Florida Division of Blind Services hosted 75th anniversary expo and White Cane Safety Day ceremony
Special to the Outlook
The Florida Department of Education’s (FDOE) Division of Blind Services (DBS), in partnership with Florida State University College of Education, recognized the successes achieved by persons who are blind or visually impaired during the DBS 75th Anniversary and White Cane Safety Day Ceremony and Expo.
“As a state and nation, we have come a long way over the last 75 years in terms of how individuals with disabilities are treated, a fact in which all Floridians can take great pride,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart. “I am honored that the department of education has been able to increase accessibility and inclusion for Floridians in the blind and visually-impaired community, and we are committed to continue this progress so everyone benefiting from our system has the greatest opportunity for a successful future.”
Through DBS, blind and visually-impaired Floridians have access to many educational, vocational, medical, social and recreational services beginning at birth. In addition to helping younger clients learn to navigate the many aspects of life that may be more difficult for persons with visual impairments, DBS works with adults to obtain independent living solutions, and career and vocational education skills so they can accomplish their life goals.
“Since 1941, DBS has made vast strides in attacking the barriers that have hindered persons with visual disabilities from fully participating in our society and our workforce,” said DBS Director Robert L. Doyle, III. “This year, we provided services to 557 individuals in Leon and the surrounding counties, which included 264 jobseekers who were preparing for or looking to retain employment. As we look to the future, we must continue to charge toward our goal of Florida being a barrier-free environment for residents with visual disabilities.”
Nearly 200 guests attended the ceremony and expo, which featured educational sessions, business networking opportunities and a community and technology showcase. Speakers included Representative Alan Williams, Commissioner Stewart, director Doyle, Captain Jeffrey Bissainthe of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and current and past members of consumer organizations and direct service providers. Talent development manager Angela Hendrieth of the City of Tallahassee presented a proclamation to the Division in honor of White Cane Safety Day.
White Cane Safety Day is a national observance to celebrate the abilities of persons who are blind or visually impaired. The day is also intended to educate the public of the White Cane Law, which requires motorists to stop when a pedestrian carrying a white cane or accompanied by a guide dog is crossing a street.
Triathlete and military veteran David Bigoney served as the keynote speaker. After receiving an honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy, Bigoney moved to Tallahassee to pursue college in the mid-1990s. In December 1996, while visiting his family in South Florida, Bigoney was a victim of violence, leaving him completely blind. However, he did not allow his disability to hinder his goals.
In March 2001, with the help of a sighted guide, he completed his first triathlon. Bigoney was immediately hooked, and thrilled that he had found a sport that challenged him physically and mentally. In 2004, Bigoney graduated from Florida State University with degrees in Information Technology and Nutrition and Fitness. In 2005, he made history by becoming the first totally blind individual to complete an Ironman Triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run). During the last three years, Bigoney has also become active in Goalball, a team sport designed for blind and visually-6impaired athletes.
“For me, life has always been an adventure worth pursuing and living to the fullest,” said Bigoney, the father of an 11-year old son. “I was determined in 1996 that losing my sight wouldn’t change that.”
As part of the anniversary ceremony, DBS inducted new members into the “Successful 75,” an award program that recognizes individuals, organizations and businesses who have remained steadfast in the advancement of independence for persons who are blind and visually impaired.
For more information about the Division of Blind Services and its programs, visit http://dbs.fldoe.org.