Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities

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October is Disability Employment Awareness Month

On October 11, APD celebrated Disability Employment Awareness Month by co-hosting the 14th annual Disability Employment Awareness Celebration. The event, which APD hosted in collaboration with Blind Services and Vocational Rehabilitation, was held at Tallahassee City Hall.

About 200 people attended this year’s celebration, which was open to the public. Attendees included Rocky Hanna, Mayor Dailey, Mayor Pro Tem Curtis Richardson, and other state leaders. Mayor Dailey spoke at the event, as did leaders from APD, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Vocational Rehabilitation, and ABLE United. Other speakers included Lively Technical College Office Assistant Jeremy Richard, Millennium Nail & Day Spa Trainee Torey Roberts, and Cayer Behavioral Group Office Assistant Connor Yeatts, who shared what having a job means to them.

Twelve companies from across the state were recognized with Exceptional Employer Awards for their strong commitment to hiring and retaining people with unique abilities. This year’s ceremony recognized the following employers:

  • Aramark Dining Services at Jacksonville University
  • Army and Air Force Exchange Service
  • Bob’s Space Racers
  • Chartwells at the University of Miami
  • Cleveland Clinic Martin Health
  • The Home Depot
  • Florida Department of Revenue
  • Golden Corral
  • The Chocolate Spectrum
  • Wawa, Inc.
  • ZVRS of Clearwater

These employers each received commemorative plaques that were donated by RESPECT of Florida and made by people with disabilities, who also presented them to the winners at the ceremony.

APD Director Barbara Palmer explained why it’s so important to recognize these employers and their contributions: “These business leaders know that individuals with unique abilities are some of the most dependable employees within their organization. We are trying to spread the word that hiring a person with a disability makes good business sense.”

This year’s event may be over, but there are still plenty of ways that you can join us in celebrating Disability Employment Awareness Month:


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The Champion, November Issue

November is a time when people begin thinking about delicious turkey, dressing, and all the other wonderful food associated with Thanksgiving Day in America. It is also a time when I think about all the things I am thankful for in my personal and professional life.

Here at the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) we have much for which to be thankful. We had a very successful October celebrating Disability Employment Awareness Month. We had a great event recognizing businesses that are committed to hiring people with disabilities (see story below). There were Disability Mentoring Day activities around the state too. I enjoy talking to and reading about our customers’ successes on the job. It is another great reason why we do what we do.

Working with our stakeholders, APD has been able to offer waiver enrollment to 1,200 people this year. I am extremely thankful to Governor Rick Scott and the Legislature for recommending and supporting the $20 million in additional money so we could enroll new individuals into the Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services waiver. Added to the $36 million the agency received last fiscal year to offer enrollment to 1,600 people, we have been able to see tremendous movement in people moving off the APD Medicaid waiver waiting list.

This year, Florida became the first state in the country to offer reciprocity to military members being transferred to Florida who have a family member receiving waiver services in another state. We are now able to provide continuity of services to those family members who in the past would have gone on the waiting list when moving to Florida. Addressing the needs of people on the waiting list is a top priority of mine, so these successes make me thankful.

Certainly, the agency has had numerous challenges. We have been able to overcome them and continue to move forward. Our job is to ensure that people with developmental disabilities have the services they need to participate in their local communities. We all know there is more demand than resources. With all of us working together, we have been able to meet the agency’s mission. Success is a team sport, so thank you for all that you do to ensure the success of Floridians with developmental disabilities.

I hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving.

