February / March 2017

Director’s Message

This Season Blooms New Opportunities

Robert DoyleWelcome to another edition of the Visionary.

With the onset of spring, many of us are beginning to experience all the joys of new life. As the cycle of life renews, our senses can enjoy the sounds of birds singing, the warmth of the sun extended later into the evening and the smells of the flowers blooming. Spring brings hope.

As I had the opportunity to participate in the various events over the last month and to read some of the inspirational stories contained in this edition of the Visionary, I feel the delight and privilege of being part of this service community. I am moved with expectation by working with so many people who emit hope each day.

I could not let the month go by without sharing why March is so special to me. This March marks 20 years from the date that I first met my wife. While the initial plan was to chaperon community college students as we visited senior institutions in Houston, there was a bigger destiny waiting. There, I met not only my future wife (we married just nine weeks after meeting), but purpose blossomed for us, as she introduced me to issues and opportunities in working in the field of disabilities. While it did not all click in that one afternoon, my life was altered for the better on that March day. I was given the chance to join others in the pursuit of serving and making a difference.

As we watch new life bloom this spring, I want to encourage all – from our staff and services providers to our clients and the general public –  let’s continue, or begin anew, the process of bringing hope to the lives of others.


Robert L. Doyle III


DBS Commemorates 75 Years of Fostering Independence for Blind and Visually Impaired Floridians at the 75th Anniversary Regional Ceremony and Expo in Orlando

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

This year, DBS provided services to 3,011 individuals in the Central Florida area, which included 1,323 jobseekers who were preparing for or looking to retain employment.

Dave Hillebrandt plays his guitar and sings while standing in front of a DBS 75th anniversary banner

The 75th Anniversary Regional Ceremony and Expo, which took place at the Ronald Blocker Educational Leadership Center, featured informational sessions, networking opportunities, a community and technology showcase and inspirational testimonials from former DBS clients.

During the Bureau of Business Enterprises’ (BBE) session, vendor Dennis Horn told the audience he hopes the work he does within the program inspires others.

DBS Staff member discusses the See Different initiative to three people

“I lost all my purpose when I lost my sight,” he said. “But after linking with the (BBE program), I realized we are put on this earth to inspire. I want to be an inspiration to others.”

Dwight D. Sayer, who currently serves as the president of the National Association of Blind Veterans, shared his story with the crowd of more than 100. He was honorably/medically discharged from the Air Force in 1969 due to blindness.

Dwight Sayer stands at a podium and speaks into a microphone

“Loss of sight is just an event,” said the Rochester, N.Y. native. “A lot depends on your attitude. There are no barriers you can’t get beyond. It takes time and persistence. The more you invest in yourself, the better you will be.”

For former DBS client Wanda Walerius, the biggest transition was the overwhelming feeling of being challenged by society.

“After many months of counseling before and during visual rehabilitation, I learned that I am still the person I always was — just functioning a little differently,” said Walerius, who has found gainful employment at Walt Disney World. “My low vision does not define me, but rather shows the world that I do have something to contribute.”

Two women sent at the Lighthouse Central Florida Display table

To view more photos, visit the DBS Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/FloridaBlindServices/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1241488432573329

DBS Participates in Annual Florida State Hospital Employees Health Fair

Staff from the DBS Tallahassee office recently attended the Florida State Hospital Employees Health Fair, which was held on the Florida State Hospital campus in Chattahoochee.

La’Verne Scott and Bertha Hyche standing next to the DBS exhibit table

La’Verne Scott standing next to two women at the DBS exhibit table

The event allowed vendors in the Big Bend area to come together to showcase the many services they offer. There were approximately 60 vendors and their tables displayed a host of promotional items and literature about their agencies. There were also a number of vendors who donated door prizes as well as cash prizes to lucky ticket holders. 

Hospital staff and vendors have enjoyed this event annually.

DBS Celebrates National Wear Red Day

Staff in the DBS State Office wore red on Feb. 3 in support of Heart Healthy Month and to help bring awareness about heart disease.

Wear Red Day: Eight men and women wearing red standing next to a wall and smiling.

While heart disease risk begins to rise in middle age, heart disease develops over time and can start at a young age, even in the teen years. It's never too early, or too late, to take action to prevent and control the risk factors for heart disease.

