Table of Contents


Personnel Actions

Success Stories

Around the State

End Zone


Emmerton Named District Administrator

Bruce Emmerton

Bruce Emmerton has been named the district administrator for District 9. He previously served as a Division of Blind Services (DBS) vocational rehabilitation specialist and supervisor, positions he had served since November 2005. Before joining the DBS, Emmerton served in the field of vocational rehabilitation for 28 years outside of Florida. He holds a bachelor’s degree from University of New Hampshire and a master’s degree from West Virginia University.

Meet Dacia Drury

Dacia Drury

Drury is our new government operations consultant II, with the Bureau of Operations and Compliance in the state office.

Personnel Actions

We welcome our newest employees to the DBS family

Congratulations to employees who received a promotion

Success Stories

Fit for Business

By Janet Chernoff, Administrative Services Consultant

Randall Crosby and his wife PattyRandall Crosby thought his professional life was over when he became legally blind and had to leave his purchasing job at the Marriott. More than a year later, Crosby heard about the Business Enterprise Program. In 1990, Crosby started in a snack bar at the Collier County Vocational Tech Center in Naples. He was there for seven years, and he then moved his business to a small rest area in Ft. Myers followed by a snack bar at the Kennedy Space Center.

Crosby’s experience at the Kennedy Space Center was an exhilarating experience and marked another turning point in his life. While there, Crosby’s friend, Gabe, convinced him to run a 5K for employees on the shuttle landing strip. By this time, Crosby was totally blind. He says he only agreed to run “to keep Gabe quiet.” That 5K made him realize that the only thing stopping him was his own fears. Crosby has continued to run on a regular basis and has competed in two marathons.

Crosby ran the snack bar for 14 years when the shuttle program shut down and the business at the snack bar declined. He and his wife moved to Colorado where he operated two cafeterias for two years before returning to Florida. He now operates a business in the Tallahassee Capital Office Complex. Crosby’s energy and experience in the program has put him in the running to be one of the top food service operators in the state.

Exceptional Employer of the Year Recognition

By Christina Panczak-Smith

Stael Exantus, Christina Panczak-Smith, Tiffany Bowman and Bonnie MayWe all took time to give thanks and spent time with family and friends Nov. 27. However, did any of us stop and think about how grateful we are to be working? For the majority of our DBS consumers, finding work can be difficult and finding an employer to hire our participants presents a challenge. Therefore, we cannot forget to give thanks to those employers who make it possible for our DBS clients to go to work and live productive, independent lives. I had an opportunity to give thanks to an employer in our community who removed barriers to employment allowing my participant to work.

My supervisor, Stael Exantus, and I presented Principal Bonnie May of Somerset Academy with a plaque recognizing her as an exemplary employer within our community Dec. 5. In June 2012, she hired Tiffany Bowman as a second-grade teacher at the academy. Before Bowman was hired, she received assistance from DBS in order to earn her degree in elementary education and graduated with honors in May 2012. May reports that Bowman is an excellent teacher and May is pleased to have Bowman as part of the Somerset family. Bowman was also present when May received the plaque. Congratulations to May for being an exemplary employer and to Bowman for being an outstanding teacher.

Around the State

Gators in Greece & White Cane Independence

By Sean Ferguson, DBS client studying at the University of Florida (UF)

Sean Ferguson with Athens in backgroundOn July 13, 2014, I went to Greece as part of “Gators in Greece,” a 10-day study-abroad class with the UF entomology and nematology department. The course addressed various topics in medical entomology in art and mythology; eco-agritourism; Greek culture and Mediterranean cuisine. Additionally, I visited the ruins of the classical past in Athens.

After my time in Greece, I took a five-day holiday to the United Kingdom with my twin brother, Derek. I had never traveled alone before this trip, so my knowledge of the special assistance for persons with disabilities was very limited. In all airports, staff walked me step-by-step through security, terminal gates, baggage claim, etc. Likewise, using the “tube” (subway) and trains in England was worry-free. The underground staff guided me down to the platform where I needed to be and even called ahead to the next stop to ensure I had assistance upon my arrival. Both the British and the Greeks were welcoming and accepting of my white cane and disability, and were often the first to offer to help or warn me of debris in the sidewalk.

Perhaps the greatest gift from my time abroad, was not the material goods, not the classical architecture of the Greco world, nor was it the beauty of the British countryside. My greatest gift was something with me all along - both while I was away and at home - my independence. I had to go away to realize I was, and had always been, independent. What was the revelation, you may ask? My white cane. The cane gave me a sense of self-direction, a sense of liberty and a sense of 100 percent independence. I could confidently go where I wanted when I wanted, knowing I would be safe and sound, and knowing a helping hand was always within reach. I just had to ask.

