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Public Forum (Thursday, January 21, 2010)

Crowne Plaza Jacksonville Riverfront
1201 Riverplace Blvd., Jacksonville, FL

Ted Hull, Chair called the meeting to order at 3:00 PM.  He asked Paul Edwards to conduct the meeting.

Council Members Present:  Ted Hull, Henry Alexander, Rufus Brown, Sheryl Brown, Paul Edwards, Jesus Garcia, Ben Grzesik, Brian Johnson, Paul Kaminsky, Robert Kelly, Jodi Lamm, Bruce Miles, Joe Minichiello, Jay Naiman, Dan O’Connor, Sue, Townsend and Joyce Hildreth.

Council Staff: Phyllis Dill

DBS Staff: Michael Elliott, Wayne Jennings, Wendy Hoss, Sherry Guthrie

There were 8 consumers present.

Consumer issues, concerns and comments:

First Consumer:

  1. Asked for someone to define the Mission and Goals of DBS.
  2. Asked why letters to them were sent out in inaccessible format (handwritten).
  3. They were closed 5 years ago and wanted to know why their Counselor didn’t inform them their case files had been destroyed and put in electronic format.
  4. They were told that the CRP would do training and not outside vendors.
  5. Called CAP because the DBS Client Advocate didn’t return their phone calls.
  6. Was told by clients that they were never told about the equipment placed in the CRPs.

Responses:

  1. Paul Edwards explained the Mission of the Division.
  2. Joyce Hildreth, DBS Director, spoke about the 5 year Strategic Plan and listed the Goals it included.
  3. The agency will be sure future correspondence is mailed out using a label.
  4. The division destroys case files to protect the confidentially of the client.  Since AWARE the destroyed information is now available electronically.
  5. DBS contracts with CRPs throughout Florida.
  6. DBS contracts with a local vendor in the area to train in Window Eyes
  7. DBS staff will look into the problem concerning being denied services.

Second Consumer:

  1. Very satisfied with all their dealings with DBS.

Third Consumer:

  1. Has a wonderful Counselor at DBS.
  2. Would love to volunteer with DBS.
  3. Suggested that DBS have a panel of individuals to contact about ideas and volunteering their services.
  4. Would like to have received a list of all the services DBS had to provide from the beginning of their being a client.
    1. Had own business when initially lost sight and was not told of services to help write a business plan.
  5. The classroom setting at a lot of Universities are not equipped to work with the visually impaired.
  6. Florida State College’s business program is for individuals having prior business experience in accounting and financing and does not provide training in these two services.

Responses:

  1. This Counsel is intended to be a receiver of input.  Council’s names and contact information is posted on the DBS website.
  2. Recent Public Forums were conducted by DBS to receive consumer input on the 5 year Strategic Plan.
  3. Recommends getting in contact with the local advocacy organizations (FBC, NFB, BVA, LIONS).
  4. Can always call the DBS State Office and speak with the Client Advocate, Walter Blackmon, and he will pass the information along.
  5. There is a link on the DBS website where you can send an email to the Division that will be shared with the Director.
  6. DBS does not approve the small business proposals and are not involved in the decision making.  This service is contracted out. 
  7. Paul Kaminsky suggested that DBS list colleges that assist with small business plans on its website.
  8. DBS might consider making a 12 credit certificate a prerequisite for a business plan. (offered at Miami-Dade College)
  9. Find a mentor with someone who has a similar business.
  10. The Chamber of Commerce is another resource.

Fourth Consumer:

  1. Wanted to know where the equipment purchased for assistive technology a few years back was today.
  2. Ask the Director to poll the District Administrators on where the equipment was and to get it to those needing it.

Responses:

  1. Most of the equipment is sitting in the offices and not being used.  It is audited every year and some is now outdated.
  2. The Council will take cognizant of the issue and see if there are ways the equipment can be more wisely used.
  3. A good idea would be to make sure there is a spot throughout the State where clients of DBS could get to see and examine the state-of-the art equipment that is out there.
  4. Some CRPs were given no understanding of what they were to do with the equipment or the staff not trained on particular pieces of equipment.  The client’s that were being trained may not have been using that particular equipment.
  5. Some of the Stimulus money is going to the CRPs to update the equipment they have so that they can provide training.

Fifth Consumer:

  1. Blind and hearing impaired and has been associated with DBS for over 30 years.
  2. DBS assisted with hearing aids in 1990, 1999 and 2002.
  3. Was told in 2007 had to go through the regular VR program for hearing aids.
  4. It took 7 months to receive the hearing aids from VR.  With DBS it only took 1 month to 6 weeks.
  5. Now on the second rehabilitation services vendor VR referred them to.
  6. Phone calls to VR staff are being returned.
  7. Believes the old system worked better to receive hearing aids from DBS.

Responses:

  1. This past year DBS and VR developed an agreement in sharing the responsibilities.
  2. VR has the expertise in hearing and DBS has the expertise in vision.
  3. DBS will purchase a hearing aid if VR is not working with or meeting the need of the client.
  4. DBS will also work with VR and assist with employment.
  5. The Florida LIONS Club has a program that buys hearing aids for individuals.

Sixth Consumer:

  1. It took one year to get a power wheelchair for a blind individual.
  2. Asked if DBS assist with purchasing wheelchairs.

Response:

  1. DBS will purchase equipment when not provided by VR.

Seventh Consumer:

  1. Asked if there were any discussions addressing transportation.

Responses:

  1. Every local transit system sets up its regulations.
  2. Those dependent on transportation infrastructure other than driving will continue to be better served in an urban setting.  Living in a rural area is not feasible for a visually impaired individual.
  3. The local Duval County Transportation Disadvantage Coordinating Board meets the first Thursday every other month.
  4. Get a group of individuals to attend the City Council meetings.

Eighth Consumer:

  1. Informed everyone of the Jacksonville Advisory Council Committee that meets the second Monday of every month from 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM.

Ted asked Phyllis to read a letter received from a client giving accolades to DBS and their Counselor.

Formal portion of meeting adjourned at 4:45 PM.