Florida Division of Blind Services logo



St. Petersburg Marriot
12600 Roosevelt Blvd
St. Petersburg, FL 33716

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Meeting called to order at 8:30 AM with the pledge of allegiance following roll call.

Council Members Present:  (13)

Bruce Miles, Dan O’Connor, Robert Kelly, Donté Mickens, Sandra Martin, Gloria Mills, Jesus Garcia, Sheryl Brown, Vicky Magliocchino, Paul Kaminsky, Patricia Lipovsky, Joe Minichiello and Robert Doyle, Director. 

Council Members Present via Teleconference: (3)

Dwight Sayer, Lenora Marten, and Leanne Grillot

Council Members Absent: (4)

Ben Grzesik, Paul Edwards, Christopher White and Sylvia Stinson-Perez,

Council Staff: (1)

Alise Fields

DBS Staff: (2)

Antionette Williams, Lynn Ritter and Wayne Jennings.

Attendees: (5)

Becki Forsell, Mireya Hernandez, Bryan Funk, Cory Parker and Beverly Bennett.

A motion to adopt the Agenda was made and seconded. Motion passed.

Director’s Report

Robert Doyle presented the following:           

DBS General Update

  • Mr. Doyle re-introduced Antionette Williams who is now serving as the Deputy Director of DBS
  • Mr. Doyle introduced Marcia Haye as the Chief of Operations and Compliance
    • Contracts Team is now reporting to Marcia Haye
    • Two vacancies are within the Operations and Compliance Team
      • Looking to revamp the position to provide budgetary support and operations experience.
  • Contracts
    • DBS has implemented six (6) month extension/amendment to the Vocational Rehab and Transition Services. These contracts are now set to expire on September 30, 2014.
    • DBS is exploring the combination of Vocational Rehabilitation and Transition Services contracts.
      • Soliciting feedback through CRPs and the public for ways to improve our service delivery models.
      • Finalizing surveys sent out to clients and caregivers to solicit information on services that they have received.
      • Information will be used to redevelop contracts.
      • DBS has implemented the requirement of the comprehensive functional assessment to establish and monitor the baseline for our clients.
    • The Timeline is July 1, 2014 for new Independent Living, Older Blind and Blind Babies contracts.
      • Goal is to have the contracts to go through the signature phase after the deadline.
    • ITN negotiations are underway for existing ITNS.
    • DBS is implementing the National Talent Acquisition Portal
      • Portal is designed through the national Vocational Rehabilitation System that will be used nationally by employers to hire individuals with disabilities.
      • Employers will pay a fee to advertise job vacancies.
      • Employers will have access to qualified personnel through the VR and recruit personnel based on the skills of the client
        • VR staff will provide clients with the information on how to join the portal and provide support with building client profiles.
        • Clients will be informed that using the portal is voluntary. Clients that elect to use the portal will be made aware that inclusion in the portal is equivalent to self-disclosure as a  person with a disability. This is a unique feature and sets the portal a part from other job search engines.
          • Disability and names are not disclosed to perspective employers.
            • Names are only disclosed during the application process.
        • The portal will better aid federal contractors and other employers to develop and implement plans to hire persons with disabilities as federally mandated.

Gifts and Donations

  • Applications have not been received to date.
    • The application deadline is May 9, 2014.
    • Inquiries have come from three CRPs.
    • The Grant Applications team will meet the week of May 19 to review the recommendations and applications. Recommendations will then be submitted for finalizations and the contract process will begin.


  • Governor’s Recommended Budget
    • Recommended budget for DBS is approximately $52 million.
    • Budget holds 4 DBS positions for potential efficiency reductions.
  • Legislative Process
    • House and Senate have agreed to all aspects of the budget as of today’s date.
    • Recommendation to take four FTE positions did arise but seems to have dissolved and no further discussion has taken place.
    • Legislature has added money to the budget for Lighthouses statewide.
      • Specifically the Miami Lighthouse has $150,000 added to the budget.
        • Miami Lighthouse is working with the University Hospital System to provide support for individuals to restore their site. DBS is working with the Miami Lighthouse to determine the level of skills that individuals will need through orientation mobility and living skills.   
      • The Pasco Lighthouse has $50,000 added to the budget.
      • The division is looking for proviso language and developing contracts.
  • Inter-agency agreement
    • Information has been shared with the Council prior to the Business Meeting.
      • DBS is working with agencies to collaborate on employment throughout the state.
        • Mr. Doyle stated that he believes in specialized services for persons who are visually impaired and that it is imperative that agencies collaborate.
        • DBS must implement specialization without isolation.
        • Be involved in key developments throughout the State.
          • Reach out to global agencies to collaborate without consolidating.  

