April 2017

Director’s Message

Anniversary Celebration Was a Success Because of Each of You

Robert DoyleAs we move toward the culmination of the Florida Division of Blind Services 75th Anniversary celebration, I look on this past year with humility and gratitude.

We hosted several well-received ceremonies and expos in Daytona, Fort Myers, Tallahassee, West Palm Beach and Orlando. Our final celebration will be held in Pensacola on May 10 prior to the Rehabilitation Council for the Blind meeting.

A lot of hard work went into making the 75th anniversary celebration run smoothly, and I would be remiss if I didn’t thank everyone who played a part in ensuring its success.

Thank you to those who served on the statewide planning committee. From the decorations and soliciting exhibitors to the breakout sessions and the guest speakers, this team really came together to raise awareness and showcase our resources to the community. It has been wonderful to witness our teams working together to demonstrate a number of our key principals of communication, collaboration and cooperation. Once again, we can see the great successes that are available as we put our minds together.

Another big thank you to all of the clients who provided testimonials at the ceremonies. Your stories of perseverance and overcoming obstacles reminded us why we serve in this profession. For me, your stories were the heart of each of our events.

A major highpoint for me this past year has been honoring recipients through the “Successful 75” program. These 75 entities have worked tirelessly to make a difference in their communities through outreach, advocacy, hiring practices and via their individual commitments to achieve self-sufficiency. Through their efforts, Florida continues to strive to become a barrier-free environment for residents with visual disabilities.

We have come such a long way in the state of Florida in just 75 years, and I can only imagine what advancements may come in the next 75. We will remain committed to increasing accessibility for Floridians so everyone benefitting from our system has the chance for a successful future.

I am also thrilled to introduce our two newest additions to the State Office, Deputy Director Allison Flanagan and Bureau Chief of Client Services Bridget Giles. We are confident they will be a great addition to our team, as both of these women bring educational, work and life experiences to make a difference for our clients and members of our DBS family.

Read more about them in the “Personnel” section of this issue.

Thank you.

Robert L. Doyle, III


Children’s Week Brings Thousands to the Capitol

DBS staff member Walter Blackmon uses the Perkins Brailler to braille a young child’s name.

Children’s Week drew thousands of parents, educators and leaders to the state Capitol to celebrate children and address topics important to families.

One of the biggest events, Children’s Capitol for the Day, encouraged groups to engage in educational activities, interactive games, arts and crafts, live readings, music and more.

Two young boys try on the vision simulators and practice using white canes.

DBS’ exhibit table gave visitors the opportunity to try on vision simulators and learn about white cane safety. A big highlight for the hundreds of little visitors was the Perkins Brailler. Kids had their names and fun phrases typed by a DBS staff member.

Parents and teachers also collected brochures and spoke with staff about the Division’s services and resources.  

Children Learn the Fundamentals of Goalball at SportsAbility

The 26th annual SportsAbility was held April 6-8 in Tallahassee. People with disabilities and their families and friends were delighted with the wide array of activities at the event. SportsAbility utilizes hands-on training to help people with disabilities become more comfortable and confident in getting out and being active. The program was completely free for participants.

DBS hosted a goalball demonstration, which was led by Walter Blackmon. Participants had the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of the sport and ask questions.

Young male reaches out to grab a goalball from a female friend in a gymnasium.

This year, the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association (FDOA) partnered with Coach José Reina of Spain’s National Para-badminton team for its Para-badminton Clinic. This partnership was historic in that the clinic was a first of its kind in Florida, and para-badminton will be part of the 2020 Paralympic Games for the first time in Tokyo. Reina has coached the team to five world championships in places such as South Korea, China, Thailand and Guatemala.

Other events included the Seminole Showdown where Florida State University athletes played baseball against athletes of all abilities. FSU cheerleaders provided face painting and the FSU Seminole Sound performed.

There were inclusive activities for people of all abilities, such as para-badminton, martial arts, rock wall climbing, sit water-skiing, kayaking, sailing, archery, nature trail rides, pontoon boat rides and basketball.

The Resource Expo, where DBS had a booth, gave people the opportunity to ask questions, receive information and learn about the latest in products and local services.

