Welcome to the Division of Blind Services' revitalized newsletter, The Visionary. During this season of thanks, I would like to express my gratitude to you for your commitment to help our clients live productive and independent lives. Because of your efforts, clients are meeting their goals as evidenced by a record year in employment outcomes.
While job creation and retention remain the focus of Gov. Rick Scott, Commissioner Pam Stewart and DBS leadership, we applaud the work and successes of clients, contractors and the entire DBS team for providing everyone - from babies to seniors - with much-needed assistance.
As we welcome our new Communications Coordinator Stephanie Lambert to DBS, we want to thank her for designing and editing the newsletter. This publication is a wonderful tool to increase awareness around developments in the field of blindness rehabilitative services. And, there really is no better time to reintroduce our newsletter because of all of the activities that are taking place across our great state.
October was a busy month for advocacy. Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) Director Barbara Palmer and I led the Florida Disability Employment Awareness Month event at Tallahassee City Hall on October 7. We heard from several individuals and businesses about the tangible and intangible benefits of hiring individuals with disabilities.
As our Community Rehabilitation Programs (CRPs) and various partners observed White Cane Safety Day October 15, our DBS district offices also participated in raising awareness. In Tallahassee, our staff organized an event that drew an enthusiastic crowd of nearly 200 to the steps of the Florida Historic Capitol Museum (Old Capitol). It was heartwarming to see so many supporters come out for such a worthy cause.
Speakers shared their stories and support for the White Cane Law and emphasized the importance of creating a greater awareness. Some of those speakers included FDOE Chief of Staff Kathy Hebda, Deputy Secretary for County Health Systems for the Surgeon General's Office Kim Barnhill, Lighthouse of the Big Bend Vocational Assistive Technology Specialist Alexis Read, National Federation of the Blind Tallahassee Chapter President Jada Michael; American Council of the Blind Tallahassee Council President Wanda Stokely and Florida Highway Patrol Captain Nancy Rasmussen.
These events, like many others we plan to host in the new year, should always serve to lead us back to our mission - ensuring that blind and visually impaired Floridians have the tools, support and opportunity to achieve success.
Robert L. Doyle, III
For 10-year-old Paloma Rambana, the feeling she received when she earned her Girls Scouts' Junior Independence badge is the same sense of accomplishment visually impaired children get when walking with a white cane. Paloma shared her inspiring story of success during White Cane Safety Day at the Historic Capitol in Tallahassee.
"This badge means I have started on the road to feeling confident on my own, showing my family they can trust me and getting comfortable striding down my own path," said Paloma, an advocate for children who are blind and visually impaired. "Like my Girl Scout badge, the white cane is an important symbol of independence for blind and visually impaired people. The white cane and devices, like my handheld magnifier, help people like me to ride solo, feel confident and change the world."
Created in 1964, White Cane Safety Day is a time to celebrate the achievements of those who are blind and visually impaired, as well as remind motorists of the correct traffic procedures when sharing the road with persons walking with a white cane or a service animal.
During the event, representatives from local organizations and agencies, such as the Florida Department of Transportation, the City of Tallahassee, the Florida Department of Health, Lighthouse of the Big Bend, the Florida State University Student Disability Resource Center and the Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, provided information about available support products and services for people who are disabled or visually impaired.
The Miami Lighthouse celebrated White Cane Day on October 15 with approximately 200 people and an exciting walk.
Escorted by City of Miami Police Mounted Officers and a City of Miami Fire Rescue Team, visually impaired and sighted guests walked to the sounds of Miami Lighthouse musicians playing the tune "When the Saints Go Marching In."
The festivities continued with a lunch, musical performances, guest speakers and special presentations. Attendees also enjoyed bumping noses with Billy the Marlin, the mascot for the Florida Marlins Major League Baseball Team.
This year's Grand Marshals were Sen. Anitere Flores, representing the Miami-Dade County Legislative Delegation; Juan Carlos Diaz, District 12 Division of Blind Services administrator, and Dave Hagemann, Guiding Eyes for the Blind.
Lighthouse of Collier, Inc., and Executive Director Robin Goldstone Garcia were awarded the Naples Daily News' 2015 Heroes in Health Care Community Outreach Award on October 6. The Naples Daily News' 2015 Heroes in Healthcare program recognizes excellence in the healthcare community. Lighthouse of Collier received the 2015 Community Outreach Award for their outstanding contributions to the community.
District 10's Annual Open House celebration welcomed employers, vendors and visually impaired and blind consumers from around the area.This celebration allowed District 10 staff the opportunity to bring together the hiring community with job applicants. During the event, consumers explored the latest technologies for visually impaired persons, who were also able to meet with employers interested in hiring.
Vendors showcased emerging technologies in the field of accessibility. Some of these items included talking computers, magnifying hardware, software and devices capable of converting regular text to Braille. The presentation demonstrated the benefit of the devices in relation to the efficiency and autonomy of blind and visually impaired employees at the workplace.
One of the major highlights of the open house was listening to the success stories told by visually impaired consumers, who have worked in a variety of setting including retail, computer sciences, engineering and social services.
My name is Christina Panczak-Smith. My Seeing Eye dog, Roma and I went to the Peter Pan Preschool in Palm Beach Gardens for a presentation to teachers and students. This presentation was an opportunity to teach some of the youngest members about living and working with a visual impairment. Students and staff had an opportunity to ask questions about my vision, what I see, how I cook, how I travel and how I am able to work.
