November / December 2016

Director’s Message

DBS’ Successes Will Continue in 2017

Director Robert DoyleBefore the new year commences, I want to thank you for your accomplishments and hard work for the last year. It has really been a great one for the Division of Blind Services.
One of the highlights for this year has been our 75th anniversary celebration. Since April 2016, DBS has hosted several statewide ceremonies and expos. As a state and nation, we have come a long way over the last 75 years in terms of how individuals with disabilities are treated, a fact in which all Floridians can take great pride. DBS has been able to increase accessibility and inclusion for Floridians in the blind and visually impaired community, and we are committed to continue this progress so everyone benefiting from our system has the greatest opportunity for a successful future.

As part of the anniversary ceremony, DBS has inducted nearly 50 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. 

These 75 years are just the start; we are so not done —with many more years of success to look forward to.

This year, DBS has done an exceptional job at achieving its goals and getting people into Florida’s workforce. We exceeded employment goals by supporting 840 individuals in achieving successful employment outcomes. This represents a 10 percent increase from the previous year. This year’s successes will make a big difference to DBS clients, their families, businesses and the community.

I want to take this time to applaud Linda Hernandez of District 12 (Miami), who facilitated the highest number of individual cases (34) to achieve successful employment goals of all DBS’ districts in the state.

In early 2016, we rolled out our online referral forms and applications for service, which provided consumers with the opportunity to directly apply for services through the Division. This paperless alternative expedited the turnaround time for the application. Thank you to everyone who worked diligently to make that project a success.

Another accomplishment this year was the launch of the new Pre-Employment Program (PEP) at our residential rehabilitation center for the blind in Daytona. PEP, a four-week structured learning program designed specifically to address the employability needs of people with visual disabilities, simulates a work environment, facilitates soft skills development, provides feedback on capabilities and areas for improvement, and evaluates the individual’s readiness to work.

DBS has an abundance of great strengths and even greater potential, and I believe we are well positioned for the future. We will kick the year off with the launch of our newly designed website (www.dbs.fldoe.org) on Jan. 3. Our team has been working diligently to improve the site and make it more accessible and user friendly.

I hope you enjoy your well-deserved break with your family and friends during this holiday season, and I am looking forward to our collective and individual successes of 2017.

Sincerely,

Robert L. Doyle, III

News

DBS Celebrates Veterans and 75th Anniversary in West Palm Beach

The Division of Blind Services commemorated its commitment to fostering independence for individuals who are blind and visually impaired during its 75th Anniversary Ceremony and Expo in West Palm Beach.

Three people holding up a proclamation from the City of West Palm Beach

The event, hosted at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, featured educational sessions, networking opportunities, a community and technology showcase and inspirational testimonials from former DBS clients. The event also served as a time to celebrate the brave men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Highlights included an energetic performance by Business Enterprise vendor Don Gerschick and a proclamation presented by the City of West Palm Beach. Two-time Paralympian Donté Mickens shared his story of overcoming his own personal adversities to become one of the most recognized advocates for persons with visual disabilities in West Palm Beach.

Donte Mickens tests out a magnifier while Charles Palmer, John Palmer and Connor Boss watch

“My mom taught me that though the attention and challenges may seem and actually be unfair at times,” he said, “always find a way to leverage that which appears negative and keep moving forward.”

Mickens, 36, is a graduate of Florida State University and the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. He competed in the Paralympics in 2004 in Athens, Greece, where he won a bronze medal as part of the United States National Men's Goalball Team, and again in 2008 in Beijing, China. 

Business Enterprise vendor Don Gerschick plays his guitar Visually impaired woman gets a flu shot from a CVS pharmacy technician

“In sports, we learn to challenge ourselves both mentally and physically,” Mickens said. “Being visually impaired is nothing more than a challenge that will ultimately make us that much stronger and faster in the end. Vision loss can be an addition by subtraction, as long as you don't misread the equation. Besides, we don't typically dream with our eyes open anyway."

