Our 75th anniversary is off to a great start. For me, the yearlong celebration is a time to remind citizens of our services and the opportunities we provide to Florida’s blind and visually impaired. Throughout this commemoration, I anticipate that audiences will gain the understanding that individuals with visual impairments can lead successful lives, and that there is an organization within the state dedicated to providing quality vision rehabilitation services.
The ceremony and expo in Daytona Beach helped us to begin the process. It provided a great opportunity to bring together businesses, clients, community advocates and the general public. I had a chance to meet prior consumers who have been successful and current consumers who are well on their way to achieving their goals. Beau Broten, a former client, was so excited about the celebration that he flew to Daytona from Atlanta to talk about what the Division of Blind Services meant to him. Mayor Derrick Henry, who spoke during our program, said he was inspired and refreshed by the numerous stories of triumph and perseverance. I hope guests walked away from the sessions and program knowing there is hope and that they can be successful.
Sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of our business, we may overlook showing our appreciation to the people who help us along the way. A major highlight for me was honoring the first inductees of the “Successful 75” awards. This initiative recognizes the contributions of individuals, organizations and businesses that represent and/or are committed to fostering independence to blind and visually impaired Floridians.
This award gives DBS a chance to brag on the individuals and organizations that are out there pounding the pavement and working to make sure that consumers have the tools to live full and productive lives. I hope the first set of inductees, and future inductees, can take pride in knowing that their efforts have been seen and recognized.
As a director, I know I can’t do any of this on my own. It takes a great team who cares about our mission and wants to produce quality work. I am very pleased with the work of our committee — from Daytona to the State Office. You all did a fantastic job for the anniversary outreach efforts. We raised awareness and showcased our resources to approximately 200 individuals and organizations in the area, had several news articles written, and were presented with proclamations from state and local officials.
As we move forward, I hope to engage more consumer groups from around the state and build an even stronger sense of community. Florida is a leader in many areas relating to vision rehabilitation. We have the unique privilege to foster opportunities through employment, technology, education and in many fundamental ways. I am looking forward to our continued work as we celebrate success.
Robert L. Doyle, III
April was the Month of the Military Child and FDOE staff members were encouraged to “Purple Up!” on Friday, April 15. By wearing purple, DBS staff showed their support of military children and their sacrifices on behalf of the nation. Care of military children sustains America’s service men and women and strengthens the health, security and safety of the nation's families and communities. There are approximately two million military children, ranging from newborn to 18 years old, throughout the United States.
DBS Staff across the state participated in the Florida Department of Education’s Pinwheels for Prevention observance, in honor of Child Abuse Prevention Month. Pinwheels for Prevention is a national campaign that engages communities in a coordinated effort to prevent child abuse and neglect by promoting the awareness of healthy child development, positive parenting practices and the types of support families need within their communities. The blue and silver pinwheels symbolize the hope and promise of a happy childhood. More information about Child Abuse Prevention Month and Pinwheels for Prevention can be found at Prevent Child Abuse Florida.
The Division of Blind Services celebrated its 75th anniversary during a festive ceremony and expo in Daytona Beach on April 27.
The anniversary celebration and expo provided educational sessions, business networking opportunities and a technology showcase, featuring displays and informative demonstrations tailored for visually impaired citizens, businesses and those wanting to learn more about DBS and visual impairment.
There were approximately 200 guests who attended the ceremony, sessions and toured the DBS Daytona campus. Mayor Derrick Henry and Sen. Dorothy L. Hukill of District 8 proclaimed April 27 as Division of Blind Services Day.
The celebration featured keynote speaker Rachel McCullough, who lost her vision during high school due to Stargardt’s Disease. Now 30, McCullough is an associate attorney at Landis Graham French law firm, where she specializes in land-use law and civil litigation.
“When I was originally diagnosed, DBS immediately stepped in and explained the steps in the unknown road ahead,” the DeLand native said during her speech. “I remember my counselor present at the IEP appointments at school. They made the transition from the sighted world to this unknown realm of low vision feel positive. After I returned home from college and law school and started my career, DBS was again right there for me asking me to come back and see what services they could provide me as a working person. I am grateful they have provided me with lots of equipment that facilitates and furthers my career.”
