Florida Division of Blind Services logo


Public Forum (Thursday, April 8, 2010)

The Terrace Hotel
329 E. Main Street, Lakeland, FL

Ted Hull, Chair called the meeting to order at 3:00 PM. 

Council Members Present:  Ted Hull, Henry Alexander, Rufus Brown, Sheryl Brown, Ben Grzesik, Paul Kaminsky, Robert Kelly, Dwight Sayer, Bruce Miles, Joe Minichiello, Jay Naiman, Dan O’Connor, Sue Townsend and Joyce Hildreth.  Howard Bell represented CAP.

Council Staff: Phyllis Dill

DBS Staff: Antionette Williams, Wayne Jennings, Mary Ellen Ottman,

DBS District Staff: Tony Ames, District Administrator, Geraldine Kressin, Supervisor, Kristine Hires, VRC, Marc Grosskopf, VRC, Rob Risavy, IL, John Reynolds, Supervisor Tampa and Jeff Whitehead, Supervisor St. Pete.

There were 22 consumers present.

Ted asked Sheryl Brown to facilitate and provide the microphone to consumers when needed.

Consumer issues, concerns and comments:

Consumer #1:

  • A client of the Lighthouse and DBS.
  • The first year didn’t know DBS was to help her go to work.
  • The vocational evaluator told her she should get an education when what she needed was a job.
  • Never got any answers from DBS.
  • Was told she was not allowed to get a CCTV until she either went to work or back to school.
  • Gives most credit in helping her to the Lighthouse.


  • DBS apologized for the lack of services from the Division and will speak one on one after the forum.
  • A council member stated that consumers have to let DBS know of their needs.
  • A council member agreed that access is necessary to a CCTV to read a newspaper to look for a job.

Consumer #2

  • Gave accolades to the lighthouse in teaching the skills they needed to obtain independence.
  • Teaching a blind person to learn skills has to be hands on.
  • Went to a camp last year to learn independence and was shocked at the number of consumers not knowing daily living skills.
  • Have placed three times in the Braille Challenge and won first place two times in a row.


  • Asked if he would be willing to give a testimony on the DBS website.
  • Wanted to know where he learned Braille and was told he learned through the school system.
  • Was asked if he planned on going to college and he responded he planned on attending FSU.

Consumer #3

  • Blindness affects the whole family.
  • Thanks to DBS and Lighthouse for the services received.
  • Learned that being blind doesn’t have to be an impediment to achievement.
  • The lighthouse helps identify the skills and goals and helps to map a plan for achieving them.
  • The most important thing the Lighthouse has provided is hope and achievement of skills.
  • The spirit of stick-to-it’ness
  • The year round transition program provides the important skills a teenager needs to acquire and the opportunity to meet other blind teens.

Consumer #4

  • A 93 year old retired minister who has dabbled in art all his life.
  • Would like to know if there is a device that can help him with his painting. 


  • Sylvia Perez will give his contact information to a client that’s the same age and also an artist.
  • Paul Kaminsky informed him that BVA should be able to assist him since he is a veteran.

Consumer #5

  • Lost their vision slowly and they also had problems in not knowing who to go to for help and their doctor didn’t either.
  • They suggested that an informational pamphlet be put in doctor’s offices.


  • DBS efforts are being made in contacting a marketing consultant and brochures are currently being put in doctor’s offices.
  • Outreach is a part of the DBS Strategic Plan.

Consumer #6

  • Wants to go back to work but can’t get assistance from DBS


  • Will get contact information to discuss further.

Consumer #7

  • Asked what was being done for individuals who are blind and not veterans.


  • Henry went over the programs DBS offers and gave him the state office number 1-800-342-1828 and the Lakeland office  499-2385.

Consumer #8

  • Without DBS and the Lighthouse they would not be where they are today.
  • The services have been wonderful.
  • Concerned that there needs to be some kind of transition with getting back to work.
  • Concerned with employment and ADA.


  • The DBS Counselor can provide information on ADA.
  • Communication between the Counselor and client is a big factor.
  • Consumer was encouraged to contact the Client Assistance Program at its website: www.advocacycenter.org
  • Training in a job may also mean relocating.