To view more photos, please visit our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/pg/FloridaBlindServices/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1282792655109573

DBS Participates in Annual Suwannee County Health and Wellness Fair

DBS staff member Bertha Hyche standing next to the DBS exhibit table at the health fair.

More than 200 guests participated in the annual Suwannee County Health and Wellness Fair, which was held March 31 at the Advent Christian Village in Live Oak.

The event provided educational information from 33 organizations to members of the community. Exhibitors offered materials on financial services, personal development, medical screenings and more.

DBS 'Purples Up' for Month of the Military Child

Small group of DBS staff wearing purple and smiling with their arms out in front of them.

April was the Month of the Military Child, and DBS staff wore their purple to show support for military children and their sacrifices on behalf of our nation.

There are approximately two million military children ranging from newborn to 18 years old throughout the United States and, of those, 1.3 million are school-aged. Care of military children sustains our service men and women and strengthens the health, security, and safety of our nation's families and communities.


Please Welcome DBS’ New Deputy Director and Bureau Chief of Client Services

Allison Flanagan, Deputy Director

Deputy Director Allison Flanagan sitting at her deskAllison Flanagan holds a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling form the University of Kentucky as well as a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Eastern Kentucky University. Allison has more than 23 years of experience in the field of vocational rehabilitation, with the last six plus years directly working in the field of services to the blind and visually impaired. She served as division director in the Kentucky Office of the Blind as well as in other leadership capacities.

Allison is a Wildcat (but mostly for basketball). She also brings with her a great love for NFL football as a passionate fan of the San Diego Chargers. Allison is the mother of three girls and she is “in love” with her 3-month-old grandson, Finley.

Bridget Giles, Chief of the Bureau of Client Services and Support

Bridget Giles,  Chief of the Bureau of Client Services and SupportBridget Giles holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Florida State University and has extensive experience managing programs and special projects. In addition, she has vast knowledge in services for persons with disabilities, substance abuse, mental health, case management, communicable diseases and the corrections system. Bridget has been with the State of Florida for more than 10 years, and has worked in the private sector during her tenure at Habilitation Management Services.

Bridget loves trivia and word games. She also enjoys writing and singing. She has been married for 16 years and is presently experiencing the joys of parenting her two sons.

Please join me in giving them a warm welcome as we are thrilled to have them as a part of the DBS family!

Success Stories

Perseverance and a Strong Support System Equal Success for BBE Operator

BBE vendor Jose Quintanilla standing next to a snack machine. Licensed at age 19, Jose Quintanilla is one of the youngest operators to be accepted into the DBS Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE) program. While a student at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, Quintanilla attended a presentation by a BBE vendor. Previously, his career goal was to become a chef, but that changed after learning about the BBE program.  He shifted his studies and took courses in vending, marketing and culinary arts at school and received his food safety certification. 

Quintanilla applied and was accepted into the BBE training shortly after graduating from high school.  Once classroom training was complete, he went on to an on the job training in Jacksonville. By the end of training, he served as manager of the Duval County Courthouse Annex snack bar. During his tenure in the program, Quintanilla has operated snack bars in the Courthouse Annex, State Regional Service Center and the Duval County Courthouse. He was operating his current facility, a vending route in Daytona Beach, while also managing the snack bar in the Duval County Courthouse for a year in 2010-2011.

Part of his success can be attributed to a strong support system. Quintanilla’s family and faith are an integral part of his business and his life. He has been actively pursuing new opportunities and was recently awarded his dream facility, a highway vending location on I-4. He will sign into this location later this summer.

Quintanilla is the district representative for his area on the Committee of Vendors and is a member of the training subcommittee. He provides work experience opportunities for training applicants where trainees spend a day with him on his route. He is always available to trainees and other vendors, answering questions and offering assistance as needed.

Quintanilla is just one of the new generation of vendors that will help the BBE program continue to grow and provide opportunities for qualified visually impaired persons in Florida. 

DBS Inducts 11 New Recipients into the Successful 75

During the DBS 75th Anniversary Ceremony and Expo in Orlando, DBS presented eleven “Successful 75” awards to individuals, organizations and businesses that represent and/or are committed to fostering independence in blind and visually impaired Floridians.

