Section 504 - County by County

Student using accommodations All school districts in Florida are required to identify a Section 504 Coordinator and establish policies and procedures including a complaint resolution system.

You may access this information for each school district in Florida below.

To learn more, visit the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 page of our website.

Counties A - E

Alachua

504 Coordinator
William Goodman
620 E. University Ave.
Gainesville, FL 32601
(352) 955-7671
(352) 955-7129 fax

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief  Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Alachua County

Baker

504 Coordinator
Nancy Crews, ESE Coordinator
290 Jonathon Street East
Macclenny,  Fl 32063
(904) 259-7825
(904) 259-9099 (fax)
mcrews@baker.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief  Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Baker County

Bay

504 Coordinator
Lee Stafford, Director of Student Services
131 Balboa Avenue
Panama City, FL 32404
(850) 767-4311
staffla@bay.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Franklin Harrison, Attorney
304 Magnolia Ave
Panama City, FL 32404
(850) 76903434
(850) 769-6121 (fax)
fharrison@harrisonsale.com

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF on Bay County Website

Bradford

504 Coordinator
Deanna Coleman, Staffing Specialist
501 W.Washington Street
Starke, Fl 32091
(904) 966-6007
(904) 966-6038 (fax)

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief  Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Bradford County

Brevard

504 Coordinator
Pamela Threadwell, ESE Director
Brevard Public Schools
2700 Judge Fran Jamieson Way
Viera, FL 32940
(321) 633-1000 ext 505
(321) 631-3589 (fax)
Treadwell.Pam@brevardschools.org

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief  Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Brevard County

Broward

504 Coordinator
Linda Silver
KCW Administration Building
600 SE 3rd Avenue, 14th Floor
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
(754) 321-2150
Teletype(TTY): (754) 321-2158
EEO@browardschools.com

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief  Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
Information from Broward County Website

Calhoun

504 Coordinator
Staci Williams, Director ESE
Special Programs Office
20448 NW Pennington Avenue
Blountstown, FL
(850) 674-8734, ext 229
(850) 674-4743 (fax)
Staci.williams@calhounflschools.org

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
ClaudiaLlado@doah.state.fl.us

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Calhoun County

Charlotte

504 Coordinator
Steven Jones, Coordinator of Psychological Services
1445 Education Way
Port Charlotte, FL 33948
(941) 255-0808 ext 3062
(941) 255-7573 (fax)
Steven_Jones@ccps.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert  S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 414-9854 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
Information from Charlotte County Website

Citrus

504 Coordinator
Julie Kelsay, Coordinator of ESE
1007 West Main Street
Inverness, FL 34450
(352)726-1931, ext 2330
(352) 726-6698 (fax)

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Private Attorney

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Citrus County

Clay

504 Coordinator
Donna Wethington
23 South Green Street
Green Cove Springs, Florida 32043
(904) 529-4995
(904) 529-2170 (Fax)

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Clay County

Collier

504 Coordinator
Rick Gamret, Student Services/Psychological Services/Section 504
(239) 377-0520

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The DeSoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-647 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
Information from Collier County Website

Columbia

504 Coordinator
Robin H. Talley, Director Student Services & ESE
Columbia County School District
444 West Duval Street, Bldg 5
Lake City, FL 32055
(386) 755-8059
(386)758-4880 (fax)
talley_ro1@firn.edu

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Private Attorney

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Columbia County

Dade

504 Coordinator
Mary A. Paz, Instructional Supervisor
Miami Dade Public Schools
1500  Biscayne Blvd., Office 409-D
Miami, FL 33132
(305) 995-1816
(305) 995-1760 (fax)
mpaz@dadeschools.net

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Dade County

Desoto

504 Coordinator
Linda Waters
494 N. Manatee Avenue
Arcadia, FL 34266
(863) 494-0261
(863) 494-2254 (fax)

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Adrian H. Cline, Superintendent
530 LaSolona Avenue
Arcadia, FL 34266
(863)494-4222, ext 110
(863)370-2471 (fax)

Eugene E. Waldron, Jr, P.A.
School Board Attorney
124 North Brevard Avenue
Arcadia, FL 34266
(863) 494-4323
(863) 44-6790 Fax

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Desoto County Website
Page 9 & pages 41 thru 44

Dixie

504 Coordinator
Faith Hill, Director of Student Services/ESE
16077 NE 19th Hwy
Cross City, FL 32628
(352) 498-6149
(352) 498-1308 (fax)
faithhill@dixie.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) (850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Dixie County

Duval

504 Coordinator
Sherry Kaufman, Coordinator
Policy and Compliance, ESE and Student Services
1701 Prudential Drive, Rm. 420
Jacksonville, FL 32207
(904) 390-2084
(904) 390-2827
kaufmans@duvalschools.org

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Duval County

Escambia

504 Coordinator
Lisa Joyner, Coordinator
J.E. Hall Center
30 East Texar Drive
Pensacola, FL 32503
(850) 469-5518
(850) 429-2954 (fax)
ljoyner@escambria.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Monica Verra-Tirado, Ed.D.
Bureau Chief
Florida Department of Education
325 West Gaines Street Suite 614
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0400
(850) 245-0475
(850) 245-0953 (fax)
Monica.Verra-Tirado@fldoe.org

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Escambia County
 

Counties F - J

Flagler

504 Coordinator
Dr. Tracy Umpenhour
Flagler County Public Schools
Government Service Bldg
1769 East Moody Blvd., Bldg 2
Bunnell, FL 32110
(386)437-7526 ext 2101
umpenhourt@flaglerschools.com

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert  S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The DeSoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Flagler County Website

Franklin

504 Coordinator
Martha Weimorts, Director of Special Programs
85 School Road, Ste 1
Eastpoint, FL 32328
(850)670-2810
(850) 670-2812 (fax)
mweimorts@franklin.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Florida Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert  S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The DeSoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Franklin County

Gadsden

504 Coordinator
Sharon B. Thomas, ESE Director
35 MLK, Jr. Blvd
Quincy, FL 32351
(850 )627-9651
(850) 627-5327 (fax)
thomass@gcps.mail.com

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Florida Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert  S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The DeSoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Gadsden County

Gilchrist

504 Coordinator
Lisa Rowland, Director Special Programs
Gilchrist County Public Schools
310 NW 11th Avenue
Trenton, FL 32693
(352) 463-3200
(352) 463-3276 (fax)
rowlandl@mygcsd.org

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Florida Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert  S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The DeSoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Gilchrist County

Glades

504 Coordinator
Janice I. Foster, Director of ESE and Student Services
Glades County Schools
P.O. Box 459
400  10th Street SW
Moore Haven, FL 33471
(863) 946-0202 ext 125
Janice.Foster@gladesschools.org

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Florida Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert  S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The DeSoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Glades County

Gulf

504 Coordinator
Deborah S. Crosby
150 Middle School Road
Port St. Joe, FL 32456
(850) 229-6940
(850) 227-1999 (fax)
dcrosby@gulf.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Florida Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert  S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The DeSoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Gulf County

Hamilton

504 Coordinator
Regina Jordan, Coordinator of ESE
Hamilton County School District
4280 SW County Road 152
Jasper, FL 32052
(386) 792-6515
(386) 792-6600
Jordan_r01@firn.edu

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert  S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The DeSoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedures
PDF from Hamilton County Website

Hardee

504 Coordinator
Teresa Hall, Director of ESE & Pupil Personnel Services
200 South Florida Avenue
Wauchula, FL 33873
(863) 773-2600 ext 257
(863) 773-4614 (fax)
thall@hardee.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert  S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The DeSoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Hardee County

Hendry

504 Coordinator
Lucinda Kelley, Director, Exceptional Student Education & Student Services
475East Osceola Avenue
Clewiston, Fl 33440
(863)983-1507
(863) 983-1514 (fax)
caulkinsj@hendry.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert  S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The DeSoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedures
Information from Hendry County Website

Hernando

504 Coordinator
Mary-Grace Surrena, Ed.S., Coordinator of Student Services
Hernando County School District
Student Services Department
919 North Broad Street
Brooksville, FL 34601
(352) 797-7008 ext 409
(352) 797-7108 (fax)

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert  S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The DeSoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Hernando County

Highlands

504 Coordinator
Marcia Davis
426 School Street
Sebring, FL 33870
(863) 471-5748
(863) 471-5603 (fax)
Davism6@highlands.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Florida Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert  S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The DeSoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Highlands County

Hillsborough

504 Coordinator
Marsha Alcorn, School Psychologist
901 East Kennedy Blvd
Tampa, FL 33602
(813) 855-8178 ext 231
(813) 273-7341 (fax)
Marsha.Alcorn@sdhc.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief  Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Hillsborough County

Holmes

504 Coordinator
Donnita Butorac, ESE & Related Services Administrator
701 East Pennsylvania Avenue
Bonifay, FL 32425
(850) 547-6674 ext 236
(850) 547-3568 (fax)
butoracd@hdsb.org

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Florida Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert  S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The DeSoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Holmes County

Indian River

504 Coordinator
Dr. Jamie Robinson
School District of Indian County
1990 25th Street
Vero Beach, FL 32960
(772) 564-5949
(772) 564-5959 (fax)
Jamie.Robinson@indianriverschools.org

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Florida Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert  S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The DeSoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Indian River County

Jackson

504 Coordinator
Shirl Williams, Director, Student Services
Jackson County School Board
2903 Jefferson Street
Marianna, FL 32446
(850) 482-1200 ext 216
(850) 482-1342 (fax)
Shirl.williams@jcsb.org

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Florida Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert  S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The DeSoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Jackson County

Jefferson

504 Coordinator
Dr. Kelvin Norton
Jefferson County School Board
575 South Water Street
Monticello, FL 32344
(850) 342-0100 ext 225
(850) 342-0108 (fax)
norton_@firn.edu

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief  Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Jefferson County
 

Counties L - O

Lafayette

504 Coordinator
Debra B. Land, Director of Instruction and Personnel
363 NE Crawford Street
Mayo, FL 32066
(386) 294-4120
(386) 294-3072
dland@lcsbmail.net

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert  S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The DeSoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Lafayette County

Lake

504 Coordinator
Janice Tobias, Director of Student Services
(352) 742-6920
(352) 324-2804 (fax)

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert  S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The DeSoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedures
Information from Lake County Website

Lee

504 Coordinator
Sue Grohs
Lee County Public Education Center
2855 Colonial Blvd.
Fort Myers, FL 33966
(239) 337-8244
(239) 337-8299 (fax)
sussanng@leeschools.net

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Harold Eskin, P.A.
Patterson, Eskin & Ball
1420 SE 47th Street
Cape Coral, FL 33904
(239) 549-5551
(239) 549-4834 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedures
Information from Lee County Website

Leon

504 Coordinator
Dr. Margot Palazesi, 504 Specialist
Leon County School Board
2757 West Pensacola Street
Tallahassee, FL 32304
(850) 487-7161
palazesim@leonschools.net

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Private Attorney

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Leon County

Levy

504 Coordinator
Marcy Young, Coordinator for ESE and Section 504
350 School Street
Bronson, FL 32621
(352) 486-5240 ext. 225
(352) 486-5242 (fax)
youngma@levy.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Florida Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert  S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The DeSoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Levy County

Liberty

504 Coordinator
Gay Lewis, Coordinating ESE Program
P.O. Box 429
12926 NW County Road 12
Bristol, FL 32321
(850) 643-2275
(850) 643-4183 (fax)
gay.lewis@LCSBonline.org

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Florida Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert  S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The DeSoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Liberty County

Madison

504 Coordinator
Ramona Guess, ESE Coordinator
210 NE Duval Avenue
Madison, FL 32340
(850) 973-5022 ext 315
(850) 973-5017 (fax)
guessr@madison.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Florida Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert  S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The DeSoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Madison County

Manatee

504 Coordinator
Patricia A. Bernhart, M.Ed.
Student Services Supervisor
P.O. Box 9069
Bradenton, FL 34206-9069
(941) 751-6550 ext. 2282
(941) 751-7372
bernharp@manateeschools.net

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief  Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Manatee County

Marion

504 Coordinator
Brian Greene, Program Specialist
Alternative Programs Office
15171 SE 30th Avenue
Ocala, Fl 34471
(352) 671-6860
(352) 671-6861 (fax)
Brian.Greene@marion.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Florida Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert  S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The DeSoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Marion County

Martin

504 Coordinator
Molly Kiss
500 East Ocean Blvd.
Stuart, FL 34994
(772)219-1200 ext 30426
(772) 219-1228 (fax)
kissm@martin.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Private Attorney

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Martin County

Monroe

504 Coordinator
Catherine Kanagy
Monroe County School Administration Office
(305) 293-1400 ext 53378
(305) 293-1428  fax
Catherine.kanagy@keysschools.com

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief  Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Monroe County

Nassau

504 Coordinator
Pauline Gregory, Director ESE
Nassau County School Board
1201 Atlantic Avenue
Fernandina, FL 32034
(904) 491-9881
(904) 277-9041 (fax)
Pauline.gregory@nassau.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Florida Division of Administrative Hearings
Robert  S. Cohen, Director and Chief Judge
The DeSoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Nassau County

Okaloosa

Melody Sommer, ESE and Section 504 Coordinator
120 Lowery Place, SE
Fort Walton, FL 32548
(850) 833-3164
(850) 833-3488 (fax)
sommerm@mail.okaloosa.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief  Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Okaloosa County

Okeechobee

504 Coordinator
Wendy Coker
700 SW 2nd Avenue
Okeechobee, FL 34974
(863) 462-5000, ext 255
(863) 462-5014 (fax)
coker@okee.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, Fl 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedures
PDF from Okeechobee County

Orange

504 Coordinator
Latonia Green, Director
445 West Amelia Street
Orlando, FL 32801
(407) 317-3279
(407) 317-3310 (fax)
kimberly.steinke@ocps.net

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Private attorney

504 Grievance Policy & Procedures
Information from Orange County Website
Click Documents at top right of page

Osceola

Cynthia Franklin, 504 Facilitator, Student Services
801 Bill Beck Blvd.
Kissimmee, FL 34744
(407) 870-4996
(407) 870-4879 (fax)

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
1. Private Attorney
            or
2. Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief  Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Osceola County
 

Counties P - W

Palm Beach

504 Coordinator
Debra Neeson Okell, ADA/504 Specialist Department of ESE
School District of Palm Beach County
3378 Forest Hill Blvd., Suite A-203
West Palm Beach, FL 33406
(561) 434-8817
(561) 434-8384 (Fax)
Debra.neeson@palmbeachschools.org

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief  Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedures
Information from Palm Beach County Website

Pasco

504 Coordinator
Kelli Coile
7227 Land’O Lakes Blvd
Land’O Lakes, FL 34638
(813) 794-2363
(813) 794-2120 (fax)
kcoile@pasco.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Robert Dorn Consultants
Robert Dorn
12713 Candlewood Way
Bayonet Point, FL 34667
(727) 862-1148
bdorn03@gmail.com

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Pasco County

Pinellas

504 Coordinator
Nancy Deane, Supervisor, Psychological Services
K-12 Education Section 504 Issues
301 Fourth Street  S.W.
P.O. Box 2942
Largo, FL 33779-2942
(727) 588-6054

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Independent Hearing Officer or
Florida Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief  Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Pinellas County

Polk

504 Coordinator
Nancy Woolcock, Assistant Superintendent

Learning Support
270 Bartow Municipal Airport
Bartow, FL 33830
(863) 519-8169
(863) 519-8407 (fax)
Nancy.woolcock@polk-fl.net

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Private Attorney

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Polk County

Putnam

504 Coordinator
Jim Roach
200 South 7th Street
Palatka, Florida 32177
(386) 329-0538
(386) 329-0522 Fax
jroach@putnamschools.org

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief  Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from  Putnam County

Santa Rosa

504 Coordinator
Linda Andrews
6751 Berryhill Street
Milton, FL 32570
(850) 983-5168
(850) 983-5170 (fax)

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
TBA

504 Grievance Policy & Procedures
Information from Santa Rosa County Website

Sarasota

504 Coordinator
Robyn A. Marinelli, Spvsr Student Services
1960 Landings Blvd.
Sarasota, FL 34231
(941) 927-9000
(941) 361-6157
Robyn_Marinelli@sarasota.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief  Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedures
Information from Sarasota County Website

Seminole

504 Coordinator
Christine Kirkreip
Exceptional Student Support Services Department
Seminole County Schools
400 E. Lake Mary Blvd.
Sanford, FL 32773-7127
(407) 320-0210
(407) 320-0294 (fax)
christine_kirkreip@scps.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief  Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Seminole County

St. Johns

504 Coordinator
Lisa Bell, ESE Director
St. Johns County School District
40 Orange Street
St. Augustine, FL 32084
(904) 547-7537
(904) 547-7687 (fax)
bell@stjohns.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief  Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from St. Johns County

St. Lucie

504 Coordinator
Barbara Casteen, Director of Student Services
4204 Okeechobee Road
Fort Pierce, FL 34947
(772) 429-4521
(772) 429-4528 (fax)
casteenb@stlucie.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Private Attorney

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from St. Lucie County

Sumter

504 Coordinator
Susan Andrews
2680 West County Road 476
Bushnell, FL 33513
(352) 748-1510
(352) 793-1612 (fax)
Susan.Andrews@sumter.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief  Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Sumter County

Suwannee

504 Coordinator
Elizabeth Simpson, Director of Student Services
702 2nd Street, NW
Live Oak, FL 32064
(386) 647-4630
(386) 208-8687
esimpson@suwannee.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief  Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Suwannee County

Taylor

504 Coordinator
Ramona Patrick
318 North Clark Street
Perry, FL 32347
(850) 838-2536
(850) 838-2537
Ramona.patrick@taylor.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief  Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Taylor County

Union

504 Coordinator
Deborah Dukes, Director of ESE & Student Services
55 SW Sixth Street
Lake Butler, FL 32054
(386) 496-2045 Ext 231
(386) 496-4818 (fax)
dukesd@union.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief  Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Union County

Volusia

504 Coordinator
Pat Gibson, Assistant Director
Exceptional Student Education/Student Services Compliance
Brewster Center
200 N. Clara Avenue
Deland, FL 32721-2118
(386) 734-7190,  Ext. 33246
(386) 943-3445
pgibson@volusia.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Private attorney

504 Grievance Policy & Procedures
Information from Volusia County Website

Wakulla

504 Coordinator
Tanya English, Executive Director of ESE and Student Services
69 Arran Road
Crawfordville, FL 32327
(850) 926-0065 ext 252
(850) 926-0125 (fax)
Tanya.English@wcsb.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief  Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Wakulla County

Walton

504 Coordinator
Tamara Hightower, Coordinator of Student Service
Walton County School District
145 Park Street, Ste 3
DeFuniak Springs, FL 32435
(850) 892-1171 ext 1411
(850) 893-1197
hightowert@walton.k12.fl.us

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief  Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedures
Information from Walton County Website

Washington

504 Coordinator
Elizabeth Arnold, Director of ESE and Student Services
652 Third Street
Chipley, FL 32428
(850) 638-6222
(850) 638-6226 (fax)
Barnold@firn.edu

Agency Contracted to Conduct 504 Hearings
Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH)
Robert S. Cohen, Director and Chief  Judge
The Desoto Bldg
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, FL 32399-3060
(850) 488-9675
(850) 921-6847 (fax)

504 Grievance Policy & Procedure
PDF from Washington County
 

Vocational Rehabilitation

Vocational Rehabilitation Programs

There are two Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Programs in Florida: The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and The Division of Blind Services. Vocational Rehabilitation is the State of Florida’s largest employment program serving the needs of Floridians with disabilities. Both programs are charged with providing an array of employment supports and job placement assistance to eligible individuals with disabilities. These employment supports may include tuition assistance for colleges or vocational schools, books and supplies needed for school, assistive technology aids or devices, transportation services, occupational licenses, vehicle modifications, psychological counseling, medical services, and job placement assistance. Services are individualized and are based on an individual’s needs and employment goals.

FAQs

Who provides Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services in Florida?

Florida has two VR agencies: The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Division of Blind Services. Both agencies are housed within the Florida Department of Education. For more information, please call or visit their websites:

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR)
VR helpline – 1-866-515-3692 (toll-free)
http://www.rehabworks.org

Division of Blind Services (DBS)
1-800-342-1828                 
http://dbs.myflorida.com

Although both VR agencies operate under the same federal law and regulations, each agency is allowed to develop its own policies and procedures. Always feel free to request a copy of any policy being cited to you, or visit the websites above to download a copy.

What is a vocational evaluation and is it required?

A vocational evaluation can be a useful tool in helping VR and you determine your strengths, interests, aptitudes, skills, weaknesses and types of employment in which you have the ability to succeed.  Vocational evaluations are not required for every individual but there may be circumstances (i.e.: inability to return to work in a given area after onset of disability) that make this a valuable source of information for future planning for you and your VR counselor?

What help can I request from VR if I am determined “eligible”?

If you are determined to be eligible, you and your counselor will develop and agree to an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) that will list agreed upon employment goals, and services you will need to become employed. The services are individualized and may be unique to your situation, so please feel free to discuss your specific needs with your counselor. You should be able to explain why your requests will help you to become employed in your rehabilitation program, or why specific services are needed due to your disability.

Must services be prior-authorized by VR before they can be sponsored by VR?

Yes. Your counselor must approve services and complete an IPE specifying the service before VR is responsible for payment. If you do not have a signed IPE, and your VR counselor did not approve the service, you will not be reimbursed if you purchase a service without VR approval.

What are some examples of services VR can provide me?

Vocational exploration, career and interest assessments, trial-work experiences, on-the-job training, job coaching, supported employment, career planning, counseling and guidance, assistive technology (aids, devices and training), assistance with transportation to participate in your rehabilitation program, vocational training programs, college training, medical and psychological diagnosis and treatment, support services, rehabilitation engineering evaluations and services, and job placement, to name a few. Remember, services may be unique to you, so don’t hesitate to discuss your needs with your counselor.

Can I request a copy of my VR case record?

Yes. You have a right to access your VR file. You or your representative must make the request in writing. Information that is deemed harmful may not be released directly to you but could be provided to your designated representative.

Is VR only there to help me obtain entry-level employment?

No. The Rehabilitation Act requires that individuals with disabilities have an active voice in choosing employment goals and meaningful careers that are consistent with their interests, strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities and capabilities, and informed choice.

What is informed choice?

Informed Choice is a right you have as an eligible VR client to understand your options to select your vocational goal, services, and the vendors who will supply services. This is not a guarantee you will receive everything you request, but it is your right to work in partnership with your counselor to identify advantages and disadvantages of different decisions and choices you have in your rehabilitation program. 

Can I select a private school or must I use a public school if VR agrees to provide training?

Both VR agencies have a policy that encourages use of accredited public schools or provision only of the rate of the public school toward tuition at a private school if an individual chooses to attend a private school. However, both agencies have exceptions to this policy if the public school cannot meet the individual’s needs. Example: distance to public school results in a hardship for the individual due to transportation issues. The private school is clearly more convenient in reducing extensive travel time that will cause fatigue due to the individual’s disability. Request the policy and review the procedures to request an exception.

What does the chain of command look like with VR?

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR counselors report to their unit supervisors. Supervisors report to an Area Supervisor who reports to an Area Director. DVR has 6 areas and all of the Area Directors report to the Bureau Chief of Client Services, who is stationed in the Tallahassee State DVR office. The State of Florida DVR Director is Bill Palmer.

Division of Blind Services (DBS) counselors report to their unit supervisors. Supervisors report to District Administrators and there are 12 districts. The District Administrators report to the Bureau Chief of Client Services in the Tallahassee State DBS office. The State of Florida DBS Director is Joyce Hildreth.

If I have a problem with VR agency decisions on my case, whom can I contact to learn more about my rights?

Your counselor and the counselor’s supervisor should help you understand your rights to challenge any decision with which you disagree. The Client Assistance Program (CAP) is also available to provide information, advice, negotiation or possible representation in disputes with VR agencies in Florida. Please call 1-800-342-0823 or call TDD at 1-800-346-4127, if you need additional assistance or information to resolve disputes with either DVR or DBS.

Voting - Rights & Responsibilities

Photograph of a lady in a wheelchair entering an accessible polling placeTo Vote in Florida:

  • You must be a resident of Florida
  • You must be a United States Citizen
  • You must be at least 18 years old on or before Election Day
  • You must be registered to vote.

2014 Dates You Should Know:

  • Primary Election Registration Deadline - July 28, 2014
  • Primary Election Early Voting - August 16 - August 23, 2014
  • Primary Election - August 26, 2014
  • General Election Registration Deadline - October 6, 2014
  • General Election Early Voting - October 25 - November 1, 2014
  • General Election - November 4, 2014

Register or Update Your Registration

To vote in an upcoming election, you must be registered no later than 29 days before the election.

To register to vote, you must fill out, sign and submit a voter registration application. You may access a Florida Voter Registration Application Form here in English or Spanish.

You may submit your application to the office of your local Supervisor of Elections. To find your local Supervisor of Elections office's location and website, visit the Florida Division of Elections Find Your Supervisor of Elections website.

You may also submit your application in person at any driver’s license office or voter registration agency. Voter registration agencies include public libraries and any state agency offices that provide public assistance or services to individuals with disabilities. These include offices of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Division of Blind Services, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Elder Affairs, the Department of Health, disability services offices at public colleges and universities, Centers for Independent Living, and Department of Children and Families offices that administer WIC, SNAP, Temporary Cash Assistance and Medicaid programs.

Your registration date is the date that your application is postmarked or hand delivered to the office of any voter registration agency.

After you register, you should receive a voter information card in the mail. Your assigned polling place, which is where you must go to vote if you vote on Election Day, will be printed on the card.

Updating Your Registration

If you have previously registered to vote, take a few minutes to verify that your voter registration is current and correct. If your name, address or signature has changed since you last registered, it is important to update your information with your Supervisor of Elections. You may check your registration status by calling your county’s Supervisor of Elections or online at http://registration.elections.myflorida.com/CheckVoterStatus

It is recommended that you use a voter registration application to update your name or address. You may contact your county’s Supervisor of Elections for information about other accepted methods for updating this information. 

You must use the voter registration application to update your signature.

Name and address updates may be submitted at any time prior to voting, although it is preferred to submit them well in advance. 

For the signature updates to be used for signature comparisons by officials reviewing absentee and provisional ballots, the updated signatures must be received in advance. Officials may begin these reviews as early as 15 days before an election. If the appearance of your signature has changed and you have not updated your signature, it is possible that your vote will not be counted.

Four Ways to Vote

Florida law provides that as a registered voter, you may choose one of four ways to vote:

Early Voting

Early voting in Florida begins 10 days before each state or federal election and ends on the 3rd day before that election.

Early voting for the 2014 Primary Election is between August 16 and August 23, 2014.

Early voting for the 2014 General Election is between October 25 and November 1, 2014. Contact your Supervisor of Elections for locations, times, and whether additional days will be offered in your county.

Early voting requires that you, the registered voter, vote in person at a voting site designated by the Supervisor of Elections for early voting. If you vote early, you will use the same type of voting equipment used on Election Day and you must bring a valid picture identification with signature. See below for details regarding accepted forms of identification.

Voting at the Polls on Election Day

On Election Day, the polls are open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

Contact your Supervisor of Elections or visit their website to learn which precinct and polling place you need to go to.

When you vote, bring a valid picture identification with signature. The following photo identification is accepted:

  • Florida driver’s license
  • Florida identification card issued by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
  • United States passport
  • Debit or credit card
  • Military identification
  • Student identification
  • Retirement center identification
  • Neighborhood association identification
  • Public assistance identification
  • If your photo identification does not contain your signature, you will be asked to provide an additional identification that includes a signature.

If you do not have proper identification, your vote will be registered at the polls as provisional and will only be counted if the signature on the provisional ballot envelope is found to match the signature on your voter registration application. Another option for people who do not have proper identification is to vote by mail.

Absentee Voting or Voting by Mail

Florida law allows you, as a registered voter, to request an absentee ballot from the Supervisor of Elections.

A member of your immediate family or a legal guardian may also request an absentee ballot for you, if directly instructed to do so by the voter. The request can cover two general election cycles and details can be obtained from your Supervisor of Election.

A request for an absentee ballot to be mailed must be made no later than 5 p.m. on the 6th day before an election.

Florida law allows you to have assistance marking your choices on your absentee ballot if such assistance is required because of blindness, disability or inability to read or write.

At an Assisted Living Facility or Nursing Home

If you live at an Assisted Living Facility or in a Nursing Home, Florida law requires that a Supervisor of Election set up and facilitate absentee voting within the assisted living facilty or nursing home whenever the facility administrator makes a timely and proper request. The request must be submitted at least 21 days before the election and list at least five voters who wish to vote at the facility. If fewer than five names appear on the request, the Supervisor is not required to set up and facilitate the absentee voting.

However, a Supervisor of Election may set up such voting even if the faciliy administrator has not requested it. Visit the Links tab to read further. Generally you must be a resident of the facility to be eligibile to vote at the facility.

To access Florida's law on these and other voting topics, visit the Links tab.

Accessibility & Assistance

Federal and state law requires Supervisor of Elections offices and polling places to be accessible. Visit the Links tab to learn more about these laws.

Florida law also governs the extent to which you have the right to be assisted by others in the process of registering and voting.

Accessibility to Register and to Vote

Title II of the ADA outlines the accessibility requirements related to registering to vote and voting. The law says that all polling places must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. For example, the doors should be wide enough, the parking and walkways accessible, and the ramps and elevators appropriate. To learn more, visit the Links tab or go to our Americans with Disabilities Act - Title II sections regarding State and Local Government Activities and the role of County and Court ADA Coordinators.

Please also visit the Links tab to access a U.S. Department of Justice ADA Checklist for Polling Places.

In Florida, the law requires a "marksense" ballot on which you, the registered voter, use a marking device to designate selections. Marksense ballots are preprinted with selections next to an empty rectangle, circle, oval, or an incomplete arrow. Voters record their choices by filling in the rectangle, circle or oval, or by completing the arrow. After voting, the voters either place the ballot in a sealed box or feed it into a computer tabulating device at the precinct. The tabulating device reads the votes using "dark mark logic," whereby the computer selects the darkest mark within a given set as the correct choice or vote. Marksense technology has existed for decades and been used extensively in such areas as standardized testing and statewide lotteries. Although marksense systems are often referred to as "optical scan," marksense technology is only one of several methods for recognizing marks on paper through optical reading techniques.

Florida law and the Help America Vote Act of 2002 establish the standards for accessible voting systems. Some Supervisors of Elections currently make these systems available. However, Florida law also allows Supervisors of Elections to delay use of devices that meet these standards until 2020.

Assistance with Voter Registration

Florida law outlines assistance with registration that individuals with disabilities may request and receive.

For example, staff at your local Supervisor of Elections Office may assist by explaining the requirements for correctly filling out a voter registration application.

Florida law also requires that any state agency office or private provider on contract with a state agency providing assistance or services to individuals with disabilities must provide their applicants and clients with an opportunity to register to vote or update their voter registration. These state agencies and private providers are required to assist you with voter registration anytime you apply or reapply for services or assistance or anytime you provide a change of address. For more information about places to register, see the “Register” tab.

An individual may receive assistance to register from their spouse, parent or child.

Assistance is also available from a number of private individuals and organizations, such as the Florida League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote. Anyone who is not a Supervisor of Elections employee, voter registration agency employee, or a prospective registrant’s spouse, parent or child, must register as a “third-party voter registration organization” before assisting individuals to register to vote.  
 

Assistance with Voting - at the poll, during early voting or when voting absentee

Florida law allows you, as a registered voter, to have assistance marking your choices on your ballot or absentee ballot if you need assistance because of blindness, disability or inabilty to read or write. You may request assistance from election officials or select someone to assist you. You may choose whoever you want to assist you, except that the person cannot be your employer or an agent of your employer or an officer or agency of your union. 

You, as a registered voter, do not have to disclose the nature or extent of your disability.

If your voter registration record does not already contain a notation about you needing help, you will have to complete and sign a form. The clerk at the polling place can help you fill out the form.

Unless you choose an elections official, the person you choose to help you also has to fill out a form. 

If you have any questions about receiving assistance with voting, please direct your questions to your Supervisor of Elections or the clerk or inspector at the polling place.

Loss of Right to Vote

There are only two ways you can lose your right to vote under Florida law:

  • The first way is if a judge finds that under Florida's guardianship laws, you are mentally incapacitated with regard to voting.
  • The second way is if a court has convicted you of a felony and suspended your civil rights.

Only a court can take away your right to vote.

No one else - not a guardian advocate, not an election official, not a caregiver, not a family member or anyone else, has the legal authority to prevent you from voting.

If you need assistance protecting your right to vote, you may contact Disability Rights Florida.

Guardianship

A judge can take away your right to vote if the judge finds that you are mentally incapacitated with respect to voting. If you have been found to be incapacitated but believe your rights, including your right to vote should be restored, contact Disability Rights Florida to request assistance.

Felony Criminal Conviction

In Florida, a person who has been convicted of a felony and whose civil rights have been suspended, may not vote unless the right to vote has been restored. Help is available to people, including people with disabilities, to pursue the restoration of their rights through the Florida Parole Commission Office of Executive Clemency.

Visit the Links tab to access the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition and Florida Parole Commission Office of Executive Clemency websites for more information.

Campaigns

If you are a candidate or support a campaign, please read on to learn how to increase meaningful participation by improving accessibility.

We suggest that candidates and campaigns follow these guidelines:

  • Hold events and establish campaign offices in ADA-compliant accessible facilities.
  • Have sign language interpreters available for all events.
  • Use closed captioning and descriptive audio in campaign commercials/videos.
  • Have campaign materials available in alternative formats that are accessible to persons with disabilities (such as Braille, large type, on computer disk and online).
  • Make campaign websites fully accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Encourage campaign workers and staff to be sensitive to people with disabilities - their votes count just as much as everyone else’s. Make sensitivity training or materials available to campaign workers and staff. 
  • Recruit and encourage people with disabilities to join and become active in the campaign.
  • Encourage private groups supporting the campaign to adopt these guidelines.

You may distribute these guidelines in the form of a flyer available here for print in English and Spanish, or print this entire disability topic and share it with others.

Resources - Start Here

Previous Link: Acronyms and Glossary

Next Link: Resources - Advocates, Programs, Colleges, & Universities

For Employers and Employees

Peer Run and Innovative

Federal

Student Resources: Preparing for College
Website: https://www.disability.gov/search/list?q=&facetPrefix=1%2FEducation&fq=topics%3A%22Education%22&fq=locations%3Anational&fq=subTopics%3A%221%2FEducation%2FGetting+Ready+for+College%22

Administration on Developmental Disabilities
Website: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/add/index.html

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Website: http://store.samhsa.gov/home

Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
Website: http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/index.html?src=mr


Rehabilitation Services Administration
Website: http://rsa.ed.gov/

400 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Room 3329-MES
Washington, DC 20202-2551

(202) 245-7488


Office of Special Education Programs
Website: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/osep/index.html

400 Maryland Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20202

Telephone: (202) 245-7468
1-800-USA-LEARN 


Office for Civil Rights
Website: http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/index.html

400 Maryland Avenue SW
Washington, D.C. 20202

Telephone: 1-800-421-3481
FAX: 202-245-6840
TDD: 877-521-2172

Email: OCR@ed.gov

Electronic Complaint Form: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaintintro.html


Family Policy Compliance Office
Website: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/index.html

400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202-5920

1-800-USA-LEARN (1-800-872-5327)

Assistance with or complaints under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment

Office of Disability Employment Policy
Website: http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/disability/index.htm

200 Constitution Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20210

(866) 4-USA-DOL
(877) 889-5627 (TTY)

950 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Civil Rights Division
Disability Rights Section – NYA
Washington, DC 20530

(800) 514-0301 (voice)
(800) 514-0383 (TTY)

Career, Technical and Adult

Career and Technical

Web: http://www.fldoe.org/workforce/publicat.asp

Specifically for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, five district technical centers offer basic transition programs:

  1. Brewster Technical Center - Hillsborough
  2. Lorenzo Walker Institution – Collier
  3. Sarasota County Tech – Sarasota
  4. Taylor Tech – Taylor
  5. Tech Educational Center - Osceola

Adult Education

Web: http://www.fldoe.org/workforce/adulted/

Veterans

Note to active military, veterans and their families. Disability Rights Florida appreciates your service to our country. Now it is our turn to help you pursue your goals of employment, independent living and accessing services.

The following resources may be helpful as a starting point.
 

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

What is post-traumatic stress disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after someone experiences a traumatic event that caused intense fear, helplessness, or horror. PTSD can result from personally experienced traumas (e.g., rape, war, natural disasters, abuse, serious accidents, and captivity) or from the witnessing or learning of a violent or tragic event.

While it is common to experience a brief state of anxiety or depression after such occurrences, people with PTSD continually re-experience the traumatic event; avoid individuals, thoughts, or situations associated with the event; and have symptoms of excessive emotions. People with this disorder have these symptoms for longer than one month and cannot function as well as they did before the traumatic event. PTSD symptoms usually appear within three months of the traumatic experience; however, they sometimes occur months or even years later.

What are the symptoms of PTSD?

Although the symptoms for individuals with PTSD can vary considerably, they generally fall into three categories:

  • Re-experience - Individuals with PTSD often experience recurrent and intrusive recollections of and/or nightmares about the stressful event. Some may experience flashbacks, hallucinations, or other vivid feelings of the event happening again. Others experience great psychological or physiological distress when certain things (objects, situations, etc.) remind them of the event.
  • Avoidance - Many with PTSD will persistently avoid things that remind them of the traumatic event. This can result in avoiding everything from thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the incident to activities, places, or people that cause them to recall the event. In others there may be a general lack of responsiveness signaled by an inability to recall aspects of the trauma, a decreased interest in formerly important activities, a feeling of detachment from others, a limited range of emotion, and/or feelings of hopelessness about the future.
  • Increased arousal - Symptoms in this area may include difficulty falling or staying asleep, irritability or outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating, becoming very alert or watchful, and/or jumpiness or being easily startled.

People who have PTSD may also have experience problems such as:

  • Drinking or drug problems
  • Feelings of hopelessness, shame, or despair
  • Employment problems
  • Relationships problems including divorce and violence
  • Physical symptoms

Additional PTSD Resources:

Traumatic Brain Injury

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined as a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI. The severity of such an injury may range from "mild," i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness to "severe," i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury. A TBI can result in short or long-term problems with independent function. Blasts are a leading cause of TBI for active duty military personnel in war zones.

TBI can cause a wide range of functional changes affecting thinking, language, learning, emotions, behavior, and/or sensation. It can also cause epilepsy and increase the risk for conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and other brain disorders that become more prevalent with age.

Additional Resources

Suicide Prevention

Note:  Disability Rights Florida is NOT a crisis intervention agency.   If you are thinking of hurting yourself, or if you are concerned that someone else may be suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

The Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has founded a national suicide prevention hotline to ensure veterans in emotional crisis have free, 24/7 access to trained counselors. To operate the Veterans Hotline, the VA partnered with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Veterans can call the Lifeline number, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), and press "1" to be routed to the Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline. 

Veteran specific risks:

  • Frequent deployments
  • Deployments to hostile environments
  • Exposure to extreme stress
  • Physical/sexual assault while in the service (not limited to women)
  • Length of deployments
  • Service related injury

Additional Resources

Resources - Parent Support, Work Incentives & Other

Previous Link: Resources - Advocates, Programs, Colleges, & Universities

Especially for Parents & Caregivers

Family Network on Disabilities of Florida, Inc.

Parent to Parent and Parent Training and Information Center (PTI)
22196 Main St., Suite K
Dunedin, FL 34698

(727) 523-1130
(800) 825-5736 (In FL only)

Web: http://www.fndfl.org/

Florida NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Illness

1030 E Lafayette St, Ste 10
Tallahassee, FL 32301-4587

(877)626-4352
(850)671-4445
Fax: (850) 671-5272

Website: http://www.namiflorida.org

Family Care Council Florida

For people in the DD community

Website: http://www.fccflorida.org/

Parent to Parent of Miami, Inc.

Community Parent Resource Center
C/O Sunrise Community
7990 SW 117 Ave, Suite 201
Miami, FL 33173

(305) 271-9797

Website: http://www.ptopmiami.org/

Parent Teacher Association (PTA)

Florida Congress of Parents and Teachers, Inc.
1747 Orlando Central Parkway
Orlando, FL 32809-5757

(407) 855-7604
Toll free: (800) 373-5782

Website: http://www.floridapta.org/

Work Incentive, Planning and Assistance Organizations

Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPAs)

(Social Security beneficiaries only)

Statewide Toll Free Number: 1-800-772-1213

Web: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/work/ServiceProviders/WIPADirectory.html

Abilities of Florida

2735 Whitney Road
Clearwater, FL 33758

727-538-7370 ext. 365

Web: http://servicesrcsub3.timberlakepublishing.com/content.asp?contentid=358

Counties served: Citrus, De Soto, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Levy, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, and Sumter

Brevard Achievement Center, Inc.

1845 Cogswell Street
Rockledge, FL 32955

321-632-8610
800-467-4486 (Flagler & Volusia Co.)
888-310-6525 (Brevard & Indian Co)
321-632-8610 TTY

Web: http://www.bacbrevard.com/

Counties served: Brevard, Flagler, Indian River, Lake, Martin, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Putnam, Seminole, St. Lucie, and Volusia

Center for Independent Living in Central Florida

720 N. Denning Drive
Winter Park, FL 32789

407-623-1070
877-891-6448 (Toll Free)
407-623-1185 TTY
407-623-1390 FAX

Web: http://www.cilorlando.org/

Counties served: Broward, Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Miami-Dade, and Monroe.