Other speakers included Director Doyle, Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry and Daytona Beach Police Department Criminal Investigation Department’s Victim Aide Josh Espinal.
To view more photos from the Daytona 75th Anniversary Ceremony and Expo, visit DBS on Facebook.
The University of Kentucky distance learning master’s program in rehabilitation counseling is currently accepting applications for Fall 2016 admission. Potential students are encouraged to apply as soon as possible to be considered for August admission.
The University of Kentucky accelerated distance learning program can be completed in sixteen months without on-campus attendance and at in-state University of Kentucky tuition rates. The accelerated format is accomplished by dividing the traditional 16-week semester into two eight week blocks. They have condensed full-time instruction into eight-week blocks so that a part-time student can complete the equivalent of a full course load each semester.
All coursework, with the exception of Practica and Internship, is presented via asynchronous web-based instruction. Supervision for Practica and Internship is conducted via web-cam. To apply for the program, please visit https://2b.education.uky.edu/edsrc/rc/admissions/.
The University of Kentucky Rehabilitation Counseling Distance Education program was recently awarded a five-year Long-Term Training grant from the Rehabilitation Services Administration. The purpose of this grant is to provide scholarships to individuals to pursue a master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling.
The RSA Scholarship Advisory Committee will be responsible for reviewing applications and making scholarship awards. This committee is made up of representatives from the public rehabilitation agencies and community rehabilitation facilities, as well as UK Rehabilitation Counseling Program faculty.
Deadline for receipt of all materials is July 15.
Employment for people with disabilities is often a difficult endeavor. They face discrimination during the hiring process and barriers to employment all along the way, including barriers to acquiring the skills necessary for employment.
In honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2016, Deque Systems will now be offering their entire curriculum of Deque University online courses in web and digital accessibility to people with disabilities for free.
The demand for accessibility professionals is greater than it has ever been, and people with disabilities have a lot to offer in this field. They live the experience, so in many ways they're already experts, but there are still technical skills to learn.
Deque's mission is to help achieve digital equality for people with disabilities and hopes that making this new initiative will empower users with disabilities to become the experts that will teach businesses, governments and everyone who shares the web how to be accessible.
If you have a disability, you qualify for free access to Deque's in-depth web accessibility curriculum for a full year (a value of $315).
The online courses offered include:
- Web Accessibility Fundamentals
- HTML & CSS Accessibility
- Mobile Web Accessibility
- IAAP CPACC Certification Preparation Course
- Web Accessibility Testing Techniques
- Testing with Screen Readers
- MS Word Accessibility
- MS PowerPoint Accessibility
- PDF Accessibility
- InDesign Accessibility
- EPUB Accessibility
The full details of the offer and the registration are available at Deque University Scholarships for People with Disabilities.
The University of Florida Delta Gamma Sorority held a Spring Carnival and Beeping Egg Hunt for deaf and/or blind children and their families living in North Central Florida. Jessica Marz and Mariah Zechariah organized the exciting event.
About 40 family members from six North Central Florida counties attended this event. DBS Children’s Counselor David Linn and Florida School for the Deaf and Blind Parent Advisor Teresa Donaldson Thomas also assisted in the planning, preparation and welcoming of families to the event.
The carnival was held at PK Yonge School in Gainesville. The sorority provided arts and crafts, games, bounce houses, drinks, snacks, a puppy and bunny for the children to pet, baskets/bags for the eggs and a visit by the Easter Bunny.
Families enjoyed the opportunity to meet with other families with deaf and/or blind children. The young women of Delta Gamma were 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 hours of fun and games and finding beeping eggs, the children and their families left the Spring Carnival with baskets full of candy and treats to take home.
The Division of Blind Services Florida Rehabilitation Council Quarterly Meeting and Public Forum is scheduled for July 27-29 in Ft. Myers.
