Skip navigation bar
Florida Institute of Rehabilitation Education for People Who Are Visually Impaired or Blind
Assisting people with vision loss in their pursuit of independence
About Us
Local Resources
Newsletter & Calendar

Calendar & Newsletters:

Calendar of Classes
Fall 2008
Summer 2008
Spring 2008
Winter 2007/08
Fall 2007
Summer 2007
Spring 2007
Winter 2006/07
Fall 2006
Summer 2006
Spring 2006

Fall 2008 FIRE Newsletter

Articles in this issue:
1. October 19th is Dining in the Dark!
2. Thanks to our Dining in the Dark Silver Sponsors
3. Meet the Board: Sharyn Davidson
4. FIRE Hiring Transition Specialists
5. FAMU Architecture Students & FIRE Team Up to Design Facility for the Future
6. FSU Disability Awareness Week
7. Top 10 Ways to Prepare for a Hurricane
8. FIRE Fall 2008 Classes & Groups
9. How YOU Can Help!
10. Frequently Called Numbers
11. About FIRE, FIRE Board, and FIRE Staff

1. October 19th is Dining in the Dark!
Please join us for the 4th Annual Paula Bailey “Dining in the Dark” event with Honorary Host Representative Loranne Ausley, on Sunday, October 19, from 5-8pm at the University Center Club. Served in total pitch black darkness, the dinner will be a unique experience into a world of smell, taste, sound & texture. Without vision, other senses become stimulated and conversation becomes more intimate. And if you are blind, this is a chance for your loved ones to experience for a few short hours what you live with every day.

The event begins with a reception, and this year we have added a raffle of fun-filled baskets; themes include kitchen treats, golf, original art, FSU, pampering yourself, dining out, gardening, eye care & much more. We are delighted to welcome back the Leon County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team who will serve us dinner in the dark. After dinner, the lights come on and we will unveil our NEW agency name and logo designed by The Kidd Group. Lastly, the Paula Bailey “Inspirational Community Member” Award will be presented.

This event is named after Paula Bailey, a former FIRE client and Board member. She became blind and deaf in 1999 after an attack of meningitis, but regained her life and reached out to many others with her warmth and generosity. Paula was a founding member of the Dining in the Dark event and she passed away in 2005. This dinner is held, in part, to honor her brilliant spirit.

Tickets are on sale for $55 each or you can sponsor a ticket for someone who cannot afford to go. For more info, please check out .

2. Thanks to our Dining in the Dark Silver Sponsors
Doug and Elizabeth Bailey
Sharon Davidson
Anne & Bill Hebrock
Patti Liles
Rose, Sundstrom & Bentley, LLP
Tallahassee Lions Club
University Center Club

3. Meet the Board: Sharyn Davidson
I am Sharyn Davidson and I have been a board member of FIRE for nearly one year. I originally came to know about FIRE and its work through my mother, Delores Wussler, when she lost what remained of her sight to retinitis pigmentosa (RP) in 1991. The FIRE staff helped her make the adjustment to blindness and taught her techniques which allowed her to continue living a full life, maintaining her independence.

I also have RP and have been coping with my gradual vision loss since I was diagnosed at the age of 16. Having spent many years fearing my own blindness, my mother’s successful adjustment to it, with the help of professionals at FIRE and the School for the Blind, spoke powerfully to me of the continuation of life after blindness. I became a client of FIRE two years ago when I became legally blind and sought some mobility training. Not only did my training with FIRE give me confidence that I can continue to function in spite of my loss, but I have been tremendously inspired by the other visually impaired people I have come to know through FIRE. They are people of incredible courage, fortitude and achievement, and I am honored to be associated with them and this organization.

My wonderfully supportive husband, Glen, and I met at FSU and have lived in Tallahassee for over 30 years. Glen was starting a local business when we met and I worked with him until we started our family. We are now the owners of PATLive, a telecommunications company.

Glen and I have four children, three of whom are now gone from home. Most of the recent years of my life have been spent raising our children and volunteering at school and church activities. We attend Wildwood Presbyterian Church, and my faith is an integral part of my life, providing guidance and sustenance for me on a daily basis.

With only one child left at home, I find myself with a great deal more time on my hands than I have known in a long time, and I have enjoyed indulging many of the interests which I had little time for in the past. We live on a farm just outside of Tallahassee with dogs, chickens, cows and horses. I love to be outside gardening or walking in the woods, as well as riding my horses. I also enjoy cooking and entertaining, as well as reading, although more of that is done on audio these days. I also revel in having all of my children home again on occasion.

In addition to my work with FIRE, Glen and I are very committed to the Foundation Fighting Blindness and its mission of funding research to find treatments and cures for degenerative retinal diseases. We are currently serving as co-chairs of the 1st annual VisionWalk in Tallahassee to be held at Maclay Gardens on November 1st. We are very optimistic about future treatments for many of the diseases which have brought me and numerous others to FIRE for assistance.

In the meantime, I am proud to be a part of this organization which provides such an important service in the lives of so many people.

4. FIRE Hiring Transition Specialists
FIRE is currently hiring two Transition Specialists to work with teens who are blind or severely visually impaired in the Big Bend. The first position is for a full-time Transition Specialist with salary & benefits. Full-time candidates MUST be eligible for TVI (Teacher of the Visually Impaired) certification. The second position is for a part-time Transition Specialist 20hr per wk, $18 per hour for teaching teens Orientation and Mobility AND/OR Assistive Technology. O&M instructors must have certification or be eligible for certification at the time of hire. To apply, please send a cover letter (required) & resume to FIRE, 1286 Cedar Center Drive, Tallahassee, FL 32301, fax to 942-4518 or email to; the job descriptions are on this website. Both positions close on 10/17/08.

5. FAMU Architecture Students & FIRE Team Up to Design Facility for the Future
Students in the FAMU School of Architecture have been given an exciting and important assignment: Design a facility where people who are blind or visually impaired can go to get the help they need to regain their independence. As you probably know, FIRE has out grown its current facility. In early August FIRE asked the faculty and students at FAMU School of Architecture for help designing a new facility and an unlikely partnership was formed.

“We knew what kind of facility the individuals we serve need, but we weren’t sure how to turn those needs into a practical, well designed structure,” said Barbara Ross, FIRE Executive Director.

The partnership was born earlier this summer when FIRE first contacted Rodney Wright, Dean of the School of Architecture. Wright loved the idea of students addressing a real-life community need and he quickly enlisted the help of Professor Valerie Goodwin, a practicing architect. Goodwin assigned the design of a facility for FIRE to students in her junior level summer class. The architectural students visited the existing FIRE location, met with staff and clients and learned about the needs of those with visual impairments. They then set out to design the perfect facility.

In all, seventeen (17) different designs were prepared. On August 8, the top four (4) designs were unveiled to representatives of FIRE’s Board and staff, as well as local architects. “I was amazed at how well these students captured the needs we had expressed and turned them into innovative building and site designs,” said Board Vice President Frank Seidman. “The designs provided not only practical and safe facilities, but through the use of texture, sound and even temperature variations, they provide a challenging learning environment in which independence can be regained.”

Frank continued, “They even include dog walks for guide dogs and an outdoor area for teaching recreational skills. Listening to the presentations, I was especially pleased with how the students threw themselves into the project. They put themselves in the position of our clients and looked at it from their point of view.”

6. FSU Disability Awareness Week
FSU’s Association for Creating Equality for Seminole Students (ACCESS), is celebrating progress toward equity with it’s 3rd Annual Disability Awareness Week. This year’s theme is "Reach One, Teach One." If one person is inspired by this event, that person can continue the reaching & teaching that can ultimately change attitudes and break down barriers. On 10/28, 11am, on the Moore Auditorium steps, President T.K Wetherell will kick off the event and Mr. James DeBeaugrine, the newly appointed Director for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, will present the keynote speech. The events continue 10/28-29. For more info, visit

7. Top 10 Ways to Prepare for a Hurricane
10. Listen to NOAA weather radio obsessively.
9. Nail down anything in your yard that moves.
8. Buy 1,000 cans of spam, green beans and peaches.
7. Don’t forget the can OPENER.
6. Stock up on drugs (prescription) & first aid supplies.
5. Flooding likely? Buy a ladder to your roof or a boat.
4. Get a waterproof box & anchor for important papers.
3. Stash some extra cash in there, as well.
2. Stay away from all the flying glass & nails from #9.
1. Store a gazillion gallons of water for your pets, too!

8. FIRE Fall 2008 Classes & Groups
Beginning Braille Class: 2nd, 3rd & 4th Fridays, 10am-2:30pm
Computer Class: 1st Friday of each month, 10:30am—2:30pm
Dog Guide Group: 3rd Thursday of each month, 5:30-7pm
Independent Living Class: Tuesdays, 9:30am-3pm
Knitting Class: 2nd Wednesday of each month, 12:30-2:30pm
Job Club: 2nd and 4th Mondays, 9-11am
Octopus Club Support Group: 1st Wednesday of each month, 1-3pm
Transition Group 4 Teens (Leon): Every Thursday, 3-6pm
Transition Group 4 Teens (Jefferson): Every Wednesday, 3-5pm
Transition Group 4 Teens (Wakulla): Every Monday, 12-2pm
VIP Group Outings: Saturdays, times vary - call Eva at 942-3658 x 205
For more information or to sign up, just call 942-3658

9. How YOU Can Help!
Make a huge difference in the life of someone who has lost their vision by donating to FIRE. Simply send a check to: FIRE, 1286 Cedar Center Drive, Tallahassee, FL, 32301. And now you can donate online by credit card or paypal.

Or… buy our specialty license plate & $25 of the fees will go directly to FIRE. To purchase a tag or a gift certificate, just visit your tag agency and ask for “A State of Vision” plate.

10. Frequently Called Numbers
211 Big Bend (24 hours) 211
Dial-A-Ride 891-5199
DBS 245-0370 or 800-672-7038
Elder Care 921-5554
FIRE 942-3658
Insight Support Group 878-1923
Magnifiers & More 671-3936
Medicaid 487-4294
Octopus Club 894-9025
Project Insight 24-hr Helpline 1-800-267-4448
Radio Reading 487-3086 x 366
Senior Center 891-4000
Talking Book Library 1-800-226-6075
VA Low Vision Clinic 878-0191 ext. 2086
Yellow Cab 580-8080

11. About FIRE, FIRE Board, and FIRE Staff
Florida Institute of Rehabilitation Education (FIRE)
For People Who Are Visually Impaired or Blind
Assisting people with vision loss in their pursuit of independence
FIRE provides free services to individuals who are visually impaired or blind in Franklin, Gadsden, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lafayette, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Suwannee, Taylor & Wakulla Counties.
1286 Cedar Center Drive
Tallahassee, FL 32301
Phone: 850-942-3658
Toll-free: 1-888-827-6033
Fax: 850-942-4518

FIRE Board
President: Norris Coster
Vice President: Frank Seidman
Treasurer: Evelyn Sewell
Secretary: Lynda Breen
Sharyn Davidson
Jamie Ito
Norine Labitzke
Kim Peaden
Elizabeth Ricci
Fred Sanguiliano
Susan Whaley, O.D.
Delores Wussler

FIRE Staff
Executive Director: Barbara Ross
Assistant Director: Evelyn Worley
Assistive Technology Instructor: Liz Bowden
Data Entry Specialist: Joyce Warner
Early Intervention: Jennifer Crowder
EI / O&M Specialist: Amanda Bernath
Independent Living Supervisor: Jeanine Kane
IL Specialists:
Roderick Palmer
Eva McElvy
Toni King
Transition Specialist: Shannon Carollo
Vocational Services Director: Wayne Warner


Summer 2008 FIRE Newsletter

Articles in this issue:
1. Choosing FIRE’s New Name
2. Save the Date! Dining in the Dark 10/19/08
3. Meet the Board: Norine Labitzke
5. Top Ten Funny Names for FIRE
6. Mobility Tips: Maintaining a Straight Line of Travel
7. Join the VIP Group!
8. Welcome, Summer Transition Class of 2008!

