The Champion Newsletter
In This Issue:

  • Message from the Director
  • Developmental Disabilities Month
  • Transportation Disadvantaged Day
  • Summary of Legislative Bills affecting People with Disabilities
  • 25th Anniversary of the ADA
  • Spring Forward

    By Barbara Palmer
    APD Director Barbara Palmer

    As we spring forward into April, we welcome the halfway point of the Florida Legislative Session. It is a very exciting time for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD).  The agency is receiving widespread support from both the House and Senate. There are many proposals this session, including the budget, which will benefit individuals with disabilities. I want to thank Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli for making Economic Independence for People with Unique Abilities one of their Joint Priorities for the 2015 Legislative Session.

    It has been wonderful how self-advocates, providers, families, stakeholders, associations, and others are all working together to advocate for those with disabilities. I want to extend my appreciation to everyone for this positive collaboration which is helping APD achieve its goals for this session.

    We understand that many things will change as the session progresses.  We are keeping a close eye on the Senate’s budget proposal that provides $40 million to enroll individuals from the waiting list into the Home and Community-Based Services Medicaid waiver. If approved, it will fund services for many individuals on the waiting list.

    I always enjoy having the opportunity to promote APD and the great things being accomplished by the people we serve. I have been busy walking the halls of the Capitol talking about the successes enjoyed by our APD customers. With all this positive momentum, I am excited about what will be decided when session ends with the drop of the handkerchief in May to benefit our customers.



    Developmental Disabilities Month

    Opens in New Window

    March was a very busy month for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) filled with lots of important activities. Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet proclaimed March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month at their meeting on March 7.  APD customer Talmadge Morton addressed the Cabinet to share the many challenges he has faced in his life, and the importance of his job working at the Florida Department of Revenue, Division of Child Support Enforcement.  Disability stakeholders joined APD in accepting the resolution sponsored by Attorney General Pam Bondi.

    Opens in New Window

    March 10 was Developmental Disabilities Day at the Capitol. APD joined the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council and The Arc of Florida to sponsor the activities for the day. Exhibits were on display in the second floor Capitol Rotunda. A news conference was held with Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera and many other legislators serving as key note speakers.  During the news conference, Panama City resident Amanda Baker received the sixth annual Idelio Valdes Leadership and Advocacy award. Baker was honored for her exemplary personal achievements and efforts to promote disability awareness throughout her community. Also, RESPECT of Florida awarded a grant to Moira Rossi of Jacksonville to start her own video production company which will focus on issues related to people with disabilities.

    Opens in New Window

    APD Director Barbara Palmer concluded the news conference with a cheer urging self-advocates to Never, Never Give Up! She received a standing ovation.





    Transportation Disadvantaged Day

    Opens in New Window

    On March 3, the Florida Association of Coordinated Transportation Systems (FACTS) hosted Transportation Disadvantaged Day (TD Day) at the Capitol. TD Day builds legislative awareness and support for the Florida’s Coordinated Transportation Program.

    The event featured several keynote speakers: Executive Director of the Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged Steve Holmes; Chairman of the Transportation Disadvantaged Commission David Darm; Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jim Boxold; and Wakulla County Commissioner Jerry Moore.  All speakers emphasized the importance to speak to their legislators about the transportation issues that affect them; to advocate for this key service as customers and providers.

    Opens in New Window

    The Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) was represented by Melanie Mowry Etters, Christine Call, and Kimberly Tharpe from the Communications Office, and Kent Carroll from the Programs Office. Transportation is an ongoing issue for disadvantaged individuals. Access to quality and reliable transportation is vital for individuals with developmental disabilities to live, learn, and work in their communities.

    Participants were treated to several performances including a beautiful rendition of the national anthem, the Pyramid Studios dancers, and the Gretchen Everhart School Performing Arts Ensemble.



