DBS Will Work to Insure Customers Are Equipped to Succeed in Florida's Economy
Welcome to the latest edition of the Visionary newsletter. This issue brings in news from around the state, with stories on the Pre-Employment Program in Daytona, the latest “Successful 75” inductees and features on DBS’ newest retirees. But first, let’s review a few updates regarding the Workforce law.
In 2014, the U.S. Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) was enacted to strengthen and improve the workforce and help get individuals, including youth and those with significant barriers to employment, into high-quality jobs and careers. It was also intended to help employers hire and retain skilled workers.
By October 18, final regulations that advance the implementation of the new workforce law will take full effect. As part of the larger workforce system, the Division of Blind Services will make adjustments to benefit client programs and services. These new regulations include many provisions affecting students and youth. This means more resources and a concentrated effort for assisting younger persons with disabilities with acquiring the skills and resources to transition from school to work.
In addition to strengthening student and youth programs, the final WIOA regulations will enable us to further our work in solidifying partnerships with businesses, the workforce development system and postsecondary education institutions. We will create synergy behind our efforts to empower individuals who are blind and visually impaired with achieving competitive integrated employment in their communities. These changes will also ensure that workers with disabilities have the opportunities to develop and maintain the skills that they need to pursue in-demand jobs that are critical to growing our economy.
In the coming months, the Division will continue the work with our partners to help implement these changes and ensure our customers are equipped to compete and succeed in Florida’s economy. To see the final rules released by the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor, visit http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/rsa/wioa-final-rules.html.
Robert L. Doyle, III Director
The Division of Blind Services (DBS) Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired held its inaugural Pre-Employment Program (PEP) class June 6 – July 1. The PEP is a structured learning program designed specifically to address the employability needs of people with visual disabilities. Created by Dr. Karen Wolffe of Career Counseling & Consultation, LLC., this program has been implemented in several states and countries: Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Quebec Canada and the United Kingdom.
PEP consists of 15 modules designed to meet the needs of out-of-work individuals who are blind or visually impaired, are considering employment and may or may not have worked previously. If they were employed previously, it may have been prior to experiencing vision loss or they may have been unemployed for more than six months.
After completion of the four weeks of training, each student receives an Action Plan that details what actions the students will take to become a partner in their successful job search upon returning home. Specific tasks with target dates are a major part of the Action Plan.
Students also receive PEP “Certificates of Completion” that can be added to their resumes/applications under Schools/Professional Training Courses attended.
In a collaborative effort between DBS and St. Petersburg State College (SPC), DBS client Anastasia Charlambakos participated in a Work Experience at the SPC EPICENTER campus. Ms. Charalambakos worked with staff to improve the college websites accessibility for students who are screen reader users.
The experience was a positive one for all involved, and Charalambakos was later offered a job.
“Anastasia is a great worker and we really think the world of her,” Accessibility Services Director Aimee Stubbs said.
Charalambakos, a 16-year user of screen reading assistive technology, surmised that, “The work experience at St. Petersburg College is invaluable. It is enabling me to give much needed feedback to school staff regarding online courses with screen reader accessibility. Such work is not only important since it allows me to identify areas in need of improvement for increased accessibility to students, but my work plays a role in seeing that learners will be better able to access important information on the college’s website and in its online courses.”
Governor Rick Scott announced two appointments and two reappointments to the Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind.
Howard Bell, 61, of St. Petersburg, is an advocate investigator with Disability Rights Florida. He was appointed to a vacant seat for a term beginning July 6 and ended August 31.
Paul Edwards, 70, of Miami, formally served as the director of access services with Miami-Dade Community College. He succeeded Sheryl Brown for a term that began July 6 and will end August 31, 2018.
Lenora Marten, 53, of Jacksonville, is a tutor with the National Federation of the Blind. She was reappointed for a term beginning July 6 and ending August 31, 2018.
Bruce Miles, 65, of Marco Island, is a retired realtor. He was reappointed for a term beginning July 6 and ending August 31, 2018.
