OPPAGA text logo with graphic of FL historic capitol
OPPAGA text logo with graphic of FL historic capitol

Education System

Blind Services

What is the purpose of the program?

Blind Services is a federal-state program that provides services to people of all ages in the state who are blind or visually impaired. The program assists blind and visually-impaired Floridians to have the tools, support, and opportunity to achieve success.

Who administers the program?

At the federal level, the U.S. Department of Education's Rehabilitation Services Administration oversees the program.  The department provides funds to state blind services agencies to provide employment-related services for individuals who are blind, giving priority to individuals who are significantly disabled.
In Florida, the Department of Education (Division of Blind Services) is the designated state agency for blind services. The division provides a range of services and programs across the state to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. The division has 15 district offices and also works with local community rehabilitation programs. In addition, the Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind advises policy decisions and evaluates the effectiveness of the division to ensure meaningful access to and use of vocational rehabilitation and independent living programs for Floridians who are blind or visually impaired.
Blind services accountability and reporting requirements are directed by both federal and state law.

What services are provided?

The Division of Blind Services administers a range of programs and services, including those described below and on the division's website.
  • Blind Babies Program provides community-based early-intervention education to children from birth to five years of age who are blind or visually impaired and to their parents and families through community-based provider organizations.
  • Children's Program serves children from kindergarten through high school through transition to the Vocational Rehabilitation Program.This program supplements 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.
  • Transition Program assists young people in meeting their future employment goals through transitioning from school to post-school activities, such as post-secondary education or employment.  Transition services offered include instruction, community experiences, or the development of employment and other post-school adult-living objectives. These services are generally provided through the Vocational Rehabilitation Program, but could also be provided through the Children's Program. In either case, the student will have a Plan of Services. The types of services to be provided through Blind Services are normally incorporated into the student's Individual Education Plan.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Services are provided to assist blind and visually impaired individuals seeking employment. Qualified individuals must have a bilateral visual impairment that constitutes or results in a substantial impediment to employment and need services to prepare for, enter, engage in, or retain gainful employment. An Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) is developed to address the client's needs. The Division of Blind services administers vocational rehabilitation services to individuals who have a bilateral visual impairment based on a cooperative agreement with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation.
  • Business Enterprise Program provides job opportunities in the food service sector for eligible blind persons under the Randolph-Sheppard Act. Job opportunities include Snack Bar, Cafeteria, Highway Vending Machines, or Non-Highway Vending.
  • Employer Services provides information to employers to help them make a job accessible to an employee with a visual impairment. Employers seeking to hire a qualified employee can also contact the program for this information.
  • Independent Living Program enables individuals who are blind or severely visually impaired to live more independently in their homes and communities with a maximum degree of self-direction. Services may include independent living skills training, advocacy training, and skills to travel independently. Successful outcomes enable individuals to live more independently in their communities and/or transition to the working world.
  • Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired is a place where people who are blind can reside temporarily while they learn to lead productive, self-sufficient lives. The center incorporates instruction in a variety of independence skills, including home management, cooking, cleaning, personal care, labeling, orientation and mobility, Braille, computer technology, employability skills, adaptation to blindness, and many other skills that contribute to independence and the confidence to seek the highest level of employment possible.
  • Braille and Talking Books Library provides information and reading materials needed by individuals residing in Florida who are unable to use standard print because of a visual, physical, or reading disability.
Blind Services serves individuals either directly through its field offices or indirectly through contracts with private providers.

What is the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Unified State Plan?

The federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is designed to help job seekers gain employment, and access education, training and support services. The WIOA state plan outlines a four-year strategy for Florida's workforce development system, which will be implemented by partners in the state, including the Division of Blind Services. The WIOA State Plan provides information about the various investments, programs, and initiatives underway to serve jobseekers, students, and businesses. Florida's unified state plan is available on the CareerSource Florida website.  

Who is eligible for Blind Services?

Services are available to individuals of all ages throughout the state who are blind or visually impaired. According the 2018 American Community Survey Year Estimate, there are 530,852 Floridians who have a vision difficulty. 

How many people are receiving services and what are their outcomes?

During federal Fiscal Year 2019 (October 2018 through September 2019), the Division of Blind Services provided vocational rehabilitation services to 4,997 individuals.  The successful closure outcomes have steadily increased from 721 in federal Fiscal Year 2014 to 878 in federal Fiscal Year 2019. The results of client satisfaction surveys are provided in the Florida Rehabilitation Council for the Blind annual report.

