Banner: Iowa Department for the Blind

White Cane Update

Spring 1999

Published and Distributed by the IOWA DEPARTMENT FOR THE BLIND

R. Creig Slayton, Director
Karen Keninger, Editor

Members of the Commission:
Robert Martin, Davenport
John Wellman, Des Moines
Marian Williams, Dubuque

Des Moines, Iowa


Please press Page Down to read through the entire newsletter, or choose one of the following links to read a specific article only.

* We Remember Kenneth Jernigan, by Jim Witte
Jernigan Books Available in Library
Director's Report -- Year 2000 Budget Update
An Honor for the Department
Department Provides On-the-Job Support for Blind Iowans
Kudos Honors and Awards
Leadership Forum Targets Disabled Youth
BEP: Best-Kept Secret
Openings in Business Enterprises Program
Comings and Goings
Orientation Center Students Walk for Diabetes
Business Leadership Network
Collaborative Project Promotes Accessible Web Design
Braille Phone Bills for U.S. West Customers
IRIS Expands Service Through Public Television
Secondary Audio Programming Brings Television Back Into Focus
The Toolbox--Dollars and Sense
Excellent Turn Out at Legislative Open House
Newsline Expands to Dubuque and Ames
Give It a Try
Library Volunteer Reflects on Experiences, by Scott Van Gorp
Social Security in 1999
Year 2000 Update--Screen Readers, Braille Terminals, and Synthesizers
WordPerfect 5.1 in the Year 2000

Go Back to Newsletter Page.

by Jim Witte

Editor's note: Jim Witte came to work for the Iowa Commission for the Blind in 1959. He began as the Commission's first travel instructor, teaching the use of the long white cane. He retired in 1995 from his last position as Program Administrator of the Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center.

Kenneth Jernigan, recognized around the world as an outstanding leader of the blind, died on October 12, 1998, in Baltimore, Maryland. At the time of his death, he was serving as President Emeritus of the National Federation of the Blind, the organization of blind persons to which he gave a lifetime of dedicated service. His achievements in and for the organized blind movement are legion.

Many in Iowa remember Jernigan best for those 20 years (1958 to 1978) when, as Director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind, he led a revolution in the field of work with the blind. His unique combination of characteristics, including his blindness, enabled him to build in Iowa a program whose achievements in bettering the lives of blind persons has no parallel. He established the benchmark.

Remember and consider the ground-breaking philosophy of blindness on which he built the Iowa program--a philosophy which was at first viewed with great skepticism. What philosophy? That the average blind person can do the average job in the average place of business; that the real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight, but lies in the public's misconceptions and misunderstandings about blindness; that properly understood, blindness can be reduced to the level of a physical nuisance; that blind people can and must organize and speak for themselves. This philosophy of blindness was a complete reversal of all the notions that had prevailed for all the previous centuries of mankind's history. It took a great teacher, a super salesman, a true believer to sell these concepts to blind people themselves and to the public at large.

Remember and consider the tremendous operational changes by means of which Kenneth Jernigan put this philosophy into practice. In 1958 the situation for the blind in Iowa (which was only a reflection of the picture world-wide) was extremely bleak. The Commission consisted of only a small staff housed in a few small rooms in an old school building shared with several other agencies of state government. One home teacher and two counselors covered the entire state. There were no training programs, and no Iowa library for the blind. The Commission listed 10 blind Iowans as being rehabilitated that year and noted that it was helping four students in college. If this wasn't the worst blindness agency in the country, it wasn't far from it.

Then came the changes. Remember and consider how fast they came. It took endless meetings with Legislators, the Governor, civic leaders and service organizations. By early 1960, Jernigan had moved this agency into the seven-story building which had once served as a YMCA. He also had funds committed for the restoration and remodeling which would transform it into a model rehabilitation facility. In quick order it was to house a complete rehabilitation program, a residential Orientation and Adjustment Center for blind adults, and the largest library for the blind in the world. Without even waiting for remodeling to begin, Jernigan had convinced the Library of Congress to designate the agency as a regional library for the blind and physically handicapped. That library, which to this day is the envy of other such libraries, was soon up and running. In short order, graduates of the Center and other blind Iowans were going off to colleges, technical schools, and other training programs. And best of all, the numbers of blind Iowans taking their places in competitive employment began to rise year after year. Blind Iowans were becoming teachers, cooks, lawyers, janitors, salesmen, engineers, mechanics ... Blind Iowans were entering that wide range of occupations to which the philosophy had given promise- "The average blind person can do the average job in the average place of business."

