The Division of Blind Services (DBS) is under the Department of Education and includes 15 district offices throughout the state that provide a full range of services to Floridians who are blind and visually impaired. Staff at the state level ensure that each of the 15 district offices has the information and skills to meet its employment placement goals. Over the past five years, including during the COVID-19 public health emergency in 2020-21, DBS has met or exceeded its annual goals.

At the beginning of the most recent fiscal year on July 1, 2020, the COVID-19 public health emergency brought a new set of challenges to job seekers supported by DBS. However, the public health emergency did not stop DBS clients from obtaining employment and it did not stop the district offices from meeting or exceeding their goals. In fact, the combined total of successful employment closures for all the district offices for FY 2021 was 788, 33 more than the annual total goal of 75

“This was a great accomplishment for our DBS team due to the uncertainty that the pandemic brought to each district office area, where COVID numbers and safety measures were affected differently by higher numbers in some areas more than others,” DBS’s business program consultant Stacy Smith shared.

In a typical year, several factors impact how DBS sets service goals, including the leadership at each office, economic conditions, and available staffing and funding resources. During the pandemic, service provision was also affected by whether staff were working in their offices or providing services virtually. With different offices operating under different conditions, it became even more important to ensure communication between the state and district offices, employment provider staff, and job seekers to coordinate and track individuals’ employment processes. Additionally, it was crucial that district office staff and statewide employment consultants stay in close contact. One major change was moving from monthly to biweekly to weekly general check-ins with employment placement specialists to ensure they had the information and resources they needed to work with job seekers and employers.

At the same time, DBS moved forward with two initiatives to increase successful employment. One initiative introduced community employers to their Employer Services program. The Employer Services program assists with hiring needs and supports and assists current employees with vision loss or blindness issues due to COVID-19 or other health conditions that affect vision. The other initiative was to provide training to DBS’s employment placement specialist and district staff counselors on how to use the Talent Acquisition Portal® (TAP). The TAP is a national online system where job seekers receiving vocational rehabilitation services can find and apply for jobs. Employers committed to hiring people on TAP can post jobs and look for candidates.

Lessons Learned

  • Increased communication between employment placement specialists and district offices inspired a greater sense of teamwork at DBS as staff shared their knowledge and solutions with each other.
  • Staff invited more job seekers into the TAP to seek employment. Employment placement specialists increased DBS’s employment efforts by continuing to reach out to employers.

For more information, contact:
Stacy Smith, Business Program Consultant (email)
386-254-3898 (phone)