In an effort to help in spreading the word about Zika prevention efforts to the counselors, families and clients in your district the Florida Departments of Education and Health have partnered to prepare simple steps that can reduce the risk of Zika. We ask that you take full advantage of these resources provided. To help prevent infection and to reduce the spread of mosquito-borne diseases, it is important for families to practice basic mosquito bite prevention.
Floridians are encouraged to drain standing water weekly, no matter how seemingly small. A couple drops of water in a bottle cap can be a breeding location for mosquitoes. Please watch and share this 30-second educational video about standing water safety. Residents and visitors also need to use repellents when enjoying the Florida outdoors.
If you or your clients have general questions about Zika, please contact the State of Florida’s Zika Virus Information Hotline: 1-855-622-6735.
Born visually impaired, DBS staff member David Darm was constantly discouraged from participating in physical activities and sports as a child due to his lack of visual depth perception. This was very frustrating for him, as he could not socially connect with his peers through these activities. Now at 30 years old, running has helped him to overcome this barrier.
Last month, Darm participated in Florida A&M University’s 15th Annual Grape Harvest Festival 5K Vineyard Run in Tallahassee.
His running process is based on memorizing the path and landmarks in order to identify his location. Darm, who has been competing in 5Ks and 10Ks for nearly six years, runs with a guide, or running partner, who notifies him when there are changes in the terrain or a curve is approaching.
Darm also participated in the Grape Stomping Contest with a few of his State Office colleagues. Although they did not win (Team Sugarpop lost to Team Darlene), it was a thrilling day for everyone.
“Though I may see the world differently than others, I share many of the same capabilities as anyone else,” he said. “While some people may see limitation, I see potential.”
To see photos from the Grape Harvest Festival, visit the DBS Facebook Page.
The Division of Blind Services Florida Rehabilitation Council Quarterly Meeting and Public Forum is scheduled for October 20-21 at The Shores Resort & Spa (2637 South Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach, FL 32118).
The October 20 meeting is from 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. (or until concluded). The October 21 meeting is from 9 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. (or until concluded).
A copy of the agenda may be obtained by contacting Selena Sickler at The Division of Blind Services, 325 West Gaines St., Room 1114, Turlington Building, Tallahassee, FL 32399, She may also be reached via telephone at (850) 245-0329 or email Selena.Sickler@dbs.fldoe.org. You may also obtain a copy of the agenda through the Florida Telephone Relay system 711.
As part of the Anniversary Ceremony, DBS inducted 11 new members into the "Successful 75," an award program that recognizes individuals, organizations and businesses who have remained steadfast in the advancement of independence for persons who are blind and visually impaired. Congratulations to the following recipients:
Business Award: Manatee Diagnostics Center
Manatee Diagnostic Center provides a variety of radiology services throughout Manatee and DeSoto counties. Manatee Diagnostic Center is a great model for other major businesses when hiring persons who are blind or visually impaired. They allow visually impaired staff to have JAWS running on the server. Manatee Diagnostic Center has partnered with DBS in order to attain Rehabilitation Engineering Services (JAWS scripting) whenever the need arises.
Community Advocate Award: Paul Edwards
In the Late 1970s, Paul Edwards worked for DBS as a rehabilitation teacher. In this job, he went to homes and taught people skills that would enable them to adjust to visual impairment. After three years, he became a Rehabilitation Counselor and worked mostly with high school and college students. In 1983, he moved to Jacksonville to take over as executive director of an agency serving the blind. In 1986, he moved to Miami to serve as the director of Services to Students with Disabilities on the North Campus of Miami Dade College. During his career, he has worked at the local, state and national level to advocate for persons who are blind.
Community Advocate Award: Bruce Miles
Bruce Miles is no stranger to DBS, serving on the advisory council from 1985 to 1995, and the Florida Rehab Council for the Blind from 1995 to 2001. His current appointment was made October 2008. Miles also serves as the treasurer of the Blind Services Foundation. He is a three-term past president of the Marco Island Lions Club, currently serving as their “Tail Twister” and a board member. He is also the past director on the board of the Lighthouse of Collier.
