November 2017

Director’s Message

We Are Thankful for All of the Opportunities Ahead 

Robert DoyleIn the words of G.B. Stern, “Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone."  So, as we wrap up our Thanksgiving holiday, we have another opportunity to reflect and give thanks to our great employees, dedicated community partners, council, committed business partners and amazing clients.

Our hardworking staff works tirelessly to ensure the blind and visually impaired community has the resources they need to be successful. From Pensacola to Miami, our team has showcased its dedication to providing support to nearly 11,500 clients and 31,000 library patrons. You generously give your time and knowledge so that DBS and our clients may prosper.

An example of this was during last month’s ribbon cutting ceremony for the Tampa office. In this newsletter, you’ll have an opportunity to read about the re-opening of the DBS Tampa office, which was closed for two years following severe flooding in the area. I would like to applaud the DBS Tampa and Lakeland offices for their hard work coordinating the event. District Administrator Mireya Hernandez and her team did a fantastic job of welcoming guests to their newly remodeled facility. The atmosphere at the center was inviting and filled with camaraderie, engagement and testimonies of insistence.

I am thankful for our advocacy groups and community rehabilitation partners. We cannot accomplish anything without the work and collaborative efforts of an entire community. These partnerships are essential for our clients to learn and achieve outstanding results every day.

And finally, I am thankful for our clients who have entrusted us to help them fulfill their goals. Because of your perseverance, you inspire us to do more. The conversations I have had with many of you demonstrate an unyielding spirit of optimism, and that makes me hopeful for the future of our work and our entire community.

Together, we are making a difference, and I am thankful for all of the opportunities ahead. 

Thank you,

Robert L. Doyle, III


DBS Hosts Ribbon Cutting Ceremony and Grand Re-opening for Tampa District Office

Members of the Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind, DBS staff, and others cut a large red ribbon outside of the newly re-opened DBS district office in Tampa.

The Florida Division of Blind Services (DBS) recently hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house for the grand re-opening of its Tampa District Office.

Audience members listen to the keynote speaker during the DBS Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.

Speakers included the Florida Council for the Blind, Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind Executive Director Sheryl Brown, National Federation of the Blind Florida statewide chapter President Paul Martinez, DBS Administrator Mireya Hernandez and others.

Paul Martinez and Mireya Hernandez standing and smiling in Mireya's office.

Martinez, a community advocate and DBS client, shared his story to the crowd. Following the ceremony, guests had the opportunity to tour the newly remodeled facility, meet-and-greet with DBS staff and visit with several community exhibitors.

Guests visit the exhibit tables following the ribbon cutting ceremony.

The Tampa Office was relocated in fall 2015 due to severe flooding in the Tampa area. Through partnerships with our community rehabilitation programs, this past year DBS has assisted 854 individuals with achieving successful employment. Additionally, District 7, which includes Hillsborough and surrounding counties, has provided services to 1,164 individuals from babies to seniors through various programs.

Governor Scott Presents Florida’s TVIs with Shine Awards

During an October meeting of the Florida Cabinet, Governor Rick Scott recognized eight outstanding educators with the Governor’s Shine Award. The Shine Award is presented to teachers and administrators in Florida who make significant contributions to the field of education. In recognition of Blindness Awareness Month, five of the educators honored teach visually impaired students.

Members of the Florida Cabinet standing with eight teachers who were presented with the Governor's Shine Award.

Governor Rick Scott said, "I am proud to present these eight educators with the Governor’s Shine Award today and recognize their incredible work. These great educators represent the many dedicated teachers throughout the state working to ensure every Florida student can reach their full potential has a strong foundation for future success."

DBS Director Robert Doyle standing in the Capitol with five Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments (TVIs).

The following Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments (TVIs) were presented with the Governor’s Shine Awards:

Mia Burton, Bay District Schools – An accomplished educator with 20 years of experience, Mia Burton is the lead Itinerant Visually Impaired Teacher for Bay District Schools. Based at Mowat Middle School, Mia teaches Expanded Core Curriculum to visually impaired students in all grades throughout the school district.