Superheroes of Disability Awareness Month

The DBS Sunrise office participated at the 37th Annual Expo at the Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Fla. The Expo is a South Florida celebration for people with all disabilities

DBS staff distributed promotional items and discussed the agency’s different programs and services during the event. The Expo showcased many of the local and statewide agencies that serve varied populations. The event served as a great outreach opportunity for DBS.

Linda Hernandez dressed as the superhero Wonder Woman Vanessa Charles dresses as a superhero Vanessa Charles and Linda Hernandez the DBS exhibit table during the Nova Southeastern University Disability Expo

To coincide with the “Superhero” theme, the literature from the event was done in the style of a comic book. Participants were given blue capes to wear. There was an Exhibitors Showcase to attain information about disability products and services, a Fun Zone holding art activities and face painting for the kids, as well as a Chill Zone, which served as a quiet area for parents to take their children. Activities for the day included musical performances, a fashion show, wheelchair basketball tournament and informational seminars. The day was capped off with a Superhero Costume Contest.

DBS staff members are all superheroes in their dedication and commitment to the clients served.

CCLVI to Award Scholarships to College Students

Graduation cap placed on top of a stack of books

The Council of Citizens with Low Vision International (CCLVI) will award three scholarships in the amount of $3,000, respectively, to a full-time incoming freshman, an undergraduate and a graduate college student who are low vision, maintain a strong GPA and are involved in their school/local community.

Application materials must be received by March 1. Scholarship monies will be awarded for the 2017 - 2018 academic year. To read the scholarship guidelines and complete an online application, please visit http://www.cclvi.org.

Applications will be available to submit online from January 1 until March 1 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Questions may be directed to CCLVI at (800) 733-2258 or scholarship@cclvi.org.

Broward County Celebrates White Cane Day

White Cane Safety Day participants and guide dogs standing on a sidewalk

White Cane Safety Day is an important day that celebrates the achievements made in the blind and visually impaired community. This year, Tom Ryan, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida Greater Broward chapter, hosted White Cane Safety Day at the Broward County Library in Fort Lauderdale. More than 80 people participated in the annual walk, including Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler and DBS staff.

DBS Staff Donate Toys and Clothing to Families in Leon and Gadsden Counties

Eleven people smiling at the camera while holding various toys Table full of children’s toys and clothing

For the holidays, DBS staff donated toys, clothing and household supplies to families in Leon and Gadsden counties. Last year, the group also provided stuffed animals and soft toys to patients in the children's wards of the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and Capital Regional Medical Center.

Governor Rick Scott & First Lady Ann Scott's Black History Month Contests

The words Black History Month written in red, yellow and greenFlorida's Black History Month 2017 theme is "A Recognition of the African-American Role in Shaping Florida Today."

Governor Rick Scott's Black History Month Art Contest is open to all K-3 students in Florida. Two winners will be selected and notified after February 2, 2017. Each contestant must be a legal resident of Florida and enrolled as a student in a Florida school at the time of his/her application.

Governor Rick Scott's Black History Month Essay Contest is open to all students attending a Florida school in grades 4-12. Three winners will be selected: one elementary school student (grades 4-5), one middle school student (grades 6-8), and one high school student (grades 9-12). Winners will be notified after February 2, 2017.

Contestants must be Florida residents, attend school in Florida, and able to provide a Social Security Number. Each student may enter only one essay, written in English, no longer than 500 words.

Entries can be mailed to Volunteer Florida, Black History Month Committee, 3800 Esplanade Way, Suite 180, Tallahassee, Florida 32311, or submitted electronically. All entries must be received no later than 5 p.m. EST on January 20, 2017. (Contestants are responsible for all shipping costs.) Entries submitted electronically will receive email confirmation.

For more information, visit http://www.floridablackhistory.com/essay.cfm

Success Stories

BBE Vendor Flourishes in Tallahassee and Lake City

Terri Bowen LindstromInspired by her brother’s successful entry into the DBS Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE) program, Terri Bowen Lindstrom applied to the program.

