Division of Blind Services: Supporting Employment Staff to Meet District Service Goals during Challenging Times

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.

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Financial Planning Resources

“Financial independence is possible!”

With hard work, planning, education, training, and support from Social Security, Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) , employment support providers and others you can have a good job, good career, and a better, self-supporting future. Here are some resources that can help you access WIPA support and information on available work incentives! Being proactive is important and these tools can help put you in the drivers seat to increased independence.

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Mentors offer Support and Connection to Students Navigating Educational Challenges

When a student is at risk for poor educational outcomes because of a significant disability, medical issue, or emotional or behavioral problem, a mentor may be able to provide a unique, invaluable form of support different from the support teachers, other professionals, or family members provide. This is what mentors in the Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resource System (FDLRS) provide to students in school and students transitioning to work or postsecondary education: www.fdlrs.org/.

The FDLRS is made up of six regional multidisciplinary centers (MDCs), each connected to a local university. When educational professionals identify students who may benefit from assessment and support, they can arrange for these services through the center closest to them.

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EmployU Prepares Adults for Success at Work

Description of the practice:

EmployU is a one-stop career service provider that began its work in 2012 and now serves 40 Florida counties from 20 regional offices. Its customers are youth and adults with disabilities referred through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), and the American Dream Employment Network (ADEN).

EmployU’s services include assessments, employment skills training, support with resume development and interviewing, and paid work experiences. Students access many of these services through EmployU’s virtual pre-placement training program. The week-long class offers access to extensive, convenient training to help individuals prepare for or return to the world of work. The class combines instruction with interaction through learning exercises, discussions, and quizzes.

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Brick by brick: Building a talent pipeline through work-based learning for students with disabilities

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New laws are making it easier for vocational rehabilitation (or VR) departments to strengthen local partnerships with Florida school districts. These partnerships support high students with disabilities to transition to employment after postsecondary education.

One way that students can access VR’s services before completing school is through a work-based learning experience (WBLE). While participating in a WBLE, students spend their time in a real work environment, taking on workplace responsibilities, acquiring skills, and gaining insight into their own work interests and the requirements of careers. A WBLE also requires that students take an active part in the program, learning new skills and evaluating themselves on their progress. WBLEs are open to students with disabilities ages 14 to 21 who are still in school. Continue reading “Brick by brick: Building a talent pipeline through work-based learning for students with disabilities”

Ben Davis: The Fashion Consultant

With mentoring from a job coach on workplace soft skills, Ben Davis learned to succeed and grow in his job as a sales floor associate and dressing room attendant.

Englewood, FL – “The brunette ladies like to wear blue dresses, and the blonde ladies prefer red.” This observation comes from Rialto Goodwill’s fashion consultant-in-training, Ben Davis. Ben, who is a sales floor associate and the dressing room attendant for the store. Ben enjoys talking to the customers and helping them with their clothing choices. He is also eight percent deaf in both ears, is legally blind without his glasses, and has an organic brain injury that occurred when he was born prematurely.

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Employment First Collaborative Training Toolkit: Domains 1 – 5

The Employment First Collaborative Training Toolkit provides a guide for all employment service professionals—from executive directors and managers to front-line direct support staff—to assess their current capacity and training needs and to identify options for addressing them.

The toolkit covers the application of core values and principles to practice and competencies in:

  • Community research
  • Job development
  • Community-based assessment
  • Workplace and related supports
  • Ongoing supports 

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The Abilities Work Help Desk

The April 2016 Grassroots Group online meeting provided information about the resources available to help Florida’s employers find information about hiring qualified employees with disabilities and to help link people with disabilities to available job openings. The presenters shared information about how employers and job seekers with disabilities can use the Abilities Work Help Desk and Abilities Work Web Portal. Continue reading “The Abilities Work Help Desk”