Many Iowans remember with pride the day in 1968 -10 years after the beginning- when Kenneth Jernigan received a presidential citation from Lyndon Johnson in recognition of the tremendous success of the Iowa program. Two statistics tell the story. In 1958 ten blind persons were rehabilitated; in 1968 the number was ten times that many. When Jernigan first came to Iowa, four blind Iowans were in college; ten years later nearly 100 were engaged in higher education.

The Commission for the Blind program under the direction of Kenneth Jernigan continued on its innovative and winning ways. Not only was its impact strongly felt in Iowa, but its influence began to spread. Blind Iowans moved out across the country carrying the Iowa experience with them. They helped establish new programs in other states and to give new life to existing services. To this day, many of the leaders of the organized blind movement, as well as administrators, teachers, and counselors in public and private programs come from the ranks of former students and followers of Kenneth Jernigan in Iowa.

After Jernigan left Iowa in 1978, he devoted the rest of his life to the National Federation of the Blind, where he was instrumental in a long series of achievements in the national arena. Throughout his life he received many more honors and awards. To those of us in Iowa, however, the fact that he developed this Commission for the Blind, which contributed so much to the well-being of so many blind Iowans may be his most enduring monument.

We remember. We are grateful.

Postscript: Long White Cane

In 1958, Kenneth Jernigan brought a long white cane with him to Iowa. He promoted its use, and during his early years in Iowa, he taught us to use it. The long white cane has become the most widespread and lasting symbol of the independence Kenneth Jernigan personified.

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Kenneth Jernigan was a prolific and outstanding writer, editor and speaker on subjects related to blindness. The Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped has a wide variety of his articles, speeches and books in its collection.

One of the series Jernigan edited is the Kernel Series--collections of essays by blind persons on a variety of topics related to blindness and life. These collections emphasize the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind, which states that it is respectable to be blind, and that the average blind person can do the average job in the average work place provided he or she has appropriate training and opportunity. The Kernel Books are available in large print, on tape, and in Braille. Titles include Beginnings and Blueprints, The Freedom Bell, and As the Twig is Bent.

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In September of 1998, the three member Iowa Commission for the Blind approved a year 2000 budget request calling for an additional $250,280 and four full time staff positions to meet the ever expanding need for services to Iowa's older blind. The following excerpts from the budget outlines the issue:

Description: As Iowa's population ages, the Iowa Department for the Blind no longer has sufficient resources to provide essential services to older Iowans who are blind. The total number of referrals to the Department grew from 582 in 1981 to 1,343 in 1997. Older Iowans who are blind make up the largest portion of this increase, from 56.5 percent in 1981 to 78.5 percent in 1997. Given the state's aging population and the prevalence of age-related vision loss in this group, the number of referrals will continue to grow.

In order to maintain their independence and avoid the use of costly ongoing state services, older individuals who are blind need intensive training in such skills and techniques of blindness as travel with the long white cane, Braille, communications, and home management. Through the addition of four rehabilitation specialists, the Department can insure that all referrals will receive a proper response and that those who need blindness training will get it. Unfortunately, no resources are available to cover the cost of these time-intensive services, and efforts to secure funding at the federal level have been unsuccessful.

Policy/Program Impact: Without rehabilitation services, older blind Iowans face unnecessary institutionalization. The Department is being forced to make a difficult choice: either respond to all new referrals with only cursory services or provide meaningful services to only one-half of these newly blinded individuals. In either case, older Iowans who are blind will become more dependent and require expensive institutionalization or support services.

Fiscal Impact: An additional $250,280 is required to cover the cost of four new FTEs. No federal funding is available for this effort.

Column Chart: Agency Referrals
Light gray column indicates 582 in 1981
Dark gray column indicates 1,343 in 1997

Two Pie Charts:

First chart indicates 1981 Referrals,
44 Percent Under Age 65 (light gray)
56 Percent Over Age 65 (dark gray)

Second chart indicates 1997 Referrals,
22 Percent Under Age 65 (light gray)
78 Percent Over Age 65 (dark gray)

Governor Vilsack recommended $125,140 and two full time staff positions. The Iowa Legislature is in the final stages of work on an appropriations bill, which reflects the Governor's recommendation.