- July 28 from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. – Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts (13051 Bell Tower Drive, Fort Myers, Florida 33907)
- July 29 from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. – Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts (13051 Bell Tower Drive, Fort Myers, Florida 33907)
Public Forum to which all interested individuals are invited
- July 28 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. – Crowne Plaza Hotels and Resorts
“Determination” isn’t Joe Bragg’s middle name, but it could be. Once he sets himself on a course, nothing can get in his way. Joe started the application process for the Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE) program in January 2015 and signed into his first facility by November of that same year.
Along the way, he faced a number of challenges, but he remained steadfast. Joe was living in Panama City Beach with his wife when he was accepted into the training program. He left home and spent more than six months of training in Daytona Beach and Tallahassee. He dealt with the challenges of being away from home for an extended period of time and even volunteered to manage the facility while his trainer attended the BBE Biennial seminar in Orlando.
Joe had only been licensed for two days when he participated in the selection process for the cafeteria in the Broward Sheriff’s Office. Not only was the facility a challenging one, but it was located more than 500 miles away from his home. With the will to succeed, Joe packed up and headed to Ft. Lauderdale. Six months later, he is still progressing. He successfully transitioned into the facility, and his management is felt throughout the location. Sales have increased since he took over and he was even able to hire a fellow operator while she waited for her opportunity. His determination along with his drive and passion can guarantee Joe Bragg a successful career in the BBE program.
In April, the Division presented seven “Successful 75” awards to individuals, organizations and businesses that represent and/or are committed to fostering independence in blind and visually impaired Floridians. Throughout the anniversary celebration, 75 honorees will be bestowed with this honor. April’s “Successful 75” recipients were:
Business Award: Sloppy Joe’s
Sloppy Joe's Restaurant has worked closely with the Daytona Rehabilitation Center for the Blind in an effort to train and prepare blind and visually impaired clients for competitive employment. Sloppy Joe's has participated in both informational and employment interviews with Rehab Center clients and has provided work experiences that led to employment opportunities to clients of the agency.
Community Advocate Award: Carl McCoy
Mr. McCoy was one of the first students enrolled in training at the Rehabilitation Center in 1946. He was a charter member of the Florida Council for the Blind when it was formed in 1952. In 1989, he became director of the Florida Division of Blind Services where he remained until his retirement in 1992. For several decades, he was in the forefront of advocating for the rights of blind individuals in Florida through the Florida Council for the Blind and was instrumental in establishing quality services and training for Blind individuals through the Division of Blind Services.
Community Partner Award: Goodwill
Throughout the years, the Daytona Beach Goodwill has provided a great partnership and support to DBS clients. They assist with job placement, job development, workshops, providing vouchers for employment, training and work experiences. Goodwill also works alongside DBS Employment Placement Specialists to assist clients seeking employment.
DBS Employee Award: Anna Johnson
Ms. Johnson has worked for the Division of Blind Services-Rehabilitation Center for the Blind for 26 years. She is a leader, team player, and believes that her students come first. Her goal is to ensure that students receive quality training in order to reach their maximum potential that will ultimately lead to employment.
DBS Client Award: Beau Broten
Mr. Broten is a great example of what an individual who is blind or visually impaired can accomplish when they stay focused on their goal, work hard and make the most out of every opportunity. Mr. Broten attended training at the Rehabilitation Center in Daytona then moved to Little Rock to attend training at Lions World for the Blind in the IRS program. While at the Rehabilitation Center, he tripled his Braille reading speed. This accomplishment let him qualify for the IRS training program at Lions World for the Blind in Little Rock, Ark. He is now a lead customer service representative for the IRS office in Atlanta, Ga. He is also often called on to provide assistance to sighted colleagues in his office.
DBS Client Award: Rachel McCullough
Ms. McCullough is a general practitioner in private practice, specializing in land use law and civil litigation. She meets with clients, drafts legal pleadings, argues motions in court and conducts depositions — all in an attempt to assist clients get through difficult life crises. At 17, Ms. McCullough was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, where she immediately plugged into the Division of Blind Services and began learning to live as a person with low vision. She is the founder and Executive Director of 4SITE; a scholarship organization granting private scholarships to students with low vision in our community who are “seeking independence through education.”
