August 2017

Director’s Message

Director's Message

Robert DoyleThe end of summer marks the start of back-to-school season. And whether your child has just begun VPK, kindergarten or is returning for another semester, this time of year can be busy, exciting, and for some, maybe a little stressful.

DBS is glad to partner with the Florida Agencies Serving the Blind for the expansion of services for children. For many years, after exiting the blind babies program, blind and visually impaired children had no specific or direct afterschool or weekend program to receive additional services in a structured environment. Now, because of the work of the Florida Agencies Serving the Blind, and local lighthouses for the blind, the Florida Legislature has funded, and Governor Scott approved the expansion of program services.

As a result, we have more direct hands-on programs for our blind and visually impaired students to augment the work of DBS’ Children’s Program specialists, who work with children, parents, local school districts and other professionals to provide guidance, information, advocacy and special opportunities during these critical primary school years.

The “new” program has been developing and growing for nearly two years now, but it is still not as well known in the community. The program includes a set of afterschool, weekend and summer activities to help enhance classroom instruction and provide activities to help blind and visually impaired children learn and develop to thrive alongside their sighted peers. In addition to the regular classroom curriculum, this program specifically expands services for blind and visually impaired students, ages 5-13, to work with instructors who have specialized training to work with those with visual impairments. This program provides a much-needed bridge to pre-employment transition services and other transition services that typically begin when children reach age 14.

The Miami Lighthouse for the Blind is also taking its educational efforts to the next level with its Lighthouse Learning Center for Children. This fully inclusive pre-kindergarten education program teaches 30 students, half of which are blind/visually impaired and half have regular vision. This program is the first of its kind in the nation. Learning in all classrooms is conducted by Florida certified teachers of the visually impaired, early learning classroom teachers and teaching assistants.

Be sure to check out the DBS website, and contact your local lighthouse for more information about these exciting programs. Here’s wishing all (students, parents and teachers) a successful new school year.  I hope that this school year is the best one yet!


Robert L. Doyle, III



DBS Works to 'Build a Better World' Through Summer Reading Program

The Florida Division of Blind Services’ (DBS) Braille and Talking Book Library hosted “Build a Better World,” a summer reading program for local blind and visually impaired children. The participants, ages 6-12, were provided with embossed braille excerpts of children’s books and teaching tools from the National Library Service (NLS). NASA also presented participants with a braille tactile map for the August 21 solar eclipse.

Students and counselors smiling while holding up their artwork

“It is critical that all students make an effort to read every single day,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart. “It is proven that when students read regularly, they gain more confidence and ultimately do better in school and in life. I hope these students enjoyed participating in the reading program and learning about the solar eclipse."

Using the national 2017 Collaborative Summer Library Program’s theme, the reading program kept the traditional goal of encouraging reading during summer vacation, while concurrently building a community among visually impaired children. “Build a Better World” exposed the children to engineering, architecture and astronomy in the reading materials and crafts. The children also enjoyed the merits of volunteering in their community by donating a project to a cause – creating dog toys for the local animal shelter.

Counselors holding up the student-made dog toys.

“The ‘Build a Better World’ summer reading program offered students an enhanced learning environment and provided them with the opportunity to engage with their peers, participate in hands-on activities and learn more about the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields,” DBS Director Robert Doyle said. “This collaboration brought together the expertise and resources of organizations that are committed to the betterment of the blind and visually impaired community.”

The NLS Braille and Talking Book Library has more than 2.4 million items (audio books, braille, large print, etc.) available. The NLS Braille and Audio Download (BARD) collection contains 97,324 books, 17,086 braille and 80,238 digital. There are nearly 32,000 patrons, individuals and institutions, around the state enrolled in the Florida Talking Books network.

APD, DBS and VR Host 2017 Disability Employment Awareness Celebration Kick Off in Tallahassee

Abilities work blue and yellow logoJoin the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and Division of Blind Services (DBS) in celebration of Disability Employment Awareness Month, Wednesday, October 4 in Tallahassee. Together these agencies will honor outstanding employers for their commitment to hiring people with disabilities. Come hear success stories, learn more about what these organizations offer, explore other community organizations and more. Please RSVP by September 22 to APD at 850-488-4257.