Job Placement Overview/Supported Employment Workgroup

  • Focus has been placed on hold. DBS will review this process in the summer. Some current priorities include.
    • Staffing
    • Surveys
    • Policies
    • Contracts for Babies and Independent living programs.
  • DBS will revisit upon the completion of new contracts.
  • Within Legislation DBS would like to maintain language to incentivize VR Counselors

Legislative Session

  • Session ends May 2, 2014
  • DSO Legislation has been passed
  • Emotional Support Animals Legislation has been modified to add miniature horses to the bill.
  • Federal Legislation is moving forward.
  • Senate Bill  

Council Travel

  • Mr. Doyle discussed and reviewed the State of Florida and Department of Education policies as they relate to travel.
    • Timely submission of travel authorizations.
    • Agents of the State are eligible for the State rate of rental cars.
      • This helps to fulfill the requirement of the most economical travel method.
      • Will reduce costs to the State of Florida.


  • Bruce Miles asks what is DBS position on the Emotional Support Animals Legislation and if DBS has solicited feedback from the community.
    • Mr. Doyle responds that DBS has some concerns that the bill does not require any training of emotional support animals and this may cause confusion in the community. DBS has made the Department aware of its concerns. However DBS has not taken an official position on the bill at this time.
  • Sandra Martin asks for Director Doyle to elaborate on the team members who drafted the guide dog etiquette requirements.
    • Mr. Doyle responds that Walter Blackmon conducted research with various guide dog schools and other constituents to compile input and information for the etiquette. There is flexibility within the etiquette and DBS wanted to provide guidelines for workplace balance.
  • Bruce Miles asks who is responsible for making the determination of the most cost efficient method of travel.
    • Mr. Doyle responds that the State Office is responsible for the doing a cost analysis of the travel methods available.
  • Bruce Miles states that there have been delays in the processing and approval of the travel prior authorizations.
  • Jesus Garcia states that other Councils cover costs for travel. Jesus also states that there have been delays in his travel reimbursements and that the State Office should consider more timely methods.
    • Mr. Doyle responds that the State Office is tightening up processes and many delays are sometimes caused by insufficient documentation and delayed processing. Mr. Doyle states that the State Office is working continuously to stay in compliance of the Statutes that govern state travel.
    • Mr. Doyle stated that the State Office is also looking at ways to streamline the travel process to improve the way documents are shared and completed. One proposal includes having the travel documents completed at the Council Meetings.  
  • Bruce Miles states that he did not see any information in the travel manual that states that DBS is responsible for covering the upfront costs with travel, but did see where there may be a possibility if travel advances.
    • Mr. Doyle responds that he will review the stipulations regarding advances and report back to the Council. Mr. Doyle states that the Department as a whole has reduced the number of advances and has issued state purchasing cards for travel expenses. However, Florida purchasing cards (PCARDs) are not available to the Council.
  • Patricia Lipovsky concurred with Jesus and says that the process should be improved to where DBS practices the method of covering upfront travel expenses for their members
  • Becki Forsell says that the FRC practices the method of covering up front hotel expenses for their members; this method is called the master plan.
    • Mr. Doyle will look into ways to streamline this process into DBS travel methods.
  • Paul Kaminsky suggests that correspondence be modified to where it is easy to read and interpret by a scanning method.
  • Donte Mickens suggests that future prior authorizations be completed during Council Meetings.   

District Administrator’s Report

Mireya Hernandez, DA provided the Council with the following report: Attached

District 7 is comprised of a main office in Tampa and a satellite office in Lakeland.