Imparting Class at Palm Beach State College

By Christina Panczak-Smith

Christina Panczak-Smith teaching in front of classroom of studentsI had an opportunity to present to a class of ophthalmic technology students at Palm Beach State College. This is the third year that I have been invited to educate students about DBS and topics concerning visual impairment. With the use of JAWS, I presented a PowerPoint presentation, which addressed low vision, different eye conditions, agencies that service the blind, optical and non-optical aids and technology. Students received hands-on experience with a portable video magnifier, a bill identifier, a Braille Note Apex, JAWS and a National Library Service player. I introduced the students to features that they may possibly possess, such as an iPhone or iPad, of which they were not even aware. It is always amazing to listen to students take out their devices and search the accessibility menu to see if they can locate Voice Over or Zoom.

This was a wonderful opportunity to educate budding eye-care professionals about DBS. These students will now not only have the knowledge imparted in them by their ophthalmic technology program, but they also have a better understanding of tools, technology, training and resources available to individuals with visual impairment living in the community.

District 1 Updates

By Tony Pileggi

Start of Something New

Susan NelmsCynthia Lyons and I attended the inaugural meeting of the Tri-County Interagency Council Dec. 5. The council consists of members from three area school districts. District representatives included Linda Andrews, Santa Rosa County; Melinda Poe, Escambia County; and Joanna Grice, Okaloosa County, whom joined forces to expand ideas and effectiveness of services in programing for transition students in their journey toward life after high school.

In addition to the exchange of ideas and information, the program included a presentation on Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act by Susan Nelms, career source director, and a presentation on the Program for Academic and Life Skills Learning by representatives from the local ARC. Participating agencies all expressed gratitude to the organizers.

Disability Awareness Conference

Cynthia Lyons, Cedrick Haynes and Dan O’ConnorCynthia Lyons senior rehabilitation specialist, Cedric Haynes, employment placement specialist and I attended the 11th Annual Disability Awareness Conference held at the University of West Florida Oct. 4, 2014. This year’s conference followed the National Disability Awareness Month theme: Expect, Employ, Empower. Presenters in the field of individuals with disabilities provided meaningful information. Eladio Amores, director of employment partnerships at Goodwill Manasota, presented new rules for hiring disabilities under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. Cheri Hofmann, distance-learning coordinator at the Southeast Americans with Disabilities Act Center, provided information about employment and reasonable accommodations under the American with Disabilities Act. The audience actively engaged in discussion during the presentations.

Vendors were on hand to provide information regarding services offered. Cedric and Cynthia distributed information to the fraternities and sororities members, students and teachers. Several teachers took information for their peers who did not attend. District 1 would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to Daniel O’Connor for his assistance.

Comings and Goings

Nancylynne BrazwellNancylynne Brazwell started her employment career with DBS as a word processing systems operator in District 1 Sept. 2, 2014. She has been a client of the division since 2007, so she is no stranger to our processes and services. Nancy graduated from the University of West Florida in May 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in art. She lives in Pensacola with her husband and two “pet-children.” Nancy brings a lot of energy and excitement to the office, and she exudes compassion for our clients. The District 1 office welcomes Nancy to our DBS family as she begins her new journey.

Jessica WoodsJessica Woods joined the District 1 office as a college intern Sept. 10, 2014. She has been a client of the DBS since 1992, and she has participated in early intervention blind babies program, children’s program, transition and vocational rehabilitation programs. Jessica is scheduled to graduate in May 2015 with her master’s degree in social work. Her dog, Diesel, has joined Jessica during her internship, although he will not graduate anytime soon. Jessica hopes to be able to work with people with disabilities after she graduates. We hope she will be able to find a job with the division after graduation since we have been impressed with her ability to relate with clients during her internship.

Jennifer WoodsIt just so happens that Jessica has a twin sister, Jennifer Woods. Jennifer moved to Ohio after graduating from high school. Recently, she stopped in the District 1 office, and she brought us up to date on her recent happenings. Jennifer graduated from law school in Ohio, and she is working at a law firm there. It is no surprise to us that Jennifer passed the Ohio bar exam on her first attempt. If you ever get into trouble while in Ohio, you have a friend there. Congratulations, Jennifer! We are so proud of you (we are very proud of your sister, too - please do not tell her).

Cedric HaynesDistrict 1 Bids Employment Placement Specialist Cedric Haynes bon voyage and best wishes at the end of November. Cedric began his tenure with the division in an OPS position in 2010. He has been very instrumental in our outreach programs as well as employer relations. Cedric is known for his fabulous pound cakes, which were sold during fundraisers for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Known by Curtis to his friends, he will always be a valued member of our extended family. We wish Cedric well in his current endeavor, as the store manager for the Dollar General.

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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