Valerie Crenshaw, Escambia County Schools – Valerie Crenshaw has been teaching for more than 14 years and is the Itinerant Teacher of the Visually Impaired for students in grades K-12 at numerous schools in Escambia County. Valerie is active in her profession, serving as a mentor teacher for student teachers and volunteering with the North Florida Braille Challenge.

Maureen Floegel, Orange County Public Schools – Maureen Floegel is a veteran educator with 35 years of service. She is an Itinerant Teacher of Visually Impaired students and teaches Vision Expanded Core Competencies, Orientation and Mobility to K-12 students throughout the school district. Maureen is the 2017 Orange County Public Schools Exceptional Student Education Teacher of the Year and is the recipient of the 2007 Outstanding Educator of the Blind from the Florida Association of Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Esther Lynn Mauffray, Alachua County Schools – Esther Mauffray has been teaching for 38 years and is an Itinerant Vision Teacher for Alachua County Schools, teaching Low Vision, Braille, Orientation and Mobility to PK-12 visually impaired students at multiple schools within the school district.

Sharon Walters, Jackson County Schools – Sharon Walters is an experienced educator with 25 years of service. She is an Itinerant Teacher of the Vision Impaired for Jackson County Schools and is a Varying Exceptionalities teacher at Grand Ridge High School and Riverside Elementary School. Sharon also works with Florida’s Division of Blind Services in the Childhood Intervention Program.

Florida Cabinet Declares October as Disability Employment Awareness Month

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi introduced a resolution at the October 17, Cabinet meeting declaring October as Disability Employment Awareness Month in Florida.

Members of the Florida Cabinet standing with agency directors and members of advocacy groups.

Longtime Pensacola Walmart employee Rachel Caylor Long addressed Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet on the importance of including people with disabilities in the workforce. Along with Caylor Long, leaders from Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Department of Economic Opportunity, Vocational Rehabilitation, Blind Services, Veterans’ Affairs, Able Trust, Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, and Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities were there to accept the resolution.

The Agency for Persons with Disabilities supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn, and work in their communities. The agency annually serves more than 50,000 Floridians with severe autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, Phelan-McDermid syndrome, and Prader-Willi syndrome.

DBS Releases Series of Breakout Videos for See Different Campaign

Rachel Ebert sitting at her desk with a CCTV behind her.
Watch Rachel's See Different Story

Last month, DBS launched its See Different PSA in an effort to effectively change perceptions on a wide scale and communicate values in a message that will move citizens to think and act differently. The individuals featured in the video are all current or former DBS clients. While filming the full video, DBS staff sat down with each of the individuals to learn more about their stories.

Stephanie Bollinger wearing blue dance attire while in a dance studio.
Watch Stephanie's See Different Story

Get to know Florida Prosecutor Rachel Ebert, Miami Lighthouse President Virginia Jacko and ballroom dancer Stephanie Bollinger, and hear their stories of perseverance and triumph.

Virginia Jacko
Watch Virginia's See Different Story

DBS Goes Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Ten DBS staff members from the state office wearing pink clothing in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The DBS State Office and Daytona Braille and Talking Book Library painted their offices pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to highlight the importance of breast cancer education and research.

More than 20 DBS Braille and Talking Book Library staff and volunteers wearing pink clothing and/or a pink ribbon in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, a little over 1 percent of breast cancer cases occur in men. And, according to the, nearly one in eight U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.

DBS Staff Wear Blue for National Stomp Out Bullying Day

Staff and volunteers from the DBS Braille and Talking Book Library participated in STOMP Out Bullying’s annual Blue Shirt Day. Held the first Monday of each October, the campaign signifies the importance of National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.

DBS Braille and Talking Book Library staff and volunteers wearing blue and holding up signs that read Stomp Out Bullying.

The national initiative encourages everyone to “go blue” by wearing a blue shirt and making that the day that bullying prevention is heard around the world. It works to reduce and prevent bullying, cyberbullying and other digital abuse.