–Director Barbara Palmer

For more stories from The Champion, please visit http://apdcares.org/champion/

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Disability Employment Awareness Month Resolution

WHEREAS, Florida’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities provides services to more than 50,000 Floridians with developmental disabilities annually so they can live and work in their local communities; and

WHEREAS, Florida’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Blind Services programs within the Department of Education, assist people with disabilities so they may become employed; and

WHEREAS, Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity, through Career Centers, help people with disabilities, including veterans, locate jobs; and

WHEREAS, these four programs have had an overwhelming impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of citizens with disabilities by offering services including job placement, training, support services, and job coaching; and

WHEREAS, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities has assisted 3,581 Floridians with disabilities with maintaining gainful employment, and Vocational Rehabilitation assisted 7,214  people, and Blind Services helped 713 individuals with achieving their employment goals last year; and

WHEREAS, The Able Trust, also known as the Florida Endowment Foundation for Vocational Rehabilitation, has awarded more than $29 million in grants to organizations throughout Florida, enabling thousands of Florida’s citizens with disabilities to enter the workforce; and

WHEREAS, Florida has the third largest population of disabled veterans in the nation with more than 272,000, including more than 2,500 wounded Floridians from service in Afghanistan and Iraq; and

WHEREAS, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Department of Economic Opportunity are working together to find employment opportunities for veterans with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Vocational Rehabilitation, Blind Services, Department of Economic Opportunity, Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and The Able Trust have substantially contributed to the tax revenues of Florida by helping individuals with disabilities go to work, thus enabling many to leave public assistance and become taxpaying citizens; and

WHEREAS, Florida’s Disability Mentoring Day is hosted on October 15th which provides mentoring and job shadowing employment opportunities for students and job seekers with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, Florida joins the rest of the Nation in recognizing the contributions of the 5.7 million Floridians with disabilities by celebrating October 2014, as Disability Employment Awareness Month with the theme Abilities Work.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Governor and Cabinet of the State of Florida do hereby recognize October 2014, as


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Cabinet to Declare Disability Employment Month

TALLAHASSEE, FL— Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi will introduce a resolution at tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting declaring October as Disability Employment Awareness Month in Florida.

Department of Health employee, Jonathan Show, will address Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet on the importance of including people with disabilities in the workforce.

The Cabinet meeting will begin at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, September 23, in the Cabinet meeting room on the lower level of the Capitol Building.

Along with Show, leaders from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Vocational Rehabilitation, Blind Services, Veterans’ Affairs, Governor’s Commission on Jobs for Floridians with Disabilities, and the Able Trust will be there to accept the resolution.

The Agency for Persons with Disabilities supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn, and work in their communities.  The agency annually serves more than 50,000 Floridians with autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, and Prader-Willi syndrome. For more information about the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, visit APDcares.org or call toll-free 1‑866‑APD‑CARES (1‑866‑273‑2273).

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Nominate an Exceptional Employer Today!

The Agency for Persons with Disabilities is looking for businesses that are committed to employing individuals with disabilities. The agency is accepting nominations of outstanding businesses from across the state until August 23. To submit a nomination, visit APDcares.org to complete the form. APD and other disability agencies will recognize the winning employers on Wednesday, October 9. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

The awards event will be held at the Tallahassee City Commission Chambers, 300 South Adams Street. Information displays will be in the Second Floor Mezzanine beginning at 8:30. The employer recognition will begin at 9:30 a.m. Some of the organizations participating are Vocational Rehabilitation, Blind Services, Able Trust, Veterans’ Affairs, City of Tallahassee, and the Department of Economic Opportunity.

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Hard work pays off for young Miami woman

By Hillary Jackson and Jeff Saulich, Special to the Democrat, Tallahassee Democrat, Oct 29, 2012 

 Yaneris Alonso

  MIAMI — Yaneris Alonso is a 25-year-old woman who dreams big and has the courage to make her dreams a reality.

 After facing a personal tragedy involving the loss of her mother and brother, Alonso decided to focus on her future and that of her young daughter. Within two years, the Miami woman obtained a GED and a vocational certificate, completed an internship and secured full-time employment in a Miami hospital.

 Alonso has a developmental disability and receives services from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, when APD and other state agencies highlight Floridians with disabilities who are successfully employed in their communities.