Consumer #9

  • Thanked DBS and the Lighthouse for making a big difference in her life.
  • Lost eyesight at eighteen in an auto accident.
  • Because of age did not go through the transition program, but did attend the Rehab Center.
  • Currently working on her Masters Degree at Auburn University majoring in Rehab Counseling.
  • Hope to one day give back to clients what has been given to her.
  • Has had extensive mobility training over the years and the technology has enabled her to work in several jobs in Tampa.

Consumer #10

  • Just recently begin losing sight.
  • Realize that the color of material such as newspapers, magazines, bank slips, etc. is very important when she is trying to read them.

Consumer #11

  • Grateful for the help from the Lighthouse.
  • Half of the population in Polk is transportation disadvantaged.
  • Trying to get a ½ cent sales tax that will incorporate a “Travel-Blind” bus for transportation for the blind.
  • Asking for DBS to support Polk County in this endeavor.
  • Need support groups to talk with visually impaired individuals.
  • People need socialization as well as education.


  • There are about 34 support groups in the district and some good ones in Polk County.
  • Being involved in a support group really helps an individual understand more about what is being done.
  • The National Federation of the Blind has a chapter in Polk County.

Consumer #12

  • Have to go once a month between Lakeland and Winter Haven and wants to know if there any transportation.
  • Working on a volunteer driver’s program.
  • Because she lives with her elderly parents and they have a car she is not eligible for Para Transit.


  • The only thing is the Polk County Transit’s door to door program and it is for doctor’s appointments only.  A financial assessment will be done on a sliding scale fee. The max cost is $1.80 per mile.  The number is: 863-534-5500.  The office is in Bartow.

Jay Namin moved that the Counsel go on record that it supports the ½ cent sales tax in Polk County.
Dwight seconded the motion.


A member voiced concern with the Council getting involved with a local issue.

Motion passed by majority vote. (Two nays)

Consumer #13

  • Suggested that possibly getting the town to support churches by reimbursing them for mileage.

Response from Consumer #12

  • Churches that have been contacted said it was a liability issue.
  • Volunteer Driver Program in Polk County is getting a $200,000 a year federal grant to provide transportation.
  • The grant has now been opened to for profit groups and will make it hard to get reasonable transportation costs.

Consumer #14

  • Lived in Miami and never had transportation problems.
  • Shocked at the problems with transportation in this area.
  • The Lighthouse in Miami helped her so much.


  • Miami has a significant larger population.
  • Sometime an individual needs to think outside the box and move to another area that provides the services needed.
  • Use the local resources, contact people you know, get involved with DBS and with the local advocacy groups.

Consumer #15

  • Would like to get his GED and needs assistance with studying for and taking the test.
  • The local library doesn’t have the equipment to allow blind individuals to study because they said there’s not that many blind individuals who take the test.


  • Call the local lighthouse and they will assist with getting ready for the GED test.

Consumer #16

  • Asked if there were brochures from the different agencies.
  • They are trying to start a low vision group.


  • Asked to give their name and contact information and someone would get them brochures.

Joyce’s Comments:

  • Joyce informed the audience how pleased she was to hear all the comments, both positive and negative.
  • She asked that when first applying for services to be patient.
  • If they had not heard from their Counselor in a reasonable amount of time to take the initiative and call them.
  • DBS is addressing customer service and how to best communicate with the individuals it serves.

Consumer #17

  • There are a lot of egos and everyone needs to learn to help each other.

Consumer #18

  • Wanted to know what was the link between DBS, lighthouse and employers.
  • Also, what was being done in educating employers.


  • Each DBS District has a Customer Service Specialist who is the link to employers.
  • Would check out the local one stop employment office because they would have an accessible computer.
  • Join local job clubs and have a current resume listing employability skills.

Consumer #19

  • An issue that needs to be looked at for the future is computer training for the upcoming seniors.


  • Joyce explained the funding DBS receives and how it is mandated to be used and that they maximize their resources to meet the needs as best they can.
  • She urged everyone to talk with their legislators and work with the consumer groups to advocate for more funding to DBS.

Dwight announced the NFB State conference Memorial weekend.  He also stated that NFB will host the National Convention every other year beginning in 2011 in Orlando.

Jay Naiman announced the FCB State convention May 20 – 23.  The toll free number is: 1-800-267-4448.

Meeting adjourned at 5:00 PM.

Respectively submitted by,
Phyllis Dill, AAII, Council Staff