Goodwill Industries of North Florida, Inc.

4527 Lenox Avenue
Jacksonville, FL 32205

352-335-1311
877-346-3349 (Toll Free)

Web: http://www.goodwilljax.org/

Counties served: Alachua, Bay, Bradford, Calhoun, Columbia, Dixie, Escambia, Franklin, Gilchrist, Gulf, Holmes, Lafayette, Liberty, Marion, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Suwannee, Taylor, Union, Walton, and Washington.

Independent Living Resource Center of NE Florida

2709 Art Museum Drive
Jacksonville, FL 32207

904-399-8484

Website: http://www.cilj.com/

Counties served: Baker, Clay, Duval, Gadsden, Hamilton, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Madison, Nassau, Wakulla, and St. John’s.

National Resources

Cornell University

School of Industrial and Labor Relations
Program on Employment and Disability

Web: http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/EDI/c-transition.cfm

Publication: Policy and Practice Brief Series: The Transition from School to Work (2002)

The National Assistive Technology Advocacy Project

Neighborhood Legal Services, Inc.
237 Main Street, 4th Floor
Buffalo, NY 14203

(716) 847-0650
Fax: (716) 874-0227
TTY: (716) 874-1322

Web: http://nls.org/

Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation

Boston University
940 Commonwealth Avenue West
Boston, MA 02215

Phone (617) 353-3549
Fax (617) 353-7700

Website: http://cpr.bu.edu/

Virginia Commonwealth University - Benefits Assistance Resource Center

Resources for Students, Caregivers, and Faculty
1314 West Main Street
Richmond, Virginia 23284-9063

Phone: 804-828-1851
Fax: 804-828-2193

Web: http://www.worksupport.com/

Publication: The Supplemental Security Program and Employment for Young Adults with Disabilities: An analysis of the National Health Survey on Disability (2000)

Institute on Community Integration

National Transition Network (NTN) provides technical assistance and evaluation services to strengthen the capacity of individual states to improve school-to-work transition policies, programs, and practices

University of Minnesota
102 Pattee Hall, 150 Pillsbury Drive SE
Minneapolis MN 55455

Web: http://ici.umn.edu/

Transition Research Institute at Illinois

TRI, at the University of Illinois, is a research and evaluation institute that identifies effective practices and programs.

113 Children’s Research Center
51 Gerty Drive
Champaign, IL 61820

Web: http://www.ed.uiuc.edu/sped/tri/institute.html

National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY)

1825 Connecticut Ave, NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20009

(800) 695-0285 v/tty
(202) 884-8441 fax

Web: http://nichcy.org/

Other Resources and Organizations

Transportation

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 helps to protect the civil rights of individuals with disabilities, including the right to accessible and equal access to transportation.  The following information provides a brief overview of various modes of transportation and provides links and resources for additional information.

Fixed/Paratransit

For individuals who rely on public transportation, the ADA requires that the public transit systems be accessibleto individuals with disabilities. This means that an individual with a disability is able to get to a bus stop, board the bus and travel to his/her destination successfully.   The ADA requires that public transit entities that provide fixed-route bus or rail services, also provide “complementary paratransit” services to individuals with disabilities who cannot, because of their disability, access the fixed-route system.   Individuals with disabilities must qualify for  ADA paratransit services through a process that is collaboratively developed by the transit system and the local community. 

The eligibility determination process for ADA complementary paratransit is developed by the transit system in consultation with the local community. 

Medical

The Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), the administrator for Florida’s Medicaid program, contracted with the Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged (CTD) to have the CTD administer and manage the Medicaid Non-Emergency Transportation program.  Medicaid recipients may be eligible for Medicaid- sponsored non-emergency transportation services and should contact the CTD for additional information or assistance at 1-800-983-2435 or by visiting the CTD Medicaid Non-Emergency Transportation webpage.

CTD

The State of Florida’s Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged (CTD) is an independent commission housed administratively within the Florida Department of Transportation.  Their mission is to ensure the availability of efficient, cost-effective, and quality transportation services for persons who are transportation disadvantaged. Transportation disadvantaged are those who cannot obtain their own transportation due to a disability, age, or income.

Motor Coaches

The Department of Transportation issued Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations for the motor coach industry in September 1998. These regulations require equal access to new motorcoaches and motorcoach service to individuals with disabilities. ADA regulations for delivering accessible motorcoach service went into effect in October 2001 for fixed route, charter, tour and other demand responsive motorcoach companies. The ADA regulations went into effect for small operators in October 2002. In accordance with these regulations, companies must provide accessible coaches and services to a passenger with a disability upon a 48-hour advance request notice

FTA

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) helps to ensure that public transportation systems provide accessible transportation services for individuals with disabilities.  For general information visit the FTA website. To contact the FTA Headquarters in Washington DC please call (202) 366-4043, or to contact Region 4 which includes the State of Florida call (404) 562-3500. 

Rental Cars

Rental car agencies are places of public accommodations and therefore must meet the requirements set forth under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Title III ensures that places of public accommodations provide modifications or accommodations to make goods and services available to individuals with disabilities.

Air

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) of 1986 as amended (May 13, 2009) prohibits discrimination based on disability for air traveling passengers.  The ACAA also enhances accessibility for airline travel, for both domestic and foreign carriers as well as within airport terminals.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings Aviation - Consumer Protection Division accepts complaints pertaining to airline/consumer matters and maintains public information on aviation matters. 

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) strives to provide the highest level of security while ensuring that all passengers are treated with dignity and respect. To that end, TSA launched TSA Cares, a new helpline number designed to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions.

Resources - Advocates, Programs, Colleges, & Universities

Previous Link: Resources - Start Here

Next Link: Resources - Parent Support, Work Incentives, Other

State Colleges & Universities

Florida College System

http://www.fldoe.org/cc/

Disability Support Services: http://www.fldoe.org/cc/educators/Disability/dss.asp

Specifically for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities, nine of Florida’s State Colleges offer basic transition programs:

  1. College of Central Florida
  2. Daytona State College
  3. Florida State College at Jacksonville
  4. Pensacola State College
  5. Santa Fe College
  6. Seminole State College
  7. South Florida Community College
  8. St. Johns River Community College
  9. Tallahassee Community College

State University System

http://www.flbog.org/

Services for Students with Disabilities: http://www.flbog.org/forstudents/ati/disabilities.php

Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida

http://www.icuf.org/newdevelopment/schools/

State Government Agencies - Part 1

Florida Department of Education - Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services (BEESS)

325 W. Gaines Street, Suite 614
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0400

(850) 245-0475

http://www.fldoe.org/ese/

BEESS Publications: http://www.fldoe.org/ese/pub-home.asp

BEESS Projects

Accommodations and Modifications for Students with Disabilities

http://www.cpt.fsu.edu/ese/index.html

Centers for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD)

The Centers for Autism & Related Disabilities are located at seven state universities and provide community-based information and consultation to individuals with autism spectrum disorders and related disabilities, their families, and school districts.

Contacts: http://www.fldoe.org/ese/contact/pdfs/CARD.pdf

Websites:

Critical Initiatives in Visual Impairment Project (CIVI)

This project provides teacher training that addresses the critical shortage of highly qualified personnel; effective practices in braille instruction; and the effective use of residual vision for learning by using low vision devices.

Website: www.careersinblindness.com

Curriculum, Learning, and Assessment Support Project (CLASP)

CLASP is a project focused on students with significant cognitive disabilities. CLASP is designed to support access to the general curriculum for students with significant cognitive disabilities who participate in the Florida Alternate Assessment through appropriate instruction aligned with the Sunshine State Standards Access Points.

Bureau Liaison: Karen Denbroeder, Karen.Denbroeder@fldoe.org

Contact Person: Virginia Horton, virginia.horton@ocps.net

Educational Interpreters Project

Florida's Educational Interpreters Project is a state-funded initiative to improve the skills of K-12 interpreters and transliterators working with students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Website: http://www.interpreterproject.org/

Exceptional Student Education Parent Survey Project

The purpose of this project is to provide support to the Florida Department of Education in meeting the requirements of Indicator 8 of the State Performance Plan.

Website: http://www.education.miami.edu/organization/organizations_Detail.asp?Organization_ID=124

Family Café (Cooperation, Advocacy, Friendship, and Empowerment)

The Family Café exists to provide individuals with disabilities and their families with an opportunity for collaboration, advocacy, friendship and empowerment by serving as a facilitator of communication, a space for dialogue and a source of information.

Website: http://www.familycafe.net/

Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resources System Associate Centers (FDLRS)

The FDLRS Associate Centers provide diagnostic and instructional support services to district exceptional student education programs and families of students with exceptionalities statewide.

Contacts: http://www.fldoe.org/ese/pdf/managers.pdf

Website: http://www.fdlrs.org

FDLRS Multidisciplinary Educational Service Centers

This network of five regional Multidisciplinary Educational Services Centers provide a range of services for pre-school and school-aged children, including diagnostic and evaluation services, related medical management, consultation services, pre-service and in-service training.

Contacts: http://www.fldoe.org/ese/pdf/managers.pdf

Websites:

Florida Inclusion Network (FIN)

FIN provides learning opportunities, consultation, information, and support to educators, families, and community members resulting in the inclusion of all students.

Contacts: http://www.fldoe.org/ese/pdf/FIN-Contacts.pdf

Website: http://www.floridainclusionnetwork.com

Institute for Small and Rural Districts (ISRD)

The mission of ISRD is to improve outcomes for students with disabilities in the thirty-four small and rural school districts through staff development, information dissemination, technical assistance, product development, and support for district initiatives.

Website: http://www.nefec.org/isrd/

Learning through Listening Project (LtL)

The purpose of this project is to provide digital audio textbooks and equipment to students who cannot read standard print due to visual, perceptual, physical, or learning disabilities. The project also facilitates support services and training to administrators, teachers, parents, and students on the use of this technology provided by Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic.

Website: http://www.learningthroughlistening.org

State Government Agencies - Part 2

BEESS Projects (Continued)

Multiagency Network for Students with Severe Emotional/Behavioral Disabilities (SEDNET)

SEDNET is devoted to facilitating the creation of a comprehensive "system of care" for high-risk students and students with emotional/behavioral disabilities and their families.

Contacts: http://www.fldoe.org/ese/pdf/ProjectManagers.pdf

Website: http://www.sednetfl.info/

Parents Educating Parents in the Community (PEP)

PEP provides information, training, and support to parents of children with disabilities in select isolated, rural areas of Florida.

Website: http://fndfl.org/programs/pep-parents-educating-parents-in-the-community.aspx

Positive Behavior Support (PBS)

PBS provides a positive and effective alternative to the traditional methods of discipline. PBS methods are research-based and proven to significantly reduce the occurrence of problem behaviors in the school, resulting in a more positive school climate and increased academic performance.

Website: http://flpbs.fmhi.usf.edu

Project 10: Transition Education Network

The mission of Project 10: Transition Education Network, hereinafter referred to as "Project 10," is to assist Florida school districts and relevant stakeholders in building capacity to provide secondary transition services to students with disabilities in order to improve their academic success and post-school outcomes.

Website: http://www.project10.info

VSA Florida

VSA is a statewide support network responsible for the implementation of arts programs to ensure inclusion, learning and success through the arts for all students.

Website: http://www.vsafl.org

Florida Department of Education

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation

2002 Old St. Augustine Road, Building A
Tallahassee, FL 32301-4862

(850) 245-3399
(800) 451-4327

Website: http://www.rehabworks.org/

Division of Blind Services

325 West Gaines Street
Room 1114, Turlington Building
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0400

Toll Free: (800) 342-1828
Telephone: (850) 245-0300
Fax: (850) 245-0363

Website: http://dbs.myflorida.com/

Independent Living Program – Centers for Independent Living

http://www.rehabworks.org/indep_living.shtml

Florida Association of Centers for Independent Living (FACIL)

325 John Knox Rd.
Building C, Suite 132
Tallahassee, Fl 32303

(850) 575-6004 or toll free (866) 575-6004 Voice
(850) 575-6093 Fax

Website: http://www.floridacils.org/

Agency for Workforce Innovation

Disability Program Navigator Initiative: http://www.floridajobs.org/office-directory/division-of-workforce-services/workforce-programs/disability-program-navigator-initiative

Department of Children and Families

Website: http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/

Mental Health Programs Office

Department of Children and Families
1317 Winewood Boulevard, Building 6
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0700

(850) 488-8304

Web: http://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/mental-health

Children’s Mental Health Program

Mental Health Programs Office
1317 Winewood Boulevard, Building 6, Room 290
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0700

(850) 488-8304

Web: http://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/mental-health/childrens-mental-health-services

Office of Family & Community Service

1317 Winewood Boulevard
Tallahassee, FL 32399

(850) 488-8762

Web: http://www.dcf.state.fl.us

Florida Guardian ad Litem Program

600 South Calhoun Street
Suite 273 B
Tallahassee, Florida 32399

Phone: 850-922-7213
Fax: 850-922-7211

Website: http://www.guardianadlitem.org/

State of Florida Division of Administrative Hearings

The Desoto Building
1230 Apalachee Parkway
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-3060

(850) 488-9675
SUNCOM 278-9675
Fax Filing (850) 921-6847

Website: http://www.doah.state.fl.us/internet/

Florida Department of Health

Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Program: http://www.doh.state.fl.us/demo/BrainSC/index.html

Statewide Advocacy Organizations

Disability Rights Florida

Florida’s Protection and Advocacy Agency

2728 Centerview Drive, Suite 102
Tallahassee, FL 32301

(850) 488-9071; (800) 346-4127 (TTY)
(800) 342-0823; (800) 350-4566

(Spanish and Creole Speaking Clients)

Web: http://www.DisabilityRightsFlorida.org

Florida Legal Services

2425 Torreya Drive
Tallahassee FL 32303

(850) 385-7900

Web: http://www.floridalegal.org/

Florida’s Children First

1801 N. University Dr., 3rd Floor, Suite C
Coral Springs FL 33071

(954) 796-0860

Web: http://www.floridaschildrenfirst.org

Florida Independent Living Council, Inc.

1018 Thomasville Road, Suite 100A
Tallahassee, FL 32303

(850) 488-5624 voice/TTY
(877) 822-1993 toll free
(850) 488-5881 fax

Web: http://www.flailc.org

Florida Developmental Disabilities Council

124 Marriott Drive, Suite 203
Tallahassee, FL 32301-2981

(850) 488-4180
Toll free: 1-800-580-7801
TDD: (850) 488-9056

Web: http://www.fddc.org/

Brain Injury Association of Florida

Web: http://byyourside.org/?id=92

Traumatic Brain Injury Resource and Support Center

Web: http://173.201.23.235/

Assistive Technology

Florida Alliance for Assistive Services & Technology (FAAST), Inc.

325 John Knox Road
Building 400, Suite 402
Tallahassee, Florida 32303

(850) 487-3278
1-888-788-9216

Web: http://www.faast.org

Considering Housing Options

Previous Topic: Turning 18, Guardianship and Other Options

Next Topic: Assistive Technology

Housing Options

Photo of a man with a disability cooking dinner in his own residence.Under Construction! Please check back for a comprehensive guide to housing programs.

Here is a very small sample of resources to get you started.

There are many programs that may be able help you with living expenses. Be sure to learn about what help you can expect before you turn 18. Ask for assistance to apply for all services and programs you might be eligible for as an adult. Be sure to start early if you need to obtain accessible on-campus housing.

SSI & Medicaid Waivers

If you are eligible to receive SSI as an adult, it is expected that you will use the SSI funds to pay for your living expenses. Adults who are on a Medicaid waiver may have some of their living expenses paid by the waiver. Talk to your support coordinator about what will happen when you turn 18.

Supported Housing and Supported Living

If you are not ready to live on your own, and don’t have a friend or family to help you, you may want to obtain supported housing or supported living. Supported housing and supported living means that people will help you make sure things are ok in your home and that you have the things you need. You will still be responsible for taking care of your home. There are many different organizations that provide supported housing and supported living. Most communities have supported housing for adults with disabilities.

Some resources include:

Getting Your Own Place

Being on your own is exciting and challenging. It’s also a lot of hard work. As you plan, ask yourself if you’re truly ready to shop, cook, clean and deal with repairs, bills, laundry and landlords.

If the answer is no, talk to your family, caseworker or transition team about the independent living skills you need to learn and any other options available to you.

If the Answer is Yes, it’s Time to Develop a Plan:

  • Who will help you in an emergency?
  • Will your apartment need accommodations?
  • Who will handle your Social Security and health benefits?
  • Can you really afford to live on your own?
  • Do you need to open a checking account?
  • Do you know how to cook, clean, do laundry, pay bills?
  • How will you get to work, school, the bank, the grocery store?
  • Which family members and friends will be part of your support system?
  • How will you keep in touch with your family and friends?

Remember:

  • Being on your own gets everyone down at times.
  • Having a network of people you love and trust will smooth your path.

Assistive Technology

Photo of Michael, a client of Disability Rights Florida, using his assistive technology device.Previous Topic: Considering Housing Options

Next Topic: Social Security Benefits

What is Assistive Technology (AT)?

AT is any device or system that can maintain or improve the capabilities of a person with a disability and the training or other support to ensure its availability. When school officials are deciding whether to place a student with a disability in a regular classroom, before they look at other placements, they must consider how assistive technology can help the student succeed in the least restrictive environment.

Florida law requires that if an IEP team makes a recommendation in accordance with State Board of Education rules for a student with disabilities to receive an assistive technology assessment, that assessment must be completed within 60 school days after the team’s recommendation.

A student’s IEP or 504 Team can determine the need for assistive technology based on a professional evaluation. If the student needs the technology to access the curriculum, for home study, or in the transition to adulthood, the school may pay for both the equipment and the training to use it. A student with a disability may also need — and has a right to — some form of technology in order to participate fully in school activities.

In that case, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act may require that the school provide the technology, as well as any training necessary to use it. DVR and DBS are required to equip an eligible person for employment.

Assistive technology services include evaluation, maintenance, repair and training for students, their families and the professionals working with them.

Examples of AT

  • Augmentative communication systems, including talking computers
  • Assistive listening devices, including hearing aids, personal FM units, closed-caption TVs and teletype machines (TDDs)
  • Specially adapted learning games, toys and recreation equipment
  • Computer and software
  • Computer-assisted instruction
  • Electronic tools (scanners with speech synthesizers, tape recorders, word processors)
  • Curriculum and textbook adaptations (audio format, large print format, Braille)
  • Copies of overheads, transparencies and notes
  • Adaption of the learning environment, such as  special  desks, modified learning stations, computer touch screens or different computer keyboards
  • Durable medical equipment

Who Pays for AT?

Payment for assistive technology may come from any of several sources — the special education system, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Division of Blind Services, Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance or the SSI program’s “Plan for Achieving Self Support.”

Which agency will pay? The answer depends on the disability, age and situation of the person who needs it. It also depends on how the technology is expected to impact that person. If, for instance, the technology makes it possible for a student to be educated in the least restrictive environment, as the law requires, then it may be considered the school’s responsibility.

A major source of financing for assistive technology is Medicaid, which regularly pays for such items as custom and power wheelchairs, augmentative and alternative communication devices, specialized beds, bath equipment, high and low-tech lifting devices, and other technology that helps overcome the effects of disabling conditions.

Sources of Medicaid funding vary based on whether the person with a disability is under or over age 21, which state he or she lives in, and which program or waivers he or she qualifies for.

Medicare helps pay for durable medical equipment, defined as equipment that:

  • can withstand repeated use
  • is primarily and customarily used to serve a medical purpose
  • generally would not be useful to a person who isn’t ill or injured
  • is appropriate for use in the home

Transfer of AT

When an AT device is needed by the student in another district, postsecondary institution, state or community agency, employment facility or community living facility, Florida law requires that state agencies agree to facilitate a student or parent's request to transfer or retain use of the AT device.

Student and parents or guardians must put their request in writing.

Florida's interagency agreement has been signed by five state agencies:

  • Florida Infants and Toddlers Early Intervention Progarm (Department of Health)
  • Division of Blind Services (Department of Education)
  • Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (Department of Education)
  • Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program (Department of Education & Agency for Workforce Innovation)
  • Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services (Department of Education)

Florida's signed interagency agreement and a form that may be used to request transfer or retention of an AT devise can be found in this Florida Department of Education memorandum titled Interagency Agreement for the Transfer of Assistive Technology.

A Technical Assistance Paper regarding Transfer of Assistive Technology published by the Florida Department of Education also contains additional helpful information.

Social Security Benefits

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Most minors who receive a benefit from the Social Security Administration (SSA) receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is a needs based program to provide for the person with disability's basic living expenses, such as food, shelter and clothing. A person does not need to have a work history to receive SSI.

Unlike SSI, SSDI is an insurance program. When an individual works, they pay into the system, and when needed, the individual and their dependents receive a benefit. Youth who receive a SSDI benefit usually receive it based on the work record of a parent or grandparent who paid into the system, and is now disabled, retired or deceased. A minor need not be disabled to receive SSDI. Youth who are not disabled can continue to receive benefits until 2 months after age 19 if still enrolled in secondary or elementary school. Youth who are considered disabled under the adult definition can continue to receive SSDI payments after they turn 18 for so long as they remain disabled.

Children

Disability Definition for a Child

A minor is considered disabled for SSA purposes based on how a physical or mental condition or illness affects development and functioning in typical daily environments (i.e., school, home, community). At age 18, a review is scheduled to determine whether or not the condition or illness meets the SSA definition of disability for an adult.

Adults

Disability Definition for an Adult

The Social Security Administration considers an adult to be disabled when the illness or condition prevents substantial work activity for 12 months or longer. Therefore, the main issue for adults is how the condition or illness affects the person’s ability to work.

Work Can Affect Benefits

If you work, whatever your age, it is important to report your earnings to SSA. Earnings can affect the amount of an SSI benefit, and can even affect eligibility for SSI or SSDI. If SSA later finds that you were paid too much, or are no longer considered “disabled” because of work activity, you could be asked to repay the amount that you were overpaid by SSA.

Remember, if you are working, there are many Social Security Work Incentives that can be used to offset your earnings. When reporting income, it is important to also report any work incentives that you would like for SSA to consider, to reduce a portion of your countable earnings. See the Social Security "Red Book" for information on work incentives.

If a finding is made that the person is considered no longer disabled, SSA is required to send written notice of the decision, including all appeal rights. In order to continue the SSI or SSDI benefits during an appeals process, the appeal must be requested within 10 days of the notice of discontinuance.

If a finding is made that the person is considered no longer disabled by their illness or condition, § 301 Continued Payment Under a Vocational Rehabilitation or Similar Program may allow an SSI or SSDI recipient to continue to receive SSI or SSDI benefits. Benefits may continue if the person is participating in a vocational rehabilitation program at the time the disability ended, and the program will increase the likelihood of eliminating the future need for disability benefits. Section 301 Continued Payment Under a Vocational Rehabilitation or Similar Program also applies to Beneficiaries aged 18 through 21, participating in an individualized education program developed under policies and procedures approved by the US Secretary of Education for assistance to States for the education of individuals with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Social Security and Medical Benefits

SSI beneficiaries automatically receive Medicaid benefits.

Be aware however that there are many special Medicaid and Medicaid waiver programs in Florida that do not require a person to be eligible for SSI. For more information, see the Florida Medicaid Summary of Services.

SSDI beneficiaries qualify for Medicare benefits following a two year waiting period after first receiving SSDI. There are limited circumstances under which SSDI beneficiaries may qualify for Medicare without the two year waiting period.

Some individuals may be dually eligible for SSI and SSDI, and therefore for Medicaid and Medicare. Some individuals who receive SSDI only, may nevertheless be eligible to have Medicaid pay their Medicare premiums, and in some cases, their copays.

Some individuals, who received SSI benefits as a minor, become SSDI beneficiaries based on the work record of a parent or grandparent who is deceased, disabled or retired. As long as the person’s SSDI benefits are based on the work record of the parent or grandparent, and not on their own work record, the individual should maintain their eligibility for Medicaid. This is called Protected Medicaid.

The Social Security and medical benefits systems are very detailed and complex, and even the agencies that administer these programs sometimes make mistakes. It is always best to consult with a professional for information and advice about these systems and how they relate to each other. With proper planning, an individual can use available benefits to enhance opportunities for independence and quality of life.

Representative Payees

What is a Social Security Representative Payee?

SSA’s Representative Payment Program provides financial management for the SSDI and SSI payments to beneficiaries who are deemed incapable of managing their SSDI or SSI payments. A representative payee will always be appointed for a minor receiving benefits. Adults who are deemed capable of managing their own funds do not require a payee.

Generally, SSA will look for family or friends to serve as payee. When friends and family are not able to serve as payee, Social Security looks for qualified organizations to be a representative payee. The beneficiary may appeal SSA’s decision to appoint a representative payee.

Acronyms & Glossary

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Acronyms

APD

Agency for Persons with Disabilities

AWI

Agency for Workforce Innovation

DAC

Disabled Adult Child (a Social Security Administration term)

DBS

Division of Blind Services

DCF

Department of Children & Families

DNP

Disability Navigator Program

DOE

Department of Education

DJJ

Department of Juvenile Justice

DVR

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR)

EPSDT

Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis & Treatment (Medicaid)

ESE

Exceptional Student Education

FACTS

Florida Academic Counseling and Tracking for Students

FSL

Family and Supported Living Waiver

HCBS

Home and Community Based Services Waiver

IDA

Individual Development Account

IDEA

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

IEP

Individualized Education Program or Individualized Education Plan

IPE

Individual Plan for Employment

PASS

Plan for Achieving Self Support

SSA

Social Security Administration

SSDI

Social Security Disability Insurance

SSI

Supplemental Security Income

TIEP

Transition Individualized Education Program

WIPA

Work Incentives Planning and Assistance

Glossary A - L

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Enacted in 1990, the ADA guarantees people with disabilities civil rights protections in employment, public accommodations, government services and telecommunications. Title II of the ADA covers public programs, activities and services such as the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Division of Blind Services. Most requirements of Title II are based on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination based on disability in federally assisted programs and activities. The ADA then extended Section 504’s non-discrimination requirement to all activities of public entities – such as the State of Florida – and not only those receiving federal funds.

Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD)

APD is the Florida state agency that administers the state and federal funds provided to individuals with developmental disabilities.

Assistive Technology

Any item, equipment, or product system, whether bought off the shelf, modified or custom built, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a student with a disability.

Augmentative/Alternative Communication Systems (AAC)

Systems of communication, such as communication boards, that can help with writing, spelling, typing, word selection, conversation, speech synthesis, manual reading or other communication needs resulting from a disability.

Department of Children & Families (DCF)

DCF is the Florida state agency that administers the child welfare system, along with some mental health and substance abuse programs for children and youth. DCF also determines eligibility for welfare programs such as Medicaid, food stamps and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Disability

A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

Due Process Rights   

Rights that give youth, caregivers, school or agency personnel ways to solve problems and settle disagreements.  In the education setting, they include the right to participation, the right to have notice, the right to give consent and the right to a due process hearing. The hearing is a formal meeting run by an impartial hearing officer, where parents, caregivers and school officials can resolve disagreements fairly.

Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT).

Comprehensive health services for Medicaid-eligible children – up to age 21. It includes routine medical check-ups, as well as treatment for illness, injury and chronic medical conditions.  Almost all youth in the dependency system are eligible for Medicaid.  Young adults who exit the foster care system at age 18 remain eligible for Medicaid up to age 21. Florida also calls this the “Child Health Check Up”.

Exceptional Student Education (ESE)

In Florida, special education services and programs for students who have a disability or who are gifted.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.

504 Plan

An individualized plan for a student with a disability who may not meet the eligibility criteria for Exceptional Student Education (ESE), but who requires accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

A federal regulation (34 CFR 300.17) specifying that all children with disabilities aged 3 through 21, including children with disabilities who have been suspended or expelled from school, are entitled to a free and appropriate public education. Districts must provide FAPE to all students with disabilities who have not reached age 22 and have not earned a regular high school diploma.

Independent Living (IL)

This term is used generally to describe services provided to youth who will exit the foster care system at age 18.  It is also used to refer to specific programs available to young adults such as the Road to Independence program.

Individualized Education Program / Individualized Education Plan (IEP)

A written plan to identify the specially designed instruction and related services designed to meet the individual unique needs of a student with a disability. The IEP is developed by the student , LEA, and his or her teachers, parents, caregivers and others as appropriate. It is reviewed annually, but may be revised at any time, upon request.

Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE)

A vocational rehabilitation plan that targets a specific job goal and services that are necessary in order to reach the goal. The plan can be amended at any time and should be reviewed annually.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

Placement of a student with disabilities in a regular education class with their non-disabled peers or in a special program for the amount of time that is appropriate for the child. Taking a child out of a regular school setting should only be done when the nature and severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.

Glossary M - Z

Medicare

Medicare is the federal program that provides health care coverage to Americans who are 65 or older, or who have a disability, no matter what their income. Adults with disabilities may be eligible for Medicare if they became disabled before age 18 and have a parent who paid into Social Security and is deceased, disabled or retired.

Medicaid

Medicaid is a jointly-funded, Federal-State health insurance program for certain low-income people. It covers children, the aged, people with disabilities, and people who are eligible to receive federally assisted income maintenance payments. Almost all youth in foster care are eligible for Medicaid and Florida now covers youth until age 21.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, amended in 1998, prohibits any recipient of federal funds from discriminating against persons with disabilities. Section 504 requires that all children with disabilities be provided a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment.

Special Diploma, Option I (Florida)

A type of diploma for students with a disability who are not able to meet all requirements for a standard high school diploma. Students must meet district credit requirements and master the Sunshine State Standards for Special Diploma.

Special Diploma, Option II (Florida)

A type of diploma for certain students with a disability who are not able to meet all requirements for a standard high school diploma. An individual employment and training plan is developed by the IEP team. It lists specific competencies related to job preparation skills and adult living skills for the individual student. The student must master all competencies included in the plan and be successfully employed for at least one semester. Districts may offer Option 2, but are not required to do so.

Special Education Services

Specially designed instruction for a student with a disability. Special education adapts lesson delivery, content and instructional methods to the student’s unique needs and provides services such as instruction in Braille, additional individualized practice or social skills training.

Standard Diploma (Florida)

The type of diploma earned by most Florida high school students. The state legislature and the local school district set the requirements. Other diploma options include a college-ready, vocational diploma and an international baccalaureate diploma. Students are required to earn at least 24 credits in a set of required and elective courses, have a 2.0 Grade Point Average, and pass the high school graduation test.

Supported Employment

Supported employment is a service that supports competitive work in an integrated setting for individuals with the most significant disabilities. These individuals, because of the nature and severity of their disability, need on-going work supports which may include job coaching services for an extended period of time. At these work sites, most co-workers do not have disabilities. And workers with disabilities have regular contact with people who do not have disabilities.

Surrogate Parent

A surrogate parent makes education related decisions for children under the age of 18 who do not have a parent, relative or legal guardian to make those decisions.

Ticket to Work

The Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program is the centerpiece of new legislation enacted under the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999. It is a nationwide initiative designed to assist people with the training and support they need to go to work by increasing their choices. SSA beneficiaries with disabilities can find employment, vocational rehabilitation (VR) and other support services from public and private providers.

Transition Services

A set of coordinated activities designed to help a student move from school to post-school activities. These may include independent living, work or continued education after high school, instruction, related services, community experiences, work toward post-school goals, and, if appropriate, daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation, all based on the student’s needs and preferences.

Transitional IEP (TIEP)

An IEP that addresses the student’s need for transition planning and services. The student’s IEP must address these issues by the student’s 16th birthday, or younger if deemed necessary by the student’s IEP team. This IEP deals with issues related to making the transition to adult life after high school, including diploma decisions.

Turning 18, Guardianship & Other Options

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Turning 18

An 18-year-old is an adult and presumed to be able to handle his or her own affairs unless a legal proceeding gives some or all the responsibility for him or her to a parent or guardian.

An 18 year old person has more rights, more risks and more responsibilities.

There are several things that change when youth turn 18:

1. When they turn 18, young people acquire the rights and access to records that their parents or guardian had exercised, including:

  • the right to be notified and consent to evaluations;
  • the right to invite additional participants to IEP meetings;
  • the right to be notified and consent to specialized education and related services. Parents are still notified of meetings regarding their child’s education, even after he or she turns 18, but the rights of the parent are transferred to the student.
  • Under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, an 18-year- old can give his or her parents or other adults access to educational records by signing a release.

2. Young people who received Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for a disability may lose them as adults, depending on the nature of their disabilities. An 18-year-old receiving SSI benefits should expect to have his or her eligibility re-determined — using a different, adult disability standard — in the month before the 18th birthday.

3. The health insurance may change. Florida law requires dependent coverage to be offered until the dependent is age 30. Adults whose health insurance covers youth should check their policies.

4. An 18-year-old is old enough to vote. Americans may vote at age 18 unless declared incompetent by a court of law. To register in Florida, one must turn 18 by Election Day and be a U.S. citizen and a legal resident of the county in which one plans to vote. Young people are eligible to register to vote at age 16, or anytime thereafter. Voter registration forms are available at many government offices, and from county supervisors of elections. Voting is an important way to have a say about the laws and policies that affect you.

See our Voting Rights topic for more information about voting rights.

5. Young men are required to register for military service. All males are required to register with the Selective Service within 30 days of turning 18 unless institutionalized or hospitalized.

Types of Guardianship under Florida Law

What is Guardianship?

Guardianship removes an adult’s right to make decisions about the areas of his or her life that a court has decided the person is not competent to make their own decisions about. The law refers to a person for whom a guardian has been appointed as a “ward” of that guardian.

Each of Florida’s guardianship statutes require that even when a right has been taken from an individual and given to a guardian or guardian advocate, that guardian is still required, to the extent possible, to consider the individual’s wishes and to allow the individual to participate in decisions affecting their life.

Whether an individual can give consent to a decision depends on the complexity and the seriousness of the decision to be made. Those who can recognize their own need for help with decision-making may not require guardianship, but only advice, information, and assurance when evaluating other options that may be available rather than pursuing guardianship. There are ALTERNATIVES to guardianship that can serve to meet these needs.

Below are the types of guardianship that exist under Florida law. See the next tab for more information on alternatives to guardianship.

Full (Plenary) Guardianship, Florida Statute 744.102 (8)(b)

A person(s) is appointed by the court to exercise all delegable legal rights and powers of the person who has a disability. It requires that there be an adjudication of the person as incapable of handling any personal decisions, money and property; i.e., what the Florida law once called incompetent and now calls incapacitated. Few people require this type of guardianship.

Guardian Advocate, Florida Statute 393.12 or Limited Guardianship, Florida Statute 744.102(8)(a) are preferred as less restrictive alternatives to full guardianship.

Limited Guardianship, Florida Statute 744.102 (8)(a)

A person(s) is appointed to exercise only specified rights and powers which are named by the court. A limited guardianship occurs when the court has found that the individual is partially incapacitated and lacks the capacity to make some, but not all, of the decisions necessary to care for his/her person or property.

Emergency Temporary Guardianship, Florida Statute 744.3031

A temporary guardian may be appointed for the person or property, or both, for a person who is alleged to be incapacitated, prior to the appointment of a full guardian. A temporary guardian may be appointed only after a petition for incapacity has been filed. In order to appoint a temporary guardian, the court must find specifically that there appears to be imminent danger that the physical or mental health or safety of the person will be seriously impaired or that their property is in danger of being wasted, misappropriated, or lost unless immediate action is taken.

Voluntary Guardianship, Florida Statute 744.341

If the court determines that the individual is not incapacitated, and the individual files a voluntary petition for guardianship, the court may appoint a guardian or co-guardians of the property of a person who, though otherwise mentally competent, is unable to manage property. A voluntary guardianship may be terminated by the ward.

Preneed Guardian, Florida Statute 744.3045

An adult who is competent may designate a person to serve as his or her guardian in the event that he or she becomes incapacitated in the future.

Guardian Advocate (Mental Health) Florida Statute 394.4598

The court may appoint a guardian advocate for a patient deemed incompetent to consent to mental health treatment.

Guardian Advocate (Developmental Disabilities) Florida Statute 744.3085

Guardian advocates assist persons with developmental disabilities. They may be appointed by the circuit court under this statute, or by the probate court under Florida Statute 393.12.

Guardian Advocate (Developmental Disabilities) Florida Statute 393.12

A Probate court may appoint a guardian advocate without an adjunction of incapacity if the person lacks the capacity to make some, but not all, of the decisions necessary to care for his/her person, property or estate. Any interested person may petition for the appointment of a guardian advocate.  The ward may also voluntarily petition. Only those rights the person cannot manage are removed.

The four areas that some people with developmental disabilities may have difficulty handling, or for which society insists they have a substitute decision maker are:

  • Giving informed consent for medical, dental and surgical procedures
  • Managing money and/or property
  • Applying for governmental benefits or entitlements
  • Deciding on residential choices

There are important procedural differences between a Limited Guardianship under Chapter 744 and Guardian Advocacy under Chapter 393. Chapter 744 requires a three member examining committee to make a recommendation that the person lacks certain capacities before a court can order appointment of a guardian. Under Chapter 744, the examiners may have little or no expertise in disability, and the process may be much more time consuming and expensive for the petitioner. On the other hand, the potential ward has due process protections that do not exist under Chapter 393. Under Chapter 393, there is no requirement for an examining committee to be appointed, or for any court finding of incapacity of the ward before a guardian advocate is appointed. Instead, the Court may look at the individual’s support plan, their IEP or other documents to determine the level of disability and need for assistance.

Under either procedure, once a guardianship is established, the bottom line is the same. The individual loses their right to make important decisions about key aspects of their own life.

Alternatives to Guardianship

Family and Friends

Sometimes attentive support from family and friends can be enough to assist the person to manage his own personal and financial affairs.

Advance Directives

This is a document that expresses a person’s desires concerning healthcare, or other affairs. As the term indicates, this option is written in advance of the need.  The person must be competent at the time he or she signs the directive and capable of giving informed consent. Examples of these directives include:

  • Durable Power of Attorney

    This legal document gives the designated person the legal authority to make decisions of specific matters for the person who created it.  A DURABLE power of attorney can be exercised until the death of the person who gave it, even if the person becomes incapacitated.

  • Living Will

    A legal document that directs the providing, withholding, or withdrawal of life-prolonging medical procedures if you are unable to make your own decisions and you have a terminal illness or are in a persistent vegetative state.

  • Health Care Surrogate

    A written document naming another person as your representative to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself.  You can include instructions about any treatment you want or do not want, similar to a living will.  You can also designate an alternative surrogate.  If you designate a health care surrogate and alternate be sure to ask them if they agree to take this responsibility, discuss how you would like matters handled, and give them a copy of the document.

It is important that any advance directive be witnessed by at least two individuals.  Laws on health care advance directives are in Chapter 765 of the Florida Statutes (available at your local library or at  www.leg.state.fl.us).

Who Plans The Education Transition?

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The student’s team, composed of the student, his or her main advocate (a family member or other determined advocate) and all professionals necessary to provide educational and other services.

Include the Student

Federal law requires a public agency (such as a school) that is planning for a student with a disability to invite him or her to the IEP meeting if transition will be discussed.

If the student does not attend the meeting, the public agency must take other steps to ensure that the student’s preferences and interests are considered.

Include the Family

Federal laws, especially IDEA and its later amendments, state clearly the importance of parental involvement in planning for children with disabilities.

For several reasons, parental participation and leadership can make a big difference.

First, the parent is almost always the best-informed and most-focused specialist when it comes to the needs, desires and strengths of the student. Teachers and other professionals, since their focus is broader, may overlook unique characteristics. A parent, other family member or advocate will have a better chance of ensuring that all the right options are included. A parent should insist on including everyone who might be important.

Parents should ask questions, read all documents slowly and carefully, and schedule as many meetings as necessary until they are satisfied that their son or daughter will have the best available preparation for adult life. As the student matures and becomes more involved in the planning, he or she may assume the leadership role.

Parents may need to enlist other professionals who know what services different agencies can or must provide under the disability laws.

If no one on the team is taking the leader’s role energetically, one or both parents can learn to champion the rights and needs of their soon-to-be adult son or daughter. In fact, any young person will benefit enormously if at least one parent or other family member takes that role, even if the professionals on the team are also doing so.

The TIEP Team

Under IDEA, the TIEP team should include the student, parents (or persons acting as the parent), Local Education Agency (LEA) and school staff who know the student best. It should include the general education and special education teachers and counselors who know the student best, evaluation specialists and related service providers, as well as representatives of every agency that might play a role in meeting the student’s needs. These agencies can include:

  • developmental services agencies
  • alcohol, drug abuse and mental health programs
  • community colleges
  • the Florida Division of Blind Services (DBS)
  • the Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR)
  • deaf service centers
  • children’s medical services
  • children and family services
  • community mental health services
  • the Centers for Independent Living (CIL)
  • Social Security programs (SSA)
  • speech-language programs
  • any other agency with services or programs that might contribute to the student’s successful transition to adult life.

The 504 Team

The composition of the 504 team is less formally dictated by law than the IDEA team, but it’s a good idea to have the same sort of mix and cover all the services and opportunities the student might need and want. The student or anyone responsible for that person can request the participation of experts.