This additional money and two full time positions should be helpful in assisting the department to meet its obligations to this older blind population.

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On Friday evening, October 16, 1998, the Director and several staff members were present at the Annual Awards Banquet held by the Iowa Commission of Persons with Disabilities. The Iowa Department for the Blind was selected to receive the 1998 Media Award from the Commission for production and distribution of its newest public relations video entitled "Making a Difference." Then Governor Terry Branstad presented the award to Director Creig Slayton who accepted on behalf of the Department for the Blind with special thanks to Orientation Center staff member Dave Hauge who organized and oversaw the team producing the video.

This 25-minute color video is available on loan for program presentations before civic groups, care centers, and the like. The video, featuring recent Orientation Center students, shows blind persons learning the techniques and skills of blindness, but more importantly, developing positive attitudes about themselves as individuals who happen to be blind.

If you wish to borrow "Making a Difference," please contact Carolyn Hicklin at the Iowa Department for the Blind at 800-362-2587 or 515-281-1337.


Angie Cardwell is one of hundreds of blind Iowans working for private employers in Iowa. The job she has held at NHCD Insurance Company in Sioux City for the past three-and-a-half years requires her to use a computer. In her role as telemarketer, Angie uses one database to locate prospects and another to record information. Angie also is responsible for printing lists of prospects for other telemarketers in her department. Because she can't see the computer screen, Angie uses a screen reader attached to her standard computer which reads the screen using synthesized speech. Angie and her employer have relied on the Iowa Department for the Blind for the technical assistance, training and job accommodations that Angie needs. The accommodations aren't a big deal, says Laurie Merryman, Assistive Technology Instructor for the Department, but they are critical to Angie's success. In Angie's case, the CD-Rom-based database of phone numbers she needs to use doesn't work well with her screen reader. A little innovation was required to find a way for Angie to get the information she needs quickly and efficiently. All it took, Laurie says, was a small program which lets Angie search the database and copy the records she needs to another more speech-friendly program where she can read the information and add the results of her work.

Angie and NHCD are only one of hundreds of Iowa worker/employer combinations the Department is helping support through training, technical assistance and job accommodation. A blind person can use a computer to perform almost any job, but because of the imperfections in computer programming screen readers don't always work right out of the box.

To respond to the need for training, assistance and accommodations for Iowa's working blind, the Department has developed an intensive program in assistive technology which has three major areas of emphasis: training, accommodation, and accessible design.

Because a blind person cannot use a mouse, she has to learn other ways to operate a standard computer. The Department's Project ASSIST with Windows is developing training materials and providing hands-on training which teaches a keyboard-only approach to operating a computer in the Windows environment. This approach works very well, but it takes a lot more learning than using a mouse does. Project ASSIST with Windows is funded by a federal grant from the Department of Education. The funding runs out this Fall, but a search is underway for additional sources to keep it going.

The training provided includes an assistive technology instructor who visits people on their work sites and teaches them how to operate the programs the employer wants them to use. For standard programs such as Microsoft Word and Excel, training materials have also been developed that a person can study on his own.

The second part of this three-part equation is accommodation. Often programs developed for use within a company or by independent programmers, such as Angie's telephone database, don't work very well with speech. Because of technical issues, the screen reader just can't read everything that's on the screen. Sometimes you can work around the problem, and sometimes you have to find another way to get the job done. In Angie's case, a simple alternative was the best solution. And now that Angie's employer is moving from DOS to a Windows environment, Angie's original accommodations need to be updated. The Department is working with Angie and her employer to make these additional changes.

The Department has two full time professionals who work with employers and employees on the job to find solutions to computer issues.

The Department is also working hard to impact the area of accessible design for web pages. Some web pages are easy to read using a screen reader, but others are very difficult. The difference lies in the way the web pages were designed. The Department is working with the Iowa Project for Assistive Technology to disseminate information to Iowa's colleges, universities, and government web site developers explaining how to make web pages easy to read for blind people. This effort will help both blind and visually impaired Iowans using the Internet, as well as anyone with a slow connection to the web, or a text-only browser. Accessible web design, says Shan Sasser, the Department's own web master, is primarily a case of following the standards built into HTML 4.0.

