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Public Forum (Thursday, October 14, 2010)

Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired
408 White Street
Daytona Beach, FL

Ted Hull, Chair called the meeting to order at 3:30 PM.

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

Council Staff: Phyllis Dill

DBS Staff: Antionette Williams, John Clarkson, Les Binnix, Ed Hudson, Doug Hall, Jerry Edwards, Seven Rehab Center staff and a counselor from the district.

There were 17 consumers present.

Ted asked Paul Edwards to facilitate.

Consumer issues, concerns and comments:

Consumer #1:

  • Thanked DBS for the opportunity to further her education.
  • Also taking a course in college.
  • Working towards becoming a psychologist.

Consumer #2

  • Attending the cooking class at the Center.
  • Also attending school at UCP.
  • Would like to become a therapist
  • Is having a problem with her cane.

Response:

  • Someone at the Center will assist with getting a new cane.

Consumer #3 – New Smyrna Beach

  • Would like to know where her husband can get more support when he goes out.
  • People are not recognizing that her husband is blind.
  • He uses a support cane but prefers his walker.
  • Would like some ideas on how to make him visible when he goes out.
  • Asked about getting a vest or clothing.

Response:

  • Informed him that if he was currently working with a CRP he could get a cane from them.
  • Informed that the National Federation of the Blind was giving away white canes and that if just carried it then that might make him more visible.
  • Informed that the Center had an Orientation and Mobility Specialist that teaches street crossing.
  • Suggested that he buy reflective tape so that the colors would be the same as a white cane.
  • Asked that he give his contact information and the local CRP could assist him in becoming identifiable and optimize instruction on being mobile.
  • Asked if he was a veteran and if so Paul Kaminsky would speak with him after the meeting.

Consumer #4

  • Thanked DBS for the services it has provided her throughout the years.
  • Concerned with why the GED program was removed from the Center.

Reponses:

  • Informed her that DBS did not have the resources to meet the demand to provide GED education that actually should be provided in the community.
  • The number of students graduating in GED range from 2 to 3 a year and individuals can be on a waiting list for up to 2 years to receive the training. 
  • There are 6 to 18 months of instruction. 
  • There are resources in the community and funds are given to provide education to all citizens including those visually impaired. 
  • DBS in collaboration with the consumer groups are working together to hold communities accountable to provide this education to all citizens. 
  • The consumers who are blind or visually impaired need to be proactive in this endeavor. 
  • The Hadley School for the Blind offers a high school degree.

Consumer #5 - Gainesville

Wanted to know why the Gainesville office was not able to hire another Customer Service Specialist.

Responses:

  • The position was covered with stimulus dollars and it has been difficult to find an individual for the position.
  • The job development and job placement or a collaborative effort between the client and counselor.

Consumer #6 – St. Augustine

  • Believes there is a lack of awareness of services for the blind community.
  • Is it possible to implement more outreach in communities?
  • Worried about the financial crunch and what state DBS is in.

Response:

  • DBS has a public awareness campaign where the Customer Service Specialist is going out into the communities.
  • A commitment was given that DBS and the consumer organizations were moving in the direction of obtaining public awareness throughout the state.
  • Legislators have indicated that they will do everything possible to minimize what will happen to DBS.
  • All the consumer groups in Florida work with DBS in speaking with legislators about the needs of the blind and visually impaired.

Consumer #7 – Panama City

  • Lost sight a few months ago.
  • Counselor has no knowledge of blindness and did not help her in her goal to get to the Center.
  • Wants to be a vision teacher.
  • Plans on getting a guide dog.
  • Asked how much stimulus funds were given to Hadley.

Response:

  • Asked to speak with after the meeting.
  • DBS did not invest funds in Hadley, but so they could contract with a Hadley ambassador that would visit consumer group chapter meetings, DBS staff and the lighthouses throughout the state as a public awareness effort to let clients know about the services that are available through the Hadley school for the blind.
  • All Floridians who are blind or visually impaired, including professionals in the field, can take courses at Hadley at no charge.

Consumer #8

  • Asked what justification DBS was looking for when going to graduate school in the field of Psychology.
  • Was a student at the Center 2 years ago,
  • Is 6 months away from completing her Bachelor Degree with a 4.0 GPA.

Response:

  • The current policy states that DBS does not support post education.
  • DBS assists clients all the way up to their bachelor’s degree.
  • DBS is not federally mandated to sponsor clients at that level.
  • In the event DBS does sponsor a client they would need to spell out why there is a need to continue their education.

Consumer #9 – West Palm Beach

  • Had eye cancer a year ago.
  • Now at the Rehab Center.
  • Haven’t signed up for SSD because believe can learn and get back in the field of work.
  • It was 5 months before receiving visually screening to find out which technology would help her see.
  • Requested a computer with Zoom Text or Jaws so she could search for a job. 
  • She was told she could not receive a computer until she was employed.
  • Found out that another student received a laptop because they were in school working on their GED.
  • Frustrated because her counselor has not guided her.
  • Was also denied a recorder.
  • Gave accolades and acknowledged appreciation to Ed Hudson and wanted DBS to know that he was a role model.

Response:

  • DBS’ policy states that the client needs to be in training or employed to obtain equipment.
  • DBS has a lab available to clients not having access to computers.
  • DBS does not provide computers to everyone that comes to the Center.
  • Advised her to sign up for SSD and freeze her wages.
  • Told to contact the Lions Club for a recorder.

Consumer #10

  • Was told that DBS received stimulus funds and wonders how they have been utilized.
  • How did the Rehab Center utilize the stimulus funds it received?

Response:

The stimulus funds have been utilized for a number of projects:

  • The case management system, AWARE
  • Public awareness material
  • New phone systems for district offices
  • Customer Service Specialist to assist counselors in job development and job placement.
  • Hired additional staff to assist with case management process.
  • Used to assist the Community Rehabilitation Providers (lighthouses)
  • The Rehab Center has purchased furniture for the new dormitory and technology.

Consumer #11

  • Asked if a handout on what is out there could be given to students.

Response:

  • There is a resource booklet on the DBS website.

Consumer #12

  • Never heard of Hadley and would like to know what courses are offered.

Response:

  • Hadley educates at all levels and has been in existence for 6 to 7 years.
  • It was primarily designed to offer correspondence courses to individuals who are blind.
  • Currently a lot of the courses they offer are on line.
  • The Rehab Center will provide information on Hadley.
  • The website is:  Hadley.edu

 Consumer #13

  • Thanked DBS for helping them.
  • Had double cataracts.
  • DBS provided surgery in April and now has 20/20 vision.

Meeting adjourned at 5:00 PM.