 At the end of 2010, Alonso wanted to improve her life and spelled out her objectives very clearly. They included obtaining a GED, going to school and getting a job. With the assistance of Luis Blandon, her supported living coach who is funded by APD, Alonso enrolled in GED classes at Lindsey Hopkins Technical Education Center in Miami.

 The counselor there told her about other options and explained that Alonso was qualified to enter the dietary aid program, which would allow her to learn a trade quickly and build a foundation for the discipline necessary to study for the GED. Alonso considered this option carefully and decided to give it try.

 Alonso woke up early, went to classes every day, did her homework and studied very hard for her tests.

 She graduated in December 2011, completed an internship at Palm Springs General Hospital in Hialeah and earned her certificate in nutrition and dietetic services.

 With certificate in hand, Alonso landed a job in the Food and Nutrition Department of the University of Miami Hospital.

 “I feel very proud and happy to have a job,” Alonso says. “I had been looking for a job for a long time and I was about to give up, but something told me to keep going and finally they called me.”

 As a trayline worker, Alonso performs a variety of duties including preparing the food trays and serving meals to hospital patients. She enjoys taking the skills she acquired in school, putting them into practice and earning money for it.

 “My job makes me feel very proud that I am doing something good for me,” says Alonso.

 Her supervisor, Stefanie Thompson, says Alonso pays attention to details, always has a positive attitude at work and is very sociable and compassionate with the patients.

 Thompson says that Alonso excels at her duties and that hiring her was a good decision.

 “This has been a very positive experience for Yaneris, because it has helped her gain self-confidence and she feels very valued,” says Blandon. “Her self-esteem was very low, but going to work and having a purpose has changed her life for the better.”

 APD supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn and work in their communities. The agency annually serves more than 50,000 Floridians with autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome. For more information about the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, visit APDcares.org or call toll-free 1-866-273-2273.

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Baptist looks forward to buying a home, freedom

By Kimberly Tharpe, Special to the Democrat, Oct 29, 2012


 Terry Baptist

From left, Chris Starke, Rachel Sabo and Terry Baptist

 ST. PETERSBURG — Terry Baptist, 43, who is employed at Tradewinds Resort in St. Petersburg, had a specific goal in mind when he started his job in 2008. He wanted to get his driver’s license and purchase a car. Baptist has achieved those goals and many others in the last four years. He has worked diligently to improve his living environment, as well as his finances.

 Baptist, who has autism and other disabilities, receives services from Florida’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and APD is showcasing the workplace achievements of people with disabilities and celebrating the employers that hire them.

 With the assistance of his live-in support provider, Deborah Evans, and supported living service provider, Chris Starke, Baptist was able to obtain intensive dental services donated by the University of Florida and the Special Day Foundation. UF dental hygienist Rachel Sabo visits Baptist on a monthly basis to make sure that he is maintaining proper dental hygiene. Through the guidance of his support team and his own drive towards independence, Baptist is learning to pay monthly bills and is well on the road to becoming more self-sufficient.

 “Terry is diligent at what he does and doesn’t stop until the job is done,” said chef Justin Harry at Tradewinds Resort.

 Baptist’s supervisor, Henry Harden, agrees.

 “Terry is very good at his job. He is focused and always on time. He’s just one of the regular guys,” Harden said.

 Because of his exemplary work at Tradewinds Resort, Baptist’s hours have increased to four days a week and he is now a valued permanent employee. When asked why he likes to work, Baptist replied, “It puts money in my pocket and I have co-workers that are my friends.”

 His long range goal is to purchase a home. “I don’t want to have to keep paying rent the rest of my life,” said Baptist.

 He also has a keen interest in environment sustainability and is always looking for ways to protect, recycle and reuse resources.

 In his free time, Baptist enjoys building model cars, playing video games, and watching documentaries and NASCAR races.

 APD supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn and work in their communities. The agency annually serves more than 50,000 Floridians with the developmental disabilities of autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, intellectual disabilities, spina bifida and Prader-Willi syndrome. To learn more about the agency, call 1-866-273-2273 or visit APDcares.org.