These “Successful 75” recipients were:

Louise Peyton accepts Successful 75 Award from DBS administrators Jeff Whitehead and Mireya Hernandez.DBS Employee Award: Louise Peyton

Louise worked tirelessly for the Division of Blind Services for 36 years before retiring in December 2015. The agency was her first employment opportunity, and she was extremely proud of serving in her capacity for as long as she did. Louise was completely dedicated to the mission and vision of this agency. As a senior rehabilitation specialist, she was a role model, demonstrating a high degree of integrity and drive while working in the Tampa office. Louise touched many lives during her service with DBS, often working with the medical students at University of South Florida and sharing her extensive knowledge with them on topics related to vision. She dedicated her career to ensuring that our clients achieve successful employment outcomes.

Mireya Hernandez accepts Successful 75 Award from DBS administrator Jeff Whitehead.DBS Employee Award: Mireya Hernandez

Mireya Hernandez recently celebrated 10 years of service with DBS in January 2017. She has served in the capacity of children’s counselor, VR supervisor and currently as district administrator for the Tampa/Lakeland area. Hernandez has served on local transportation boards, is a current member of the DBS Quality Assurance and Policy team and has coordinated numerous children’s program activities. Hernandez has a master’s degree in exceptional student education from University of South Florida. She came to DBS with experience in early childhood education and a background in health care and management services. Mireya is originally from Puerto Rico and moved to Florida 11 years ago.

Chris Sacca accepts Successful 75 Award from DBS administrators Jeff Whitehead and Mireya Hernandez.DBS Client Award: Chris Sacca

Chris Sacca, a Lighthouse Central Florida Vision Rehabilitation Specialist, teaches independent living skills to visually impaired adults. Prior to this, he worked for the Division of Blind Services as a children’s counselor, assisting families of blind and visually impaired children, and providing critical educational and social resources available through the state of Florida. Sacca lost the majority of his eyesight in 2005 due to a secondary eye disease. He says, “DBS believed in me and helped provide training and a second chance to earn a living. Most importantly, they helped me realize that I had other talents that I never knew about and gave me the confidence and positive attitude to move forward and feel optimistic about my future.”

Dwight Sayer accepts Successful 75 Award from DBS administrators Jeff Whitehead and Mireya Hernandez.DBS Client Award: Dwight Sayer

Dwight Sayer, who served and was later honorably/medically discharged from the Air Force in 1969 due to blindness, received training in Kentucky, Alabama, and eventually Florida at the Lighthouse of Central Florida. Now a strong advocate for the blind community, Dwight Sayer is the President of the National Association of Blind Veterans, a division of the National Federation of the Blind. Other positions include Immediate Past First Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida; past president of the Greater Orlando Chapter of the NFB of Florida; and a past gubernatorial appointee to the Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind. Dwight recently retired from the Consumer Advocate and Community Relations Manager position for MV Transportation, Inc., which covered the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other transportation issues dealing with persons with disabilities riding fixed route and paratransit systems. In 2006, the West Orange Chamber of Commerce awarded Dwight the West Orange Community Champion of the Year Award.

Tom Spiliotis’ widow accepts Successful 75 Award from DBS administrators Jeff Whitehead and Mireya Hernandez.DBS Client Award: Tom Spiliotis (Posthumously)

BBE vendor Tom Spiliotis was the chairman of the Committee of Vendors prior to his passing in 2016. For 22 of the last 24 years, Tom served on the State Committee, first for two years as vice chair and then as chairman for 20 years, having sat out just one two-year term. As vendor and chairman, Spiliotis encouraged and assisted hundreds of blind and visually impaired individuals in the Randolph-Sheppard food and vending program. Tom grew up in the Bronx, New York. He was completely blind by the age of 5. In 1969 he graduated Valedictorian from The New York Institute for the Education of the Blind. Tom made a lasting impression on many of the people currently in the program, as well as many who have moved on from it. He left a legacy of dedication and unselfish service for others to follow.