2017 Disability Employment Awareness Celebration Kick Off

Wednesday, October 4
8:30 a.m. – Informational Displays
9:30 a.m. – Disability Employer Awards Ceremony
300 South Adams St. (Tallahassee City Hall, Commission Chambers)

Lighthouse of the Big Bend Opens Twenty20 Vision Aids Store

The search for 20/20 vision has arrived in Tallahassee.

Kim Galban-Countryman, executive director of Lighthouse of the Big Bend, cuts a red ribbon with giant scissors while individuals in red coats look on.

The Lighthouse of the Big Bend hosted its ribbon cutting and grand opening for Twenty20 Vision Aids, a store that provides low-vision products to the community. Twenty20 Vision Aids is connected within the headquarters of the Lighthouse, located in Tallahassee.

Assistive technology devices in a display case.“We want people to come in and receive services or take a pamphlet of information without feeling intimidated by the name of the store,” said Kim Galban-Countryman, executive director of Lighthouse of the Big Bend. “Based on research, visual loss is increasing every day. We want to increase awareness of who we are, what we do and what we can offer.”

Following the ribbon cutting ceremony, the Lighthouse held a technology expo for guests. Attendees had the opportunity to test out the latest devices in assistive technology.

Being the first store of its kind to open in the Big Bend will give local residents a break from traveling out of the area to test out products. Courtney Schoen attended the grand opening for Twenty20 Vision Aids.  Shoen’s daughter, Meadow, is a client of Lighthouse of the Big Bend.

“Going out of town to national conferences and seeing everything is great; but it was challenging not having a source close by,” Shoen said.

Twenty20 Vision Aids, located at 3071 Highland Oaks Terrace in Tallahassee, is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5.p.m.

Support Service Provider Survey for the Deaf-Blind Community

Woman doing sign language into another woman’s hands. The below survey is for those who have combined vision and hearing loss, also known as Dual Sensory Impairment or Deaf-Blind.

What is a SSP?

Support Service Provider is someone who sight-guides, relays visual information, assists in communication needs (voice or sign) and in some cases, transportation for those who have combined vision and hearing loss that impacts functionality of daily activities.

MLB, Miami Marlins Dedicate All-Star Branded Mobile Eye Care Unit for Miami Lighthouse Program

Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Miami Marlins dedicated a newly-purchased, All-Star branded Mobile Eye Care Unit for Miami Lighthouse's Heiken Children's Vision Program. The Lighthouse was selected as a 2017 MLB All-Star Game Legacy Project.

Miami Marlins Baseball players, Virginia Jacko and two students stand in front of the newly-purchased, All-Star branded Mobile Eye Care Unit for Miami Lighthouse's Heiken Children's Vision Program.

The new unit will allow the Miami Lighthouse Heiken Children's Vision Program to expand its services of free comprehensive eye examinations and glasses to more than 10,000 eligible school children annually.

Splash Pals Adapted Aquatics Offers Physical Activity and Social Engagement for Children and Adults

A toddler is being assisted by a woman as he swims on a float in a pool.Take a splash with the Splash Pals! The adapted aquatics program, founded by Justin Cooke and Jenna Goldsmith in 2013, is designed to help children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities with swimming, exercise, social interactions and more.

There are currently 60 participants enrolled in the statewide program. Sessions are held year round in Tallahassee, Boca Raton, Gainesville, Tampa and Orlando. Each week, chapter affiliates host adapted pool sessions where teachers pair with participants for various activities.

Cook believes that when children participate in adapted aquatics, they are immersed in a fun environment that is therapeutic and engaging. Through physical activity and social interaction, participants can gain the benefit of building their confidence and self-esteem while developing meaningful relationships with other Splash Pals members.

“Jenna and I get the biggest joy seeing all of the smiles, laughter and happiness while everyone is together in the swimming pool,” Cooke said.

For more information or to find hours and locations in your area, visit or call 516-419-6709.

Governor Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott Invite K-12 Students to Participate in 2017 Hispanic Heritage Month Contests

Governor Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott announced the 2017 Hispanic Heritage Month contests for students and educators. Florida K-12 students are invited to participate in the essay and art contests. Parents, students, teachers and principals are also invited to nominate full-time, outstanding educators for the Hispanic Heritage Month Excellence in Education Award.

