January 2017

Director’s Message

Robert Doyle Three years ago, I had the pleasure to announce that Antionette Williams had been promoted into the position of Deputy Director at DBS. Working with her and all of our teams across the state, we have made many great accomplishments. From achieving record outcomes for DBS consumers, the establishment of better data management systems, improving administration of services at the Braille and Talking Book Library and the establishment of the Pre-Employment Program at the Rehabilitation Center, we have made great strides. Along the way, Antionette Williams earned her degree in educational leadership and human services from Florida A&M University and became Dr. Antionette Williams.

Today, we announce that Dr. Williams has been promoted to Executive Staff Director in the Florida Department of Education Division of Technology and Innovation.

A native of Tallahassee, Dr. Williams began her service at DBS as a Word Processor Systems Operator. Throughout the course of her 23 years with the agency, she has worked in various roles, including that of a Rehabilitation Technician, Independent Living Counselor, Children’s Counselor, VR Counselor, VR Program Consultant, Sr. Management Analyst II and Bureau Chief of Client Services and as the DBS Deputy Director.

Antionette has been a strong administrator for the division. She has been a reliable team member who could always be counted on to get the job done.
To Antionette – Thank you for the support and hard work you have provided to all of us. I will miss our daily interactions and having you as a key member of our leadership team.

We wish Dr. Williams the very best as her talents have led the way to new opportunities.


DBS Celebrates Braille Literacy Month

Walter Blackmon with kids and a Braille book

In honor of National Braille Literacy Month, staff from the Florida Department of Education’s (FDOE) Division of Blind Services (DBS) read the Braille version of “Three Little Pigs” to 60 Pre-K students at J. Michael Conley Elementary School in Tallahassee.

Walter Blackmon showing kids a Braille book

Following the reading, students learned about the varying levels of blindness, as they participated in activities using vision simulators. The students were later presented with copies of their names written in Braille and the Braille alphabet.

Child looking at a book through a pair of vision simulators

To view more photos, visit the DBS Facebook page.

Kudos for Braille Literacy Presentation via Facebook

Walter Blackmon showing kids Braille

“Wow, as a mother to three boys, two visually impaired, I think this is a beautiful thing for Mr. Blackmon to open up these kids to the possibilities there are, even for visually impaired people. Thank you, DBS, for all you have done to help my children throughout the years. We ??love you and couldn't have done it without your help. ??????

Bureau of Business Enterprise Unveils New Micro Market at FDOE

Cafe 325 sign

In late January, DBS hosted the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony for the Florida Department of Education’s new micro market, Café 325. The rebuilding phase, which began in March 2016, was a long time coming for many FDOE employees.

Director Doyle and two ladies at ribbon cutting ceremony

The new facility features an array of services and capabilities, including easily accessible kiosks for self-checkout. Café 325 offers a large selection of sandwiches, salads, snacks, toiletry items and more.

John Ahler and customer examining a kisok

The team members who spearheaded this project included DBS’ Deputy Director Antionette Williams, BBE Chief William Findley, Brian Ashworth, Maureen Fink, Robin Frydenborg and others.

Upcoming Rehab Council Meeting to be Held in Tampa

Rehab Council Meeting LogoThe DBS Rehabilitation Council Quarterly Meeting and Public Forum is scheduled for February 9-10 in Tampa. DBS helps individuals with visual impairments to achieve employment and independence under Title I of the Rehab Act. The Public Forum is for consumer input on the effectiveness of those services.

February 9: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. – The Double-Tree Tampa Airport Westshore (4500 West Cypress Street, Tampa, Fla., 33607)

February 10: 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. – The Double-Tree Tampa Airport Westshore (4500 West Cypress Street, Tampa, Florida, 33607)

Sign-in cards will be available outside the entrance to the meeting room for anyone wishing to speak.

To Participate by Telephone

Telephone 1(888) 670-3525
Passcode 1242528392#

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, Fla. 32399, 850- 245-0329, Selena.Sickler@dbs.fldoe.org or through the Florida Telephone Relay system 711.

United States Business Leadership Network Recruiting Mentees for Rising Leaders Mentorship program

Lady sitting in chair If you are a college student or recent graduate with a disability that has questions about transitioning into employment in the business sector, the United States Business Leadership Network is recruiting mentees for the Rising Leaders Mentoring Program (RLMP).

The mentoring program is designed to support students and recent graduates as they navigate what is means to be successful in the workforce. The RLMP also gives students and recent graduates a network of business partners to connect with.

Business partners include: Google, Northrop Grumman, Ernest and Young, Facebook, Microsoft and many more. The program will run from March – August of 2017.

For more information, visit the USBLN website or contact the program manager, Keri Gray (keri@usbln.org).

Success Stories

Garcia Makes a Difference in His Community

DBS client Illdefonso “Al” Garcia of Pinellas County, is making a difference in the lives of many on a daily basis. A former restaurateur, Garcia enlisted the job placement services of his local DBS office to find an opportunity where he could utilize his experience in the hospitality industry.

Garcia standing in a room full of tables

That opportunity presented itself during a work experience at a Neighborly Care Network (NCN) distribution and dining site in Clearwater. NCN provides meals-on-wheels as well as dine-in services throughout the county.