The IPE Team

The Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) is written by the student and his or her vocational rehabilitation or blind services counselor. The counselor enters the picture when the student is determined eligible for services from DVR or DBS. The earlier that counselor is involved, the more helpful they will be.

Involved family members and members of the student’s IEP or 504 teams should also contribute to drafting the IPE, but it’s the student and VR counselor who must agree on the final version.

TIEP Meetings & Tips for Helping Youth Prepare For Transition

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IDEA requires that a TIEP meeting be designed as a result-oriented process, that focuses on improving academic and functional achievement to facilitate the student’s movement from school to post-school activities, including post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living or community participation.

Before the Meeting

  • Get a copy of your IEP and go over it with your caregivers, teachers or other trusted adults until you understand it.
  • Get a copy of any evaluations or reports that will be discussed at the meeting.
  • Ask questions about the parts you don’t understand.
  • Think about what you want to do. Write out your ideas ahead of time, and practice what you want to tell your team about your goals.
  • Do your homework by learning what classes or training you need to achieve your goals.
  • Invite someone you trust to attend the meeting to encourage and support you. It could be a relative, friend, guardian ad litem, or attorney.
  • Be sure you get enough sleep the night before and eat a good breakfast the day of your transition IEP meeting.

During the Meeting

  • Discuss with your team how your disability will affect your goals and plans.
  • Know your strengths and your weaknesses.
  • Focus your abilities and possibilities, but be realistic.
  • Know your rights. What will you do if your IEP team makes a decision you don’t agree with? Remember: If you have concerns, the law guarantees you another meeting, and you have a right to a hearing if you disagree.
  • Believe in yourself and your success.

Diploma Options

One of the choices a student must make is what type of diploma to work towards.  In Florida there are several options:

  • Standard Diploma
  • Special Diploma Option One
  • Special Diploma Option Two*

* Some small districts do not offer an Option Two Special Diploma

Students should consider the choices carefully.  Often, students with disabilities are behind in high school credits.  Finishing school with peers by obtaining a special diploma sounds like a good idea.  But, young people have been unpleasantly surprised to learn that they have to take the GED in order to get into community college.

Special diplomas may or may not be accepted by vocational school, community college, or military recruiters. Certificates of completion are not accepted by community college, military recruiters and are not recognized by employers.

Learn more at:

  • High School Diploma Options for Students with Disabilities: Getting the Right Fit. (FDOE 2004)

Tips For Team Leaders

Here are a few tips for the team leader, whether it is the student, a family member, a friend or professional advocate ...

  • Read and get familiar with the laws that cover the youth’s rights. Bring copies to the meetings.
  • If an agency representative says, “It’s not our job,” research the issue and you may be able to respond, “Yes, it is”.
  • Know the agencies and organizations that are equipped to help. Some will give you invaluable information, some will provide services and some will advocate to enforce the law if necessary. Others may need prodding.
  • Remember that any of the plans can be amended to add services whenever necessary. Should you learn of one that would help you attain your goal, get it written into the plan.
  • Make your requests in writing and get the answers in writing. If the youth is denied services, request in writing that the decision, its reason and the grounds for denial be provided in writing.
  • Go up the chain of command. If an agency representative denies a service and you disagree, go to that person’s supervisor, then to the agency head. Then follow the agency’s appeal procedures. If you don’t know the rules and procedures, ask for them. They should be available in writing.
  • In dealing with denial of services and other problems, you can obtain information and referral, and possibly legal representation from Disability Rights Florida or your local legal aid program.  
  • Make certain the plans contain measurable goals. Without measurability, it is difficult to determine if the student is making adequate progress toward his or her goal.
  • Ask for an evaluation to show the need for services. For example, instead of requesting speech therapy for a child, request a speech evaluation. Then, if you disagree with the evaluation, you have the right to an independent evaluation at public expense.
  • Ask for evaluation reports prepared by professionals who can accurately measure the student’s needs and abilities. Future evaluations will measure his or her progress. Services should be provided based on the evaluation findings. Evaluations are mandatory for students covered  by IDEA, and are both desirable and available for 504 students.
  • Ask for a copy of all evaluations before any meeting at which it will be discussed. Study the evaluation and be ready to proceed with it or ask for another if it doesn’t seem adequate and correct.
  • Take other stakeholders to the planning meetings. While advocating you’ll be more effective if you’re not alone. Take experts who will back up your judgment, friends or counselors who can speak knowledgeably about the situation, professionals who know the system and other advisers who can help the team stay on track. Your companions may not need to speak at all, yet may nonetheless give weight to your analysis of the situation.
  • Don’t back down to please the professionals working with you. Back down only when you decide you’ve been wrong about the youth’s needs and strengths.
  • Generally, you’ll accomplish more if you show respect for the professionals, even if they become impatient with you — but respect does not mean you have to agree with them. You may go online and read the Web sites of advocates and lawyers who have worked successfully with people with disabilities. Many of their tips are excellent and of no cost to you.
  • Remember that most decisions are not final. Stick with what works. Keep your written records in order. Should you encounter resistance, call another meeting, ask for another assessment, be persistent, quote the laws again, pull out the regulations. If you have tried to resolve the conflict yourself and have been unsuccessful contact Disability Rights Florida for advocacy and legal help.

Tips For Helping Youth Prepare For Transition

  • Talk to young people about their hopes and dreams for adulthood.
  • Assist the young person to develop goals for the future.
  • Encourage the youth to participate in community activities.
  • Have high expectations of the young person’s abilities.
  • Help the youth meet adults with disabilities who can serve as mentors and role models.
  • Work with the young person to learn about his or her disability, the transition process and self-advocacy.
  • Observe the youth’s skills at socializing, organizing, workplace behaviors and independent living.
  • Assign the young person chores.
  • Give the young person the opportunity to budget and spend money.
  • Role-play situations that the youth might encounter.
  • Help the youth learn to use public transportation.
  • Discuss the youth’s medical and transition needs with his or her physician.
  • Call the young person’s teachers to request that transition and financial planning begin as soon as possible.
  • Help the youth plan for future living arrangements by budgeting with real numbers.  (example: build a budget using newspapers to research what jobs pay and the cost of apartments).
  • Take field trips to find prices for the items needed for a home.
  • Be proactive and plan early.

What Should Each Transition Plan Cover?

Photo of three individuals preparing foodPrevious Topic: Four Types of Transition Plans

Next Topic: Who Plans The Education Transition?

The youth's goals and all the supports and services that the young person with a disability will need to prepare for the fullest possible life as an adult.

The plans should be designed individually and reflect each young person’s visions and values.

A transition plan looks ahead to the needs, changes and possibilities of adulthood. An IPE, or employment plan, focuses on preparing for work as an adult.

If the education system, vocational rehabilitation agencies and private and government social services can provide a service or support, and the person covered by the plan needs it, the plan should show the way to get it.

Some possible transition goals include:

Education Related

  • type of high school diploma to achieve
  • college (2 year or 4 year)
  • continuing and adult education
  • vocational or trade school

Work Related

  • career, trade or profession
  • integrated employment (alongside non-disabled colleagues)
  • vocational counseling
  • vocational rehabilitation
  • vocational training
  • self employment 
  • supported employment

Community Integration Related

  • adult services
  • assistive technology
  • community participation (experiences such as attending church, taking public transportation, using the library)
  • daily living skills
  • financial literacy
  • health care
  • housing
  • independent living

IEP and 504

An IEP or 504 Plan Should Spell Out:

  • all the student’s unique educational needs related to his or her disabilities
  • the supports and related services to be provided and when they are expected to start and end
  • which agencies or individuals will provide the services and who will pay for them
  • measurable goals for the student, with dates to begin working toward them and to reach them (assessments conducted by professionals can be a basis for the goals, and new assessments and data can measure the progress and inspire new goals)
  • program accommodations, modifications and supports that will be needed to help the student reach the goals in the least restrictive environment. “Least restrictive environment” means that, as much as possible, the student learns in the regular curriculum, learns alongside other students (those who have disabilities and those who do not) and participates in extracurricular activities with other students (those who have disabilities and those who do not)
  • technology devices or other assistance that might make it possible for the student to participate fully and equally in mainstream school life, and who, or what agency, will supply it

TIEP and 504

A transition plan should cover not only schooling but also vocational training and living skills – in short, whatever the young person will need to make a successful transition to adult life. The transition plan — whether a TIEP or a portion of a 504 plan — should spell out:

  • the high-school program the student needs and the type of diploma the student will is working towards
  • the student’s desired post-school outcome
  • the kind of work the student wants to do and can do with the right training, supports and services, and how he or she will prepare for that work
  • any job training the student will need, whether it will be in a formal classroom setting, in the community, or both
  • post school adult living arrangements, including campus housing if needed
  • functional vocational assessments if needed
  • evaluations to support requests for post-secondary accomodations if needed
  • any life skills the student has yet to learn, such as organization, communication, daily living, transportation or socializing in groups
  • services or assistive technology devices the student will need and which agencies can supply them

IPE

The IPE should state the student’s employment goal and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) or Division of Blind Services (DBS) services the student will need to achieve it.

It is important that the student with a disability and his or her vocational rehabilitation counselor choose an employment goal specific enough to make it clear which services will be needed to reach it.

The goal should not be, for example, "health care." It should be a particular job in health care — nurse’s aide, records technician or surgeon. Instead of "business," the goal should be receptionist or comptroller. Instead of "law enforcement," it should be security guard, detective or prosecutor. The goal can always be changed if it proves to be too much, too little or simply the wrong direction.

With a specific goal, an IPE can then list in detail the services that are needed and who will pay for them. The services can include further education, transportation, mental-health therapy, medical treatment, technology and anything else necessary for the student to reach his or her goal. The IPE can also specify responsibilities of the young person, such as reporting progress to the counselor or regular attendance at classes.

How Is Transition Planned?

The transition team should meet regularly to figure out what will work for the youth, and then commit to executing its strategy.

The school has primary responsibility for creating and maintaining IEP or 504 plans and TIEPs, although many other institutions and agencies should help. The IPE is primarily the responsibility of the vocational rehabilitation counselor. The student with a disability and his or her vocational rehabilitation counselor write the IPE together, generally with the advice and counsel of others.

If educators do not begin transition planning by age 16 or younger, they can be prompted to do so. Family members and other adults close to the student’s family, along with the student him-or herself, can make a request to the school. The request should be written, and the person making it should keep a dated copy.

The first step in the planning process is a comprehensive evaluation of the student. It should be done as soon as the youth enters school or as soon as the question of a disability arises. Either the parents or the school staff may initiate it. If the school asks for an evaluation, the staffers must obtain prior consent from the parent or guardian.

The evaluation will help determine whether the student has a disability, whether the disability is covered by IDEA and State Board of Education Rules or the Rehabilitation Act, and what education services the student needs in order to succeed.

When the student is determined to have a disability, the school staff calls a meeting to write an IEP or a 504 plan, depending on the nature of the disability. (Before the meeting, the parent or adult responsible for the youth’s education should receive a copy of the assessment in time to study it, and understand it.) If they don’t agree with the findings of the assessment they can request and independent educational evaluation (IEE).

The meeting should include (and under IDEA is required to include) the parents, or person acting as the parent, local education agency representative , teachers, counselors and anyone with special expertise and knowledge pertaining to the student. The same professionals, depending on the needs of the student, should help develop and maintain a 504 plan.

Together, the members of the team decide what the student needs, what services will be provided and what outcomes are anticipated.

The meetings are repeated at least annually through the school years. The written record of the decisions made at the meetings becomes the current IEP (or 504 plan) document.

The same process produces the TIEP.

How to Get the Most Out of Vocational Rehabilitation

Photo of a young lady with a disability using a copy machine.Previous Topic: TIEP Meetings and Tips for Helping Youth Prepare For Transition

Next Topic: Turning 18, Guardianship and Other Options

Who Is Eligible?

Anyone with a disability who wants to work and can, with the right supports and services.

According to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a person who is determined by qualified personnel to require services because of a physical, mental, or emotional disability that interferes substantially with employment is eligible for vocational rehabilitation.

People with visual disabilities in both eyes are eligible for vocational rehabilitation via the Division of Blind Services (DBS), housed at the state Department of Education (DOE). Those with any other disabilities who are eligible for vocational rehabilitation receive services from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), also at DOE.

Those who have Social Security benefits (SSI or SSDI) based on their own disabilities are presumed to be eligible for vocational rehabilitation, unless there is clear and convincing evidence that they are too significantly disabled to benefit from DVR or DBS services.

Top 10 Tips

  1. Fill out an application for Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) or Division of Blind Services (DBS) services so that an official decision can be made on your eligibility. Students and their parents should complete the application well before the student with a disability leaves high school.
  2. Obtain as much information as possible about DVR and DBS so you understand the eligibility criteria and your ability to negotiate services as an eligible client. Be a wise consumer!
  3. Youths with disabilities must be able to describe their disability and how the disability may prevent them from working without DVR or DBS services. This is one of the questions that will be asked in order to determine eligibility. Prepare to answer this question realistically.
  4. The Rehabilitation Act requires that a student found eligible for DVR or DBS services must leave the school system with a completed Individualized Program for Employment (IPE). It is in your interest to work with DVR or DBS to establish eligibility while you are still in school so that you will be approved to receive services under an IPE by the time you leave school.
  5. If you are determined eligible, an IPE will be developed and you should be given “informed choice” in selecting the services you require to become employed. You should be allowed informed choice when selecting services, vendors, providers, and the job goal.
  6. DVR and DBS are employment programs. Agreeing to an employment goal is central to receiving services. Focus on establishing an employment goal. DVR and DBS can pay for career assessments or work evaluations to help you identify your employment goal. Training will be provided if it is necessary to achieve your employment goal. Be ready to explain why any requested training will help you obtain your employment goal.
  7. Plan for a meaningful career. Set a long-range goal other than entry-level employment. If you have the ability, capability and interests to succeed in an occupation that requires advanced training, make sure to negotiate this from the beginning with your DVR or DBS counselor.
  8. Your IPE can be amended if there are additional services you require to become employed. Make sure to stay in close communication with your DVR or DBS counselor.
  9. Know your rights and exercise them when necessary! Use the DVR or DBS chain of command if you encounter problems that you cannot resolve with your counselor’s assistance.
  10. If you are verbally denied a service, always request the decision in writing with the reason and the policy that is being used to deny you. Don’t take no for an answer if services will help you become employed. You have the right to appeal the counselor's decision to a higher authority. Your rights should be provided to you in writing and in an accessible format.

When to Apply

When Should A Young Person Apply?

Early. Normally at age 16, but before the last year of high school. If the student is at risk of dropping out of school, long before.

The time to apply for vocational rehabilitation should be specified in the student’s IEP or 504 plan. A state DVR or DBS counselor or a member of the Transition IEP team can recommend the best time.

It is better for a student not to wait until his or her senior year to apply.

Federal law requires DVR and DBS to establish eligiblity within 60 days of application. The student, parent, or advocate should be in close contact with education and DVR or DBS officials to apply for services and to monitor the process after applying.

If the vocational rehabilitation agency is prepared to participate in the student’s transition process, an early application can make an important difference in the outcome. In Florida, DBS is prepared with transition programs and counseling for students age 14 and DVR is ready at age 16.

The process takes time — time to apply for services, time to undergo any evaluations that may be required, time for the eligiblity decision, time to be assigned a counselor, time to formulate a strategy, and time to write and negotiate the employment plan or IPE.

Some students have benefited from applying as early as age 14. Others — especially those seeking services from DVR instead of DBS — have found that applying for DVR services in the junior year of high school leaves enough time to take advantage of the entire transition process. That can change, so it’s a good idea to discuss the timing with counselors at school and the state agencies.

A student who does not apply for DVR or DBS services while he or she is in school can still apply later and be approved — there is no age limit for eligibility — but in most cases, the sooner the services begin, the better the outcome.

Ticket to Work

People with disabilities who are also beneficiaries of Social Security may receive employment-related services and supports under the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999. The Ticket is a voucher for services that will help eligible beneficiaries with their transition to work.

The Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Florida Division of Blind Services are providers to whom eligible clients may choose to assign their Ticket, but there are dozens of other providers in the state of Florida. To learn more about other providers, please visit http://ssa.gov/work/  or http://www.yourtickettowork.com.

People with disabilities can lose their eligibility for Medicaid and Medicare if they go to work. If you are receiving benefits and thinking about employment, be aware that working could affect your benefits. Please talk to your benefits planner. If you have problems, call Disability Rights Florida at 1-800-342-0823.

To learn more, please contact the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance program serving your area:

Details You Need to Know

Work with your teachers and school administrators to make sure that applying for Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) or Division of Blind Services (DBS) is on your IEP or Section 504 plan. Don’t wait until late in your senior year to apply. Make sure you fill out an application so that DVR or DBS can make a formal decision on your eligibility well before you leave the school system.

What is the advantage of having DVR or DBS make a decision on my eligibility for services before I leave high school?

The federal law requires that if you are eligible, you must leave school with an approved DVR or DBS Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE). With an IPE, you can begin receiving services from DVR or DBS. Otherwise, you may experience unnecessary delays.

What help can I request from DVR or DBS if I am determined eligible?

If you are found eligible, you and your counselor will develop and agree to an IPE that will list your employment goal and the services you need to reach it. The services are individualized and unique to your situation, so feel free to discuss your specific needs with your counselor. You should be able to explain why your requests will help you succeed in your rehabilitation program.

What services can DVR and DBS provide me?

Vocational exploration, career and interest assessments, trial-work experiences, on-the-job training, job coaching, supported employment, career planning, counseling and guidance, assistive technology (aids, devices and training), assistance with transportation to participate in your rehabilitation program, vocational training programs, college training, medical and psychological diagnosis and treatment, support services, rehabilitation engineering evaluations and services, and job placement.

Remember, services may be unique to you. Don’t hesitate to discuss your needs with your counselor.

Does DVR and DBS only help with entry-level employment?

No. The Rehabilitation Act requires that individuals with disabilities have an active voice in choosing employment goals and meaningful careers consistent with their interests, strengths, resources, priorities, concerns and capabilities. VR and DBS will pay for an advanced degree if that is appropriate.

If I have a problem with DVR or DBS decisions on my case, whom can I contact to learn more about my rights?

Your counselor and the counselor’s supervisor should help you understand your rights to challenge any decision you disagree with. The Client Assistance Program at Disability Rights Florida is also available to provide information, advice, negotiation or possible representation in disputes with VR agencies in Florida. Please call 1-800-342-0823 if you need additional assistance or information to resolve disputes with DVR or DBS.

DVR and DBS are required to serve all eligible clients. If DVR or DBS can’t pay for everyone, the agency must — under federal supervision — go to a process called an “order of selection,” serving the most severely disabled clients first. Florida has implemented a “Financial Needs Participation” Policy requiring some clients to help pay for services.  Florida has also implemented an “order of selection.”

What Does DVR and DBS Do?

They help people with disabilities choose the kind of work they’d like to do, learn to do it and get the chance to do it.

DVR and DBS Provide or Arrange for Many Services Including:

  • assistance with transition
  • vocational exploration
  • career and interest assessments
  • trial-work experiences
  • on-the-job training
  • job coaching
  • supported employment
  • career planning
  • counseling, guidance and referrals
  • technology (aids, devices and training)
  • assistance with transportation to rehabilitation
  • vocational training
  • college
  • medical and psychological diagnosis and treatment
  • physical and mental restoration services
  • help with additional costs during rehabilitation
  • interpreters for the hearing impaired and readers for the visually impaired
  • personal assistance (including training in directing personal assistance) during rehabilitation
  • support services (group homes, sheltered workshops, supported work programs, job coaches, for example)
  • assistive technology evaluations and services
  • job placement

The choice of services in the plan should be reviewed at least annually. Amendments are possible whenever they are needed.

A Career or a Job?

DVR and DBS should help with both.

The purpose of vocational rehabilitation is greater than landing a first job. The Rehabilitation Act requires that people with disabilities have an active voice in choosing employment goals in keeping with their interests and abilities.

DVR and DBS do not set time limits on services and will help as long as the person is progressing toward his or her employment goal and participating actively in that direction. Someone with the desire and aptitude to be a lawyer, doctor, scientist, or minister should not settle for a job as a receptionist in the firm where those professions are practiced, unless it is only a step in a plan that goes further. Career goals should be consistent with the student’s strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests, and informed choice.

Are There Ways To Make the Process Work Better?

Yes.

For applicants who want to be approved as eligible — and then, when approved, for persons receiving vocational rehabilitation — there are ways to make working with DVR or DBS more successful.

When Applying:

DVR and DBS determine eligibility according to the person’s disability and barriers to employment. Applicants, with help from their families and teams, are more likely to succeed if they:

  • obtain as much information as possible about DVR and DBS services and eligibility criteria (see Resources Section for contact information)
  • prepare to describe their disabilities without exaggerating or minimizing the effects
  • are ready to explain how a disability prevents them from working

Being prepared will help not only with one’s eligibility determination but also with negotiating services after eligibility is determined.

Negotiating the services:

A DVR or DBS client is more likely to succeed and benefit from the support provided by a counselor or other advocate if he or she:

  1. Establishes a job or career goal FIRST — for example computer programmer, truck driver, or chef.
  2. Explains why the requested training (such as a 4 year college degree or 2 year degree or certificate) will help achieve that goal.
  3. Sets a career goal that is the most advanced and meaningful work the participant hopes to do, not just entry-level employment.
  4. Targets that occupation from the start with the DVR or DBS counselor.
  5. Stays in close communication with the counselor, since an IPE can be amended if additional services are needed.

The Client Assistance Program at Disability Rights Florida (toll free 1-800-342-0823) can provide information and referral to DVR and DBS clients and those trying to enter the programs. After investigating the facts of a case, CAP may also offer to negotiate or advocate for a client, or represent that person in appealing a decision made by the DVR or DBS agency.

Students with Disabilities - School & Work

Next Topic: Four Types of Transition Plans

Why Plan?

Photo of a young girl with a developmental disability being held by her teacher. Anything works better if it is planned. Besides, it’s the law. There are many ideas, services and technologies for people with disabilities and planning can put them within reach. For example, creative planning can open the door to assistive technology, additional services or expert advice that may give a student more freedom and personal power in adult life.

Students in special education are required by federal law (IDEA) to have an Individualized Education Program (in Florida this is called an Individualized Education Plan or IEP). As adulthood approaches, the law also requires transition IEPs (TIEPs).

The IEP defines the type of education and goals a student needs, along with the support services and accommodations required to achieve it. Later plans – both transition and vocational — deal with the student’s goals and needs for adulthood.

Students with disabilities who are not covered by IDEA — that is, students who need accommodations in education but do not need specially designed instruction — have a plan similar to the IEP. Covered by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, it is usually called a "504 Plan."

Begin Planning Early!

The planning for a child’s education should begin when he or she enters school or is discovered to have a disability. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that school-based transition planning begin by age 16.

Youth with disabilities need everyone to plan ahead. The list includes parents, caregivers, caseworkers, teachers and other supportive adults who understand how they learn, how much they can learn (often more than teachers think), how they can prove what they’ve learned and how they can use that information as adults. They also need adults to understand what skills they will need to live in the community and plan for how those skills will be acquired.

The earlier the transition team understands a student’s needs, the more likely they are to be fulfilled.

If you need to begin at age 14 or before, insist on early transition planning. Although the law requires that students covered by IDEA begin their transition services no later than the year that the IEP will be in effect when the child is 16, planning can begin at age 14 (younger if deemed necessary).

How Long in School?

High School

Students who are covered by IDEA may receive different kinds of diplomas. If they do not receive a standard diploma, they are entitled to remain in school until their 22nd birthday. However, many schools continue services until the end of the semester or school year in which the student turns 22.

Courts sometime order compensatory education for a student who did not receive appropriate education services at the appropriate time. When that happens, educational services may be delivered after the student turns 22 or receives a standard diploma.

Unless compensatory education is ordered, public schools are not responsible for determining and meeting a student’s educational needs if he or she has a standard diploma or is older than 22.

Post-Secondary Education (After High School)

After high school, a student may seek a post-secondary education in a college, university or trade school program. The program would be responsible for any accommodations necessary for the student to have equal access. Such programs are required by law to support a student with disabilities with reasonable accommodations such as a reduced course load, recording devices, sign-language interpreters, readers, extended time for testing, or adaptive software and hardware for computers. Post-secondary programs are not required to lower academic standards or fundamentally alter the nature of programs.

To receive accommodations, the student must notify the school's Office of Students with Disabilities (OSD) that he or she has a disability and requires certain accommodations, services or technology. Usually there would not be team meetings or written plans, but the student would receive instructions and assistance from the OSD. The student must be prepared to provide a recent evaluation that supports the need for the requested accommodations. Post-secondary institutions will require an evaluation that is no more than 3 years old. If the student is interested in on campus housing, that process should also start early. The student should contact campus housing and start discussing and requesting needed accommodations. The institution may require documentation regarding any requested accommodations in campus housing.

How Soon to Work?

Some students with disabilities may choose to go directly to work when they finish high school. Others may first seek to attend community college, university, vocational training, or some other adult education. If the transition planning has gone well, youths who finish school will move into the next stage as planned — with employment, vocational rehabilitation and/or a combination of services that will make it possible to perform to their greatest potential.

Educators and vocational experts should work together to ensure that the transition from school to work is smooth and seamless.

Two state agencies in Florida may help young people prepare for and find employment. The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) serves people with “physical, mental, or emotional disabilities.” The Division of Blind Services (DBS) serves individuals with bilateral visual disabilities.

DVR and DBS offer a broad range of services based on the student’s vocational goals and barriers to employment. To make the most of these services, the student needs a DVR or DBS representative on his or her IEP team long before leaving school.

People with disabilities who are eligible for services have the right to choose among many public and private providers. Services should be customized to each person’s needs and include the full range of available services.

Vocational rehabilitation is a process that provides the services needed to reach an employment goal, including transportation assistance, education and vocational training, tuition, books and fees, physical and mental restoration services, assistive technology, vehicle and home modifications, equipment, tools, uniforms, durable medical equipment, family care services, help to establish a small business, job placement services, job coaching/supported employment and more. People who are eligible for vocational rehabilitation services may choose to receive these services from either a state agency or a private provider.

The Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Florida Division of Blind Services are state agencies mandated to provide such services to eligible clients. Remember, you have the right to choose. You can ask for a vendor list, which may include doctors, medical professionals and many other types of vendors who are approved to accept DVR and DBS fees.

You can also choose among many private providers, including Employment Networks (EN), which are providers certified under the Ticket to Work Program to provide rehabilitation and employment services to Social Security beneficiaries with disabilities. The Social Security Administration pays ENs participating in the Ticket to Work Program. However, ENs only receive payment when their clients achieve certain employment related milestones and outcomes. If you are not willing or able to reach these benchmarks, ENs may not be willing to serve you. ENs have the right to choose not to work with you, just as you have the right to choose not to work with them.

Other resources include the One-Stop centers, which provide job referrals and placement assistance, employment counseling, testing, job development, labor market information, employment skills workshops, support services, and business services. Often the two state agencies will contract with one or more of these organizations to provide services. In some cases, a client may be involved with one or more service providers without being involved with the state agencies.

Transition - the Passage from Youth to Adulthood

Photo of a young lady on a scooter.Transition is the process that supports young people with disabilities into adulthood and promotes movement from school to post-school activities, including independent living, work, continuing education and other undertakings. Planning should include everyone involved in the young person’s life: the youth, his or her caseworkers, educators, service providers, family and friends. The participants should agree on the contributions they will make and how they will work together. They should design a plan with timelines and measurable outcomes and agree to follow up with support. Plans should be coordinated so that the goals are consistent and everyone working with the young person knows who is responsible for each activity.

We hope these Disability Topics pages will provide you with the detailed information you need to make a successful transition or help a young person with the process.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination based on a disability in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance including public preschool, elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools.

Under Section 504, students with disabilities have rights to reasonable accommodations. These accommodations should be outlined in a 504 Plan.

A student with a disability is defined as a student who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such impairment. Major life activities included are: caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.

Details can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 34 C.F.R. 104.33. Visit the Links tab below for access.

Obtaining a 504 Plan

How does my child with a disability obtain a 504 Plan?

If your child has a disability and needs an accommodation, ask your school for the contact information of the 504 Coordinator. Then send the 504 Coordinator a written request for a 504 evaluation and plan. 

If your child’s disability substantially limits any of the "major life activities" listed above, your child has a right to a determination of eligibility for Section 504 reasonable accommodations. Your child's disability does not have to impact "learning" to be eligible for a 504 plan, if the disability impacts one of the other activities.

Current medical and other evaluations may be required. You can help speed up the process by preparing to provide school officials with current medical or other evaluations that you believe would be helpful. 

If you do not have current medical records, school officials are required to assist you with the necessary evaluations. School districts are required to establish specific procedures for initial evaluations and periodic re-evaluations and should draw from a variety of sources in the evaluation process (34 C.F.R. 104.35(c)).

Once your child has been determined eligible, a meeting should be scheduled to develop a 504 Plan. At 504 Plan meetings, a representative from school administration, guidance counselors, teachers and a 504 coordinator typically will attend. Remember that you and your child are important participants and your input is valuable to the 504 Team.

In preparation for the 504 Plan meeting, outline the issues and needed 504 accommodations in relation to your child’s disability. It may be helpful to obtain recommendations of accommodations for your child from qualified professionals such as your treating physician, specialist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or other qualified professional.

You may also request and obtain a draft 504 Plan worksheet from the school in advance of a 504 Plan meeting. The worksheet will help you understand the process and identify all the detailed accommodations that are needed. Write a draft. Bring and present your draft 504 Plan to the 504 Plan meeting. Once a 504 Plan is developed, review all the details and make sure you agree with them before signing.

If your child has a disability and requires reasonable accommodations under Section 504, familiarize yourself with your child’s rights under Section 504. A good place to start is the Code of Federal Regulations at 34 CFR § 104.31 - § 104.39.

To learn more about Section 504 rights in postsecondary schools, read these additional resources.

 

Reasonable Accommodations

To prepare for your 504 Plan meeting, write a list of the issues and the accommodations you believe are required to address your child’s disability.

What accommodations does your child require to make meaningful academic progress?

What accommodations does your child require to access the educational campus?

Accommodations are used to level the playing field. Do not let anyone make you feel like asking for accommodations is asking for your child to receive an unfair advantage.

Accommodations are required for your child to receive a free and appropriate public education.

Here are a few examples of accommodations (not an exclusive list): 

  • assistive technology
  • large print
  • Braille
  • readers
  • assistive technology
  • cctv
  • cart text-to-speech technology
  • touch screen
  • adaptive mouse
  • lap top
  • word processor
  • tape recorder
  • calculator
  • books on tape
  • magnifier
  • visual aids
  • interpreters (oral or sign)
  • extended test time
  • extended time for assignments, projects and home work
  • lessens broken down into smaller segments
  • tests broken down into smaller segments
  • study guides
  • outlines
  • preview tests
  • preview lessons
  • preview vocabulary words
  • preview spelling words
  • dictionary
  • thesaurus
  • assignment notebook
  • note taker
  • color-code or highlight key words
  • oral responses
  • lowered desk
  • adaptive chair
  • adaptive handles
  • accessible restroom
  • adaptive writing tools
  • increased space between lines
  • raised lines on paper
  • slant board
  • fewer items on a page
  • paraphrase or repeat directions  
  • directions repeated, summarized, or clarified
  • highlighter or highlighter tape
  • visual cues

Grievances & Complaints

Complaints (sometimes called "grievances") about a school's lack of compliance with a student's Section 504 rights may be filed with the school’s 504 Coordinator, the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) or in some cases with the Department of Administrative Hearings (depending on how your district handles 504 hearings).

To learn more about the rights of students with disabilities and Section 504, visit the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) website and read Protecting Students with Disabilities: Frequently Asked Questions.

How do I file a complaint against school officials?

Request (in writing) a copy of the School District Policy on filing a grievance or complaint and follow the district’s established procedure. Ask for a copy of school records to compare and contrast with documents you have.

You may also access your School District's Policy at the tab titled "Find Your District 504 Coordinator and More!" in this Disability Topic.

  • If you file a complaint with the school's 504 coordinator, it must be in writing and include your name and address. The complaint must state the problem or action (or inaction) alleged to be discriminatory.
  • The complaint must also state what correction (remedy or relief) is desired.
  • The Section 504 Coordinator (or her/his designee) must conduct an investigation. This investigation may be informal, but it must be thorough and afford all interested persons an opportunity to submit relevant evidence. 
  • The Section 504 Coordinator should issue a written decision on the complaint. 

You can also file a complaint with the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights about the allegation of discrimination on the basis of disability. 

How can the US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) help?

The U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has the authority to investigate Section 504 and ADA Title II complaints and order a correction action.

How do I get technical assistance?

OCR can provide technical asstistance to you regarding a Section 504 or Title II ADA concern regardless of where you file your complaint. OCR can also provide technical assistance to school district officials.

How can I protect my child’s rights and begin to document disability discrimination?

To help protect your child’s rights to a free and appropriate public education, make it a habit to keep a detailed journal of events pertinent to your child’s education. Write the journal as a chronological record with dates, times, places, and events. Note names and titles of school officials and others involved with school events. This information may be useful if you need to document disability discrimination.

If you believe disability discrimination is occurring or you have specific concerns with school officials and the education of your child, document your specific concerns in writing to the school officials. Date your correspondence, make a copy for your records, request a written response and if possible send your correspondence return receipt requested.

How do I verify agreements with school officials?

To memorialize important conversations and any negotiations with school officials, follow up by sending a detailed letter to confirm each agreement. Put in writing any requests you have made for services for your child. Ask school officials for a timely written response. If possible send your correspondence return receipt requested so you can verify school officials received the correspondence.

504 in Your District

Visit our new page - Section 504 - County by County to find the name and contact information for the 504 coordinator in your district.

Also, you will be able to access the name and contact information for the agency the district has contracted to conduct 504 hearings and a copy of the district's 504 Grievance Policy and Procedure. 

Restraint and Seclusion in School

Florida Statute 1003.573 addresses widespread concern about the use of seclusion and restraint on students with disabilities in public school. The law went into effect on July 1, 2010.

The law establishes standards and procedures regarding the use, monitoring, documentation, and reporting of seclusion and restraint on students with disabilities.

The law establishes <strong>three important rights</strong>:

- notification and copies of incident reports.
- protection against mechanical restraint that restricts a student’s breathing.
- protection against manual or physical restraint that restricts a student's breathing.

On July 1, 2011 the law was revised to improve monitoring, documentation and reporting. The law also now requires districts to develop plans for the prevention and reduction of restraint and seclusion use and produce those plans to the Department of Education no later than January 31, 2012.

What Can I Do?

Parents and guardians are entitled to notification so that they can learn about what is happening in school and take appropriate action.

The notification must be in writing and provided before the end of the school day on which the restraint or seclusion occurs. Reasonable efforts must also be taken to notify the parent or guardian by telephone or computer e-mail or both. These efforts must be documented. The school shall obtain and keep in its records, the parent's or guardian's signed acknowledgment that he or she was notified of his or her child's restraint or seclusion.

Schools must write incident reports and send them to parents and guardians, principals, district special education directors and the state special education bureau chief. 

The question often comes up - what can a parent do to help reduce restraint and seclusion use, prevent abusive restraint and seclusion use, and to respond to it when it occurs?

The TASH website is an excellent resource about how to write a No Consent Letter, how to monitor your child's program and some basic guidance about reporting abuse. Read each section of this Disability Topic to learn more about how to advocate for your child.

Abuse & Noncompliance

If you suspect abusive use of restraint or seclusion or non-compliance with Florida law governing use of restraint and seclusion in school, there are many ways to seek assistance.

Abuse Hotline - Department of Children and Families

  • To file a report by telephone call  1.800.96ABUSE   
  • To file a report online, go to this DCF website 

The Department of Children and Families will investigate suspected cases of abuse in the school. If your concerns meet the definition of an emergency situation, first call 911 or your local law enforcement agency.

Office of Professional Practices Services - Florida Department of Education

325 West Gaines Street
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0400

Phone: 850-245-0438
Fax: 850-245-0621

Office of Professional Practices Services investigates alleged misconduct by educators who hold a Florida Educator Certificate or a valid application for a Florida Educator Certificate. To read more about professional practices, visit this website.

IDEA State Complaint - Florida Department of Education

Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services
Florida Department of Education
325 West Gaines Street, Suite 614
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0400

Fax #: 850-245-0953

The Florida Department of Education maintains a state complaint procedure whereby parents and other interested parties may file a written complaint alleging that a public agency has violated state or federal requirements regarding the education of students with disabilities or gifted students.

The signed, written state complaint must:

  • be clearly identified as a complaint
  • include a statement which describes how the district has violated a requirement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) and/or the corresponding state requirements
  • include an explanation of the facts on which the statement is based
  • include a signature and contact information for the complainant(s)
  • allege a violation that occurred not more than one year prior to the date that the complaint is received
  • if alleging violations with respect to a specific child, include:
    • the name and the address of the residence of the child
    • the name of the school the child is attending
    • a description of the nature of the problem of the child, including facts relating to the problem
    • a proposed resolution of the problem

In addition, the party filing the state complaint must forward a copy of the complaint to the school district serving the child at the same time the complaint is filed. (Section 300.153 of Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations)

Office of Civil Rights - U.S. Department of Education

To file a complaint, people may mail or fax a letter or use OCR’s Discrimination Complaint Form available from one of OCR’s enforcement offices. In your correspondence, please include:

  • The complainant’s name, address and, if possible (although not required), a telephone number where the complainant may be reached during business hours;
  • Information about the person(s) or class of persons injured by the alleged discriminatory act(s) (names of the injured person(s) are not required);
  • The name and location of the institution that committed the alleged discriminatory act(s); and
  • A description of the alleged discriminatory act(s) in sufficient detail to enable OCR to understand what occurred, when it occurred, and the basis for the alleged discrimination (race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age or the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act).

You may may file a complaint with OCR online at this web site.

Incident Report

Incident reports must contain the following: 

  1. The name, age, grade, race, ethnicity, gender and primary exceptionality of the student restrained or secluded. 
  2. The date and time of the event and the duration of the restraint or seclusion. 
  3. The location at which the restraint or seclusion occurred.
  4. A description of the type of restraint.
    1. Which Crisis Management Training Strategy?
    2. Whether seated, standing, rpone, supine, mechanical or in transport?
    3. If mechanical, the form of the mechanical restraint used must be described.
  5. The name of the person using or assisting in the restraint or seclusion of the student. 
  6. The name of any nonstudent who was present to witness the restraint or seclusion. 
  7. What was happening before
    1. Given an instruction
    2. Interacting with peers
    3. Presented work
    4. Given/serving a consequence
    5. Faced with unexpected change
    6. Transitioning to another activity
    7. Seeking attention
    8. Other
  8. What strategies were used to prevent and deescalate the behavior.
    1. Offered choices/preferred activities/breaks
    2. Praised/encouraged
    3. Verbally prompted/redirected
    4. Environment changed
    5. Visuually promoted/redirected
    6. Blocked behavior
    7. Provided reinforcers
    8. Other
  9. What behavior warrented the use of restraint or seclusion?
    1. Verbal threat/agression (NOTE - R/S should not be used for this reason - so if your incident report indicates this reason, that is a serious problem)
    2. Self-injurious behavior
    3. Physical aggression
    4. Unsafe behavior
    5. Running away
    6. Property destruction (NOTE - R/S should not be used for this reason unless there is also imminent risk of serious injury or death - so if your incident report indicates this reason, that is a serious problem)
    7. Other
  10. Who was at risk of immediate harm?
    1. The student
    2. Other students
    3. Adults
  11. How was it determined that there was imminent risk of serious injury or death to the student or others?
  12. What occurred with the student immediately after termination of the restraint or seclusion?
    1. Debriefing/problem solving
    2. Environment change
    3. Return to activity/situation
    4. Removal by parent
    5. Behavior escalated
    6. Removal by law enforcement
  13. Did the student or anyone else have injuries, visible marks, or medical emergencies that occurred during the restraint or seclusion. 

Prohibited

Illegal restraints are:

  • Mechanical restraint that restricts breathing
  • Manual or physical restraint that restricts breathing

Breath restriction risks are highest among people who have:

  • Obesity or are overweight
  • Respiratory problems
  • Asthma
  • Seizure disorders
  • Heart conditions
  • Required medications or drugs
  • Resistance to the restraint

Any weight placed on a person restrained prone or on their torso regardless of position is a risk factor for causing breath restriction during a restraint.

Illegal seclusions are:

Closing, locking or blocking a student in aroom that does not meet State Fire Marshal rules for seclusion time-out rooms and is unlit.

Definitions

According to the Florida Department of Education's interpretation of state and federal laws and rules, "restraint" is an emergency intervention sometimes used in schools when students are exhibiting disruptive or dangerous behavior. Restraint is not an instructional tool for the development of pro-social behavior. Rather, it is one method to prevent students from harming themselves or others. It should only be used in emergency situations when an imminent risk of serious injury or death to the student or others exists.

Section 1003.573, F.S., does not provide a definition for restraint but does require documenting, reporting, and monitoring of restraint with students with disabilities. The Department of Education has determined that all documenting, reporting, and monitoring requirements for restraint, discussed later in this TAP, shall be based upon the same definitions issued by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for reporting instances of restraint and seclusion for all students. For the purpose of this TAP and the documenting, reporting, and monitoring requirements for restraint, definitions are as follows:

Physical restraint

Physical restraint immobilizes or reduces the ability of a student to move his or her torso, arms, legs, or head freely. The term

When reporting the physical restraint, there is a requirement to document the type of restraint using terms in accordance with terminology defined by the Bureau. Those terms include seated, standing, prone (lying face down), supine (lying face up), immobilization during transport and mechanical restraint (see definition below).

physical restraint does not include a physical escort. "Physical escort" means a temporary touching or holding of the hand, wrist, arm, shoulder, or back for the purpose of inducing a student who is acting out to walk to a safe location.