Community Advocate Award: Robert Kelly
Robert Kelly is a certified rehabilitation counselor who has more than 30 years of experience in direct service provision and administration of services for people who are blind and visually impaired. He currently serves as chair of the Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind and executive director of the Florida Lions Conklin Center for the Blind in Daytona Beach. The Conklin Center is the only agency in the nation dedicated to providing vocational and daily living skills training to adults who are blind and have one or more additional disabilities in a residential setting.
Community Partner Award: Hands on Educational Services, Inc.
“Hands On Educational Services,” a training and employment provider, has partnered with Florida Division of Blind Services and the Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation since 1998. This organization has provided training to 60 clients with visual impairments. Affectionately referred to as “Hands On @ Hyatt,” the training program started as a culinary training program at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay. The “Hands On” program expanded quickly, and is currently operating at 35 Hyatt Hotels across the country, and persons with disabilities are now training in all hotel departments. In 2014, “Hands On @ Hyatt” was recognized as one of the top training and employment programs ?for individuals with disabilities.
DBS Employee Award: Angela Daughtry
Angela Daughtry has been dedicated to DBS for more than 20 years. As a rehabilitation specialist, she serves babies and children with vision loss, as well as adults who are not involved in the vocational program. She is committed to providing superior services to these individuals. In 2007, Angela received a Davis Productivity Award for her work developing a children’s summer camp program. She continues to plan and operate summer camps for the school-aged children on her caseload each year. She also provides services throughout the school year, including outreach to the community in order to inform people of DBS’ services.
DBS Employee Award: Leigh Ann Bellamy
Leigh Ann Bellamy is both a follower and a leader in her supervisor position in the Palmetto Office. She works with staff to improve their performance as needed and is an excellent trainer. Ms. Bellamy is detail oriented and is very familiar with DBS policy. She follows up when needed and is a true team player. In FY 2014-2015, Bellamy received an award for the most VR placements in a fiscal year (32). She understands Client Services and has consistently demonstrated her competence in that area for the past nine years.
DBS Employee Award: Linda Brown
Throughout her career, Ms. Linda Brown has demonstrated a long-term commitment to the blind population, which has continued since her retirement. For several years, she served as a District 9 administrator, which thrived under her leadership. As a supervisor, Brown was always very responsive to the needs of DBS customers, including CRPs, clients, employees and vendors. Because she consistently demonstrated excellence, she brought it out in the rest of her team. After retirement she began consulting with Hands On Educational Services. She is currently chair of the Board of the Manasota Lighthouse.
DBS Client Award: John DiMarco
John DiMarco received his training from Lighthouse of Collier and DBS’ Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Daytona Beach. Through his company, “Quest4Vision,” he designs tools for assisted mobility and offers one-on-one training for individuals who need assistance in learning how to use products for the blind and visually impaired. As an advocate, he has been instrumental in obtaining audible crosswalks and bus stop signs written in Braille for his community. He remains active with the Lions Club of Fort Myers Beach and serves as the chair for Collier Area Transit.
DBS Client Award: Virginia Jacko
Ms. Virginia Jacko attributes her independence to her vision rehabilitation at Miami Lighthouse. She was a successful financial executive at Purdue University, where she served as financial advisor to the president and provost, when she experienced gradual vision loss. Before her permanent appointment as president and CEO of Miami Lighthouse in 2005, Jacko served as a member of the Board of Directors, treasurer, and acting president and CEO. Under her leadership, Miami Lighthouse moved from a two-star to a four-star charity, and has achieved eight consecutive four-star ratings from Charity Navigator. This achievement has placed the organization among the top two percent of the 8,000 non-profits rated in the nation.
DBS Client Award: Dante Mickens
Dante Mickens is a former DBS client. A graduate of Florida State University, he received his bachelor degrees in finance and risk management and master’s degree in management with a major in risk management/insurance. He is also a graduate of the Florida School of the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine. Mickens is a two-time Paralympian, having competed in 2004 in Athens as well as 2008 in Beijing. He serves on several nonprofit advocacy boards including the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH), and the Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind, and is currently serving as chair of the Lighthouse of the Palm Beaches board of directors.
