Florida Division of Blind Services logo


Quarterly Meeting Minutes (October 14 and 15, 2010)

408 White Street
Daytona Beach, FL


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ted Hull, Chair called the meeting to order at 8:30 AM with pledge of allegiance following.

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

Council Staff: Phyllis Dill

DBS Staff: Antionette Williams, Les Binnix, Jerry Edwards

District Administrators Report – Les Binnix

Les reported the following for District Five:

  • District Five serves counties of:  Volusia, Flagler, Brevard, Putnam
  • Fourteen staff include:
    • 1 DA
    • 1 Supervisor
    • 6 Counselors
    • 2 Rehab Techs
    • 3 Support staff
    • 1 Customer Service Specialist
  • Performance Goals are:
    • VR Closure Goal for 2010: 89
    • Had 82 closures with only a full staff for half the year
    • 42 were legally blind closures
  • Closures for other programs:
  • Independent Living (IL): 159
  • Children’s Program (CP): 7
  • Blind Babies (BB): 6
  • District Five currently serves: 362 VR clients, 244 IL, 65 CP and 34 BB.
  • The Transition Program serves: 22
  • The College and Transition caseload is now combined into one caseload.
  • Les recognized the following staff for the excellent job they were contributing:
    • Dawn Renea Nichols, College and Transition counselor utilizes assessment and evaluation tools to help clients choose a valid degree track.
    • Mark Steinman, VRC achieved 29 successful closures.
    • Terri Titus, VRC achieved 16 successful closures.
    • Jim Woolyhand, VR supervisor
    • Mike Watson, IL/CP counselor is doing outreach for all programs in conjunction with Debbie Ryan, Outreach Director of CVI.
    • Will Ryan, Customer Service Specialist has been instrumental in building a relationship with LC industries, the largest employer of Blind and Visually Impaired employees.
  • LC is building a manufacturing plant with completion by January 2011.  It will create at least 50 jobs for the visually impaired community.
  • Walgreens distribution center in Orlando desires working with DBS and Convergys Call Center located in Lake Mary is interested in employing DBS clients also.
  • Mr. Ryan has been promoted as the Statewide Coordinator for the Customer Service Specialist but will remain in Daytona.

Evaluation on DBS Closures – Antionette Williams

Antionette reported a total of 1440 were closed unsuccessful. She stated that of the ones marked 317 were legally blind at closure and 284 were not. The rest were not indicated either way.  The numbers closed in each category were:

  • Unable to Locate, Contact or Moved - 464
  • Refused Services or No Further Services - 337
  • Other Reasons - 188
  • Failure to Cooperate - 108
  • No Impediment to Employment - 101
  • No Disabling Condition - 86
  • Transferred to Another Agency - 65
  • Disability Too Severe/Unable to Benefit - 54
  • Death - 23
  • Transportation Not Available - 7
  • Institutionalized - 7

Antionette informed the Council there were 376 legally blind closed successful last State Fiscal Year.

Update on VR Goals – Antionette Williams

  • VR Goals for 2011 – 750
  • Legally Blind Goals – 488 with 63 so far.
  • Successful closures to date – 124
  • Total closures to date – 331
  • Total Unsuccessful Closures to date - 207
  • Districts 5 and 9 have obtained highest number of successful closure goals so far.

Policy Review – Lynn Ritter

Lynn read the Self Employment Services Policy #2.10 to the Council.

The Council was concerned DBS was not assisting business in trouble and non profit not being supported.

Antionette will remove and add stipulations.

Joyce stated that it had to be economically feasible.

Abilities First is the consultant that makes the decision on financial jeopardy.

Joyce spoke with Ed Hudson about the center offering training on scope of self employment.

Paul E. suggested a pre requisite for being approved for self-employment of having a certificate in entrepreneurship from a Florida community or state college. Such a course would provide students with many of the tools that they might need to be successful including how to write an appropriate business plan and outreaching to other funding sources.

Joyce stated that DBS could offer training even if an entrepreneurship certificate program was not offered in the client’s area.


Client Satisfaction Survey Concerns – Mary Stutzman via teleconference

  • This year’s survey will begin after the Council approves the revised survey questions and DBS provides the data for July, August and September.
  • A report will be provided at the next meeting.

Paul E. moved to accept the survey questions with the changes.
Motion received a second and passed.

