413.011 Division of Blind Services, legislative policy, intent; internal organizational structure and powers; Rehabilitation Council for the Blind.—
(1) POLICY.—It is the policy of the Legislature that all programs, projects, and activities of the division are to be carried out in a manner consistent with the following principles:
(a) Respect for individual dignity, personal responsibility, self-determination to live independently, and pursuit of meaningful careers, based on informed choice;
(b) Support for the involvement of an individual’s representative if an individual requests, desires, or needs such support;
(c) Respect for the individual’s privacy and equal access, including the use of information in accessible formats; and
(d) Integration and full participation of individuals who are blind in society on equal terms with others.
(2) PROGRAM OF SERVICES.—It is the intent of the Legislature to establish a coordinated program of services which will be available to individuals throughout this state who are blind. The program must be designed to maximize employment opportunities for such individuals and to increase their independence and self-sufficiency.
(3) DIVISION STRUCTURE AND DUTIES.—The internal organizational structure of the Division of Blind Services shall be designed for the purpose of ensuring the greatest possible efficiency and effectiveness of services to the blind and to be consistent with chapter 20. The Division of Blind Services shall plan, supervise, and carry out the following activities:
(a) Recommend personnel as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of this section.
(b) Develop and implement a state plan for vocational rehabilitation services for individuals who are blind, pursuant to s. 101 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.
(c) In conjunction with the Florida Independent Living Council, develop and implement a 3-year state plan for independent living services and provide independent living services for blind and visually impaired individuals, including services for older individuals who are blind, pursuant to Title VII, chapter 2 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.
(d) Provide services that contribute to the maintenance of or the increased independence of older individuals who are blind.
(e) Establish, equip, and maintain an orientation and adjustment center or centers to provide independent living skills training and other training such as, but not limited to, instruction in braille; use of the long white cane for independent travel; homemaking and home-management skills; and communication skills, including the use of computer technology, to prepare individuals who are blind or visually impaired for eventual vocational training, job placement, and independence.
(f) Establish and implement a small business enterprises program and serve as the state licensing agency for individuals who are blind, pursuant to the federal Randolph-Sheppard Act.
(g) Purchase and distribute specialized equipment, devices, and technology, including low-vision aids, obtained directly from specialty vendors without using state centralized purchasing procedures.
(h) In cooperation with the Library of Congress, provide library services to persons who are blind and persons who have other print-related disabilities.
(i) In cooperation with other appropriate agencies, provide to employers, the state education agency, and local education agencies technical assistance in the provision of auxiliary aids and services to people who are blind, students, and their parents in complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as amended.
(j) Provide technical assistance to agencies within the state in order to assure that information technology purchased or used by such agencies is accessible to and usable by individuals who are blind, at the time the technology is purchased or used.
(k) Participate, through the designation of the director or an appropriate staff member of the division, on boards, commissions, or bodies in this state for the purpose of coordinating and planning services.
(l) Adopt rules for administering the programs of the division.
(m) Apply for and receive money from any state or federal agency to support the programs of the division.
(n) Develop and administer any other program that will further the provision of services to people who are blind and that the division determines falls within its scope of responsibility.
(o) Inquire into the cause of blindness, inaugurate preventive measures, and provide for the examination and treatment of the blind, or those threatened with blindness, for the benefit of such persons, and shall pay therefor, including necessary incidental expenses.
(p) Aid the blind in finding employment, teach them trades and occupations within their capacities, assist them in disposing of products made by them in home industries, assist them in obtaining funds for establishing enterprises where federal funds reimburse the state, and do such things as will contribute to the efficiency of self-support of the blind.
(q) Establish one or more training schools and workshops for the employment of suitable blind persons; make expenditures of funds for such purposes; receive moneys from sales of commodities involved in such activities and from such funds make payments of wages, repairs, insurance premiums, and replacements of equipment. All of the activities provided for in this section may be carried on in cooperation with private workshops for the blind, except that all tools and equipment furnished by the division shall remain the property of the state.
(r) Provide special services and benefits for the blind for developing their social life through community activities and recreational facilities.
(s) Undertake such other activities as may ameliorate the condition of blind citizens of this state.