Success Stories

Busy Vendor takes on the Challenge of Representing the Blind Vendors of Florida

Jim Wrath standing in the lobby of a hotel.Jim Warth is a busy man. He didn’t start his career with the idea of being a manager in the DBS Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE), nor did he go into the program with the intention of being the chairman of the Committee of Vendors, but now he is both.

In 1984, Warth earned his bachelor’s degree from Florida State University in accounting and finance and went on to earn his master’s in business and accounting from the University of Tampa in 2002. Subsequently, he worked for a number of organizations including the State of Florida at the Department of Environmental Protection and Department of General Services, a jewelry company, a computer store and a construction company. He has also worked in the accounting field for Florida timeshare companies and still provides accounting services to a select group of clients today.

In 2002, he recommended to his wife, Kathy, that she pursue a career in the BBE. He felt that it was a good opportunity and that she would be successful. Two years later, he decided to join her. He was ready to be his own boss. He did his on the job training in Miami and then returned to Tampa and signed into his first facility in 2005. With an exception of one year spent in a cafeteria in the Capitol Building in Tallahassee in 2008-2009, Wrath has spent his time in locations in the Tampa area. He currently runs a vending route that covers almost 20 locations including a micro market in a federal building, vending in the Hillsborough County Center and sites in Lakeland and Plant City.

On August 19, 2017 Warth was elected by a majority vote to serve as chairman of the Committee of Vendors. The Florida State Committee of Vendors represents the vendors in the BBE program and actively participates with BBE management in major decisions regarding program development and transfer and promotion opportunities for vendors and acts as advocate for vendors with grievances. Wrath and his fellow committee members are elected for a two-year term.

He is also president of the Tampa Council of the Blind.

Warth has always been willing to take on new challenges. He has helped the program develop new locations including opening one of the program’s first micro markets. He is now ready to embark on this new phase of his career and says he looks forward to representing the interests of Blind Vendors of Florida in the state and nationwide.


Learning Isn’t Scary at Lighthouse of Pinellas

Two children dressed in costumes: a police officer with a white cane and a robber.A little girl holding a toddler in her lap. Both children are wearing Halloween costumes.On Oct. 16, Lighthouse of Pinellas (LHP) was invaded by a witch, cat, bank robber, bumble bee, cowgirl, Dalmatian, Ninja Turtles and other costumed characters. But, thankfully a policeman kept everyone safe!

This was the scene of the non-profit’s annual Fall Festival and trick or treating event for its Early Intervention (EI) Program clients. About 10 EI clients, between the ages of nine months to five years, attended with eight of their siblings to play Halloween-themed games and sing songs with a local children’s performer. The highlight of the day was trick or treating around the LHP center with a stop at each of the staff member’s offices. Not sure who had more fun: the kids or the staff!

Three children playing in a giant bowl of rice. Two of the children are dressed in ninja turtle costumes.While the afternoon was all fun and games from the kids’ perspective, there was actually some important work behind the activities. The children practiced eye-hand coordination at the Witch’s Hat Ring Toss and Ghostly Bowling. They developed fine motor skills with sensory activities like digging for small plastic pumpkins in a tub of uncooked rice and playing with pumpkin play dough. And, they worked on critical social skills by learning to say “trick or treat” and “thank you,” looking at or facing people when they interacted with them, and waiting to take their turn.

Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired featured on C-SPAN

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, on the floor of the United States House of Representatives, recently congratulated the Miami Lighthouse for its new Lighthouse Learning Center for Children. To watch the video, visit

Did You Know?

November is Diabetic Eye Disease Month

Older male pricking his finger with blood glucose meter.

Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that people with diabetes may face as a complication of the disease. Diabetic eye disease includes cataract, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. Diabetic retinopathy, the most common diabetic eye disease, is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in adults 20–74 years of age. The longer a person has diabetes, the greater the risk is of developing diabetic eye disease.