    Summary of Legislative Bills Related to People with Disabilities

    By Robert Brown

    SB 7048 - Relating to Developmental Disabilities by Children, Families, and Elder Affairs CoSponsors: Detert
    This bill requires the Agency for Persons Disabilities to revise the priority order for the waiver services for specified children which are otherwise not available to them. This bill will establish requirements for children and certain young adults with a category 2 priority. Effective Date: 7/1/2015.

    SB 7022 - Relating to Individuals With Disabilities by Governmental Oversight and Accountability Cosponsors: Galvano, Hukill, Fiscal Policy
    This is a committee bill for individuals with disabilities. The bill revises definitions and defines the term “individual who has a disability”. The bill revises the state’s equal employment opportunity policy to include individuals who have a disability and requires each executive agency to annually report to the Department of Management Services regarding the agency’s progress in increasing employment among certain underrepresented groups. The bill requires the department to develop and implement certain programs geared toward individuals who have a disability. Effective Date: 7/1/2015.

    SB 380 - Relating to Persons with Developmental Disabilities by Bradley
    This bill requires the Agency for Persons with Disabilities to allow an applicant whose parent or guardian is a member of the United States Armed Forces or the Florida National Guard to receive Medicaid home and community-based waiver program services under certain conditions. Effective Date: 7/1/2015

    Comparative Bill
    HB 177 - Relating to Persons with Developmental Disabilities by Hill

    SB 848 - Relating to Employment of Individuals With Disabilities by Richter, CS Sponsors: Governmental Oversight and Accountability
    This bill creates the "Employment First Act" and requires specified state agencies and organizations to develop and implement an interagency cooperative agreement. The bill requires the interagency cooperative agreement to provide the roles, responsibilities, and objectives of state agencies and organizations. Effective Date: 7/1/2015

    Similar Bill
    HB 1083 - Relating to Employment Opportunities for Persons With Disabilities by Rooney

    SB 330 – Relating to Missing Persons With Special Needs by Dean, CS Sponsors: Criminal Justice
    This bill provides for immunity from civil liability for certain persons who comply with a request to release information concerning missing persons with special needs to appropriate agencies. The bill provides for a presumption that a person recording, reporting, transmitting, displaying, or releasing such information acted in good faith.  An additional amendment is being crafted to make these electronic devices available by drawing down federal funding for this purpose.  Effective Date: 7/1/2015

    Identical Bill
    HB 69 – Relating to Missing Persons With Special Needs by Porter

    SB 496 – Relating to Guardians by Detert, CS Sponsors: Children, Families, and Elder Affairs, Judiciary
    This bill creates a process to identify guardians and guardian advocates for children with developmental disabilities or incapacity and are in need of guardianship beyond their 18th birthday. The bill requires the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to create updated case plans developed in face-to-face conferences with a child and other specified persons, when appropriate. The bill authorizes the probate court to initiate proceedings for the minor and provide all due process rights conferred upon an adult. It also allows the child’s parents to be considered as natural guardians unless the dependency or probate court determines it is not in the child’s best interest or the parents’ rights have been terminated.  Effective Date: 7/1/2015

    Similar Bill
    HB 437 – Relating to Guardians for Dependent Children Who are Developmentally Disabled or Incapacitated by Adkins

    SB 152 – Relating to Disability Awareness by Ring, CS Sponsors: Education Pre-K - 12
    This bill requires rather than authorizes, each district school board to provide disability history and awareness instruction in all K-12 public schools beginning in 2016-2017. Presentations by individuals with a disability are to be included in the disability history and awareness instruction.  The bill also requires each public school to establish a disability history and awareness advisory council; providing membership on the council; providing responsibilities of the council; providing meeting times for the council.  Effective Date: Upon becoming a law

    Similar Bill
    HB 123 – Relating to Disability Awareness by Cores (J)

    SB 576 – Relating to Land  Acquisition Trust Fund/Agency for Persons With Disabilities by Dean
    This bill creates the Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) within the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD). This trust fund is established as a depository for funds received from the LATF within the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Expenditure of the funds in the LATF within APD must be for the purposes specified in article X, section 28 of the Florida Constitution.  Effective Date: 7/1/2015