Lee Nasehi accepts Successful 75 Award from DBS administrators Jeff Whitehead and Mireya Hernandez.Community Advocate Award: Lee Nasehi

As the President and CEO of Lighthouse Central Florida, Lee Nasehi’s mission to make sure real living, learning and earning is a dream come true for every person who is blind or living with severely impaired sight. Lee’s personal connection to the Lighthouse is her son, Joe, who was born at just 25 weeks gestation, weighing only 1lb. 14 oz.; retinopathy of prematurity took his sight. Lighthouse was there for the family, and because of the services and support received, the family's story has been filled with many happy endings and even more extraordinary beginnings. Through the Lighthouse, Lee has the opportunity to share the many amazing success stories she has witnessed, and help educate a wider audience about the issues affecting those with vision loss.

Cathy Matthews accepts Successful 75 Award from DBS administrators Jeff Whitehead and Mireya HernandezCommunity Advocate Award: Cathy Matthews

For the past several years, Cathy Matthews has worked to improve regional paratransit options. Cathy has been vocal and testified before MetroPlan Orlando's Transportation Disadvantaged Local Coordinating Board as well as the Quality Assurance Task Force. She recently worked with former State Senate President Andy Gardiner in getting a measure inserted into the 2016 state budget that ties a portion of Access Lynx funding to certain performance measurements that address several issues impacting para-transit riders. Using her engineering background, she has submitted a plan to the Orange County Government that addresses efficiency issues relating to how vendor contracts are structured and other technology fixes. Cathy also serves on the Lighthouse’s Public Policy Committee and Board of Directors.

Pat Devine accepts Successful 75 Award from DBS administrators Jeff Whitehead and Mireya HernandezCommunity Advocate Award: Pat Devine

Vision loss brought Pat Devine to seek training through the DBS Independent Living Skills program. In November 2009, Pat was elected to the Lighthouse of Central Florida Board and is currently serving her third three-year term. Devine has been active on board committees and began volunteering with the independent living skills students after her own graduation. She has been a faithful ambassador for the program ever since.

Walt Disney World representative accepts Successful 75 Award from DBS administrators Jeff Whitehead and Mireya HernandezBusiness Award: Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World has been an excellent working partner for the Division of Blind Services. Staff members, who are referred to as “cast members,” collaborate with our agency to ensure all areas are accessible and ready on day one of training. Walt Disney World has individuals with visual impairments working in all areas of the resort in Orlando. The company employs visually impaired cast members in the ticket areas, hotels, parks and administrative office. Guests with visual disabilities can maximize their enjoyment of the theme parks with tools like Audio Description devices, Braille guidebooks and stationary Braille maps.

Tampa Lighthouse CEO Sheryl Brown accepts Successful 75 Award from DBS administrator Mireya Hernandez.Community Partner Award: Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind

Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind has provided services in the Tampa Bay area for more than 60 years and provides on-site comprehensive rehabilitation programs for persons who are blind or visually impaired. Its training programs are designed to help individuals who have recently lost part or all of their vision to gain the skills needed to perform daily living tasks independently and maintain their employment.

Lighthouse Central Florida staff accepts Successful 75 Award from DBS administrators Jeff Whitehead and Mireya HernandezCommunity Partner Award: Lighthouse Central Florida/ Lighthouse Works

This Lighthouse is Central Florida's only private, non-profit agency offering a comprehensive range of services to people living with sight impairment in the area. Through effective programs, proven curricula, certified instructors and years of personal and professional experience, Lighthouse ensures that individuals of all backgrounds have the tools they need to lead productive, independent lives while pursuing their goals. Lighthouse Works is a social enterprise non-profit that exists to forward and fund the mission of living, learning and earning with vision loss. Through a wide range of businesses, Lighthouse Works provides job training, employment and career opportunities for the advancement of people who are blind and visually impaired. Their goal is to be the top provider of call center sourcing solutions and fulfillment services for both for-profit companies and publicly funded agencies.

Did You Know?

April is Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month

Close-up of a woman’s blue eye.Eye safety should not be something we put on the backburner. Just like working to earn our 10,000 steps a day or maintaining a healthy sitting and standing posture, eye wellness is a habit worth forming. Just consider how much time we spend at our desks looking at our computer monitors, tablets and cellular phones.