  • Staffing
    • Between the two offices, the district staffs a total of 19 full time employees and 4 OPS reader/drivers.  There are currently no vacancies.
    • The district employs 5 visually impaired and/or blind staff members.  We have 4 OPS reader/drivers one of which is assigned to the IL/CP program.  Of our VR staff, 3 are Certified Rehabilitation Counselors (CRC). 
  • Performance Goals
    • For FY 2013-2014, the district was assigned a goal of 100 successfully rehabilitated VR closures.
    • To date, District 7 has successfully employed and closed 76 clients, 2 of which were veterans and 4 of which were college students. 
    • There are an additional 35 cases in employed status. 
    • District 7 is on target to meet and exceed their assigned goal by 8 successful placements.
  • Activities

The district participated in quarterly marketing and outreach campaigns to increase referrals as well as reach underserved populations in rural areas.  They focused on marketing to eye physicians, hospitals/clinics/medical centers, schools, churches, and other social/community programs.  District 7 has seen an increase in referrals in most of the counties. 

  • Community Rehabilitation Providers

The district collaborates with three CRP’s. 

    • The Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind (LVIB) serves clients in Citrus, Hernando and Pasco counties.

Employer Recognition

Mireya Hernandez, DA recognized Tomlinson Adult Learning Center as the recipient of the Employer’s Award. Tomlinson Learning Center has provided technology, equipment assessments, and employment needed for clients.

A group photo was taken of Bruce Miles, Robert Doyle, Mireya Hernandez, and Debby VanderWoude, Ed.D, Director.

Morning Break

Lighthouse of the Pinellas Report

Beverly Bennett, Director of Programs Lighthouse of Pinellas provided the Council with a copy of her report.

The mission of the Lighthouse of Pinellas is to advance the independence and quality of life for individuals in Pinellas County who are blind or visually impaired.

The Lighthouse of Pinellas has provided ongoing programs and support for the blind and visually impaired in Pinellas County for 58 years.

Population Density is 3,300 people per square mile, making Pinellas County the most densely populated county in Florida, more than double that of Broward County, the next most densely populated. (2010 census)

The Lighthouse of Pinellas has been continuously accredited by NAC since 1994.

Current Programs provided by the Lighthouse of Pinellas include:

  • Early Intervention/Blind Babies Program for infants and young children birth through age six to facilitate the attainment of critical developmental milestones and increase opportunities for success in school, at home, and later in life
  • Year Round and Summer Transition Programs for teens and young adults ages 14 until graduation from high school to facilitate the attainment of vocational and independent living goals empowering them to become self-sufficient, connected members of society
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Program for adults seeking to obtain, retain or regain competitive employment
  • Supported Employment and limited VR placement services – based upon referrals from DBS
  • Independent Living Program for adults and seniors to remain independent in their homes, travel safely and independently in the community and improve their quality of life
  • Occupational Therapy for adults and seniors in the areas of functional low vision assessments, visual skills training, activities of daily living training and self-management of diabetes

Service Provision:

Services are provided in the home, at the agency, and in the community dependent upon the needs and goals of the client as well as the nature of the particular class. Transportation to and from the Lighthouse of Pinellas, Inc. for training is available through a rate agreement with a local cab company. 

The Lighthouse of Pinellas has 27 employees, 13 full time, 14 part time and also has one contract worker.  Three individuals employed by the Lighthouse are blind or visually impaired.  Three individuals employed by the Lighthouse have worked at the agency for over 20 years.

Upcoming initiatives:

Lighthouse of Pinellas is working towards reintroducing programing for individuals who have graduated from our adult IL and VR programs.  We plan to create a Lighthouse Alumni Program that will meet once a month on Fridays at the agency.  Various classes and seminars will be offered.  The purpose of this program will be to provide access to social, educational, leisure and wellness opportunities for our graduates. The Lighthouse hopes to begin this program in October of 2014.

VR Goals Update

Wayne Jennings provided the Council with his report and data as part of the meeting materials.  

  • Considering alerts for timeframes of closures using AWARE, to better assess clients’ eligibility to reapply for services after a closure.
  • Based on the VR plan DBS can consider relabeling the closure categories to see if the current categories serve the districts interest.