    Comparative Bill
    SB 2502 – Relating Implementing the General Appropriations Act by Appropriations

    SB 642 – Relating to Individuals With Disabilities by Benacquisto, CoSponsors: Sobel and Banking and Insurance
    This bill creates the Florida ABLE program, which would assist individuals with disabilities in saving money without losing their eligibility for state and federal benefits, and thereby providing a pathway for economic independence and a better quality of life. This program was created by the federal Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 (ABLE Act), which authorizes states to establish ABLE programs as an agency or instrumentality of the state or contract with other states to administer such accounts if certain conditions are met. The ABLE accounts resemble in some respects the federal 529-college savings plan that are tax-advantaged savings accounts.  Effective Date: Upon becoming a law

    Similar Bill
    HB 935 – Relating to Individuals with Disabilities by Rodrigues (R)

    SB 602 – Relating to Students With Disabilities by Gaetz, CoSponsors: Galvano and Appropriations
    This bill amends the Florida Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts Program (PLSA) by expanding the pool of eligible students, tightening program accountability requirements, streamlining program implementation, increasing Department of Education (DOE) responsibility to implement the program, and clarifying program implementation.  Effective Date: Upon becoming a law

    Comparative Bill
    HB 7095 – Relating to Florida Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts by Education Committee

    SB 7030 – Relating to Postsecondary Education for Students With Disabilities by Higher Education
    This bill creates the “Florida Postsecondary Comprehensive Transition Program Act”; establishing eligibility requirements for enrollment in the Florida Postsecondary Comprehensive Transition Program. The bill establishes the Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities and establishes a Florida Postsecondary Comprehensive Transition Program Scholarship for certain qualified students.  Effective Date: Upon becoming a law

    Similar Bill
    HB 7091 – Relating to Postsecondary Options for Students With Disabilities by Higher Education & Workforce Subcommittee

    SB 1246 – Relating to Individuals With Disabilities by Detert, CS Sponsors: Fiscal Policy, Commerce and Tourism
    This bill creates the Florida Unique Abilities Partner program to recognize business entities that employ individuals who have a disability, contribute to organizations that support the independence of individuals who have a disability, or establish a program that contributes to the independence of individuals who have a disability.  It states that The Agency for Persons With Disabilities shall provide a link on its website to the department’s website for the Florida Unique Abilities Partner program.  Effective Date: 7/1/2015

    Similar Bill
    HB 7099 – Relating to Individuals With Disabilities by Economic Affairs Committee


    25th Anniversary of the ADA

    On July 24, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) is joining with the City of Tallahassee and other stakeholders to host a 25th Anniversary celebration in Tallahassee.  State and Community leaders will participate in a program from 10-11 a.m. at Tallahassee City Commission Chambers.

    The keynote speaker will be national disability advocate John Kemp who had a role in the creation of the ADA legislation. Initial plans include a huge anniversary cake donated by Publix. Door prizes will be given out at the end of the event including tickets to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium where they filmed Dolphin’s Tale, and Tallahassee Imax tickets. As more details are confirmed, they will be posted on  Please make plans to participate in July.



    Police Donate to Send Needy Families on Vacation

    Opens in New Window

    Members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Lodge Number 5, donated $2,500 to the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) on March 2. Many Lodge members work as officers with the Florida State University (FSU) Police Department.

    FSU Police Chief David Perry presented the check to APD Deputy Director Tom Rankin on FSU’s campus. This is the third year the lodge has made this donation.

    The money will be used to send five families to William J. (Billy Joe) Rish Recreational Park on Cape San Blas for a four day and three night vacation. The money will pay for gasoline to get to the park, food while at the park, and a disposable camera to capture the weekend. The families will be selected from individuals on the APD Medicaid waiver waiting list.

    Rish Park, which originally opened in 1975, is the state’s only park specifically for people with disabilities and is operated by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD). The park is located at 6773 Cape San Blas Road in Gulf County.