Brightly colored logo that reads: Florida Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15-October 15; a recognition of the role of Hispanic Americans in shaping Florida today.

Governor Rick Scott said, “Hispanic Heritage Month contests give students an opportunity to win a four-year Florida College Plan scholarship while learning about the influential Hispanic Floridians who have shaped our state’s history. I encourage all of Florida’s students to participate.”

First Lady Ann Scott said, “I am proud to join Floridians across the state in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. This is an exciting opportunity to recognize the many influential Hispanic Floridians in our state and throughout its history. I am also honored to highlight the work of the enormously gifted Carmen Sasieta, our 2017 Hispanic Heritage Month featured artist. I am so impressed with the students’ enthusiasm at the schools I visit and I look forward to seeing this year’s contest entries.”

The theme for this year’s essay and art contests is “A Recognition of the Role of Hispanic-Americans in Shaping Florida Today.” Students are asked to share how Hispanic Floridians have impacted our state’s history and culture.

About the Student Contests

Art Contest for Grades K-3: The Hispanic Heritage Month art contest is open to all Florida students in grades K-3, and two winners will be selected.

Essay Contest for Grades 4-12: The Hispanic Heritage Month essay contest is open to all Florida students in grades 4 through 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 receive a four-year Florida College Plan scholarship provided by the Florida Prepaid College Foundation.

About the Excellence in Education Award

Governor Scott’s annual Hispanic Heritage Month Excellence in Education Award Contest is open to all full-time educators in an elementary, middle or high school in Florida. Three winners will be selected: one elementary school (grades K-5) teacher, one middle school (grades 6-8) teacher and one high school (grades 9-12) teacher.

All entries must be mailed to Volunteer Florida or submitted online andreceived by 5 p.m. on September 12.

For additional information about Florida’s Hispanic Heritage, contests and other related events, please visit

Success Stories

Vendor is a Rock Star in the Florida BBE program

Don Tuell adding bottled water to a vending machine

Don Tuell is the picture of a professional vendor in the DBS Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE) program.  His vending machines are always sparkling clean and well stocked. His professionalism extends to everything he does, including his voice mail message. He is active in the vendor community and works behind the scenes on issues that affect new and experienced vendors alike.

When you look at Tuell today, you can see him as a rock star of the vendor community. But you wouldn’t think that he once was a real rock star. Rock star may be a bit of an overstatement, but Tuell was the drummer in a cover band named Southern Reign in the 1970s. He joined them right after leaving high school and spent the next 10 years on the road. The band opened for some well-known acts including Lee Greenwood and Lynyrd Skynyrd. They even opened for Terri Gibbs, a visually impaired country singer. 

Tom Spiliotis, Bill Findley and Don Tuell wearing suits and standing in the lobby of a hotelAfter 10 years on the road, Tuell began to weary of the lifestyle of a musician.  He sold his drums and began to look for his next career. He had been in touch with a couple of vendors, Charlie Hackney and Frank Adams, in the Florida BBE program. After a long conversation with Adams, he decided to apply to the program. Training was different in the 1980s and Tuell only spent five weeks in the classroom compared to the 18 weeks that trainees do today. By the time he finished his on-the-job training in the cafeteria in Jacksonville, he was well on his way to being an enthusiastic member of the blind vendors of Florida.

Tuell’s first location was a small snack bar in a planning and zoning building in West Palm Beach. The location didn’t provide enough income so he took a second job as a DJ at a club called Banana Max in Jupiter, Fla. He worked two jobs for the next four years before moving on to food service in Gainesville and then in Tampa. In 1997, he accepted a contract to service rest area vending on I-10 and then moved to his current location in 2002, serving rest area vending on I-75 near Lake City. 

Tuell knows that his lifestyle today is totally different from where he started.  He is grateful for the chance he was given by the BBE program and is always looking for ways to give back to the program. He mentors new and experienced vendors and is always willing to lend a helping hand. Tuell may not be rocking out on stage anymore, but he is definitely a “rock star” in the Florida BBE program.


Florida School for the Deaf and Blind's Parent Infant Program Brings Summer Fun to Youth

Young male in swim trunks splashing water out of a pool.What better way to cool off in the summer heat than getting together at a splash pad? Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB) parent advisors of blind and visually impaired children in the Palm Beach area recently hosted a summer event for the children and their families.