“Good things come to those who wait” could be Edward Spence’s motto. At age 50, he embarked on the path to a new career. He applied for the Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE) program in late 2013 and started his training in the spring of 2014. Licensed on October 15, 2014, it would be almost a year before he would sign into his first facility on September 1, 2015.
Spence had a solid work history when he applied for the program. For 30 years, he had worked for skycap services in various airports around the state. Twenty of those years, he was in management. He resigned in 2010 because he could no longer see the computer at work. Spence was passionate about working and was not about to let his diminishing sight stop him. He took computer classes in preparation for the BBE classes at the Daytona Rehab Center and took classes in Adaptive Technology after hours at the Center.
Once licensed, Spence participated in six different interviews for facilities to no avail. Others might have become discouraged, but not Spence. He knew that the right location was coming and that he just needed to be patient. In March 2014, he applied for a military dining facility in Camp Blanding. He was awarded the facility in April. Military dining is a unique opportunity and the selection process is complex. An operator has to be selected before a proposal can even be submitted. The selected vendor picks a teaming partner to assist with the proposal. It was September before Edward Spence signed the contract for the military dining at Camp Blanding in Starke.
Spence joins two other vendors that operate military dining facilities, Ed Hale at the Army Special Forces Underwater Training School, Trumbo Point in Key West and Alton Palmore at the Seashore Dining Facility, Panama City Naval Support Activity. Spence shows that patience and perseverance are two qualities that are important to being a success in the Business Enterprise program.
Students with the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired received instruction on fire safety recently. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue provided demonstrations of fire safety techniques. The students, who ranged in age from 14 to 22, learned how to use fire safety equipment, from extinguishers to alarms. To watch the video from the demonstration, visit http://www.miamiherald.com/latest-news/article89125257.html
Paralympian and recent Kellogg's cereal box cover girl Natalie Bieule visited Miami Lighthouse to talk with the STAR Program students, telling her story of how she came to be on the road to Rio and inspiring our students with her strength and determination.
A discus thrower with a prosthetic leg, the native Miamian had a big message for the students: "Never let anyone tell you no. The only limits are the ones we set for ourselves. No dream is ever too big!"
Another successful Lighthouse of Collier summer camp ended last month, and it was one for the records! It was an incredible year for the camp with a total of 27 campers signed up, 40 volunteers- volunteering over 2,500 hours and tons of fun, laughs and memories!
DBS Director Robert Doyle visited the camp and spoke with the campers and counselors. The four-week camp was held at The Girl Scout House. Each week was themed “Bugs” and featured a field trip or two with age-appropriate daily living skill activities that kept the campers busy. The campers buzzed into the first week, themed “Bug Week,” to The Naples Botanical Gardens.
The campers were given a tour of the Irma’s gardens, created a nature mandala on the lawn, played in the children’s garden with sensory games, participated in “mood sensing” activities with a violin performance and herbs and made lavender sachets.
During the second week, and once a week throughout the camp, the campers were caught swinging around at the Arthur L. Allen Tennis Center. The campers had a great time playing sound ball tennis (audio foam balls designed for the blind/vision impaired). The second week was themed, “CSI Week,” and the campers visited the Naples Zoo and Fire Station 1 for clues.
The campers strolled into the third week with CREW, during “Super Hero Week!” The campers had a great time on their nature walk with CREW and their staff of superheroes. The campers learned money folding and coin identification. Each camper was given good deed coins during the camp so they could purchase items at the Busy Bee Café.
The campers had a total sensory experience on the fourth week of camp at Sun-N-Fun Lagoon, during “Luau Week.” The campers had a blast splashing around the lagoon. Each week the campers built a project with Home Depot and created artful pieces with the Naples Art Association.
Besides the four-week summer camp, Lighthouse of Collier also offers monthly children’s programs. Please call or visit the web site for details: 239-430-3934 or http://www.lighthouseofcollier.org.
In the News
Throughout his life, nothing has come as naturally to Bruce Miles as serving on the Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind (RCB). Of course, he won’t tell you that – he’s much too humble to talk about himself, as his wife Sheila will tell you – but helping those in need has become his true passion. The FRCB’s job is to review, analyze and advise on the policy decisions of DBS, which provides a variety of programs for Floridians who are blind or visually impaired.