New Committee Appointments

The Council was provided with the list of committees and duties previously as part of the meeting materials.

Chairman Miles reviewed the list of committees. All committees meet as needed.

Sheryl Brown will remain Chair of the Planning Committee and all members will also remain.

Paul Edwards will remain Chair of the Evaluation Committee and all members will also remain.

Jesus Garcia has been appointed to the Evaluation Committee.

Patricia Lipovsky and Robert Kelly have been appointed to the Planning Committee.

FRC February Meeting Report

Becki Forsell discussed the following information:

  • Upcoming Meeting May 13-14, 2014
    • State Plan Draft
    • USF Report on Technology for Persons with Disabilities
    • Nominations for the Stephen Weiss Award
  • Legislative Update
    • Expected to accommodate most persons on the FRC waiting list for services.
  • Stakeholders and Governor’s Appointments Office
    • Maintain Council Membership
      • One open membership-no appointment has come through the Governor’s Office to date.
      • FRC has asked the Governor’s Office to allow the FRC to do an assessment of appointees.

Lunch Break

Meeting resumed at 1:05 PM

DOE Deaf Blind Specialist Update

Cory Parker, Vocational Rehabilitation Senior Consultant, presented the following:
  • Primary focus is employment with Vocational Rehabilitation to work statewide to coordinate and assist eligible deaf-blind individuals to have qualified and skilled services.
  • This is a collaborative effort with DVR and DBS.
  • Focus is also to develop best practices and training in a variety of formats to provide technical assistance and guidance.
  • Position is also a liaison to DBS to collaborate on the DBS-DVR Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and other agreements.
    • Working to update the MOU. Anticipation is that the MOU goes through the approval process for the upcoming fiscal year.
  • Case reviews currently underway to ensure that any consistent gaps in training, with training materials and best practices are addressed.
  • Position is not to provide direct service to clients, this position is for consulting and training, there will not be a caseload.
  • Transportation for the Deaf Blind Specialist will be provided for meetings and trainings, in FY 14/15.

State Plan Update


- Paul Edwards provided his comments to the Council prior to the meeting

***No other comments***


-Bruce Miles asked was the employment consultant to increase the employment outcomes still occupied.

Deputy Director Williams responds:

-There have been some positive outcomes and the incumbent is becoming acclimated with the processes and procedures. Partnerships on a Statewide and National level have increased.

-There has been training to assess caseloads and roles and responsibilities of the EPs in the districts.

-On behalf of Paul Edwards, Bruce Miles asked that Deputy Director Williams elaborate on the Homemaker Policy.

Deputy Director Williams responds:

- The service interruption protocols and the homemaker policy are referenced in this section.  DBS is aligning to implement the service interruption protocols to address the medical and personal issues as they relate to premature case closures.

- On behalf of Paul Edwards, Bruce Miles asked for clarification on the exclusion of Florida State University for the certification for the CRC.

Deputy Director Williams responds:

-Colleges are listed because they provide the certification for the CRC. Florida State University courses do not qualify as preparation for the CRC however they do offer accredited courses.

            -It is recommended that an amendment be made to show that FSU can assist with the courses for the CRC but not the certification.

- On behalf of Paul Edwards, Bruce Miles says that there needs to be clarification on the time frame of certification for the CRC.

Deputy Director Williams responds:

            -This is an error and will be corrected.

-Donte Mickens on specific recruitment strategies, will the salary increase be an annual increase or a one-time award?

Deputy Director Williams responds:

            -This will be an increase to the base salary of the CRC eligible counselor other language will be reviewed.

***No other comments***

4.11 (A)

-On behalf of Paul Edwards, Bruce Miles too was under the impression that transportation will be removed from consideration and the technology component and the needs assessment will remain. It appears that these portions have been removed. It appears that the only elements that remain are the gathering of data as it relates to unsuccessful closures. There is a benefit to be gained from interviewing closed clients.

Deputy Director Williams responds:

            -Decision was to focus on the five primary plus one additional area as identified during the fall FRCB meeting.

4.11 (B)

- Paul Edwards previously provided his comments.

***No other comments***

4.11 (E) (2)

- Paul Edwards previously provided his comments.

