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FLORIDA REHABILITATION COUNCIL FOR THE BLIND
PUBLIC FORUM

Hilton University of Florida Conference Center Gainesville
1714 S.W. 34th Street
Gainesville, FL  32607

Thursday – July 24, 2014

Bruce Miles, Chair called the meeting to order at 5:00 PM.

Council Members Present:  (15)

Bruce Miles, Dan O’Connor, Robert Kelly, Donté Mickens, Sandra Martin, Gloria Mills, Sheryl Brown, Leanne Grillot, Lenora Marten, Sylvia Stinson-Perez, Paul Kaminsky, Paul Edwards, Christopher White, Joe Minichiello and Robert Doyle, Director. 

Council Members Present via Teleconference: (4) Dwight Sayer, Patricia Lipovsky, and Jesus Garcia, Ben Grzesik

Council Members Absent: (1) Vicky Magliocchino

Council Staff: (1) Alise Fields

Attendees: (5)

John Henry Douglas (FRC), Bill Findley (BBE), Robin Whiteley (Florida Center for the Blind), Tracey Bradley, April Hogden, Madeline Davidson.

32 consumers were in attendance.

First consumer Comments:

  • Client of Vocational Rehabilitation.
  • Concerns with technology and getting computers to persons with disabilities.
  • Would like for DBS in Alachua County to play a more essential role in technology and equipment.
  • Would like to have more training perhaps some classes in Alachua County for persons with disabilities and more follow up after training.
  • Computers and tablets are the root to information to the world.
  • Would like to have a help desk for persons with disabilities to use computers and tablets.
  • Would like for DBS to encourage Braille Literacy.
  • Thanks the DBS for all of the work that they do.

Response:

Dan O’Connor commented that tech support has been reestablished about a year ago. There may even be remote access to some computers. Dan says that there may be a possibility to apply for training in non-vocational. Dan also recommends the Hadley School for the Blind, they offer courses on technology.

Robin Whiteley commented that Alachua is covered by Elder Care and they only cover the Gainesville Area.

Paul Edwards commented that Braille Literacy is extremely important and the DBS does encourage it. FCB recently formed a state chapter of a national organization called the Braille Revival League of Florida. Work with FDOE and DBS to expand the use and understanding throughout the state. Every blind person who reads braille should become an ambassador and spread the knowledge.

Leanne Grillot commented that she is working to bridge the new braille code that is coming out and is also working with DBS so that as training is happening the DBS counselors have access to the trainings as well.

Second Consumer Comments:

  • Formally on faculty at the College of Nursing at the University of Florida.
  • In 2011 diagnosed with a bone marrow cancer that resulted in the loss of vision.
  • With the new technology Braille is not feasible for “late bloomers.”
  • Curious to know what the criteria are for admission to the Daytona Beach campus.
  • Believes from what she understands is that admission is solely based on if you have a job or are in school and needs some clarification.
  • Believes that the Daytona Beach Campus is underutilized.
  • Receiving services from Ocala and has had a great experience.

Response:

Robert Doyle comments that the priority may seem to be geared towards persons who are already working based on the abilities to serve. Mr. Doyle offers to meet with the consumer after the forum to discuss the challenges that they have been experiencing and to see what services DBS can offer for a resolution. Mr. Doyle comments that the center is looking for ways to better utilize its resources and expand services at the rehab center.

Tracey Bradley will follow up with the consumer.

Third Consumer Comments:

  • Thanked the DBS and VR for being able to keep consumer employed for the past 30 years and to obtain a degree through the University of Florida.
  • Believes that there is a communication problem in Gainesville because a lot of the visually impaired communities were unaware of the forum scheduled for today. Consumer suggests that the DBS utilize a telephonic system to reach out to other consumers who cannot read print or braille.
  • Consumer suggests that DBS have someone locally to help consumers that have technological devices, if the devices are no longer operable.
  • Thanks the DBS for allowing her to express her concerns.

Response:

Bruce Miles asks how did the consumer hear of the public forum today.

The consumer responds that they were told by another consumer who received a postcard in the mail.

Bruce asked did the consumer subscribe to the Talking Book Library.

The consumer says that they no longer subscribe to the Talking Book Library and does not use that service.

Sylvia Perez comments that DBS should look into having an auto dialer registry to make calls to the consumers.

Robert Doyle comments that currently DBS does not use this service, these are options that the DBS can look to employ.

Donte Mickens comments that another option could be email; to send an email to clients particularly in the district were the meeting will be held, to have a higher success rate in reception than by postal mail.

Christopher White asks if there is an Elder Care Services representation in the area and if they are present at the meeting that can possibly offer some assistance to the Elder community in regards to assisted technology issues that have been brought before the council.

A representative says that technology training is not included on the contract, they do not provide it. However, if there are additional funds and a client is in need Elder Care Services will provide on a case by case basis in conjunction with the FCB.

