Table of Contents


Personnel Actions

Success Stories

Around the State

End Zone


District 11 Welcomes Diaz

By Michelle Levy, District Administrator

Juan Carlos DiazJuan Carlos Diaz is the new Division of Blind Services (DBS) District 11 rehabilitative supervisor in Broward County. Prior to joining DBS, Diaz served the Department of Children and Families (DCF) for 30 years, where he spent 15 of those years in the child protective services division. In 2006, DCF Secretary Lucy Hadi recognized his supervision and leadership skills by awarding him the annual DCF Outstanding Performance Award.  

Diaz has a broad range of experience including serving as purchasing director for the developmental disability program and social services director of the children medical services program assisting terminally ill children and their families. Diaz also worked as a teacher to students who have an emotional behavioral disability at Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High School.

Diaz became a field instructor for Florida International University (FIU) in 1997 and in 2004 for Florida Memorial University (FMU) where he also served as a member of the Social Work Program Advisory Board. He has the distinct honor of being instrumental in the graduation of the first social work baccalaureate class in the history of FMU. He retired from DCF in 2011 and joined the staff of FMU and Unilatina International University as a professor teaching in the areas of social services, critical thinking and business ethics.

Diaz holds a master’s degree in social work from FIU. He also holds a baccalaureate degree cum laude in public administration from St. Thomas University.

He is excited to work in the division and looks forward to making a difference in the community.

Personnel Actions

We welcome our newest employees to the DBS family.

Congratulations to employees who received a promotion.

Success Stories

Broad Range of Accommodations in Summer Study Abroad Program

By Mary Ann Hastings, Senior Rehabilitation Specialist

Derek outside the Cambridge University LibraryThis summer Derek Ferguson, a University of Florida (UF) senior, participated in the “UF in Cambridge” study abroad history program. The six-credit course covered skills to research humanities in a world-class library. He spent one week in Paris, three weeks in Cambridge and one weekend in London, with a stellar group of students and a brilliant professor. In Cambridge, Derek worked with British newspapers, letters and memoirs in the library conducting research for his senior thesis. The Disability Resource Centre and faculty were most helpful in providing large print materials and finding sources.

Derek on University of Cambridge campusDerek said, “Throughout the course of my journey, I was amazed by the assistance I received with public transportation, in the library and at public attractions. Special assistance personnel at the airports and train stations accompanied me wherever I needed to go, even calling ahead to my next destination to ensure another assistant would meet me upon my arrival. With my white cane, I received additional discounts and free admission at many of the sites and was allowed bypass the admission lines. In addition, many local Britons and tourists kindly offered to help me get where I needed to go. I was surprised to see how accepting both of the countries I visited were toward people with disabilities and how willing the local people were to help. After my first European adventure, I feel more confident using my cane and traveling in the future.”

A “Can Do” Attitude Leads to Years of Success

By Janet Chernoff, Administrative Services Consultant

Justino ColonJustino Colon has been involved with the Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE) program since 1989. During training, instructors recognized his work ethic and positive attitude. If a task needed doing, he would do it. Justino has consistently taken on the challenges of operating food service and vending facilities in the BBE program.

Justino managed the vending in the Federal Courthouse Annex in Miami for four years.

He then operated the snack bar at the Revitoco Plaza for 10 years, and at the same time operated the vending at the Southern Command for six months. In 2010, he opened the snack bar in the Dade County Justice Building and doubled the business –making it one of the more successful food service facilities in the state. Justino’s hard work and good attitude has made him a successful operator in the BBE program.

Around the State

Pumpkin Party

By Jim Woolyhand, District Administrator

The Braille and Talking Book Library held a Pumpkin Party for approximately 40 current and former library volunteers and staff on October 30. Everyone enjoyed the refreshments, the laughter and is looking forward to the next holiday luncheon.