1. Choosing FIRE’s New Name
FIRE is currently going through a “branding” process (think name brand), part of which is choosing a name, slogan and logo. Thanks to everyone who submitted ideas for our new identity—we received 111 names and 70 slogans! The FIRE Board and Staff have already held several meetings full of lively debates with pro-bono assistance from The Kidd Group. But nothing is as simple as a democratic vote for us. With all of our diversity, we are nonetheless determined to reach consensus and find a catchy name that represents us all.

To share just one of the issues we have considered, we want to be inclusive of all our services and everyone we serve (babies, teenagers, college students, working adults and older adults), not to mention the many types of visual impairments. In our discussions, we realized that someone who has lost most or all their sight may be very comfortable with the word “blind.” However, someone who has just begun to lose their sight or has some useable vision may think our services are not for them if we only use the word blind. At the same time, we can’t only use words like “low vision” because we certainly do serve many who are completely blind. And since we want to have a name that is shorter than our current 13-word name… what an interesting challenge we have set for ourselves!

We are fortunate to have a dedicated team of Board and Staff members working on our new identity. Our goal is to have everything decided and ready to announce at the 2008 Dining in the Dark on October 19th, so we will share the rest of the story with you then!

2. Save the Date! Dining in the Dark 10/19/08
Make sure you mark you calendars for the 4th Annual Paula Bailey Dining in the Dark Benefit, Sunday, October 19, 2008, from 5-8pm at the University Center Club. We are excited to be adding a raffle to this years’ event, will once again have the “Inspirational Community Member” Award, and will conclude the evening with the announcement of the organization’s new name and logo! Tickets go on sale for $55 in August, but if you want to secure your seat now, sponsor a table for $600 or at a higher level. For more info, please check out

3. Meet the Board: Norine Labitzke
I am Norine Labitzke and am a Nurse Practitioner with certifications in Family Practice, Pediatrics, and Mental Health. One of the greatest losses I experienced when I suddenly lost my vision due to a stroke was the perceived loss of my career. The FIRE staff, and my dear friend, Linda Jones, assured me my career was not over and gave me the skills to return to nursing. I teach at FSU and do volunteer mental health counseling in disaster situations for the Red Cross.

I am the wife of a loving, caring husband, Dale. His encouragement and gentle but persistent pushing after my vision loss, and recent loss of the use of my legs due to MS, have enabled me to find a new life at every curve of the road. Because he would not let me be a recluse, I discovered FIRE and bright new ways to live without sight. He and FIRE encouraged me to keep on living both the life I once had, such as RV trips, other travel, and nursing, as well as enjoying the new opportunities that this change in my life could bring about.

From all this you now know that my experiences with FIRE have been positively life changing and life supporting. There isn’t a person there who hasn’t touched my life, but I have to give special thanks to four people: Jeanine Kane for teaching me independent living, Braille, advocacy, and many other skills; Jim Breen who patiently taught and nurtured me through relearning the computer with JAWS; Evelyn Worley who helped me progress from trying to find my way around with a fishing pole, to a white cane, and then with my guide dogs. Evelyn is currently helping me retrain my guide dog Princess, to work with me in a wheel chair. Finally, I cannot say enough for Barbara Ross, who has turned FIRE into an active, growing, community agency. I am currently serving my third term on the FIRE Board and working with Barbara has made me proud to be on the board and busier than ever keeping up with the Board’s ambitious goals for the growth of FIRE.

A fellow board member said one of the things he liked about “Meet the Board” was that he learned things he didn’t know about that person. On that note, I will share two little known things from my past with you. In the late 1950’s I was the Women’s Overall (tricks, slalom, and jumping), Master’s, National, North American, and International water ski champion and have been inducted in the Water Ski Hall of Fame. At the same time I also had my pilot’s license with multi-engine and instrument ratings, and flew a Cessna 310. Marriage and motherhood brought a new direction. I am the mother of four adult children. I have 4 ½ grandchildren – the oldest is 11 and the youngest is due in September.

My church, and faith, are significant aspects of my life. I belong to St. Peter’s Anglican Church and that offers many opportunities for learning, worshipping, volunteering in many roles, and interacting with others. Most of all my faith has given me the strength to keep moving forward after the loss of my vision, and the loss of my vision has given me new insight into my faith, and who and what is most important in my life.

Now, my hobby is knitting, and I am on the road to join the elite few with the designation of “Master Knitter.” I enjoy teaching other visually impaired persons to knit in a monthly group at FIRE. As long as the energizer bunny keeps my wheelchair batteries charged, and God, my family and friends keep my life batteries charged, I’ll keep rollin’ along.

5. Top Ten Funny Names for FIRE
10. No C Center
9. Eye Feel U
8. O&M, AT, IL, VR, EI Services
7. Blind Toys R Us
6. Vision in the House
5. Blind Sighted
4. Bumpy Stuff Store for the Optically Challenged
3. Textures, Sounds and Smells
2. 911 for Your Eyes
1. Blind Alliance Righteous Bureau And Rehab Agency

6. Mobility Tips: Maintaining a Straight Line of Travel
A fundamental component of successful independent travel is the ability to maintain a straight line of travel. Many basic orientation and mobility skills, such as grasp, cane position, arm position and arc width contribute to the traveler’s ability to maintain a straight line.

First, you need to hold your cane with your preferred grasp and finger position. Next, you position your cane hand at midline (think belly button). Your hand should remain at waist height.

When you begin moving, you should maintain the appropriate arc width to adequately cover your body. Arc width is the distance the traveler swings the cane from side to side. You should swing your cane with either your wrist or fingers, depending on the type of grasp being used. Utilizing the appropriate hand, wrist, and arm position will assure adequate body width coverage with the cane.

Once proper body form is achieved, align yourself as appropriate for the direction you intend to travel. As you move forward in space, your foot should stay “in step” with the cane tapping on the opposite side of your body. You should remain aware of your shoulder positioning as your body will tend to move towards the direction that your shoulders are pointed.

Once you master the skill of maintaining a straight line of travel, you will have the flexibility to travel in more varied environments. When you do not need to rely on shorelining to maintain a straight line, you will find that you can focus more on your route.

Do you have a question you’d like answered by our mobility experts? Send it in and it could be the subject of the next column! Write 1286 Cedar Center Dr, Tall, FL 32301 or email .

7. Join the VIP Group!
The VIP Group was begun last year for the purpose of offering a mingling time and activities for active visually impaired and blind people. VIP, the name chosen by the first attendees, was created so people could meet and share, support one another and discuss all kinds of topics, including living fully and vibrantly. The group also enjoys trying new things like drumming at Lake Ella, attending Sportsability or the Fair, having a potluck and playing adaptive games, and checking out the descriptive movie service at AMC 20.

It is my hope that the group continues to compassionately support those who attend and to foster friendship. Most importantly, it can be a pathway to greater independence for everyone, reaching for their goals to participate, joyfully for growth and success in living.

There will be two VIP events during the summer, one indoor activity and one outdoor adventure. Please stay tuned or call Eva at 942-3658 x 205 to put yourself on the phone call or email notification list.

8. Welcome, Summer Transition Class of 2008!
From 6/16-8/8, FIRE’s halls will be filled daily with teens learning how to ‘transition’ from living at home to being out in the world on their own—touring colleges, job sites, grocery shopping, cooking, & most of all, having fun while they learn!


Spring 2008 FIRE Newsletter

Articles included in this issue
1. Happy 25th Anniversary, FIRE!
2. Meet the Board: Lynda Breen
3. Welcome to FIRE’s Newest Staff - Amanda
4. Top 10 Ways to Display Your Independence
5. You are invited to SportsAbility April 18, 19 & 20
6. Mobility Tips: Navigating Stairs
7. Transportation Disadvantaged Day at the Capital
8. Saturday Drumming at Lake Ella by Scott Greenblatt

1. Happy 25th Anniversary, FIRE!
It has been twenty five years since FIRE opened its doors—congratulations to everyone who has made the agency what it is today, and all the amazing graduates who have gone through the program! Here are some thoughts from folks who have been associated with the organization over the years…

“I was one of the first clients to be served by FIRE in 1983. FIRE helped me to become and function in the big city. I thank FIRE for being here then, and now, and am grateful for all those who I can help as a Specialist working at FIRE. Thank you all for allowing me to serve you.” - Elizabeth Bowden

“FIRE gives courage to the discouraged, hope to the hopeless and independence and a new life to it's clients.” - Linda Mathis

“I have FIRE and its staff to thank for my return from depression into independence.” - Tinnetta Cooper

“Thank you, FIRE, for being there for me through the challenging times.” - Delores Wussler

"Without the help of my friends from FIRE, I never would have been able to manage life on my own through college. They've given me the tools I need to make my life enabled, not disabled." - Scott Greenblatt

“For 13 years FIRE has been integral to my personal & professional development.” - Norris Coster

“Thank you FIRE for always adapting to the needs of those we serve. Many years of continued services are wished.” - Wayne S. Warner

2. Meet the Board: Lynda Breen
I was born in Tallahassee, but raised all over the US as an “Air Force brat.” Since my father was from Tallahassee, we came back here every summer to spend time with relatives and at the beach. I loved it here, and when the time came to choose a college, I picked FSU. After graduation, I left for a short time before coming back and marrying my husband Jim (Breen). We lived in Atlanta and South Florida for a few years, but settled back here at the end of 1985.

In January of 1986, I began working at a law firm, where I am currently the office administrator. I also started searching for a way to involve myself in the community. Volunteer Tallahassee connected me with Independence for the Blind (IB). At the time, they had a reading program I was interested in. When I met with Claude Seale, the director of IB, he asked if I would also consider serving on the Board. For a number of years, I was honored to do both. I spent many a Saturday reading everything from Jehovah’s Witness materials to romance novels with Doug Smith running the tape machine and correcting my pronunciation! Serving on the Board was an entirely new experience for me, and one I found to be very rewarding.

After my time on the Board, my husband Jim was looking for a new career path, and he found it with IB, which a year or two later became FIRE. He was passionate about his clients, his computers and FIRE, right up to the very end of his life.

After Jim passed away in 2005, I very much wanted to continue my association with FIRE, and Barbara asked me to serve on the Dining in the Dark committee. Since that had been so near and dear to Jim’s heart, I was very excited to do so, and that led into my serving, once again, on the Board.

I just completed my first year on the Board, and am beginning my second year as Secretary. As with my previous experience, I’ve enjoyed working with the other Board members, and am continually amazed at all the staff of FIRE does each day in serving their clients. I am so very proud to be associated with such a wonderful group of people.

Outside of FIRE and my office, I spend many hours working in my gardens, and I swim or work out at Premiere. I’m always reading and after my nieces taught me how to work Sudoku puzzles, I became obsessed with those! And I can’t forget to mention “my girls” - my newly adopted kitties, Julie and Chloe, who delight me daily with their antics.

3. Welcome to FIRE’s Newest Staff – Amanda
A warm welcome to Amanda Bernath, hired in January as FIRE’s new Early Intervention and Orientation and Mobility Specialist. Amanda received her bachelor’s degree in Visual Disabilities from FSU and will complete her Master’s degree in Visual Disabilities, at FSU in April 2008. She recently married in early January and spends most of her spare time settling into her new home, spending time with her new husband & step-children, and meeting new neighbors thanks to her escape-artist dog. Amanda is very happy to have found a home at FIRE and is excited about the opportunity to work in both the EEI and O&M programs.

4. Top Ten Ways to Display Your Independence

10. Travel around your community under your own power by walking or wheeling, showing off your excellent orientation and mobility skills.
9. Grocery shop, gather or grow your own food.
8. Check for necessities before you go to the bathroom.
7. Owe no one.
6. Take notes during your meetings &/or classes.
5. Chase your guide dog through an agility course.
4. Generate your own electricity.
3. Choose your mate based on your own opinion and shoot an apple off his/her head.
2. Advocate for your rights and vote.
1. Volunteer and get involved in your community.

5. You are invited to SportsAbility April 18, 19 & 20
SportsAbility is the premier event of the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association (FDOA). This event is about enhancing the lives of people with disabilities by promoting active living. SportsAbility provides first hand access to resources and demonstrations of activities designed to encourage participation regardless of age or ability level.

People who attend SportsAbility learn about the value of recreation and active leisure for everyone – especially people with disabilities. People discover the latest in equipment, trends, and resources. This event provides an opportunity for people to network with people with disabilities, resource providers, and community organizations. There is NO CHARGE to participants thanks to our generous sponsors.