The event provided parents with a chance to meet and share their stories with each other.
The event also provided children the opportunity to explore their independence in a safe and fun environment.

Many of the families stayed after the event to further talk and let their children play. Events like these are a core part of the program's outreach mission, as it provides families a sense of community and support.

Kids with Vision Loss Enjoy Summer Camp in Southwest Florida

The Lighthouse of Southwest Florida hosted its eleventh annual summer camp for youth living with vision loss. The two-week long camp combined recreational and educational activities to inspire discovery and adventure!  They took field trips to a horse stable, an airport, a working farm, a guide dog school and many more.

Summer campers and staff standing front of two horses.

The first adventure started with the sound of a horse’s whinnying. This allowed the children to feel and pet the nose of a Clydesdale horse. For many, it was their first time petting a horse.  A baby alligator at Southern Fresh Farms even enticed some brave souls to feel his smooth but bumpy skin.

Some of the teens at the summer camp were given the opportunity to sit in the cockpit of an airplane. They enjoyed holding the controls and talking to the pilot. Next, the youth visited Southeastern Guide Dogs. They were all given a guide dog to walk with and to practice. This was a very important visit for them.

Two students rubbing a baby alligator as an adult holds it. Students pet a horse.

To top all of the excitement and learning experiences throughout the weeks, the children had smiles on their faces and new friendships were made.

For more information on Lighthouse of Southwest Florida, visit or call 239-997-7797.

Did You Know?

August is National Children's Eye Health & Safety Month

Little girl wearing glassesChildren are susceptible to a host of vision and eye problems, such as injury, infection and increased nearsightedness. The key to making sure your child maintains quality eye health is to catch any problems early. As babies and toddlers, children should visit the doctor to monitor eye development at 6 months, 12 months and 3 years of age. Once they reach school age, visits to the eye doctor should be scheduled annually or as recommended.

Children are often unaware that they have vision problems because they may assume everyone else sees things the same way they do. Therefore, your child most likely won’t tell you if they’re experiencing vision problems. The most common symptoms that signal vision problems in children include squinting, recurring headaches, sudden disinterest in reading or viewing distant objects, tilting or turning their head to look at things, lazy or crossed eyes, rubbing their eyes and squeezing their eyes.

Many schools have switched to using computers and iPads for assignments, and staring at a screen for too long can tire the eyes, eventually leading to deteriorated eyesight. After a long day of school, encourage your child to put away their phone and step away from the television screen for a while to give their eyes a break.

Another important tool is to encourage your child to wear sunglasses outdoors in an effort to protect their eyes from harmful UV rays. Make sure to choose a pair that blocks out at least 99 percent of UVA and UVB rays.

If your child plays sports, they should also be wearing the appropriate protective eye gear during practices and games. Sports related eye injuries are common in children, and can even cause permanent damage.

In the News

Volunteer Delivers Meals to Seniors by Bike Despite Visual Impairment

A Quebec man isn’t letting his visual impairment stop him from delivering meals to low-income seniors, thanks to a bicycle built for two. Andre Beaudoin, 66, supplies pedal power while his fellow Meals-on-Wheels volunteer Anick Bergeron steers their tandem delivery bike around Montreal.

Meals-on-Wheels volunteers Andre Beaudoin and Anick Bergeron ride a tandem bike down the street.

“I really enjoy it. I feel the wind, the speed of the bike and all that,” Beaudoin told CTV News.
Bergeron said the pair almost fell off the bike the first time they tried it, but they no longer have any trouble maintaining balance. Beaudoin says some of the seniors he serves seem surprised when they first realize he can’t see. “So what?” he says. “We can do this.”

The retired computer programmer says the volunteer work is his way of giving back after he received help while growing up. Beaudoin recalls volunteers reading books to him at school, allowing him to learn before technology made things easier for the visually impaired.

“I decided, well, someday I’ll help other people, too,” he says.

To read the full story, visit

Blind Tallahassee Residents Use App to Experience Solar Eclipse

Walter Blackmon sits on a park bench while smiling at the camera.While swarms of people gathered Monday donning opaque, eclipse-safe glasses that made them blind to everything but the sun — some people who are actually blind tried to experience the astronomical event in a different way. Despite losing his eyesight at five years old due to glaucoma, Walter Blackmon has always been intrigued by astronomy, reading Braille books on the planets within Earth's solar system as a kid.