Mechanical restraint

Mechanical restraint is the use of any device or equipment to restrict a student’s freedom of movement. The term does not include devices implemented by trained school personnel or devices used by a student that have been prescribed by an appropriate medical or related service professional and are used for the specific and approved purposes for which such devices were designed, such as:3

• Adaptive devices or mechanical supports used to achieve proper body position, balance, or alignment to allow greater freedom of mobility than would be possible without the use of such devices or mechanical supports

• Vehicle safety restraints when used as intended during the transport of a student in a moving vehicle

• Restraints for medical immobilization

• Orthopedically prescribed devices that permit a student to participate in activities without risk of harm

These definitions may also be found on the FDOE website at http://www.fldoe.org/eias/dataweb/database_1011/st81_1.pdf.

Seclusion

Seclusion is an emergency intervention sometimes used in schools when students are exhibiting disruptive or dangerous behavior. Seclusion is not an instructional tool for the development of pro-social behavior. Rather, it is one method to prevent students from harming themselves or others. It should only be used in emergency situations when an imminent risk of serious injury or death to the student or others exists. 

Section 1003.573, F.S., does not provide a definition of seclusion. However, OCR now requires that the FDOE report all instances of seclusion and restraint for all students (not just those with disabilities). Documentation, reporting, and monitoring requirements for seclusion, discussed later in this TAP, are based on the definition issued by OCR with additional parameters described in section 1003.573, F.S. 

The OCR defines seclusion as “the involuntary confinement of a student alone in a room or area from which the student is physically prevented from leaving. It does not include a time-out, which is a behavior management technique that is part of an approved program, involves the monitored separation of the student in a non-locked setting, and is implemented for the purpose of calming.” This definition may also be found on the FDOE website at http://www.fldoe.org/eias/dataweb/database_1011/st81_1.pdf.

Prevention & Reduction

School districts must write a plan for the reduction of restraint and seclusion. Those plans are due to the Department of Education by January 31, 2012.

The plans must particularly focus on settings in which restraint and seclusion is happening most frequently and with students who are restrained repeatedly and to reduce the use of the most dangerous practices - prone restraint and mechanical restraint.

Districts should plan and implement at least the following activities:

  • Additional training in positive behavioral support and crisis management
  • Parental involvement
  • Data review
  • Updates of students' functional behavioral analysis and positive behavior intervention plans
  • Additional student evlautions
  • Debriefing with staff
  • Use of schoolwide positive behavior support and
  • Changes to the school environment

Most restraint and seclusion van be prevented through the use of positive behavior intervention and appropriate services, when qualified school staff is appropriately trained.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) promotes the use of positive behavior interventions. When a student is exhibiting challenging behaviors in the education setting the school should conduct a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) of the student. The FBA will determine the cause of the behavior and a Positive Behavior Intervention Plan can be developed with intervention strategies to replace the challenging behaviors with appropriate behaviors. 

For example, a student may be presented with a non-preferred task that the student finds very frustrating. In order to avoid that task, the student will act out and the student will be removed from the task. Without analyzing the behavior the school would not recognize the pattern and the student’s behavior will continue to become more challenging.

Behavior is a form of communication. For non-verbal students, behavior is often their only method of communication. A student should not receive negative consequences for manifestations of their disability.  A Positive Behavior Intervention Plan should be developed on the data collected in the FBA. The Plan must be individualized to meet the unique needs of the student.

Florida Positive Behavior Support Project

PBS has held a distinctive place in special education law and is the only approach to addressing behavior that is specifically mentioned in the law, known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The emphasis on using functional assessment and positive approaches to encourage appropriate behavior remains in the current amended 2004 version of the law. 

The Florida Positive Behavior Support Project (FPBSP) is part of the Department of Child and Family Studies of the Louis de la Parte Institute at the University of South Florida. The FPBSP is funded by the Florida Department of Education, Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services, using federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) dollars. The project works to increase the capacity of Florida's school districts to address problem behaviors using Positive Behavior Support.

The FPBSP website includes information about how districts and schools may request training and technical assistance. The website also contains on-line training modules in school-wide PBS and individual PBS, information about how to access funding, and public recognition of model schools.

This Facilitator’s Guide was developed at FPBSP to build capacity in positive assessment based approaches to support students with significant behavioral challenges. It provides districts with a five step process that includes; relevant literature, narrative forms, and case examples to ensure that districts design and develop an individualized plan for each student. It is derived from evidenced-based practices and provides an easy step by step process that can be implemented in the school, home, and/or community.

Four Types of Transition Plans

Previous Topic: Students with Disabilities - School & Work

Next Topic: What Should Each Transition Plan Cover?

Four types of transition plans have been created under federal law to protect young people with disabilities from discrimination in education and employment.

Young people with disabilities will have one or more — probably at least two — of these four types of plans, depending on which laws apply and the stage of transition the young person is experiencing.

IEP

The Individualized Education Program, or IEP — is a detailed, legal document that indicates the supports and services a student with a disability will receive to be provided a free and appropriate public education.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA) requires that all students in special education have IEPs. IEPs are updated at least every year. If you feel your plan needs to be changed or clarified, you can request an interim review.

Students who are covered by IDEA and required to have IEPs are students between the ages of 3 and 22 who have been evaluated by the appropriate professionals and determined by a multidisciplinary team to be eligible because of one or more of 13 specific categories of disability. The categories are: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing (DHH), Dual Sensory Impaired (deaf-blindness), Intellectual Disabilities, Orthopedic Impaired, Other Health Impaired, Emotional/Behavioral Disability, Developmental Disability, Specific Learning Disabilities, Speech and/or Language Impairment, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Visually Impaired.

Those who are covered by IDEA are also eligible for assistance under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. During the student’s school years, the requirements of IDEA are more specific. To be sure a child receives the services he or she needs, IDEA requires schools to follow a concrete and specific process. That process guarantees that useful steps will be taken to give the child access to a free and appropriate public education.

For more information about IEPs, please visit our other Special Education Disability Topics.

504 Plans

A child with a disability who does not need special education and services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) may be eligible under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

A child must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one major life activity, such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, writing, performing math calculations, working, caring for oneself and performing manual tasks.

Students with disabilities eligible for Section 504 but not IDEA – that is, students who need accommodations in education but do not need specially designed instruction — have a plan similar to an IEP called a “504 Plan.”

A 504 plan, like an IEP, specifies the steps to be taken to give the young person equal access to education. It describes the accommodations to make that education possible.

A 504 plan can and should be handled as carefully and thoroughly as the law requires for an IEP. The person with a disability, his or her parents and advocates have a right to insist on a thorough process and all necessary services and benefits for which the student is eligible.

Students who have 504 plans are not legally required to have separate transition plans, but they are entitled to transition planning as part of their 504 plan.

TIEP

By age 16, students covered by IDEA are required to have a further plan as they grow into their late teens. In Florida, it’s called a Transition Individualized Education Plan (TIEP). The TIEP is designed to be a result-oriented process, that focuses on improving academic and functional achievement to facilitate the student’s movement from school to post-school activities, including post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living or community participation.

IPE

A student who has an IEP or a 504 Plan at school is likely to leave school with a new kind of plan — an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE).

The IPE is a blueprint for successful employment for a person who uses the services of the Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) or the Division of Blind Services (DBS).

A student who is eligible for DVR or DBS has a right to an IPE developed by DVR or DBS before he or she leaves school. Without the IPE, the student cannot gain access to services from DVR or DBS.

Restraint and Seclusion - County by County

If you would like to learn how your county is doing with their efforts to reduce restraint and seclusion use, check the tabs below, including the Data tabs and Links tab. Every county's plan for reduction of restraint and seclusion can be accessed from the ESE Policies and Procedures link provided.

If you do not see your county profiled below, follow us on Facebook or Twitter and ask us to profile your county.

For more information, please also visit our general Disability Topic page on Restraint and Seclusion in School.

Alachua

Alachua County- Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures

You can find Alachua County's policies and procedures in:

Alachua County’s current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a-4n) updated July 2012.

The document can be accessed from this FLDOE link:

http://www.fldoe.org/ese/ppd/Alachua.pdf

From January 2012- April 2012, Alachua County reported that 4% of the 27 restraint incidents were prone restraints.

Alachua County's new July 2012 policies indicate prone restraint is prohibited.

Alachua County policy does indicate use of physical/mechanical restraint and seclusion.

For Aug 2011-June 2012, Alachua County reported 71 instances of restraint on 33 students. 63% of these students were students with emotional behavioral disorders or autism.

Alachua County also reported 17 instances of seclusion on 10 students. 60% of those students were students with emotional behavioral disorder or autism.

Alachua County’s formal Non-Violent Crisis Intervention training from Crisis Prevention Institute is provided through annually through the Florida Diagnostic and Learning Resources System (FDLRS). 6 hours of update training is also offered annually.

Employees receive training in the safe use of seclusion and physical or mechanical restraint. Superintendents shall require that appropriate training is provided for the immediate supervisors to ensure that measures are implemented according to the policy.

To reduce the use of restraint and seclusion, Alachua County’s plans include:

  • Additional training in positive behavioral support and crisis management
  • Parental involvement
  • Data review
  • Updates on students’’ functional behavioral analysis
  • Additional student evaluations
  • Debriefing with staff
  • Use of school-wide positive behavioral support
  • Changes to the school environment

The County further plans to provide schools with guidance by district staff to assure accurate reporting and maintenance of records.

Bay

Bay County- Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures

The two places you need to look to find Bay County's policies and procedures are:

a) Bay County’s current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a-4n) updated in March 2012 and

b) Bay County's Policy for Manual Physical Restraint and Seclusion located in Appedix D of the SP&P.

Both documents can be accessed from this FLDOE link:

http://www.fldoe.org/ese/ppd/Bay.pdf

Bay County reports that it does not use prone or mechanical restraint and the reporting data available seems to confirm that.

From August 2011 – June 2012, Bay County reported 138 incidents of restraint on 67 students. Of those students, 75% are diagnosed with autism or an emotional behavioral disorder. Bay County reports that most of the restraints occur in their Center Schools.

Bay County does use seclusion. From August 2011 – June 2012, Bay County reported 87 incidents of seclusion on 38 students. 84% of those students are diagnosed with autism or have an emotional behavioral disorder. Bay County also reports that all of their seclusion incidents occur in Center Schools.

Bay District Schools use Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI) as its program to train personnel. Both Initial trainings and refresher training are conducted annually.

If you would like to learn more about CPI, their website may be helpful:

http://www.crisisprevention.com/

Bay County plans to reduce the total number of incidents of restrain and seclusion during the 2011 – 2012 school year by 5%.

Activities include:

  • Compiling data from the DOE website for the ESE Director to evaluate
  • School based teams responsible for addressing restraint and seclusion trends at both the school and individual level
  • Training to all local schools with CPI
  • Expand the use of Positive Behavior Support in schools. Currently Bay County has 23 PBS schools

Broward

Broward County – Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures

You can find Broward County’s policies and procedures in:

Broward County’s current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a-4n) updated May 2012.

This Document can be accessed from this FLDOE link:

http://www.fldoe.org/ese/ppd/Broward.pdf

From January 2012 - April 2012, Broward County reported no use of mechanical restraint. According to their policies and procedures, Broward County does not use mechanical restraint.

They do use prone restraint and seclusion.

August 2011 - June 2012, Broward County reported 237 restraint related incidents on 137 students. 91% of those students were either students who have autism or emotional behavioral disorders.

During that same time period, Aug 2011 - June 2012, Broward County reported 93 instances of seclusion on 53 students. 94% of those students were students who have autism or an emotional behavioral disorder.

From January - April 2012, Broward also reported the second highest rate of prone restraint use in the state. They reported that 94% of all restraints performed during that period were prone restraints.

Broward County uses Professional Crisis Management Associates (PCM) as their restraint training program.

District PCM Instructors receive initial training and required annual recertification directly from the Professional Crisis Management Association (PCMA). If you would like to learn more about PCMA, their website might be helpful. http://www.pcma.com/

School-based practitioners receive training from the District PCM instructors. Outside of the annually required recertification, refresher training is provided as needed.

According to Broward County’s Policy and Procedures, ESE Center schools and any school with an ESE Cluster Program with a high number of students with emotional behavioral disabilities are required to have a PCM trained team. At all other schools, a team is only trained if there is a student specific need as identified in the crisis section of the student’s PBIB.

Broward County plans to reduce restraint and seclusion by at least 5%.

To reduce restraint and seclusion, Broward County’s plan includes the following:

  • Implement student-specific strategies
  • Implement district and school strategies for increasing parental involvement
  • Introduce or strengthen multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS), which could include school wide positive behavioral support
  • Provide additional professional developmental training in positive behavioral support

Clay

Clay County - Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures

The two places you need to look to find Clay County’s district policies and procedures are:

a) Clay County’s current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a – 4n) updated February 2012 and

b) Clay County’s Policies and Procedures for the use of Crisis Management based on HB 1073 effective July 2010, which is located in Appendix D of the SP&P.

Both documents can be accessed from this FLDOE link:
http://www.fldoe.org/ese/ppd/Clay.pdf

In 2011-2012, Clay County reported no use of prone restraint or mechanical restraint. According to their policies and procedures, Clay County does not use prone restraint or mechanical restraint.

They do use physical restraint and seclusion.

For Aug 2011-June 2012, Clay County reported 155 instances of physical restraint on 65 students. 86% of these students were either students who have emotional behavioral disorders or students who have autism. Clay County also reported 78 instances of seclusion on 32 students. 81% of those students were students who have emotional behavioral disorders or students who have autism.

Clay County uses a curriculum called Safe Crisis Management (SCM) to train its staff in prevention, de-escalation and emergency intervention including restraint. Miami-Dade County also uses SCM.

Clay County requires its trainers to be recertified by SCM once a year during 2-day training. Other certified staff members, such as behavior assistants and ESE teachers, are required to take an annual refresher conducted by the county trainers. If you would like to learn more about SCM, their website might be helpful:
http://www.jkmtraining.com/

Clay County requires that behavior assistants be trained in SCM. In addition, they require that any ESE teacher assigned to a student whose behavior profile indicates a high likelihood of the need for R/S be trained. School administrators are also offered training.

Clay County had a measurable goal for 2011-2012 to reduce the number of students who are restrained more than one time as compared to 2010-2011 and their plan to accomplish overall reduction of R/S includes these activities:

  • engage in additional professional development in positive behavior support and safe crisis management
  • review data and target students who are restrained repeatedly for student-specific strategies such as evaluating the effectiveness of Positive Behavior Intervention Plans; conducting evaluations/reevaluations and Functional Behavioral Assessments and reviewing IEPs and/or health care plans
  • strengthen systems of support including school wide positive behavior support
  • collaboration with school-based leadership teams to make data-driven decisions regarding school environments
  • increase efforts to improve parent involvement.

Clay County allows seclusion if the facility meets the standards published by the DOE and which has been periodically inspected by the Fire Marshall. Parents/guardians must consent in writing before seclusion can be used.

Duval

Duval County - Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures

You can find Duval County’s district policies and procedures in:

Duval County’s current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a – 4n) updated February 2012.

The document can be accessed from this FLDOE link:

http://www.fldoe.org/ese/ppd/Duval.pdf

From January – April 2012, Duval County reported that 37% of its restraints were prone restraints. According to their policies and procedures, Duval County does use prone restraint, but not mechanical restraint.

They also use physical restraint and seclusion.

For August 2011-June 2012, Duval County reported 628 instances of physical restraint on 217 students. 89% of these students were either students who have emotional behavioral disorders or students who have autism. Duval County also reported 304 instances of seclusion on 120 students. 68% of those students were students who have emotional behavioral disorders and 15% were students who have autism.

Duval County uses a curriculum called Professional Crisis Management Associates (PCM). Broward, Hardee, Manatee, Martin, Monroe, Nassau, Orange, Putnam, St. Johns, St. Lucie and Seminole Counties also use PCM. However, a few of these counties also use a second curriculum.

Duval County requires its trainers to be recertified by PCM once a year. Duval does not outline which staff it requires to be trained. If you would like to learn more about PCM, their website might be helpful:
http://www.pcma.com/

Duval County only allows use of seclusion in Day Treatment and Center School settings. Training is offered annually but it is unclear who performs the training. Duval County policy requires implementation of the procedures outlined in FLDOE’s Guidelines for the Use of Time-out Technical Assistance Paper (October 2011).

Duval County only allows use of prone restraint in self-contained settings - Day Treatment, Communication/Social Skills, and Center Schools. 

Duval County had a measurable goal for 2011-2012 to reduce the number of students who are restrained by 1%.

Their plan to accomplish overall reduction of R/S includes these activities:

  • analysis of incidents
  • use of data
  • review settings and components
  • identification of teachers or other staff in need of additional support and/or training
  • reviews of IEPs and behavior plans
  • complete required forms

For students who have had eight or more R/S incidents within one month, a review and update of the Positive Behavior Management Plan and Functional Behavioral Analysis/Behavior Intervention Plan is required if deemed appropriate. If no current FBA/PBIP exists, the teacher will schedule an IEP meeting to obtain consent to initiate the FBA within ten days of the incident.

Hillsborough

Hillsborough County – Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures

The two places you need to look to find Hillsborough County’s district policies and procedures are:

a) Hillsborough County’s current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a – 4n) updated March 2012 and

b) Hillsborough County’s Reasonable Force and Restraint Policy, which is located in Appendix D of the SP&P as well as on the School Board of Hillsborough County’s Bylaws & Policies website.

Both documents can be accessed from this FLDOE link:

http://www.fldoe.org/ese/ppd/Hillsborough.pdf

This link takes you to the Reasonable Force and Restraint Policy where it is posted by the county:

http://www.neola.com/hillsborough-fl/

From January – April 2012, Hillsborough County reported that 49% of its restraints were prone restraints and 6% were mechanical. According to their policies and procedures, Hillsborough County uses both prone and mechanical restraint.

They also use physical restraint and seclusion.

Hillsborough County policies state they encourage that prone restraint only be used to prepare to transport an individual to a safe area. The policies state that ESE Teams provide direct support to school site personnel to help reduce the number of prone restraints.

Hillsborough County policies also say that mechanical restraint is only used when law enforcement or a resource officer is involved and uses handcuffs. The policies also state that ESE Teams provide direct support to school site personnel to help reduce the number of mechanical restraints.

For August 2011-June 2012, Hillsborough County reported 897 instances of restraints on 355 students.

Hillsborough County also reported 362 instances of seclusion on 177 students.

Hillsborough County uses the Techniques for Effective Aggression Management (TEAM) and Nonviolent Crisis Intervention (NCI) programs.

Hillsborough County allows either program to be chosen by the school or the participant, but recommends the TEAM program if staff is dealing with “physically challenging behaviors”.

If you would like to learn more about TEAM and NCI, their websites might be helpful:

http://www.teaminterventions.com/

http://www.crisisprevention.com/Specialties/Nonviolent-Crisis-Intervention

Please note that NCI is a specialized offering from Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI).

Six other counties (Indian River, Lake, Lee, Okeechobee, Sarasota, and Sumter) also use the TEAM program.

TEAM is a 3-day training offered every month. NCI is offered six times each year. The TEAM program requires annual recertification.

Hillsborough County does not require annual recertification for NCI. However, the district’s NCI trainers must be annually certified.

Hillsborough County requires schools to identify staff members assigned to students who may exhibit behaviors that can pose an imminent risk of harm to themselves or others. Those staff members are required to be TEAM certified.

Training in NCI appears to be optional and voluntary.

Hillsborough County’s goal was to achieve a 10% reduction in R/S use.

Their plan for reduction of R/S includes these activities:

  • Review behaviors, strategies, PBS and progress monitoring
  • Communicate with parents/guardians when behavior issues become evident
  • Create/revise FBA/BIP when warranted
  • Convene IEP teams
  • Develop emergency plans
  • Initiate reevaluation if more data and info is needed to address a student’s behavioral needs
  • Provide additional professional development in various areas
  • Problem solve to make data driven decisions
  • Meet monthly at the district level and offer recommendations to area ESE teams

Hillsborough County also has a district policy titled Reasonable Force and Restraint that states that staff may apply reasonable force and restraint “to quell a disturbance threatening physical injury to others, to obtain possession of weapons or other dangerous objects upon or within the control of the student, to defend themselves, or to protect other persons or property”.

Lake

Lake County – Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures

The two places you need to look to find Lake County’s district policies and procedures are:

a) Lake County’s current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a – 4n) updated March 2012 and

b) Lake County’s Use of Time-Out, Seclusion and Physical Restraint for Students with Disabilities (Policy 5.341), which is located as an attachment at the very end of the SP&P as well as on the School Board of Lake County’s School Board Policies website.

Both documents can be accessed from this FLDOE link:

http://www.fldoe.org/ese/ppd/Lake.pdf

This link takes you to the Use of Time-Out, Seclusion and Physical Restraint for Students with Disabilities where it is posted by the county:

http://lake.k12.fl.us/cms/lib05/FL01000799/Centricity/Domain/92/Policy_5.341_82511.pdf

According to their policies and procedures, Lake County does not use mechanical restraint.

From January – April 2012, Lake County reported that 12% of its restraints were prone restraints.

They also use physical restraint and seclusion.

From August 2011-June 2012, Lake County reported 395 instances of restraints on 175 students. 84% of the students were either students with emotional behavioral disorders or students with autism spectrum disorder.

Lake County also reported 29 instances of seclusion on 16 students. 75% of those were students with intellectual disabilities and 19% were students with autism spectrum disorder.

Lake County uses the Techniques for Effective Aggression Management (TEAM), Nonviolent Crisis Intervention by Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) and Professional Crisis Management (PCM) programs.

If you would like to learn more about TEAM and NCI, their websites might be helpful:

http://www.teaminterventions.com/

http://www.crisisprevention.com/Specialties/Nonviolent-Crisis-Intervention

http://www.pcma.com/

Please note that NCI is a specialized offering from CPI.

Six other counties (Hillsborough, Indian River, Lee, Okeechobee, Sarasota, and Sumter) also use the TEAM program.

Lake County offers CPI initial certifications and annual recertifications and uses CPI for the majority of its school personnel. CPI is offered to all district personnel.

Lake County offers TEAM training to all teachers and staff at two special day school sites (initial and refresher) and all staff who serve ASD and EBD students are included in those trained, as well as school administrators at these two schools.

Lake County uses PCM training at its Lake Hills Center school and all Lake Hills Center school staff are PCM trained.

Lake County’s goal was to achieve a 25% reduction in R/S use.

Their plan for reduction of R/S includes these activities:

Student specific strategies

  • Monitoring
  • Having IEP teams meet and consider need for FBA/BIP if there are more than 3 restraints on one student in a month.
  • Having IEP teams meet and implement proactive supports where there are more than three restraints during a school year.
  • Involving the ESE director or designee and additional resources if there are more than five (5) restraints on one student in a month.
  • Strengthen implementation of multi-tier systems of support
  • Providing additional professional development in PBS
  • More schools, increased competency (through the various PBS tiers), training in decision making and progress monitoring, ongoing support and training to school based PBS coaches.
  • Increase professional development opportunities for NCI.

Lee

Lee County- Newest School District Restrain and Seclusion Policies and Procedures.

You can access Lee County’s policies and procedures in:

Lee County's current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (paged 4a-4n) updated April 2012.

This document can be accessed from this FLDOE link:

http://www.fldoe.org/ese/ppd/Lee.pdf

For August 2011 - June 2012, Lee County reported 134 incidents of restraint on 88 students. 74% of these students were either diagnosed with autism or had an emotional behavioral disorder.

From January 2012 - April 2012, Lee County reported 44 incidents of restraint. 9% of those restraints were reported as prone restraint.

Lee County reported fewer than 10 incidents of seclusion between August 2011 - June 2012.

Lee County’s updated Policies and Procedures state that neither prone restraint nor mechanical restraint will be used.

Lee County uses both Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI), and Techniques for Effective Adolescent and Child Handling (TEACH). If you would like to learn more about CPI and TEACH, these websites might be helpful:

http://www.crisisprevention.com/

http://www.pesinc.net/

Lee County's policies and procedures state that schools that do not have separate classrooms for students with autism or behavioral needs may opt to offer CPI training. Conversely, schools with separate classes for students with disablities where the school anticipates high levels of behavior may choose either CPI or TEACH. Lee County delegates the decision regarding which program to the school but requires that ESE teachers and paraprofessionals working in seperate classes be trained as well as the administrators of those schools. Additionally all behavior specialists, autism and behavior learning resource specialists, and all DJJ and center school teachers, helpers and administrators are trained.

Training opportunities for both programs are scheduled throughout the year for all teachers.

By the end of the 2011-2012 school year, Lee County plans to reduce use of restraint and seclusion techniques by at least 10% from 1.37 incidents per 100 students with disabilities to less than 1.23 incidents per 100 students with disabilities.

Their plans include:

  • Student specific strategies such as reviewing the Individualized educational plans (IEP) and 504 plans
  • Meeting to review positive behavior intervention plans (PBIPS) and health plans for effectiveness
  • Conducting evaluations/reevaluations and/or functional behavior assessments (FBAs)
  • Providing monthly de-escalation and crisis management training opportunities
  • Offering autism endorsement classes and opening the PBS module of the endorsement to all teachers
  • Using FBAs and BIPs to proactively meet student needs
  • Increasing parent involvement

Manatee

Manatee County- Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures

You can find Manatee County’s policies and prodedures in:

Manattee County's current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a-4n) updated June 2012.

This document can be accessed from this FLDOE link:

http://www.fldoe.org/ese/ppd/Manatee.pdf

Manatee County policy states permitted use of both prone and mechanical restraint.

The policy states that when using prone restraint it is “extremely encouraged that prone restraint only be used to prepare for ‘transport’ to a safe area.”

Furthermore, for mechanical restraint, the policy states that “the district only uses mechanical restraint when a law enforcement resource officer is involved and uses hand cuffs.”

From January 2012 – April 2012, Manatee County reported 145 incidents of restraint. 70% of these incidents are prone restraint.

Manatee County also reports 442 incidents of restraint on 205 students from August 2011 – June 2012. Of those students, 53% are diagnosed with autism or emotional behavioral disorder.

Seclusion is used in Manatee County.

From August 2011 – June 2012, 189 incidents of seclusion are reported on 40 students. Of those students, 75% have an emotional behavioral disorder and 3% are diagnosed with autism.

Manatee County uses Aggression Control Technique Training (ACTT) and Professional Crisis Management (PCM) training programs.

According to their policy and procedures on training, “either program can be selected by the school or participant. However, it is recommended that a schools staff utilizes the same program if they are going to use a technique that requires 2 or more persons implement a restraint.” Trainings are three day sessions offered bi-monthly during the school year.

Manatee County plans to reduce the number of restraints and seclusions by 2%.

Plans to reach this goal include:

  • Review and monitor student behavior and the use of strategies and positive behavior supports
  • Interventions and progress monitoring
  • Communicate with parents/guardians
  • Create/revise FBA/BIP when warranted
  • Convene an IEP team meeting to discuss needs in regards to behavioral support
  • Develop and emergency plan
  • Initiate reevaluation if more data is needed

Marion

Marion County- Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures

You can find Marion County’s policies and procedures in:

Marion County's current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a-4n) updated in 2012.

This document can be accessed from this FLDOE link:

http://www.fldoe.org/ese/ppd/Marion.pdf

Marion County does use prone restraint. From January – April 2012, Marion County reported 165 incidents of restraint. 18% of the reported incidents are of prone restraint.

Mechanical restraint is allowed with “express consent of the ESE director, a written plan provided by a district approved board certified Behavior Analyst, and physician’s order.” There we no reported incidents of mechanical restraint between January - April 2012.

From August 2011 – June 2012, 472 incidents of restraint are reported on 214 students. Of those students, 60% are diagnosed with autism or an emotional behavioral disorder.

Marion County also uses seclusion. From August 2011 – June 2012, Marion County reported 425 incidents of seclusion on 111 students. Of those students, 67% are diagnosed with autism or an emotional behavioral disorder.

Marion School District uses Techniques for Effective Adolescent and Child Handling (T.E.A.C.H.) as its training program. The district employs 3 Behavior Analysts, who are approved trainers, to offer advance level 1 and refresher training.

Trainings are open to all district staff involved with students.

Marion County’s goal is to reduce the incidents of restraint and seclusion by a minimum of 5% across the 2012 – 2013 school year.

Activitied include:

  • Monthly training to all employees
  • Restraint data is monitored and reported on a bi-monthly basis
  • Intensive behavior intervention plans will be made to reduce prone restraint
  • Continue with T.E.A.C.H.
  • Individualized training on campuses that are not meeting the district’s targeted reduction status

Also regarding prone restraint, the plan includes offering more intensive training regarding the de-escalation process to schools reporting the use of prone restraint. And the behavior specialist assigned to the school will be made aware and an intensive behavior intervention plan will be developed to reduce the need for such a strategy to be used.

Miami-Dade

Miami-Dade County- Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures

You can find Miami-Dade County's policies and procedures in:

Miami-Dade County's current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a-4n) updated in April 2012.

This document can be accessed from this FLDOE link:

http://www.fldoe.org/ese/ppd/Miami-Dade.pdf

According to their updated policies and procedures, Miami-Dade does not use prone and/or mechanical restraint.

From August 2011- June 2012, Miami-Dade County reported 207 incidents of restraint performed on 155 students. 93% of those students were either diagnosed with autism or had an emotional behavioral disorder.

From January 2012- April 2012, Miami-Dade reported 91 incidents of restraint. None of these reports were from use of prone or mechanical restraint.
Miami-Dade County does use seclusion.

From August 2011- June 2012, Miami-Dade County reported 13 incidents of seclusion on 12 students. All of these incidents were performed on students diagnosed with autism or on students with emotional behavioral disorders.

Miami-Dade County uses Safe Crisis Management (SCM), as its training program for restraint and seclusion. The training is provided as a 3-day professional development session with annual refresher training available to trained SCM personnel.

With attention to the training process, participants are chosen by a survey completed by school administrators. According to the district’s policies and procedures, the survey asks for the names of staff that come in contact with students who have physical restraint on their IEP or BIP.

Miami-Dade County School District plans to reduce the use of restraint and seclusion by 3% from the baseline data for the 2011-2012 school year.

Activities planned include:

  • Reviewing and revising, if needed, BIPs of students with three or more restraint or seclusions
  • Public access to the FDOE Brochure for Documenting, Reporting and Monitoring the Use of Seclusion and Restraint (located on the District Special Education Website)
  • Use of School-wide positive behavior support
  • Problem solve with school administrator to make data-driven decisions regarding school environments

Monroe

Monroe County- Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures

You can find Monroe County’s district policies and procedures in:

Monroe County's current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a-4n) updated in February 2012.

This document can be accessed from this FLDOE link:

http://www.fldoe.org/ese/ppd/Monroe.pdf

Monroe County does not currently use prone restraint or mechanical restraint.

Seclusion and Physical restraint are used. However, all restraint and seclusion reports spanning from August 2011-June 2012 indicated less than 10 incidents filed, if any.

Monroe County uses Professional Crisis Management (PCM), as their current certification program, selected for its “strong legally defensible nature and de-escalation techniques.” Training and re-training is required and the district monitors when teachers’ certifications expire.

Monroe County’s policies and procedures state that “all staff members, parents or administrators can join the training depending on the availability. The district goal is to have a team at each school whom are trained and certified.”

This district aims to reduce the overall use of restraint and seclusion by 1%.

Plans for this goal include:

  • Reviewing and monitoring student behavior and the use of strategies and positive behavioral supports
  • Progress monitoring
  • District wide training on FBA/BIP’s is ongoing throughout the district

Monroe Counts School District reports six schools that are active Positive Behavior Support sites with two schools being Bronze Medal PBS schools.

Nassau

Nassau County - Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures

The two places you need to look to find Nassau County’s district policies and procedures are:

a) Nassau County's current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a-4n) updates November 2011 and

b) Nassau County's General Disciplinary Rule 5.50 - Manual Physical Restraint, which is located in Appendix D of the SP&P and on the Nassau County School Board's website.

The documents can be accessed from these links:

http://www.fldoe.org/ese/ppd/Nassau.pdf

http://www.edline.net/files/_gOAES_/05a5c06cb81630443745a49013852ec4/CHAPTER_5_PART_II_rev_9-2012.pdf adopted November 9, 2010.

Nassau County's General Disciplinary Rule 5.50 states that "manual physicial restraint will be used only as a last resort measure in emergency situations in which aggressive and/or self-injurious behavior presents significant and imminent threat to the physical safety of the student and/or others."

Nassau County’s policies and procedures state that the district does not use mechanical restraint and that prone restraint use is permitted "when absolutely necessary and appropriate.”

From August 2011 - June 2012, Nassau County reported 10 incidents of restraint.

Nassau County's policies and procedures indicate they do not use seclusion. Data from August 2011 - June 2012 indicate less than 10 incidents of seclusion were documented.

Professional Crisis Management Associates (PCM), is used for training in Nassau County. The district maintains its own trainer and requires staff to pass a written test and practical exam. Initial training is a 3-day process.

If you would like to learn more about PCM, their website might be helpful:

http://www.pcma.com/

Annual re-training depends on the level of certification for personnel already certified.

Nassau County plans on reducing restraint and seclusion by 20%. To achieve this goal, plans include the following:

  • District and school strategies for increasing parental involvement
  • Strengthened multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS)
  • Additional professional developmental training in positive behavioral support and crisis management
  • Data sharing and problem-solving with school administrators to make data-driven decisions 

Okaloosa

Okaloosa County- Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures

The two places you need to look to find Okaloosa County's district policies and procedures are:

a) Okaloosa County's current Exceptional Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a - 4n) updated February 2012 and

b) Okaloosa County's School Board Policy 4-45 Student Restraint and Seclusion adopted December 13, 2010.

Thd documents can be accessed from these links:

http://www.fldoe.org/ese/ppd/Okaloosa.pdf

http://www.okaloosaschools.com/files/school-district/_docs/policies/Students%2011-14-11.pdf

From August 2011- June 2012, Okaloosa County reported 49 incidents of restraint on 31 students. 80% of those students were either students with autism or an emotional behavioral disorder.

Okaloosa County’s policy prohibits the use of mechanical restraint.

Regarding prone restraint, Okaloosa County's policy states that it uses "prone restraint only in the most dire circumstances when a student is in the process of seriously endangering/injuring himself and/or others.” The policy further states that it is a goal to decrese the incidents of prone restraint as much as possible, keeping the student and others as safe as possible and that through training, staff are learning the skills to recognize triggers and intervene with resarch based strategies/interventions to avoid prone restraint.

Restraint reports from January 2012 - April 2012 show that of the 19 reported incidents, none were mechanical restraint and 5% were from prone restraint.

Okaloosa does use physical restraint and seclusion.

From August 2011- June 2012, there were 20 incidents of seclusion reported from Okaloosa County. It should be noted that for the purposes of Florida's reporting requirements, restraint, seclusion and time out are defined in the below Technical Assistance Papers from FLDOE. All seperation that meets the definition of seclusion must be reported as such.

http://info.fldoe.org/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-6212/dps-2011-165.pdf

http://info.fldoe.org/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-6219/dps-2011-145.pdf

The Okaloosa County School District uses two programs: Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) and Professional Crisis Management Associates (PCM) (at one center school).

Training and required refresher training is held annually. Training is open to all school personnel. As a site-based management district, each school determines the appropriate persons to be trained.

Okaloosa County’s goal is to decrease restraint incidents by 10% for the 2011-2012 school year and seclusion incidents by 20% for the 2011- 2012 school year.

To help achieve these goals, Okaloosa County has stated that they will be “providing professional development through Dr. Sylvia Rockwell, a nationally recognized classroom management expert, to teachers, principals and classroom assistants who have difficult students in their classes. Dr. Rockwell is providing face to face training, as well as visiting classrooms and conducting webinars.”

Orange

Orange County - Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures

You can find Orange County's policies and procedures in:

Orange County's current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a-4n) updated March 2012.

The document can be accessed from this FLDOE link:

http://www.fldoe.org/ese/ppd/Orange.pdf

From January – April 2012, Orange County reported that 17% of its restraints were prone restraints and 20% were mechanical restraints. While not the highest prone use in the state, it is by far the highest use of mechanical restraints.

They also use physical restraint and seclusion.

For August 2011-June 2012, Orange County reported 946 instances of restraints on 300 students. 72% of those students have an emotional behavioral disorder or are diagnosed with autism.

Orange County reports less than 10 occurrences of seclusion used on students.

Orange County uses both Professional Crisis Management Associates and Crisis Prevention Institute programs. Orange County allows either program to be chosen by the school or the participant, but recommends the PCM team focused program if staff is dealing with “ESE students who have intensive behavioral needs that cannot be met safely with CPI.”

Orange County states that CPI is used on all regular education campuses at the discretion of the school site administrator, and PCM is used on all separate day school campuses and designated intensive classrooms.

If you would like to learn more about PCM and CPI, their websites might be helpful:

http://www.pcma.com/
http://www.crisisprevention.com/

Orange County’s goal is to reduce the number of restraint incidents by 25% for the 2011-2012 school year.

Their plans include:

  • School Wide Behavioral Support Program
  • Weekly support from a district behavior analyst
  • Further consultation from the BACB-D (Certified Behavior Analyst, Doctorate Level)
  • IEP meetings based on frequency of occurrences

Osceola

Osceola County- Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures

The two places you need to look to find Osceola County's district policies and procedures are:

a) Osceola County's current Exceptional Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a-4n) updated June 2012 and

b) Osceola County's School Board Policy 5.343 Use of Time Out, Seclusion, and Physical Restraint for Students with Disabilities adopted February 7, 2012.

These documents can be accessed from these links:  

http://www.fldoe.org/ese/ppd/Osceola.pdf

http://www.osceola.k12.fl.us/School_Board_Rules/documents/SDOC_SBR_12-13_080712.pdf

From August 2011- June 2012, Osceola County reported 84 restraint incidents on 59 students. 64% of these students were students with autism or emotional behavioral disorder.

Of the restraints reported between January 2012 - April 2012, 3% were prone restraint.

According to the current Policies and Procedures, Osceola County does not use prone restraint or mechanical restraint.

Osceola County does use physical restraint and seclusion.

From August 2011 - June 2012, Osceola County reported 16 incidents of seclusion.

Osceola County has selected Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI) for training. Trainers are certified and are required to go through an annual re-certification process. Annual refresher training is also required.

Osceola County’s goal is to reduce the number of restraints and seclusions by 3% for the 2011-2012 school year. Plans include:

  • Continuing to provide CPI training
  • District staff will monitor restraint and seclusion incidents to provide targeted assistance
  • Workshops for administrators on the needs of students with ASD
  • Training offered to ESE teachers providing support facilitation

Pinellas

Pinellas County - Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures

The two places you need to look to find Pinella County's current policies and procedures are:

a) Pinellas County’s current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a-4n) updated January 2012 and

b) Pinellas County's Use of Seclusion and Restraint on Students with Disabilities Policy adopted December 2010.

Both documents can be accessed from this FLDOE link:

http://www.fldoe.org/ese/ppd/Pinellas.pdf

This link takes you to the Use of Seclusion and Restraint on Students with Disabilities Policy adopted December 2010.

http://www.boarddocs.com/fla/pcsfl/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=8HMM5T55DDD4#

The policies indicate that seclusion may only be used at Center Schools.

The policies also indicate that restraint shall only be used as a last resort, which is defines as an imminent risk of serious injury or death to the student or others. The policies direct that restraints only be used until the student is no longer an immediate threat. The policies require that students who primary mode is sign language be permitted to have hands free for brief periods unless a supervisor determines a likelihood of harm to self or others.

The policies limit use of mechanical restraint to students residing in contracted residential facilities when authorized by the student's treating physician.

From January 2012 – April 2012, Pinellas County reported 355 incidents of restraint. Of the reported incidents, 9% are from mechanical use and 12% are from prone use.

Pinellas County's current policy indicates that prone restraint will not be used and mechanical restraint will be used.

From August 2011- June 2012, 732 incidents of restraint are reported on 272 students. 72% of those students are diagnosed with autism or have an emotional behavioral disorder.

From August 2011 – June 2012, Pinellas County reported 572 incidents of seclusion on 192 students. 89% of those students are diagnosed with autism or have an emotional behavioral disorder.

Pinellas County uses the Nonviolent Crisis Intervention CPI training program and by policy no employee is permitted to use seclusion or restraint until they are trained.

Pinellas County’s goal is to continue to measure the disaggregated data across variables and focus on an overall 10% decrease in incidents of restraint/seclusion.

Plans to achieve this goal include:

  • Review and Discuss disaggregated data on a monthly basis with district leadership
  • Follow-up with school administration for schools with high incidents of restraint/seclusion
  • Follow-up with school administration for schools with 0 incidents of restraint/seclusion
  • Additional professional development

Santa Rosa

Santa Rosa- Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures

You can find Santa Rosa's policies and procedures in:

Santa Rosa County’s current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (pages 4a-4n) updated March 2012.