Friday, April 18, 2008, 10am - 3pm
Location: TCC Lifetime Sports Complex

Saturday, April 19, 2008, 10am - 3pm
Location: Ochlochonee River State Park

Power Soccer Clinic - Sunday, April 20, 2008, 1-4pm
Location: Temple Israel at 2215 Mahan Drive
1-2pm - Free Power Soccer Clinic - Open to Everyone!
2-3pm - Power Soccer Game
3-4pm - Interactive Play between Audience and Power Soccer Teams

SportsAbility is much more than fun. It is a wonderful occasion to help educate the public about the importance of physical activity and about recreational opportunities while also providing valuable information of other important community resources available to people, including those with disabilities.

For more information, please visit the FDOA website at, email or call 668 -7323 or 201-2944.

6. Mobility Tips: Navigating Stairs
For many cane travelers, the idea of navigating stairs stirs up feelings of fear, or at least a bit of anxiety. Here are a few tips that will increase your safety and confidence when navigating stairs, and may also be useful for dealing with curbs. Consider using the constant contact (sliding) technique with your cane when approaching stairs. It will provide you with detailed information about your surroundings.

Once the cane has located the first step, keep the cane against the edge of it. Then, walk up to the cane. This will place you close to the step, in a position to go when you are ready. It also makes it unnecessary to search the area excessively with your feet.

Keep the cane against the edge of the first step and slide it side to side. This can help you locate a railing and it will let you know if you are lined up properly to begin traveling. It can also alert you if there is a drop-off to the side of the stairs. When ascending, shorten the length of the cane by sliding your hand down the grip and press the cane against the edge of the step ahead of you. This will put the cane in a position to “pop” up to the next step as you move up. Keep your center of balance forward.

When descending, make your cane long by sliding your hand to the top of the grip and keep your center of balance back. Position the cane one step ahead of you as you move to avoid entanglement with your feet.

When your cane reaches the landing, you have one more step with your feet. Always “sweep” the landing in front of you before moving forward. This will alert you to any additional stairs or obstacles.

For more detailed instruction on navigating stairs, please feel free to contact Evelyn at extension 203.

7. Transportation Disadvantaged Day at the Capital
The 2008 Annual Transportation Disadvantaged Legislative Day at the Capitol will take place on Thursday, March 6th. This year’s theme, “TD - The difference between life and living”, will reflect on the great difference the TD program makes on every rider’s quality of life. Consumers stories will go on posters that will be placed around the courtyard for all to see. It is hoped that these stories will assist in the continuing efforts to provide this life-sustaining service and help impact the Legislative decisions regarding the TD program and it’s funding. If you have any questions please contact Joel Perez at or phone (850) 410-570. The toll free helpline is 1(800)983-2435.

8. Saturday Drumming at Lake Ella by Scott Greenblatt
There is a new Drumming Circle at Lake Ella which has met the past several weekends. It's been a great deal of fun to be out there in the open air, under the gazebo, allowing my hands to tap out the stress I've built up in the past week. I'd forgotten how much fun it is to join in on such a free-flow style jam session. So far the circle has been small, just Cassandra, Emmanuel, Sila and myself, but we're hoping that more of you will take the time to visit with us during the 2-5pm three hour time slot we're out there.

Emmanuel is the most studied among us in terms of music and he occasionally gives us tips to help us each play together in a more unified way. We share instruments among us so that each of us gets the opportunity to try out how to make another instrument sing. There are always additional instruments lying around for newcomers to use to join in with us whenever they arrive.

Our would-be performances, which are anything but actual organized performances, have become a popular attraction to people walking around the lake; we're always being approached by passers by who stop and listen to our music as well as joining in from time to time. The interactions with all of the passers-by give us the chance to take a break and pass on our instruments for them to try out, if we like, or just a chance to help inspire others who might feel the rhythm in their soul but who are hesitant to let it flow out their hands.

Right now it's the intention of the group to be out there each weekend to try to start up a dependable stress relieving diversion on Saturday afternoons, weather permitting. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to come around whether or not you have an instrument to play, want to play, or just sit around with us and enjoy the music.

I hope you can make the necessary scheduling accommodations to come around and have some stress-free fun with our funky rhythm. We hope you can all make it and help us bring the magic to life.


Winter 2007-08 FIRE Newsletter

Articles in this issue:
1. 2nd Vision Summit: January 8, 2008
2. Meet the Board: Norris Coster
3. Dining in the Dark Success
4. THANK YOU Dining in the Dark Sponsors
5. Top 10 Holiday Wishes from FIRE
6. Outstanding Rehabilitation Professional Award goes to FIRE’s Own Evelyn Worley
7. New Saturday Independent Living Class

1. 2nd Vision Summit: January 8, 2008
The second annual Florida Vision Summit will be held in the Senate Chambers at the State Capitol from 8:30AM to Noon on Tuesday, January 8, 2008. The Summit will be followed by a luncheon in the 4th floor Rotunda. Both are free and open to the public.

The Summit is co-hosted by the Vision Caucus of the Florida Legislature and the Florida Association of Agencies Serving the Blind (FAASB). State Representative Loranne Ausley (D-Tallahassee), who serves as Chair of the 24 member Vision Caucus and is the parent of a visually impaired child, called the annual Summit, "a critical discussion of the vision-related issues that will eventually affect more than 50% of all Floridians."

"The Vision Summit covers the full spectrum of concerns, from preventing vision loss to living a full life with impaired vision," adds FAASB Chair Robert Kelly. He noted, "The Vision Summit is the most important annual meeting of State leaders, vision experts, and the blind. We meet to raise public awareness of the growing incidence of vision loss among Floridians and to work with State leaders in addressing these issues that affect the lives of so many Floridians."

Summit Speakers will include representatives of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, Blinded Veterans’ Association, FAASB, FL Council of the Blind, FL Families of Children with Visual Impairment, FL Optometric Association, FL Society of Ophthalmology, National Federation of the Blind, Prevent Blindness America, Professional Opticians of FL, and numerous State leaders.

2. Meet the Board: Norris Coster
My story begins right here in Tallahassee where I was born. Starting from year one, I had surgery on my eyes to remove cataracts. Moving through 1st, 2nd & 3rd grades were a challenge as my vision worsened.

My strong family support was a key element in my personal development and finding my independence. We made many trips to Shands Hospital for treatments to prevent pressure from rising in my eyes, as the doctors tried to save what little vision I had. Nevertheless, the dreaded day came when my sight was gone. Glaucoma stopped me dead in my tracks or so it seemed. In between hospital trips my TVI Carol Kline had already started teaching me Braille. Thankfully, special people like Nancy Ruben and Susan Babcock played a pivotal role in instructing me in proper cane techniques. I mastered crossing streets, catching buses, all over town! I’m afraid however, my mother wasn’t too excited letting her blind son cross dangerous Tallahassee streets.

Fifth grade was probably one of the hardest decisions I had to make. Although I excelled in Braille and Mobility, I’d fallen behind in my academic classes. Maybe I knew it was time to make the next step up the independence ladder, so I left Tallahassee for school in St. Augustine, at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind.

While attending school in St. Augustine, I met people who were going through vision loss on various levels, and felt a sense of togetherness. My educational, interpersonal, and daily living skills improved. I graduated in 1990 which was a great achievement to me. The next four years after graduation I went to college and the Rehab Center in Daytona Beach Florida enrolled in vending. Going back in my mind, life was setting me up like pool, “eight ball in the side pocket!”

I returned to Tallahassee and counselor Calvert Durden with Division of Blind Services spoke of an agency called Independence for the Blind (now FIRE). Having no idea of what to do, I enrolled to build skills to become more employable. Evelyn Worley, Mobility Instructor, re-introduced me to Tallahassee. Staff also helped me with assistive technologies like computers, applications for speech such as JAWS, and a work experience as receptionist. With all this exposure, how could I lose?

Ultimately, I was hired with the Florida Department of Health, and I give thanks to IB/FIRE and associates fighting to bring equality for visual impaired people. Independence for the Blind would later change its name to FIRE. No matter the name, FIRE continues to provide excellent services to the community.

In closing, I’m proud of my association with FIRE. From starting as a client to becoming a board member in January 2006, I have had opportunities to give back to the organization that helped me. 2008 will be interesting for me as the newly elected FIRE Board President; I along with wonderful board members will keep FIRE’S light burning bright. Whether board, staff or clients, we all function as an invaluable unit.

A sold-out crowd attended the 3rd Annual Paula Bailey Dining in the Dark fundraiser for FIRE on 10/14/07. The evening’s reception was hosted by Fire Chief Cindy Dick. After the reception, diners made their way up to the ballroom where they were guided through the dark to their table, led by volunteers who are blind. As people were seated, they were treated to the sounds of the Capital City Chordsmen Barbershop Quartet. During the dinner of filet mignon and grouper, a guest at each table received a door prize in the dark – free dance lessons for a month from “Dance ‘Til It Burns.”

The Leon County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team again volunteered their time to serve dinner to the 309 guests utilizing their night vision goggles. UCC staff also had the challenge of learning to use the five sets of goggles loaned especially for the event by Rigel Optics.

Sergeant Charlie Strickland said, "This gives the guys good training working with their night vision. At one point I was carrying two desserts which I could see clearly, but when I looked up I couldn't see a thing 10 feet in front of me because my goggles were focused at arms length. Normally in a training exercise we can hold on to a weapon with one hand and reach up and focus the goggles with the other. This gives us more experience dealing with real life situations."

After dinner, the lights came up as Board President Frank Seidman presented the “Paula Bailey Inspirational Community Member” award. Both the event and award are named in honor of Paula Bailey, a former FIRE client and Board member who was an inspiration to the community. She became blind and deaf in 1999 after an attack of meningitis, but regained her independence and reached out to many with her warmth and generosity. She passed away in April 2005, but her memory lives on in this event she was part of creating.

The winner of this year’s award, Barbara Kiger, was in tears as she approached the podium to receive a plaque in Braille from Fire Chief Cindy Dick. “Those of you that know me, know I am never speechless… but thank you. Just thank you.” Kiger became totally blind in 1985, due to a reaction to medication. Among her many inspirational accomplishments, she published a mystery novel, “Payback,” served as a spokesperson for FIRE in last year’s United Way campaign, and is currently the President of the Pensacola/Tallahassee Diocesan Council for Catholic Women.

As the evening came to a close, FIRE Executive Director Barbara Ross said, “If you take one message away tonight, know that being blind does not mean being helpless.”

A huge thank you goes out to everyone who supported this event - $27,695 in funds were raised to support FIRE’s services for individuals who are blind.

4. THANK YOU Dining in the Dark SPONSORS!

Doug & Elizabeth Bailey
Dance ‘til It Burns
Fishback Family
Community Fund
Leon County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team
Patti Liles
Mainline Information Systems
Nature Coast Eye Care Institute
Rigel Optics, Inc.
Rose, Sundstrom & Bentley, LLP
Tallahassee Community College
Tallahassee Council of the Blind
Tallahassee Lion’s Club
University Center Club

5. Top Ten Holiday Wishes from FIRE

10. For everyone reading this to buy “A State of Vision” specialty license plate.
9. A new 4,500 square foot building on the bus route.
8. Our very own 15 passenger hybrid van.
7. Every Eye Doctor in the Big Bend to refer to FIRE.
6. Gas vouchers for a year.
5. Transportation “petty cash” for clients in the outlying counties to come to classes at FIRE.
4. Every pediatrician in the Big Bend to refer to FIRE.
3. Speech software for clients (Window Eyes, JAWS).
2. High quality talking or tactile watches for everyone.
1. Give a loved one “A State of Vision” gift certificate!

6. Outstanding Rehabilitation Professional Award goes to FIRE’s Own Evelyn Worley!
Congratulations to Evelyn Worley, FIRE Assistant Director, for winning this year’s award for Outstanding Rehabilitation Professional for the Blind on November 28 at the FAER Conference. Evelyn has worked at FIRE since August of 1988 (nineteen years!). While working at FIRE, Evelyn earned her Masters degree in Visual Disabilities and obtained her Certification in both Vision Rehabilitation Therapy and Orientation and Mobility. In this role she has assisted countless numbers of college students, homemakers, business employees and senior citizens regain their freedom of movement and thereby, their independence. Evelyn also successfully advocates for pedestrian safety with local government officials. Thank you for all your hard work & dedication, Evelyn—you so deserve this award and more!

