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FLORIDA REHABILITATION COUNCIL FOR THE BLIND
PUBLIC FORUM

Lighthouse for the Blind of the Palm Beaches
1710 Tiffany Drive East
West Palm Beach, FL  33407

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bruce Miles, Council Chair called the meeting to order at 5:35 PM.

Council Members Present:

Bruce Miles, Paul Edwards, Robert Kelly, Dwight Sayer, Donté Mickens, Sandra Martin, Lenora Marten, Gloria Mills, Dan O’Connor, Ben Grzesik, Christopher White, and  Robert Doyle, Director. 

Council Staff:   Phyllis Dill

DBS Staff:

Antionette Williams, Wayne Jennings, Lauren Williams, Bobbie Howard, Sam Patterson, Stael Exantus, Christina Panczak-Smith, Jannelle Henry, Zunaira Wasif, Sharon Lucas, Grace Golasz

Forty-one consumers were in attendance.

Mary Allen, Director of Vision Services at the Lighthouse for the Blind of the Palm Beaches welcomed everyone to the Public Forum then turned the meeting over to Bruce Miles, Chair of FRCB.

First consumer Comments:

  • She was a registered nurse and had to retire due to vision loss.
  • She volunteered at the VA Hospital in the low vision clinic in Charleston, SC.
  • There were limited services and she had no transportation in Charleston.
  • Her and her husband moved to Florida 14 months ago.
  • She gave accolades to the Lighthouse.
  • She is more independent than she has ever been and enjoying her retirement,

Second Consumer Comments:

  • Gave thanks and appreciation to the Council and DBS for allowing the Lighthouse to provide services.
  • They have made her life whole and put her on the same field as a sighted person.
  • She no longer feels like an outsider.

Third Consumer Comments:

  • She agreed with the first two consumers.
  • She gave more accolades to the Lighthouse.
  • LBPB has given her confidence.
  • She was previously a homemaker.
  • She has been a client of DBS for 5 years.
  • She is also a client of DVR because she is also profoundly hard of hearing.
  • She has been working with DBS and DVR and has been prescribed occupational glasses.
  • She has needed glasses since April and DBS has not provided them.
  • She has been back and forth with e-mails with DBS.
  • When she called the doctor she was told that payment of the glasses had been denied.

Response:

Mr. Doyle assured he would get a resolution as quick as possible.

Mr. White informed the consumer that she or anyone who runs into problems with services with DBS or VR could also contact the Client Assistance Program.

Fourth Consumer Comments:

  • She is a parent of a child who is blind and has been with DBS and the Lighthouse for several years.
  • Her son is in college now and in the Transition Program.
  • She gave accolades to DBS and its services.
  • Her problem is with the school system in Palm Beach County helping children who are blind or visually impaired.
  • There is a break-down in communication with administrators as far as testing materials.
  • When she used the acronym ADA then the next day the material came correctly.
  • She has heard that children in private schools are denied services because the private schools won’t let someone from Lighthouse be admitted.

Response:

Ms. Martin responded that because the private schools are private they have the right to deny someone being on their campus, but that doesn’t mean the child can’t get services at a public school. 

Mr. White informed the consumer that if there is a problem with access of services or an educational advocate or attorney is necessary, Disability Rights Florida can help with those services and make sure she understands her rights and what can be done.

Fifth Consumer Comments:

  • He has lived in West Palm Beach 30 years.
  • He was a Braille proof reader for Braille International until they closed.
  • He called DBS and his Counselor got him hooked up with LBPB.
  • He was given an APEX BP, Braille Computer based on the Braille keyboard.
  • He still proof reads as a subcontractor from home.
  • He is a huge advocate for Braille.
  • He believes that a child with low vision should be taught to use Braille.
  • He appreciates what DBS and LBPB has done for him.

Mr. Sayer stated that NFB and AFB both had a strong Braille philosophy.  He mentioned that the State of Florida Law states that if you are legally blind your primary language taught will be Braille.

Sixth Consumer Comments:

  • He’s a current client of DBS.
  • He applied at Goodwill and it didn’t work out but he is still trying to get hired.
  • He went to the Conklin Center and they helped him a lot.
  • He’s concerned with the sub minimum wage Act.

Response:

Mr. Doyle informed everyone that the sub minimum wage provision is being left in the Act and the legislators on Capitol Hill do not intend on changing the language.  He stated that a number of states are going into what they call “Employment First” where they are encouraging individuals to get jobs rather than being in sheltered workshops. 