Program Manager Peggy Coleman soon noticed Garcia’s knowledge of food service, coupled with his professionalism and kindness toward co-workers and clients. After three weeks, she offered him a position as the site director.

“This has really developed into a position I feel I am good at,” Garcia said. “I enjoy helping others.”

Miami Vendor Perseveres and Becomes a Proud Member of the BBE Vendor Community

Guillermo AlvarezGuillermo Alvarez’s story is not an unusual one, especially in the Miami area. Born in Cuba in 1965, he relocated to Miami in 2004 and became a citizen in 2010. What makes Alvarez’s story different is that he has been legally blind since birth.

Once in the United States, Alvarez completed his GED while working odd jobs in restaurants. He became a licensed massage therapist in 2008, but was finding it hard to secure clients. Alvarez applied for the Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE) program because he felt the program would provide him an opportunity to be employed. He wanted to improve life for himself and his family.

Alvarez was not new to the food service industry, as he had operated a cafeteria for 10 years in Cuba. He started BBE training in January 2014 and was licensed in June. He excelled in class though he needed an interpreter to help him with the lessons.

It took Alvarez almost a year to be awarded a facility, primarily because he wanted to remain in the Miami area. He was not idle while he waited, working with other vendors to hone his skills. His abilities were soon recognized and he was awarded the vending route in August 2015. In May 2016, he took on the added challenge of running a second facility when a vendor unexpectedly resigned.

Alvarez is a man of dignity. Even when facing financial hardships and the unavoidable delay to the start of his career, he held his head high and moved forward. Alvarez says he is very proud of this country and the program that has given him this opportunity. He came to this country alone and was without his family for two years. He had some really bad times, but he kept going and working hard. Showing an appreciation for every opportunity he receives, he continues to advance and is a proud member of the BBE vendor community.

In the News

Sandcastles Homage to Braille Inventor

PaintingA blind Dunedin woman battled a strong southerly wind and hail to pay homage to her hero.

‘‘It’s time to hail the Braille,’’ Blind Foundation ambassador Julie Woods said.

The foundation marked the anniversary of Louis Braille’s birth 208 years ago by inviting people to build sandcastles spelling out ‘‘HBLB’’ — ‘‘Happy Birthday Louis Braille’’ — in Braille on New Zealand beaches.


To read more, visit https://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/sandcastles-homage-braille-inventor

Company Produces Braille Edition of Popular Kids Magazine

Picture of magazine cover A first-ever Braille edition of “National Geographic for Kids" is rolling off the press thanks to a company in Boston.

Jaclyn Sheridan with National Braille Press said that turning a visually layered, picture-heavy magazine into a version that's accessible to their readers is no simple task.
The magazine was delivered to 3,500 kids across the country.

To read more, visit http://www.fox25boston.com/news/boston-company-produces-1st-ever-braille-edition-of-popular-kids-magazine/485957918

Blind Teen Visits Florida Business that Changed His Life

A lot of people come to Florida on vacation for sunsets, fishing and, of course, Mickey Mouse. But if you only had one place to visit would you visit an old office building in St. Petersburg?

When 18-year-old Andrew Zeman walked through the doors, it turned heads.
Andrew was born without eyes and with “severe renal failure," according to his mom, Karen. Doctors expected him to need a kidney transplant before his first birthday. Instead, his kidney lasted over a decade before Andrew ultimately received a transplanted kidney from his uncle. The transplant qualified him to get a wish granted from the Make-A-Wish foundation. There was no doubt where he wanted to visit. The company created J.A.W.S., which stands for Job Access With Speech.

Andrew Zeman visiting Florida

“J.A.W.S. basically gives you the ability to do what sighted people do: look at the screen and have the screen read to you,” said Program Manager Dan Clark.
To read more, visit: http://www.wtsp.com/entertainment/places/bobby-lewis-on-the-road/blind-teen-visits-florida-business-that-changed-his-life/382141471


Tutorials for Apple Devices

Hadley logoThe Hadley School for the Blind in Illinois has several tutorials for Apple devices. Watch the video that teaches about the new TV app and other useful teaching videos that are accessible to visually impaired people.



Braille Flag at Arlington

Braille flag at Arlington

Did you know Arlington National Cemetery has a Braille American Flag in honor of blind veterans? The Braille Flag can be found inside the Arlington National Cemetery Welcome Center.


Welcome Our Newest Employees

Congratulations to the Employees Receiving Promotions

Farewell to Those Employees Who Have Retired

Ferry Sails into Retirement

After 34 years with the Department of Education, Marta Ferry says she is sad to go, but looking forward to retirement. Ferry joined the DBS family in 2008. In her role as a senior management analyst, she handles DBS administrative budget, develops the DBS Legislative Budget Request and expenditure projections, monitors federal grant match dollars, and signs off on all expenditures and checks for the available budget.

Ferry, who works in the State Office, says she will miss many of her colleagues. What she won’t miss? Waking up early to come to work.

“I want to thank and wish everyone the best of luck in the future,” she said.



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Contact Us

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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