(t) Cooperate with other agencies, public or private, especially the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress and the Division of Library and Information Services of the Department of State, to provide library service to persons with visual, physical, or reading disabilities as defined in federal law and regulations in carrying out any or all of the provisions of this law.
(u) Recommend contracts and agreements with federal, state, county, municipal and private corporations, and individuals.
(v) Receive moneys or properties by gift or bequest from any person, firm, corporation, or organization for any of the purposes herein set out, but without authority to bind the state to any expenditure or policy except such as may be specifically authorized by law. All such moneys or properties so received by gift or bequest as herein authorized may be disbursed and expended by the division upon its own warrant for any of the purposes herein set forth, and such moneys or properties shall not constitute or be considered a part of any legislative appropriation made by the state for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of this law.
(w) Prepare and make available to the blind, in braille and on electronic recording equipment, Florida Statutes chapters 20, 120, 121, and 413, in their entirety.
(x) Adopt by rule:
1. Procedures for providing vocational rehabilitation services for the blind; and
2. Instructions to be used by the division in its general administration.
(4) DEFINITIONS.—As used in this section, the term:
(a) “Act,” unless the context indicates otherwise, means the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. ss. 701-797.
(b) “Blind” or “blindness” means the condition of any person for whom blindness is a disability as defined by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. s. 706(8)(b).
(c) “Department” means the Department of Education.
(5) CHILDREN’S PROGRAM.—There is created within the Division of Blind Services a children’s program to serve children who are blind from 5 years of age through transition to the Vocational Rehabilitation Program. This program must supplement services already offered by the school system to foster the child’s learning and ability to function independently. The child’s parents, guardian, and family members should be an integral part of the program in order to foster independence.
(6) FUNDING.—A state agency may use funds from all possible sources to make accommodations for individuals who are blind.
(7) EMPLOYMENT SCREENING.—The division shall require all employees and applicants for employment to undergo personnel screening and security background investigations as provided in chapter 435, using the level 2 standards for screening set forth in that chapter, as a condition of employment and continued employment. All division employees and applicants for employment must meet level 2 screening standards as provided in s. 435.04 prior to employment and as a condition of continued employment.
(8) REHABILITATION COUNCIL FOR THE BLIND.—There is created in the department the Rehabilitation Council for the Blind, which is an advisory council as defined in s. 20.03, to assist the division in the planning and development of statewide vocational rehabilitation programs and services pursuant to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, to recommend improvements to such programs and services, and to perform the functions provided in this section.
(a) The advisory council shall be composed of:
1. At least one representative of the Independent Living Council, which representative may be the chair or other designee of the council;
2. At least one representative of a parent training and information center established pursuant to s. 631(c)(9) of the Individuals with Disabilities Act, 20 U.S.C. s. 1431(c)(9);
3. At least one representative of the client assistance program established under the act;
4. At least one vocational rehabilitation counselor who has knowledge of and experience in vocational rehabilitation services for the blind, who shall serve as an ex officio nonvoting member of the council if the counselor is an employee of the department;
5. At least one representative of community rehabilitation program service providers;
6. Four representatives of business, industry, and labor;
7. At least one representative of a disability advocacy group representing individuals who are blind;
8. At least one parent, family member, guardian, advocate, or authorized representative of an individual who is blind, has multiple disabilities, and either has difficulties representing himself or herself or is unable, due to disabilities, to represent himself or herself;
9. Current or former applicants for, or recipients of, vocational rehabilitation services; and
10. The director of the division, who shall be an ex officio member of the council.
(b) Members of the council shall be appointed by the Governor, who shall select members after soliciting recommendations from representatives of organizations representing a broad range of individuals who have disabilities, and organizations interested in those individuals.
(c) A majority of council members shall be persons who are:
1. Blind; and
2. Not employed by the division.
(d) The council shall select a chair from among its membership.
(e) Each member of the council shall serve for a term of not more than 3 years, except that:
1. A member appointed to fill a vacancy occurring prior to the expiration of the term for which a predecessor was appointed shall be appointed for the remainder of such term; and
2. The terms of service of the members initially appointed shall be, as specified by the Governor, for such fewer number of years as will provide for the expiration of terms on a staggered basis.