Are you (or someone you know who is visually impaired) interested in joining an Independent Living class, but can’t attend on weekdays? This January through March 2008, Jeanine Kane will be holding her famous “IL” class on Saturdays. FIRE’s independent living classes are tailored for the students in the class, but generally cover topics such as methods for writing, reading, clothing identification, sewing, food identification, dialing a phone, finding phone numbers, using tools, and much more. Students will also get to learn new cooking techniques and recipes by preparing lunch together. If you might be interested in joining, please come to an orientation to discuss the class, what you will be learning, and meet potential classmates.
When? Saturday, December 8th, 10am – 2pm
What? Information on new Saturday Independent Living Class beginning in January 2008 for twelve weeks; Light lunch provided
Where? FIRE, 1286 Cedar Center Drive, Tallahassee, FL
Need more info? Call Jeanine Kane, CVRT at 942-3658 extension 215 or email


Fall 2007 FIRE Newsletter

Articles in this issue:
1. Dining in the Dark is Back!
2. Meet the Board: Dr. Susan Whaley
3. New Fall Classes at FIRE — Join Us!
4. FSU Disability Awareness Week
5. Rally in Tally: TCB Tandem Bike Ride
6. Disability Employment Awareness
7. Top Ten Ways to Tell Summer is Coming to a Close in Tallahassee
8. Great Opportunity for Volunteers

1. Dining in the Dark is Back (and SOLD OUT!!!)
On Sunday, October 14, from 5-8pm, FIRE is holding the 3rd Annual Paula Bailey Dining in the Dark Benefit at the University Center Club! We are thrilled to have honorary host Fire Chief Cindy Dick joining us. There will be several new experiences for guests including the Capital Chordsmen Quartet serenading us in the pitch black ballroom before dinner begins.

At the reception, a training will assist guests in learning how to walk, sit down and eat in the dark… just as FIRE clients learn every day. The dinner will be an entirely new gourmet three-course surprise, to be explored with your senses of smell, taste and texture. The Leon County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team will be waiting on diners with their night vision goggles, making this the most secure dinner in Leon County.

As the evening progresses, a door prize will be won by someone at every table. After desert is served, the lights will slowly come on, and the Paula Bailey Inspirational Community Member Award will be presented. Each guest will also be “awarded” a small token to prove you successfully dined in the dark. We hope to show diners that functioning without vision is entirely doable. FIRE believes you can do just about anything without sight except drive (and there are a few folks who are blind who have even done that!).

Tickets are on sale for $50 each, or a reserved table of eight is $500. Just contact Barbara at 942-3658 x 201 or to support FIRE!

Doug & Elizabeth Bailey
Dance ‘til It Burns
Fishback Family Community Fund
Leon County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team
Patti Liles
Mainline Information Systems
Nature Coast Eye Care Institute
Rigel Optics, Inc.
Rose, Sundstrom & Bentley, LLP
Tallahassee Community College
Tallahassee Council of the Blind
Tallahassee Lions Club
University Center Club

2. Meet the Board: Dr. Susan Whaley
I am Dr. Susan Whaley, an optometrist serving on the Board of FIRE since September 2005. I have been an optometrist for over 14 years and have practiced in Tallahassee for the past 7 years. My practice, Tallahassee Eye Center, is a private primary care optometric practice offering comprehensive eye examinations for adults and children, contact lens fittings (including “difficult” fits), treatment and management of eye diseases including cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, “pink-eye”, etc., and low vision.

Our practice also opened a low vision “store” called Magnifiers & More in the fall of 2006 to help provide low vision products such as hand-held magnifiers, electronic devices such as CCTV and Amigo, and non-optical aids such as talking watches, bold-lined paper, check writing guides and other items to the community. So, of course, my low vision specialty is how I became affiliated with FIRE.

During my years of practice in Orlando, my partner and I were considered the low vision “experts” in the greater Orlando area and received referrals from nearly all of the retinal specialists and general optometrists and ophthalmologists in the area. We also examined patients at the request of the Division of Blind Services and worked closely with the Lighthouse of Central Florida, often lecturing several times a year.

When I moved to Tallahassee in 2000, I began to research the low vision providers and resources and discovered FIRE. As my Tallahassee Eye Center low vision practice has grown over the years, I have referred many patients to FIRE for assistance and have been very impressed with the services provided. When I was approached with the opportunity to become a member of the Board, I agreed immediately.

In my life outside of optometry, I have a wonderful husband, Brian, a 10 year old daughter, and a 7 year old son. I am active in my church, Wildwood Presbyterian, and enjoy singing on the praise team, playing flute in the orchestra, helping with the children’s choir and various other volunteering. Like most other moms of elementary age children, I spend lots of time in my “mom-mobile”, bringing my children to various activities that they are involved in. I am also very active in numerous optometric organizations and the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce. One of these days, I’ll learn how to slow down a bit and not take on quite so many activities, but for now, I’ll continue to enjoy every minute of it!

3. New Fall Classes at FIRE — Join Us!
~ Crochet/Knitting Group ~
Several people have expressed a desire to begin a monthly group at FIRE to get together and crochet or knit. A couple of experienced pros have offered to help those who haven’t done needlecrafts lately to get back into it. If you aren’t sure you can knit or crochet again, what we say about activities like this is you have “muscle memory”, like the old cliché of riding a bike. Once you learn it, it can come back to you and you can RE-learn how to do it by feel, with limited or no vision interested is welcome to the introductory meeting11/14.

~ Independent Living Skills Class ~
This class covers it all, and then some, and it’s lots of fun! These groups are so lively because it's great to be a part of the sharing with each other and the learning together. It’s an opportunity to learn all you ever wanted to know about resources available and about adaptive aids and techniques for coping with vision loss. You get to make your own lunch. A new weekly group is scheduled to begin on October 9th, from 9:30am – 2:30pm, for 11 consecutive sessions.

If you are interested in either class, please call Jeanine Kane at 942-3658 x 215. Jeanine is a Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist and has been with FIRE for 14 years. More classes are listed below, as well. Feel free to call-3658 about any of them!

Beginning Braille Class: every Thursday, 10am—2:30pm
Computer Class: 1st Friday of each month, 10:30am—2:30pm
Dog Guide Group: 3rd Thursday of each month, 5:30-7pm
Family Support Group: 3rd Monday of each month, 6-7:30pm
Independent Living Class: Starts 10/9, every Tuesday, 9:30am-2:30pm
Job Club: 2nd and 4th Fridays, 9am-12pm
Octopus Club Support Group: 1st Wednesday of each month, 1-3pm
Phone Chat: 2nd Monday, 10-11am (1-888-296-6500 code: 150283)
Transition Group for Teens: twice a week, 4-7pm (see calendar)
VIP Group Outings: 3rd Saturdays, times vary (see calendar)

4. FSU Disability Awareness Week
The FSU student group “Access” is hosting the 2007 FSU Disability Awareness Week, October 29 through November 1. All events will be held in the FSU Student Union Ballroom, Room T201 Oglesby Union. The week is focused to let people know what Access is all about and display the talents and abilities of persons with disabilities. Access advocates and voices concerns about issues and resources that can positively or negatively impact students’ ability to successfully complete their degrees. The week’s events include:

Monday, 10/29
12-3pm Kick off & Forum
7-10pm Dance

Tuesday, 10/30
9am-12pm Agency Forum
1-3pm Performance
7-9:30pm Movie Night

Wednesday, 10/31
9am-12pm Health Fair
1-4pm Simulation Games

Thursday, 11/1
12-2pm BBQ Lunch
7–9pm Talent Showcase

For more information, please contact Cassandra Jesse at (preferred) or 980-0398.

5. Rally in Tally: TCB Tandem Bike Ride
You are invited to join the Tallahassee Council of the Blind on Saturday, October 27 at 7:30am for the 3rd Annual Rally in Tally! Everyone participating in the bike ride will meet at the Upper level Sears & drive to Newport Campgrounds for a light breakfast. The ride is 22 miles total (or less if you want) to the St. Marks Lighthouse and ends with a spaghetti lunch. $15 registration is due by 10/22 which includes a t-shirt. For more info contact Mycell Armington at 591-3337.

6. Disability Employment Awareness
The Able Trust, Agency for Persons with Disabilities and the Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation have joined together to host the 2007 Disability Employment Awareness Celebration! The event will take place 10/9, 9-11am at the Tallahassee City Hall. FIRE will participate as an exhibitor, and everyone is invited.

7. Top Ten Ways to Tell Summer is Coming to a Close in Tallahassee

10. Football begins
9. Butterflies and birds head south except for the Canadian Geese on Blairstone that are fed daily
8. The mornings are slightly cooler with less humidity
7. Halloween candy reappears
6. West Tennessee street is repopulated with college students (sometimes intoxicated)
5. Hurricane season gets closer to ending
4. People start burning their leaves
3. Traffic becomes terrible again
2. Stores start their Christmas sales
1. People realize their New Year resolution to lose weight for summer will have to be resolved next year

8. Great Opportunity for Volunteers
For those of you who are looking for an opportunity to be a part of FIRE’s volunteer program, the time is now! Our hope is that if you have experience using assistive technology, you can put your expert knowledge to great use by volunteering in FIRE’s Computer Lab. If you have a general familiarity of the computer and like to assist others, this volunteer position would allow you to help others in the lab to use the computers and other assistive technology. There will be two training sessions: October 25, from 3:30 to 5pm, or October 30 from 6:00 to 7:30pm. If you would like to become a volunteer in the Computer Lab, please contact Toni King at 942-3658 Ext: 204 or .

FIRE’s Employment Computer Lab Hours
Tuesdays: 12:30 - 4:30pm
Wednesdays: 12:30 - 4:30pm
Thursdays: 11am - 4:30pm
Fridays: 9am - 4:30pm


FIRE Newsletter, Summer 2007
Articles in the newsletter:
1. New Early Intervention Program!
2. Meet the Board: Calvert Durden, “A Little Touch of History”
3. Words from the Mouths of Teens
4. Radio Reading Service Needs You!
5. Top 10 Reasons to Label Your Household Items
6. Congratulations to Madrea Keeler!
7. Teen Car Wash - HUGE Success
8. Get Published in “As We See It”

1. New Early Intervention Program!
FIRE is thrilled to share that due to a contract with the Division of Blind Services, FIRE will now be offering services to children age 0 to 6. As of July 1, 2007, Jennifer Crowder will become FIRE’s full-time Early Intervention Specialist. For a few of you this will not be a change, as she may have already been working with your child through the Florida School for the Deaf & Blind.

Jennifer has been working with children for the last three years. She is a Certified Teacher of the Visually Impaired, Orientation and Mobility Specialist and has specialized trainings (VIISA and INSITE) for this population under her belt. She is working on becoming an Early Steps Infant Toddler Developmental Specialist, as well—we are fortunate to have such a highly qualified staff member and she is hitting the ground running.

Services that will be offered include assisting children that are blind or visually impaired in all areas of child development such as communicative, orientation and mobility, daily living, sensory and motor, and cognitive development. Services will also focus on determining parental concerns and priorities, providing information to the child’s family members and encouraging families to become actively involved in their child’s development. In addition to individual sessions, FIRE will offer a monthly support group for family members while the children have a play group.

If you or any family you know of is interested, please call Jennifer Crowder at 942-3658 or email

2. Meet the Board: Calvert Durden, “A Little Touch of History”

In the beginning, before there was FIRE, there was the Rural Center for Independent Living. If my memory serves me correctly, our doors opened January, 1981, located under the school board of Gadsden County. This happened due to my successful work with getting adult basic education classes started in Gadsden. These classes were beneficial as an important means of getting services to clients needing on-going education and independent living services. I hope that all agencies concerned will see the benefits of these community based programs and get some going again. Sometimes we must look to our past to make progress. These programs were progress in those days, and getting what is now FIRE started back then was nothing but tremendous progress.

I am totally blind, but for about half of my life I had 20/800 vision in my left eye. I have been a Braille user since age seven. I am also hearing impaired which has required hearing aids for both ears. I am currently attempting to upgrade my aids so that I can hear better.