Seventh Consumer Comments:

  • He has been legally blind since he was sixteen.
  • He was never taught Braille and learned it in his forties.
  • He gives credit to NFB and AFB for putting emphasis back on Braille literacy.
  • He suggests that DBS look at providing mentors and possibly looking at a mentoring program for individuals who are new to blindness.
  • He stated that NFB helped save him.
  • He stated that he drove for over 20 years being legally blind.
  • He has been a client on and off since 1987.
  • His DBS experience has been a love hate.
  • His current Counselor is excellent.

Eighth Consumer Comments:

  • He believes Braille literacy is very important.
  • If he is doing the same job as a sighted person then he expects to be paid the same.
  • He stated that his Goodwill Counselor is the best.
  • He believes the rapport is very important between a client and their counselor or the person delivering the services.
  • He stated that MyFlorida.com is not accessible and needs to be made accessible.

Response:

Mr. Edwards informed the consumer that he doesn’t have to go through MyFlorida.com to get into the DBS website.  He stated that a civil rights complaint has been filed against the State of Florida and MyFlorida.com.

Ninth Consumer Comments:

  • She stated that dealing with DBS has been frustrating.
  • Her daughter is blind from a tumor on the brain.
  • She is in Junior college trying to get a degree.
  • There have been several semesters where she has had no books.
  • She and her daughter have made several calls.
  • She has to take her daughter to college and show her around because no one has given her O&M services.
  • There was a meeting set up through DBS and no one showed up and didn’t call until much later.
  • She is going to file a formal complaint.

Response:

Mr. Doyle assured that the Chief of Client Services would contact the local office and look over the file and the issues.  He also informed her that the Client Assistance Program was available if she needed to make a complaint.

Tenth Consumer Comments:

  • She has been visually impaired for over 5 years.
  • She has been a client with DBS 4 years.
  • She is currently a student at Palm Beach State College and in her third semester.
  • She stated that it was frustrating at first but now she and her Counselor are on the same page.
  • She received her mobility and technology training at LBPB.
  • She is concerned with Financial Aid not sponsoring her summer tuition and has been informed that DBS will not pay if Financial Aid will not pay.
  • She asked where else could she receive services if she is not receiving them from LBPB.

Response:

Ms. Williams informed her that DBS requires students to apply for other resources that they are aware of in terms of financial academics; however DBS will sponsor her academics as long as she maintains a GPA 2.0 are better.  She stated that she would follow-up with the District Office.

Mr. Doyle informed her that DBS also partners with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, individual organizations or vendors to provide services a client may need.  He also stated that sending a client to a Center out of state would be looked at on an individual basis and if it is determined that that is the only or best avenue DBS would try and make it happen.

Eleventh Consumer Comments: (93 years old)

  • He lost his sight seven years ago.
  • He voiced his appreciation for the Council and what it does for the Blind.
  • He stated that the VA introduced him to LBPB.
  • He gave accolades to his Counselor for giving him direction and hope.

Twelfth Consumer Comments:

  • He lost his eyesight in 2006.
  • He voiced his appreciation for LBPB.
  • He asked what the Council’s purpose was.

Response:

Mr. Miles informed the consumer that the Council conducted meetings quarterly and was appointed by the Governor.  He summarized all that the Council did.

Ms. Martin informed the consumer it was important to get the word out.

Mr. Jennings informed the consumers that DBS was constantly trying to get the word out to eye doctors.

Mr. Kelly stated that as a service provider it has been a challenge to develop relationships with eye doctors so that referrals for service are given. 

Mr. Miles informed the group that he had seven letters from consumers that would be read to the Council sometime during the business meeting.  He thanked everyone for attending and adjourned the meeting at 7:20 PM.

E-mail comments read by Mr. Miles during the business meeting October 17, 2013.

Consumer Comment read October 17, 2013:

  • She received the card sent by the Library notifying her of the Forum in West Palm Beach.
  • West Palm Beach is nearly 60 miles away and she cannot drive and there is no public transportation available.
  • She has never received an acknowledgement of her request for an evaluation of her needs and possible available assistance. 
  • The only help available is the Talking Books and she has not used them.
  • She stated that the Blind Association is of very limited help for her in Florida.
  • She worked with the local director in New York (Jamestown) regarding the blind in need.  At that time she did not need help.
  • She stated that that local association was and still is an invaluable help to the blind in that area.
  • She is disappointed to find that her needs are ignored now that she is in need.
  • She stated that she hoped the Forum was successful in learning from those who can attend.