Many people with diabetes are unaware that diabetic eye disease often has no early symptoms. All people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes can develop diabetic eye disease, but some groups are affected more than others. African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Hispanics/Latinos, and older adults are at higher risk of losing vision or going blind from diabetes.

Early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up care can help reduce severe vision loss. People with diabetes can work to delay or slow down the progression of diabetic eye disease by following this plan:

In the News

USF St. Petersburg Puppy Club Students are Training Dogs for Veterans and the Visually-Impaired

The University of South Florida, St. Petersburg (USFSP), Puppy Club students created "Puppy Love," an organization that raises guide dogs for the Living, Learning Community.

Puppy Club members received their first puppy, an adorable yellow lab named Pete."Petey," as he's affectionately called, was born on June 28 at another guide dog school, Southeastern Guide Dogs.

Yellow Labrador guide dog puppy with a University of South Florida leash.

Students in the program are training to handle puppies for about a year's time, teaching puppies basic obedience and house manners then socializing them among dogs and other people. After age 1, puppies are returned to the Southeastern Guide Dogs, where they enter Guide Dog University for another six months of intensive harness training by certified teachers. The dogs that raise to the highest levels of health, intelligence, trainability and desire to work are matched with either a visually-impaired person or a veteran with PTSD or some other disability. The goal is for the puppies transform the lives of its new owners.

To read the full story, visit

Teen Excels on Three High School Teams Despite Being Legally Blind

Three teens doing their coursework while sitting in class.

Danni Schultz might be legally blind, but she doesn’t let that stop her from playing golf, cheerleading, and being in the marching band.

To view her story, visit

3-D Printing Allows Blind People to ‘See’ Civil War Artifacts in Virginia

The blind and vision impaired can’t get much out of museum exhibits that are behind glass and say “Do Not Touch.” But with the help of some creative applications of emerging 3-D printing technology, they can touch physical copies of the objects without risk to the originals.

A 3-D print of General Robert E. Lee's life mask.Scientists at the Virtual Curation Laboratory in Virginia have several projects aimed at preserving the shape of important historical and scientific objects utilizing 3-D printing. One of the projects involves 3-D scanning and printing objects at the Virginia Historical Society to create a “touch tour.”

Some of the objects that people will be able to touch and feel at the museum include 3-D-printed copies of General George S. Patton’s corncob pipe, General Robert E. Lee’s life mask (a mold taken of his face while he was alive), a wooden canteen and a mining lamp. The project also includes 3-D-printed artifact tags with raised lettering, so the blind can feel descriptions of what they’re reading.

“The idea behind the touch tour is to draw [on] stuff that’s in their collection and things that will be used by the education staff,” 3-D-printing scientist Bernard Means told Newsweek. "The key function of touching is that you can get at the shape of the object, and in some ways the function of the object depending on what the object is."

To read the full story, visit

Hadley Institute Outfits Statues with Glasses, Canes for Blindness Awareness Month

Statue wearing sunglasses next to a café.

Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired partnered with Hoffmann Commercial Real Estate to draw attention to the impact of vision loss in October. Several statues in the downtown sculpture walk near Hoffmann-owned retail properties in Winnetka, Ill., have been furnished with dark glasses, white canes and signage recognizing World Blindness Awareness Month.

This unique public statement unites two organizations with a strong attachment to Winnetka. Hoffmann Commercial Real Estate is the village’s largest owner of commercial properties, and has undertaken community-building projects including a summer music festival and the installation of public art in the shopping district. Two sculpture sitting on a park bench, wearing sunglasses and holding a white cane.Hadley has been based in Winnetka for nearly 100 years, providing services to individuals with visual impairments locally as well as around the world.

We want everyone in Winnetka to feel a sense of pride, and to know that Hadley is the world’s largest provider of distance education for people who are blind or visually impaired around the world serving more than 100,000 learners annually in all 50 states and in 100 countries," said Hadley President Julie Tye.

To read the full story, visit

People with Disabilities Get Experience of a Lifetime in Fayetteville

Some Northwest Arkansans experienced something they thought they'd never get to enjoy again. People with disabilities ranging from cerebral palsy, blindness, and Down Syndrome got the chance to ride a bike.