I am currently serving on the FIRE Board for my second term as Vice President. While on the board for the past seven years I also served as President. Due to term limits, I will have to leave the board in November. I am proud of all that the board and staff have accomplished during my period of leadership. As board members, we get to experience the outcomes of all that we do through the work carried out by the staff. Although I will be leaving, I hope to continue to have time to serve on special committees such as Dining in the Dark and our facility subcommittee. We are growing, adding new programs to serve younger clients.

By now you should have concluded that I have been around a long time. I will be leaving, but I will stay involved. I will continue to be an advocate for our ongoing transportation services by serving on the Leon County Transportation Disadvantaged Board. My hope is to remain active with the Local and Statewide Florida Christian Fellowship of the Blind. I also hope to become active in the Florida Council of the Blind as I once was just a few years ago.

While around home, I have to figure out who loves me most, my daughter, Nyisha, or my wife, Latasha. This will take a real long time. I will continue to enjoy reading, keeping up with current events, and staying active with community issues that concern us all.

3. Words from the Mouths of Teens
By Shanterria Williams and Breonna Willis

We, the high school summer transition students at FIRE, have learned an incredible amount this summer. We did not expect learning to be this much fun!

FIRE has introduced us to numerous activities and experiences. We toured a radio station, several museums, and visited the Florida Supreme Court. We also had a tour of Florida State University. Something new we didn’t know was that FSU has a place for visually impaired students, the Student Disability Resource Center (SDRC). This is where people with any kind of disabilities can go if they need any accommodations in dealing with their classes. We have also practiced tasks such as cooking, cleaning, shopping, comparing prices, and washing cars.

Some of us came to the summer program thinking, “We are blind. What can we do well?” Our confidence has increased. Our three teachers, Ms. Jennifer, Ms. Shannon, and Ms. Sam allowed us to prove the statement, “You can do anything you put your mind to.” They are helping us become more independent and are teaching us that we are able to do everything that people without visual impairments can do. It has boosted everyone’s self esteem. We believe that we are not helpless, as some might think, and that we are just like you who are reading this. We appreciate them for everything.

4. Radio Reading Service Needs You!
Radio Reading Service volunteers read news and other information over a sub-channel received by special radios. The Florida Department of Education-funded program provides these radios free to qualified individuals.

We're looking for listeners -- those who are eligible for the program and are not getting the information they want and need due to their disability. Contact the Radio Reading Service, 1600 Red Barber Plaza, Tallahassee, FL 32310, 850-487-3086 extension 366, toll-free 800-829-8809 or for a receiver application. Please include your address (and ZIP) and phone number in your message.

We are also looking for readers. To become a volunteer-reader, you audition and, if successful, observe, train and start as a substitute reader with a partner. You can then move into a regular slot of one or two hours a week as spaces become available. The service runs seven days a week. Join us for this challenging and rewarding opportunity. Call 850-487-3086 extension 366 or email for an information packet. Don’t forget to include your address (and ZIP) and phone number in your message.

Interested in more information? Check out the WFSU-FM Radio Reading Service web site at

5. Top Ten Reasons to Label Your Household Items

10. So you don’t put salt in your coffee
9. Prevent pouring orange juice on your cereal
8. Escape making “Mexican cheese” lasagna
7. Spare your skin from applying bubble bath as lotion
6. Stop from putting Ovaltine on top of casseroles
5. So you don’t make congealed salad out of pudding
4. Quit pouring soup in your spaghetti
3. Stop making “burning hot” meatloaf with sausage
2. Avoid brushing your teeth with Preparation H
1. Pass up serving “cat food” tuna salad

6. Congratulations to Madrea Keeler!
Some great news about a friend of FIRE! Madrea Keeler, a renowned local artist, submitted one of her paintings to the American Printing House for the Blind. APH publishes a Braille calendar featuring artwork by individuals who are visually impaired or blind. Madrea’s piece was selected as one of twelve to appear on their 2008 calendar! Madrea shared that she became legally blind 2 years ago as a result of macular degeneration. She had always been a detailed artist and was so devastated that she stopped painting for a period. With the encouragement of friends and the support of FIRE and DBS, she started painting again. She says that her style has changed but the painting continues. The calendars will be on sale in November through the Tallahassee Council of the Blind. Way to go Madrea!!!

7. Teen Car Wash - HUGE Success
Thanks to everyone who came out for the Summer Transition Program car wash. The eight students earned $314 and are planning their end of the summer adventure! This was in part due to volunteer Lynn Evans passing out fliers… and reportedly only setting off one car alarm in the process. Thanks also to ABC Channel 27 and NPR 89.9 for covering the event.

8. Get Published in “As We See It”
Have something you’d like to write about? Want to share an experience or opinion? Please submit articles by email to: .


FIRE Newsletter, Spring 2007

Articles in the newsletter:
1. State of Vision License Tag is HERE!
2. Meet the Board: Evelyn Sewell
3. Legislative Vision Summit a Success
4. SportsAbility Expo 2007 Tallahassee April 13-14
5. FCB Convention May 17-20, 2007
6. Top 5 Reasons (twice!)
7. Teens! Join Jennifer for Summer Fun
8. New Lab Drop-In Hours
9. FIRE Spring Cleaning Day April 28

1. State of Vision License Tag is HERE!
On February 8, Rep. Loranne Ausley was the first motorist in Leon County to buy the 'A State of Vision' specialty license plate. “This is a great day for the state of Florida and a great day for people who are blind or visually impaired,” Rep. Ausley said as she accepted the tag from Leon County Tax Collector Doris Maloy.

The specialty license plate, “A State of Vision,” portrays a shining lighthouse (on the left side of the tag) emerging from blue water with a colorful sunset in the background.

Each tag costs $25, which will go to the Association of Agencies Serving the Blind (FAASB). FAASB will then distribute the funds to the agency serving your area. For the 11 counties in the Big Bend, this will be FIRE. In addition to raising much-needed money, the tags will also increase awareness about visual impairments.

FIRE’s Executive Director, Barbara Ross, exclaimed, “I already have one on my car!” and hopes others will join her in purchasing the new license plate.

2. Meet the Board: Evelyn Sewell
I was born in Columbia, Mississippi. After I graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a B.S. degree in accounting, I went to live and work as an Accountant in New Orleans. I married my husband had two daughters in New Orleans.

Then in 1970 the family moved to Jacksonville, FL where my husband and I began working for the State of Florida. I worked a various accounting related positions for the State until I retired on February 28, 2001. My last position was the Chief of Fiscal Services at the Florida Public Service Commission. I worked for the Commission for 22 years, and was involved in preparation of financial statements, collection of revenues, cash management, budget preparation, and general accounting analysis.

Today, my two daughters are married. The oldest daughter lives in Texas. She is married to an Air Force Pilot and they have my two grandsons. I visit them as often as I can. My youngest daughter lives with her husband in Tallahassee & works as an insurance agent.
In my spare time, I like to travel. I also enjoy listening to books on tape. I love a good mystery. I find that life is a mystery, and I keep trying to solve it.

Serving on the FIRE Board and being elected to be the Treasurer is a great honor for me. I think that I will be able to put my years of experience to use in this role.

Also, as facilitator for the support groups, OCTOPUS and the Telephone Group, I would like to invite individuals to join us on the first Wednesday of each month at FIRE from 1-3pm for the OCTOPUS meeting and call in on the toll-free phone number on the second Monday of each month from 10am to 11am. On 3/12, 4/9, or 5/14, just dial 1(888)296-6500 and enter code 150283#. Reservations are NOT required!

3. Legislative Vision Summit a Success
The Florida Association of Agencies Serving the Blind (FAASB) and the Vision Caucus in the Florida Legislature held the 1st Annual Florida Vision Summit on February 6, 2007. The purpose was to educate the State Legislature and the public about the increasing number of Floridians dealing with some type of vision loss. A number of Legislators attended, including our own Representative Loranne Ausley.

The Vision Summit included speakers that discussed issues such as: prevention of vision loss, age-related conditions and diseases leading to vision loss, assistive technology, rehabilitation, transportation and voting.

“We cannot avoid the reality that Florida’s visually impaired population is growing by leaps and bounds. It’s necessary to educate our leaders and the citizens of Florida on the importance of visual health, and the services available to those already living with a visual impairment,” said Rep. Dennis Baxley, the founding member of the Vision Caucus.

If you were not able to attend, the 3-hour Vision Summit is available via Internet at (choose the link for Florida Vision Caucus Summit) and will be aired on the Florida Channel over the next few months.

4. SportsAbility Expo 2007 Tallahassee April 13-14
Hosted by the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association, this free two-day event is about enhancing the lives of people with disabilities by promoting active living. SportsAbility provides first hand access to resources and demonstrations of activities that encourage participation regardless of age or ability level. Learn about the value of recreation and active leisure for everyone – especially people with disabilities. Discover the latest in equipment, trends, and resources. This event provides an opportunity for people to network with people with disabilities, resource providers, and community organizations. For more info, visit

Friday, April 13, 2007 - 9:00am to 2:00pm is held at the TCC Lifetime Sports Complex and includes a resource expo and indoor activities.

Saturday, April 14, 2007 - 10:00am to 3:00pm is held at Ochlockonee River State Park and focuses on outdoor activities.

5. FCB Convention May 17-20, 2007
The Florida Council of the Blind State Convention will be held in Tallahassee from May 17-20, 2007. To make reservations, contact the Ramada Inn North, 2900 North Monroe, Tallahassee, FL, 32303; Phone: 850-386-1027. The room rates are $83 per night for rooms located in the main tower or $65 for rooms opening onto a covered walk and connected to the main tower.

On Thursday evening (5/17) kick back at a southern style barbeque at one of our members’ homes, with lots of food, fun, spirits and music. Friday afternoon (5/18) attend the annual FCB Legislative Seminar, an Employment workshop, and visit the Exhibit Hall. Friday evening, there will be a Welcome to Tallahassee Party along with a spirited game night.

Saturday morning (5/19) will begin with an address from a local official and the presentation of our annual awards and scholarships. Next, there will be several session options including seminars on new technology, the Braille & Talking Book Library, ADA law, VSA Arts, and a workshop for guide dog users. After lunch, attend our annual town hall meeting with Craig Kiser, Director of the Division of Blind Services. After the town hall meeting, our Special Interest Affiliates will meet. Saturday evening, FCB will begin the festivities with a happy hour reception, followed by the FCB Banquet where Mitch Pomerantz, ADA Coordinator for the City of Los Angeles will be our featured guest speaker. FCB will then gift you with a sensory experience, a folk music concert presented by Kevin Briody.

Last, on Sunday morning, the FCB convention attendees and Board will hold the annual business meeting.

Registration is $15. If you have any questions call Sally Benjamin, Project Insight Coordinator, at 800-267-4448 or email

6. Top Five Reasons to Make Money More Accessible
5. Accessibility will promote independence
4. May reduce vulnerability & dependency on others
3. Will develop employment opportunities for people who are visually impaired or blind
2. U.S. should rise to the standard of all other counties
1. May reduce pity for and fear of blindness

Top Five Reasons to Keep Money the Same
5. People have been using organizational systems such as folding currency for a long time
4. The cost of making money accessible could be used for more important needs of people who are blind
3. Changes could require expensive adaptations to existing systems such as vending machines
2. May perpetuate the image that people who are disabled are needy
1. Avoid the potential backlash and resentment that might occur if the currency changes

7. Teens! Join Jennifer for Summer Fun
Calling all teenagers that are visually impaired or blind—you are invited to join FIRE’s Summer Program starting June 4th. We will be taking field trips, exploring career opportunities, learning about new and exciting technology and making friends. You will also learn how to be more independent as a teenager You will get the chance to learn how to cook, how to keep your hectic lives organized and how to contribute to the community. You will also be able to connect with other teens in the area who are blind or visually impaired. If you would like to spend your summer having fun while learning useful life skills contact Jennifer at 942-3658 X 206.