Consumer Comment read October 17, 2013:

  • Her 12 year old daughter is a client of DBS.
  • Her daughter is visually impaired due to Retinopathy of Prematurity.
  • They relocated to Port St. Lucie from New Jersey in 2003 because NJ didn’t have much to offer as far as resources and activities for the blind and visually impaired.
  • They try to involve their daughter with LBWP but cannot attend most functions due to the distance and the cost involved to travel there.
  • Her daughter attended the camp run by LBWP held in St. Lucie County a few years back.
  • Unfortunately the camp has not returned to St. Lucie County.
  • It is not financially feasible to drive to LBWP on a daily basis, even if just for a week or two.
  • There are no activities in Martin or St. Lucie counties so her daughter misses out on quite a bit.
  • It seems like déjá vu of living in NJ, where all they heard was “there is no funding”.
  • When she has requested something DBS told them to go to the school first and then come back to them.
  • Her daughter loves LBWP and the activities they provide, but she wishes she didn’t have to drive all that way just to attend something.

Consumer Comment read October 17, 2013:

  • She came to LBWP five years ago.
  • She had lost hope of ever being independent.
  • She began instruction in IL, OM and assistive technology.
  • The amazing instructors at LBWP gave her the tools and instruction she needed.
  • She grew confident in her home doing things she loved, cooking and gardening.
  • Her love of technology and travel skills led her to volunteer at LBWP with an iPhone class.  Today she is honored to be an AT instructor at LBWP.
  • Thanks to additional OM training she is at South Eastern Guide Dogs training with her first guide dog.
  • All because of the wonderful staff at LBWP she has her hope back and has built a new life for herself.

Consumer Comment read October 17, 2013:

  • He worked with LBWP this summer again.
  • Each summer he has been a part of LBWP’s summer camp.
  • This summer’s program included four students employed in a job.
  • He worked for six weeks at Goodwill Industries in the technology department.
  • He also worked with the head counselor and co-worker learning how to fill out a résumé, answer questions in a job interview and filling out job applications.
  • The head counselor would like to have three different camps, each one step up from the other. (Kids camp, transition program and internship)
  • LBWP is looking to get more funding from DBS and other organizations to give the program some support.
  • He stated that without LBWP visually impaired and blind children would have nowhere to turn to.
  • Consumer Comment read October 17, 2013:
  • Her son was born with a Dermoid.
  • He received his first pair of glasses when he was 2 ½ years old.
  • She found DBS on the internet and stated it was one of the most important phone calls she ever made.
  • DBS helped get her son evaluated from the school district even though her plan was to go to a private school.
  • DBS talked with his teacher at the private school about his low vision.
  • DBS suggested that she get a teacher for the visually impaired.
  • The VI teacher went to the school to make sure his materials were large enough for him and that accommodations were being made for him.
  • LBWP was the first place where he attended camp and he has continued to do so in all the years it’s been available.
  • Her son was additionally diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in the second grade.
  • Now that he will be 13 next month, he is closer to the transition age to high school and beyond.
  • DBS and LBWP have been a blessing in disguise for many reasons.
  • It is her hope that her son, as well as other private school children, receives some outside instruction and equipment to help offset the personal expenses.

Consumer Comment read October 17, 2013:

  • He is currently a student at the center in Daytona.
  • He is 49 years old and lost his vision six years ago due to a surgery that went terribly wrong.
  • He was a manager at an oil terminal on Long Island New York and had approximately 65 employees most under his direct supervision.
  • He has one son in college and another in law school.
  • He has very good leadership and management skills and knows how to operate a business under extreme duress and to operate within budgetary constraints.
  • Shortly after going blind he lived with a family friend that worked for an eye doctor in Kentucky. Shortly thereafter he was at the adult training center for the blind in Louisville.
  • He is currently attending the center in Daytona and has discovered that it is the same old politics as in Kentucky.
  • One major problem at the Center is the lack of communication from management.
  • The dorm staff does not realize they are dealing with adults and they schedule and cancel trips according to their liking and not what is at the best interest of the students.
  • Just like in Kentucky, most students do not stand up for themselves and staff takes advantage of that fact.
  • In the last three weekends social activities have been abruptly cancelled at the last minute with no explanation.
  • Today's group activity was cancelled because the particular establishment sold alcoholic beverages.
  • He called the Governor’s office and no one was able to tell him of any specific legislation or regulation that prohibits the center from providing the clients with transportation to and from such establishments.
  • We need and want answers can the Council please help us?

Consumer Comment read October 17, 2013:

  • He recently started iPad training, and it’s going well.
  • He is a graduate from the Seminary with a Doctorate in Theology.
  • His goal is to further his ministry.
  • He stated that Bobbie Howard is awesome and doing everything right.
  • He wants to thank the Council for encouraging him all the way.