For more information, visit https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/hearttruth/

Former DBS Employee Writes Book to Inspire Others

Book author, Dolores Hanley McDiarmid. Dolores Hanley McDiarmid, a former DBS employee, recently wrote a book that was inspired by her time with the agency and other advocacy work. “Moved by the Spirit: A Call to Work with People Living with Blindness and Visual Impairments” is an out-of-the-ordinary book about the transformation in the lives of people living with blindness and visual impairments and the role they played in the transformation of McDiarmid’s life. The book is educational, inspirational and encouraging.

McDiarmid worked at the DBS Fort Lauderdale office from 1981-1996 as an orientation and mobility specialist. From 1997-2006, she worked as an orientation and mobility specialist at Lighthouse of Broward in Fort Lauderdale. Since 2010, she has been the public awareness project manager at Lighthouse of Broward.

McDiarmid said the book was also written with the intention of educating medical professionals and the sighted population about living with vision loss and how people can live productive lives if they receive rehabilitation training from an agency serving the blind.

It is McDiarmid's hope that young adults might read about this rewarding career of orientation and mobility, and other professions in the field, and pursue a career to work in the field of blindness and visual impairments.

“Moved by the Spirit: A Call to Work with People Living with Blindness and Visual Impairments” is available on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and Kindle.

Governor Honors DBS Staff for Years of Service

Governor Honors DBS Staff: Governor Rick Scott standing next to five DBS employees

DBS employees were honored by Gov. Rick Scott for their years of service during the State Employees of Leon County Service Recognition Reception, which was held at the Capitol in Tallahassee.

During the ceremony, held in the Cabinet Chambers, the governor presented recipients with a certificate and posed for photos.

Success Stories

Veteran Vendor Goes Extra Mile for the BBE Program

Mike RenaudMike Renaud’s journey has not been an easy one. He struggled with school until he attended the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. There, Renaud discovered an aptitude for vending and love of cooking. He took part in a work-study program that allowed him to go to culinary school in the morning and attend academic classes in the afternoon. Once he graduated, he worked in several restaurants, including Denny’s and Shoney’s. This career path was less than optimal as his vision made these jobs difficult. 

Renaud moved to Orange Park and applied to the Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE) program. He had his challenges, but persevered and completed classroom training in June 1994. He moved on to a six-month on-the-job training with vendor Krekor Sampadian. He credits Sampadian, who he considers a mentor, with his ability to complete training and become a successful vendor in the BBE program. Renaud was licensed in March 1995 and did additional training in January 1996 in the Turlington building cafateria in Tallahassee. His evaluation notes that his performance was excellent in the areas of human resource management, facility operations and customer service. 

He accepted his first facility in Tallahassee in 1997. Renaud operated facilities in Tallahassee in the Fletcher Building, City Centre and the Department of Corrections. In 2002, he was awarded a pair of rest areas on I-10 in Madison County and took on the challenge of a facility that would be under renovation for 18 months.  He still operates those locations today.  

Renaud has taken an active role in the Florida BBE program.  He represents his district on the Committee of Vendors and is always willing to lend a helping hand to local operators.  He agreed to service the vending at the Turlington Building in Tallahassee while it transitioned from a cafeteria to a micro-market.  A micro-market is a self-checkout food facility that allows customers to purchase a variety of snacks and fresh food items and pay at a kiosk. During the construction, Renaud valiantly serviced vending machines that frequently needed to be relocated as work progressed.

On January 20, Renaud helped to host the soft opening of the Café 325 micro-market and provided sample menu items to invited guests.  At the grand opening, Turlington building staff explored the new micro-market and were instructed on kiosk operation.  Fresh salads, sandwiches and entrees are prepared by the manager and staff of the Larson Café, located only a couple of blocks away.  The Larson Café is operated by BBE vendor Steve Docie.

Eventually, Café 325 will be awarded to a permanent operator and Renaud says he is ready to do all he can to help with the transition. Renaud is an example of the many vendors going the extra mile for the BBE program.

‘Successful 75’ Recognition Program to Honor Individuals, Organizations and Businesses

In honor of DBS’ 75th anniversary, the Division launched its “Successful 75” program, which recognizes the contributions of individuals, organizations and businesses that represent and/or are committed to fostering independence to blind and visually impaired Floridians.

Throughout DBS’ 75th year, honorees have been presented with medallions emblazoned with the 75th anniversary logo, and highlighted in the DBS newsletter and social media pages.

To nominate an individual, organization or business for the “Successful 75” award, please see the following criteria:

For more information, contact DBS75@dbs.fldoe.org or 850-245-7858.

Did You Know

FDOE Honors Black History Month

•	Colorful sign that reads Black History MonthFebruary is Black History Month, a time to honor the influential people and valuable contributions that have provided the framework for our nation. Throughout the month, the Florida Department of Education encouraged staff to recognize the trailblazers, innovations and moments that make up American history.