DBS Client Award: Joshua Espinal
A graduate of the Rehabilitation Center, Joshua is the Criminal Investigation Department’s victim aide for the Daytona Beach Police Department. Some of his duties include calling the victims to verify their safety or answer any concerns they may have about their respective cases. Additionally, Mr. Espinal follows up with the State Attorney’s Office to check on dispositions, and serves as a Spanish interpreter. Prior to losing his vision a few years ago, Joshua served in the U.S. Army where he completed four tours of active duty — two to Iraq and two to Afghanistan.
To make a nomination, please see the following criteria:
“Successful 75” Business Award
Business must demonstrate a sincere investment in working with and providing opportunities for persons who are blind or visually impaired, via recruitment and hiring practices, reasonable work accommodations and the creation of an inclusive workplace. To nominate, visit Business Nomination.
“Successful 75” Client Award
Individual must demonstrate a high level of leadership, perseverance, independence and determination to be successful. To nominate, visit Client Nomination.
“Successful 75” Community Advocate Award
Individual or organization must be committed to the betterment of persons with visual disabilities. Nominees should be model individuals and/or organizations whose actions provide inspiration and a lasting impact towards the advancement of the blind and visually impaired community. To nominate, visit Community Advocate Nomination.
“Successful 75” Community Partner Award
Through selfless advocacy on behalf of blind and visually impaired Floridians, nominee(s) should demonstrate a commitment to quality services, collaborative efforts with DBS and other partnering agencies, and high ethical standards of operation. To nominate, visit Community Partner Nomination.
“Successful 75” DBS Employee Award
Individual must be a current or former DBS employee, demonstrate instances of high level job performance, impeccable customer service, promotion of agency values and confidence in the abilities of those living with visual impairments. To nominate, visit DBS Employee Nomination.
Arrival of Miami Lighthouse Learning Center for Children Will Underline Importance of Early Learning for Three- and Four-Year-Olds
Babies and children are among the most rapidly growing populations experiencing vision loss in our programs. Miami Lighthouse’s unique ability to provide early learning for these youngsters has already proven to be effective in laying the foundation for young children to take important steps toward independent and productive lives.
One of the exciting results of the Miami Lighthouse’s recent “Center of Excellence in Vision Rehabilitation Grant Challenge” is about to become reality! Consistent with their “Strategic Vision for Expansion of Programs in our Center of Excellence Initiative 2013-2016,” in the fall of 2016, our Lighthouse Learning Center for Children™ will collaborate with Miami-Dade County Public Schools and the Early Learning Coalition to pilot an innovative pre-kindergarten program designed to enable blind and visually impaired youngsters—working alongside their sighted siblings and peers—to transition more easily to the public school environment.
Classes for the pre-kindergarten program will be piloted in existing instructional space this fall. Construction of our Learning Center for Children expansion is scheduled to begin this spring, with the official opening projected for fall semester of 2017.
Upon completion, the new space will house our pre-kindergarten classrooms and other instructional areas for children from birth through age four.
IN THE NEWS
U.S. Department of Education Acts to Protect Social Security Benefits for Borrowers with Disabilities
The U.S. Department of Education recently announced a new process to proactively identify and assist federal student loan borrowers with disabilities who may be eligible for Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) loan discharge. This effort is a part of the Student Aid Bill of Rights, which details measures to make paying for higher education an easier and fairer experience for millions of Americans.
The Higher Education Act allows for loan forgiveness for borrowers who are totally and permanently disabled. By proactively identifying and engaging borrowers who may be eligible for TPD loan discharge, the Department is fulfilling its commitment to ensure that borrowers who are totally and permanently disabled have the information needed to take full advantage of the debt relief to which they are entitled.
“In 2012, the Administration took steps to streamline the process to allow for Americans who are totally and permanently disabled to use their Social Security designation to apply to have their loans discharged,” said U.S. Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell. “But too many eligible borrowers were falling through the cracks, unaware they were eligible for relief. Under the new process, we will notify potentially eligible borrowers about the benefit and guide them through steps needed to discharge their loans, helping thousands of borrowers. Americans with disabilities have a right to student loan relief. And we need to make it easier, not harder, for them to receive the benefits they are due.”