To read the full story, visit http://www.naplesnews.com/story/news/local/2016/08/02/marco-man-has-dedicated-more-than-30-years-blind/87535318/.
Can an app possibly give sight to the blind? That’s the vision behind Avi, an in-development mobile app that uses a smartphone camera to scan the world for objects, people, and text; before using audio to relay this information to the vision-impaired users. And while a project like this might sound impressive coming out from the labs of an established tech giant, it’s actually the work of Juan Pablo Ortiz: a 19-year-old programmer from Guatemala who has been coding since he was 13.
“I wanted to make an application to help blind people improve their everyday lives,” Ortiz, who looks every bit the teenager he is, says. “It can tell you what’s on a medical prescription or what type of money you’re holding. It can even scan a person and tell you if it’s a boy or girl, approximately what age they are, and what that person is doing.”
Read more at http://www.forbes.com/sites/sethporges/2016/08/04/the-avi-app-gives-sight-to-the-blind-and-was-built-by-a-teenager/#13caca9938ce.
Apple engineer Jordyn Castor has never been one for limitations. She was born 15 weeks early, weighing just under two pounds. Her grandfather could hold her in the palm of his hand, and could even slide his wedding ring along her arm and over her shoulder. Doctors said she had a slim chance of survival.
It was Castor's first brush with limited expectations — and also the first time she shattered them.
Read more at http://mashable.com/2016/07/10/apple-innovation-blind-engineer/#uHYTa8h.GOq3.
Luc was only 7 years old when his world went dark and he became blind unexpectedly. But as he likes to say, blindness isn't very effective on him.
Even with his can-do attitude, the 13-year-old recalls feeling excluded when he visited a museum exhibition with his family in Victoria, British Columbia. It offered no Braille for the blind to use in its museum experience, so his mother read information from the placards to him. Beyond that and a few audio buttons, the rest of the exhibit involved paintings and items encased in glass, with no way for him to learn more about them.
"It made me feel like an outsider," he said.
But two years ago, Luc was able to "see" art again in a unique way at a convention for the blind.
Read more at http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/30/health/3d-art-blind-museums/index.html.
The inability to see doesn't stop blind sisters Jenna and Rosanna Scott from running cross-country – in fact, it motivates them to work harder. The girls became best friends after rooming together in China's Bethel Foster Home, a center for visually impaired orphans. When Travis and Velleta Scott heard about their friendship, they couldn't bear to separate the two, so they chose to adopt both of them, officially making them sisters in 2008 when they brought them to the U.S. to start a new life.
Jenna, 15, and Rosanna, 16, grew up participating in "visually impaired friendly sports" such as Judo, but it wasn't until last year when they started eighth grade at West Fork Middle School in West Fork, Arkansas, that the two joined the cross country team.
To read the full story, visit http://www.people.com/article/adopted-blind-sisters-run-cross-country-together?xid=socialflow_facebook_peoplemag.
Did You Know?
By Carlotta Marquez
DBS State Office
At family parties in Venezuela, I remember being a kid and using every tequeño (a Venezuelan cheese stick wrapped in a savory pastry and fried to golden perfection) I consumed to anxiously count down the minutes until I was pulled onto the dance floor by my mom and aunts. I was happiest when their long dark hair joined their vibrant nightgowns to form a circle around me, encouraging me with their wide smiles and red lips to move my feet and let my hips follow.
Those memories are matched only by the times when together as a family in the United States, we would huddle around the wood-framed television set to watch Disney Sing-Alongs and popular movies to practice our English.
In a classic Venezuelan folk song called “Mi Querencia,” by Simon Diaz, the protagonist asks the sunrise to lend them its morning light so their love may be able to see their way back home. “Querencia” is an untranslatable Spanish word that refers abstractly to a place one considers home in which he/she draws strength.
As a proud Latina and Venezuelan-American, to me, being Latino/a in the U.S. means constantly and happily balancing a yearning to contribute and be a brilliant addition to society. By doing so, I am a part of the beautiful reality of belonging to a rich history from more countries, people, ethnicities and stories than I could ever count.