 Local CRP Report – Ronee Hudson

  • Center for the Visually Impaired, Inc. has been in existence since 1988.
  • At that time only seniors were served.
  • CVI serves 4 counties, Volusia, Flagler, Putnam and Brevard with a satellite office in Deltona (West Volusia), an office in Cocoa Village and the main office on the DBS Campus.
  • Various programs include Independent Living, which is our senior program.
  • The Job Readiness is the newest program which was funded through Stimulus Funds.
  • The Assistive Technology program began in the late 90’s through a grant.
  • Many computers including one Apple were purchased with stimulus funding for technology for the Job Readiness program.
  • The O&M program began in 1992 when Ms. Hudson started at CVI.
  • The Transition Program is very successful with approximately 30 students enrolled this year. CVI has various support groups in the 4 counties that include our alumni.
  • New Initiatives include the Garden on the campus that was designed by one of the Job Readiness students who formerly built gardens as a business in South Florida. He built a fountain in the garden which is very beautiful and fits into the natural environment since it resembles the look of cochina rock.
  • CVI is currently investigating establishing a business through National Industries for the Blind. 
  • Challenges faced by CVI:
    • Funding, particularly for the senior independent living program.
    • Transporting of clients to CVI programs from all four counties from the southern tip of the service area (Palm Bay in Brevard) to Palatka (Putnam County).  
    • CVI has vans for the independent living program but will be applying for a van from the Florida Department of Transportation for the Transition program this year.

Blind Foundation Update – Jesus Garcia

  • Next meeting has been scheduled several times and now will be in December.
  • Craig Kiser was unable to make it to the top of Kilimanjaro because of the flu.

Joyce Hildreth’s comments:

  • Mr. Kiser completed 9,000 feet of the climb.
  • If everyone meets their pledge the result will be $5,000.
  • The Blind Foundation endowment fund was approximately $478,000 as of the end of September. 

While the Council took no action, both Jesus Garcia and Joyce Hildreth were instructed to communicate to the Foundation Board that the Council continues to have concerns about the Foundation’s operations.

Director’s Report – Joyce Hildreth

  • DBS is reviewing the business process for all services to ensure that the processes are not over complicated while still meeting federal and state requirements. 
  • Congress passed a continuation budget, but DBS has not received funds as of this meeting.
  • DBS received $2 million from DVR including match.
  • DBS is now contracting with Tampa Lighthouse to provide rehab engineering and by doing so has saved $80,000 or more.
  • The agreement DBS has with VR is that whichever is the primary disability will take the lead in coordinating the joint case management effort.   
  • DBS is working with VR and Helen Keller on a contract to hire a deaf-blind individual to facilitate services to deaf/blind residents of Florida to facilitate services to citizens that are deaf / blind. DBS and VR will split the cost 50/50. 
  • Business Enterprise is now a separate bureau and Bill Findley is the Bureau Chief.  
  • Many exciting changes are happening in Business Enterprise and the Division looks forward to working closely with the vendor committee to continue making improvements. 
  • The change in focus of the GED preparation from DBS to communities was discussed.  Paul Edwards stated that adult education throughout the state is not accessible for the blind and he would like to see consumer organizations work with DBS and DOE to ensure that GED in communities is accessible. 
  • Joyce committed to beginning by talking with the DOE in Tallahassee and working with other groups to move this process forward.

Lunch Break

Budget  Report – Marta Copeland via teleconference

  • Just completed the first quarter of the state fiscal year.
  • October 1st the federal fiscal year started.
  • DBS has not received its grant award to date.
  • A continuation resolution with no new money.
  • DBS submits its Legislative Budget Request for FY 2011-2012 on October 15th.
  • DBS is not requesting additional dollars.
  • There will be possible budget reductions this next legislative session.
  • Agencies were asked to give figures with a 5% cut and a 15% cut.

Joyce’s response to Paul’s concern with the Tampa Lighthouse contract:

  • The contract with the Tampa Lighthouse covers computer setup in the home or for school related to what is appropriate for vocational rehabilitation and on the job. 
  • Tampa Lighthouse receives all of these requests and if they cannot respond within a specified period of time (2 or 3 days) then the state office is contacted and then a qualified vendor in the community can provide the service. 
  • DBS contracts with the CRPs to provide the training. 
  • The contract is a one year contract.

Construction Update and Audit Activity – John Clarkson

Joyce introduced John Clarkson the new Deputy Director of DBS.  She asked him to address the question concerning communication to the vendors.

John stated that focus has been on the DBS district offices and the CRPs to ensure the clients did not go without services.  He stated that communication in with the vendors had been lacking.