8. New Lab Drop-In Hours
Come surf the net, create your resume’, fill out an application, search for jobs, and much more!
Tuesdays: 12:30-4:30pm
Wednesdays: 12:30-4:30pm
Thursdays: 11am-4:30pm
Fridays: 9am-4:30pm

9. FIRE Spring Cleaning Day April 28
Join us for a Saturday morning or afternoon of spring cleaning on April 28th! Come for an hour or two, or help out as long as you like. This is an opportunity to help make our agency shine.

Outdoor jobs include:
Plant a flower bed outside the lab
Pressure wash the building & ramp
Make a small “guide dog park”
Clean off the roof and gutters… and more!

Indoor tasks include:
Organize & clean out the kitchen cabinets
Deep clean the oven and refrigerator
Dust all the baseboards… and more!

Please call Volunteer Coordinator Toni King to RSVP.


FIRE Newsletter, Winter 2006/07

Articles in this newsletter:
1. Welcome to Four New FIRE Staff
2. Meet the Board: Delores Wussler
3. The Able Trust Grant Received for New Assistive Technology Lab
4. 2nd Dining in the Dark a Success!
5. Medicaid & Dial-A-Ride Transportation Conflict Resolved in Leon County
6. Top 10 Ways to Know Your Cooking is Over Done
7. Beginning Braille Class Starting Up

1. Welcome to Four New FIRE Staff
FIRE has grown from 8 folks to 12 this year, adding two part-time positions and two full-time staff. Here is a little bit about the newest members of our team:

Data Entry Specialist, Jeff English
Jeff brings with him an extensive background in database management. In his spare time, he is working to complete a Master of Arts in History at FSU. He enjoys spending time with his wife, spoiling his cat, reading, and listening to and playing music. Jeff says that he is very happy to have found a home at FIRE.

Transition Specialist, Jennifer Crowder
Jennifer is an FSU Graduate and a Teacher of the Visually Impaired. She has been a TVI in GA for two years. Jennifer states she is excited about this work because she will have the opportunity to teach daily living skills, social & recreational skills and intensive assistive technology which are critical for students to succeed in life.

Assistive Technology Trainer, Nancy Folsom

Nancy brings to FIRE her experience as the volunteer trainer for FCB’s Project Insight & experience training with computer software and assistive technology. She loves meeting new people and spends her spare time with her two children and two grandsons.

Volunteer Coordinator, Toni King
Toni is a lifetime native to Tallahassee and a former client and Board member of FIRE. She brings several years of volunteer coordinating experience to the     organization and is excited about the opportunity to work with such a wonderful staff.

2. Meet the Board: Delores Wussler
Plop!  No!  Not again.  I couldn’t have missed the ball again.  Excited voices hollered, “Catch it, catch it!” and then came moans and groans.  How can you catch a ball you cannot find?  I felt humiliated to the core, especially because my four brothers were in the bleachers watching this playoff game.  When the inning was over I insisted that someone take my right field position.  It was that evening the awareness first began to dawn that I was destined to follow in my father’s, not footsteps, but eyesteps, as I had inherited his RP. 

My life rolled on through college, marriage and the arrival of three sons and a daughter.  I taught school as a substitute and then full-time in Rockford, Illinois.  Later, my husband Lew heard Florida calling him to forsake the cold northern winters. One of the many things left behind were the regal and stately tulips in our rock garden that I loved so much.  The work transfer landed us in Jacksonville, Florida.  The climate was great for tending roses but not tulips.  However, since that move in 1973, Lew’s radiant roses have richly colored our lives.  Shared with others they became ambassadors of hope and beauty in dark places and passages.

Lew’s retirement from Blue Cross Blue Shield as a systems analyst precipitated our move to Tallahassee where all our children had settled.  The “D & L Lawn Service” blossomed, providing the outdoor work Lew loves.  Two years later in 1991, my remaining central vision faded to only light perception.  Following bouts of anger and grief I connected with DBS and the services of Independence for the Blind, now known as FIRE, which greatly helped relieve the emotional and physical stress.  I made a decision to go to The Daytona Rehab Center for the Blind, where I learned to cope in various ways.  I chipped away at my fear of the computer.

Parading perkily in and out of our 51 years as partners adjusting to diminishing eyesight were four adorable doxies and one gorgeous guide dog.  Hundreds of clumps of bread dough have been slapped, pounded and whacked, which provided a creative outlet and therapy for dealing with frustration.

I feel grateful for the assistance I have received from my husband and family, FIRE and many others in working through my loss of sight.  In gratitude I want to join FIRE in extending services and encouragement to others.  Thank you for your confidence in me.
Ready, aim, FIRE!

3. The Able Trust Grant Received for New AT Lab
FIRE is delighted to announce we have received a one-year grant from The Able Trust to create an “Employment Computer / Information Access (CIA) Lab”. We currently have a make-shift computer lab that does not meet the needs of clients who are searching for a job. To start up the project, the room for the lab will be expanded and made into an accessible workspace. It will be furnished with new computer tables and cabinets for storage of materials. Most importantly, new assistive technology equipment and software will be purchased for clients to use at FIRE to acquire job readiness skills, compose resumes, search for jobs, complete and submit job applications, and practice computer-related work skills.

We are also excited to announce that the grant has enabled us to hire a part-time Assistive Technology Trainer (Nancy Folsom) and a part-time Volunteer Coordinator (Toni King). Both positions will be for one year to get the program off the ground. Initially, the AT Trainer will instruct     clients in the use of assistive technology equipment as well as in job readiness skills. After it is built, the lab will be open for scheduled visits 15 hours per week. The Volunteer Coordinator will begin creating a program to staff the lab with volunteers, and as they are recruited, the AT Trainer will also train the volunteers. It is our dream by this time next year, FIRE will have a self-sufficient program up and running, and anyone who is visually impaired or blind and looking for a job will be able to come to FIRE and receive training and help from volunteers in the lab.

4. 2nd Dining in the Dark a Success!
Thank you to everyone who participated in FIRE’s 2nd Annual Paula Bailey Dining in the Dark benefit. As the event approached, we sold out early and squeezed in extra tables for more diners. The benefit then sold out a second time! 300 guests were served a sunrise salad, pork tenderloin rockefeller served with rice and sautéed vegetables (or an optional vegetarian entrée), and chocolate mousse for dessert—all in the dark.

Before dinner, Rep. Loranne Ausley kicked off the event at the reception with a rousing talk. Adam Gaffney put together a jazz band that kept everyone entertained before they went upstairs to be seated.  Charles Atkins played keyboard and improvised lyrics about Dining in the Dark—some brave souls even danced!

The Leon County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team were wonderful as our servers. Sgt. Charlie Strickland explained they placed an infra-red glow stick in the center of each table, which lit up the whole ballroom for the team’s night vision goggles. They received a standing ovation and promised to come back next year. Thanks also goes to Rigel Optics, who again loaned FIRE night vision goggles sent all the way from WA.

The Paula Bailey Inspirational Community Member Award was presented to Delores Wussler. Congratulations Delores! FIRE was proud to have a whole slate of inspirational community members, and as Board President Frank Seidman said, wish we could have given the award to each one. In addition to Delores, the nominees included: Charles Atkins, Elizabeth Bowden, Michael Elliott, Adam Gaffney, Sila Miller, Dan Orange, and Evelyn Sewell.

FIRE could not create this awareness or raise this funding without the support of dozens of volunteers and many sponsors. Because of all of you, FIRE received $25,500 in contributions—so thank you everyone!

5. Medicaid & Dial-A-Ride Transportation Conflict Resolved in Leon County
Over a year ago, individuals that utilized Medicaid Transportation were un-enrolled from Dial-A-Ride or the Transportation Disadvantaged program. FIRE Board Member Lisa Raleigh took this on as a cause.

After many emails, phone calls and a meeting, City of Tallahassee staff member Donna Peacock wrote Lisa, “We have met with Byron Underwood and Lisa Bacot of the [Florida] Commission [for the Transportation Disadvantaged] and have discussed the issue of dual eligibility for both the Medicaid transportation and ADA or Dial-a-Ride in Leon County.  We have all agreed that the best method to serve our disabled population is to allow dual eligibility where the rider does qualify, with the understanding that medical trips should be taken through the Medicaid transportation system. This information is being communicated to the staff responsible for eligibility screening.”

Thank you to Lisa Raleigh for working to restore this vital transportation for people with disabilities!

6. Top Ten Ways to Know Your Cooking is Over Done

10. The smoke detector goes off
9. Eating requires a visit to the dentist
8. What started as a vegetable becomes a health drink
7. Inserting the meat thermometer is impossible
6. You add the fries to your Lincoln Log building set
5. You develop a new appreciation of the tenderness of beef jerky after grilling meat
4. You have to buy pots and pans on a weekly basis
3. Your soup resembles chips
2. After slicing the entrée, new knives are needed
1. Your dog refuses to eat the leftovers

7. Beginning Braille Class Starting Up!
FIRE is offering a Beginning Braille Class for individuals who are visually impaired or blind that want to learn Braille to use as a communication tool. A class setting has proven to be a very effective method of learning Braille; it is exciting to learn along with others. The classes will begin Dec. 14 and meet every Thursday from 9:30am - 2:30pm. Give yourself the present of learning how to read and write year! For our sighted friends who might be interested in learning Braille… the techniques used are different than what we teach in this class. We would be glad to share how & where to get materials you can use. Interested? Call Jeanine at 942-3658 extension 215.


FIRE Newsletter, Fall 2006

Articles in this newsletter:
1. 2nd Annual Paula Bailey Dining in the Dark, 10/15/06
2. Meet the Board: Lisa Raleigh
3. FIRE Becomes a United Way Agency
4. FIRE Services to Teens Expanding
5. Local Magnifier Store Opening
6. “Weights” Benefit for Ability 1st
7. Top 10 Advantages of Dining in the Dark

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the creation of the FIRE Newsletter! Submissions related to vision loss are welcome, and may be edited for length.

1. 2nd Paula Bailey Dining in the Dark
FIRE will be holding our three course dinner in pitch black darkness again this year at the University Center Club on Sunday, October 15… but with some twists.

One exciting addition is the Leon County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team. They have volunteered to use their night vision goggles to serve dinner and wait on you. The menu will be new, so you can savor the intensified tastes and smells as you eat without your sight.

Also new this year is a reception before dinner at 5pm on the first floor, with honorary host Representative Loranne Ausley. She will say a few words, there will be live music, a cash bar, and a sample table set up identical to the one at which you’ll be eating in the dark.

During the reception there will be lessons on walking and eating in the dark in a quiet area on the first floor. At the end of the reception, tables will be called in order by numbers 1-33, so guests can go up to the ballroom together and be seated. You will be guided to your seat by volunteers that are blind and navigate in the dark every day. Dinner starts at 5:45pm.

During the dinner there will be quiet background music, a fun surprise between courses, and afterwards the lights will come up as FIRE presents the “Paula Bailey Inspirational Community Member” award. Please see the enclosed form to nominate someone.

Tickets are on sale so please consider buying a table of eight for $500. Single seats are available for $50. Just fill out the enclosed form or call 942-3658 to reserve yours. We look forward to Dining in the Dark with you!

Thanks to our DINING IN THE DARK Sponsors!

Doug & Elizabeth Bailey
Sharyn Davidson
Hebrock, Steiner, Inc.
Leon County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team
Patti Liles
Rose, Sundstrom & Bentley, LLP
University Center Club

2. Meet the Board: Lisa Raleigh
When a woman who has raised six kids tells you to do something, you do it. So when Barbara Kiger asked, I became a FIRE board member in the Spring of 2002. That year my son was three years old, I’d been married six years, and had practiced law for 11 years. It was a good time to branch out and do something new.

I have learned so much at FIRE, about listening, about young people struggling to be accepted as capable workers in a world that can’t quite believe they can do the job, about older people learning a whole new way of doing things. I served in the Navy for four years, and I thought I knew something about courage, but I’ve learned about daily courage while on the board at FIRE. I thought I understood discrimination, but I never saw how much a sense of humor helps in the face of discrimination, nor did I understand how hard it can be just to get a chance to try if you are disabled.

As the only lawyer on the board, I’m called on from time to time to address matters that come up, like contracts or HIPAA questions. I enjoy learning about different areas of the law. As an attorney, main focus is that we not be sued and put out of business.