This document can be accessed from this FLDOE link:

http://www.fldoe.org/ese/ppd/SantaRosa.pdf

From January 2012 – April 2012, Santa Rosa County reported 13 incidents of restraint. 8% of those incidents were from use of prone restraint while none where from use of mechanical restraint.

Since updating their Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures, Santa Rosa County prohibits any use of prone restraint.

Mechanical restraint is allowed but only permitted “based on a recommendation from a licensed Occupational or Physical Therapist for an individual student.”

Santa Rosa County reported 24 incidents of restraint on 14 students from August 2011 – June 2012. Of those students, 43% are diagnosed with autism or have an emotional behavioral disorder.

Santa Rosa County also uses seclusion.

Conversely, Santa Rosa reports less than 10 seclusion incidents, if any, from August 2011 – June 2012.

This School District uses Non-violent Crisis Intervention (CPI) training. Recertification for CPI, 3 hour trainings, must be completed by September 30th or each school year. Recertification must be completed annually in order to keep certification. If recertification is not achieved, initial certification courses are to be taken. Initial certification must be completed by November 15th of each school year. These are 12 hour courses with a required 90% passing rate.

Mandates for CPI certification include:

  • All Curriculum Behavior Social and Academic Classroom Teachers and Paraprofessionals
  • All Self-Contained Behavioral Focus Classroom Teachers and Paraprofessionals
  • All Behavioral Resource Technicians
  • One member of Administration from each school
  • Ever Dean for Discipline
  • Each school in Santa Rosa must  have a CPI certified team of 5 or more individuals

Santa Rosa School District’s goal is to reduce the number of restraint incidents by 10 for the 2011 – 2012 school year. Santa Rosa also plans to reduce the use of secured seclusion from 31 incidents to 25 or less incidents for the 2011 – 2012 school year.

Activities include:

  • Focusing intensive positive behavioral supports on Elementary Schools due to the high percentages of restraint and seclusion reported there.

St. Lucie

St. Lucie - Newest School District Restraint and Seclusion Policies and Procedures

The two places you need to look to find St. Lucie County’s district policies and procedures:

a) St. Lucie County's current Exceptional Student Education Policies and Procedures (SP&P) (4a-4n) udpated February 2012 and

b) Chapter 3.44 Use of Reasonable Force, Seclusion, and Manual Physical Restraint in Regular and Special Education.

The documents can be accessed from these links:

http://www.fldoe.org/ese/ppd/StLucie.pdf

http://plato.stlucie.k12.fl.us/mis/School+Board+Policies.nsf

According to St. Lucie County’s policies, prone restraint is used. From January - April 2012, St. Lucie County reported 4% of its restraints were prone restraint.

For August 2011 - June 2012, St. Lucie County reported 280 restraint incidents on 142 students. Of those incidents, 54% of the students were either diagnosed with autism or had an emotional behavioral disorder.

St. Lucie County does not use mechanical restraints.

For August 2011 - June 2012, St. Lucie County reported 66 instances of seclusion on 15 students. 80% of these students had an emotional behavioral disorder. However, none of the incidents involved students diagnosed with autism.

St. Lucie County trains for and uses both Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI) and Professional Crisis Management (PCM). System selection is based on “identified needs of the school considering a continuum of least to most restrictive techniques.” Annual recertification is required for both programs and refresher training is provided between the required recertification.

In St. Lucie County each school site has an identified team of personnel trained in crises prevention to respond to emergency situations. Employees working in classes with students whose behavioral profiles indicate a high likelihood for restraint or seclusion are trained. St. Lucie County’s policy states that School administrators who supervise the instructional personnel of these students are offered training but there is no statement that training is required.

All behavior technicians are required to participate in trainings.

St. Lucie County plans to reduce the number of students with disabilities receiving restraints more than one time by 10%. They also plan on reducing the total number of restraints by 10%.

St. Lucie County’s plans include:

  • Reviewing Individual Education Plans and Behavioral Intervention Plans for effectiveness
  • Increasing Parental involvement
  • Provide additional training to school sites for establishing crisis response teams (FAST) and crisis management
  • Problem solve with school administrators regarding school environments

Mechanical Restraint

To the best of our knowledge, these nine (9) counties are the only counties that have authorized use of mechanical restraint in their 2012 updated policies and procedures.

  1. Alachua
  2. Hillsborough
  3. Levy
  4. Madison
  5. Manatee
  6. Marion
  7. Pinellas
  8. Orange
  9. Santa Rosa

To check on the rate of reported use of mechical restraints by these counties during the 2011-2012 school year, visit the Data tab of this topic. And for details regarding each counties policies and procedures, check the Florida Department of Education Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services ESE Policies and Procedures (SP&P) website.

Prone Restraint

To the best of our knowledge, these twenty-six (26) school districts are the only counties that have authorized use of prone restaint in their 2012 updated policies and procedures.

  1. Broward
  2. Collier
  3. Duval
  4. Gadsden
  5. Hillsborough
  6. Indian River
  7. Jackson
  8. Liberty
  9. Lake
  10. Leon
  11. Madison
  12. Manattee
  13. Marion
  14. Martin
  15. Nassau
  16. Okaloosa
  17. Orange
  18. Palm Beach
  19. Polk
  20. Putnam
  21. St. Johns
  22. St. Lucie
  23. Sarasota
  24. Seminole
  25. Wakulla
  26. FAU Lab School

To check on the rate of use of prone restraint by these counties during the 2011-2012 school year, visit the Data tab of this topic.

Seclusion

Under construction

2012-2013 Data

August 2012 through October 2012

August 2012 through June 2013

Florida Department of Education Analysis

2013-2014 Data

August 2013 through June 2014

Techniques Used

Techniques and programs used by Florida school districts - with links to websites and contact info:

  1. Aggression Control Technique Training (ACTT)
  2. Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI/NCI)
  3. Handle with Care (HWC)
  4. Professional Crisis Management Association (PCMA)
  5. Safe Crisis Management (SCM) offered by http://www.jkmtraining.com/JKM Training Inc.
  6. Techniques for Effective Adolescent and Child Handling (TEACH) offered by http://www.pesinc.net/Professional Education Services
  7. Techniques for Effective Aggression Management (TEAM) offered by http://www.teaminterventions.com/TEAMInterventions
  8. Violence Intervention Techniques and Language (VITAL)

Florida Department of Education Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services ESE Policies and Procedures (SP&P) website

Least Restrictive Environment

What is Inclusion?

Inclusive education, according to its most basic definition, means that students with disabilities are educated in age-appropriate general education classes in their home schools and receive the specialized instruction identified and outlined in their individualized education plan (IEP).   

Inclusion – What does the law say? IDEA does not use the term "inclusion”.  IDEA uses the term Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).  IDEA defines this to mean that to the maximum extent appropriate, school districts must educate students with disabilities in the regular classroom with appropriate aids and supports, referred to as "supplementary aids and services," with their non-disabled peers in the school they would attend if not disabled, unless a student's individualized education program (IEP) requires some other arrangement.

IDEA does not require that every student with a disability be placed in the regular classroom regardless of individual abilities and needs. IDEA recognizes that not all students can be served appropriately through this model therefore school districts must make available a range of placement options, known as a continuum of alternative placements, to meet the unique educational needs of students with disabilities. This requirement continues to reinforce the importance of individualized supports and services and that education is not a “one size fits all” model for determining placement for students with disabilities.  The options on this continuum must include the alternative placements listed in the definition of special education under 300.17 (instruction in regular classes, special classes, special schools, home instruction, and instruction in hospitals and institutions).

Inclusion is not the same as mainstreaming or integration. Mainstreaming attempts to move students from special education classrooms to regular education classrooms only in situations where they are able to keep up with their typically developing peers.  Integration provides only “part-time” inclusion, which prevents the students from becoming full members of the classroom community.

Best practice and research shows that inclusion benefits all students involved in the process.  Students with disabilities who are taught within the general education classroom with supports and systematic instruction achieve better outcomes in the areas of academics, communication, social, and behavior.  Teachers who teach students with disabilities become more confident about their ability to teach students with diverse and unique needs. Research studies also show the distinct benefits that inclusion provides to students without disabilities.  These students typically experience growth in social and emotional well being and gain a greater understanding and acceptance of students with disabilities and of diversity in general.  Students without disabilities also experience increased self-esteem and overall improvement in their own self-development. There are no studies that document unfavorable academic or social effects on students without disabilities when students with disabilities participate in the general education classroom.

Strategies

Inclusion! The Bigger Picture
by Marsha Forest & Jack Pearpoint

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) & FAPE
by Pete Wright, Esq. and Pamela Wright, MA, MSW 

Florida Department of Education Technical Assistance Paper: 
Least Restrictive Environment Considerations Related to Individual Educational Plans 

 

Discipline, Suspension & Expulsion

Introduction to the Law Governing the Discipline of Students with Disabilities

The Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2004 (IDEA) and the 2006 regulations that implement the IDEA govern the discipline of students with disabilities. Schools must follow these laws.

Schools may make unilateral changes in placement:

  • For 10 school days or less for students who violate code of conduct.
  • For 11 or more school days for violations of code of conduct IF NOT a manifestation of disability.
  • For 45 days or less for weapons, drugs or infliction of serious bodily injury.

Services during change of placement:

  • Setting determined by IEP team.
  • Participation in general education curriculum.
  • Progress to meet IEP goals.
  • Behavioral services to prevent recurrence.

Manifestation Determinations

The rules are different depending on whether or not the conduct was a manifestation of the student’s disabilities.

Within 10 school days of any decision to change placement of a child with a disability because of a violation of code of conduct, the local educational agency (LEA), parent and relevant members of the IEP team (determined by parent and LEA) shall review all relevant information in the student’s file, including IEP, teacher observation, and any relevant information provided by the parents to determine if the action or conduct was a manifestation of the student’s disability.

If the LEA, parent and relevant members of the IEP team determine that either reason 1 or 2 below apply, the conduct shall be determined to be a manifestation of the student’s disability.

  1. If the conduct in question was caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to, the student’s disability; or
  2. If the conduct in question a direct result of the LEA’s failure to implement the IEP.

When Conduct is a Manifestation

  1.  A Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) must be conducted,
  2. A Positive Behavioral Intervention Plan (PBIP) must be implemented, and
  3. The Student must return to his/her current placement unless the parent and school district agree otherwise as part of the modification of the PBIP.

When Conduct is Not a Manifestation

  1. School may discipline student in the same manner and for the same duration as a student without disabilities.
  2. Educational and related services must still be provided.
  3. Student is still entitled to a free and appropriate public education.

IAES & Appeals

School personnel may remove a student to an Interim Alternative Educational Setting (IAES) for not more than 45 school days without regard to whether the behavior is determined to be a manifestation of the child’s disability, in cases where a student:

  • Carries or possesses a weapon at school or school function.
  • Knowingly possesses or uses illegal drugs or sells at school or school function.
  • Has inflicted serious bodily injury upon another person at school or school function.

Here is a list of the most important rules governing Interim Alternative Education Settings (IAES):

  1. IAESs are determined by the IEP team.
  2. Parents can appeal any decision regarding placement, including a decision to place a student in an IAES.
  3. Parents can also appeal the outcome of manifestation determinations.
  4. LEAs that believe that maintaining the student’s current placement is substantially likely to result in injury to the child or to others may request a hearing.
  5. Students shall remain in the IAES pending the decision of the hearing officer or until the expiration of the permitted time for the placement.
  6. FLDOE or the LEA must arrange for these hearings to be expedited.
  7. Expedited IAES hearings must occur within 20 school days of the date the hearing is requested and must result in a decision within 10 days after the hearing.

Suspensions, Expulsions & the 10-Day Rule

Suspension

  • Suspension is the temporary cessation of educational services.
  • State law regulates the length of suspensions, reason suspensions may be ordered and procedures schools must follow.

 10-Day Rule

  • All students must meet the requirements of the Student Code of Conduct.
  • Students with disabilities must have their disability considered when implementing the Code of Conduct.
  • Students with disabilities can receive the same Code of Conduct consequences as other students.
    • If under 10 consecutive/cumulative days
  • IDEA and other legal protections become very significant when the 10-Day Rule is triggered
  • If the number of days of suspension reaches 10, it is legally considered a change of placement.
  • When this happens, a variety of steps must take place – Manifestation determination/IEP/FBA/BIP.

 Expulsion

  • Expulsion is a complete termination of educational services for a definite period.
  • Generally longer than a suspension.
  • Law requires that greater due process rights be afforded to all students who are at risk for expulsion.
  • A child with a disability can be expelled, but the district must continue to provide services related to his/her IEP (FAPE) in a manner to be determined by the district.

Behavior

Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) and Positive Behavior Intervention Plan (PBIP)

  • Functional Behavior Assessment: A process for identifying relationships between a person’s behavior and aspects of their environment.
  • Positive Behavior Intervention Plan: Strategies for effectively addressing behavioral problems that are proactive, educative, and functional in nature.

 When are FBAs and PBIPs warranted?

  • Pattern of disciplinary removals*
  • Considering a change in placement
  • Intrusive methods to manage behavior of harm to people or property
  • Exclusion from integrated activities
  • Less systematic strategies have failed

 Components of an FBA

  • Strengths of student
  • Reinforcement determination
  • Hypothesis development
  • Function of the behavior
  • Based on data

 Features of a Positive Behavioral Intervention Plan

  • Practical, workable, reasonable
  • Specifics: time, duration, setting, roles
  • Buy-in from persons implementing plan
  • Activities should target student needs identified from FBA
  • Determine what is reinforcing to child
  • Replacement behavior
  • Consistent and reasonable duration for intervention implementations
  • Possible initial escalation of behaviors
  • Evaluate effectiveness of BIP
  • If a student’s IEP or behavior intervention plan addresses a particular behavior, it generally would be inappropriate to utilize some other response, such as suspension, to that behavior.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

On this page, we provide 6 short video lessons about:

  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA,
  • Exceptional Student Education or ESE in Florida,
  • Developing an appropriate Individual Education Plan or IEP for your child, and
  • Strategies for successful IEP meeting advocacy.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is our nation's primary special education law. IDEA guides how states, school districts, and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities. IDEA was first enacted by Congress in 1975 to ensure that children with disabilities have the opportunity to receive a free appropriate public education, just like other children. IDEA has been revised several times over the years. The most recent revisions were enacted in December 2004, with final regulations published in August 2006.

In Florida special education is called Exceptional Student Education or ESE.

Every child with a disability who is eligible under IDEA and ESE has an Individual Education Plan or IEP. The IEP is an individualized written plan that supports the need for specialized supports and services. Parents and teachers consider the IEP to be their child’s educational road map.

Watch all six videos and then visit the Links tab for additional online resources. 

Introduction

10 Step ESE Process

Effective Strategies

Preparing for the IEP Meeting

IEP Details Part 1

IEP Details Part 2

Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT)

The FCAT is an annual test given to students in grades 3-11 that measures their skills in the areas of reading, math, science and writing according to Florida’s Sunshine State Standards. All public school students are required to take the FCAT. The FCAT is given to students each year in February (writing) and in March (reading, math, and science). The areas of reading and math are tested each year in grades 3 through 10. The area of writing, in addition to reading and math, is tested in grades 4, 8, 10. The area of science is tested in grade 5, 8, 11. In grade 5 and 8, science is tested in addition to reading and math. In grade 11, only science is tested.

Students with disabilities can take the FCAT and can be provided accommodations while taking the FCAT.

Sunshine State Standards

These are Florida’s standards for determining what a child should know and be able to do at each grade level. The areas of social studies, science, language arts, health/physical education, the arts, foreign language, and math are the seven academic areas under the Sunshine State Standards (SSS). These standards are then divided into benchmarks. The benchmarks outline the specific content, knowledge, and skills that students are expected to learn in school. Each student’s performance on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) in the areas of reading, math, writing, and science indicates his or her progress in reaching these benchmarks.

Accommodations

Similar to having accommodations for the classroom, students with disabilities may be provided with accommodations for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). Just like the student’s accommodations for the classroom, the accommodations for the FCAT should also be listed on the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The student’s IEP must determine what accommodations the student will need. Accommodations are changes in how the test is given and not in what is tested on the FCAT. The purpose of providing accommodations is to enable the student to demonstrate knowledge and skills without affecting the validity or reliability of the test.  Some accommodations allowed in the classroom are not allowed on the FCAT.

Examples of accommodations not allowed on the FCAT include: use of calculator for basic computation in grades 3 through 6, use of spelling or grammar check on written responses, graphic organizer software to assist in preparing responses, text-to-speech software for the reading portion of the test, having a proctor read aloud items that test reading skills.

To review those accommodations allowed during the FCAT, download Guide to FCAT and FCAT 2.0 Accommodations for Students with Disabilities.

Students requiring unique accommodations not found on the publication must be approved by the Commissioner of Education.

3rd grade FCAT

In order for students in grade 3 to be promoted to grade 4, they must score at least a level 2 in reading on the 3rd grade Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT).  If a student does not receive a level 2 or higher in the 3rd grade reading portion of the FCAT, the student will be retained in the 3rd grade. There are, however, good cause exemptions that may allow a student in these circumstances to still be promoted on to the 4th grade.  Students who meet one of the following criteria may be considered for a good cause exemption: 

  • English Language Learners (ELLs) with less than two years in an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program,
  • students with disabilities whose individual educational plan (IEP) indicates that participation in the FCAT is not appropriate,
  • demonstration of an acceptable level of performance on an alternative standardized reading assessment approved by the State Board of Education,
  • demonstration of proficiency in accordance with the Sunshine State Standard Benchmarks of Language Arts through a student portfolio,
  • students with disabilities who participate in the FCAT, but still demonstrate a deficiency in reading after more than two years of intensive remediation, and were previously retained in kindergarten, first, second, or third grade, or,
  • students who still demonstrate a deficiency in reading after two or more years of intensive remediation and who were previously retained in kindergarten, first, second, or third grade for a total of two years.

Mid-year promotion is available to a retained 3rd grader who, during the first semester of the school year, demonstrates mastery of the 3rd grade Language Arts SSS benchmarks and beginning mastery of the 4th grade Language Arts SSS benchmarks (mastery should be consistent with the month of promotion to 4th grade).  One way the student may show this is by completing a portfolio that demonstrates mastery of the appropriate benchmarks. 

FCAT Waiver

Students with disabilities who are working toward a standard high school diploma are expected to participate in the FCAT 2.0 and Florida EOC Assessments. Legislation provides for a waiver of the FCAT 2.0 or Algebra 1 EOC Assessment as a requirement for graduating with a standard high school diploma for students with disabilities whose abilities cannot be accurately measured by the statewide assessments. Pursuant to s. 1008.22(3)(c)2., F.S., “A student with a disability, as defined in s. 1007.02(2), for whom the individual education plan (IEP) team determines that the statewide, standardized assessments under this section cannot accurately measure the student’s abilities, taking into consideration all allowable accommodations, shall have assessment results waived for the purpose of receiving a course grade and a standard high school diploma. Such waiver shall be designated on the student’s transcript.”

FCAT 2.0

For approximately the past year, Florida has been transitioning from the FCAT to the FCAT 2.0 and End-Of-Course (EOC) Assessments. The transition from the FCAT to the FCAT 2.0 began last year in 2011 with the administration of the FCAT 2.0 Reading and Mathematics. FCAT 2.0 Science will be administered to students for the first time in the spring of 2012, and the writing assessment will continue to be administered through 2014. The FCAT 2.0 measures students’ mastery of the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards (NGSSS), which are meant to replace the previous Sunshine State Standards assessed by the FCAT, and which are held to be more rigorous. The Florida EOC Assessments are tests also designed to assess students’ mastery of the NGSSS for specific courses. The first EOC assessment was the 2011 Algebra 1 EOC Assessment. In May 2012, students will take the Biology 1 and Geometry EOC Assessments. There are plans to implement additional EOC assessments in U.S. History and Civics.

The purpose and design of the statewide assessment program is articulated in Section 1008.22, Florida Statutes.

According to the Florida Department of Education’s FAQs, the major differences between the FCAT and the FCAT 2.0 are:

  • Some test items in Session 2 of the Grades 3 and 4 FCAT 2.0 Mathematics assessments require the use of the provided ruler to answer questions. These test items may include measurements in either metric or customary units.
  • The Grade 4 FCAT 2.0 Mathematics assessment includes not only multiple-choice test items, but also gridded-response test items.
  • The gridded-response test items in FCAT 2.0 Mathematics for grades 5 through 8 have different grids than those on the FCAT. Additionally, the option for negative answers for gridded-response items is now included for grades 7 and 8.
  • For the Grade 5 FCAT 2.0 Mathematics assessment, students are provided a reference sheet that contains information and formulas they may need to complete some test items.
  • The FCAT 2.0 Reading assessments in grades 3 through 10 include a greater number of reading passages from the public domain, such as historical documents and works by classical authors.
  • The FCAT 2.0 Reading assessments in grades 3 through 10 include a greater number of test items that require reasonable inferences and reasonable prior knowledge.
  • Reference sheets are not provided for the Grades 5 and 8 FCAT 2.0 Science assessments, but grade 8 students will receive a Periodic Table of the Elements.
  • FCAT Mathematics was administered at grades 9 and 10, but there are no FCAT 2.0 Mathematics assessments for grades 9 and 10. The Algebra 1 and Geometry End-of-Course (EOC) Assessments have replaced these tests as the high-school-level mathematics assessments.
  • FCAT Science was administered at grade 11, but there is no Grade 11 FCAT 2.0 Science assessment. The Biology 1 EOC Assessment has replaced the grade 11 test as the high-school-level science assessment.
  • FCAT 2.0 tests do not have any performance task items.

Links

Strategies

  • Discuss with the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team the ways the school can teach the student to learn the skills needed for all content areas tested on the FCAT.
  • Remember that students with disabilities may also take the FCAT and earn a standard diploma unless the IEP team, on which the parent is a required member, determines that the student should be exempted from the taking the FCAT.  An IEP team should not automatically determine that a student should be exempted from taking the FCAT just because the student is one with disabilities or because the student’s disability is “severe”. 
  • Discuss with the IEP team what accommodations the student will need for the classroom and for the FCAT.  Remember that not all accommodations for the classroom are allowed during the FCAT.
  • If the student has not passed the grade 10 FCAT after taking it at least twice, ask the IEP team to consider the FCAT waiver and/or special exemption. 
  • If you have any other questions concerning the FCAT, you may contact the Florida Department of Education at 850-245-0513 or visit www.fldoe.org.

Diabetes - Unique Problems and Legal Protections in School

Diabetes is recognized as a disability by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Students with diabetes are also specifically protected by Florida law. These state and federal laws outline the rights and responsibilities of students with diabetes and their parents.

Florida Statute 1002.20(3)(j) states that a school district may not refuse to assign a student to a school on the basis that the student has diabetes, that the school does not have a full-time nurse, or that the school does not have trained diabetes personnel.

Florida law further states that a student with diabetes (with parent and physician authorization), may carry diabetic supplies and equipment. Students may also manage and care for their diabetes while in school, participating in school-sponsored activities, or in transit, to the extent authorized by the parent, physician and State Board of Education rule.

Florida law governs how non-medical personnel may assist. According to the Florida Department of Health, Florida's Nurse Practice Act allows nurses to train and delegate insulin administration to unlicensed school personnel where the person has demonstrated competence in blood glucose monitoring and insulin administration. To read further on this topic, visit the Links tab to access the Department of Health's Nursing Guidelines for the Delegation of Care for Students with Diabetes in Florida Schools from the Department of Health's School Health Services Program website.

Parents do not have the right to insist that insulin administration be performed by a nurse at school, but they do have the right to require that it be performed by an appropriately trained adult.

In summary, Florida law:

Parents and self advocates should be familiar with their rights and responsibilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. A student with diabetes must have at least a 504 Plan. If the student is also eligible for special education under IDEA, they must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and the diabetes issues may be covered by that plan instead.

  • forbids school districts from transferring children with diabetes due to diabetes or a need for diabetes services.
  • places responsibility on school districts to find and train sufficient staff to meet the needs of students with diabetes.
  • allows unlicensed personnel to be trained to administer emergency injectable medication, such as glucagon.

Written Authorization

The written authorization from the parent and doctor needed to allow a student to carry diabetic supplies and equipment and perform activities without assistance must identify the supplies and equipment and describe the activities. These activities may include performing blood-glucose level checks, urine ketone tests, administering insulin through the delivery system used by the student, and treating hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.

Individualized Health Care Plan

Florida law requires that each student's doctor's orders be prepared on a Diabetes Medical Management Plan (DMMP) form. The DMMP (or a seperate signed document) is also where the doctor should explain the extent to which the student's diabetes care can be performed by trained unlicensed school personnel.

Florida law also requires that each student with diabetes have an Individualized Health Care Plan (IHCP). An IHCP explains how the DMMP will be implemented and includes things like an Emergency Care Plan explaining step by step what school personnel should do in an emergency.

IHCPs should be developed by the school's registered nurse. Every school has an RN assigned, whether or not that RN works there full time. The student's 504 Plan or IEP should should incorporate the IHCP by reference.

The Department of Health also recommends that a Brief Alert or Health Alert  be written and provided to the school personnel who might interact with the student.

Development of the IHCP should be a collaborative process between the RN and the parent based on the doctor’s orders (DMMP). It is acceptable for the nurse to prepare an IHCP in advance and present it to the parent. But parents should not sign an IHCP they disagree with. Instead, the nurse should call a meeting with the parents and the doctor to work together to write an agreeable plan.

These documents and procedures are described in detail in the Florida School Health Administrative Guidelines found on the Department of Health's School Health Administrative Guidelines website.

Supports, Services and Accommodations

The student's 504 plan or IEP should also list and describe the supports, services, and accommodations needed by the student.

Common accommodations include access to testing supplies, snacks, water, bathroom breaks, and testing accommodations.

It is important that one of the accommodations related to testing be that the student's blood sugar levels be checked prior to any major test or exam, particularly a standardized test, to make sure their blood sugar level is in the healthy range as specified by the doctor on the DMMP.

Possible Rights Violations

The following is a list of possible rights violations that parents, self-advocates and others should be aware of:

  • No Individual Health Care Plan (IHCP) developed
  • Denial of coverage under 504 and refusal of a 504 Plan
  • Denial of student's participation in extra-curricular activities and field trips
  • Requiring parent to go on field trips or provide coverage during extra-curricular activities
  • Refusal of needed accommodations on 504 Plan
  • Requiring all diabetes management to take place in health clinic resulting in lost educational time
  • Requiring transfer to a school with full time nurse
  • Requiring parent to provide insulin administration
  • Pushing student to self-manage before they are really ready
  • Pressure for the doctor to change the student's diabetes regimen to accommodate school
  • Refusal to have all staff that will be responsible for the student trained in general and student-specific diabetes care
  • Refusal to provide an appropriately trained adult to serve as back up to the staff person regularly assign to provide the insulin administration
  • Refusal to allow participation in certain school activities
  • Refusal to honor accommodations listed on the student’s 504 Plan, such as asking the student to take the FCAT when they are not within the required blood sugar range

As previously mentioned, parents and self-advocates should be familiar with their rights under Florida law as well as under the IDEA and Section 504.

Please visit these Disability Rights Florida's Disability Topics pages for more information about IDEA and Section 504.

Or go directly to the U.S. Department of Civil Rights website and enter a search for Section 504 and for diabetes.

If you believe your child's rights have been violated, you may contact Disability Rights Florida to request assistance.

Special Education

We hope these Disability Topics pages will provide you with the detailed information you need regarding special education.

Alternate Dispute Resolution

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004, or (IDEA), students with disabilities are entitled to a Free and Appropriate Public Education, or (FAPE). Parents of students with disabilities and school districts sometimes disagree as to what services are appropriate. While it is best to discuss disagreements and make attempts to resolve them at an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting, sometimes that's not possible. Alternative resolution options are available for parents who want to dispute an IEP team or school district’s decision regarding a student’s education. There are three methods available in Florida:  1) mediation, 2) state complaint, and 3) due process hearing. Click on the tabs to learn more.

Mediation

  • Mediation is available to parents of students with disabilities who disagree with a decision made by a school district involving any matter related to a proposal or refusal to initiate or change the student’s identification, evaluation, educational placement, or the provision of Free and Appropriate Public Education. 
  • Mediation is free to parents.
  • Parents can apply for mediation by contacting the Florida Department of Education and submitting a Request for Mediation form.
  • Mediation must be voluntary on the part of both parties.  That is, both the school district and the parent must agree to use mediation as a way to resolve the dispute.
  • Mediation cannot be used to deny or delay a parent’s right to a due process hearing (explained below).
  • The mediator must be a qualified and impartial mediator who is trained in effective mediation techniques. 
  • Mediation must be held at a time and location that is convenient to the school district and the parents. 
  • If the parties reach an agreement during mediation, the parties can execute a written and legally binding agreement enforceable in any State court of competent jurisdiction or in a district court of the United States.
  • Mediation is confidential so any statements made during mediation may not be used as evidence in subsequent due process hearings or civil proceedings.

State Complaint

  • State Complaint procedures are available to parents of students with disabilities and other interested persons, including an organization or an individual from another state, to resolve any complaint that a school district has violated a requirement of Part B under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004, or IDEA.
  • Parents can file a State Complaint for free with the Florida Department of Education.
  • The complaint can be in a regular letter format but must include: a statement that a school district has violated a federal requirement under Part B of the IDEA, the facts of the matter, the signature and contact information of the one making the complaint. If alleging violations with regard to a specific student, the complaint must include: the name and address of the residence of the student, the name of the school the student is attending, a description of the nature of the problem of the student, and a proposed resolution to the problem.
  •  Within 60 (sixty) calendar days of a complaint being filed with the Florida Department of Education, the Department must:  carry out an independent on-site investigation if the Department deems it necessary; give the the person making the complaint the opportunity to submit additional information; provide the school district the opportunity to respond to the complaint; review all relevant information and make a determination as to whether the school district violated a federal requirement under IDEA; issue a written decision to the person making the complaint containing findings of fact, conclusions, and the reasons for the Department’s final decision. 
  • If any allegation in the complaint is also the subject of a due process hearing request, the Department must set aside that allegation in the complaint until the conclusion of the hearing. Any allegation that is not part of a due process hearing request must be resolved by the Department.
  • State Complaints must contain only those allegations that occurred not more than 1 (one) year prior to the date that the complaint is received by the Department.

Due Process

  • Parents of students with disabilities or a school district can request a due process hearing regarding any matter involving the student’s identification, evaluation, or educational placement, or the provision of Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).
  • A due process hearing request must allege violations that occurred not more than 2 (two) years before the date the parent or the school district knew or should have known about the alleged violation that forms the basis of the complaint. There are some exceptions to this time limitation.
  • A due process hearing request must contain: the name of the student; the address of the residence of the student; the name of the school the student is attending; a description of the nature of the problem; a proposed resolution to the problem.
  • Within 15 (fifteen) days of receiving notice of a parent’s due process hearing request and prior to convening a due process hearing, the school district must convene a resolution meeting with the parents and the relevant members of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team. The purpose of this resolution meeting is to allow the school district the opportunity to resolve the dispute that is the basis of the due process hearing request.
  • A school district cannot bring an attorney to the resolution meeting unless the parents also bring an attorney.
  • The resolution meeting does not need to be held if:  the parents and school district agree to waive the meeting or if the parents and school district agree to use the mediation process instead. 
  • If the parties reach an agreement at the resolution meeting, the parties can execute a written and legally binding agreement enforceable in any State court of competent jurisdiction or in a district court of the United States. 
  • If the parties cannot reach an agreement at the resolution meeting, then the parties will go before an Administrative Law Judge who will preside over the matter and will decide on the allegations present on the request for due process hearing.
  • Parents may represent themselves at the hearing or may hire an attorney or a qualified representative.
  • At the hearing, parents will have the opportunity to present evidence, confront, cross-examine, and compel the attendance of witnesses; to prohibit the introduction of any evidence at the hearing that was not disclosed to the parents at least 5 (five) business days before the hearing; to obtain written or electronic verbatim record of the hearing at no cost to the parents; and to obtain written or electronic findings of fact and decisions at no cost to the parents.
  • Parents have the right to have their student who is the subject of the hearing present at the hearing; have the hearing open to the public; and have the record of the hearing and the findings of fact and decision described above provided at no cost to the parents.

Strategies

  • Before selecting an alternate dispute resolution forum, attempt to resolve your concern at the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting by bringing to the table all of the relevant documentation you need to prove your point and/or by inviting other relevant team members (i.e. student’s private therapists/physicians, etc…) who can help bolster your position. Remember to let the school know that you want to invite these members and that you have a right to invite these members.
  • Keep excellent documentation. Keep a great paper trail. This will be helpful not only for IEP meetings but also for mediations, state complaints, due process hearings.
  • If you choose mediation, remember that the mediator is unbiased and is there to assist you and the school district to reach an agreement. Remain calm and listen carefully to what the school district has to say. Remember that everything you say at mediation is confidential and may not be used as evidence in a future due process hearing request or any other civil proceedings. Typically, the mediator will hand you paper at the start of the mediation for you to take notes. The mediator will ask for this paper back and will trash it and the conclusion of the mediation to further make sure that everything said and done at the mediation remains confidential.
  • If you choose the state complaint procedures, remember to state your position clearly in your complaint. If you can, attach documentation to your complaint that will help defend your position.
  • If you choose the due process hearing request, hiring a special education attorney to represent you is a wise decision. While you can legally represent yourself, a due process hearing may become very complex and difficult to understand if you do not have a legal background and/or sufficient knowledge of IDEA. Contacting the Florida Bar and browsing through your yellow pages are ways of finding a special education attorney. 

Bullying and Harassment

Florida’s Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act

Bullying has become a systemic problem nationwide. The Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act is a memorial to Jeffrey Johnston.

Under the Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act, each school district must adopt a policy prohibiting bullying and harassment of any student or employee of a public K-12 educational institution. The law requires that each school district’s policy be in substantial conformity with the Department of Education’s model policy.

Read more about the Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act (1006.147, Florida Statutes) here

Definitions

Florida’s Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act defines bullying and harassment as follows:                 

(a) “Bullying” means systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students and may involve:

  1. Teasing
  2. Social exclusion
  3. Threat
  4. Intimidation
  5. Stalking
  6. Physical violence
  7. Theft
  8. Sexual, religious, or racial harassment
  9. Public humiliation, or
  10. Destruction of property

(b) “Harassment” means any threatening, insulting, or dehumanizing gesture, use of data or computer software, or written, verbal, or physical conduct directed against a student or school employee that:

  1. Places a student or school employee in reasonable fear of harm to his or her person or damage to his or her property;
  2. Has the effect of substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance, opportunities, or benefits; or
  3. Has the effect of substantially disrupting the orderly operation of a school.

(c) Definitions in s. 815.03 and the definition in s. 784.048(1)(d) relating to stalking are applicable to this section.

(d) The definitions of “bullying” and “harassment” include:

  1. Retaliation against a student or school employee by another student or school employee for asserting or alleging an act of bullying or harassment. Reporting an act of bullying or harassment that is not made in good faith is considered retaliation.
  2. Perpetuation of conduct listed in paragraph (a) or paragraph (b) by an individual or group with intent to demean, dehumanize, embarrass, or cause physical harm to a student or school employee by:
    1. Incitement or coercion;
    2. Accessing or knowingly causing or providing access to data or computer software through a computer, computer system, or computer network within the scope of the district school system; or
    3. Acting in a manner that has an effect substantially similar to the effect of bullying or harassment.

Prohibitions

The Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act states that bullying of any student or employee of a public K-12 educational institution is prohibited:

(a) During any education program or activity conducted by a public K-12 educational institution;

(b) During any school-related or school-sponsored program or activity or on a school bus of a public K-12 educational institution; or

(c) Through the use of data or computer software that is accessed through a computer, computer system, or computer network of a public K-12 educational institution.

District Policies and Procedures

The Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act requires that each policy include the following:

The school district bullying and harassment policy shall afford all students the same protection regardless of their status under the law. The school district may establish separate discrimination policies that include categories of students. The school district shall involve students, parents, teachers, administrators, school staff, school volunteers, community representatives, and local law enforcement agencies in the process of adopting the policy. The school district policy must be implemented in a manner that is ongoing throughout the school year and integrated with a school’s curriculum, a school’s discipline policies, and other violence prevention efforts. The school district policy must contain, at a minimum, the following components:

(a) A statement prohibiting bullying and harassment.

(b) A definition of bullying and a definition of harassment that include the definitions listed in this section.

(c) A description of the type of behavior expected from each student and employee of a public K-12 educational institution.

(d) The consequences for a student or employee of a public K-12 educational institution who commits an act of bullying or harassment.

(e) The consequences for a student or employee of a public K-12 educational institution who is found to have wrongfully and intentionally accused another of an act of bullying or harassment.

(f) A procedure for reporting an act of bullying or harassment, including provisions that permit a person to anonymously report such an act. However, this paragraph does not permit formal disciplinary action to be based solely on an anonymous report.

(g) A procedure for the prompt investigation of a report of bullying or harassment and the persons responsible for the investigation. The investigation of a reported act of bullying or harassment is deemed to be a school-related activity and begins with a report of such an act. Incidents that require a reasonable investigation when reported to appropriate school authorities shall include alleged incidents of bullying or harassment allegedly committed against a child while the child is en route to school aboard a school bus or at a school bus stop.

(h) A process to investigate whether a reported act of bullying or harassment is within the scope of the district school system and, if not, a process for referral of such an act to the appropriate jurisdiction.

(i) A procedure for providing immediate notification to the parents of a victim of bullying or harassment and the parents of the perpetrator of an act of bullying or harassment, as well as notification to all local agencies where criminal charges may be pursued against the perpetrator.

(j) A procedure to refer victims and perpetrators of bullying or harassment for counseling.

(k) A procedure for including incidents of bullying or harassment in the school’s report of data concerning school safety and discipline required under s. 1006.09(6). The report must include each incident of bullying or harassment and the resulting consequences, including discipline and referrals. The report must include in a separate section each reported incident of bullying or harassment that does not meet the criteria of a prohibited act under this section with recommendations regarding such incidents. The Department of Education shall aggregate information contained in the reports.

(l) A procedure for providing instruction to students, parents, teachers, school administrators, counseling staff, and school volunteers on identifying, preventing, and responding to bullying or harassment.

(m) A procedure for regularly reporting to a victim’s parents the actions taken to protect the victim.

(n) A procedure for publicizing the policy, which must include its publication in the code of student conduct required under s. 1006.07(2) and in all employee handbooks.

Other Key Requirements

The Jeffrey Johnston Stand Up for All Students Act also requires the following:

(6) A school employee, school volunteer, student, or parent who promptly reports in good faith an act of bullying or harassment to the appropriate school official designated in the school district’s policy and who makes this report in compliance with the procedures set forth in the policy is immune from a cause of action for damages arising out of the reporting itself or any failure to remedy the reported incident.

(7) (a) The physical location or time of access of a computer-related incident cannot be raised as a defense in any disciplinary action initiated under this section.

(b) This section does not apply to any person who uses data or computer software that is accessed through a computer, computer system, or computer network when acting within the scope of his or her lawful employment or investigating a violation of this section in accordance with school district policy.

(8) Distribution of safe schools funds to a school district provided in the 2009-2010 General Appropriations Act is contingent upon and payable to the school district upon the Department of Education’s approval of the school district’s bullying and harassment policy. The department’s approval of each school district’s bullying and harassment policy shall be granted upon certification by the department that the school district’s policy has been submitted to the department and is in substantial conformity with the department’s model bullying and harassment policy as mandated in subsection (5). Distribution of safe schools funds provided to a school district in fiscal year 2010-2011 and thereafter shall be contingent upon and payable to the school district upon the school district’s compliance with all reporting procedures contained in this section.

(9) On or before January 1 of each year, the Commissioner of Education shall report to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives on the implementation of this section. The report shall include data collected pursuant to paragraph (4)(k).

Find Your District’s Policy Here

Title II Disabled Adult Child/Childhood Disability Benefit

Previous Topic: Medicaid

Next Topic: Disability Reviews

Title II Disabled Adult Child/ Childhood Disability Benefit

  • 18 years of age or older;
  • disabled by SSA's definition before age 22; 
  • the child of insured workers who are either disabled, retired or deceased;
  • have filed an application for child's benefits; and
  • be unmarried (some exceptions - if adult child marries, benefits end, unless marriage is to another social security beneficiary).

POMS DI 10115.001, 20 CFR 404.350 - .352.

Protected Medicaid

An individual who was receiving SSI benefits is eligible for Protected Medicaid if they meet the following:

  • is over the age of 18;
  • has blindness or a disability which began before the age of 22;
  • the individual is entitled to Title II benefits on a parent's record due to the retirement, death or disability of a parent, and loses SSI due to receipt of that benefit or increase in that benefit; and
  • the individual would continue to be eligible for SSI in the absence of the Title II disabled adult child's benefit or such increases to that benefit.