Report on Construction:

  • The plan is to have the students in the new dorm later this month or early November.
  • The demolition of the old dorm is scheduled to start a week or two after the students are in the new dorm.
  • A walk through with the architects is scheduled for next week.
  • The next project is a 2,000 square foot single story technology lab that will be built on the site of the current dorm.
  • The ground breaking is expected to be the first quarter of 2011 with completion by the second half of the year.
  • There will also be some improvements to parking and the courtyard area.
  • Other projects on the books are:
    • Remodeling of the current MTTL building.
    • The library
    • The CVI building.
    • Updating language in leases.
    • Collapse the security system.
    • Update furniture.
    • Construct canopies between buildings.
    • Covered outdoor patios for the students.
    • A fuel tank next to the LIONS Club will be removed.
    • Asked for funding for a woodworking shop to be used for training.
    • New roof going on the Conklin Center and the CVI building.
    • All should be started by early next year and completed by 2012.

Report on Audit Activity

  • RSA completed monitoring this year with the site visit in February.
  • The draft report was expected in July but has not been received yet.
  • Recently completed a VR contracts audit with the Inspector General’s office.
  • Four Focus Areas:
    • Complete efforts to create and implement written policies and procedures, including written procedures for the timely closing of inactive client cases at the District Offices thereby reducing staff caseloads.
    • Strengthen internal controls related to contract administration through improvements to the AWARE case management system, based on input from Division, District and CRPs.
    • Revise the risk assessment process to create a more meaningful risk score for DBS contracts; use these risk scores to develop monitoring schedules; and incorporate unannounced District Office and CRP file reviews and visits into the monitoring schedule.
    • Promote open lines of communication and encourage positive working relationships between District Offices and CRPs through joint activities such as job clubs and job development services.
  • Currently having an audit of Business Enterprise.
  • Each year the State Officer General conducts a federal awards audit.
  • Information has been asked from three areas:
    • Aware security
    • Contracts procurement documents
    • Eligibility determination records
  • The results should be received during the first quarter of 2011.
  • Just had a wrap up of the contracts audit by the Inspector General’s Office.
  • This audit compared to the one in 2008 was much better.
  • The IG is reviewing 25 vendors around the state in the BBE program.

DBS’ Response to audit:

  • Ensuring that procedures for closing cases are understood, monitoring case activity, and holding districts accountable
  • DBS/CRP process simplification and AWARE redesign effort is underway.  This will help by streamlining contract monitoring.
  • The contracts and compliance section has a draft risk assessment which will provide a more meaningful risk score.
  • Contract compliance monitoring set to resume shortly.
  • Joint effort on the process simplification effort will set the tone for additional communication between districts and CRPs.  DBS will initiate a series of conversations to solicit additional ideas.

The tour of the new dorm was moved from Friday’s agenda to today (Thursday).

Meeting adjourned at 2:00 PM

Respectively submitted,
Phyllis Dill, AAII



Friday, October 15, 2010

Ted Hull, Chair called the meeting to order at 8:45 AM.

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

Council Staff: Phyllis Dill

DBS Staff: Antionette Williams, Les Binnix, Jerry Edwards

Joyce introduced Susan Roberts the new Chief of the Braille and Talking Book Library (BRBL)

Susan gave the Council an overview of what was happening at the Library

  • The BTBL has the world’s largest collection of Braille and one of the largest collections of recorded cassette books.
  • October first marked the end of the recorded cassette being produced by the National Library Service and Library of Congress and the beginning of a full press on producing all the materials on digital.
  • The digital format is much more user friendly, it always has a crisp clean sound and it has only one cartridge and it will hold a bookmark.
  • The National Library Service will continue to use the recorded cassette to produce the magazines.
  • The BTBL will also continue to use the recorded cassette for the things they produce locally.
  • A download service is available for patrons of BTBL who have a home computer to go on the website of the Library of Congress and download books to a flash drive or a memory cartridge.
  • As of September 30, 2009 there have been right at one million downloads and since then have had another million.
  • Web Braille is also available.
  • BTBL also provides accessories for the equipment they provided.
  • BTBL serves 58 counties with the other 9 being served by the sub regional libraries (Miami, Broward, Palm Beach, Orlando, Jacksonville, Clearwater, Tampa, Ft. Myers and Pensacola.
  • One of the changes made at BTBL is a live individual now answers the phone.
  • BTBL now has a good stock of digital players.
  • The service is totally free to patrons.
  • There are no late fees or fines.
  • BTBL also works with individuals who have physical disabilities and can’t hold a book.
  • The program was started in 1931 and Florida has provided the service since 1950.
  • Over the next 24 months customized cartridges will be produced with magazines of choice for customers.
  • BARD stands for: Braille, Auto Recorded Data Base
  • The website is: http://Bard.loc.gov  
  • BTBL has several recording studios around the state.
  • Plan on recording books of historical nature of Florida over the next several years.
  • Susan informed the Council of an adapter that was available for the USB port on the side of the recorder that would allow a thumb drive to be attached in such a way that it would not be at as much risk of falling out or being damaged.
  • BTBL will be producing a newsletter four times a year. March, June, September and December.
  • The newsletter is produced in large type, Braille and audio.
  • BTBL currently serves 27 to 29,000 patrons in Florida.

