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  • 2018 Deaf Expo in Lakeland - “It’s a Deaf Thing” - Over 1,000 Visitors

    On October 6th RP Funding Center was visited by an estimated 1,100 people attending the Deaf Expo; otherwise known as, “It’s a Deaf Thing.”

    “It's A Deaf Thing” was designed to celebrate Deaf culture and community. According to Project Deaf, it is estimated that 200,000 Floridians are Deaf. This event provides those individuals and their friends and family with opportunities to learn about services, to share experiences, and to enjoy art and entertainment.  The event included business vendors, artists, service agencies and performances by members of the Deaf community.

    The City of Lakeland was also there, with an information table staffed by ADA Specialist Jenny Sykes and Officer Mathers of the Lakeland Police Department. According to many attendees and the organizers of the event, Officer Mathers was one of the most popular people there.

     Officer Mathers

    In addition to his work with the Lakeland Police Department, Officer Mathers is a certified Sign Language interpreter. Throughout the event Officer Mathers rarely stopped Signing. This was because many people wanted to communicate with him! This included a little boy who looked very happy to be Signing with a police officer, teenagers who stopped to ask why Officer Mathers had decided to study Sign Language, people interested in going into law enforcement and many others who stopped to ask questions about interactions between law enforcement and individuals who are Deaf. In addition, countless people stopped to express appreciation that the City of Lakeland has an officer who Signs, and that the City is actively working on enhancing accessibility of programs and services.  

    According to David Lind, President of ProjectDEAF, “It’s a Deaf Thing” is the only known event of its kind in the state of Florida. If you’d like to learn more about ProjectDEAF go to their website at or email

  • Hurricane Awareness Tour - May 11, 2018

    On May 11, 2018, a small group of individuals with Hearing Loss and Deafness joined the huge crowd enjoying the Hurricane Awareness Tour at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport. The group was met by Teresa Cornett, the Airport Property Manager and Jenny Sykes, City ADA Specialist.  

    The tour was interpreted by Barbara Ledford and her staff from Inspired Interpreting. The group’s activity was initiated by Jackie Bowman of the City’s Lakeland Alliance for Accessibility, and co-founder of the Lakeland chapter of the Hearing Loss Association. Ms. Bowman had contacted the City’s ADA Specialist to request that sign-language interpreters be at the event so that individuals with hearing loss or Deafness could participate.

    The group made their way from table to table gathering information about the U.S. Air Force’s WC-130J Hurricane Hunter fleet and Emergency Planning tips. At each step of the way, presentations, questions and answers were interpreted with sign language. This included learning more about shelters in Polk County available during emergency situations, including shelters designated to assist individuals with disabilities. Some of the heartier members of the group then braved the heat to join others on-line to board the WC-130J Hurricane Hunter aircraft and have information about it interpreted for them.

    The tour wrapped up with the appreciation from the group both for the information shared and for providing the interpreters, and plans to come to future events at the airport.



    Hurricane Hunter Tour  Hurricane Hunter Tour

    Hurricane Hunter Tour

  • Polk Symposium on Special Education - March 10, 2018

    The Polk Symposium on Special Education is an annual conference and was held on Saturday, March 10, 2018 at Tenoroc High School.   Families were provided resources and workshops.  The keynote speaker this year was Michael Rivera, a comedian and teacher.    The City's ADA Specialist, Jenny Sykes, attended as well to explain what we are doing for our citizens.

    This event was presented by Polk County Public Schools.   For further information, please call (863) 534-0930.   Look for the event next year about this time.

  • Christmas Parade - December 7, 2017

    New Accessible Viewing Area at Christmas Parade a Big Success!

    On December 7th the City of Lakeland hosted the 37th annual Christmas Parade. This year there was a new feature; an Accessible area for individuals with wheelchairs, and their families. The Accessible area was located at the corner of Rose St. and Main St. next to the Fire Station. Prior to the event, the location was added to the parade route map, and posted on the City website.

    The Accessible area included designated parking, a designated viewing location, and a porta-toilet. The area was added due to feedback from the City’s Lakeland Alliance for Accessibility and other members of the community, and will be continued annually. As the City works to enhance access for the Christmas Parade, new locations may be chosen in the future, so checking the parade route map each year is advised.

    A couple of days before this years’ event, the designated viewing area was cordoned off by Traffic Operations. The City would like to thank citizens and visitors for honoring the posted signs at this area, by not placing folding chairs there. This made it easier for individuals with wheelchairs, and their families, to use the location.

    The City created additional Accessible parking spaces in the Rose St. lot for the parade, and 25 vehicles with the appropriate parking permits used the location. The designated viewing area was used by 10 individuals with wheelchairs and related mobility devices, who were accompianied by their families.

    During the evening, City staff were on hand to monitor the Accessible viewing area and provide assistance as needed to get to the location. After the parade, City staff shared that is was very gratifying that many of the individuals, using the Accessible area, offered their thanks to the City for creating this new feature.

    The City would appreciate additional feedback about the new Accessible feature of the parade, and will use suggestions to plan for next year. Among the suggestions already received were that there be more Accessible parking and a larger viewing area for next year. Please send your suggestions and comments to the ADA Specialist, Jenny Sykes.