Representative Payee

Previous Topic: Post-Entitlement Issues

Next Topic: Resources and Links

Representative Payee

  • Entity selected by SSA to receive and manage SSA benefits on behalf of a beneficiary that is:
    • under age 18, or
    • legally incapacitated, or
    • determined by SSA to be incapable of handling their money.
  • Preference for family and friends, but may be an organization;
    • Some authorized by SSA to charge a fee, lesser of 10% of the monthly benefit amount or $35.
  • Must use benefits for “current maintenance”
    • Food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and personal comfort items.
  • Save any money left after meeting the beneficiary's current needs in an interest bearing account or savings bonds;
  • Report any changes which could affect the beneficiary's eligibility for benefits or payment amount;
  • Keep records of all payments received and how they are spent and/or saved;
  • Provide benefit information to social service agencies or medical facilities that serve the beneficiary;
  • Help the beneficiary get medical treatment when necessary;
  • Notify SSA of any changes in your (the payee's) circumstances that would affect your performance or continuing as payee;
  • Complete written reports accounting for the use of funds; and
  • Return any payments to which the beneficiary is not entitled to SSA.
  • Beneficiaries have 60 days to appeal the decision to appoint a rep payee or the appointment of a particular payee.
  • If an individual wants a new payee, report problems to SSA or ask the person you want to fill out an application.
  • Transparency is important.
  • Beneficiaries or others can report problems: SSA will investigate all allegations of misuse.

Disability Reviews

Previous Topic: Title II Disabled Adult Child/Childhood Disability Benefit

Next Topic: Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act (P.L. 106-170)

Age 18 Redetermination

  • The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act requires that all youth who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) go through a redetermination process for their benefit eligibility at age 18.
  • At age 18, a review is scheduled to determine whether or not the condition or illness meets the SSA's definition of disability for an adult. The purpose of the Age 18 Redetermination is to review the current medical evidence to determine whether the young adult meets the criteria for disability under the adult criteria.

Continuing Disability Review

  • During the initial determination process, when someone is found disabled by SSA their file is set to be reviewed periodically. How often depends on their Medical Improvement Expected (MIE) date.
  • At that time, SSA will do an inquiry of their status of disability. This is called a Medical Continuing Disability Review (Medical CDR).
  • Since engaging in earned income is part of the initial determination process, when someone on benefits goes to work or is found to be working; SSA does a Work Continuing Disability Review (Work CDR).

Medical CDR vs. Work CDR

  • Medical CDR: To see if you have medically improved. Leads to termination of benefits.
  • Work CDR: To see if you are working at a substantial level. Leads to suspension.

Post-Entitlement Issues

Previous Topic: Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act (P.L. 106-170)

Next Topic: Representative Payee

Overpayments

  • Work related?
  • Did you report your earnings?
  • Were work incentives calculated?
  • Were you "at fault" in causing the overpayment?
  • Did you report any living situation changes and/or unearned income if on SSI?

Reconsideration of Overpayment

  • Deadline to appeal is 60 days (10 days to keep benefit)
  • Part of regular appeals process
  • Its use is to dispute the accuracy of the overpayment.
  • Documents may be submitted (pay stubs, IRWE's, etc.)

Waiver of Overpayment

  • This is an application to set up payments, ask for a smaller payment, reduce or eliminate the overpayment.
  • It must be shown that you were not `at fault' in causing the overpayment AND it would be a hardship or unfair to pay back the monies.
  • In this process, if the application is denied, the next step would be to go to a personal conference. If the waiver is still denied, a request for hearing in front of an ALJ could be made.

Martinez Settlement - Fleeing Felon Rule

The settlement in the Martinez case changed the "fleeing felon" rule so that benefits can no longer be stopped or denied because of an outstanding arrest warrant in many cases.

IMPORTANT: This case will not help you if:

  • You were convicted and sentenced for a crime and violated your probation or parole.
  • You have an outstanding warrant for flight and/or escape (very rare).

Social Security must stop denying benefits because of most outstanding arrest warrants.

  • Exceptions:
    • Warrants for charges of Escape or Fleeing to Avoid
    • Prosecution (determined by National Crime Information Center felony offense codes 4901,4902,4999)
  • Social Security must stop collecting overpayments based on most outstanding warrants.
  • For some, Social Security must pay back all benefits it did not pay or collected as overpayments.
  • The settlement applies to the following benefits:
  • Social Security retirement, dependents and survivors benefits
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Special Veterans Benefits provided by Social Security

Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act (P.L. 106-170)

Previous Topic: Disability Reviews

Next Topic: Post-Entitlement Issues

  • Title I - Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program and Related Programs
    • Ticket to Work Program
    • Elimination of Work Disincentives
    • Work Incentives Planning and Outreach
    • Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security Program (PABSS)
  • Title II - Expanded Availability of Healthcare Service
  • Title III - Demonstration Projects and Studies

Ticket to Work Program

What is a Ticket?

  • A Ticket is a document sent by Social Security to let beneficiaries know that there are services to help with employment if they are interested in going to work.
  • A Ticket has no cash value for consumers but gives Continuing Disability Review (CDR) protections.
  • Expands number of agencies providing employment-related services to beneficiaries.
  • Beneficiaries may assign their Ticket to a service provider known as an Employment Network or EN.
  • No penalty for not using Ticket.
  • ENs can choose whether or not to accept a beneficiary's Ticket.
  • VR must accept all Tickets.

Your New Ticket Can:

  • Provide you with choice,
  • Help you to get a job, but only if you want to work,
  • Add “Employment Networks” to your choices of who will assist you without cost, and
  • Protect you from Medical Continuing Disability Reviews.

SSDI Work Incentives

  • Trial Work Period
    • $720 for 2012
  • Extended Period of Eligibility
  • Impairment Related Work Expenses
  • Subsidy
  • Continuation of Medicare
  • Medicare for People with Disabilities who work
  • Section 301
  • Expedited Reinstatement

Trial Work Period

  • Nine service months
  • Employee: $720 gross/mo (2012); Self-employed: $720 net*
  • Rolling 60-month period effective 01/92
  • Full SSDI benefits payable
  • Only one TWP during period of disability

What Happens After TWP?

  • Extended period of Eligibility (EPE)
    • 36 months after TWP
  • Benefits continue if under SGA
    • $1,010 non blind
    • $1,690 blind
  • Benefit cessation when earnings over SGA
    • Benefits payable for first SGA months + 2 “grace” months
    • Suspension vs. termination

Extended Medicare

  • At least 93 months (8 ½ years) including the TWP
  • May purchase Part A & B thereafter
  • Individual must remain disabled by SSA rules

SSI Work Incentives

  • $65 Earned Income Exclusion (EIE)
  • Student earned income exclusion: For 2011 $1,700mo/ $6,840yr
  • Impairment-related work expense
  • Blind work expense
  • 1619B continuation of Medicaid eligibility
  • Section 301
  • Plan for Achieving Self- Support (PASS)
  • Expedited Reinstatement

Medicaid

  • If you lose all or part your SSI check because of your wages, you can keep your Medicaid under 1619(a) or (b).
  • If you lose your SSI check for any other reason, you may also lose Medicaid.
  • Medicaid may be stopped because excess resources.

Expedited Reinstatement

  • SSDI or SSI
  • Current work is under SGA
  • Same or related disabling condition
  • Prior termination due to work activity
  • Within 60 months of last entitlement
  • Provisional Benefits

Resources and Links

Previous Topic: Representative Payee

Social Security Benefits and the Ticket to Work Program

You may find this video from the Social Security Administration about the Ticket to Work Program helpful.

In the webpages below, we also provide detailed information you may find helpful about several aspects of Social Security Benefits.

Please note that 2013 brings some changes to Social Security. We will soon integrate those changes into the pages listed below. Until then, we suggest you review the 2013 Social Security Changes Fact Sheet for more information.

Title II Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance

Next Topic: Title XVI Supplemental Security Income

  • Title II Programs are “insurance” programs to replace income lost to a family through the retirement, death, or disability of a worker.
  • The Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) program provides benefits to retired workers and their dependent family members and to survivors of deceased workers.
  • The Disability Insurance (DI) program provides benefits to disabled workers, their spouses, and children (whether or not disabled).
  • The OASDI program and the Medicare program are primarily financed through the collection of payroll taxes under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA).

Disability Insurance Benefit (DIB commonly called SSDI)

  • Must be fully insured.
  • Must also meet a Disability Insured Status requirement:
    • must have worked in covered employment for at least 5 of the 10 years (20 out of 40 quarters) before the onset of disability or
    • for persons who are blind or became disabled before age 31, a less restrictive insured status requirement must be met.

20 CFR 404.110, 404.120, 404.130

Definition of Disability

The medical standards for disability are the same for all three Title II groups and SSI for individuals age 18 or older.

  • Definition of Disability
    • Adult
    • Children--There is a separate definition of disability under SSI for children from birth to age 18.

Definition of Disability - Adult

"The inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.”

Medically determinable physical or mental impairment

  • The disability can be documented by a qualified medical examiner
  • Based on the definition of disability, a sequential evaluation process involving five distinct steps is applied in making the disability decision

Substantial Gainful Activity

“The performance of significant physical and/or mental activities in work for pay or profit, or in work of a type generally performed for pay or profit, regardless of the legality of the work.”

  • $1,010 per month in 2012 for an individual with a disability other than blindness.
  • $1,690 per month in 2012 for a person who is blind.
    • Individuals who are blind and applying for SSI do not need to meet an SGA test but rather a test to ascertain level of blindness.
  • Individuals cannot be working at the time of application or, if working, cannot be earning more than the substantial gainful activity level or SGA.

Medicare

  • Medicare is a nationwide health insurance program for the aged and certain disabled persons.
  • Automatic enrollment after receiving Title II disability benefits for 24 months. Exception, no wait for those with ERSD and ALS.
  • Automatically enrolled in Medicare with RIB at Full Retirement Age (not w/Early Retirement).
  • The program consists of four parts Part A, hospital insurance (HI), Part B Medical Insurance, Part C Medicare Advantage Plans, Part D Medicare Prescription.

Title XVI Supplemental Security Income

Previous Topic: Title II Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance

Next Topic: Medicaid

In 1972, Congress passed Title XVI of the Social Security Act. This federalized state programs for people who were aged, blind or disabled, and poor.

  • To be eligible for SSI benefits, an individual must be disabled, blind, or at least 65 years old and have "limited" income and resources.
  • SSI benefits are not based on prior work or a family member's prior work.
  • SSI is financed by general funds of the U.S. Treasury. Social Security taxes withheld under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) do not fund the SSI program.
  • SSI benefits are paid on the first of the month for the entire month.
  • In addition, to be eligible for SSI benefits, an individual must:
    • be a resident of the United States, and
    • not be absent from the country for more than 30 days; and
    • be either a U.S. citizen or national, or in one of certain categories of eligible non-citizens

Definition of Disability - Child

  • A child may be eligible for SSI disability benefits beginning as early as the date of birth; there is no minimum age requirement.
  • To be eligible for SSI benefits, a child must be either blind or disabled.
  • An individual under age 18 is "disabled" if he or she has a medically determinable physical or mental impairment, which:
    • results in marked and severe functional limitations; and
    • can be expected to result in death; or
    • has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

Overview: Payments

  • The SSI payment for any individual may vary by a number of  factors, including:
    • the maximum amount payable in the state;
    • the person's living arrangement;
    • the person's category of eligibility;
    • other income the person may have;
    • whether the income of another counts toward the person's eligibility.

Living Arrangements

  • Benefit amounts may vary depending on where a person lives:
    • In his/her own home; or
    • In someone else's household; or
    • In a group care or board and care facility; or
    • In a medical treatment facility; or
    • In a public institution.

20 CFR 416.211, .401-.435, POMS SI 00835.100 - .170, SI 01400.000 et. seq.

Income Eligibility

  • Income is defined as “anything you receive in cash or in kind that you can use to meet your needs for food and shelter.”
    • Income can be earned or unearned.
    • Income can be in-kind in the form of shelter or food received free or at reduced cost.
    • Income can be deemed from a spouse, parent, or sponsor (of an alien).
  • Income is counted in the month it's received for SSI income eligibility purposes.

20 CFR 416.1100 - .1147

Unearned Income Examples

  • Annuities, pensions and other periodic payments (such as SSDI and Unemployment)
  • Alimony, child support
  • Dividends, interest
  • Gifts, prizes
  • Rental income
  • Inheritances
  • In kind support, maintenance

20 CFR 416.1121

Unearned Income Exclusions

  • $20 general income exclusion.
  • Certain types of unearned income carry their own exclusions, e.g.:
    • Gross rental income is reduced by expenses associated with that income.
    • Deemed income is reduced by deductions contained within the deeming formulas.
    • 1/3 child support for minors is excluded.
  •  Examples of unearned income exclusions:
    • Medical care and services
    • Assistance provided in cash, or in kind, under a state, federal, local providing medical care or services (including VR.
    • Income used to replace a resource (e.g. insurance proceeds)
    • Income tax refunds
    • Proceeds of a loan
    • Bills paid for the recipient - if paid directly to the vendor (for non-shelter/food items)
    • Replacement of income that was lost, stolen or destroyed
    • Housing assistance such as public housing or a Section 8 voucher
    • Food Stamps

20 CFR 416.1123, .1124

In-kind Income

  • Food or shelter-related items provided for free or at reduced cost to an SSI recipient count as in-kind income.
  • Shelter-related items are rent or mortgage, property taxes, heating fuel, gas, electricity, water, sewer, and garbage removal.

POMS SI 00835.465.

The One-Third Reduction (VTR)

  • The applicable FBR is reduced by one-third when an individual/couple lives throughout a month in another person's household and receives both food and shelter from others living in the household.

20 CFR 416.1131

  • The VTR applies in full or not at all.
  • When the VTR applies, no additional In Kind Support and Maintenance (ISM) is chargeable.

POMS SI 00835.200

The Presumed Maximum Value Rule: Countable In-Kind Income

  • Applies when the VTR does not apply, i.e., when recipient receives free or reduced cost food or shelter related items. 20 CFR 416.1140
  • Countable in-kind income is the lesser of:
    • The actual value of the in-kind items; or
    • 1/3 of the SSI Federal Benefit Rate plus $20. Amounts to $253.66 in 2012.

20 CFR 416.1130 - .1147

Deeming

The process of considering another person's income and/or resources to be available for meeting an SSI claimant's (or recipient's) basic need for food and shelter

  • Parent-to-Child Deeming
  • Spouse-to-Spouse Deeming
  • Sponsor-to-Alien Deeming
  • Limited to legal support obligations:
    • Parent to minor child (when living together).
    • Spouse to spouse (must live together).
    • Sponsor to sponsored immigrant (regardless of whether living together).

20 CFR 416.1160 - .1166a

Earned Income Eligibility

  • Income from work, including:
    • wages
    • self-employment net income
    • in-kind payment (e.g., free rent for work)
    • royalties and honoraria
    • treated much more favorably than unearned income

20 CFR 416.1110 - .1111

Basic Earned Income Deduction - Basic Formula

  • Gross Earned Income
    • Less $65 earned income exclusion
    • Less unused portion $20 general exclusion
    • Divided by 2
    • Equals SSI Countable earned income

20 CFR 416.1112

Resources

  • SSI limits the amount of countable resources that an SSI recipient can own.
  • Must both own and have legal access to resource or it's not countable.
  • An individual recipient can hold only $2000 in countable resources.
  • A married couple can hold only $3000 in countable resources.
  • A resource is cash or any other liquid asset, real estate, or personal property of the individual (or spouse) that could be converted to cash and used to meet basic needs.
  • Income remaining as of the 1st of the month after the month received becomes a resource.

20 CFR 416.1201 - .1266

SSI Excluded Resources

  • Some examples of resources that are not counted as a matter of policy:
    • The home that the individual lives in.
    • Household goods and personal effects.
    • One automobile of any value.
    • Life insurance (face value up to $1500).
    • Burial funds (up to $1500); burial spaces.
    • Retroactive SSI and SSDI benefit payments (excluded for 9 months from receipt).
    • Resources in an SSA approved Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS).
    • Income producing property essential to self-support .
    • Earned Income Tax Credit received after 3/2/04 (excluded for 9 months).

20 CFR 416.1210

SSI Transfer of Assets Penalty

  • Any resource that is transferred for less than fair market value will result in a “transfer of assets penalty” causing ineligibility for a maximum of 36 months.
  • Spending resources to buy goods or services for yourself, at fair market value, does not cause a transfer penalty.
  • Individuals must keep good records when spending down to show when excess funds were spent and on what.

POMS SI 01150.000 et seq

Suspense vs. Termination

  • SSI ineligibility for a nondisability reason (e.g., income or resources) does not immediately result in eligibility termination; it results in suspense of benefits instead.
  • Suspense for 12 consecutive months results in termination.

20 CFR 416.1335

  • The difference is that a termination requires a reapplication to regain eligibility.

Medicaid

Previous Topic: Title XVI Supplemental Security Income

Next Topic: Title II Disabled Adult Child/Childhood Disability Benefit

SSI eligibility results in categorical eligibility for Medicaid. Medicaid eligibility flows from SSI eligibility.

Rights in a Statewide Inpatient Psychiatric Program (SIPP) for Children under 18

Services for Individuals under 18 Years Old

Statewide Inpatient Psychiatric Program (SIPP) services are provided in an intensive residential setting and include: crisis intervention; bio-social and or psychiatric evaluation; close monitoring by staff; medication management; individual, family, and group therapy; and connection to community based services. These services are expected to be relatively short termed (less than six-months). Youth must have a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV (DSM-IV) diagnosis other than substance abuse, developmental disability, or autism. The youth must be expected to benefit from residential treatment and a less restrictive setting is not available. All referrals must be approved by the Circuit Substance Abuse and Mental Health (SAMH) Program Office. SIPP is a Medicaid Waiver program.

Florida's Circuits

There are six-circuits in Florida serving 67 counties and 15 Statewide Inpatient Psychiatric Programs (SIPPs) serving the needs of Florida’s youth:

Southern

  • Citrus (RITS)
  • Jackson Memorial Hospital

Southeast

  • Alternate Family Care
  • Citrus (CATS)
  • Sandy Pines

Sun Coast

  • BayCare Behavioral
  • Manatee Palms Youth Services

Central

  • Central Florida Behavioral Hospital
  • Devereux
  • University Behavioral Center
  • The Vines

Northeast

  • River Point Behavioral
  • Daniel Memorial

Northwest

  • Meridian/Lakeview
  • Devereux

SIPP Process

A designated staff person in the local Department of Children and Families (DCF) District Substance Abuse and Mental Health (SAMH) office completes referrals to the Statewide Inpatient Psychiatric Program (SIPP). The parent, guardian, or family member will be told the availability of treatment programs in their area. The youth and the youth’s responsible party will be able to tour the facility and receive an assessment from the provider to determine if all parties involved agree that this is an acceptable course of action. Once the SAMH staff, the youth, responsible party, and the provider determine that admission is appropriate, the SIPP provider will contact the state utilization management contractor for prior authorization of the admission. Then scheduled admission is discussed.

Each provider will supply:

  • A brochure in English and other lanuages
  • Admission criteria

The youth will be given the choice of enrolled providers in his/her area and will be encouraged to select the closest one to his/her residence. Special needs populations will be accommodated. 

Services Provided

The Statewide Inpatient Psychiatric Programs (SIPPs) offer the following services:

  • Inpatient psychiatric services for youth under the age of 18 years of age.
  • A clearly defined treatment philosophy and approach that includes:
    • Review or completion of assessments and evaluations including medical, psychiatric, neurological, psychological , social, educational and substance abuse;
    • Treatment planning developed by a team comprised of the child, child psychiatrist, parents, legal guardian or child welfare counselor, primary clinician, direct child care staff, recreational staff, school personnel, and other persons involved in the care.
    • Psychiatric and medical services including medication management and routine care services;
    • Clinical therapy services, including behavioral programming by a certified behavior analyst;
    • Therapeutic home visits with approval of a clinician and treatment team with clinical on-call support staff;
    • Parent educational and parenting classes;
    • Peer and group interaction activities;
    • Overall coordination of a child’s care while participating in the SIPP Program;
    • Detailed discharge planning;
    • Provision of outpatient aftercare;
    • Transportation;
    • Vocational Rehabilitation services; and
    • Toll free help lines for aftercare, 7 days a week/24 hours a day.

Denial of Services

Whenever the Department denies a request for service, the youth has the right to exercise a formal appeal process mandated under federal law.  The process commences with a file review but can go as far as a formal hearing known as a “fair hearing”. 

How to Request Reconsideration of the Denial

The youth, legal guardian, attending physician or provider has the right to request a formal reconsideration of any denial of services. The formal reconsideration must be made in writing to the Agency for Healthcare Administration’s (AHCA’s) utilization management contractor within forty (40) calendar days of the date of the notice of initial determination. The date of notice is the date of the letter plus five additional days for mailing. The medical records must be submitted with the request for reconsideration.

The Process for Reviewing the Reconsideration

Upon receipt of the request, a board-certified psychiatrist, not involved in the initial determination, will review all submitted documentation and render a determination within thirty days of receipt. If the second psychiatrist agrees with the original determination, the decision is upheld and the reconsideration process is completed.  If the second psychiatrist reverses the original adverse determination, the case is overturned and the reconsideration process is complete.

The Utilization Manager contractor will approve written notification of the reconsideration determination within thirty (30) working days of the dated receipt.

The written request for reconsideration must be sent to Florida’s current Utilization Manager First Health Services of Florida, Inc. at:

Florida Division
Reconsideration Unit
First Health Services of Florida, Inc.
4300 Cox Road
Glen Allen, VA 23060

How to Request a Fair Hearing

After the reconsideration process, a youth can exercise his/her right to appeal the determination further by submitting a request for a fair hearing.  A fair hearing is a formal process that allows each party a forum to present witnesses and evidence in support of their positions on provision of services that are at issue.  A request for a Fair hearing must be sent to the:

Department of Children and Families
Office of Public Assistance Appeal Hearings
1317 Winewood Boulevard, Building 1, Room 309
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0700

Access to Care

The youth’s access to quality medical services must, at a minimum, not be adversely affected by a 1915 (b) (4) waiver program. A waiver must ensure an adequate amount of services during reasonable time periods and within reasonable geographic distance from the residence of the individual enrolled under the waiver. Furthermore, access to emergency services and family planning services must not be restricted.

Seclusion in Statewide Inpatient Psychiatric Programs (SIPP) for Children under 18

In Florida, an individual who has a mental health illness and is in a Statewide Inpatient Psychiatric Program (SIPP) can only be secluded to control behaviors that create an emergency or crisis situation. Seclusion is enforced isolation or confinement of a person in a room or area away from other people. Seclusion, however, does not mean “time out”, “time out from positive reinforcement”, or “isolation for medical reasons”.

Each facility or provider must have policies and procedures related to the use of seclusion.

Every effort should be made to avoid unnecessary use of seclusion, therefore, staff should try to redirect and diffuse the situation before engaging in seclusion.

Complaints

Every facility or program should have a complaint process in place to investigate complaints made by a youth in the facility or by a parent, guardian, family member, friend or other interested individual. Sometimes this is called a “grievance” or “complaint” process. If you believe that a person has been unjustly restrained, or secluded in a manner that violated the person’s rights you may also contact:

  • Florida Abuse Hotline 1-800-962-2873, or
  • Disability Rights Florida 1-800-342-0823

Rights in a Civil Mental Health Facility

Florida's Mental Health Act (also known as the Baker Act) helps protect the rights of individuals in a civil mental health facility by outlining the Rights of Patients. The rights include the right to dignity, treatment, quality of treatment, communication, abuse reporting, visits, personal property, voting, and habeas corpus.

Mental health treatment programs are required by law to honor and help protect the rights of individuals who have a mental illness or psychiatric disability. Such programs are also required to include comprehensive health, social, educational, and rehabilitative services to people who need intensive short-term or longer mental health treatment. The law also requires the programs to encourage and support self-determination in treatment and recovery.

4 Ways to Report a Problem

  1. You have the right to use a facility internal grievance or complaint process any time you believe your rights have been violated.
  2. If you have been abused or neglected, you have the right to call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-962-2873.
  3. You also have the right to file a Writ of Habeas corpus or a Petition for Redress of Grievance to question:
  • being placed in a facility
  • being denied a right or privilege
  • being treated in a way that does not follow a proper procedure

You may ask staff members at a facility to give you a copy of a Writ and help you file it with the Clerk of the County Court.

  1. You also have the right to to contact an attorney or Disability Rights Florida to request assistance.

Rights Information in Detail

Here is a more complete list of the specific rights of individuals residing in civil mental health facilities, as stated in Florida law and rule:

  • To be treated with dignity and respect
  • To be free of abuse and neglect
  • To be treated in the least restrictive setting
  • To receive a physical examination within 24 hours after arrival
  • To participate in the development of an individualized treatment plan and discharge plan
  • To give express and informed consent to treatment by competent individuals
  • To access a system for filing complaints
  • To be free of seclusion and restraint unless imminent danger is evident
  • To access a telephone to report abuse or speak to an attorney at anytime
  • To access a telephone for private communication with family and friends unless such communication is deemed harmful
  • To immediate access by a person’s family, guardian, guardian advocate, representative, or attorney
  • To have personal property and clothing inventoried upon admission and to receive a copy of the inventory
  • To vote in national, state and municipal elections if eligible and registered to vote
  • To contact the court to request a review of the reason and legality of his/her detention, a denial of a right or privilege, or a procedure that is not being followed
  • To reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • To protection of confidential records
  • To access to grounds unless restricted for medical or safety reasons

Visit the Links tab to access complete copies of the laws and rules.

Service Animals

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice revised the regulations governing the Americans with Disabilities Act Requirements for Service Animals. The information on this page may assist you to better understand the ADA's revised service animal rules.

You may contact Disability Rights Florida at 1-800-342-0823 if you have problems associated with your service animal.

Definitions

Service Animal

Child with service dogThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 2010 Regulations define a service animal as “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition."  C.F.R. § 35.104 and § 36.104 (2010).

If they meet this definition, dogs are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.

Adult with miniature horse

In addition to the provisions about service dogs, the ADA also has a new, separate provision about miniature horses that have been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Miniature horses generally range in height from 24 inches to 34 inches measured to the shoulders and generally weigh between 70 and 100 pounds.

Florida law defines a “service animal” differently. In Florida, it means an animal that is trained to perform tasks for an individual with a disability including, but not limited to, guiding a person who is visually impaired or blind, alerting a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, pulling a wheelchair, assisting with mobility or balance, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, retrieving objects, or performing other special tasks.

Person with a Disability

Under the ADA, an individual with a disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such an individual; a record of such an impairment; or be regarded as having such an impairment.

Work and Tasks

According to the § 35.104 and § 36.104 (2010), examples of work and tasks performed by service animals include, but are not limited to:

  • guiding people who are blind or have low vision
  • alerting people who are deaf or hard of hearing
  • providing non-violent protection or rescue work
  • pulling a wheelchair
  • assisting an individual during a seizure
  • alerting individuals to the presence of allergens
  • retrieving items
  • providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities
  • helping persons with psychiatric or neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors
  • reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, or
  • calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack.

Crime deterrence or provision of comfort or emotional support do not constitute "work or tasks" under the ADA.

Rights

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires state and local governments, public accommodations, and commercial facilities to allow service animals to accompany individuals with disabilities in all areas where members of the public are allowed to go.

The entity may ask whether an animal is a service animal and what tasks the animal has been trained to perform.

However, they may not require documentation that the service animal is trained or ask the person what their disability is.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act provide additional legal standards.

Responsibilities

While working, the service animal’s behavior must be under the control of its owner.

A service animal should not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others.

If your animal is out of control and you do not take effective action to control your animal or your animal poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others, you may be asked to remove your animal from the premises.

You are also responsible for the care or supervision of your service animal including care, food, and removing animal feces, as well as identification of appropriate locations for animal use.

Government offices, public schools, colleges and universities

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the regulations implementing it require state and local government entities, including public schools, colleges and universities, to make reasonable modifications to programs and services in order to allow access for individuals with disabilities. Service animals are recognized as reasonable modifications or accommodations under Title II.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act provide additional legal standards.

For additional resources, including guidance from the Florida Department of Education regarding service dogs in Florida public schools, please visit the Links tab on this page.

Public accommodations and commercial facilities

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the regulations implementing it prohibit businesses that are open to the public from  excluding a service animal from entering their establishments. Such businesses are called public accommodations.

Examples of public accommodations include restaurants, theaters, hotels, grocery stores, hospitals and medical offices, department stores/malls, health clubs, parks, zoos, sporting facilities, and all public transportation systems such as airlines, car rentals, trains/metro systems, buses/shuttles, taxi services, etc. 

Note: Anywhere an individual with a disability as defined by the ADA is allowed to enter, a working service animal must also be allowed to enter.

Housing

The Fair Housing Act also prohibits discrimination against an individual on the basis of disability when the individual is renting or buying property. For example, even if a building has a "no pets" policy, it would be a rights violation if the owner or manager refused to permit a blind applicant for rental housing who wants to live in a dwelling unit with a “seeing eye dog”. 

Please visit our Housing - Rights, Responsibilities & Resources topic webpage for detailed information and additional resources.

Transportation

The Transportation Security Administration publishes information for passengers with disabilities. Please visit the Links tab on this page for more information.

Additional protections

Florida criminal law outlines penalties for individuals who are convicted of interference with or injury to a service animal.

The penalties cover: 

  • reckless disregard, interference with, or allowing a dog to interfere with, the use of a service animal by obstructing, intimidating, or otherwise jeopardizing the safety of the service animal. 
  • reckless disregard resulting in injuries or death of a service animal.
  • intentionally injuring, killing or allowing a dog to injure or kill a service animal.

Restitution, including the value of the service animal; replacement and training or retraining expenses for the service animal and the user; veterinary and other medical and boarding expenses for the service animal; medical expenses for the user; and lost wages or income incurred by the user during any period that the user is without the services of the service animal, may be required.

Rights in a Forensic Mental Health Facility

Everyone living in the United States of America has certain legal rights, including individuals detained in a forensic mental health facility. In Florida, individuals in mental health facilities get their rights from various sources including the Florida Statutes, the Florida Department of Children & Families policies, and from court decisions.

When an individual believes that his/her rights have been violated, he/she has a right to report that violation and seek resolution.

Rights of Individuals in Mental Health Facilities

Some specific rights of individuals residing in forensic mental health facilities are:

  • Access to a telephone to call family, friends, etc. during specific hours;
  • Access to a telephone to report abuse or to call an attorney at anytime;
  • Visitation with family and friends;
  • Access to speak privately during calls and visits;
  • Protection of confidential records;
  • Information on how to report a complaint;
  • Access to voting in national, state and municipal elections;
  • Provision of express and informed consent to medications by a competent individual;
  • Access to grounds unless restricted for medical or safety reasons;
  • To be free from abuse and neglect;
  • To be treated respectfully;
  • Provision of reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Identification of a representative to be notified in case of emergency; notified of admission and/or invited to Treatment Team meetings;
  • Placement in the least restrictive (limiting) and most appropriate and available setting;
  • A physical examination within 24 hours;
  • Participation in the development of a treatment plan and a discharge plan;
  • To keep clothing and personal items unless removed for safety or medical reasons;
  • To contact the court to request a review of the reason and legality of his/her detention, a denial of a right or privilege, or a procedure that is not being followed.

How to Report a Rights Violation

How to report a Rights Violation: An individual can report a rights violation by contacting Disability Rights Florida at 1-800-342-0823. An individual can also write to the court by filing a Writ of Habeas corpus or a Petition for Redress of Grievance to:

  • question placement in this facility
  • question a denial of a right or privilege
  • question a procedure not being followed

Staff members at the facility will provide the individual a copy of a Writ and will assist in filing the Writ with the Clerk of the County Court.

An individual also has the right to contact an attorney.

Rights in a Juvenile Justice Residential Program

Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Residential Services provides a continuum of care for youth with disabilities committed to the care and custody of the Department, beginning with commitment management services through placement within residential commitment programs.

The commitment management system is designed to place youth in the most appropriate program to meet the youth’s special needs and to promote public safety.

DJJ’s Health Service Manual defines a developmental disability (DD) as a disorder or syndrome that is attributable to retardation, cerebral palsy, autism, spina bifida or Prader Willi syndrome and constitutes a substantial handicap that can be expected to continue indefinitely.

Basic Principles

Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Residential Services must adhere to the following basic principles:

  • All detention center and residential commitment programs need to provide effective healthcare and services to youth with Developmental Disabilities (DD) and therefore must:
    • provide training for staff on the special need populations;
    • conduct effective ongoing assessments of mental health and medical treatment; and
    • provide individual treatment plans that meet the mental and medical health care needs of each youth with a developmental disability.
  • Youth with developmental disabilities shall receive equivalent preventative, gender and age related health care services while residing in the residential program.
  • Individual treatment plans for developmentally disabled youth may focus on assisting the youth to cope with the correctional environment as well as educating staff to the special needs including:
    • Diet
    • Exercise
    • Special Medication Administration requirements
    • Laboratory and other diagnostic monitoring
    • Frequency of follow up visits
    • Youth education
  • Be aware that youth with developmental disabilities may encounter difficulty communicating with or understanding staff. The youth may easily become a victim in the correctional environment and may need special housing arrangements.

ID of DD Youth

A youth may have problems cognitively and may have difficulty understanding rules, following direction and adapting in the correctional setting.  Early identification of youth with DD is critical to providing appropriate care and access to necessary services.

Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) staff must be aware of information and behavior that suggest developmental disabilities such as:

  • Psychological or mental health evaluation that indicates an IQ of below 70;
  • School records showing Exceptional Student Education (ESE) classes and Individualized Education Program (IEP);
  • Youth having difficulty understanding and answering questions;
  • Youth having difficulty understanding directions; and
  • Youth whose abilities appear far below other youths of the same age.

Once DJJ identifies a youth with developmental disabilities, then:

  • All programs/facilities will have programs in place to serve the needs of all youth.
  • All programs/facilities will have a procedure to identify placement for youth with severe developmental disabilities who:
    • lack basic survival and self care skills,
    • are dependent on others to assist with personal care,
    • are at risk of arm to self or others.

Screening Process

Upon admission into a Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) program, youth are assessed for the following:

  • Medical and Mental Health concerns. 
  • Suicidal ideations.
  • Symptoms and signs of:
    • Communication difficulties
    • Speech and posture irregularities
    • Impaired level of consciousness
    • Disorganization and memory defects
    • Neglect of physical health
    • Neglect of personal hygiene
    • Agitation

Youth with DD may respond adversely to the admission screening because of physical and emotional trauma, therefore staff may utilize the components below.

  • Reduce environmental noise.
  • Explain to the youth what is being done.
  • Include the youth in decision making.
  • Plan ahead for how to cope with challenging behavior.

Grievance Process

Every youth in a Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) program, has a right to file a grievance, if he/she feels his/her rights have been violated.

A youth has the right to grieve the actions of program staff, conditions, and circumstances in the residential commitment program that the youth believes violates his/her rights.

DJJ requires each residential commitment program to have a written procedure for a grievance and appeal process.  The procedure must ensure that DJJ staff handle grievances without interference or delay.  Grievances can be appealed up to the Program Director.

Restraint in Mental Health Facilities

An adult in a public or privately contracted state mental health facility has a right not to be restrained unless he/she is determined to be an immediate danger to self or others. Restraint means the control of a person’s body in order to restrict movement by physically holding or by the use of mechanical or chemical restraints. This does not include protective medical devices used for the protection from injury. Any form of restraint requires a doctor’s order and specific documentation. Restraint is not to be used as punishment, due to lack of staffing, or for the convenience of staff.

Restraint Process

Initiating Restraint

  • Physical and mechanical restraint can only be implemented in emergency situations and the attending physician must be consulted as soon as possible to execute a physician’s order. 
  • While in restraints, a person must be observed at least every 15 minutes for injury or problems with breathing. 
  • At least once per hour, a nurse must do an observation to check for injuries and to take vital signs. 
  • Persons in restraint must be offered the opportunity to drink and to use the toilet upon request and have range of motion, as needed, to promote comfort. 
  • Persons in restraint must be clothed appropriately.
  • Persons must be informed of the behaviors that caused the restraint and what is necessary for release. 
  • The person must be released from restraints within 15 minutes of meeting release criteria.

Limitations on Restraint

  • People cannot be restrained in a prone (face-down) position nor can anything be draped across a person’s face. 
  • Adults, 18 years of age and older, may be restrained for up to 4 hours but must be released as soon as safely possible. 
  • If a person’s behavior continues to be a threat, the doctor can extend the order every 4 hours for a total of 24 hours. 
  • If the person continues to meet criteria for restraint after 24 hours, the physician must physically observe and evaluate the person to determine if the person remains a danger to himself or others.  If so, a new physician’s order must be written. 

Restraint of Minors

Minors, age 9 to 17 years of age, may be restrained for up to 2 hours.    

Release from Restraint

Upon release from restraint the person’s physical condition and psychological condition must be observed, evaluated, and documented.  A therapeutic debriefing lead by senior management must be conducted to ensure that proper documentation took place and to determine if there were any other interventions that could have been used to keep from restraining the person.  The person will be asked to meet with the Treatment Team on the next business day after the restraint to review the incident, to discuss the incident, identify alternative methods for handling crisis situations, address trauma needs, review and update the Personal Safety Plan and modify the person’s plan of care, treatment and services as needed. 

Personal Safety Form

A Personal Safety Form is a document that persons entering a mental health treatment facility are asked to complete.  It allows the person to provide staff with information on the best methods to:

  • help lessen a stressful situation so that restraint and seclusion can be avoided;
  • recognize signs of distress or triggers that upset the person;
  • document information on medications that have helped the person in the past;
  • understand history of trauma;
  • understand history of restraint and seclusion; and
  • obtain information on medical conditions.

Complaints

Every facility must have a complaint process in place to investigate complaints made by a person in the facility or by a guardian, family member, friend, or other interested individual on the person’s behalf.

If you believe that a person has been unjustly restrained or restrained in a manner that violates the person’s rights, contact can be made with the:

  • Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-962-2873, or
  • Disability Rights Florida at 1-800-342-0823

Restraint in Statewide Inpatient Psychiatric Program (SIPP) for Children under 18

In Florida, an individual who is in a Statewide Inpatient Psychiatric Program (SIPP) can only be restrained to control behaviors that create an emergency or crisis situation. Restraint means the immobilization of a person’s body in order to restrict movement by physically holding or by the use of mechanical or chemical restraints. This does not include protective medical devices used for the protection of injury. Any form of restraint requires a doctor’s order and specific documentation. Restraint is not to be used as punishment, to compensate for inadequate staffing or for the convenience of staff.

It’s important to remember that every effort should be made by staff to avoid unnecessary use of restraints, and should therefore try to redirect and diffuse problem behavior before it reaches crisis proportions.

Each facility or provider has developed its own policies and procedures related to the use of restraint. If you want to know what they are, ask the facility administrator for a copy.

Complaints

Every Statewide Inpatient Psychiatric Program (SIPP) should have a complaint process in place to investigate complaints made by a youth in the facility or by a guardian, family member, friend or other interested individual. Sometimes, this is called a “grievance” or “complaint” procedure.

If you believe that a youth has been unjustly restrained in a manner that violated the youth’s rights, you may also contact:

  • Florida Abuse Hotline 1-800-962-2873, or
  • Disability Rights Florida 1-800-342-0823

Restraint and Seclusion - Mental Health Facilities

We hope these Disability Topics pages will provide you with the detailed information you need regarding restraint and seclusion in mental health facilities.

Restraint - Juvenile Justice Facilities

Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice Refers to Restraints as Protective Action Response (PAR).

In Florida, an individual who is court ordered to a juvenile justice facility can only be restrained to control behaviors that create an emergency or crisis situation. Protection Action Response (PAR) means “The department-approved verbal and physical intervention techniques and the application of mechanical restraints used in accordance with Florida Administrative Code. Any form of physical restraint requires that staff obtain prior authorization for the use of intervention techniques and mechanical restraints from a supervisor or acting supervisor unless doing so could result in physical harm to the youth, employee or another person, property damage, or of the youth escaping or absconding from lawful supervision. PAR has three levels of response:

  • Level 1 - Verbal intervention.
  • Level 2 - Physical intervention techniques may encompass the use of touch, countermoves, control techniques or take down.
  • Level 3 - Mechanical restraint.

It’s important to remember that every effort should be made by staff to avoid unnecessary use of PAR, and therefore staff should try to redirect and diffuse problem behavior before it reaches crisis proportions.

Each facility or provider has developed its own policies and procedures related to the use of PAR. If you want to know what they are, ask the facility administration for a copy.

PAR Process

Requirements for Use of Protective Action Response (PAR)

Each Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facility or provider must have policies and procedures related to the use of PAR that follows the standards outlined in the Florida Administrative Code. Each provider will have an approved list of holds or techniques they can use called a “Matrix”. This Matrix is the authorized list of holds the DJJ facility or provider can use on a youth. 

Staff Requirements for Use of PAR

PAR can only be used by an authorized staff that is certified in PAR and has passed the state performance test. Staff must be trained in using an emergency procedure curriculum that has been approved by DJJ.

Use of the PAR for Assessing Appropriate Intervention Techniques

DJJ facility staff or provider use the PAR Escalation Matrix for guidance in selecting the level of technique they can use based upon the youth’s level of resistance. Then staff began using verbal interventions listed below :

  • Level 1 - Verbal intervention shall be utilized in response to all levels or resistance by youth. Verbal intervention techniques shall be the initial response by an employee to resistance by a youth except where physical interventions are necessary to prevent physical harm to the youth, employee or another person, property damage, or of the youth escaping or absconding from lawful supervision.
  • Level 2 - Verbal attempts to diffuse a youth or situation have been exhausted, and the youth has initiated active, combative, or aggravated resistance. There will be no physical intervention for passive resistance without a clear and identifiable risk to safety and security. Physical intervention techniques may encompass the use of touch, countermoves, control techniques or take down as described in the Florida Administrative Code
  • Level 3 - Mechanical restraint. The use of mechanical restraints is authorized in situations where a youth has initiated active, combative or aggravated resistance and in situations where the youth poses a physical threat to self or others.