Christopher White asks if there is any particular process for obtaining these services.

Representative states that consumers should talk with their counselor.

Fourth Consumer Comments were read by Chairman Miles:

  • Legally blind, 95% deaf and has a speech impediment.
  • Wishes to start a tire recycling business.
  • Curious to know if there is information of a government or private firm with funding to start a business and create jobs in the community.
  • Is there assistance, preferably through the VA with filling out travel vouchers during appointments?

Response:

Paul Kaminsky responds that the consumer file a grievance with the VA hospital. Paul Kaminsky offers to take the letter to follow up with Bruce Davis at the VA hospital on Archer Road in Gainesville.

Robert Doyle comments in regards to the business startup that through the DBS self-employment program we offer assistance to visually impaired individuals that want to start up their own business. Tracey Bradley will follow up.

Fifth Consumer Comments:

  • Thanked the group for having the meeting and receiving consumer input.
  • Appreciates that Mr. Doyle takes an interest in the deaf/blind community.
  • There are many issues within the community to include assisted technology and communication expansion.
  • Is happy to devote time as a liaison for communication to the deaf/blind community
  • Radio reading service with the local newspaper is no longer available.
  • NFB newsline had talks about bringing the local paper on however the costs have hindered the process.
  • Would like to report back to members that there is some sponsorship for newsline.
  • Gainesville is very rural in some areas and getting communication to the deaf/blind community is very important.
  • The local library is asking that people send back cassettes that are being replaced by digital devices. What does the community do if they still have cassettes and wish to use them?

Response:

Christopher White asks what the breakdown is in the radio reading service.

Consumer responds that based on research there was a legislative budget request but funding was cut. Radio reading service currently has a student run process.

Christopher White will make contact with the UF to see if he can obtain more information.  

Robert Doyle responds that the cassettes should not pose an issue if the consumers want to continue to use them. In relation to newsline, DBS is supportive of continuing funding for newsline, the cost is higher than any other state but there are some adjustments being made. In relation to the deaf/blind community there is an iCan Connect program that provides free telecommunications equipment for those who qualify. Icanconnect.org/florida is the website.  

Paul Edwards responds that there is an organization called the International Association of Information Services. This is an organization that all radio reading services belong to. This may be a point of contact to help support Gainesville in reorganization.

Sandy Martin comments that she has spoken with iCan Connect and highly recommends their services.

Sixth Consumer Comments:

  • Consumer has concerns with not being able to get the proper training for independent living regarding Microsoft office products, Jaws and apple iPhone usage to conduct personal and professional business.
  • Consumer has concerns with transportation in the Ocala area.
  • No longer wishes to receive services from the Ocala office due to inconsistencies in the case and the appeal process.

Response:

Robin Whiteley responds that the FCB does have a computer program that they are looking to enlarge and add staff, currently there is only one staffer. There have been some communication issues with the consumer and the FCB. 

Mr. Doyle responds that he will meet with Florida Center for the Blind Executive Director and consumer to bridge the gap of communication for a better resolve.

Seventh Consumer Comments:Legally blind and retired nurse who is adjusting.

  • Would like to thank the Marion County and Ocala Division of Blind Services for all of the services that they provide. 

Eighth Consumer Comments:

  • Consumer is trying to become gainfully employed and seeking assistance through DBS.
  • Does not believe that DBS is providing solutions to her requests.
  • Concerned that the DBS staff is not prepared to take sufficient notes during meetings and does not have adequate equipment.

Response:

Mr. Doyle thanks the consumer for their comments. Mr. Doyle responds that his team has worked diligently to assist in achieving employment for the consumer.

Ninth Consumer Comments:

  • Was in the transition program with the FCB now attending college.
  • The transition program opened many doors especially during the summer for different occupations.
  • During the transition program there were encouraged to work together.
  • Believes that more programs like the transition program should be offered more to provide more options to the visually impaired community.

Response:

Donte Mickens commented that the consumer should consider to network with many other organizations like the NFB and ACB to share this information so that resources can be more attainable throughout the community. He encourages the consumer to continue working and become an advocate.

Donte Mickens also commented that he is a part of the USABA. They provide a structure and some funding for certain athletic programs for the visually impaired community.

Paul Kaminsky commented that it is imperative to get involved in organizations for support and to learn about assisted technology and job training.

Gloria Mills commented that the NFB has a group called the Florida Association of Blind Students (FABS) that can possibly help with placement and work in different conventions statewide.

Mr. Doyle states that DBS has the BBE that encourages entrepreneurial endeavors. BBE is trying to recruit youth into the program.

Bill Findley says that BBE is trying to arrange visits throughout the state of Florida to meet with transition students, to give them information about the BBE program and offer support.

No other consumers gave comment.

Public Forum adjourned at 6:30 PM