Lindstrom’s first facility was a brand new snack bar in the Escambia County Sherriff’s Department in Pensacola.  The facility was still under construction when she arrived, but by the time she left, Lindstrom had developed a solid business and a good relationship with the department’s staff. 

Her next facility was a snack bar in the City Centre Building in Tallahassee.  She focused on providing gourmet sandwiches and her business flourished. Lindstrom received a letter of commendation from the building director in 1989 for obtaining a perfect score of 100 on a sanitation inspection. She went on to operate cafeterias in the Caldwell and Larson buildings in Tallahassee. 

After 14 years in food service, Lindstrom transitioned into vending and accepted a contract to operate an interstate rest area on I-10 west of Tallahassee.  Her idea was to service the facility during the day and take classes in massage therapy at night.  Once she was certified as a massage therapist, Lindstrom planned to leave the program. In the end she decided to pursue both.

In 2011, she became more involved in her facility and joined the Committee of Vendors.  In 2015 she retired from her massage business and moved to Lake City to operate a westbound rest area on I-10 in Columbia County. Lindstrom says the business knowledge gained from the program has contributed to her success in her facilities and in her massage business. 

DBS Inducts 15 Into the "Successful 75"

In November, the Division presented 15 “Successful 75” awards to individuals, organizations and businesses that represent and/or are committed to fostering independence in blind and visually impaired Floridians. Congratulations to the following recipients

Carolyn Lapp standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyCommunity Advocate Award:
Carolyn Lapp

Carolyn Lapp is the founder and director of the Florida Outreach Center. She has developed a nurturing environment that fosters growth for the blind and visually impaired population. The Florida Outreach Center is not just a training facility, but also a home away from home for many of DBS’ clients. Ms. Lapp is a strong proponent of integrated employment and her employment practices demonstrate that.  She has tremendous faith in the blind and advocates for their success whenever possible. Ms. Lapp has worked with DBS to carve positions for our clients. 

Dr. Elly Du Pre standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyCommunity Advocate Award:
Dr. Elly Du Pre

Dr. Elly Du Pre has been an instrumental advocate for persons with visual impairments in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.  Her career spans 45 years in this field. She has consistently had a leading role in creating initiatives and developing new opportunities for children, adults and seniors who are blind or visually impaired. Dr. Du Pre has supported opportunities for individuals with visual impairments to live, work and play comfortably in all arenas. In her position as executive director of the Lighthouse of Broward, Dr. Du Pre encourages her staff to do presentations and supports clients' desire to interact independently with their sighted partners in the community.

Manes Pacius standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyCommunity Advocate Award:
Manes Pacius

Manes Pacius is an inspirational advocate for our clients.  He tirelessly tutors and trains DBS clients so that they may reach their full potential.  At the Outreach Center, he works to better the lives of clients. When DBS needs something done, Pacius finds a way. He always makes sure that training is timely and effective and works with the Division on every level.

Larry McDowell standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyCommunity Advocate Award:
Larry McDowell

Larry McDowell provides a home away from home for many members of the blind community in West Palm Beach through the Braille Club.  He provides countless opportunities for training, learning and socialization at no cost for Braille Club members. He is always willing to support DBS and its clients by providing volunteer and employment opportunities.

 Genie Salzverg standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyCommunity Partner Award:
Genie Salzverg

Genie Salzberg works as a certified vision rehabilitation therapist for the Lighthouse for the Blind of the Palm Beaches. Salzverg works to ensure that clients are able to receive the training needed for their own independent living and successful employment.  She is always available to her students and she encourages DBS counselors to attend her classes, observe and collaborate to better serve the clients. With regards to the students she serves, Salzverg demonstrates various methods of how to complete a daily living task so that students may make an informed choice of how they would like to perform the task taught safely and independently.  Her teaching techniques are varied to meet the needs of her student population. Recently, Salzverg arranged and attended Cane Fu, which is a self defense course teaching individuals who are blind how to defend themselves with the use of their canes.  This course was a major success.