“I was one of those strange kids who, even though I couldn't see, I took astronomy in college,” he said with a laugh.

He couldn't see the glowing “sun-crescent” formed by Monday's solar eclipse. But using a smartphone app called Eclipse Soundscapes, Blackmon made up for that by hearing all about it — and feeling the changes the eclipse brought on.

To read the full story, visit

Father Creates Games for Visually Impaired After Daughter Loses Sight

Eighteen-year-old Daisy Lloyd lost her sight completely when she was four due to the eye cancer retinoblastoma, but thanks to her dad, she's able to play video games. Selwyn Lloyd set up “Audazzle,” with the aim of making games more accessible for blind and visually impaired people.

Daisy Lloyd, sitting next to a male teenager, tests out the game her father created.

"As an art school graduate and being obsessed with how things look, when Daisy became blind I had to rethink what inspired me," said Mr. Lloyd. "I shut my eyes and started to listen to the world. It was obviously very upsetting when Daisy became blind, but in that moment, I realized there was more out there than what you see."

To read the full story, visit

DBS Staff News

In the Spotlight: Pobst Works Tirelessly to 'Get the Job Done' for DBS Clients

Headshot of Theodore Theodore "Ted" Pobst serves as the District 6 Administrator for the Division of Blind Services in Orlando.

In 1984, Pobst started his vocational career as a high school band director in South West Virginia. One of his students, who was visually impaired, was interested in playing the saxophone. This opened the door for Pobst to learn braille code and work with more individuals who were visually impaired.

The Bristol, Tenn., native earned his bachelor’s degree in music education and his master’s degree in education with an emphasis in visual impairment from Vanderbilt Peabody College in Nashville. Pobst’s career took him to the Tennessee Rehab Center where he started working for the Visual Impairment Services in 1995.

There, he spent 11 years as a rehab instructor for the blind. He then moved to Florida and served four years as a rehab counselor, and later as a supervisor in the DBS Daytona Beach office.

“I enjoy coming to work every day to assist the individuals who are receiving services, and knowing that we are getting the job done,” Pobst said.

Life away from work, Pobst says he enjoys sitting on the dock of the bay – watching the tide roll away.

Kudos: Congratulations to Jeanne Jenks for Passing CRC Exam!

By Linda Hernandez

DBS Staff surrounding Jeanne Jenks, who is wearing a blue cap and gown

In September 2016, I had the good fortune of answering a call from a stranger who told me she was a Master’s student in rehabilitation counseling from the University of Kentucky and needed an internship placement. She had applied to other agencies, but they had turned her down for various reasons. She then proceeded to tell me her life story and within a few minutes, I knew she would be a good fit in our agency. Our district administrator, Michelle Levy, saw to it that she could start here and implemented her internship schedule.

DBS Administrator Michelle Levy, Jeanne Jenks, who is wearing a blue cap and gown and holding up her diploma, and a third woman.In October 2016, Jeanne Jenks began her internship and immediately established rapport with all of the staff. She had a wealth of knowledge and community contacts. She was an enthusiastic student, willing to take on any task. Jeanne found her niche with job development and was instrumental in finding work experience and employment opportunities.

Jeanne completed her coursework and internship hours, all while experiencing serious family and personal health issues. These issues prevented her from applying for a full-time position in this office. Jenks overcame so much and always maintained a positive attitude and sense of humor.

In March 2017, Jeanne took and passed the Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) exam and completed her internship hours in June. She had expressed her disappointment in not being able to attend her school’s graduation ceremony, so we took it upon ourselves to provide her with the graduation experience.

All staff pitched in to decorate the conference room, get lunch and surprise Jeanne with graduation festivities. She was shocked when she entered and was immediately given a cap and gown to wear. She did the graduation walk while commencement music played and was presented with a mock diploma. Our office did an outstanding job in honoring this special person and it was well deserved.

Congratulations, Jeanne!

We welcome our newest employees to the DBS family

Congratulations to employees who received a promotion



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325 West Gaines Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399

Phone: 850-245-7858

To request a Braille version of this edition of The Visionary, contact the Braille and Talking Book Library: or call 800-226-6075