How are these activities funded?

Federal grants fund the major programs and services provided by the Blind Services Program. The Fiscal Year 2019-2020 General Appropriations Act allocated $56,636,653 to the Division of Blind Services for the state fiscal year.
Fiscal Year: 2020-21
Fund Salary Rate/ Position General Revenue Trust Funds
SALARY RATE
POSITIONS
SALARIES AND BENEFITS
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
FROM ADMINISTRATIVE TRUST FUND
FROM FEDERAL REHABILITATION TRUST FUND
OTHER PERSONAL SERVICES
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
FROM FEDERAL REHABILITATION TRUST FUND
FROM GRANTS AND DONATIONS TRUST FUND
EXPENSES
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
FROM ADMINISTRATIVE TRUST FUND
FROM FEDERAL REHABILITATION TRUST FUND
FROM GRANTS AND DONATIONS TRUST FUND
AID TO LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
GRANTS AND AIDS - COMMUNITY REHABILITATION FACILITIES
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
FROM FEDERAL REHABILITATION TRUST FUND
OPERATING CAPITAL OUTLAY
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
FROM FEDERAL REHABILITATION TRUST FUND
FOOD PRODUCTS
FROM FEDERAL REHABILITATION TRUST FUND
SPECIAL CATEGORIES
ACQUISITION OF MOTOR VEHICLES
FROM FEDERAL REHABILITATION TRUST FUND
SPECIAL CATEGORIES
GRANTS AND AIDS - CLIENT SERVICES
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
FROM FEDERAL REHABILITATION TRUST FUND
FROM GRANTS AND DONATIONS TRUST FUND
SPECIAL CATEGORIES
CONTRACTED SERVICES
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
FROM FEDERAL REHABILITATION TRUST FUND
SPECIAL CATEGORIES
GRANTS AND AIDS - INDEPENDENT LIVING SERVICES
FROM FEDERAL REHABILITATION TRUST FUND
SPECIAL CATEGORIES
RISK MANAGEMENT INSURANCE
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
FROM FEDERAL REHABILITATION TRUST FUND
SPECIAL CATEGORIES
LIBRARY SERVICES
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
FROM GRANTS AND DONATIONS TRUST FUND
SPECIAL CATEGORIES
VENDING STANDS - EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES
FROM FEDERAL REHABILITATION TRUST FUND
FROM GRANTS AND DONATIONS TRUST FUND
SPECIAL CATEGORIES
TENANT BROKER COMMISSIONS
FROM FEDERAL REHABILITATION TRUST FUND
SPECIAL CATEGORIES
TRANSFER TO DEPARTMENT OF MANAGEMENT SERVICES - HUMAN RESOURCES SERVICES PURCHASED PER STATEWIDE CONTRACT
FROM GENERAL REVENUE FUND
FROM ADMINISTRATIVE TRUST FUND
FROM FEDERAL REHABILITATION TRUST FUND
DATA PROCESSING SERVICES
OTHER DATA PROCESSING SERVICES
FROM FEDERAL REHABILITATION TRUST FUND
DATA PROCESSING SERVICES
EDUCATION TECHNOLOGY AND INFORMATION SERVICES
FROM FEDERAL REHABILITATION TRUST FUND
DATA PROCESSING SERVICES
NORTHWEST REGIONAL DATA CENTER (NWRDC)
FROM FEDERAL REHABILITATION TRUST FUND
TOTAL
16,420,479
40,208,853

Where can I find related OPPAGA reports?

A complete list of related OPPAGA reports is available on our website.

Where can I get more information?

Other Reports
The Auditor General reports on Department of Education operations are available on its website.
Websites of Interest
American Council of the Blind
American Foundation for the Blind
Florida Division of Blind Services Public Internet Website
Florida Independent Living Council
National Federation of the Blind
Florida School for the Deaf and Blind
CareerSource Florida
Performance Information
Performance measures and standards for the department may be found in its Long Range Program Plan.

What are the applicable statutes?

Chapter 413 Part I, Florida Statutes.

Whom do I contact for help?

Division of Blind Services State Office, 850-245-0300 or 1-800-342-1828

Website