Last year I missed the annual planning retreat. When I came to the next meeting, I was told that we would have a fund raiser called, "Dining in the Dark." Imagine how that sounded to an attorney. I suggested we change the name to, "Liability in the Dark." I was also told that because I was in the Navy, I must know all about night vision goggles, and so I was in charge of borrowing enough for all the waiters at the event.

It took me five months of calling every manufacturer and distributor in the United States, and then holding the phone away from my ear while they laughed hysterically when I told them I wanted $20,000 of gear so that waiters could wear them in the dark.

In the end, we were able to borrow sets from a generous Washington distributor (Rigel Optics), and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office received them, checked them out, brought extra batteries, trained the waiters, and supervised the whole event for technical problems. While attendees heard the entertainment and enjoyed the meal, I was just listening for the crashing sound of $12,000 goggles breaking. Everything went brilliantly, though, and the nervous lawyer was proven wrong.

As always when you engage in charitable acts, I have gotten a good deal more than I’ve given with FIRE. This year I’m running for County Court Judge, and my friends on the board have provided not just moral and financial support, but put out signs, sent out e-mails, and told their friends about my campaign. I’m happy, too, that this year I’m running is the first year that there will be technology available to provide blind and low vision people with private voting. So I hope that you will work your way through the ballot until you find my name, as the County Court Judge race is not near the top of the ballot. I’ll be pleased if everyone reading this shows up on September 5 to use the new voting technology.

3. FIRE Becomes a United Way Agency
Expanding the number of certified agencies under the United Way of the Big Bend (UWBB) umbrella, UWBB announced the addition of three new certified agencies July 13, 2006. FIRE is happy to be one of those agencies this year, having met all the stringent requirements.

“Becoming a United Way Certified Agency enhances the credibility and visibility of FIRE,” said Barbara Ross, FIRE Executive Director. “We hope we’ll be able to serve more individuals that are blind and provide more frequent services. Ultimately, it will help people with vision loss regain their independence more rapidly so they can become productive members of society again.”

While becoming a United Way agency does not automatically increase the funds FIRE will receive from United Way, individuals will now be able to select FIRE if they want to designate the agency that their United Way donation helps fund. We are thrilled to be participating in the United Way Kick-Off Luncheon on September 7th—already receiving more publicity!

4. FIRE Services to Teens Expanding
We are thrilled to announce that as of October 2006, FIRE will be able to expand our services to “Transition” or high school students throughout the school year in addition to our regular Summer Transition program.

Thanks to lobbying efforts and subsequently a contract with DBS, FIRE will be hiring a Certified Specialist to work with students during the school year. The Transition program will help high school students learn the skills needed to “transition” to being an adult, getting a job, and living independently for the first time.

During the summer months, FIRE will also expand our Summer Transition Program for high school students to include the entire Big Bend. An additional instructor will be hired during June- August to work with teen-agers when they are out of school for the summer.

5. Local Magnifier Store Opening
Finding the right magnifier can be a frustrating and time consuming experience. Now, instead of only being able to shop long distance, through catalogs or the Internet, FIRE is excited to share that Tallahassee has a new local store that can help.

Magnifiers & More carries magnifiers, low vision devices and helpful gadgets - everything from CCTVs to talking watches. Items to help you write letters and even pay the bills can be purchased. You can stop by and try them out before you buy them, as many items are in stock on the premises.

If you need further assistance or more advanced low vision devices, Dr. Susan Whaley is available for comprehensive low vision evaluations. Magnifiers & More is located at 2858 Mahan Drive inside Tallahassee Eye Center. Their phone number is 671-3936

6. “Weights” Benefit for Ability 1st
“Weights” is a one-man performance that utilizes prose, poetry and live music accompaniment to tell the real-life story of Lynn Manning. Lynn grew up in the foster care system of Los Angeles. At the age of 23 he was shot in a bar, losing his sight completely.

The show traces Manning's transcendence of the violence that changed his life, and his personal journey from being 'black' to being 'blind'. Determined to pursue his dreams, he has now become a successful playwright, actor, world-class athlete and volunteer.

Two shows are scheduled at the Tallahassee Little Theater: Friday, 9/29, 8pm for the general public, $15; To benefit Ability 1st, Saturday, 9/30, 6:30pm VIP reception and silent auction followed by an 8pm show for $50. For ticket information, please contact Ability 1st at 575-9621 or

7. Top Ten Advantages of Dining in the Dark

10. You will be pleasantly surprised by what you are eating (no one knows ahead of time).
9. If you make a mistake, no one will see.
8. You can pretend you’re eating dinner with your favorite celebrity.
7. You can hide the salt and no one will ever find it.
6. You will notice your sense of hearing, touch and taste much more than when you can see.
5. You don’t have to worry about table manners.
4. You’ll feel very secure dining with the SWAT Team.
3. If you eat with your hands, no one will know.
2. The evening will become an experience you will share funny stories about for a long time.
1. In the future, you will be better able to assist people who are blind if they ask for help.


FIRE Newsletter, Summer 2006

Articles in this issue:
1. 23rd Birthday Wishes for FIRE
2. Meet the Board: Frank Seidman
3. Around the Town: “Delirium” by Chip Orange
4. “If I Have To Ask” by Barbara Kiger
5. Top 10 Ways to Tell if Your Drink is Full
6. Tips for Living by Delores Wussler
7. Vote for a Newsletter Name
8. License Plate Passes!
9. Low or No Vision Demo, June 6, 1-4pm, Senior Center

1. 23rd Birthday Wishes for FIRE
Toni King: My wish for FIRE is that we continue, through our amazing staff, to serve people who need our services, and that our agency grow to serve more people with the personal care our staff give.

Norris Coster: I would like to wish for super'sized growth in our efforts to bring sight to sightlessness and insight to others who may be "blind to the facts."

Barbara Ross: I wish FIRE a major donor to give five million dollars for land & building a brand new center!

Frank Seidman: I wish for FIRE, a diminishing need for its services, as medical breakthroughs solve the problems causing visual impairment. But, until then, I'm with Barbara - Show me the money!

Ericka Zdenek: My wish for FIRE is success in your advocacy work. Keep us accountable and engaged!!!

Barbara Kiger: Happy birthday FIRE! Thank you for letting me grow "independent" with you.

David Bigoney: I wish for the continuing strength of vision which has led the way, and for the lights beyond to only shine brighter!

Liz Bowden: I, too, would like the pot of gold so the technology department could have all the new toys that are coming out, and expand services.

Lynda Breen: I just googled anniversary gifts, and the gift for 23 is "silver plate."I take that to mean money---hopefully lots will be coming your way!!

Georgia Kellogg: Thanks for getting me involved with computers. FIRE has done a wonderful job. I appreciate the computer meetings I attend when possible. Thanks for your work & service to the community.

Delores Wussler: As the 23 FIRE birthday candles continue to light up the lives of the visually impaired and blind I wish for computers, instructors and adaptive equipment galore to be available for those interested. Thank you, FIRE, for being there for me in so many ways and Happy 23rd!

2. Meet the Board: Frank Seidman
It all began 67 years ago in Boston, Massachusetts, or so I am told. But I have been a Floridian since my 14th year. I still proudly retain some of my Bostonian roots – my accent, my love of hot tea, and from time to time, my taste for Scotch whiskey.

My life had been fairly routine – college, the Army, marriage, divorce, marriage, divorce, marriage. Wait, is that one too many? Oh, yes. I married my first wife twice – some people are slow learners. My life really began when I met my wife of now 30 years – Denny. What had been humdrum and less than fulfilling became meaningful and wonderful, which it continues to be to this day. When you finally get it right, you know it.

During all of this, I, alas, also had to earn a living. I had my engineering degree and my certification in Florida, but not being very inventive, I did what anyone in my position would do – I became a consultant. Amazingly, it seems to work. So, I make my living helping others do what they already know how to do, but who need someone to tell that to them. And for this, they pay me.

When I met Denny, she was raising two small children by herself and filling in her spare moments by attending Florida State University. She then went on to law school and became a member of the Florida Bar. She and I worked together for many years, but now she works for the state and disciplines bad practitioners in the health field.

Those of you who know me, know that Denny and I are rabid FSU fans. We have season tickets for football and men and women’s basketball. Plus we attend as many baseball and softball games as we can. What you may not know is that I got my degree from the University of Miami. How does a UM graduate become an FSU fan? Denny won me over big time.

My association with FIRE began only 3 years ago, but, in a way, it was bound to happen. I have been a friend of one of FIRE’s oldest board members (in age and association), Harold Martindale, for 30+ years. He asked me if I would be interested in joining the board. I knew nothing about FIRE, but I knew about Harold’s long battle with RP and all he had accomplished. I was interested, but hesitant. Then he told me they served food at the board meetings. How could I turn it down?

Needless to say, I have thoroughly enjoyed my association with FIRE. It continues to be a learning experience. My respect and awe continues to grow for the blind and visually impaired board members I serve with and others I now meet on a daily basis. I am sighted. For those of us that are, the fear of losing one’s sight is great. But because of FIRE, I am learning that those fears are groundless. What the FIRE staff does and can do for the visually impaired and, indirectly, for their family and friends is truly amazing. It’s an honor to serve with them.

3. Around the Town: “Delirium” by Chip Orange

"It takes a village to stage a multimedia production that mixes breathtaking acrobatics with dazzling special effects, vibrant costumes and soaring rock anthems."So begins a preview article in the Tallahassee Democrat, by staff writer Kati Schardl, of the Cirque du Soleil (pronounced "surk du solay"), show "Delirium" which came to Tallahassee the weekend of April 15th.

She continues, "It also takes about 110,000 pounds of gear, 23 trucks, 300 feet of projection screens that stand 40 feet high, a stage that's 130 feet long and 20 feet wide, and about 150 human beings to set it all up, perform, break it down and cart it to the next town on the schedule ...".

When I heard Cirque was coming to Tallahassee, with a show this spectacular, and that they had abandoned their tradition of basing their shows on their extraordinarily choreographed acrobats, and had instead designed this show based entirely around the musical performers, I decided to take a chance that someone blind would find the show as novel an experience as someone sighted. And so I went with a group of five people, each of us willing to pay the price of a ticket to experience something that's a cross between modern dance, a three-ring circus, a traveling acrobatic show, and a modern Latin-techno-funky opera.

According to Schardl, "The musicians performing onstage include percussionist brothers El Hadji Fall Diouf and Pape Abdou Karim Diouf of Senegal, the world beat band Gaia, rising Canadian vocal star Jacynthe and Brazilian Italo-Cuban singing sensation Dessy Di Lauro." As if they weren't enough, opening for the entire ensemble was Nitza, a self-described multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, singer/song writer (and perhaps my favorite of the evening's musical performances).

The music was everything the credits above promised, and more. At times, there were as many as 30 drummers playing at once together on stage. Our seats were on the floor of the civic center, within a few feet of the stage, and the sound was an incredible, body shaking experience. Luckily for me, it was loud, while being a style of music I really enjoy, so I didn't find the volume a problem.

The visuals however were something else again. I had two people trying to give me a running commentary of the acrobats, singers, costumes, (literally flying around at times), and the multi-media projections being beamed onto translucent screens that the performers were using as backdrops or front drops. Schardl says: "The show mixes video with virtual images and animation and sprinkles special effects over the whole to create a truly surreal experience."

Surreal doesn't even *begin* to do it justice. One scene has the "evil" character of the story, rising out of something like a submarine hatch, on stilts, shouting through a megaphone, and swinging a giant gavel at the "hero".

One sequence had a translucent screen being projected with an underwater visual, and behind it a "mermaid", in a 10-foot-high dress, singing while seemingly "swimming" under the waves.

Another sequence had a singer, rising up out of the stage, with her ever-growing dress turning eventually into a 30-foot-high volcano, and making her into what I believe was an earth-goddess in the story.

The costumes were as much a part of the show, as with any opera, as the singers and musicians. So were the special effects, which included the main character of the story "flying" suspended from a hot-air-balloon through-out the entire show. Yes, there was a "story", but figuring it out, and interpreting all the symbolism, wasn't easy. A libretto would have helped, but as with an opera, if you concentrate too much on the plot, you're likely to miss the entire point of being there.

Exactly how much of the visuals I was able to take in, with the aid of my two describers, and how much I still missed, is difficult to say. I certainly have never been to anything like that kind of non-stop intensely complex performance before. It was worth it, from that perspective, just for the novelty of it all.