Two people riding a tandem bike.

"We were coming down the hill on Gregg Street we were really picking up speed, all I could do was smile. It's just a wonderful feeling to be back riding again," said Rita Reese-Whiting, a participant in Saturday's event.

People without sight used carriage style and tandem bikes. Riders were able to either sit alongside or ride on the back of the bike with someone who can see.

Reporter: "What was your favorite part about today?" Reese-Whiting: "Getting to ride, I haven't ridden in 22 years."

Northwest Arkansas resident, Sandra Bullins, lost her sight almost 20 years ago and hadn't been on a bike since. She decided it was time for that to change.

"I thought wouldn't it be neat if we could organize a bike ride to kind of bring awareness to disability awareness month. With something like this there is no limitation or barrier. If you can't see you can get on the back of a tandem with someone who can and you can ride." Bullins said.

To read the full story, visit

DBS Staff News

DBS Employee Spotlight: Hernandez Remains Committed to Providing Opportunities for Tampa’s Unserved and Underserved Populations

DBS District Administrator Mireya Hernandez wearing a pink shirt and sitting at her desk.

For DBS administrator Mireya Hernandez, family is a big thing, and she considers her team in the Tampa District office one big happy family.

“I have a fabulous team,” said Hernandez, who has worked with the Division for more than 10 years. “I enjoy working with each of them and learning from them every day.”

“I am in a field that truly makes a difference,” she said.

Prior to working with DBS, she was employed in the private (for-profit) sector. The job was demanding with little reward, according to Hernandez. Looking to return to the human and social service field where she could use her training and education from Puerto Rico, she saw an ad for an opening as a DBS Children’s Program counselor. Hernandez immediately knew it was the opportunity she was waiting for.

DBS District Administrator Mireya Hernandez hugging a DBS client who is walking with a guide dog.

“The door opened and I walked right through,” the Bayamon, Puerto Rico native said. “Human and social service agencies are extremely important in our society. They provide essential services to the most vulnerable. As Americans are living longer, we are seeing an increase in individuals with visual impairments who want to maintain their independence and live normal lives. The services offered by DBS allows for greater accessibility of training that gives people purpose and hope.”

Hernandez says some of her goals for her district, which serves Hillsborough, Citrus, Polk, Hernando, Hardee, Pasco and Pinellas counties, are further developing longstanding relationships with employers and increasing marketing and outreach efforts to reach unserved and underserved populations.

“I am most honored and proud to be a part of this organization,” she said. “I am appreciative of the opportunity to learn and serve every day.”

Kudos: Rehab Tech Holly Hendershot Receives FAER Outstanding Paraprofessional Achievement Award

Rehab Tech Holly Hendershot being presented with the FAER Outstanding Paraprofessional Achievement Award.

On October 20, staff from Vision Education & Rehabilitation Center (VERC) met with the Jacksonville DBS staff to present DBS rehabilitation technician Holly Hendershot with the 2017-2018 FAER (Florida Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind) Outstanding Paraprofessional Award.

“We are proud of Holly and appreciate her dedication and hard work that makes a difference in the lives of clients and staff every day,” said Madeline Davidson, DBS rehabilitation supervisor.

Patricia Marshall, program coordinator for the Florida State College at Jacksonville Vision Education and Rehabilitation Center, nominated Henderson for the award. Marshall stated that she has called upon Hendershot on multiple occasions to assist with client inquiries, reporting and other unique issues, and “she has never let me down.”

“I have observed Holly working effectively with supervisors, co-workers, clients and peers, making her an integral part of the DBS team,” Marshall said. “She is never hesitant to take the initiative to solve issues or answer questions. She has never shown impatience or annoyance despite often being overwhelmed with the demands of her job. She has always encouraged a spirit of teamwork and routinely goes above and beyond for the DBS and VERC programs.”

We welcome our newest employees to the DBS family



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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