Our Orlando Services


In partnership with the Florida Division of Blind Services, the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation, Lions Clubs International Foundation, and Florida Lions Clubs, the Conklin Centers launched a new program in 1998 to provide local, community-based services to multihandicapped blind residents in Orange, Seminole, Osceola, and Lake Counties.

The goal of this program is to help multihandicapped blind Central Floridians live and work in their home communities. The availability of local support services is intended to allow the Centers to reach prospective students who would not be comfortable, nor have the desire, to move to Daytona Beach to receive the support services they need.

Since 1998, we have been providing supported employment services to a growing number of individuals in a similar manner to the program the Centers have successfully operated in Daytona Beach since 1987. We also added supported living services, which enable consumers of our services in the greater Orlando area to live in their own homes or apartments. Our program allows multihandicapped blind persons in the Orlando area to build an independent and productive life around the nurturing and supportive network of their own family, friends, and lifelong associations in their home communities. Those who still need extensive training in skills of daily living (cooking, braille, orientation and mobility training) continue to have the opportunity to use training services at our main facility in Daytona.

Summary of Outcomes.     In our first year of operation (October 1, 1998 - September 30, 1999), we served 22 blind adults with additional disabilities such as mental retardation, deafness or hearing impairments, central nervous system disorders, and diabetes. They received services such as counseling, advocacy, help managing their secondary disability, and referrals to other agencies. Eight also received vocational evaluation services and seven reached the point of being placed in a competitive job and received supported employment services.

By the time we finished our second year, ending September 30, 2000, the Conklin Centers provided services to 25 Central Floridians. Of these, 15 were placed in competitive jobs and had worked either part or full time. Employers for whom they worked included: Bennigan's Restaurant, Don Pablo's Restaurant, Health Central (a health facility), Just For Feet (shoe store), Kinko's (copying services), Olive Garden Restaurants, Omni Rosen Resort, Petsmart, Pizza Hut, Publix Super Markets, Quincy Steakhouse, Rosen Centre Hotel, Sunshine Staffing, Taco Bell, a public elementary school, Vet Smart Pet Hospital, and Winn Dixie Markets. They held positions such as: cafeteria worker, classroom aide, deli worker, dishwasher, greeter, office cleaner, order taker, pet consultant, produce department associate, reservationist, salesman, silverware roller, stocker/bagger, telephone operator, and yeast roll baker.

By the beginning of our third year, the program had become well enough established to have three full-time staff members providing supported employment and supported living services. In the first three months (10/1/00-12/31/00), we had already served 13 persons, providing similar services as in previous years. Eight had received job development assistance and five were placed in jobs, receiving support as needed.

Overall, the Conklin Centers' program helps participants adjust to the new freedoms and responsibilities associated with increased financial/social independence. We also counsel parents/guardians to help them with changes due to the new levels of independence achieved by their blind family members who had previously lived more dependently.

Summary.     The Conklin Centers employment program in Central Florida began services in October 1998 and has been growing since. Considerable time and attention has been devoted to each individual in our program due to the severe, multiple disabilities they face as they seek to learn and develop vocational skills and independent living skills, often for the first time in their lives. Conklin Center support and guidance over long time frames to assist with difficulties has helped multihandicapped blind citizens from Central Florida maintain jobs, build confidence, and lead an independent lifestyle many never thought possible.

In addition to enhancing the lives of disabled adults, the Central Florida community as a whole benefits from our project. Conklin Centers' clients become tax-payers and consumers with purchasing power who now contribute to the local economy. They fill job openings. As more of our clients work in competitive jobs and lead integrated lifestyles in the community, the public also learns more about blindness and other disabilities, and becomes more aware of the needs of individuals who are multihandicapped blind.



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