(f) A member of the council may not serve more than two consecutive full terms.
(g) Any vacancy occurring in the membership of the council shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointment. A vacancy does not affect the power of the remaining members to execute the duties of the council.
(h) In addition to the other functions specified in this section, the council shall:
1. Review, analyze, and advise the division regarding the performance of the responsibilities of the division under Title I of the act, particularly responsibilities relating to:
a. Eligibility, including order of selection;
b. The extent, scope, and effectiveness of services provided; and
c. Functions performed by state agencies that affect or potentially affect the ability of individuals who are blind to achieve rehabilitation goals and objectives under Title I.
2. Advise the department and the division, and, at the discretion of the department or division, assist in the preparation of applications, the state plan, the strategic plan, and amendments to the plans, reports, needs assessments, and evaluations required by Title I.
3. To the extent feasible, conduct a review and analysis of the effectiveness of, and consumer satisfaction with:
a. The functions performed by state agencies and other public and private entities responsible for performing functions for individuals who are blind.
b. Vocational rehabilitation services:
(I) Provided or paid for from funds made available under the act or through other public or private sources.
(II) Provided by state agencies and other public and private entities responsible for providing vocational rehabilitation services to individuals who are blind.
4. Prepare and submit an annual report on the status of vocational rehabilitation services for the blind in the state to the Governor and the Commissioner of the Rehabilitative Services Administration, established under s. 702 of the act, and make the report available to the public.
5. Coordinate with other councils within the state, including the Independent Living Council, the advisory panel established under s. 613(a)(12) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 1413(a)(12), the State Planning Council described in s. 124 of the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. s. 6024, and the state mental health planning council established under s. 1916(e) of the Public Health Service Act, 42 U.S.C. 300X-4(e).
6. Advise the department and division and provide for coordination and the establishment of working relationships among the department, the division, the Independent Living Council, and centers for independent living in the state.
7. Perform such other functions consistent with the purposes of the act as the council determines to be appropriate that are comparable to functions performed by the council.
(i)1. The council shall prepare, in conjunction with the division, a plan for the provision of such resources, including such staff and other personnel, as may be necessary to carry out the functions of the council. The resource plan shall, to the maximum extent possible, rely on the use of resources in existence during the period of implementation of the plan.
2. If there is a disagreement between the council and the division in regard to the resources necessary to carry out the functions of the council as set forth in this section, the disagreement shall be resolved by the Governor.
3. The council shall, consistent with law, supervise and evaluate such staff and other personnel as may be necessary to carry out its functions.
4. While assisting the council in carrying out its duties, staff and other personnel shall not be assigned duties by the division or any other state agency or office that would create a conflict of interest.
(j) A council member may not cast a vote on any matter that would provide direct financial benefit to the member or otherwise give the appearance of a conflict of interest under state law.
(k) The council shall convene at least four meetings each year. These meetings shall occur in such places as the council deems necessary to conduct council business. The council may conduct such forums or hearings as the council considers appropriate. The meetings, hearings, and forums shall be publicly announced. The meetings shall be open and accessible to the public. The council shall make a report of each meeting which shall include a record of its discussions and recommendations, all of which reports shall be made available to the public.
History.—s. 1, ch. 20714, 1941; s. 1, ch. 21779, 1943; ss. 20, 34, ch. 26937, 1951; s. 1, ch. 61-210; s. 19, ch. 63-400; s. 1, ch. 67-463; ss. 10, 19, 35, ch. 69-106; s. 116, ch. 71-355; s. 157, ch. 71-377; s. 2, ch. 77-259; s. 4, ch. 78-323; ss. 1, 2, 3, ch. 81-58; ss. 1, 4, ch. 82-46; s. 2, ch. 83-265; s. 66, ch. 86-163; s. 2, ch. 88-303; s. 1, ch. 91-12; s. 10, ch. 91-49; ss. 1, 2, 3, ch. 91-52; s. 5, ch. 91-429; s. 8, ch. 95-327; s. 263, ch. 96-406; s. 1028, ch. 97-103; s. 2, ch. 98-19; s. 2, ch. 98-149; s. 7, ch. 2004-331.