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Department staff and a Commission for the Blind member were honored in December by outgoing Governor Terry E. Branstad for their distinguished service to the Department.

Marian Williams who has served on the Commission since 1993 was presented with a Certificate of Recognition for her work on behalf of the blind of Iowa. Williams will be stepping down from the Commission Board in April.

Catherine Ford, Program Administrator for the Library, and Karen Eis, a Library Associate responsible for cataloging, were each presented with awards for their 15 years of service at the Department.

Governor Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Joy Corning visited the Department at the December staff meeting to say goodbye and to receive the good wishes of Department staff. Branstad talked about his plans to teach at the University of Iowa and to do consulting work.

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Fifty of Iowa's disabled high school juniors and seniors will have the opportunity to take part in four days of activities designed to teach and strengthen leadership skills during a leadership forum this summer. Scheduled for August 2-5 on the Iowa State University campus in Ames, the first Iowa Leadership Forum for Disabled Youth will feature disabled adults in leadership roles, a Mentors Luncheon, an adaptive technology fair, and an opportunity to meet Governor Thomas J. Vilsack. In addition, topics such as joining clubs, completing resumes of outside activities, and how to become involved in and assume leadership roles in school, recreational and community activities will be discussed. Effective means for participating in the political system will also be covered.

The forum is a joint project by the Department for the Blind; the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Department of Education; and the Commission on Persons with Disabilities, Department of Human Rights.

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"The Business Enterprises Program (BEP) is one of the best-kept secrets around," says Kevin Bodtke, a manager in the Department's program. "I'm making a better living than I ever thought I could."

Bodtke has been participating in the BEP program since 1994. He had worked at other jobs before that, but he says he was not satisfied with his income or his level of independence. And now, after five years in the BEP, he has his own business and is his own boss. He is making enough to buy his own home and his wife is able to stay home with their children.

"It's been great for my self-esteem," he says. "When I first went blind 10 or 11 years ago, I had people tell me if I could go into a sheltered workshop somewhere, that would probably be as good as I could do. But now I look at what I have accomplished--growing my own business, employing people. It's been immeasurable for my self-esteem."

Bodtke attended the Orientation Center after high school,and then went on to receive a degree from the Des Moines Area Community College. He worked for two different employers before he decided to join BEP in 1994. One of the other vendors talked Bodtke into giving BEP a try. "He opened my eyes to what it really is--an opportunity for a blind person to own his own business and to rise above the norm."

After a year of training, he worked for another manager in the program for about six months and was then assigned his own location. Today he manages approximately 60 vending machines in six locations in Des Moines, including the Grimes Building, the Wallace Building, and four smaller satellite locations.

"I'm much more independent now," he says. "The BEP program has taught me to rely on myself much more than on other people. When I was working at my last job, I was heavily dependent on other people to assist me with my job because of certain technical limitations with the computer system."

Bodtke hires two employees and works about ten hours a day managing his business. "I set my own hours as long as I get the work done right and on time," he says. He relies on the business counselors at the Department for technical support and business counseling.

Asked whether he'd like to expand his business further, Bodtke says he's comfortable now. "I like to keep my hands on the work," he says. "If I get any bigger, I'll have to hire more people and do less hands-on work myself."

Bodtke is one of approximately 30 managers currently participating in the Business Enterprises Program at the Department.

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According to Roger Erpelding, Program Administrator for the Business Enterprises Program (BEP), opportunities exist for more qualified operators to manage BEP locations throughout the state. "It's an excellent training opportunity," he says. "You spend from six to eight months in training. People usually start in a small location, and then are promoted based on performance and experience. You have control of how hard you work and how much money you make," he says. "We're looking for people who love a challenge, would like to be their own bosses, and aren't afraid to work."

Applicants must be legally blind to qualify for the program and must be willing to relocate. "We also require good blindness skills," Erpelding says. "We prefer Orientation Center graduates." Good people skills, and work histories are also priorities.

Managers in the Business Enterprises Program manage cafeterias, vending facilities and roadside vending locations throughout the state.

For more information contact Roger Erpelding at 800-362-2587 or 515-281-1358.

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Lynne Paff, who served as a reader's advisor in the library for a number of years, has left the agency to accept a position at the Iowa Department of Public Safety. We wish Lynne luck in her new endeavors.

