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Public Forum (Thursday, July 26, 2012)

Crowne Plaza
1201 Riverplace Boulevard
Jacksonville, FL  32207

Paul Edwards, Chair called the meeting to order at 4:05 PM

Council Members Present:   Paul Edwards, Jesus Garcia, Henry Alexander, Andrew Raines, Bruce Miles, Donté Mickens, Sheryl Brown, Dan O’Connor, Paul Kaminsky, Joe Minichiello, Sue Townsend, Michele Polland, Ben Grzesik, Sandy Martin, Gloria Mills and Joyce Hildreth.

Council Staff: Phyllis Dill

DBS Staff:  Madeline Davidson, Gene Hartley, Tanisha Hamilton, Wayne Jennings

Twenty-six consumers were in attendance.

First consumer comments:

  • Currently a client of DBS.
  • Expressed his appreciation for services he has received.
  • Stated that everyone should see each day as a new day and that everyone should patiently work with their Counselor and staff.

Second Consumer comments:

  • Spoke about consumer organizations.
  • He stated that DBS cannot do it all.
  • Recommended that DBS included as part of the training program for new Counselors to encourage clients to get involved with consumer organizations.
  • Would like to see the consumer representatives on the council pass down information to consumers.
  • Would like to know how DBS is spending money from the Gifts and Donations funds
  • He believes information on Gifts and Donations has not been shared and believes it should be put in newsletters on the website, etc. 


  • DBS does have information on its website that list all consumer organizations and what each one does.
  • Ms. Hildreth encouraged stakeholder groups and the Division districts to connect with local chapters and identify a person at the local chapter level (name of person, phone number) to be invited and attend meetings.  She also recommended connecting with the local CRPs and ask to speak to the students attending classes.
  • Ms. Hildreth gave an overview of the Gifts and Donations Funds.  She stated that DBS would be offering $150,000 in grants this year.  After procedures are in place, the Request for Proposals will be posted on the DBS website, newsletter, etc.  She stated that there will be a third party audit to ensure DBS is conducting a fiduciary responsibility.

Third Consumer comments:

  • Referred to the possibility of DBS becoming an independent entity and he believes it should still be a goal to look towards.

Fourth Consumer comments:

  • Asked what was the policy for replacing equipment for individuals still fully employed.


  • Ms. Williams stated that once an individual completed their ninety days of employment and in need of equipment replacement, DBS will look on a case by case basis, if it has been beyond a year, to the employer to assist.  If the client has been employed for less than a year they are eligible for Post-Employment services. 

Fifth Consumer comments:

  • Expressed appreciation to the Council for getting the notice of the meeting out in a timely manner.

 Sixth Consumer comments:

  • Asked if there was any kind of service to continue education or get assistance once an individual leaves ILAB.
  • Where else besides the ILAB store can someone get lined paper, Braille paper, etc.


  • Ms. Simpson informed the consumer that an individual can apply directly to ILAB for additional training.  She stated that ILAB can give contact information for support groups but does not provide assistance for house cleaning, etc.  ILAB keeps paper and supplies in stock and also provides catalogues for placing orders. 

Seventh Consumer comments:

  • She stated that blindness runs in her family and she grew up with the blind.
  • She was told she needed surgery for two cataracts.
  • She was told by DBS she did not qualify for services and when she called Tallahassee the person answering the phone said they couldn’t help her.
  • Her doctor told her she was blind and shouldn’t be driving.
  • She was directed back to DBS and once things went through they were wonderful.
  • She believes there should be more awareness and when someone calls DBS or Social Security there should be a list to assist them with helping the individual calling.
  • She now has her sight back and is able to drive again.
  • She stated appreciation for services she received.

Eighth Consumer comments:

  • She wanted to know why material was sent out in print and not in Braille.
  • Wanted to know what happened to the Braille Embosser in the Jacksonville office.
  • She wanted to know why the Inspector General’s office was calling her attorney.


