Sunday, July 02, 2006

New specialty license plate in Florida will raise funds for the visually impaired

Florida drivers soon will be able to support agencies that work with the blind or sight-impaired by purchasing a special license plate.Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signed House Bill 281 into law Friday. The bill establishes “A State of Vision” specialty license plate that can be purchased for an annual fee of $25. The plate depicts a lighthouse with a shining beacon.

Fees collected for the new specialty plates will benefit 15 Florida agencies that provide special services for the blind or sight-impaired. The agencies are affiliated under the umbrella of the Florida Association of Agencies Serving the Blind Inc.Legislation establishing the new plates was introduced in the Florida Senate by Sen. Carey Baker, R-Eustis, and in the Florida House by Rep.

Dennis Baxley, R-Belleview.Baxley and his adopted son Jeffery, 19, attended the signing ceremony in Bush’s office. Jeffery Baxley, a recent graduate of the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, lobbied for the bill when it was under consideration. He was given an autographed Braille copy of the bill by the governor.Rep. Baxley said he was “just real excited” about the bill’s passage.

“The potential for generating funds to help the blind remain independent could be millions over time,” Baxley said. “I am pleased to be able to help these 15 organizations.”Baxley pointed out that when the blind or sight-impaired develop skills that allow them to live independently, their lives are more joyful, and that the cost of supporting independence is much lower than the cost of supporting dependence care.Lee Naeshi, executive director of Lighthouse Central Florida and president of the Florida Association of Agencies Serving the Blind, two organizations that pushed to get the license plate approved, also attended the signing ceremony.

Naeshi said that when the groups began pushing for the plate a year ago, it was “just a dream,” but as she stood in the governor’s office, reality set in.“We were just thrilled,” Naeshi said, stressing that fees from the plates will “create much-needed revenues.”But while approval of the bill marked the achievement of one goal, it also presented a new challenge.“We have a lot of work ahead of us to sell the plate,” Naeshi said, adding that Lighthouse Central Florida and similar organizations are developing marketing programs to make the public aware that the plates soon will be available, and of the valuable support the revenue would provide for the blind and sight-impaired.

Villages resident Doris Turlo, past president of the Orange Blossom Gardens Lions Club, gave the license plate her stamp of approval.“It’s a great thing,” Turlo said.Although Lions Club International is not an affiliate of the Florida Association of Agencies Serving the Blind, the Lions are well known for their fundraising efforts on behalf of the blind and visually-impaired and for blindness-prevention programs like vision screenings in schools.

Donald Faehn, president of the Visually Impaired Persons support group in The Villages, also was pleased to learn that the plate had been approved.“It’s another good thing to raise money for organizations that are working in this area,” Faehn said. “I’m glad it went through.”Naeshi said Florida now ranks third among all states in its number of visually-impaired residents, and within five years it is expected to have the highest number of any state in the nation.“We need more money to help more people,” Naeshi said. “That’s the bottom line.”


Post a Comment

<< Home