    We hope you enjoy a safe and happy holiday season!

    2017 Christmas Parade Accessible Area

  • "It's a Deaf Thing" Expo - September 30, 2017

    On September 30th, the RP Funding Center was visited by an estimated 2,000 people attending the Deaf Expo, “It’s a Deaf Thing.”

    “It's A Deaf Thing” was designed to celebrate Deaf culture and the perspectives of the over 200,000 Floridians who experience some level of hearing loss. This event provided opportunities to explore resources available to members of the Deaf community, to share experiences, and to enjoy art and entertainment.

    The event included vendors with businesses serving the needs of Deaf individuals, and businesses owned by Deaf individuals. It also included representatives from agencies serving Deaf individuals, and those with hearing loss. The City of Lakeland’s ADA and Accessibility Services program was also represented.

    The City’s ADA Specialist was asked to participate in the event by Jackie Bowman. Ms. Bowman is a founding member of the Lakeland chapter of the Hearing Loss Association. Ms. Bowman is also a member of the City’s “Lakeland Alliance for Accessibility.” She joined the Alliance to raise awareness about obstacles facing individuals who experience hearing loss and Deafness.         

    According to David Lind, President of ProjectDEAF, “It’s a Deaf Thing” is the only known event of its kind across the state of Florida. Mr. Lind said that he was “excited to present this opportunity for the Deaf Community across Florida, to have a place to gather and connect with each other and showcase their skills.”

    If you’d like to learn more about ProjectDEAF go to

     Expo Expo


  • White Cane Day - October 15, 2018

    In 1964 a joint resolution of Congress was signed into law, authorizing the President of the United States to proclaim October 15th of each year as "White Cane Safety Day." The White Cane Law was created to enhance safety and to recognize that the right to travel independently should be available to all, and cannot exclude those who use a white cane or guide dog. In 1999, Governor Jeb Bush of Florida officially recognized and proclaimed October 15th as White Cane Safety Day state-wide.

    The white cane, in addition to being a practical mobility tool, serves as a symbol of dignity, freedom, and independence for individuals who are Blind or visually impaired. On White Cane Safety Day, we also celebrate the contributions individuals with visual impairments have made to our country.

    On October 15th 2018, Mayor Mutz presented the City’s proclamation recognizing White Cane Safety Day. The proclamation was accepted by members of the Lakeland Alliance for Accessibility Jennifer Brooks, of Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind and Darlene Sellars, retired from the Division of Blind Services.

    Jennifer Brooks shared remarks about the importance of drivers watching for individuals with white canes and about the work that Tampa Lighthouse for the Blind does with clients.

    Darlene Sellars stated that she is a white cane user and thanked everyone for being mindful of the law and the safety of the individuals it protects.

    Please join the City of Lakeland in making a commitment to use appropriate safety measures when driving near an individual using a white cane or guide dog.

    Florida Statute:

    “Section 316.1301, F.S. € Whenever a pedestrian is crossing, or attempting to cross, a public street or highway, guided by a guide dog or carrying, in a raised or extended position, a cane or walking stick which is white in color, or white tipped with red, the driver of every vehicle approaching the intersection or place where the pedestrian is attempting to cross, shall bring his or her vehicle to a full stop before arriving at such intersection or place of crossing and, before proceeding, shall take such precautions as may be necessary to avoid injuring such pedestrian.”

    Recipients of the Proclamation




  • Americans With Disabilities Anniversary - July 26, 2018

    July 26, 2018 marks the 28th Anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The City of Lakeland has recognized this historical event by creating a proclamation commemorating the date as the Americans with Disabilities Act Day. On July 16th Mayor Mutz presented the proclamation to the Lakeland Alliance for Accessibility. The Alliance members were joined by City staff who each serve as an “Accessibility Liaison” for their department.

    The Lakeland Alliance for Accessibility is made up of individuals who experience disabilities, and members who work for organizations serving individuals with disabilities. The Alliance was formed to aid in the City’s goal of becoming more accessible to as many people as possible, regardless of ability.  

    The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life; including jobs, schools, transportation, and all facilities that are open to the public. The purpose of the law is to assure that people with or without disabilities enjoy equal rights and opportunities.

    It is estimated that over 1 billion people worldwide experience disabilities. In addition, it is estimated that by 2029, more than 20% of the U.S. population will be over the age of 65. Based on those statistics, we all have family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers who have specific access needs due to disability. Experiencing disability is an area of life that affects all of us, either through our relationships or as we ourselves age.

    As we recognize the July 26th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the City is happy to report that it is continuing the project of assessing City facilities and services, to further develop our ADA Transition Plan. This plan will guide us towards greater accessibility compliance, and ideally, Universal Access.

    Universal Access is about planning and designing facilities, programs and services to be accessible to the greatest number of people possible, regardless of ability. To assist the City in this goal, we are privileged to have on our Alliance members who have spent their lives personally and professionally advocating for individuals with disabilities. We are grateful to have their guidance as we strive for equal access for all.

    If you would like to learn more about the Lakeland Alliance for Accessibility or the City’s ADA Transition Plan, contact the City’s ADA Specialist, Jenny Sykes at 863.834.8444 or

    Proclamation Participants