Dan asked if it would be possible to record the DBS client’s rights and responsibilities.

Approval of July minutes

  • Council unanimously approved the July minutes.

Approval of Annual Report

  • Council unanimously approved the Annual Report

Phyllis informed the Council she would conduct the new member orientation before the Public Forum on February 8th at the Lighthouse beginning at 2:00 PM.

Monday, February 7th will be travel day and attendance at a dinner at Andrews. 
Tuesday morning the 8th the Summit will begin and adjourn by noon.  The public forum will be conducted at the Lighthouse of the Big Bend from 3:30 PM until 5:00 PM with a tour of the facility following.  The CRP report will be given prior to the public forum.
Wednesday, February 9th the Council meeting will begin at 8:00 AM at the hotel and adjourn at 5:00 PM.

Agenda Items for February 2011

On-going agenda items:
Director’s report (Joyce will introduce invited guests)
District Administrators Report
Approval of October minutes
Agenda items for the April meeting in Miami
Update of VR Goals
Client Satisfaction survey Update

New items:

Election of Officers
DSO update

Ted and Paul E. will compose letters to the Governor and Commissioner with a list of concerns.

Joyce will Request one of the following to speak briefly at the February Council meeting.  Commissioner Smith or Bambi Lockman, Bureau Chief of Exceptional Education or Bill Palmer, DVR

Paul E. would like to get more demographics on legally blind, totally blind, and non blind.

Joyce is concerned that DBS does not become with cataract surgery with what VR became with hearing aids.

Several things Joyce wants to look at:  

  • How many are they doing,
  • The Cost of that.
  • How many end up in successful placement.
  • A break down on their vision before and after.

Paul E. is concerned that DBS may not be not abiding by federal regulations and serving the most severely disabled with sufficient priority.  He wants the statistics that will make it possible to distinguish among closures so that the Council will be able to get a handle on starting to evaluate this situation.

Dan stated that without an Order of Selection the Counselors go by what comes in and gives equal attention regardless of how severe their vision impairment is. 

Joyce stated that DBS is federally mandated and the most significant is a priority.

Robert commented that one of the things to be considered is really taking a look at who are the unsuccessful closures and what else characterizes the person who isn’t benefiting from the program.  He doesn’t think the data is yet available.  When the agencies policies state that the person is eligible and gives the range of services then the Counselor will deal with the cataract case that comes in because that is what is expected.

Joyce stated that she agreed and it was on her list to get a better handle on.  She informed the Council that as part of the new process they were going to separate out the totally blind and legally blind.  There will be three data fields:  Total blindness, legally blind and visually impaired or sight impaired.

Joe is concerned that DBS is taking on the role that should be handled by the medical field, insurance and Medicaid.

Joyce stated that DBS is required to look for comparable benefits.

Joyce informed the Council that DBS can set parameters and have a policy with a cut off point and it will not be an order of selection.

Joe had another concern that a friend lost his hot key to JAWS and his Counselor told him it would have to be sent to Miami.

Joyce will find out who handles quick fixes such as hot keys.

Paul E. suggested that Joyce speak with the Tampa Lighthouse about the degree to which they are responding and if there is a triage to put the kinds of quick fixes at the top of the list and every two or three hours a day doing tandem stuff.

Paul K. spoke about a program the VA just started that would not interfere with Blind Services.

Joyce asked if he wanted a policy statement relating to eligibility for services as it pertains specifically to restoration.

Robert suggested a Task Force to look at what fields would be beneficial to look at.

Joyce stated that she could provide the federal reports and what has been collected. 

Ted suggested that a teleconference be held before the next meeting with the Task Force.

Joyce stated that she would get the RSA II3 and 911 for the past fiscal year to the Task Force before its teleconference.

Joyce informed the Council that input from the Task Force needed to happen quickly.

Phyllis will send the entire Council the date and time of the teleconference for the Federal Eligibility Task Force.

Paul E. asked if DBS would send out the revised policies the Council reviewed.

Old Business

The Council was informed that Congress would be who the consumer groups could address their concern about the Federal Grant money.

Joyce will let the Council know when DBS receives this year’s Grant monies.

The Council agreed to conduct next October’s meeting in Daytona.
After discussion the date agreed on was October 27th and 28th.

Meeting adjourned at 10:15 AM