The Department of Education has been working closely with the Social Security Administration (SSA) to complete a data match to identify federal student loan borrowers who also receive disability payments and have the specific designation of “Medical Improvement Not Expected” (MINE) which, because of a change in Department regulations in 2013, qualifies them for loan forgiveness under the TPD discharge program. This streamlined and more accurate process ensures that eligible borrowers receive loan discharges.
Blind and visually impaired people like to go to the movies, but the experience can be challenging when a theater’s audio description technology is old, or a companion isn’t great at describing the on-screen action. Animation giant Pixar hopes to alleviate these pain points with a soon-to-be-released smartphone app that will help people “see” its movies.
Audio Description — the extra audio track that narrates film action for people who are blind or have low vision — has been around for decades, but even if you’re blind, you might not use it.
The iOS narration app, automatically syncs with films from Pixar and Disney to pipe additional description of what’s happening on screen through headphones. Although Pixar hasn’t officially announced the app, more than 200 visually impaired people tested the app during a screening of The Good Dinosaur in December 2015.
Part of an unprecedented and ongoing collaboration between Lighthouse for the Blind, the Blind Babies Foundation and Guide Dogs for the Blind, nearly 200 blind people from organizations all around the San Francisco Bay Area to download the app to their iPhones and iPads and test out the technology at the private, red carpet screening.
The response was universal acclaim. The app’s beta version worked seamlessly. People both blind and sighted left the event joyously; celebrating the idea of being able to go back to the movie theater or watch a movie in their homes exactly the way they want.
So, how does it work? If you already have a Pixar film that you’d like to watch with audio description, all you have to do is go to the app store and download the Disney Movies Anywhere app. When your movie starts playing (on a separate device or television), open up the app and locate the film.
Then click “sync and play audio,” and the rest is done for you. Note that currently this works only for those running iOS 7 or later, with more platforms to come.
For more detailed instructions, visit Disney’s website, or download this special Audio Description Fact Sheet to get you started.
Every day, people share more than two billion photos across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp. While visual content provides a fun and expressive way for people to communicate online, consuming and creating it poses challenges for people who are blind or severely visually impaired.
With more than 39 million people who are blind, and over 246 million who have a severe visual impairment, many people may feel excluded from the conversation around photos on Facebook. The social media network wants to build technology that helps the blind community experience Facebook the same way others enjoy it.
Automatic alternative text, or automatic alt text, is a new development that generates a description of a photo using advancements in object recognition technology. People using screen readers on iOS devices will hear a list of items a photo may contain as they swipe past photos on Facebook. Before today, people using screen readers would only hear the name of the person who shared the photo, followed by the term “photo” when they came upon an image in News Feed. Now, there is a richer description of what’s in a photo thanks to automatic alt text. For instance, someone could now hear, “Image may contain three people, smiling, outdoors.”
This is possible because of Facebook’s object recognition technology, which is based on a neural network that has billions of parameters and is trained with millions of examples. Each advancement in object recognition technology means that the Facebook Accessibility team will be able to make technology even more accessible for more people. When people are connected, they can achieve extraordinary things as individuals and as a community — and when everyone is connected, we all benefit.
Facebook is launching automatic alt text first on iOS screen readers set to English, but plan to add this functionality for other languages and platforms soon. While this technology is still nascent, tapping its current capabilities to describe photos is an important step toward providing our visually impaired community the same benefits and enjoyment that everyone else gets from photos.
Read more about the development of automatic alt text on Building Accessibility Tools for the Visually Impaired on Facebook page and the Automatic Alternative Text on Facebook page.
Learn more at facebook.com/accessibility.
- Zimri Diaz, Orlando
- Ricardo Aponte, Fort Myers
- Mark Harshbarger, Tampa
- Ruthie Frazier, State Office
- Janet Chernoff
- Teresa Donaldson
- Keith Flowers
- Stephanie Lambert
- David Linn
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