    Opens in New Window

    The park is named after former State Representative Billy Joe Rish who was instrumental in securing the land from the federal government in 1968 and designating it for use by people with disabilities. The park is open to visitors with disabilities and their families year round. Those interested in making a reservation, should contact Sunland in Marianna at (850) 482-9386 or visit

    Currently, improvements are being made to Rish Park to increase accessibility on the bayside of the park.



    To Exempt or Not Exempt

    On January 3, 2014, the IRS issued Notice 2014-7 addressing the income tax treatment of certain payments to individual care providers under a state Home and Community-Based Services Waiver (Medicaid waiver) program.

    Providers raised questions not originally included in Notice 2014-7.  For more information including Q & A's please go to:

    Please contact a tax professional for assistance to determine whether or not you are eligible for this exemption.



    All Tied Up

    Opens in New Window

    Brandon Jackson is just getting used to the working world, but he loves it. He landed a permanent job with Macy’s Department Store after participating in a store training program. Jackson is now known as the tie man because his job is to make sure all the ties in the store are displayed correctly.

    Jackson said, “I deal with men’s ties. I display them. I fold and spread them. They get messed up easily all the time. It is fun for me to fix up the ties.”

    Jackson has a developmental disability and is a customer of Florida’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD).

    Jackson’s passion for his job comes through when dealing with coworkers and customers. Men’s Sales Manager Nikki Schmidt said, “You can sense that Brandon wants to work. He has a great attitude. He wants to do the job and do it right. He wants to be sociable and greet customers and he does.”

    Macy’s Chief Stores Operator Peter Sachse visited the Boca Raton store and Jackson was there to greet him. “I got to meet the president of Macy’s. He was nice. He came to visit and I took a picture with him. It was a special treat for me.”

    Jackson says he likes the benefits of working like having money to spend. He has spent some of his paycheck at Macy’s buying clothing for himself and a wallet for his mother.

    Jackson’s duties include meticulously going through 10 tie tables straightening and color coordinating the ties to ensure they are all in order. He repeats that process as customers look at a variety of ties while they shop. He has to go back and fold and organize ties where the customers have been.

    Schmidt said one experience helped her know that she made the right choice in hiring Jackson when a customer asked Jackson a question. He responded initially, then another associate provided additional details. That customer came up to Schmidt and said because Macy’s hires people with disabilities, she was a customer for life.

    In the future, Schmidt says the plan will be to expand Jackson’s duties to include organizing and straightening dress shirts. “We know he will do a good job,” said Schmidt.

    In his free time, Jackson says he likes to participate in Special Olympics swimming and basketball. He recently won a medal in swimming. He also likes to hang out with friends. His favorite activity is bowling where he claims he rolls lots of strikes.



    No Wrong Door System

    The Department of Elder Affairs (DOEA) received a grant in 2014 from the United States Department of Health and Human Services to implement a No Wrong Door System for individuals who are navigating long-term services and supports in Florida. In this initiative, DOEA is partnering with the Agency for Health Care Administration, Department of Children and Families, Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Department of Health, Department of Education, Department of Veterans Affairs, Developmental Disabilities Council, the Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged, and the Florida Association of Area Agencies on Aging, to develop a comprehensive three-year implementation plan. The goal is that Florida will develop a more integrated system that is easier for individuals to learn about and access the services and supports they need, across care settings.

    Because the long-term services and supports system involves multiple funding streams and agencies, locating and accessing this system can be difficult and confusing. To assist in this effort, DOEA and the partnering agencies are conducting a survey to obtain vital input from stakeholders. Stakeholders include service providers and advocates that assist individuals, families and caregivers to access services, and the individuals, families and caregivers themselves.

    Your feedback on calls you have made to APD to get information or services for yourself or someone else is appreciated. This will just take a few minutes, and your answers will help us to improve our services. Your answers are completely confidential and will not in any way affect the services that you are or will be receiving. You can access the survey at the following link:

    For more information about the No Wrong Door System, please visit DOEA’s website at



    Around the State



    Law Enforcement Torch Run

    On April 16, hundreds of law enforcement officers will participate in the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics. Officers and people with disabilities will carry to Torch of Hope to the Capitol for the ceremony.  Attorney General Pam Bondi is the honorary chairman for the Torch Run.