Black History Month was first celebrated during a week in February 1926 that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The response was overwhelming: Black history clubs sprang up, teachers demanded materials to instruct their pupils, and progressive thinkers, scholars and philanthropists stepped forward to endorse the effort.

By 1950, the observance had become a central part of African-American life and substantial progress had been made that led Americans to appreciate the celebration.

In a video, which features staff from the Division of Blind Services, we are reminded of the voices that help to tell America’s narrative.

To view the video, visit http://bit.ly/2k9Y7jP

Historical Note

Photograph of Helen Keller smilingThe Pratt-Smoot Act, which provides blind adults with books, was signed into law on March 3, 1931 by President Herbert Hoover. In 1930, congressional representatives Ruth Baker Pratt and Reed Smoot introduced a bill requesting funds to produce books for adults who were blind.

Helen Keller spoke to the House of Representatives in Washington D.C. on March 27, 1930:

“Books are the eyes of the blind. They reveal to us the glories of the light-filled world, they keep us in touch with what people are thinking and doing, they help us to forget our limitations. With our hands plunged into an interesting book, we feel independent and happy.”

In the News

Visually Impaired Runner Sinéad Kane Conquers Seven Marathons in Seven Days

Sinéad Kane entered the Guinness Book of Record for being the first visually impaired runner to complete seven marathons, over seven days, on seven continents. Guinness President Michael D. Higgins heralded her as an “exceptional role model.”

Visually Impaired female runner tethered to her male running partner

The 34-year-old Youghal, Co. Cork, Ireland native finished the World Marathon Challenge in Sydney, Australia having started her voyage in Antarctica. Sinéad, who has five percent vision, took up running five years ago and did the mini-marathon in 2012. Her seven-day challenge took her from Antarctica on January 23, to Chile on January 24, Miami on January 25, Madrid on January 26, Marrakech on January 27, Dubai on January 28 and Sydney on January 29.

Along with her guide, runner John O’Regan, the pair completed the final marathon on Jan. 29 in a time of 4:42:59.

To read the full article, visit http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/visually impaired-runner-sinead-kane-conquers-seven-marathons-in-seven-days-441492.html

There are Blind Doctors, Lawyers and Athletes — It's Time More Workplaces Caught Up

There are more than 23 million people who are blind or have experienced vision loss in the United States and Canada. They are doctors, lawyers and professional athletes. They're actors, writers and daredevils. They love skiing, dancing and watching movies.

Man working on electronic pad

While being blind or vision-impaired has little bearing on people's ability to do most jobs, it does affect their ability to get a job in the first place.

Fred LeBlanc knows this all too well.

LeBlanc is the star of a PSA created by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). After 29 years working as a firefighter, he began to lose his sight in 2011. A diagnosis of legal blindness followed soon after.

To read the full article, visit http://www.upworthy.com/there-are-blind-doctors-lawyers-and-athletes-its-time-more-workplaces-caught-up?c=reccon2

To view the audio-described version of the PSA, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KOT1rKiMik&feature=youtu.be

High Court Rules for Michigan Girl, Service Dog

Young girl with her service dog on the steps of the United State Supreme CourtThe proverb "every dog has its day" came true at the United States Supreme Court for the family of a 13-year-old girl with cerebral palsy and her goldendoodle, Wonder.

In a case that was closely watched by the disability community, the high court ruled unanimously that Ehlena Fry's family can pursue a lawsuit against her former public school district for denying access to her service dog. 

To read the full article, visit http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/high-court-rules-for-disabled-girl-service-dog/ar-AAndRUa?li=BBnb7Kz&ocid=iehp

Braille Smartwatch Ready to Hit Shelves

Braille watch on someone’s wrist

After almost three years in development, the Dot smartwatch is ready to hit the market, offering a sleek timepiece for people who are blind or have low vision. It’s the first assistive smartwatch to display braille messages on its screen. The round, sleek face displays four cells of six balls each, and allows users to send back simple replies by using two side buttons.

The watch has been in development since 2014, but its release was delayed. The company is now ready to ship it to 100,000 backers.

The smart braille watch, “Dot,” is a stylish, wearable device that outputs text in braille on the watch face. It is completely practical and easy to use. One prominent difference between an existing smart watch and “Dot” is within the usage scope: accessing information in braille rather than in text or graphics. It utilizes cutting-edge, electro-dynamic cells to seamlessly relay information.



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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