The students were also curious about how Roma serves as my eyes. They asked questions regarding how I cross a street, where I am able to take Roma, and what Roma does while I work all day.
Not only did the students have an opportunity to learn about Roma and me, but their school director, staff and teachers had an opportunity to learn about DBS and the services we provide. After educating everyone about blindness, how people with visual impairments work and about our services, I took the opportunity to inform the school director that we are here to meet the needs of our clients who need us, and we are here for employers as well.
Even though the school had just hired and was fully staff, this educational opportunity was a success.
The Bureau of Braille and Talking Books Library Services in Daytona Beach recognized five volunteers for longevity and hours served during its 41st Annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon.
All five recipients received certificates from the Library and gift cards courtesy of the Friends of the Library Access, Inc., who sponsored the event.
The honorees included Marion Marino (25 years), Esther Ceglowski (23 years), Kori King (more than 500 hours in 2015) and Kyle Mootry (most hours logged of any volunteer currently active -- more than 5,000 since 2008).
One of the recipients, Leonor Ackerson, recently celebrated her 30th anniversary with The Bureau of Braille and Talking Books Library Services.
Leonor, along with and her husband, Neil, began volunteering at the BBTBLS in April 1985, faithfully traveling to Daytona Beach every Thursday to donate their time (70-miles round trip). After working at almost every task in the Library - from inspecting and shelving returned audiobooks to collating and working with Braille computers - the couple gravitated to the Recording Program, which at that time worked in English only.
A native Spanish-speaker, Leonor was naturally aware of the need for books recorded in Spanish for the visually impaired Hispanic population in Florida. She became instrumental in establishing the Spanish Recording Program. It grew over time, becoming the only studio in the Talking Books network to record material in Spanish exclusively with volunteers.
Today, Leonor is still narrating books in Spanish. At the moment, she is recording National Geographic en Español and Iguana, a monthly Spanish-language children's magazine. The Bureau of Braille and Talking Books Library Services in Daytona Beach staff is grateful to Leonor for all she has done and continues to do to for the Talking Book Library and its patrons. ¡Mil gracias, Leonor!
Jason Carpenter, only 22 years old, was recommended for training because the assessment panel was impressed by his work ethic and self-reliance. He completed training and was licensed in September 2013.
After he was licensed, Jason decided that he needed more time before taking on the challenge of operating a facility. He worked as an employee in a BBE snack bar and then did additional on the job training with a BBE operator with a vending route.
After a year, Jason felt prepared to go out on his own. He applied and was awarded a snack bar with vending in the Fort Knox complex in Tallahassee. Jason took over the vending for the facility in February 2015 and the snack bar in March.
On April 15, he invited the employees at the complex to take a break from their taxing day to join him for an open house. Close to 100 people were treated to complimentary samples of menu items and cake. A few lucky visitors won certificates for a free meal or drink.
Jason was willing to go the extra mile to make sure that he had the tools he needed to be a good operator.
Greetings! My name is Laccia A. Bromell. In 2011, I graduated from William T. Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens not knowing that the Florida Atlantic University was just around the corner and tucked away in my own backyard.
After touring this campus, I immediately knew this was the place for me. I have dealt with adversities all of my life. I was born 13 weeks early weighing in at a whopping 1lb, 7 oz. I am legally blind, in addition to having a few learning disabilities, but have always been taught there is nothing that you cannot do when you put your mind to it.
The financial support from the Florida Division of Blind Services has been amazing and much appreciated. They paid for most of my tuition and all of my textbooks, including the high-tech vision enhancing devices to help me accomplish my academic goals.
I graduated with a 3.4 grade point average, earning my degree in Law and Society with a minor in psychology. I was also inducted into the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society.
I have held many leadership positions on campus including Council of Student Organizations director for Corn Maya Club, secretary for Enviro Club, floor representative for the MacArthur Campus Residential Student Association (MacRSA), marketing director for Cliché Literary Arts Magazine Club, co-founder of the El Pueblo Illuminado Non-profit organization, and Honors College Ambassador through the Office of Admissions. I did all of this while working 20 hours a week at the university library.
Thanks to the Division of Blind Services, I had the opportunity to study abroad during the summer of 2014 at the University of Roehampton in London, England for six weeks. The learning and life skills gained there will be treasured and useful in my future endeavors.
- Lance Bonner, Pensacola - District 1
- Vanessa Charles, Sunrise - District 11
- Maureen Dorosinski, Braille & Talking Books Library
- Katherine Kaiserian, Jacksonville - District 3
- Steve Adams, Tallahassee - District 2
- Chris Hansford, General Services
- Luciana Amato, Miami - District 12
- Kimberly "Jamette" Minchew, Panama City - District 1 Satellite
- Stephanie Lambert, Executive Services
- Mike Watson, Daytona Beach - District 5
- Dacia Drury, Operations & Compliance
- Lynne Taylor, Lakeland - District 7 Satellite
325 West Gaines Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
To request a Braille version of this edition of The Visionary, contact the Braille and Talking Book Library: Maureen.Dorosinski@dbs.fldoe.org or call 800-226-6075.