  • Mr. O’Conner stated that the letter was sent in Braille to those individuals listed in the data base as requiring Braille.  He apologized of the oversight.
  • Mr. O’Connor stated that the Embosser was working in the Jacksonville Office.
  • Mr. Edwards informed her that she should contact the Inspector General’s office.

Ninth Consumer comments: (94 years old)

  • Wanted to thank ILAB for giving her back her independence and the ability to enjoy life.

Tenth Consumer:

  • Gave thanks to DBS for helping him get back on track with his job.
  • Wanted to know why a client has to go to the eye doctor again when they reapply for services.
  • He suggested that records be kept on file so when a person applies again the information will be there.


  • Mr. O’Connor informed the consumer that if a previous client applies again and the records show no improvement, then the eye exam will be waived.  If there is an obvious indication the individual is totally blind the eye exam could be waived.
  • Ms. Williams stated that if there is reason to believe the individual’s vision has possibly improved then RSA requires an eye report.

Sixth Consumer comments again:

  • She was told both eyes had to be impaired to receive assistance from DBS.

First Consumer comments again:

  • Asked why DBS outsources assessment test when qualified Counselors could possibly provide them.
  • Asked if DBS had an actual position to research client information to assist the Counselor with their caseload.


  • Ms. Williams stated that DBS refers clients to a Psychologist who specializes in the area.
  • Ms. Williams informed the consumer that DBS Rehab Techs assist the Counselors to give them more time to focus on serving the clients.

Fourth Consumer comments again:

  • Asked if DBS recognized a letter from a doctor stating that there is no possibility for a change.


  • Ms. Williams and Mr. O’Connor both stated that DBS would accept such a letter.

Third Consumer comments again:

  • Asked if there was a status in AWARE for non-corrective or fixable vision problem.
  • Believes having a statement in AWARE it would be helpful.


  • Mr. Jennings informed the consumer there was not a field for total blindness in AWARE.

Fifth Consumer comments again:

  • Asked if there are service dog agencies near or in Jacksonville.


  • Mr. Edwards informed the consumer there was only one in the state and it was free.
  • Ms. Martin informed the consumer the guide dog schools require individuals to stay with them a month.   There are a couple of guide dog schools that will come to the home.

Sixth Consumer comments again:

  • She stated she has Lupus and it was attacking her eyes and causing eyeritus in the back of her eyes.
  • She asked if there was recourse through DBS to help her.


  • Mr. Edwards informed the consumer of DVR and suggested she contact them.

Second Consumer comments again:

  • He stated that there are problems with BARD that need to be addressed.


  • Mr. Edwards stated that he has been informed some changes will be implemented before the end of August or beginning of September.

Comments from Consumer sent via e-mail

  • Currently we are fighting the school system for a Braille Notetaker with a Refreshable Braille Display which would enable my child to be as competitive as her sighted peers using their laptops, tablets, iPhones, and computers. 
  • Where does the funding for DBS come from and how is the amount determined?
  • Shouldn't the school system be paying for items she needs for school? 
  • How do federal quota funds get disbursed? 
  • How are these funds different from DBS funds? 
    My child should be able to go straight to college with her peers, get a part time job to help her with being independent and if she needs assistance along the way that's what I feel DBS should be there for, not as the next step after high school.
    Currently attending the Partners in Policymaking class funded by FDDC and would love to help DBS get the funding they need.


Antionette Williams, Bureau Chief of Client Services responded via e-mail as follows:

  • Our funding comes from the federal government. 
  • The allocation is determined  based upon the amount of funds received from the federal government, combined consideration of  historical spending and existing district needs
  • First, I want to apologize for the delay in services.  Please share with me the name of your child’s counselor.
  • Second, it is the school’s responsibility to accommodate each student special needs.  However, in the event that the school is unwilling to purchase necessary special needs equipment, DBS will sponsor the purchase of equipment based upon availability of funds.

Public Forum adjourned at 5:50 PM