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Public Forum (Thursday, April 19, 2012)

Lighthouse Central Florida
421 E. Robinson Street, Orlando, FL 32801

Paul Edwards, Chair called the meeting to order at 4:15 PM

Council Members Present:   Paul Edwards, Jesus Garcia, Henry Alexander, Andrew Raines, Bruce Miles, Vicky Magliocchino, Ted Hull,  Christopher White, Donté Mickens, Sheryl Brown,  Sylvia Stinson-Perez, Dan O’Connor, Paul Kaminsky, Joe Minichiello, Sue Townsend and Joyce Hildreth.  Gloria Mills represented NFB.

Council Staff: Phyllis Dill

DBS Staff:  Lynn Ritter, Anthony Pileggi, Brian Michaels, Sue Velasko,

Lighthouse staff:  Lee Nasehi, Keith Gee, Lee Van Eepoel, Dylan Buhain, Joyce Skipper

Interpreters: Emily Jones and Jessica Rodas

Twenty-four consumers were in attendance.

First consumer comments:

  • Ask about the Governor’s budget cuts regarding disability issues and who makes the decisions.

Response:

  • Ms. Hildreth responded that DBS did not have a cut of any significance and was fortunate to receive an increase in the Blind Babies Program.  She informed the consumer she would have her budget person contact him for more clarification and to give his contact information.

Second Consumer comments

  • Gave Council why she was grateful for services her son has received at LCF.

Third Consumer comments:

  • Her son is part of the transition program and stated that DBS should continue what is going well. 
  • She believes the transition program is the key to give her son life skills. 
  • She stated she felt her son was a normal teenager, especially since he didn’t want to listen to her any more.
  • She stated that the people that run the transition program understand her son and talk to him in his language.

Response:

  • Joe Minichiello suggested that she find a successful blind adult to mentor her son.

Fourth Consumer comments:

  • Wanted to know why DBS only paid for the general physician and not the eye doctor.

Response:

  • Consumer was asked to give his contact information for follow-up by DBS.

Fifth Consumer comments:

  • Asked why there wasn’t more equipment and training to help them become independent.

Response:

  • Ms. Hildreth explained the DBS budget and policies concerning providing equipment and how each program is covered.

Sixth Consumer comments:

  • Wanted to know if there was a program to help pay the rent.

Response:

  • Ms. Hildreth informed the consumer DBS did not have a program to pay rent.
  • Ms. Ritter suggested the consumer contact the local DBS office for help with finding other resources to assist them.
  • Ms. Nasehi suggested they call 211in the Orlando area to see if they could assist.

Seventh Consumer comments:

  • Stated that Apple was capable of doing a lot for the visually impaired.
  • Wanted to know if DBS could develop a training program with Apple.

Response:

  • Mr. Kaminsky suggested consumers attend the BVA, FCB and NFB conventions where vendors demonstrate equipment.
  • Mr. Edwards stated that what he was asking for was reasonable but no state agency could ever get behind a single product.  He stated that DBS was involved in state contracts that significantly decrease the cost of technology across the board. 
  • Ms. Hildreth informed him that DBS is part of a task force with the Department of Education and they did connect with an Apple representative and will pursue the connection.

Eighth Consumer comments:

  • She lives in the Villages and is deaf-blind.
  • She has been a DBS client and they helped her to learn Braille.
  • DBS sent her to a Low Vision Clinic and she had cataracts removed to improve her reading.
  • DBS referred her to VR for services to attend school.  After two months without hearing anything she called and was told her VR Counselor had retired.  She then called DBS and was informed her Case Manager had retired. She was upset she had not been informed by anyone.
  • She still can’t use the telephone or computer and completely relies on her husband or friends to help her read and communicate.
  • She feels like her intelligence is going down.
  • She would like for the Council and DBS to work together to make things better for the deaf-blind clients in Florida.

Response:

  • Mr. Edwards informed everyone of a law passed by the federal government that will take affect July 1st this year allocating $10 Million a year to make equipment available for persons who are deaf blind for communication.
  • Mr. O’Connor suggested contacting Florida Telecommunication Relay Company about a deaf-blind communicator (DBC).
  • Ms. Chandler informed the consumer the DBC was available for loan through the FCC.  The DBC also does texting and email.
  • Mr. White informed the consumer the Client Assistance Program would be able to assist her concerning her problem with not being notified of Counselor and Case Manager’s retiring.
  • Mr. Minichiello suggested the consumer check out Best Buys and Radio Shack for less expensive equipment.
  • Mr. Kaminsky informed the consumer about the Magic Jack that worked through a computer in place of a land line.

Ninth Consumer comments:

Believe that prices should come down for all equipment the visually impaired needs.

Tenth Consumer comments:

  • He’s a veteran of World War II.
  • He has been very fortunate over the years to utilize equipment provided by Blinded Veterans.
  • The iPhone and iPad is going to be one of the top subjects at the Blinded Veterans state conference the first of May.
  • He stated that even if you get the equipment, you still have to pay to access it.

Eleventh Consumer comments:

Asked if a cell phone available for someone with low vision.

Response:

  • The Haven is available from the AT Guys in Arizona.
  • The Jitterbug through AARP is also available.
  • Verizon has a flip phone for $69.
  • A Verizon phone is provided to Blind Veterans free with a $30 month access fee.
  • Can apply with AT&T for an exemption to use their automatic voice calls.

Twelfth Consumer comments:

  • Her son is in the transition program and she stated how important it was teaching about technology in the younger programs.

Response:

  • Mr. Minichiello stressed the importance of teaching children to read Braille.
  • Ms. Hildreth stated that another resource to learn Braille is through Hadley School for the Blind.  It is a correspondence school and free. 

Lee Nasehi informed everyone of a new radio program talk show called Blind Matters, hosted by Michael Golder, who is blind.  It’s on every Saturday from 3:00 to 5:00 PM on AM station 810.  You can also access it through the website Big810AM.com.

Public Forum adjourned at 5:50 PM