I doubt it could be turned into something where the visuals were really accessible to blind people who did not have their own team of personal describers (yelling) into each ear, and trying to answer questions about the points I didn't catch. My two describers were both highly visual people, and both very articulate, and it took both of them for me to keep up with some amount of the activity that was taking place on the near-by stage.

There was one part of the show that was tactile, and it was the ending, where the audience was showered with confetti, and then balloons, perhaps six feet in diameter, were dropped on to us from above, to allow us to bounce them back and forth between one another. This was fun, even when we'd occasionally bump into one another as we ran about trying to position ourselves under a balloon as it came down. One man even held a balloon down for me so I could get an idea of it's size, and to see how it was constructed.

4. “If I Have To Ask” by Barbara Kiger
I lost my sight when I was fifty. Suddenly and irreversibly, due to a deterioration of the optic nerve, I was plunged into a world of total darkness. I thought my life had ended. Emerging after several weeks of vodka-soaked hand wringing, I crept out of my bedroom.

Surprisingly, there was still a world beyond my closed door. I remember groping my way through the dining room and living room to where my favorite chair had always stood. It was still there. Some things had not changed. Steeling myself against an avalanche of tears, I took stock of my life. I had my faith in God, though at the moment a bit tarnished, and a family who loved me despite the epithets I’d hurled at them during the past several weeks. I could still hear, think and speak. With “so” much going for me, surely...

I wish I could say that everything was smooth sailing from there on in, but it was not. Only after months that stretched into years of counseling and help from a pair of agencies whose mission it was to help the blind did I regain my self-respect and achieve a modicum of independence. It wasn’t until the day I was involved in a conversation with several other people though, that I realize my learning had just begun.

I was in a mixed group, male and female, some of whom I knew along with several others I did not know. The conversation covered a range of topics, settling finally on the hot potato issue of right to life. Being a Catholic I supported the Church’s views. It became abundantly clear, however, that several in the group were not of my persuasion.

Do you remember what it’s like trying to interject an opinion when several others are expressing theirs? Watching mouths close, then jumping in, is one way of doing it. When you can see, this is not a problem. Given my circumstances this was not an option, however. Losing track of where the arguments orginate because of the group’s rapid fire delivery, made active participation even more difficult.

I felt myself being cut off from the conversation when, to my way of thinking, a particularly “senseless” remark caught my attention. Angered, I turned to my husband and demanded, “What color is he?”

My mind came to a stand-still. The question I had asked was no better, no - worse than the remark that had precipitated it.

I tuned out my husband’s answer. If I had to ask, was it really that important? As difficult as it was to admit, I knew the answer was no.

I have learned many things since that day, but none have proved as valuable. Freed at last from judging a book by its cover or a person by the color of his skin, the world I now live in is filled with new ideas and even newer friends.

5. Top Ten Ways to Tell if Your Drink is Full

10. Stick your finger in it
9. Use a liquid level indicator
8. Listen for the pitch of the pouring liquid to go higher
7. Feel the temperature change on the side of the cup
6. Drink pre-packaged beverages
5. The waiter doesn’t ask if you need a refill
4. Put a fishing bobber in your drink and feel when it comes to the top of the glass
3. The guy in the apartment next door starts banging on the wall and yelling "Its seeping under the wall!"
2. Your cup “runneth over”
And the number one way to tell if your drink is full is…
1. Place your cup on the lap an unsuspecting person, and when they scream, you know it is full!

6. Tips for Living by Delores Wussler

Never lose a sock strategy: Pin the two socks together before washing. You will have all your socks matched up and ready to wear when dry.
Easy Measuring: To measure cooking oil, fill a wide mouthed jar with oil and dip in measuring spoon when oil is needed. To measure vanilla or other flavorings pour some into a small flexible container. Measure correct amount and funnel remainder back into bottle.

7. Vote for a Newsletter Name

A number of names have been suggested for the newsletter:
As We See It,
On Fire,
Fireside Chat,
The Spark,
The Igniter,
Fire Power,
The Eyeglass,
Fire-sighted, or
Eye Contact.
We have so many good names we couldn’t choose! Call 942-3658 or email your favorite and we will tally the votes for the next issue.

8. License Plate Passes!
We are thrilled that the new specialty license plate “A State of Vision” benefiting agencies such as FIRE passed. We’ll let you know when they go on sale!

9. Low or No Vision Demonstration
Tuesday, June 6, 1-5pm, at the Tallahassee Senior Center

Join FIRE for this excellent opportunity to examine the latest technology available for people that are visually impaired or blind. Representatives from adaptive aid companies will demonstrate a variety of magnifying machines, personal readers, and other devices that can assist individuals with a vision problem to stay independent. Magnifying Solutions is offering a door prize of a color digital magnifier worth $500. Free vision screenings will be available as well. There will be a Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist from FIRE available to answer questions. Call Jeanine Kane, CVRT for further Information at 942-3658 ext. 215.


FIRE Newsletter, Spring 2006

Articles in this issue:
1. “State of Vision” License Plate
2. Welcome to Our New Staff!
3. Newsletter Name Contest
4. Thank You Capital Medical Society Foundation
5. SportsAbility in Tallahassee, April 21-22
6. TCB Makes Spring Cleaning Easy
7. News From DBS District II
8. Join FIRE’s Phone Chat
9. New FIRE Guide Dog Group
10. Top Ten Ways to Ruin Your Cane

1. “State of Vision” License Plate
To support organizations serving the blind, State Senator Carey Baker, R-Eustis, and State Representative Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, introduced legislation that would create a specialty license plate called “A State of Vision.” The tag features a lighthouse and a shining beacon, in front of a colorful sky with water below.

The $25 annual fee for the plate would benefit the Florida Association of Agencies Serving the Blind (FAASB), which consists of 15 agencies across the state, including FIRE. After expenses to create the tag are paid, the $25 revenue would provide funding for direct services to the blind through FAASB agencies.

“These agencies that serve directly to blind people are usually struggling to survive,” said Baxley, who is the primary sponsor of the legislation, inspired by his adopted son, Jeffrey. At the age of 8 months, Jeffery lost his vision due to shaken baby syndrome. His father reports that Jeffrey, now a 19-year-old senior at The Fla. School for the Deaf and Blind, is doing well.

The legislation for the specialty tag has already passed through the necessary committees. It is ready for a vote on both the House and the Senate floors when the session begins in March. It is almost sure to pass, and the new license plates would be available within a year.

2. Welcome to Our New Staff!
We are delighted to welcome two new staff members to FIRE—Eva and Nancy, who both started on January 17, and are now trained and ready to go!

Eva McElvy, Independent Living Specialist, came to FIRE from Easter Seals, with a background in assisting people with disabilities. She is a mother of two girls, age 8 and 22. A native of Tampa, she has lived in Tallahassee for 14 years. She loves gardening, camping, traveling, art, music and having fun.

Nancy Krivit, MSW, Independent Living Specialist, has already had a long career both as a counselor and as an administrator, and is enjoying working directly with people again. A proud grandmother of five (two of whom are in college), she insists she was a mother at age six. And the tradition of FIRE humor continues!

3. Newsletter Name Contest
Have a catchy or interesting name for FIRE’s newsletter? We are looking to the community for your suggestions! You are welcome to call 942-3658 with an idea or email possible names to Fireinformation

4. Thank You Capital Medical Society Foundation
Ever wondered how FIRE is able to provide medical-related blindness aids? Thanks to a grant from the Capital Medical Society Foundation, some clients who are on fixed incomes and cannot otherwise afford it will be able to receive:
• Canes to assist in preventing falls and injury
• Magnifiers to help read prescription bottles, medication instructions and food labels
• Talking watches and clocks to help take prescriptions on time and keep medical appointments
• Medical talking equipment such as thermometers or glucose monitors
Thank you Capital Medical Society Foundation!

5. SportsAbility in Tallahassee, April 21-22
SportsAbility is the premier event of the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association (FDOA). This two day event is about enhancing the lives of people with disabilities by promoting active living. SportsAbility provides first hand access to resources and demonstrations of activities designed to encourage participation regardless of age or ability level. There is no charge for the event.

Friday’s festivities (4/21) will be held at Tallahassee Community College Lifetime Sports Complex which will include a resource expo AND indoor sports and leisure such as basketball, tennis, dancing and more. Saturday’s activities (4/22) will be held at the Florida State University’s Seminole Reservation and will included the gamut of outdoor recreation activities, including sit-waterskiing, pontoon boat rides, kayaking, ATV rides, Seadoo rides, horseback riding, volleyball and fishing.

People that attend SportsAbility learn about the value of recreation and active leisure for everyone – especially people with disabilities. People discover the latest in equipment, trends, and resources. This event provides an opportunity for people to network with people with disabilities, resource providers, and community organizations.

For more info, visit the FDOA website at

6. TCB Makes Spring Cleaning Easy
It’s Spring cleaning time! Do you have things that are taking up space that you never use? Get rid of them AND do some good by donating them to the Tallahassee Council of the Blind's Garage Sale! It will take place on Saturday, April 8th, from 7am until 1pm. If you have items to donate, please label them with a price and bring them to 2201 Limerick Dr. on April 7th, no later than 6pm. The garage sale will take place on the corner of Delaney & Limerick. Everyone is welcome - you never know what treasures you may find! Only one condition—if you bring things to sell you MUST take them with you if they do not sell. Thanks!

7. News From DBS District II
First and foremost the DBS District II staff would like to wish everyone a Happy and Prosperous Year. Over the past months, the district has been engaged in several activities such as our Open House which was hosted in October 2005 during vision awareness month. On January 19-21, District II attended the Florida Rehab Council Forum. Once again this provided the District with information that we hope we can use towards better service provision.

Since then we have had the pleasure of putting together our 2nd Annual Employment Training Workshop for VR participants seeking employment, held 1/25-26. The first day the workshop covered interviewing techniques, job applications, job search, resume writing techniques, and professional work ethics/behavior. The second day included mock interviews and feedback.

In conclusion, we are looking forward to this Spring and Summer, as we have begun preparations for our one-day Middle School Enrichment Program and our four-week Summer Transition Program.

8. Join FIRE’s Phone Chat
With a service area of 11 counties, FIRE has had to think outside the box (or building) in order to provide support to folks who live outside Leon County. With little or no public transportation available, it is often impossible for clients to come to Tallahassee to attend the support groups offered here. To deal with this issue, clients anywhere in the Big Bend can call a toll-free number once a month and be connected to the FIRE conference call, which is facilitated by a member of the FIRE team. Different topics are discussed, along with anything callers may wish to bring up. Participants share resources to help each other with various issues. This priceless peer support, provided without anyone leaving the comfort of their favorite chair, has given the group a permanent home over the FIRE phone lines. Please join us!
WHEN: 2nd Mondays, 10-11am (3/13, 4/10, 5/8)
DIAL: 1(888)296-6500; code 187074

9. New FIRE Guide Dog Group

The first FIRE Guide Dog Group met on 1/26/06 at City Hall. After introductions, the participants shared information about grooming tips, food, obedience and play, and favorite and least favorite things about having a guide dog. Possible topics for the future were discussed.

Meetings will be held on the fourth Thursday of each month, in the Tallahassee Room of City Hall. The meeting time will be from 6:00 – 7:30pm.

The FIRE Guide Dog Group is open to all FIRE and DBS clients who are past, present, or future guide dog owners. Please come, share your experiences and ideas, and help us plan for the future. Feel free to bring snacks. (There are also vending machines near the meeting room.) We hope to see you 3/23, 4/27 & 5/25.

10. Top Ten Ways to Ruin Your Cane

10. Use it as a marshmallow roasting stick
9. Play tug-o-war or fetch with your dog
8. Use it as an oil dip stick for your car
7. Pole vault with it
6. Use it as a cooking utensil
5. Stick it between the spokes of a moving bicycle
4. Use it to practice fencing or sword fighting
3. Leave it in your driveway as a speed bump
2. Throw it like a boomerang
And the number one way to ruin your cane…
1. Use it as a lightening rod!

Page updated 10/1/2008

For free services, please call FIRE at (850) 942-3658 or toll-free at (888) 827-6033. You can also email FIRE at