Staff will provide complete documentation of the event including medical status, incident report, maxtric of events, and staff notes. The Program Director or their designee will review the documentation for accuracy procedure compliance.

PAR Techniques

PAR was authorized by the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and each provider submits a plan on what techniques they will use in their program.  The techniques can include those listed below. The Assistant Secretary of Staff Development and training or designee will approve the matrix of each provider.  PAR techniques include the following:

  • Reactionary gap
  • Danger Zone
  • Interview Stance
  • Ready Stance
  • Approach
  • High Block
  • Mid-range –Straight Arm Blows
  • Mid-range- Roundhouse Blows
  • X Block Leg Raise
  • Evasive Sidestep
  • Wrist Releases
  • Front Coke Releases
  • Bite Escape
  • Headlock Escape
  • Full Nelson Escape
  • Double Arm Lock Escape
  • Double Arm Lock Escape
  • Straight Arm Escort
  • Supportive Hold stage 1
  • Ground Control
  • Basket Hold
  • Arm Bar
  • Arm Control
  • Supportive Hold Stage 2 & 3
  • Straight Arm to a Takedown
  • Basket hold to a takedown
  • Arm Bar to a takedown
  • Wrap around to a Team Takedown
  • Supportive hold to a Takedown
  • Immediate Team Takedown
  • Mechanical restraints
  • Search
  • Wrap around control
  • Handcuffs and leg cuffs

Prohibited Procedures

The Department authorizes the following mechanical restraints within the facility: handcuffs, leg restraint, restraint belt, soft restraints and waist chain. There are two authorized methods that can be used for handcuffs “in front of the youth and behind the youth”. All facilities except for low risk shall use mechanical restraints to transport youth. Low risk facilities can use handcuffs and leg cuffs if the youth is assessed as a security risk.

No more than two youth can be chained or handcuffed together. Pregnant youth must be handcuffed in the front.

The Florida Administrative Code prohibits authorization of the use of:

  • Taser on a youth;
  • Aerosol or chemical agents, including but not limited to oleoresin capsicum spray;
  • Ammonia capsules, unless required for medical treatment of the youth by a licensed medical professional;
  • Mechanical restraints including neck restraints, restraint chair, and the securing of youth to a fixed object are prohibited;
  • Waist chain or restraint belt prohibits the hand of the youth to be in the back; and
  • Leg and waist chains are prohibited on pregnant youth.

Supervision of youth in mechanical restraints requires:

  • Youth must at no time be without constant, full, and direct visual supervision by an employee.
  • Youth are not allowed to be on upper bunks.
  • Staff are required to verbally explain to the youth why the mechanical restraints were placed on him/her and when they can be removed.
  • Every 10 minutes circulation checks are documented in the supervisor’s log.  
  • 30 minutes after the youth remains in restraints the supervisor shall interview the youth to determine if they can be released. This must be documented in the supervisor’s log. Any extension must be authorized by the Superintendent, the Residential Director, or the designee.
  • After 60 to 120 minutes of youth restraint, the Superintendent, Residential Director, or designee must get licensed medical and or mental health professional authorizations for additional restraint time.

Complaints

Every facility or program should have a complaint process in place to investigate complaints made by a youth in the facility or by a parent, guardian, family member, friend or other interested individual.  Sometimes this is called a “grievance” procedure.

If you believe that a person has been unjustly restrained, or secluded in a manner that violated the person’s rights you may also contact:

  • Florida Abuse Hotline 1-800-962-2873,
  • Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Incident and Complaint Hotline 1-800-355-2280
  • Disability Rights Florida  1-800-342-0823

Seclusion in Developmental Disability Facilities

Including group homes, Developmental Disability Centers (DDC), and Comprehensive Transitional Education Program (CTEP or “Carlton Palms”)

In Florida, an individual who has a developmental disability (DD) can only be secluded to control behaviors that create an emergency or crisis situation. Seclusion is forced isolation or confinement of a person in a room or area away from other people. Seclusion, however, does not mean “time out”, “time out from positive reinforcement”, or isolation for medical reasons. People in DD facilities cannot be secluded automatically or as part of a slow-down plan for undesirable behaviors, as punishment, as a substitute for an implementation plan, or for the convenience of staff. It’s important to remember that every effort should be made by staff to avoid unnecessary use of seclusion, and should therefore try to redirect and lessen problem behavior before it creates a crisis situation.

Each facility or provider must have policies and procedures related to the use of seclusion that follow the state standards. If you want to know what they are, ask the facility or provider for a copy.

Seclusion Process

Requirements for Use of Seclusion

Seclusion lasting longer than one hour requires approval by a designated staff person, or “authorizing agent”.  This person must meet certain qualifications that are outlined by the State of Florida.  A person cannot be secluded for more than two hours without the authorizing agent performing a visual review and approval of the procedure.  Each use of seclusion, however, requires continuous staff monitoring.

Staff Qualifications for Use of Seclusion

Each facility or provider must have policies and procedures related to the use of seclusion that follow the standards outlined in Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.) 65G-8.  Seclusion can only be used if a sufficient number of trained and certified staff are available to ensure it is safe.   Staff must be trained in an emergency procedure course that has been approved by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD).

Conditions for Seclusion

  • Any room used for seclusion must have sufficient lighting and ventilation to permit a person to see and breathe normally. 
  • The room must have enough space so that the person can lie down comfortably. 
  • Foreign objects that might be a hazardous/dangerous to the safety of the individual must be removed. 
  • The door to the room must not be locked, however, it can be held shut by a staff person using a spring bolt, magnetic hold, or other mechanism. 
  • Forensic facilities may seek a waiver or variance from this requirement from APD.

Limitations on Use of Seclusion

If a person with a developmental disability or disabilities is secluded more than two times in any thirty-day period or six times in any twelve-month period, then the facility or provider should submit a request for behavioral analysis services for that person, including documentation of the frequency of reactive (restraint and seclusion) strategy use.  This means that a behavioral assessment must be conducted to determine why the individual is engaging in the dangerous behavior, and for an individualized behavior intervention plan to be put in place.

Release from Seclusion

Seclusion must be ended when the emergency ends.  Facilities and providers must establish desired behavioral criteria for ending seclusion, and the person must be released within five (5) minutes of meeting those criteria.  However, providers and facilities can seek an exemption from this requirement through a process outlined in Florida Statute.

Seclusion should be limited to one (1) hour in duration, but additional time may be added by the authorizing agent if that person determines an emergency situation still exists. 

Initial Assessments

When a person is admitted to a facility or program, the facility or program must obtain information about the individual that relates to the use of “reactive strategies” (seclusion and restraint). This information should come from a variety of sources, be documented in the person’s records, and be updated at least annually. Information should include:

  • Medical conditions or physical limitations that would place him or her at risk during seclusion or restraint
  • History of trauma, including sexual or physical abuse and past trauma through seclusion or restraint

Prohibited Procedures

Seclusion cannot be used on a “PRN” or “as required” basis. Seclusion cannot be used if it may worsen a known medical or physical condition. In addition, a person’s hands may not be restrained behind his or her back, whether they are in seclusion or not.

Complaints

Every facility or program should have a complaint process in place to investigate complaints made by a person in the facility or by a guardian, family member, friend or other interested individual. Sometimes this is called a “grievance” process. If you believe that a person has been unjustly secluded, or secluded in a manner that violated the person’s rights you may also contact:

  • Florida Abuse Hotline 1-800-962-2873, or
  • Disability Rights Florida 1-800-342-0823

“Time Out” and “Seclusion”

Seclusion does not mean “time out”. Time out from positive reinforcement means a procedure designed to interrupt a specific behavior of an individual by temporarily removing that individual to a separate area or room or by screening him or her from others, or by signaling that the individual is in “time out”. “Time out” is:

  • of short duration, as brief as one minute, and never longer than twenty (20) uninterrupted minutes;
  • only done in response to a specific behavior;
  • part of a written program that includes a functional assessment and is approved by a local Review Committee;
  • a program implemented by either by a Certified Behavior Analyst or a clinical social worker, mental health counselor or therapist licensed under Chapter 491, Florida Statute.;
  • not used for threat, disciplinary acts, or as a tool for staff convenience; and
  • stopped after one minute of calm behavior, then the youth can return to activities. During each use of seclusion, information must be collected for review, evaluation and analysis.

Restraint in Developmental Disability Facilities

Including group homes, Developmental Disability Centers (DDC), and the Comprehensive Transitional Education Program (CTEP or “Carlton Palms”)

In Florida, an individual who has a developmental disability (DD) can only be restrained to control behaviors that create an emergency or crisis situation. Restraint means the immobilization of a person’s body in order to restrict movement by physically holding or by the use of mechanical devices or medications. Restraint does not include health related protective medical devices, orthopedic equipment, or other restraints used for medical treatment, devices used to support functional body position, or equipment used for safety during transportation. Chemical restraint requires a doctor’s order, and other forms of restraint require the authorization of a Certified Behavior Analyst or other qualified individual as outlined in the state rules. All forms of restraint require specific documentation. Restraint is not to be used as punishment, to compensate for inadequate staffing or for the convenience of staff.

It’s important to remember that every effort should be made by staff to avoid unnecessary use of restraints, and should therefore try to redirect and diffuse problem behavior before it reaches crisis proportions.

Each facility or provider has developed its own policies and procedures related to the use of restraint. If you want to know what they are, ask the facility administrator for a copy.

Restraint Process

Requirements for Use of Restraint

Restraint must not be implemented automatically or as part of a slow-down plan for undesirable behavior. Each facility or provider must have policies and procedures related to the use of restraints (physical, including four point restraint, mat wrap, range of motion, and chemical restraint) that follow the standards outlined in the Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.) 65G-8.  Upon initiating a restraint procedure on a person with developmental disabilities (DD), staff must immediately notify the highest-level direct care supervisor. Restraints must be terminated immediately when the emergency ends.

Staff Requirements for Use of Restraint

Restraints can only be used if a sufficient number of trained and certified staff is available to ensure its safe implementation.  Staff must meet certain qualifications that are outlined by the State of Florida.  Staff must be trained using an emergency procedure curriculum that has been approved by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD).

Length of Time for Use of Restraint

Restraints lasting longer than one hour require approval by a designated staff person, or “authorizing agent”.  A person cannot be restrained for more than two hours without the authorizing agent performing a visual review and approval of the procedure.  Each use of restraints, however, requires continuous staff monitoring.

Conditions for Use of Restraint

  • Any room used for restraint must have sufficient lighting and ventilation to permit a person to see and breathe normally. 
  • The room must have enough space so that the person can lie down comfortably. 
  • Before initiating a restraint procedure, staff must inspect the environment and the individual and remove any objects that might present a hazard to the individual’s safety. 
  • A person mechanically restrained for more than one hour must be given an opportunity for motion and exercise for at least ten minutes of each hour that the individual is restrained.

Limitations on Use of Restraint

If a person with a developmental disability is restrained more than two times in any thirty-day period or six times in any twelve-month period, then the facility or provider should submit a request for behavioral analysis services for that person, including documentation of the frequency of “reactive strategies” (seclusion and restraint) use.  This means that a behavioral assessment must be conducted to determine why the individual is engaging in the dangerous behavior, and that an individualized behavior intervention plan must be put in place.

Release While in Restraint

  • Restraint must be ended when the emergency ends.  Facilities and providers must have pre-determined behavioral criteria for ending restraint, plus release the individual within five minutes of meeting those criteria, unless an exemption applies.  Facilities and providers may request an exemption by Florida Law (Section 120.542, Florida Statute.) if they believe strict adherence to the rules governing restraint and seclusion can lead to undesirable negative outcomes.
  • Restraint should be limited to one hour in duration, but additional time may be added by the authorizing agent if that person determines an emergency situation still exists. 

Initial Assessments

When a person is admitted to a facility or program, the facility or program must obtain information about the individual that relates to the use of “reactive strategies” (seclusion and restraint). This information should come from a variety of sources, be documented in the person’s records, and be updated at least annually. Information should include:

  • Medical conditions or physical limitations that would place him or her at risk during seclusion or restraint; and
  • History of trauma, including sexual or physical abuse and past trauma through seclusion or restraint

Prohibited Procedures

Restraint cannot be used on a “PRN” or “as required” basis. Restraint cannot be used if it may worsen a known medical or physical condition. Any procedure that might restrict or obstruct an individual’s airway or impair breathing, including techniques where staff applies pressure to the head, neck, back, chest, abdomen, or joints may not be used. In addition, a person’s hands may not be restrained behind his or her back.

Complaints

Every facility or program should have a complaint process in place to investigate complaints made by a person in the facility or by a guardian, family member, friend or other interested individual. Sometimes this is called a “grievance” process. If you believe that a person has been unjustly restrained, or secluded in a manner that violated the person’s rights you may also contact:

  • Florida Abuse Hotline 1-800-962-2873, or
  • Disability Rights Florida 1-800-342-0823

Links

Previous Topic: Other Concerns

These organizations and programs assist with locating adequate housing, helping with modifying already existing homes and possibly providing financial options to homeowners.

Florida Housing - Special Needs Housing Website

To find housing opportunities, people with special housing needs or their service providers have several resources available to them within Florida Housing Finance Corporation.

Please visit the Florida Housing’s Special Needs Website for more.

Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology (FAAST)

FAAST works with consumers, family members, caregivers, providers and agencies to ensure that individuals with disabilities continue to benefit from assistive technology as they move between home, school, work and the community.

FAAST is a non-profit organization funded by the US Department of Education through the Assistive Technology Act of 2004, Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), private foundations and individuals.

A home that fits your needs is the ultimate piece of assistive technology.

 

Contact FAAST

Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology
325 John Knox Road, Building 400, Suite 402
Tallahassee, Florida 32303
(850) 487-3278, (888) 788-9216,  FAX: (850) 487-2805
 

Email: faast@faast.org

SNAP for Seniors

SNAP for Seniors is a free online senior housing information source that lists housing providers and vacancies. SNAP for Seniors:

  • Lists all of the estimated 65,000 housing providers, not just those that pay for placement or advertising, and updates its database with licensed facilities and independent living communities.
  • Indicates housing providers that have vacancies within a geographic area.
  • Directly matches a senior’s specific lifestyle and care level needs with facilities.

For more information visit http://www.seniorhousinglocator.org

SNAPforSeniors, Inc.®
1904 Third Avenue, Suite 106
Seattle, WA 98101

Phone:  (888) 651-7627

Fax:  (206) 350-6965

Email:  info@snapforseniors.com

Reverse Mortgages

Reverse mortgages are a special type of home loan that lets a homeowner convert the equity in his/her home into cash.

For more information please visit the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Reverse Mortgages for Seniors webpage.

Restraint and Seclusion - Developmental Disabilities Facilities

We hope these Disability Topics pages will provide you with the detailed information you need regarding restraint and seclusion in developmental disability facilities.

Medicaid State Plan

Medicaid is the state and federal partnership that provides health coverage for selected categories of people with low incomes. Its purpose is to improve the health of people who might otherwise go without medical care for themselves and their children. Medicaid is different in every state. Eligibility for Medicaid is determined by the following agencies:

The Social Security Administration (SSA) determines eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI);

The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) determines eligibility for low-income children and families, aged persons, disabled persons, and persons seeking institutional care;

Florida Healthy Kids Corporation determines eligibility for MediKids.

The Florida Medicaid Summary of Services booklet is intended to be a quick reference to Medicaid services.

This summary provides an overview of Florida Medicaid services as well as information on Medicaid eligibility and managed care programs.

Everyone should refer to the Florida Medicaid Provider General Handbook or the service-specific Coverage and Limitations and Reimbursement Handbooks for more detailed information about Florida Medicaid. Listed below are some of the most used handbooks for individuals with Medicaid. The total list of Medicaid handbooks may be located at here.

Child Health Check

The Purpose of the Child Health Check–Up program is to provide the following services to children from birth through age 20:

  • Comprehensive, preventive, well child care on a regularly scheduled basis;
  • Identification and correction of medical conditions before the conditions become serious and disabling; and
  • An entry into the health care system.

Home Health

Home health services are medically necessary services, which can be effectively and efficiently provided in a recipient’s residence. Services include home health visits (nurse and home health aide), private duty nursing and personal care services for children, therapy services, medical supplies, and durable medical equipment.

Therapy Services

The purpose of the therapy services program is to provide medically necessary physical therapy (PT), occupational therapy (OT), respiratory therapy (RT) and speech-language pathology (SLP) services to recipients from birth through age 20.

The therapy services program also provides services to recipients age 21 and older for SLP services pertaining to the provision of augmentative and alternative communication systems, and PT and OT services pertaining to wheelchair evaluations and fittings. These are the only services in the therapy program that Medicaid reimburses for adults.

PPEC

The purpose of the Florida Medicaid Prescribed Pediatric Extended Care (PPEC) Services Program is to enable children with medically-complex conditions to receive medical care at a non-residential pediatric center. PPECs provide a cost effective and less restrictive alternative to private duty nursing (PDN) or institutionalization, and reduce the isolation that homebound children may experience. Private duty nursing may be provided as a wraparound alternative for an individual needing additional services, when PPEC is not available.

A PPEC is a non-residential facility that serves three or more children under the age of 21 who require short, long-term, or intermittent medical care due to medically-complex conditions. A PPEC offers services that meet the child’s physiological, developmental, nutritional, and social needs.

Other Concerns

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Supportive Housing/Supported Living

Supportive housing (or supported living) is when supports and services are provided to people living in a home or apartment.

It is an alternative to living in a licensed residential or other type setting and works. This living arrangement can work well for individuals facing even the most complex challenges.

For more information on supportive housing for people with mental illnesses, please visit the Florida Department of Children and Families website.

For more information on supported living for people with developmental disabilities, please visit http://apd.myflorida.com/customers/supported-living/.

See also:

Florida Supportive Housing Coalition website.

National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification

Affordable Housing

Affordable housing is decent and safe housing that is affordable to individuals who generally earn less than 80% of the Area Median Income.

For more information on affordable housing, please visit:

Owners & Renters

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Whether you own or rent, it takes money, time and effort to fulfill your responsibilties. These housing programs may be helpful to you.

Elevator Outages

Elevator outages are of particular concern to Floridians with disabilities. Here are a few tips to help you when your condominium or apartment elevator stops working:

  • Contact your condominium association or maintenance company immediately to ensure that the elevator outage has been reported and to ask about what actions are being taken to expedite repair. 
  • Inform your condominium association or maintenance company that you are a person with a disability and having use of a safe and well functioning elevator is a necessity and not a convenience. Put your concerns in writing.     
  • Most condominium associations and apartment buildings contract with an elevator service to provide maintenance and emergency service. Keep in mind that it may take 24+ hours for an elevator technician to respond to the outage. 
  • Be diligent and call each subsequent day that the elevator is out of service. Ask when the elevator is expected to be repaired and what specifically is being done to expedite the repair. Ask if repair parts have been ordered, if necessary, and when the parts will be picked up or delivered. Unfortunately, a broken elevator does take time to repair. Depending on the problem, it is not uncommon for a standard repair requiring new parts to take between 2-3 days. 

Sometimes elevator repairs can take numerous days and even weeks or months to complete - especially in older buildings where parts are hard to find or complete replacements or upgrades might be required. If you are facing a lengthy delay, you may wish to:

  • Relocate temporarily to another unit or apartment on a lower level if one is available. 
  • Discuss a strategy with management to minimize the duration of the outage. Perhaps work can be broken into sections with the elevator being operational intermittently.
  • Contact your local Emergency Rescue Department. Alert them of the issue and your concerns. They may be able to provide some assistance. 
  • Contact your local Center for Independent Living to inquire about funding for temporary lodging.
  • You may also visit the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations, Bureau of Elevator Safety website or contact them at 850-487-1395. The Bureau reviews and investigates complaints pertaining to elevator safety and compliance. Elevator safety is governed by Florida Statute Chapter 399. Click here to view Florida Statute, Chapter 399.

Weatherization

Weatherization Assistance Programs assist low income people with energy saving home repairs.

Services include:

  • Fixing air infiltration with weather stripping, caulking, thresholds, minor repairs to walls, ceilings and floors, and window and door replacement,
  • Installing attic and floor insulation (floors in northern Florida counties only),
  • Installing attic ventilation,
  • Applying solar reflective coating to manufactured homes,
  • Installing solar screens,
  • Repairing or replacing inefficient heating and cooling units,
  • Repairing or replacing water heaters.

For more information visit http://www.floridajobs.org/job-seekers-community-services/community-services/weatherization-assistance-program.

Emergency Home Repair

The Low-Income Emergency Home Repair Program assists low income people, especially elderly individuals and people with physical disablilities, with the cost of repairs.

The eligiblity requirements for this program are the same as for the Weatherization Assistance Program. Priority is given to persons 60 years of age or older, and people who are physically disabled.

Covered repairs include:

  • Correcting structural deficiencies,
  • Repairing or replacing unsafe or nonfunctional space heating or water heating systems,
  • Improving accessibility or making repairs for the physically impaired,
  • Repairing plumbing to ensure safe drinking water and sewage disposal,
  • Repairing electrical wiring or fixtures,
  • Repairing deteriorating walls, floors, and roofs,
  • Making other interior or exterior repairs necessary for health and safety of the resident.

For more information visit
 

Emergency Financial

The Emergency Financial Assistance for Housing Program (EFAHP) assists families who are totally without shelter or face the loss of shelter because of non-payment of rent or mortgage.

It also helps families who have had household disasters such as fire, flood, or other accidents.

The program assists families with a one-time payment of up to $400. Eligibility requirements include:

  • At least one child under the age of 18 in household.
  • The household must live in Florida, or be working or looking for work in Florida.
  • At least one child or caretaker in the home must be a U. S. citizen or legal resident.
  • You must have proof of your housing emergency, for example, a copy of a court ordered eviction or foreclosure notice. In the event of a natural disaster such as fire or flood, the EFAHP office can make a telephone call to the sheriff's office, fire department, Department of Children and Families' office, etc., if you provide us with a phone number.
  • If you do not have enough money in your checking/savings accounts, or the cash to pay your rent or mortgage.
  • The total household income is compared to the State of Florida's need standard to decide whether the household is eligible.
  • All income received during the month you apply is considered, except for those household members who receive SSI.
  • If you are having financial problems, it must be due to a real emergency, and not from mishandling your money.
  • You must provide proof of your present living address. Examples include a rent receipt, utility bill, or other paperwork that lists the name of the head of household or other caretaker, and the present address.
  • Your application must be signed and dated.

For more information and to apply, please contact:

Department of Children and Families
Economic Self-Sufficiency Services Program Office
Emergency Financial Assistance for Housing Program
P.O. Box 7296
Tallahassee, Florida 32314-7296
(877) 891-6445
(850) 488-3700
 

Home Energy

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program assists eligible low-income households meet the costs of home heating and cooling. 

For more information on the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, please visit http://www.floridajobs.org/job-seekers-community-services/community-services/low-income-home-energy-assistance-program.

Landlord in Foreclosure

Renters in foreclosed properties may face uncertainty through no fault of their own. If your landlord experiences foreclosure, you may be affected.

Fannie Mae offers renters whose landlords are in foreclosure several options through a program called the Tenant-in-Place rental program. The program provides renters the opportunity for greater stability or additional time to transition to new housing. For more information on program options, please visit Fannie Mae's Helping Tenants in Foreclosed Properties page.

Discrimination & Other Legal Problems

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Once you have learned about your legal rights and responsibilities, your self-advocacy may be successful. However, if you need further advice or assistance, you may want to contact one or more of the following agencies to request help.

You can also request help from Disability Rights Florida by contacting us at 1-800-342-0823 or visiting the Contact section of our website and filling out a contact/intake form.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development

HUD's mission is to increase homeownership, support community development and increase access to affordable housing free from discrimination.

Federal law prohibits housing discrimination based on your race, color, national origin, religion, sex, family status, or disability. If you have been trying to buy or rent a home or apartment and you believe your rights have been violated, you can file a fair housing complaint with HUD.

How to File a Fair Housing Complaint with HUD

If you think your rights have been violated, the Housing Discrimination Complaint Form is available for you to download, complete and return, or complete online and submit, or you may write HUD a letter, or telephone the HUD Office nearest you. You have one year after an alleged violation to file a complaint with HUD, but you should file it as soon as possible.

What to Tell HUD

  • Your name and address,
  • The name and address of the person your complaint is against (the respondent),
  • The address or other identification of the housing involved,
  • A short description of the alleged violation (the event that caused you to believe your rights were violated), and
  • The date(s) of the alleged violation.

Where to Write or Call

Send the Housing Discrimination Complaint Form or a letter to

Atlanta Regional Office of FHEO
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Five Points Plaza
40 Marietta Street, 16th Floor
Atlanta, Georgia 30303-2806
(404) 331-5140
(800) 440-8091
TTY (404) 730-2654

If You are an Individual with a Disability

HUD also provides:

  • A toll-free TTY phone for the hearing impaired: (800) 927-9275.
  • Interpreters,
  • Tapes and Braille materials, and
  • Assistance in reading and completing forms.

What Happens when You File a Complaint?

HUD will notify you when it receives your complaint. Normally, HUD also will:

  • Notify the alleged violator of your complaint and permit that person to submit an answer,
  • Investigate your complaint and determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe the Fair Housing Act has been violated,
  • Notify you if it cannot complete an investigation within 100 days of receiving your complaint.

For more information on HUD, please visit the HUD website.

Florida Condominium Ombudsman

The Florida Office of the Condominium Ombudsman is a resource for condominium unit owners, board members, associations and others. Its duties include:

  • Make reports and recommendations.
  • Be a liaison between the government, unit owners, boards of directors, board members, community association managers, and other affected parties.
  • Develop policies and procedures to assist unit owners, boards of directors, board members, community association managers, and other affected parties to understand their rights and responsibilities.
  • Coordinate and disseminate educational material.
  • Monitor and review procedures and disputes concerning condominium elections or meetings.
  • Recommend changes in rules and procedures for how complaints are filed, investigated, and resolved.
  • Provide resources to assist members of boards of directors and officers of associations carry out their powers and duties.
  • Encourage and facilitate voluntary meetings with and between unit owners, boards of directors, board members, community association managers, and other affected parties to assist in resolving a dispute within a community association before a person submits a dispute for a formal or administrative remedy.
  • Be a neutral resource for both the rights and responsibilities of unit owners, associations, and board members.

For more information and to file a complaint, visit the Office of the Condominium Ombudsman website.

Homeowners Associations

If you live where there is a homeowners association, that organization may be able to assist with some housing related problems.

If you feel your association is failing to address your concerns or would like to learn more about the duties of a homeowners association, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations maintains information to assist homeowners, association board members and managers in understanding and increasing awareness of the operation of homeowners' associations.

To file a compliant, visit the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations website.

To read more about the law governing homeowners associations, follow this link to the Florida statutes, chapter 720 Homeowners Assocations.

Centers for Independent Living

Centers for Independent Living (CILs) are community-based, cross-disability, non-residential, private, nonprofit, federally funded agencies.

CILs work to create opportunities for individuals with disabilities to take charge of their lives and guide their own destinies.

For more information and to locate the CIL serving you, please visit FloridaCILs.org.

Florida Commission on Human Relations

The Florida Commission on Human Relations also investigates housing discrimination complaints.

You may contact them at (800) 342-8170 or visit their Housing website.

Assistance & Vouchers

Previous Topic: Discrimination & Other Legal Problems

Next Topic: Owners & Renters

The cost of maintaining adequate housing is a worry for many Floridians, especially for Floridians who have disabilities.

These housing programs may be available to help pay for or subsidize your housing costs.

See also our Section 504 tab under Other Legal Protections to learn about how the law prohibits discrimination based solely on disability in Public Housing and Choice Voucher programs.

Public Housing

Public housing was established to provide decent and safe rental housing for eligible low-income families, the elderly, and people with disabilities at rents they can afford.

Public housing comes in all sizes and types, from scattered single family houses to highrise apartments for the elderly.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) administers Federal aid to local public housing agencies. HUD furnishes technical and professional assistance in planning, developing and managing these developments.

Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) provide the day to day management of public housing for low-income residents.

Who is eligible?

Public housing is limited to low-income families and individuals. A PHA determines eligibility based on:

  1. annual gross income,
  2. whether the individual qualifies as elderly, a person with a disability, or as a family and,
  3. U.S. citizenship or eligible immigration status.

PHAs use the income limits developed by HUD and they are based on the incomes for the county or area. HUD sets the lower income limits at 80% and very low income limits at 50% but the actual income limits vary from area to area, so eligibility may vary between PHAs.

The PHA also checks references about whether the applicant has been a responsible tenant in the past. The PHA will deny admission to an applicant whose habits and practices are irresponsible and may therefore be expected to have a detrimental effect on other tenants or on the project's environment.

The PHA serving your community can provide you with the income levels for your area and family size, or you can also find the income limits here on the internet.

How do I apply?

If you are interested in applying for public housing, contact your local PHA. If you have trouble contacting the PHA, contact the local HUD Field Office.

For more information on public housing, please visit the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development website.

Choice Vouchers (formerly Section 8)

The Choice Voucher (formerly known as Section 8 vouchers) program is the major federal program that assists very low-income families, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market.

Participants find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments.

Participants are free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program.

Participants are not limited to units located in subsidized public housing projects.

Choice Vouchers are administered locally by public housing agencies (PHAs).

Participants are responsible for finding suitable housing and an landlord/owner who agrees to rent under the program. Participants do not have to move if their current landlord/owner agrees to rent under the program. Rental units must meet minimum standards of health and safety, as determined by the PHA.

A housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the PHA on behalf of the participant. The participant then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program.

Under certain circumstances, if authorized by the PHA, a participant may use the Choice Voucher to purchase a modest home.

Am I eligible for a Choice Voucher?

Eligibility for a voucher is determined by the PHA based on the total annual gross income and family size and is limited to US citizens and specified categories of non-citizens who have eligible immigration status.

In general, the family's income may not exceed 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which the family chooses to live. By law, a PHA must provide 75 percent of its voucher to applicants whose incomes do not exceed 30 percent of the area median income. Median income levels are published by HUD and vary by location.

During the application process, the PHA will collect information on family income, assets, and family composition. The PHA will verify this information with other local agencies, employers and banks, and will use the information to determine program eligibility and the amount of the housing assistance payment.

If the PHA finds an applicant eligible, the PHA will either assist immediately or put the participant on a waiting list.

Contact the local Public Housing Authority to apply or contact the nearest HUD Office.

Vouchers for People with Disabilities

There are three types of vouchers especially designed and offered to people with disabilities:

Mainstream Vouchers

For more information, visit the Department of Housing and Urban Development Mainstream Voucher website.

Designated Housing Vouchers

For more information, visit the Department of Housing and Urban Development Designated Housing Vouchers website.

Certain Development Vouchers

For more information, visit the Department of Housing and Urban Development Certain Development Vouchers website.

To find out if you are eligible and to apply for these vouchers, contact your local Public Housing Authority.

Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA)

The HOPWA Program addresses the specific needs of people living with HIV/AIDS and their families.

HOPWA makes grants to local communities, states, and nonprofit organizations for projects that benefit low income persons medically diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and their families.

HUD's Office of HIV/AIDS Housing manages the HOPWA program in collaboration with the participating states and the Office of Community Planning and Development (CPD) to provide guidance and program oversight.

Florida participates in HOPWA.

For more information, contact the closest CPD Office.

Jacksonville
Charles Bennett Federal Building
400 West Bay Street, Suite 1015
Jacksonville, FL 32202
Phone: (904) 232-2627
Fax: (904) 232-3759

Miami
Office of Community Planning and Development
909 SE First Avenue
Room 500
Miami, FL 33131
Phone: (305) 536-5678
Fax: (305) 536-5765

For more information on the HOPWA Program, please visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website.

State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP)

The State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) program is a Florida program to increase affordable housing construction and homeownership. 

It offers various programs such as the Down Payment Assistance Program that provides qualified applicants with zero interest loans to help cover down payment and closing costs.

These loans are generally available for up to 20% of the home purchase price.

For more information and to locate your local SHIP office, visit the Florida Housing Finance Corporation website.

Fair Housing Act

Next Topic: Other Legal Protections

Knowing your legal rights & responsibilities is the first step to ensuring that your rights are respected.

Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act is the Fair Housing Act. The intent of the Fair Housing Act is to ban discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin and disability in most housing transactions. Families with children are also protected.

New Construction

The new construction requirements of the Fair Housing Act apply if a building with four or more units was ready to live in after March 13, 1991:

  1. Public and common areas must be accessible to individuals with disabilities.
  2. Doors and hallways must be wide enough for wheelchairs.

Each unit must have:

  1. An accessible route into and through the unit,
  2. Accessible light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls,
  3. Reinforced bathroom walls to allow later installation of grab bars, and
  4. Kitchens and bathrooms that can be used by people who use wheelchairs.

If there is an elevator, the requirements apply to every floor and every unit.

If there is not an elevator, the requirements only apply to ground floor units.

Reasonable Accommodations

A reasonable accommodation is a change, exception, adaptation or modification to a policy, program or service that allows a person with a disability to use and enjoy a dwelling. The term also applies to public and common use spaces.

The Fair Housing Act requires owners and landlords to make reasonable accommodations if the accommodation is necessary to ensure that a person with a disability has equal opportunity to use and enjoy the dwelling or space.

What are some examples of reasonable accommodations?

  • allowing a person with a disability to mail the rent instead of delivering it to the office;
  • assigning a parking space closest to the exit or unit to tenants with mobility disabilities;
  • allowing persons with disabilities to keep service or quality of life animals, despite a general "no pets" policy;
  • not counting a home health aide, therapist, nurse, etc. as an additional tenant or guest;
  • allowing a tenant to move to a more suitable unit when one becomes available;
  • releasing a tenant with disabilities, who must move because of his/her disability, from lease requirements.

Reasonable Modifications

A reasonable modification is a physical change made to a tenant or owner’s living space or to a common area that is necessary to ensure that the tenant or owner who has a disability has full enjoyment of the dwelling or space. Modifications are usually made at the tenant's or owner’s expense, except in the case of federally funded housing.

The Fair Housing Act requires owners and landlords to allow the reasonable modification of a living space of a person with a disability if the modification is necessary to ensure full enjoyment.

What are some examples of reasonable modifications?

  • building ramps over steps to allow wheelchair access
  • installing lever door openers instead of knob openers
  • widening door openings by installing swing-away hinges or wider pocket doors
  • installing grab bars and hand rails
  • installing wheelchair accessible shower stalls
  • changing tub faucets to an off-set location
  • removing under-the-sink cupboards in bathrooms
  • lowering light switches

Funds are often available to assist individuals to pay for modifications. Check with both your area Center for Independent Living and your city and county government to request financial assistance paying for a modification.

Tips

  1. Request by Letter

Check with your housing provider, management company, Board of Directors or other governing/managing group to find out if there is a special way they want you to make your request.

If they have a specific form they require - use it! If no such form or special process exists, submit your request in writing by letter. 

If you are requesting a reasonable accommodation, provide as much detail about the accommodation as possible. If you know about resources that can help the property manager or Board of Directors in providing the accommodation, you may want to include that information. For example, if you are requesting materials in Braille and know of a company that can provide the service at a reasonable cost, you can provide the company’s contact information.

If you are requesting permission to make a reasonable modification, include the following information in your letter or on your form:

•  A full description of the intended modification.


•  An assurance that the modifications will be done by a licensed professional and that the appropriate permits will be acquired.

  1. Certified Mail

Whether you use a form or a letter, send it using certified mail to the property manager and all members of the Board of Directors. 

  1. Copies

Keep copies of the forms and letters and the delivery confirmation.

  1. Documentation of Need

Attach (or start preparing for later submission) documentation verifying that you are a person with a disability and that the accommodation or modification is necessary to afford you equal use/enjoyment of the premises. 

Ask a healthcare provider to write and send the letter (on letterhead) to the property manager and/or Board of Directors and to you.

This letter should identify you as a person with a disability under the Fair Housing Act and verify that, in the opinion of the author, you need the accommodation/modification in order to use the property as well as a person without a disability can use it.

If you are unsuccessful, there are organizations where you can request legal and advocacy assistance. Visit the Discrimination and Other Legal Problems section of this Disability Topic for information.

 

 

Other Legal Protections

Previous Topic: Fair Housing Act

Next Topic: Discrimination & Other Legal Problems

This section discusses other laws and regulations that provide for and protect an individual’s rights to housing.

Americans with Disabilities Act

Some aspects of housing accessibility are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Title II of the ADA covers the activities of state and local governments. Title II requires "public entities to make both new and existing housing facilities accessible to persons with disabilities." Therefore, housing covered by Title II of the ADA includes housing operated by a state or local government entity, such as a State university campus or public housing authorities.

Title III of the ADA covers public accommodations. Therefore, Title III covers public and common use areas at housing developments when these public areas are open or available to the general public.

For example, Title III covers the rental office because it is open to the general public and a day care center or a community room if it is available to the general public.

Title III applies, regardless of whether the public and common use areas are operated by a federally assisted provider or by a private entity. However, if the community room or day care center were only open to residents of the building, Title III would not apply.

To learn more about what the ADA requires, visit the http://www.ada.gov/.

Please also sign up for our E-Newsletter to be notified when our comprehensive ADA topic page is complete.

Section 504

Some aspects of housing accessiblity are covered by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. 

Public housing and entities receiving housing choice vouchers are covered under the HUD regulations that implement Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Exceptions are made for a private landlord that accepts tenants through the housing choice voucher program.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination. It prohibits the exclusion of qualified individuals with a disability based solely on the reason of her or his disability, from participating in or being discriminated against under any program, service or activity receiving federal financial assistance. It also covers programs or activities conducted by any federal agency or by the United States Postal Service.

For more information on Section 504, visit the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development website.

Architectural Barriers Act

Some aspects of housing accessibility are covered by the Architectural Barriers Act.

The Architectural Barriers Act covers buildings or facilities financed in whole or in part by the federal government. It applies to public housing and buildings and facilities constructed with Community Development Block Grants. It requires that the buildings be designed, constructed, or altered to comply with legal standards that ensure accessibility for persons with physical disabilities. It does not apply to privately-owned housing.

The Architectural Barriers Act requires that covered buildings comply with the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS).

In practice, if buildings meet the requirements of Section 504 and of Title II of the ADA, they will also satisfy the requirements of the Archtectural Barriers Act.

For more information, visit the United States Access Board website.

Florida Mobile Home Act

If you live in a mobile home and rent or lease the lot, you also have rights and responsibilities under the Florida Mobile Home Act.

If you need assistance moving your mobile home, you should also be aware of the Mobile Home Relocation Program.

Because of the high cost of moving a mobile home, the Mobile Home Relocation Program provides financial assistance to home owners who are displaced when the property, under certain circumstances, can no longer be used as a mobile home park.

For more information  on the Florida Mobile Home Act, please visit the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations website.

Landlord & Tenant

Renters (tenants) and landlords each have rights and responsibilities.

Helpful information for renters can be found at the Division of Consumer Services website and the Florida Bar website.

To read the full Florida Landlord and Tenant Law, go to Chapter 83 of Florida Statutes at this link Landlord and Tenant Law.

If you are a renter or tenant and need assistance with a problem with a landlord, you may also request help from your local legal aid office. Locate the nearest legal aid office by visiting FloridaLawHelp.org.

Housing - Rights, Responsibilities & Resources

For people with disabilities, acquiring and maintaining housing can be particularly challenging.

These pages will help you understand your housing rights, your responsibilities, and where you can seek additional resources.

We hope you find these pages helpful.

Assistive Technology

For individuals with disabilities, assistive technology (AT) improves access to education, employment, independent living, recreation and participation in the community.

Visit our other Disability Topics pages to read about access to assistive technology services and devices through special education, Medicaid, Vocational Rehabilitation, Blind Services, or other programs.

If you need further information or support, you may request assistance from Disability Rights Florida.

AT Act of 2004

The importance of assistive technology (AT) is at the heart of the Assistive Technology Act of 2004.

The AT Act promotes awareness and access to assistive technology devices and services.

The AT Act envisions that assistive technology will allow individuals with disabilities to fully participate in education, employment, health coverage and access to government services and businesses.

Congress found that over 54,000,000 individuals in the United States have disabilities, with almost half experiencing severe disabilities that affect their ability to see, hear, communicate, reason, walk, or perform other basic life functions.

Congress noted that disability is a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to live independently; enjoy self-determination and make choices; benefit from an education; pursue meaningful careers; and enjoy full inclusion and integration in the economic, political, social, cultural, and educational mainstream of society in the United States.

In passing the AT Act, Congress stated that technology is one of the primary engines for economic activity, education, and innovation in the Nation, and throughout the world.

To access the entire AT Act, visit the Links tab of this Disability Topic.

Definitions

The AT Act defines "AT device" and "AT service" as follows:

AT Device means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified or customized that is used to increase, maintain or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. Some examples are durable medical equipment such as lifts, wheelchairs, speech communication devices, devices for hearing and vision, aids for daily living or recreation, etc.

AT Service means any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition or use of an assistive technology service such as an evaluation of AT needs, customizing, maintaining, repairing, or replacing AT devices.