-Bruce Miles asked is the nationality Native Hawaiian Pacific Islanders covered under the terms.

-Bruce Miles states that the Asian population is growing rapidly and that there is a tremendous influx in his area and that DBS should take into consideration interpreters for this population.   

Deputy Director Williams responds:

            -All nationalities are served under our outreach. Currently the numbers for the Native Hawaiian Pacific Islanders reflect zero, but there are efforts to better serve under-served populations.

Deputy Director Williams states that there will be some additional items included because of the State Plan input. The theme that was rising from the State Plan involved improvements to our Vocational Rehabilitation Center in Daytona Beach with emphasis on training and additional outreach.

Further discussion and revisions will take place during the Final Review of the State Plan Revisions Meeting scheduled May 15, 2014.

Afternoon Break

Meeting resumed at 2:45 PM

DBS Policies

Lynn Ritter provided the following information:

Policy 6.07 Purchase of Access and Rehabilitation Technology –

  • Sub-Committee suggested revisions to include making the format a bulleted version, removing excessive verbiage, making short headings, the addition of definitions and reorder the text for an easier read.
  • Assessments will be performed through CRPs/Rehab Engineers.
  • Regarding care and maintenance Exceptions Policy maybe applicable to individuals that have equipment.


  • Policy is all inclusive.
  • DBS is regularly purchasing anti-virus software for the equipment.
  • Purchase approval is reviewed by the DBS Office Administrator to determine that the policy has been followed correctly. There is a two day review process for approval.
  • Software is available for Office 2010 products and older to improve the screen reader. This may be a cost efficient method.
  • Being a Mac User the Mac seems to be a more reliable method to avoid viruses.
  • It may be a benefit for DBS to do a repair after 3 years than replacing with new equipment.

Homemaker Guidelines


  • Concerns with the inclusion of non-competitive job closures.
    •  Individuals can benefit from services with the guidelines to provide skilled training.
    • DBS does not generally expect homemaker closures to exceed 10%

Employment Initiative and Cooperative Agreement

Director Doyle presented the following information:

  • Agreement is that inter-agencies work together to improve employment for persons with disabilities. 

Transportation Ad Hoc Committee

Gloria Mills presented the following information:

  • Committee has not met since last quarter
    • Committee will meet at a later date via teleconference
    • Meeting will be advertised and set through DBS staff  
  • Necessity for more links in the communities with the paratransit system
  • Paratransit disadvantages
    • Transit companies seem to discourage persons with disabilities
    • There have been reports of unpleasant accommodations
    • There appear to be challenges with available funding resources
  • Possibility of Transportation Cooperative
  • Promoting of travel training
  • Proposed Solutions
    • Continuance with survey questions
    • Legal remedies
    • Considerations of residence choices  


  • Becki Forsell has recommended that the administration at JARC better manage the federal dollars to stream down to the local agencies. 
  • Sandy Martin says that the community needs to be aware of the challenges with transportation and persons with disabilities should be more involved and proactive with transportation issues in their areas.


Bruce Miles presented the following information:

  • Currently there are 48 State Rehabilitation Councils that are representing 44 states including northern Marianna Islands, Hawaii, U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam that are members. Out of the 44 states that are members 26 are combined agencies.
  • Meetings consisted of Leadership Development, Membership Recruitment, Meeting Locations, Public Forum Participation, and topics alike.
  • State Plan discussion included the RSA Commissioner
    • State Plan topics did include SB 1356
    • Quarterly Needs Assessment reports (911) from the RSA should also be requested to help with trends
      • The reports are compiled and placed on the RSA website periodically
  • SRSAs are not able to lobby, they can educate but not lobby.

Director Doyle presented the following information related to the Spring NCSAB/CSAVR meetings:

  • Budgeting Reports were discussed
  • General Sessions included the SB 1356, 503 Compliance for utilization rates, talent acquisition portal.
  • Discussions included Senators and Representatives about their position on SB 1356 and authorizations from State Agencies regarding SB 1356
  • Updates relating to data on blind agencies, and Randolph Sheppard  

Meeting adjourned at 4:00 PM.