In December, Mark Edge joined the Orientation Center staff. After he has finished his training in the Orientation Center, he will assume a variety of duties including substitute teaching, taking students to speaking engagements and shopping, monitoring the dormitories, and working with students on housekeeping.

Mark is a native of Newton and is currently living in West Des Moines. He graduated from Iowa State University and worked in retail and at the Iowa Legislature before coming to the Department. Mark enjoys helping his parents with their Christmas tree farm.

Megen Cooney is our newest vocational rehabilitation counselor. Megen graduated from Iowa State University and has worked in the disability field in several capacities. She joined the Department in February. After she graduates from the Orientation Center training, she will be assigned a territory. Megen's whole family is very athletic. "Basketball is my love," she says. "I play in as many leagues as I can." She also enjoys roller-blading and biking. In the past few years, she has volunteered for the Special Olympics and the Iowa Games.

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On Saturday, March 6, several Orientation Center students and staff proudly joined more than 7,000 walkers in the Des Moines skywalk system to "walk to cure diabetes." The event, in its sixth year, was sponsored by the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International to raise money for research. The Des Moines walk was a huge success, raising over $1.2 million.

The Orientation Center's team consisted of 15 members. Each member's goal was to raise a minimum of $100 through sponsorships. Everyone met, and most exceeded, their goals. In total, over $2,000 was raised by the team representing the Iowa Department for the Blind. Much of the success of the team can be credited to the generous donations of the agency's staff.

Students became involved in this charitable event because they recognized how many Orientation Center students are affected by diabetes. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in Iowans of working age. It also causes heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, loss of limbs, and nerve damage. While diet and medication help to control the disease, no cure exists for the 146,000 Iowans affected by it. Students hope that their contribution will help researchers come a little bit closer to finding that cure.

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On Friday, February 26, 1999, Governor Tom Vilsack and Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson announced the establishment of the Iowa Business Leadership Network (BLN) to promote the employment of people with disabilities in the Iowa workforce.

"If we are to achieve our vision of a prosperous, healthy and productive Iowa, we need to help families and individuals knock down barriers to stable work and economic security," Vilsack said. "That means looking for ways we can utilize the diversity of skills that every Iowan has to offer."

The BLN is a national initiative led by business executives and created by the President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. Sears Credit Card Operations of West Des Moines will provide the leadership for this initiative by enlisting the participation of other businesses across the state. Sears will work with the Iowa Division of Persons with Disabilities, the Iowa Department for the Blind, and the Iowa Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services to move this program forward.

"BLN is an excellent example of an initiative that provides Iowans opportunities to succeed by creating partnerships between government, business, and communities." Pederson said. "A diverse workforce gives companies a competitive edge by enabling them to better meet the needs of their customers, successfully compete in the global marketplace, and hire from an expanded labor pool. More important, it is incumbent upon us to provide all Iowans the opportunity to succeed and prosper."

Although state unemployment numbers are low, unemployment of people with disabilities remains disproportionately high. The BLN hopes to increase their employment through a variety of programs for employers, including sponsoring business forums, creating mentoring programs for post-secondary students, encouraging recruitment at employment fairs, and providing internships and co-op work experiences.

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The Iowa Department for the Blind is collaborating with the Iowa Program for Assistive Technology (IPAT) based in Iowa City to promote accessible web design. Targeting Iowa's public institutions, the project will provide information to web masters explaining the need to make their web sites accessible to all persons regardless of disability. Tips, information and resources will be provided to enable web designers to implement accessibility features.

According to Shan Sasser, the Department's web master, if a designer follows the standard guidelines for HTML 4.0 developed by the World Wide Web Consortium, resulting web pages will be accessible to blind and disabled web users.

The project is jointly funded by IPAT and the Department and is focusing on Iowa?s public universities and community colleges along with state, city and county government, and libraries. In addition, the project will provide information to college programs in Iowa which teach web design and computer science. The project's goal is to improve the accessibility of web pages for all disabled Iowans.

If you would like a copy of materials prepared by the project, please contact Shan Sasser at 800-362-2587 or Jane Gay, IPAT Co-Director at 319-356-4463.

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You can get your phone bill in Braille if you are a U.S. West Customer. Call the U.S. West Special Needs Center at 800-223-3131 to make arrangements.