Sarah Smedley standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyCommunity Partner Award:
Sarah Smedley

Sarah Smedley runs the Braille and Talking Books Library in Palm Beach County.  She oversees the daily operations of the library to ensure that patrons, who are blind and visually impaired, are able to have access to reading materials in their choice of digital format, use of the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) app, and through Braille as well. She has assisted DBS counselors with getting Learning Ally books into a format that could be accessed on the digital National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) player.  Because of her diligence, students have been able to succeed in their course work using the NLS player.  She has also been willing to provide work experience opportunities to job-ready participants.

Crystal Samuels standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyCommunity Partner Award:
Crystal Samuels

St. Lucie Eye Associates has been the source of at least five referrals per year. Crystal Samuels coordinates eye medical care for DBS clients and works with our agency to ensure that clients receive surgery and follow-up care. She also connects clients to other resources when necessary. Samuels not only advocates for her patients, but also ensures they receive quality services. She has assisted many clients in maintaining employment in cooperation with DBS

Betty Stenberg standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyCommunity Partner Award:
Betty Stenberg

Betty Stenberg is the manager of Walgreens in Boynton Beach. She has always made herself and her staff available to assist DBS in any way possible. For the past two years, Stenberg has been able to service DBS clients at health fairs and open houses by providing them with talking pill bottles, free flu shots and personable service. She is a pleasure to work with and aware of the needs of DBS clients. Stenberg has made herself known and available to many of the DBS community rehabilitation partners in the Palm Beaches and maintains contact to service clients.  She volunteers her time with seniors at centers and is able to deliver services from Walgreens that benefit this population.

Linda Hernandez standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyDBS Employee Award:
Linda Hernandez

Linda Hernandez has been a dedicated employee of the DBS since March 2003. She began her career with DBS in District 12 in Miami, where she excelled in all aspects of her job as the senior rehabilitation specialist.  She later took on the position as a rehabilitation supervisor from March 2012 until April 2014.  However, she returned to the position as a senior rehabilitation specialist when she transferred to District 11 in Ft. Lauderdale in 2014, realizing that working directly supporting individuals with vision impairment to achieve their employment goals was her true passion. This past fiscal year, Hernandez had the distinguished honor of facilitating the highest number of individual cases to achieve successful employment goals of all the Districts in the state. She was able to close 34 cases — a milestone few have accomplished in their careers with DBS. 

Grazyna Grace Golasz standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyDBS Employee Award:
Grazyna “Grace” Golasz

Grace Golasz is a veteran employee of DBS.  She provided exemplary service to clients for more than 35 years. Golasz started with the Division as a secretary, worked as a rehabilitation technician, and then was promoted to a rehabilitation specialist. She remained steadfast and strong to her commitment to the agency. Golasz showed devotion to the clients she served, staff she worked with, and to the agency’s mission and values over all.  She could always be counted on to lend a helping hand, complete a project or just share a good laugh or story. Golasz always followed policies, procedures, and worked diligently to ensure that clients’ needs were met while adhering to those policies.  She always educated herself on the changes being made so that she could provide the most current, up-to-date information to her client base.

Herbert Mejia standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyDBS Employee Award:
Herbert Mejia

Herbert Mejia is the West Palm Beach team liaison who is always willing to go the extra mile. He is dedicated to his job and staff members who he considers his extended family. Mejia is very gifted and shares his talents with the agency at the state level. He has designed brochures, emblems and logos that represent DBS. Mejia is knowledgeable and well versed in all of the DBS programs. Mr. Mejia has a great rapport with many of the clients. He is always very cordial and is able to share great uplifting messages that give the clients hope and reason to stay connected to the agency. Mejia has the ability to spearhead a task and others get on board. His attitude is never geared to self and always geared toward reaching a goal for the betterment of the district.