    For those officers interested in running, registration begins at 9 a.m. at the Publix located on the corner of Tharpe and Monroe Streets. The run will start at approximately 10:15 am.  The route is: From the Publix, South on Monroe Street to the Capitol Courtyard. There will be a stop at Monroe and Park Ave.

    The Torch Run ceremony will begin at 11a.m. on the steps of the old Capitol in the Capitol Courtyard. Agency for Persons with Disabilities Director Barbara Palmer will participate in the ceremony.  For more information on the Tallahassee event, please contact Steve Barrow at

    The Torch of Hope will pass through all 67 counties in the state on its way to the Special Olympics State Summer Games at Lake Buena Vista on May 16.



    Annual Walk, Run & Stroll for Cerebral Palsy in the Southern Region

    Opens in New Window

    March is Cerebral Palsy (CP) awareness month.  The Consumer Directed Care Plus (CDC+) families from the Southern Region joined the 1st Annual Walk, Run & Stroll for Cerebral Palsy on March 1 at Coral Reef Park for a nonprofit organization known as Samantha’s Purpose, aka Voices for CP.

    It was a beautiful Sunday morning in the park, participants came in their wheelchairs, walkers, or just trying to walk or stroll as much as they could.  Our team was led by Maria Cabrero who is a participant on the CDC+ program and is also a voice in the Quality Assurance Committee.  After the walk, the families enjoyed a picnic, the Kids Korner and the playground.

    Opens in New Window

    The goal was to raise awareness and funds for CP to support programs that enhance the lives of individuals with CP.  The walk raised $34,450 for children. The Southern Region CDC+ Team raised $225 team led by Ivonne Gonzalez, CDC+ Trainer.

    If you would like to have more information about the CDC+ program, visit or join in one of our Support Group Meetings.  If you would like to know more information about Samantha’s Purpose, visit



    Two hired Through Funding from the Employment Enhancement Plan

    By Katrina Washington

    Can you say employment works? Actually two individuals know firsthand that employment works. Pensacola area residents, Troy Holmes, 34, and William York, 21, are on the Agency for Persons with Disabilities waiting list.  They are also Employment Enhancement Project (EEP) participants.

    The APD Northwest Region was able to build a solid partnership with the Naval Air Station Commissary (NAS) at Corry Station.  The NAS had two available positons for Identification Store Checkers. The positions were listed on a GS-2 pay-scale at $11.17 per hour averaging 25 hours each.  Job Coach Carolyn Sutton helped Troy Holmes and William York apply for positons.  After several candidates submitted applications for the position, Holmes and York were notified that they had been hired at NAS Corry. 

    On March 23, Holmes and York were sworn in as government employees. They will accrue sick leave and annual leave, as well as pay raises after being employed for a year. The EEP is helping individuals become gainfully and competitively employed.



    All I Need is You

    By Annette Zeeb

    Opens in New Window

    The Escambia and Santa Rosa County students with disabilities of the Northwest Region were moving to the “All I Need Is You” music by Lacrae on March 13 at the Transition Services Fair at Marcus Pointe Baptist Church in Pensacola as part of Katrina Washington’s presentation to them on employment.  The students were actively engaged in the presentation as they discussed employment and why they wanted to work along with what it takes to be a good employee.   An employed student shared how the Employment Enhancement Project helped with getting her job while she continues with her education.   A former student who has been successfully employed shared the importance of accountability.    All the students left the session excited about employment.   Washington arranged for 10 employers to be available to provide mock interviews to the students with feedback on how to become employed with their business.  Several students were asked to schedule actual interviews for potential employment opportunities.  There were also 49 community vendors including the Agency for Persons with Disabilities sharing information on resources in the community as the students transition from school.   The event is a community collaboration with the schools and organizations that serve individuals with disabilities. 