Types of AT

AT devices are used for:

  • communication
  • mobility
  • hearing 
  • seeing
  • reading 
  • writing

And to assist with:

  • household activities
  • participation in play or recreation
  • personal care
  • therapy or medical treatment
  • the use of public/private transportation
  • employment
  • school /learning

More Videos

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Title III - Public Accommodations

Title IV - Telecommunications

Title II - Transportation

Title III - Medical Professionals & the Rights of People who are Deaf and/or Hard of Hearing

If you are a medical professional, you have an obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to provide equivalent services to individuals with disabilities, including individuals who are deaf and/or hard of hearing.

You must ensure that your patients and customers are not treated differently due to their disability or hearing loss. You must provide reasonable accommodations to ensure effective communication. Reasonable and necessary accommodations (such as auxiliary aids and services) should be determined on a case-by-case basis. A few examples of auxiliary aids and services are Sign Language Interpreters, written notes, or Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART).

The communication preference of your patient or customer should be taken into consideration when determining which auxiliary aid you will provide. The method chosen should be effective for both parties.

Information can be located in the Code of Federal Regulations (28 C.F.R. §36.303(c)) or http://www.ada.gov/reg3a.html#Anchor-97857.

Additional information on your obligations under Title III of the ADA can be found at http://www.ada.gov/reg3a.html and the online Technical Assistance Manual can be found at http://www.ada.gov/taman3.html.

You may also contact the U.S. Department of Justice’s ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 for technical assistance.

Disaster & Emergency Planning

Ready.gov -- Disaster Planning for Special Needs and Disabilities

Video Transcript (opens in new window or tab)

A disaster or emergency can strike at any time - sometimes without warning.

Floridians, especially Floridians with disabilities who may need assistance with evacuation or while in a shelter, should plan ahead. Preparing while things are safe and calm will help you cope better when disaster or emergency happens.

Planning ahead includes learning about your rights and responsibilities as well as your options for shelter.

Evacuate or Stay?

Whether to evacuate or stay in your home or at your current location is a very important decision. Your disaster plan should include options for both situations - evacuating or staying.

Consider your unique circumstances and the nature of the emergency. Use local officials and news outlets to learn if the danger is immediate. Use your best judgment - no one knows your needs as well as you do. If you are specifically ordered to evacuate, do it. 

If your daily activities require additional travel time or transportation assistance, your disaster plan should include prior travel arrangements.

For additional information on making your decision and developing your plan go to the www.FloridaDisaster.org Disability Disaster webpage.

Also be aware that providers who care for people with disabilities are required to have their own plans. They must:

  • designate an emergency coordinating officer,
  • develop a procedure to contact the people they care for who need assistance and sheltering because of disabilities,
  • assist people with disabilities to register with the Special Needs Registry,
  • implement a dispatch system, and
  • prepare for how to continue to provide esential services before, during and after a disaster.

If you are responsible for helping people with disabilities during an evacuation, read Tips for Evacuating Vulnerable Populations on the www.FloridaDisaster.org website.

Shelters & Accessibility

One of the most important roles of State and local government is to protect people from harm. This duty includes helping people obtain food and shelter during major emergencies.

Adequate public shelter is the responsibility of the Division of Emergency Management, the Department of Management Services, the Department of Health, local emergency management agencies and other agencies. Voluntary organizations such as the American Red Cross play a vital role.

Visit the Shelter Information Index on the www.FloridaDisaster.org website to access each county's up to date information about emergency shelters open in that county.

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that general shelters, Special Needs Shelters and emergency services and supports must be accessible to people with disabilities. Visit the ADA Accessibility Checklist for Emergency Shelters on the Division of Emergency Management's website to learn more about accessibility and building code requirements that apply to shelters. To learn more about the ADA generally, visit the U.S. Department of Justice ADA website and the U.S. Access Board's ADA Standards website.

If you are concerned that a shelter or Special Needs Shelter that you need to use is not accessible to you, you may request assistance from Disability Rights Florida.

Special Needs Shelters & Registries

Florida laws and rules provide for the operation and staffing of Special Needs Shelters and Registries. Visit the Links tab to access these laws and rules.

Under Florida law, a person shall be eligible for access to a Special Needs Shelter if they are a "person with special needs", they need more than the basic first aid provided at general population shelters, they are medically stable and their level of health can be maintained by the shelter's capacity, staffing and equipment. Special Needs Shelters may also accept persons who have greater needs. Additionally, the law requires that when a person with special needs who is not on the Special Needs Registry arrives at a Special Needs Shelter, that shelter must assess them for eligibility.

A "person with special needs" is defined as someone, who during periods of evacuation or emergency, requires sheltering assistance, due to physical impairment, mental impairment, cognitive impairment, or sensory disabilities.

The Department of Health, local health departments, American Red Cross chapters and local emergency managers have specific roles and responsibilties for various aspects of staffing, medical management, and operations.

The Special Needs Registries are required by Florida law to help identify individuals with disabilities who may need assistance during an emergency. Florida law requires all appropriate agencies and community-based service providers, including home health care providers, hospices, nurse registries, and home medical equipment providers, to assist individuals and collect their Special Needs Registry information as part of their program intake processes. Agencies and providers are required to educate their clients about the Special Needs Registry and procedures that may be necessary for safety during disasters.

Individuals who are clients of state or federally funded service programs and who have physical, mental, cognitive impairment, or sensory disabilities are required to register if they need assistance in evacuating, or when in shelters.

Special Needs Registries must maintain the confidentiality of people's information except when a local emergency manager decides it is necessary to share a person's information with an emergency response agency such as the fire department or local law enforcement.

Visit www.FloridaDisaster.org website to find your county's Special Needs Registry Contact Information.

If you are having problems registering, you should ask a state agency or one of your service providers to assist you with the process. If the problems persist, you may also contact Disability Rights Florida to request assistance.

Pet & Service Animals

Whether you have a pet or a service animal, you need to understand your rights and responsibilities.

Federal and Florida law require that the Division of Emergency Management and local emergency managers develop strategies for the evacuation of people with pets as part of their shelter plans. Therefore, today many shelters do allow pets or make accommodations for pets. While every shelter is not required to accept pets, every county shelter plan must have a strategy in place to address the need. Visit the Links section to access these laws.

Preparing for your pet's health and safety during a disaster is part of responsible pet guardianship. Consider all of your options including relatives and friends outside of the evacuation area. For more information about planning and preparing for your pet during a disaster, visit Florida Pets website. The site has tips and information as well as lists of pet-friendly shelters, motels and hotels. 

Service animals are not pets and must be allowed in all shelters. Visit the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Disability Rights Section's website explaining the 2010 Revised ADA Service Animal Requirements to learn more about your rights and responsibilities regarding your service animal.

Your Emergency Kit

When a disaster strikes, or is about to strike, it is likely you will not have time to shop for essential items. Whether you are sheltering in place or need to evacuate, there are a number of basic items you will need at your disposal. That is why it is critical that every household assemble an emergency kit ahead of time and keep it current. You should review the contents of your kit at least once a year and refresh any expired or outdated items. Below is a list of basic items to include in your emergency kit, as well as items Floridians with disabilities should consider including.

This list can also be found on the FloridaDisaster.org Create an Emergency Kit website.

Large Storage Container - to keep all of the supplies of the kit in one spot

Water - at least 1 gallon daily per person for 3 to 7 days

Food - at least enough for 3 to 7 days, including:
- any special food needed for dietary purposes
- non-perishable packaged or canned food / juices
- snack foods
- non-electric can opener
- cooking tools / fuel
- paper plates / plastic utensils

Written instructions regarding care and medication
- list of all medications and their dosages
- list of all doctors
- list of the types, specific model names and/or numbers, and the serial numbers of medical devices you use

First Aid Kit - medicines / prescription drugs including:
- an extra supply of required prescription medications (you should have medication for at least two weeks)
- extra oxygen if necessary
- adhesive bandages
- bug repellent
- burn cream
- aspirin
- pain relievers
- rubbing alcohol
- hydrogen peroxide

Extra Set of Eyeglasses and Hearing Aid Batteries

Blankets / Pillows, etc.

Clothing - seasonal /rain gear/ sturdy shoes

Toiletries - hygiene items / moisture wipes

Flashlights - each family member should have their own flashlight

Batteries

Radio - a hand-cranked or solar powered radio is ideal; if using a battery operated radio, buy at least seven sets of batteries for the kit

Telephones - fully charged cell phone with extra battery and a traditional (not cordless) telephone set

Cash and Credit Cards - banks and ATMs may not be available for extended periods; make sure cash is in small bills

Extra Set of Keys - home and car

Toys, Books and Games

Important documents - in a waterproof container or watertight re-sealable plastic bag
- extra copies of medical insurance documents and Medicare/Medicaid cards
- other insurance records (home, car, etc.)
- medical records
- bank account numbers
- Social Security card, etc.

Tools - keep a set with you during the storm; gather together sheets of plastic, tools, nails, duct tape and paint

Vehicle fuel tanks filled

Pet care items
- proper identification / immunization records / medications
- ample supply of food and water
- carrier or cage
- muzzle and leash

Whistle

People with mobility disabilities should consider including the following in their emergency kit:
- Pair of heavy gloves to use while wheeling or making your way over glass and debris
- Extra battery for your motorized wheelchair or scooter
- Jumper cables or specific recharging device to be connected to an automobile's cigarette lighter
- Patch kit or can of "seal-in-air product" to repair flat tires
- Spare cane or walker
- Food, medicine, favorite toy, and other care items for your service animal
- Plastic bags, disposable gloves and other items for the animal's care

People with sensory disabilities should consider including the following in their emergency kit:
- Pad of paper with pens or pencils for writing notes
- Extra batteries for tape recorders, portable TTYs, etc.
- Extra pair of eye glasses
- Extra pair of dark glasses, if medically required
- Extra set of hearing-aid batteries
- Folding mobility cane
- Food, medicine and favorite toy for your service animal
- Plastic bags, disposable gloves and other items for the animal's care

People with developmental or cognitive disabilities should consider including the following in their emergency kit:
- Alternate power source or spare batteries for communication device
- Paper and writing materials

Medications

Make sure your Emergency Kit includes a list of all your medications, including your prescribed medications. List the name of the doctor who wrote the prescription, the name of the drug or medication, the amount to take and the name and location of your pharmacy. It is important to have your prescription medications in your Emergency Kit, but what if your insurance company says it is too early for a refill?

Florida's Emergency Prescription Refill law guarantees you access to a refill during a disaster if your county:

  • Is currently under a hurricane warning issued by the National Weather Service
  • Is declared to be under a state of emergency in an executive order issued by the governor, or
  • Has started its emergency operations center and its emergency management plan

The Emergency Prescription Refill law also allows individuals elsewhere in the state to access an emergency 72-hour refill.

Please talk with your doctor and pharmacist in advance about how the Emergency Prescription Refill law can help you.

Americans with Disabilities Act - Under Construction

This set of topics pages are under construction and review. Sign up for our E-Newsletter to receive a notification that these pages are complete.

We hope these Disability Topics pages will provide you with the detailed information you need regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Title I - Employment

Your Rights as an Employee with a Disability

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination in the workplace. Title I has been designed to address and remove barriers to employment so individuals with disabilities can enjoy the same employment opportunities as people without disabilities.

A qualified individual with a disability has a right to engage in America’s workforce free of discrimination by businesses with 15 or more employees.

For additional information on the ADA and reasonable accommodations, visit these websites:

Looking for a Job?

Contact these resources for further assistance:

  • EmployFlorida is a network of workforce services, resources, and job openings from over 100 One-Stop Centers in Florida. Call them toll free at 1-866-352-2345 or visit http://www.employflorida.net
  • The Employer Assistance & Recruiting Network (EARN) has a database of jobs from companies interested in hiring qualified individuals with a disability. Contact them at 1-866-327-6669 or visit http://www.earnworks.com
  • The Able Trust is a non-profit public/private partnership whose goal is to help Floridians with disabilities in achieving employment. Contact them at 1-888-838-ABLE (toll-free in Florida) / (850) 224-4493 (voice or TDD) http://www.abletrust.org/links/ada.shtml
  • The Chamber of Commerce for Persons with Disabilities, Inc., mission is to help persons with disabilities and their direct caregivers to form and grow businesses. Visit them at http://disabilitychamber.org

Additional Information

For additional information about other workplace issues, such as unemployment compensation, worker’s compensation, wage and hour laws, and the Family Medical Leave Act, you can contact the phone numbers/websites below.

Title II - County & Court ADA Coordinators

ADA Coordinators are responsible for coordinating how a government entity (such as a county) complies with Title II of the ADA. ADA Coordinators are also responsible for investigating complaints filed alleging that the entity has violated Title II of the ADA.

If a government entity has 50 or more employees, it is required to designate at least one employee to coordinate ADA compliance. A government entity may elect to have more than one. The law does not refer to this employee as an “ADA Coordinator,” but the term is commonly used in state and local government. Most counties and courts in Florida have a designated ADA Coordinator.

To learn more about the ADA oblilgations of government entities such as counties and courts, please visit www.ada.gov.

The name, office address, and telephone number of the ADA Coordinator must be provided to interested persons.

Here is a list of the ADA Coordinators for Floridas Counties and Courts.

Counties A - E

Alachua

Jacqueline Chung, Equal Opportunity Manager
105 SE First Ave., Suite 1, Gainesville, FL 32601
352-374-5275
jac@alachuacounty.us

 

Baker

C.J. Thompson, County Manager
55 North 3rd Street, Macclenny, Florida 32063|
904-259-3613
Cj.thompson@bakercountyfl.org

 

Bay

Eve Tooley, Risk Manager
840 West 11th Street, Panama City, Florida 32401
850-248-8140
etooley@baycounty.fl.gov

 

Bradford

Brad Carter, County Manager
945 N. Temple Avenue, Starke, FL 
904-966-6327 
brad_carter@bradfordcounty.gov     

 

Brevard

Brian Breslin, ADA Coordinator
2725 Judge Fran Jamieson Way, Bldg. B, Suite 106, Viera, FL  32940
321-633-2076
Brian.breslin@brevardcounty.us

 

Broward

Steven Patterson, ADA/HIPPA Administrator
115 S. Andrews Ave., Room 427, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
954-357-6500
spatterson@broward.org

 

Calhoun

Ruth W. Attaway, Clerk of Court
20859 Central Avenue, Room 130, Blountstown, Florida 32424
850-674-4545
rattaway@calhounclerk.com

 

Charlotte

Walt Black, Charlotte County Risk Management
18500 Murdock Circle, Port Charlotte, FL 33948
941-764-4191
walt.black@charlottefl.com

 

 Citrus

Charlie Gatto Weber, Facilities Management
110 N. Apopka Ave., Inverness, FL  34450
352-527-7600
Charlies.Gatto@bocc.citrus.fl.us

 

Clay

Reynald Dearriba, ADA Coordinator
P. O. Box 1366, Green Cove Springs, FL  32043
904-278-4718
Reynald.dearriba@co.clay.fl.us

 

Collier

Skip Camp, Facilities Management Director
3299 Tamiami Trail East, Naples, FL 34112
239-252-8380
skipcamp@colliergov.net

 

Columbia

Lisa Roberts, Assistant County Manager
P.O. Box 1529, Lake City, Florida 32056
386-758-1005
lisa_roberts@columbiacountyfla.com

 

Desoto

Peggy Waters, Social Services Dept.
201 E. Oak Street, Arcadia FL 34266
863-993-4858
p.waters@desotobocc.com

 

Dixie

Mike Cassidy, County Administrator
214 NE Hwy 351, P.O. Box 2600, Cross City, FL 32628
352-498-1426
dixiecm51@bellsouth.net

 

Duval

Beth Meyer, ADA Coordinator
117 W. Duval Street, Suite 205, Jacksonville, Florida 32202
904-630-4940
BMeyer@coj.net

 

Escambia

Ron Sorrells, ADA Coordinator
221 South Palafox Place, Suite 200, Pensacola, FL 32502
850-595-3000
rosorrel@myescambia.com

Counties F - J

Flagler

Joseph Mayer, Community Services Director
1769 E. Moody Blvd., Building 2, Third Floor, Bunnell, FL  32110
386-313-4007
jmayer@flaglercounty.org

 

Franklin

Roxie Allen, Licensing
Amy Kelly, Administrative Assistant
33 Market Street, Suite 203, Apalachicola, FL  32320
850-653-9783
roxiea@fairpoint.net
amyh@fairpoint.net    

 

Gadsden

Arthur Lawson, County Administrator
9-B E. Jefferson Street, P. O. Box 1799, Quincy, FL  32353
850-875-8660
alawson@gadsdencountyfl.gov

 

Gilchrist

Joseph W. Gilliam, Clerk of Court
112 S. Main Street, Trenton, FL 32693
352-463-3170
joeg@gilchrist.fl.us

 

Glades

Wendell Taylor, County Manager
500 Avenue J, P.O. Box 1018, Moore Haven, Florida 33471
863-946-6000
WTaylor@MyGlades.com

 

Gulf

Lee Collingsworth, Building Official
1000 Cecil G. Costin, Sr. Blvd., Room 305, Port St. Joe, FL  32456
850-229-8944
lcollingsworth@gulfcounty-fl.gov

 

Hamilton

Danny Johnson, County Coordinator
1153 US Hwy 41 NW, Suite 2, Jasper, FL 32052
386-792-6639
hamiltoncounty@windstream.net

 

Hardee

Jane Long, HR Director
412 West Orange Street, Wauchula, FL  33873
863-773-2161
Jane.long@hardeecounty.net

 

Hendry

David Hoes, Human Resources
640 S. Main St., P. O. Box 1760, Labelle, FL  33975
863-675-5352
dhoes@hendryfla.net

 

Hernando

Virginia Singer
Public Information Manager
20 N. Main St., Room 264
Brooksville, FL  34601
(352 ) 540-6780

 

Highlands

Melissa Bruns, ADA Coordinator
600 S. Commerce Avenue, Sebring, FL  33870
863-402-6509
mbruns@hcbcc.org

 

Hillsborough

Sandra G. Sroka, ADA Liaison
County Center, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, FL 33602
813-276-2742
srokas@hillsboroughcounty.org

 

 Holmes

Sherry Snell, Administrative Assistant
107 E Virginia Ave, Bonifay, FL 32425
850-547-1119
sherry@holmescountyfl.org

 

Indian River

Michael Zito, Assistant County Administrator
1800 27th Street, Vero Beach 32960
772-226-1223
mzito@ircgov.com

 

Jackson

Lennetta Loman-Greene, Human Resources
2864 Madison Street, Marianna, FL 32448
850-482-9865
greeneL@jackson.fl.us

 

Jefferson

Roy Schleicher, County Coordinator
445 W. Palmer Mill Road, Monticello, FL 32344
850-342-0287
rscheicher@jeffersoncountyfl.gov

Counties L - O

Lafayette

Ricky Lyons, Clerk of Court
120 West Main Street, Mayo, FL 32066
386-294-1600
rlyons@lafayetteclerk.com

 

Lake

Kristian Swenson, Lake County CC
315 W. Main St., P. O. Box 7800, Tavares, FL  32778
352-742-6513
kswenson@lakecountyfl.gov

 

Lee

Paul Valenti, Equal Opportunity Manager
2115 Second St., Fort Myers, FL 33901
239-533-2204
pvalenti@leegov.com

 

Leon

Chansidy Daniels, Human Resources
301 S. Monroe St, Suite 202B, Tallahassee, FL 32301
850-606-2400
danielsc@leoncountyfl.gov

 

Levy County

Carl D. Tummond, III, Compliance Officer
P.O. Box 310, Bronson Florida 32621
352-486-5218
dtummond@circuit8.org

 

Liberty

Jim Johnson, Chairman
P. O. Box 399, Bristol, FL  32321
850-643-5404
Liberty1@gtcom.net

 

Madison

Tim Sanders, County Clerk
P. O. Box 539, Madison, FL  32341
850-973-1500
tsanders@madisonclerk.com

 

Manatee

Brenda Rogers, Director of Community Services
1112 Manatee Avenue West, P. O. Box 1000, Bradenton, FL 34206
941-749-3030
Brenda.rogers@mymanatee.org

 

Marion

Andy Race, Director Facilities Department
601 SE 25th Avenue, Ocala, FL  34471
352-671-8750
Andy.race@marioncounty.fl.org

 

Martin

Bob Steiner, Accessibility Coordinator
2401 SE Monterey Road, Stuart, FL 34996
772-221-1329
bsteiner@martin.fl.us

 

Miami-Dade

Miami-Dade County Office of ADA Coordination
111 N.W. 1st Street, Suite 103, Miami, FL  33128
305-375-3566
adaoffice@miamidade.gov
http://www.miamidade.gov/ada/coordinators.asp

 

Monroe

Calvin Allen
1100 Simonton Street, Suite 268, Key West, FL  33040
305-292-4545
allen-calvin@monroecounty-fl.gov

 

Nassau

Tim Milligan, Facilities Maintenance Director
96135 Nassau Place, Suite 1, Yulee, FL 32097
904-548-4688
Tmilligan@nassaucounty.fl.com

 

Okaloosa

James Taylor, Director
601-A North Pearl Street, Crestview, FL 32536
850-689-5977
riskinfo@co.okaloosa.fl.us

 

Okeechobee

Tony Ard, Facility Maintenance (Building Access)
Clerks Office – Accommodations
304 North West 2nd Street, Room #222, Okeechobee, Florida 34972
Clerk - 863.763.4559
Facility – 863-357-7007
tard@co.okeechobee.fl.us

 

Orange

Samme Ripley, ADA Coordinator
2100 E. Michigan Street, Orlando, FL  32806
407-836-6568
Same.ripley@ocfl.net

 

Osceola

Paula Carpenter, Clerk of Board
1 Courthouse Sq, Suite 4700, Kissimmee, FL 34741
407-742-1200
pcar@osceola.org

Counties P - W

Palm Beach

Brad Merriman, Assistant County Administrator
301 N. Olive Avenue, West Palm Beach, FL 33401
561-355-4019
bmerriman@pbcgov.org

 

Pasco

None
8731 Citizens Drive, Suite 340, New Port Richey, FL 34654
727-847-2411
customerservice@pascocountyfl.net

 

Pinellas

Paul Valenti, ADA Coordinator
400 S. Ft. Harrison Avenue, 5th Floor, Clearwater, FL 33756
727-464-4880
pvalenti@co.pinellas.fl.us

 

Polk

Walter Carter, Facilities Management
330 West Church Street, Bartow, FL 33830
863-534-5511
waltercarter@polk-county.net

 

Putnam

Anne Allen, Human Resources Director
Putnam County Board of Commissioners
2509 Crill Avenue, Suite 300
Palatka, FL 32177
386-329-0212
anne.allen@putnam-fl.com

 

St. Johns

Wayne Pacetti, ADA Coordinator
500 San Sebastian View, St. Augustine, FL 32084
904-209-0650
wpacetti@sjcfl.us

 

St. Lucie

Daniel Lutzke, Interim Risk Manager
2300 Virginia Ave., Ft. Pierce, FL 34982
772-462-1783
lutzked@StLucieco.gov

 

Santa Rosa

Devann Cook, Risk Manager
6495 Caroline Street, Milton, FL 32570
850-983-1863
devannc@santarosa.fl.gov

 

Sarasota

Greg Yantorno, Building Official
1001 Sarasota Center Blvd., Sarasota, FL  34240
941-861-5932
gyantorn@scgov.net

 

Seminole

Richard Petitt, Human Resources
1101 East First Street, Sanford, FL 32771
407-665-7940
rpetitt@seminolecounty.fl.gov

 

Sumter

None
7375 Powell Road, Wildwood, FL 34785
352-689-4400
contactus@sumtercountyfl.gov

 

Suwanee

Joe Garrity, County Coordinator
224 Pine Avenue, Live Oak, FL  32064
386-364-3450
joeg@suwcounty.org

 

Taylor

Danny Griner, Building Official
201 East Green Street, Perry, Florida 32347
850-838-3500 extension 111
building.director@taylorcountygov.com

 

Union

None
55 W Main St., Room 109, Lake Butler, FL 32054
386-496-4241
ucbocc@alltel.net

 

Volusia

Anne Whitehair, Human Resources Officer
123 W. Indiana Ave. DeLand, FL 32720
386-736-5951
awhitehair@co.volusia.fl.us

 

Wakulla

Deborah Dubose, Coordinator
3093 Crawfordville Highway, P. O. Box 309 Crawfordville, FL  32326
850-926-9500 Ext. 410
ddubose@mywakulla.com

 

Walton

Jonathan Bilby, ADA Coordinator
31 Coastal Centre Blvd., Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
Tel: (850) 267-1955
biljonathan@co.walton.fl.us

 

Washington

Heather Finch, Human Resources Director
1331 South Blvd., Chipley, FL  32428
850-415-5151
hfinch@washingtonfl.com

Courts

Supreme Court

Mr. Silvester Dawson
Marshal
500 S. Duval Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1900
Phone: 850-488-8845
Fax: 850-921-2775

1st District Court of Appeals

Mr. Stephen Nevels
Marshal
2000 Drayton Drive, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0950
Phone: 850-488-8136
Fax: 850-488-7989

2nd District Court of Appeals

Ms. Jo Haynes Suhr
Marshal
P.O Box 327, Lakeland, FL 33802
Phone: 863-499-2290
Fax: 863-413-2649

3rd District Court of Appeals

Mr. Alan Sadowski
Marshal
2001 S.W. 117th Avenue, Miami, FL 33175-1716
Phone: 305-229-3200 ext. 3237
Fax: 305-229-3206

4th District Court of Appeals

Mr. Glen G. Rubin
Marshal
1525 Palm Beach Lake Boulevard, West Palm Beach, FL 33401
Phone: 561-242-2111
Fax: 561-242-2016

5th District Court of Appeals

Mr. Ty Berdeaux
Marshal
300 South Beach Street, Daytona Beach, FL 32114
Phone: 386-947-1544
Fax: 386-947-1565

1st Circuit

Ms. Shelia A. Sims
Senior Deputy Court Administrator
190 Governmental Center, 5th Floor, Pensacola, FL 32502-4400
Phone: 850-595-4400
Fax: 850-595-0360

2nd Circuit

Ms. Susan WIlson
Office of Court Administration
Leon County Courthouse
301 South Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL 32301
Phone: 850-577-4430
Fax: 850-487-7947
Email: susanw@leoncountyfl.gov

3rd Circuit

Ms. Brenda Pryce
Court Operations Consultant
173 N.E. Hernando St., Room 408, Lake City, FL 32056-1569
Phone: 386-719-7576
Fax: 386-758-2162

4th Circuit

Mr. James W. Ivey
Fourth Judicial Circuit
330 E. Bay Street, Suite 507-C, Jacksonville, FL 32202
Phone: 904-630-1897

5th Circuit

Mr. John D. Sullivan
110 N. Apopka Street, Inverness, FL 34450-4231
Phone: 352-341-6700
Fax: 352-341-7008
ADA Duties: Citrus County

Ms. Peggy Welch
20 N. Main Street, Room 350, Brooksville, FL 34601
Phone: 352-754-4402
Fax: 352-754-4267
ADA Duties: Hernando County

Ms. Tameka Gordon 110 N.W. 1st Avenue, Ocala, FL 34475
Phone: 352-401-6710 (ADA line)
Fax: 352-401-7883
ADA Duties: Marion County

Ms. Nicole Berg
P. 0. Box 7800,Tavares, FL 32778
Phone: 352-253-1604
Fax: 352-742-4370
ADA Duties: Lake County

Ms. Lorna Barker
225 E. McCollum Avenue, Room 209, Bushnell, FL 33513
Phone: 352-569-6088
Fax: 352-569-6098
ADA Duties: Sumter County

6th Circuit

Ms. Karen Weitzel
14250 49th Street Noth, Clearwater, FL 33762
Phone: 727-453-7163
Fax: 727-453-7166

7th Circuit

Ms. Anne Landolfa
125 E. Orange Avenue, Suite 300, Daytona Beach, FL 32114
Phone: 386-248-8105
Fax: 386-257-6069

8th Circuit

Ms. Mary Lou Gardner
Administrative Services Manager
Alachua County Family/Civil Courthouse
201 E. University Avenue, Room 410, Gainesville, FL 32601
Phone: 352-491-4490
Fax: 352-374-5238

9th Circuit

Ms. MaryBeth D'Auria
Human Resources Manager
Orange County Courthouse
425 N. Orange Avenue, Suite 510, Orlando, FL 32810
Phone: 407-742-2418
Fax: 407-835-5079

10th Circuit

Mr. Nick Sudzina
Trial Court Administrator
P. 0. Box 9000, Bartow, FL 33831
Phone: 863-534-4686
Fax: 863-534-4699

11th Circuit

Ms. Maria E. Mihaic
Human Resources Division
Lawson E. Thomas Courthouse Center
175 N.W. 1st Avenue, Suite 2702, Miami, FL 33128
Phone: 305-349-7354
Fax: 305-349-7355

12th Circuit

Mr. William P. Price
Human Resources Manager
2002 Ringling Blvd - 8th Floor, Sarasota, FL 34237
Phone: 941-861-7811
Fax: 941-861-7904

13th Circuit

Ms. Nancy Yanez
Chief Deputy Court Administrator
800 E. Twiggs Street, Room 604, Tampa, FL 33602-3549
Phone: 813-272-6457
Fax: 813-301-3800

14th Circuit

Ms. Robyn Gable
Court Operations Consultant
P. 0. Box 1089, 301 McKenzie, Panama City, FL 32402
Phone: 850-747-5338
Fax: 850-747-5717

15th Circuit

Ms. Krista Garber
Human Resource Manager
205 N. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, FL 33401
Phone: 561-355-2154
Fax: 561-355-6711

16th Circuit

Ms. Cheryl Alfonso
Court Operations Manager
502 Whitehead Street, Key West, FL 33040
Phone: 305-295-3652
Fax: 305-292-3435

17th Circuit

Ms. Cheryl Anderson
201 S.E. 6th Street, Room 1000, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301
Phone: 954-831-7743
Fax: 954-831-5572

18th Circuit

Ms. Susan Phillips
Moore Justice Center
2825 Judge Fran Jamieson Way, Viera, FL 32940
Phone: 321-637-5673
Fax: 321-633-2172

19th Circuit

Ms. Corrie Johnson
250 NW Country Club Drive, Suite 217, Port Saint Lucie, FL 34986
Phone: 772-807-4383
Fax: 772-807-4377

20th Circuit

Mr. Jim Sullivan
Operations Division Director
Administrative Office of the Courts
1700 Monroe Street, Suite 1213, Ft. Myers, FL 33901
Phone: 239-533-1521
Fax: 239-533-1757

Office Of The State Courts Administrator

Ms. Debbie Howells
Statewide Court ADA Coordinator
Office of the State Courts Administrator
500 S. Duval Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1900
Phone: 850-922-4370
Fax: 850-488-0156

Ms. Laura Rush
General Counsel
Office of the State Courts Administrator
500 S. Duval Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1900
Phone: 850-922-5109
Fax: 850-488-0156

Overview & Resources

Title II - State and Local Government Activities

Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation

Abuse is a willful action by a caretaker that results in injury or harm.

Neglect is an error by a caretaker which is a serious disregard of responsibility. 

Exploitation is the act of taking unfair advantage of a person by a caretaker.

In the State of Florida, allegations of abuse, neglect, or exploitation are primarily investigated by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) after receiving a complaint from the Florida Abuse Hotline. The Florida Abuse Hotline contact telephone number is:  1-800-962-2873.

Reporting Abuse

The DCF website provides the following information: 

A. The Florida Abuse Hotline will accept a report when:

  1. There is reasonable cause to suspect that a child cannot be located in Florida, or is temporarily out of the state but expected to return in the immediate future,
  2. A child has been harmed or is believed to be threatened with harm,
  3. Made by a person responsible for the care of the child.

OR

  1. Any vulnerable adult who is a resident of Florida or currently located in Floridais believed to have been abused or neglected by a caregiver in Florida, or
  2. A vulnerable adult is suffering from the ill effects of neglect by self and is in need of service, or
  3. A vulnerable adult is exploited by any person who stands in a position of trust or confidence, or any person who knows or should know that a vulnerable adult lacks capacity to consent, or any person who obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or use, a vulnerable adult’s funds, assets or property.

TELEPHONE: 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873)
TDD (Telephone Device for the Deaf): 1-800-453-5145
FAX: 1-800-914-0004
 

Investigation

Depending upon the allegations and the resources available, Disability Rights Florida will determine if it will conduct a secondary investigation or take no action.  You can call Disability Rights Florida toll-free at 1-800-342-0823.

10 Steps to Effective Self-Advocacy

Listen to the Audio-Only Version

Ten Steps to Effective Self-Advocacy

1. Believe in Yourself

  • You are worth it! You can do it!

2. Learn Your Rights

  • You are entitled to equal rights under the law. Educate yourself with reliable information.
  • Contact Disability Rights Florida to request information about your rights.
  • Use libraries, the internet, e-mail groups, and social networking. Put yourself on mailing lists.
  • If you need an accommodation, ask for it.
  • Use peer-run, family and community support programs, referral or crisis hotlines, advocacy groups, and service providers.
  • Attend classes or workshops.
  • If you do not understand information or explanations provided, say so.

3. Discuss Your Questions and Concerns

  • Prepare. Write an outline of your concerns. Write down your questions.
  • Raise your questions and concerns by phone, in person or by writing a letter. Use e-mail and on-line forms to start a conversation about your concerns.
  • Schedule a meeting. Speaking to someone in person can be an effective way to advocate for yourself. Plan what you are going to say. Practice with friends, with a tape recorder, or even in front of the mirror. Dress for the occasion and be on time. You may bring someone along for support.
  • Be polite. Introduce yourself and anyone with you. Learn and use other people’s names when you communicate. State your concerns clearly and simply. Ask politely for what you want.
  • Listen carefully to the explanations and answers given. If you do not understand something, ask for clarification.
  • Write down the name of each person you spoke with and their contact information.
  • Send a follow up note listing your understanding of any agreements reached or next steps decided during the conversation or meeting. Keep a copy for your records.

4. Be Effective on the Phone

  • Before you call, write down the key points you want to say and your most important questions. Stay calm and be polite. Keep your message clear and focused.
  • Try to make your call in a place without distractions. If you must leave a voice message, keep it brief and make sure to include your name and a contact number where you will be available to accept a call.
  • Be willing to listen. What you hear may be as important as what you say.
  • Always get the name and position of the person you are talking to. Ask when he/she will get back to you or when you can expect action.
  • If this person cannot help you, ask who can. Thank the person for being helpful.
  • Keep a record of your call and follow up!

5. Put it in Writing

  • Write a letter or send an e-mail about your request or concern. Provide information in writing. Keep it short and to the point. Begin and end your letter or e-mail by stating your request or concern.
  • If you need others to become aware of the situation, you may send copies of your letter or e-mail to supervisors or advocacy groups.
  • Only copy your letter or e-mail to people who can assist you. Be cautious with sharing confidential information.
  • When you circulate a letter or e-mail to other people, put “cc” (copies circulated) at the bottom of the letter with a list of the people you sent copies. If you are sending an e-mail, list the names of other people in the “cc” line of the e-mail.
  • In some instances, you may want to contact your legislators or include them in the people you copy with your letter or e-mail.
  • Keep a copy for your records.

6. Get Information and Decisions in Writing

  • If someone tells you something, ask them to put it in writing or send you documentation.
  • If they tell you something is a law, policy or procedure, ask for a copy.
  • If you disagree with a decision, ask for it in writing along with the reasons for the decision.

7. Use the Chain Of Command

  • If you feel you are not getting a straight answer, thank the person for their time and ask to speak to someone else who can address your concerns.
  • Use the organization’s chain of command to help you find the supervisor or other person you need to communicate with.

8. Know Your Appeal Rights and Responsibilities

  • If you do not get a satisfactory decision, ask what you need to do next to resolve the dispute or appeal the decision. Most organizations and government agencies are required to have a process to review decisions.
  • Request clear written information about the dispute resolution process and your right to appeal a decision you believe is wrong. Be sure you understand your responsibilities.

9. Follow Up and Say Thank You

  • Keep track of key deadlines and time frames. Follow up.
  • Remember to thank people along the way. Recognize those individuals that provided helpful information and good service.

10. Ask For Help

  • If you need assistance resolving a dispute, contact Disability Rights Florida or another advocacy or community organization to request information or assistance.

Advocacy 101 - Challenging an Agency’s Denial or Reduction of Your Medicaid Services

Image of the Advocacy 101 e-booklet coverThis Disability Topic and the related e-booklet titled Advocacy 101 both explain the steps required to challenge a denial or reduction of a Medicaid State Plan or Medicaid Waiver service. Medicaid services are provided through the Medicaid State Plan and various home and community based services programs called Medicaid Waivers.

The tabs below are a condensed version for easy reference. If you would like more information, please download Advocacy 101, the comprehensive e-booklet from Disability Rights Florida.

Please also view our Advocacy 101 Webinar, available on our Webinars and Trainings page.

Notice & Appeal

As a person with disabilities, you have a legal right to both Notice of and Appeal from an agency decision to reduce or deny your Medicaid services.

These appeals occur in administrative hearings conducted by the Department of Children and Families’ Office of Appeals Hearings (OAH).

The person whose Medicaid services were reduced or denied is called the Petitioner.

The letter denying or reducing your services is called a Denial Notice and it is your guide to requesting a hearing. The Denial Notice should contain the reason for denial/reduction, specific services denied or reduced, how you can challenge this, the deadlines for doing so, and contact names and addresses.

Petition

The Denial Notice includes the deadline for requesting a hearing.

Specifically, the notice will give the number of days from the date of the notice that the Petitioner has to request a hearing.

If you want to continue receiving preexisting services until the date of the hearing, you must request a hearing within 10 days from the date of the Denial Notice. However, if you have requested a new service that the agency has denied, you cannot receive that service during the appeals process.

The request for a hearing should be made in writing. This written request for a hearing is called a Petition.

Send your written request for a hearing directly to the agency at the address given in the Denial Notice.

Assignment

The agency will forward your Petition to the Office of Appeal Hearings (OAH), and your case will be assigned to a hearing officer who will preside over your hearing.

You will receive a letter that includes the hearing officer’s name and contact information, the name of the agency representative assigned to your case, and your case number. Keep this letter for your reference.

Hearing Notice

The hearing officer will send a Notice of Hearing to you, providing the date, time, duration, and location of the hearing.

You have a right to be present at a hearing either in person or telephonically. If the Notice of Hearing indicates one and you prefer the other, communicate that to your hearing officer as soon as possible.

Record the date, time, and place of the hearing and share that information with your witnesses.

If you cannot attend the scheduled hearing because of an emergency, you may request a continuance. A continuance means that a hearing is re-scheduled for a later date.

If you need a continuance, you should submit your request to the hearing officer and send a copy to the agency at least 5 days before the scheduled hearing.

Do not assume that the hearing officer granted the continuance if you have not received an order granting a continuance. If you have not received an order, contact the hearing officer’s assistant to find out the status of your request.
 

Collecting Information

Start preparing for the hearing as soon as you request it. Collect information through documents, witnesses and discovery.

Thoroughly review the Denial Notice and notice the reason(s) that the agency gave for denying or reducing the Petitioner’s services. During the hearing, your focus will be presenting documents and witness testimony to prove that the agency’s reason(s) for denying or reducing the services were wrong.

Research the laws and administrative rules that apply to your case. Remember that the hearing officer has to base her or his decision on the applicable law. Visit the Links tab where links to many of the major laws and rules are provided.

Compile all the documents that you believe will support your need for the services; this includes medical records, information from service providers, support plans, or any other relevant information.

Formally preparing for the hearing is a process called discovery. During discovery, both you and the agency exchange information that is going to be included in your hearing. Discovery allows you to request from the agency your file and any documents the agency considered to make its decision. Conversely, if the agency requests information from you, you must respond to the agency’s request within 30 days of receiving it.

Preparing

The more organized and prepared you are for the hearing, the more smoothly you will present your case and the less nervous you will feel during the hearing.

During the hearing, you may present documents, charts, photos and other evidence known as exhibits. Before the hearing date, both you and the agency will send an exhibit list to each other and the presiding officer.

Both you and the agency may have witnesses testify at your hearing, and you and the agency must provide each other and the hearing officer a list of all witnesses and their contact information before the hearing date. Your witnesses should be people who have direct contact with you or the Petitioner, including family members, doctors, or service providers who personally know about your disability, how it impacts your ability to perform daily activities and your need for services. Make sure to give your witnesses the date, time, and location of the hearing and make sure they can be at the location at that time.

Before the hearing, practice asking your witnesses questions to make them more familiar with what to expect at the hearing and also to let you know what their answers are likely to be.

The Hearing

An administrative hearing is less formal than a trial.

The hearing officer will guide you through the process, and you should ask any appropriate questions. If you are not sure, ask the hearing officer politely if you may speak or ask a question.

In a hearing, the party with the burden of proof presents its version of the case first by examining witnesses and exhibits. If the agency has the burden of proof, the agency first asks questions of its own witnesses—this is called direct examination. At the end of the first party’s presentation, the other party presents its case.

During the hearing, you should carefully listen to the agency’s questions and the witnesses’ answers. You may take notes, if appropriate, because after the agency finishes questioning its witnesses, you will have an opportunity to question each witness.

The presiding officer also may question either party’s witnesses.

Either side can object to questions asked by the other party. Direct your objection to the hearing officer and state plainly why you think the question is inappropriate.

Do not become combative or argue with witnesses, the agency representative or the hearing officer.

At the end of the hearing, the hearing officer will not immediately make a decision. Instead, the hearing officer has a specific amount of time after the hearing to issue a written decision.