Don Gerschick standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyDBS Client Award:
Don Gerschick

Don Gerschick has been a vendor for the Bureau of Business Enterprise for more than 31 years. He has been described as energetic, business savvy and friendly. Don’s Coffee Spot in the Palm Beach County Courthouse is the bright spot on a cloudy courthouse day. The customers are not the only ones who benefit from his special brand of service; Mr. Gershick has mentored a number of BBE trainees during their work experience and on-the-job training. He says that it is his way of giving back to the program that has done so much for him.

Tiffany Bowman standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyDBS Client Award:
Tiffany Bowman

Tiffany Bowman came to the Division of Blind Services when she began to experience vision loss, which prevented her from continuing in her previous career as a restaurant manager.  Bowman and her counselor worked together to find a career that she would excel in despite her visual impairment.  After vocational assessment, counseling and guidance and training, she earned her degree in elementary education from Florida Atlantic University.  Subsequently, she was hired by Somerset Academy as a second grade teacher. Students, parents, supervisors and colleagues all love Bowman.  She is extremely energetic and passionate about her job. Bowman is a leader for students and staff. Students all enjoy working with Bowman as she uses her video magnifier and Zoomtext screen magnification program. Students view different objects using the CC TV, which makes lessons much more fun and interesting. In her first year as a teacher, she organized a career day for students in which DBS participated.  She has organized this event every year since.

Alton Palmore standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyDBS Client Award:
Alton Palmore

Alton Palmore is a blind veteran who served in the United States Army.  He later retired and moved from Mississippi to West Palm Beach.  Mr. Palmore began to lose his sight due to glaucoma and accessed services from the Veteran Affairs Medical Center's Blind Rehab Department. While receiving training, he learned about the Bureau of Business Enterprise program. Once he completed his training and passed all exams, he was awarded a facility at the prison in Marianna, where he managed the facility for two years. In October of 2015, Palmore was awarded the contract to operate a military dining facility at Panama City Naval Air Station.

Representatives from MV Transportation standing with Bobbie Howard Davis and Michelle LevyBusiness Award:
MV Transportation

For more than 35 years, MV Transportation has provided safe, reliable, affordable transportation services. Drivers receive diversity and other special training to handle and work with individuals with visual impairments. MV Transportation is committed to working with and providing reasonable accommodations to individuals with all types of disabilities through their services and hiring practices.

Partners

Lighthouse of Broward Hosts Fall Festival

Guests participate in a drum circle

The Lighthouse of Broward recently hosted its Fall Festival at Welleby’s Park in Broward County for clients enrolled in the Babies and Children’s program. The children and their families were invited to participate in several activities. There were sensory activities, including a touch-and-feel experience. This encouraged the children to reach inside buckets to identify the items, which were soft, rough and squishy.

Three women of various ages stand next to a pumpkin

Another activity involved them being blindfolded and looking for items. This required the children to use their listening skills and Orientation and Mobility skills. There was a drum circle where participants could listen to various drums to hear the different sounds. They later had the opportunity to play the drums.

In the News

Dolls With Disabilities Escape The Toy Hospital, Go Mainstream

Dominika Tamley and her doll Isebelle ride the train togetherWhen Dominika Tamley chose "Isebelle," her American Girl doll, she picked a toy whose hair and eye color matched her own. But the 10-year-old is quick to point out that's not the only way the doll resembles the real child who plays with her.
"She's like a mini-me," Tamley explained with pride. "Because she has a hearing aid and I have a hearing aid."

To read more, visit  http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/12/18/505722057/dolls-with-disabilities-escape-the-toy-hospital-go-mainstream

Teen Uses App to Give Visually-Impaired a New Look at the World

Young male student holds an iPhone while leaning on a lockerA Toronto teen is hoping to change the lives of visually impaired people around the world with a new app that can identify virtually any object with the quick tap of an iPhone or iPad.

Anmol Tukrel has always been fascinated with technology, particularly artificial intelligence. By the time he was in the seventh grade, he was already teaching himself how to code.

To read more, visit https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2016/11/28/toronto-teen-uses-app-to-give-visually-impaired-a-new-look-at-the-world.html

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325 West Gaines Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399

Email: Communications@dbs.fldoe.org
Phone: 850-245-7858

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