A Brief History of the Division of Blind Services
In 1941, the Florida Legislature established the Florida Council for the Blind as part of the State Welfare Board. The Council's first executive director was Tampa Attorney R. Henry Johnson. The initial focus of the Council was the provision of pre-vocational and vocational training for blind and visually impaired Floridians. With the assistance of the Lions Club, a training center was opened in the Holly Hill Farmer's Market in Daytona Beach.
In 1948, the Council acquired a U.S. Army convalescent center in Daytona Beach from the War Assistance Administration. The Holly Hill training facility transitioned to this property during the early 1950s, and currently operates as the Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
On another front, the Florida Council for the Blind was designated by the Library of Congress as a distribution agency for Talking Book machines in Florida in 1941. At that time, Florida patrons received Talking Books records (hard discs) through the mail from the Kreigshaber Library in Atlanta, Ga. This led to the establishment of the Florida Talking Book Library in Daytona Beach in 1950.
Now known as the Bureau of Braille and Talking Books Library Services, the Library continues to provide reading materials in accessible formats to Floridians who are unable to read standard print due to visual impairment or other physical disability.
In 1961, the Florida Council for the Blind was removed from the Department of Public Welfare to operate under the Office of the Governor. In 1969, it was transferred again, as the Bureau of Blind Services, to the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation of the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. Then, in 1976, it became known as the Office of Blind Services under the Florida Department of Education.
With its elevation to Divisional status in 1977 under Director Donald H. Wedewer, DBS evolved into a strong unit.
Today, under the direction of Robert L. Doyle III, the Division serves thousands of Floridians through its plethora of programs and services. With the district and satellite offices across the state and Rehabilitation Center and Talking Book Library in Daytona, DBS has become a national model in education, employment and other services that foster independence for blind and visually impaired Floridians.