These factors, a product of our sedentary jobs, can lead to eye strain and potentially larger problems. They include blurry or double vision, dry eyes, red eyes, eye irritation, headaches and neck pain.

Here are a few simple steps to help prevent eyestrain and fatigue (provided by PreventBlindness.org):


Lighthouse of Collier Hosts Talking Easter Egg Hunt

On Saturday, April 15, Lighthouse of Collier teamed up with Royal Scoop at their 23rd Annual Royal Scoop Easter Egg Hunt and Games.  The event was held in Bonita Springs.

Child with cane searches for easter egg

The sounds of talking eggs provided a wonderful Easter egg hunt for the children in the area who are blind or visually impaired.  The talking eggs say, “I’m Hiding!” “You-hoo, come find me!” and “You found me.” The children received a special treat for each egg found. 

After the hunt, there were games, a relay race, an ice cream eating contest and burgers and hotdogs for lunch.

In the News

Blind Chemist Creates STEM Curriculum for Blind Children

When she was 6 or 7, Mona Minkara’s eyesight began to fade.

Eventually diagnosed with macular degeneration and cone rod dystrophy, the post-doctoral research fellow in the University of Minnesota’s chemistry department is now working to create a STEM curriculum for blind children in developing countries.

Mona Minkara poses for a portrait in Kolthoff Hall with her team on Tuesday, March 20, 2017. Minkara is the University's first blind, female, computational chemist.

Minkara, is creating the curriculum with the help of her assistants, who aid her in her computational chemistry research. She studies surfactants — molecules with one end that is attracted to water and another end that is not.

Minkara said she wants the STEM curriculum to be blind-accessible and low cost. It will be implemented at a camp in Lebanon that has programs for both blind and sighted children.

The camp trains blind children in life skills and integrates them with sighted children through sports and artistic activities. Minkara's sister started the camp in 2009.

“We would love for them to consider the option or possibility that maybe one day they could become scientists,” she said of blind children.

To read the full story visit: http://www.mndaily.com/article/2017/03/blind-chemist-creates-stem-curriculum-for-blind-children.

Blindness Changes 'Saved by the Bell' Star's View of Life

Isaac Lidsky had a career as a child actor, culminating when he landed the role of Barton "Weasel" Wyzell on “Saved by the Bell: The New Class.” He went on to study math and computer science at Harvard, graduating at age 19, then law school, after which he clerked for two Supreme Court justices.

Now Issac is married and has four kids. He is also blind. At age 13, he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa.

Isaac Lidsky with his wife and for children.

Isaac was terrified. “I knew going blind would ruin my life.” The disease progressed gradually as he lost more and more areas of his field of vision. He had lost his sight entirely by age 23.

Things changed when he met with a low-vision rehabilitation specialist. She was completely focused on practical solutions he could use to navigate life without vision, and he realized, “Everything I thought I knew about blindness was a fiction born of my fears. I was so busy worrying about some awful future that I wasn’t taking care of the moment, now. There only is now, today, this moment, and I chose to take control of my reality.”

To read the full story, visit http://www.msn.com/en-us/health/healthtrending/blindness-changes-saved-by-the-bell-stars-view-of-life/ar-BByZcQX?li=BBmkt5R&ocid=spartanntp

Baby Sees His Military Father for the First Time

Captain Brandon Caldwell worried his son Reagan might not recognize him after a two-month deployment. Reagan is legally blind after contracting meningitis and sepsis at just 22 days old. While dad was deployed, Reagan got new glasses – and this is the moment he saw his dad clearly for the very first time.

Baby with glasses looking up at his father.

To view the video, visit http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/good-news/in-sweet-reunion-baby-with-glasses-sees-military-dad-clearly-for-the-first-time/vi-BByc5rU?ocid=spartanntp

Thailand's Blind Children's Orchestra

The Thai Blind Orchestra is made up of young musicians and is one of a very few initiatives in Thailand that gives blind children a chance to learn to play musical instruments. A BBC team recently went to meet the group at an open-air concert they held at a national park in the northeast of Thailand.

Members of the Thai Blind Orchestra playing an instrument.

To view the video, visit http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-39330976.



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Email: Communications@dbs.fldoe.org
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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