone. Young people from all three sessions asked many different questions and seemed very interested in the topics and discussion. They were especially eager to meet and pet Sonny at the end of each session. Interestingly, not one question related to work. All of the children answered correctly that a guide dog should not be disturbed while in a harness. In each of the sessions, the children seemed much more interested in how blind people travel and carry out daily tasks at home and in social settings.

Questions included

At the end of the three sessions, the staff enjoyed answering questions and agreed it was rewarding to educate young people that blind people can thrive in all aspects of life.

Beeping Egg Hunt

By David Linn and Teresa Donaldson Thomas

On Saturday, March 23, 2013, in Gainesville, Fla., the University of Florida (UF) Delta Gamma Sorority held a beeping egg hunt for deaf and blind children and their families living in North Central Florida. Jamie Schwartz organized this awesome event held at Challenge Park. The sorority provided arts and crafts, games and snacks, live bunnies for the children to pet, Easter baskets, and a visit by the Easter bunny, in addition to the actual beeping egg hunt.

Easter basketsChild with rabbit

Families of children with a sensory impairment enjoyed the opportunity to meet other families and share in some adult time with other parents while their children were supervised one-on-one by the sorority sisters. The Delta Gamma sisters were friendly, helpful and gently encouraged each child to participate in a variety of games and activities. Parents were delighted to see their children having so much fun. After several hours of fun and games and finding beeping eggs, the children and their families left the egg hunt with baskets full of candy and Easter treats to take home with them, along with the memories of a wonderful day spent with very special friends.

There were 19 children with a sensory impairment and 77 family members who participated in the egg hunt. The Gainesville children’s counselor David Linn and Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind parent adviser, Teresa Donaldson Thomas also assisted in planning, preparing and welcoming families to the event with help from other local parent advisors and teachers of the visually impaired.

Fun and Learning for Children

By Lynda Dotson

On March 23, 2013, District 9 Children’s Program Counselor Lynda Dotson and the blind babies’ counselor from the local community rehabilitation program sponsored an event for their clients. It was held at the Imaginarium Science Museum and there were about 10 children and 14 adults present. It was good for the children because part of the theater described the evolution of the dinosaurs very well so everyone knew what was on the screen. Some of the clients fed the sting rays and observed other water life. Upstairs the attendees experienced sitting in a hurricane, as well as using a device that let them feel clouds and a thunderstorm. There were specially designed geometric devices to allow the children to launch balls and have them land in cups. Only the visually-impaired children could get them in the cups because they were not trying to see them!

Watching stingrayBoy with balloons

In between the different events, we had a picnic in which the counselors provided and prepared the food and supplies. One of the greatest things from the event was watching the parents networking, exchanging phone numbers and realizing there were others they could talk to who were dealing with similar issues and sharing solutions. A good time was had by all.

See It MY Way

By Chantel Buck

Student art on displayNew Vision for Independence, serving Lake and Sumter counties and The Villages, partnered with the Mount Dora Center for the Arts to host a sensory, tactile art exhibit called “See It MY Way.” It featured sculptures from local artist Lois Crisp-Stover, students at Beacon College and a traveling exhibit from the Florida Craftsman collection. The entire exhibit was fully interactive and touchable.

Clients in the transition program also created clay tiles that were featured in the show. Every piece was furnished with braille, large print and descriptions so everyone could participate. Docents at the museum were trained in human-guide techniques by New Vision instructors to assist visually-impaired patrons. Sighted patrons were encouraged to wear blindfolds to experience the exhibit tactually. “This is the most inclusive collection I’ve ever experienced,” said one visually-impaired guest, who mentioned that she had experienced tactile art before, but never so many in one collection, and never so close to home.

In conjunction with the exhibit, art instructors from Beacon College offered a workshop in tactile sculpture. The exhibit ran March 8 - April 12, 2013.

Ambassadors for Aging Descend on Capitol

By La’ Verne Brinson-Scott

La'verne Brinson-Scott and Olga DyeStaff Assistant Olga Dye and I attended the 13th Annual Ambassadors for Aging Day event held at the Capitol courtyard April 30, 2013. There were hundreds of older Floridians, aging advocates, caregivers and a large group of first-time attendees. We all enjoyed a fun-filled day of exciting demonstrations, health screenings, speakers and plenty of exhibitors. To top things off, there were several senior groups performing dance routines, which prompted many seniors to spontaneously jump up out of their seats and “bust a move”!!!  We had hundreds of seniors coming by our exhibit table to pick up useful resource information and of course the promotional items they always look forward to. We all enjoyed a luncheon, which was provided by Chick-fil-A.

By the end of the day, the seniors were carrying bags that were bulging with useful items and information, many with multiple bags. This event was enjoyed by all and appears to be getting bigger and bigger with each passing year.

Learning and Fun

By Lynn Ritter

State office staff with head gearThe Annual Statewide Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) training was held April 15-19, 2013, at the Plaza Resort and Spa in Daytona Beach, Fla. District administrators, supervisors, VR counselors, rehabilitation technicians and employment placement specialists attended, along with Beth Crain, Wayne Jennings, David Heron, Walter Blackmon and Kristin Panella from the state office. The training was educational, informative and fun!

Speakers provided training on vocational counseling, job searching, mental health, reducing work-related stress and establishing consequences for clients’, as well as counselors’, actions. Group activities helped to establish stronger relationships within the agency, as did the ‘theme’ days we implemented. For Monday and Friday, all staff members experienced the same theme (Monday each district wore a specific color they were assigned and Friday was a beach-day theme). However, the rest of the week, each district chose their own theme and explained how that theme related to its office. It was a great time with some districts pulling out all the stops!

Training participantsThe training ended Friday with a breakout session for each group to discuss what would help them perform their jobs and strengthen the rehabilitation process, using the statewide recipe developed in the trainings. While it was a long week, it was a good week for learning, laughing and strengthening our VR program!

Florida Division of Cultural Affairs Mission

By JoAnn Carrin

The Florida Division of Cultural Affairs (DCA) is Florida's state arts agency. The division promotes arts and culture essential to the quality of life for all Floridians. Arts and culture contribute to a vibrant and creative Florida. These diverse resources include arts in education, local arts agency, state service organization, theater, dance, folk arts, literature, media arts, museum, music and visual arts programs.

logo Florida Division of Cultural Affairs

Since 1969, the division has connected cultural funding opportunities and services to Florida’s citizens and visitors. The Florida Legislature and National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) provide funding for the division. Division partners include South Arts, Citizens for Florida Arts, Inc., and NEA. In addition, the division administers the Museum of Florida History.

DCA works to ensure meaningful art experiences are available to all Floridians, including people with disabilities, patients and caregivers in health-care settings, and older adults. The division assures that all of our offerings are accessible, and the grantees sign contracts certifying that they will comply with Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

In addition, we ask that general program support and specific cultural project grantees complete a yearly accessibility self-evaluation, use accessibility symbols in their marketing and list the name of their accessibility coordinator. The division also provides awareness resources and customer service.

50-Year Anniversary

By JoAnn Carrin

Join Florida State University Program in Visual Disabilities for the 50-year anniversary celebration Sept. 18-20, 2013. The celebration will be held at the Sheraton Hotel located at 316 West Tennessee Street in Tallahassee, Fla. Alumni are invited to make presentations and participate in a great event.

For more information and to send presentation proposals, contact Sylvia Perez at 727-815-0303 or

End Zone

Publication and Submission Information

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 15th 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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