    Opens in New Window



    Governor Rick Scott Appoints Twelve to Family Care Councils

    Governor Rick Scott recently announced 10 appointments and two reappointments to Family Care Councils across the state.

    Area Two, Family Care Council

    John Chafin, 78, of Tallahassee, was the former Leon County Tax Collector from 1980-2001. He succeeds David Norton and is appointed for a term ending October 11, 2016.

    Area Four, Family Care Council

    Shiela Bryant Butler, 52, of Middleburg, is the president of Black Creek Supports and Services Inc. She succeeds Maria Quinones and is appointed for a term ending August 6, 2016.

    Area Eight, Family Care Council

    Barbara Jamison, 59, of Cape Coral, is an advocate for persons with disabilities. She succeeds Susan Robertson and is appointed for a term ending August 27, 2016.

    Patricia Oglesby, 54, of Fort Myers, is an advocate for persons with disabilities. She is reappointed for a term ending August 24, 2017.

    Area Nine, Family Care Council

    Ruthie Bunkelmann, 52, of North Palm Beach, is a social worker with Pediatric Partners and Positive Behavior Supports Corporation. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending March 19, 2018.

    Terri Harmon, 56, of Boca Raton, is the executive director of Gold Coast Down Syndrome Organization. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending March 19, 2018.
    Elaine Scola, 63, of Lake Worth, is a partner at Equity Financial Services LLC. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending March 19, 2018.

    Martha Stuart, 63, of Lake Worth, is a retired teacher for Chariho Regional Schools. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending March 19, 2018.

    Area Twelve, Family Care Council

    Christopher Spears, 40, of Ormond Beach, is an advocate for persons with disabilities. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending March 19, 2018.

    Joseph Young, 44, of Ormond Beach, is an advocate for persons with disabilities. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending March 19, 2018.

    Mary Ellen Ottman, 60, of Ormond Beach, is an advocate for persons with disabilities. She succeeds Susan Tanner and is appointed for a term ending January 23, 2017.

    Area Fourteen, Family Care Council

    Michael Daniels, 48, of Lakeland, is an advocate for persons with disabilities. He is reappointed for a term ending June 29, 2017.



    Ohio Girl Comes to Florida to Meet Dolphin

    Visiting from Poland, Ohio, 12-year-old Olivia Spencer’s trip to Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) was a long time coming.  The Spencer family had been saving and planning for three years, and through the Hanger Clinic, Olivia’s dream was finally made into a reality.

    Olivia has Hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy, which causes the muscles on the left side of her body to tighten.  However, during her interaction with Winter, her left hand reached aptly and confidently, in a way that occupational therapists have been working toward for years.

    Olivia wears a purple ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) from Hanger Prosthetics to improve her walking ability.  After seeing the Dolphin Tale films, Olivia found herself deeply identifying with Winter and has been motivated to learn all about dolphins as a result.  She aspires to be a trainer someday and participated in CMA’s Trainer-for-a-Day program during her visit.

    Following the visit with Winter, Maria Spencer (Olivia’s mom) stated, “Because Olivia has hemiplegic cerebral palsy, her left arm and leg muscles are very tight and often holds her left hand in a fisted position. She uses it minimally, usually only when prompted to do so. When we came home from Clearwater and viewed her pictures with Winter, we realized that when Olivia touched her snout, it was with her left hand. Not only was her hand in a typical position with her fingers spread out, her arm was also outstretched to a position that she only gets to in therapy; after massaging and loosening her muscles. It brings tears to my eyes just writing to you about it. She chose to use her left hand without even thinking about it - just for Winter. We are grateful for Winter's encouragement and motivation!”



    Champion Staff
    Melanie Mowry Etters - Editor
    Lindsey Boyington - Writer
    Christine Call - Writer
    Kimberly Tharpe - Masthead Design
    John Milton - Webmaster


    The Agency Supports Persons with Developmental Disabilities in Living, Learning, and Working in their Communities. | Copyright ©2015 State of Florida | Plug-ins