Susan, Rhonda, Cheryl as the three witches)

Al as a scarecrow

Brunch-O-Ween Celebration

By Linda Hernandez, Senior Rehabilitation Specialist

Staff during brunchOn Oct. 30, our office kicked off the holiday season by having a Halloween brunch that we affectionately called the Brunch-o-Ween. Everyone brought food and beverages to share, and adorable pumpkin-themed paper goods to add to our festivities. Some of the items served included bagels and cold cuts, as well as cupcakes, candy and fruit. All were in the Halloween spirit as we listened to spooky music and each told about a scary event that has happened to them. Stories included ghost sightings and voodoo mayhem. We had a fantastic time bonding and celebrating this Spooktacular holiday! This successful event will now become a tradition for District 11. We are excited for our next annual office party that will be the Thanksgiving Day Parade-o-Food!

Bagels and other food served during brunch

Innovative Adult Education for Visually Impaired a Major Success at Miami Lighthouse for the Blind

By Virginia Jacko, President and CEO

Miami Lighthouse LogoWhen Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired qualified earlier this year for Miami-Dade County Million Dollar Community Literacy Challenge, the staff was not sure how many of our visually impaired clients would be interested in signing up for the innovative program that is designed to help someone gain the education they need to complete their GED. 

We set aside one of the smaller classrooms on our new fourth floor Educational Empowerment Center hoping for possibly as many as 20 students. Within days, we had 40 enrollees and we needed a bigger room. The reception for this important program, especially for those with vision problems who were never able to finish high school, has been nothing short of overwhelming.

Miami Lighthouse is offering the innovative program in a collaborative community partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The program stresses basic education for adults and the opportunity to pursue their GED. In addition to adult basic education, students have the opportunity to study English as a second language for those students whose first language is Spanish or Creole. Classes began at Miami Lighthouse in August of this year.

Securing a GED for a visually impaired person can make a huge difference in finding a suitable job and staying independent. Many of our clients drop out of school because of their vision problems. They are thrilled at the opportunity this program now affords them, and we are delighted to be able to provide this very important literacy program here at Miami Lighthouse.

The Rehabilitation Center Mobility Intern Program

By Steven Perry, Orientation and Mobility Specialist

Julie HutchinsonThe rehabilitation center has a mobility internship program that was established primarily with Florida State University (FSU) two years ago. The program benefits the center in many ways. Staff can learn about recent technology and teaching strategies. The intern completes a special project during their internship. One intern created a pamphlet for students on basic mobility skills that can be reviewed when they leave and have questions. Most interns have limited financial support so the center offers a dormitory room at no cost during the internship. The interns benefit by observing and teaching students and along the way they develop professional teaching skills that will last them a lifetime. 

Our current intern, Julie Hutchinson, is from Port Orange. She is in the master’s program for visual disabilities at FSU. Julie was involved in a 4-H program that worked very closely with disabled individuals. She became close with a visually impaired individual and he “opened her eyes” to what she considered to be her future career path.

Julie feels that being at the center has enriched her academic study with hands-on experience. For instance, she has the opportunity to teach public transportation such as bus travel, which she did not have at FSU. Julie is utilizing her academic skills to teach students how to be independent and she will be able to take her experience wherever she chooses.

DBS Sunrise – Increasing Public Awareness of Disabilities

By Bernita Plowden, Senior Rehabilitation Specialist

Ayse Torres and Bernita Plowden at the Cora E. Braynon Family Health CenterIn October, DBS Sunrise employees were very active as we launched into the Disability Awareness Month. Employees participated in a variety of events including the National White Cane Safety Day walk and ceremony, Disability Services Fair, Fearless Caregiver Conference, City College Community Resource Event, CareerSource Broward Disability Employer Workshop and the Broward County Health/Cora E. Braynon Family Health Center Display. Counselors and managers were able to present information about our services to the public using brochures, informational flyers and promotional items. Through the course of events, we learned that many individuals were not aware of the multiple services provided by DBS. Counselors taught the public about the impact of various eye conditions on an individual’s lifestyle and daily functioning. During the National White Cane Safety Day Walk, employees were able to gain firsthand experience as they crossed a busy street intersection to demonstrate for drivers the importance of observing the White Cane Law. At the Fearless Caregiver Conference, hundreds of caregivers attended and were able to ask questions about services, technology and products. It was an exciting month for DBS and the individuals we serve!

Millicent Howell and Laura Pizzuro at City College Community Resource Fair

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 866-841-0912

Division of Blind Services website (external):

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