There is no greater feeling than to know that you form part of an identity far greater than yourself, your family or even your country of origin or heritage. Latinos are historically innovative, creative and socially engaged storytellers who weave together all of their experiences to inject life and color wherever they live.
And the food doesn’t hurt either!
by Keith Flowers
There are more resources today than ever before to help blind and visually impaired people work, play, and live more independent lives. The Florida Division of Blind Services' website contains a section devoted to Blindness Resources. Beginning in October, 2016 we will be featuring a different resource each week on our main page. Visit our website and check it out! And do come back often to see what's new we've come up with to help make blind and visually impaired people's lives richer and more fulfilling.
- Persell Scott, Fiscal/State Office
- Synthia Thomas, Daytona
- Kemon Long, Daytona
- Audrey Pingshaw, Daytona
- Stephanie Ormeno, Daytona
- Melissa Mahoney, Jacksonville
- Elizabeth Lawson, Daytona
Wayne Jennings, Tallahassee
Wayne Jennings has been named the new DBS District Administrator in Tallahassee. Jennings brings with him a vast knowledge of DBS as a whole and the VR program. Jennings graduated from Florida State University with a master’s degree in visual disabilities. After working for Leon County Schools as a teacher of the visually impaired and orientation & mobility specialist, he came to the Florida Division of Blind Services. Here, he served as the Vocational Rehabilitation Program consultant and/or Transition Program consultant for 12 years. In his new role in the Tallahassee office, Jennings’ goal is to improve services to the clients of the Big Bend area while exceeding the district’s goals.
- Mary Varda, Fort Myers
- Armando Azpeitia, State Office
- Grazyna C. Golasz, West Palm Beach
West Palm Beach’s Grazyna “Grace” Golasz retired after more than 30 years of employment with DBS. During her time with the agency, her work and commitment truly made a lasting impact — one that has changed District 10 for the better in so many ways.
Her colleagues enjoyed working with her and considered her not only a valuable asset to the agency, but an enjoyable presence in the office as well. Her hard work and diligence will remain a stellar example of dedication and an inspiration.
“We are saddened to see her go, but we are confident that she will find the same success and happiness in retirement that she experienced during her time here,” her coworkers said. “We wish her the best in her future endeavors! Retirement will surely offer her many new opportunities, which we know she will embrace whole-heartedly, just as she did at District 10. Thanks for everything, Ms. Grace, and enjoy your retirement.”
Congratulations to Armando “Mondi” Azpeitia on his retirement. Azpeitia, who worked in the State Office, led an expansive career — teaching and advocating for the blind. He began his tutelage under the legendary Purvis Ponder, known as the “Grandfather of Orientation and Mobility” at Florida State University.
Upon graduation, his journey started in Donelson, Tenn. at the Tennessee School for the Blind, and then to the Atlanta Public Schools, where he taught Orientation & Mobility. Next came an opportunity to work with some of the field’s future superstars at the Foundation for the Junior Blind in Los Angeles, who would make their mark around the world.
The journey then led him to Virginia and another new and innovative program for pre-school aged blind/visually impaired children. It was brief, but it created the momentum for the aggressive identification and provision of pre-school strategies for blind children and families. The endless journey continued and next it took him to Portland, Ore. and the Commission for the Blind. He says, he was fortunate enough to partner with “future superstars in the field and initiate some of the most imaginative rehabilitation efforts of the time.” Some of these efforts included transition strategies for high school students, older blind programming & funding, innovative placement strategies, deaf/blind rehabilitation and work evaluation strategies. After this, the path led him to the Florida and the Division of Blind Services, beginning his 31-year career with DBS.
“It has been my distinct privilege and pleasure to work with each of you and try to provide continual awareness of our ultimate objective within the DBS journey,” he said.
Azpeitia’s passion and expertise will be missed.
- Tracy Bradley
- Janet Chernoff
- Dacia Drury
- Keith Flowers
- Stephen Holland
- Stephanie Lambert
- Carlotta Marquez
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