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The Iowa Radio Reading Information Service (IRIS) has expanded its services to reach more areas of Iowa. Now, says Sally Vander Linden, IRIS Director, if you can get either Iowa Public Television Channel 11 in central Iowa, or Channel 12 in eastern Iowa, you can hear IRIS between 8 and 10:30 a.m Monday through Friday. Programming during this time includes the New York Times from 8:00 to 9:00 and the front page, Metro, business, and Iowa sections of the Des Moines Register between 9:00 and 10:30.

The broadcast is carried on the secondary audio frequency of the public television station. Secondary audio programming (SAP) is a feature which is available as an option on stereo televisions and VCRs made later than 1995. Although some televisions and VCRs have a switch to activate SAP, turning it on often requires using the remote control and on-screen programming.

You'll see the regular program on the television screen, Vander Linden says, but you'll hear IRIS on the audio.

If your television isn't able to receive secondary audio programming, IRIS has separate receivers available. Using the SAP channel of public television stations will make IRIS available to people who live in areas where the full 24-hour programming isn't yet available.

For an explanation of secondary audio programming, see the following article.

Another expansion, Vander Linden says, includes cooperation with National Public Radio (NPR). IRIS will be using NPR's satellite link to transmit IRIS programming to other public radio stations throughout the state. As of May 1, IRIS programming will be available in the Iowa City area. Similar expansions in the Sioux City and Cedar Falls areas are planned later this year.

IRIS is a radio reading service operated primarily by volunteers which provides 24-hour programming for Iowans who cannot read standard print. To receive the 24-hour service in the Des Moines and Fort Dodge areas, you need a receiver provided by IRIS which is tuned to the subcarrier frequency for your area. You can't find IRIS broadcasts on a regular radio.

Everyday, volunteers read the Des Moines Register, the New York Times, and other national and regional newspapers and magazines. IRIS also carries some specialized programming of specific interest to blind and reading disabled persons.

Approximately 1,300 receivers are currently in use throughout Iowa, including 39 located in nursing homes and other residential facilities. Some hospitals, including Mercy Hospital in Des Moines and regional hospitals in Ames, Grinnell, Newton and Marshalltown make IRIS programming available to all patients on a channel of the television system.

For more information about IRIS, call Sally Vander Linden at 515-243-6833 or toll-free 877-404-4747.

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Has watching television become more frustrating than enjoyable because you can't tell what's going on in the show? Secondary audio programming (SAP) can bring television programs back into focus.

WHAT IS SAP? SAP is a separate audio frequency you can choose which carries an enhanced audio track for the program you're watching. The enhanced audio track is the original sound track for the program with a narrator's voice tucked into the quiet parts. The narrator explains the action and the visual content of the program. When nobody is talking, the narrator might say, for instance, "A young blond woman dressed in a shimmery blue evening gown enters the room and looks around with a worried expression." The narration is professionally done and does not interfere with the original sound track.

HOW DOES IT WORK? Most stereo televisions and VCRs manufactured in 1995 or later have SAP options. Although some televisions have a simple switch to change from the standard audio programming to the secondary audio programming, you often have to program SAP using the remote control and its on-screen programming features. Consult your user's manual for secondary audio programming directions. If your television can't receive secondary audio programming, you can purchase a stand-alone audio receiver which will pick up the secondary audio frequency from your public television station. SAP receivers range in price from $89 to $159 and are available from the following sources: Compol Inc. (pre-tuned) 800-972-0881, Avocet Instruments Inc. (pre-tuned) 800-443-0728, or FM Atlas (adjustable) 218-879-7676.

WHAT PROGRAMS HAVE SECONDARY AUDIO PROGRAMMING? Not all television programs have SAP available. Public television is currently the main source for secondary audio programming. Many of its documentary series, including the current series Africans in America, as well as weekly programming such as Nature, Mr. Rogers, the Book of Virtues, Mystery, the American Experience, and Masterpiece Theater have secondary audio programming. If you have the cable channel Turner Classic Movies, you can get secondary audio programming for approximately one movie each day. Contact your cable provider for details. For a listing of programs produced by public television and Turner Classic Movies which include secondary audio programming, call 800-333-1203. You can request quarterly program guides in Braille or large print. Schedules are also available on-line at or by calling 617-492-2777 ext. 3490.

Iowa Radio Reading Information Service (IRIS) is using the secondary audio programming signal for public television channels 11 and 12 to deliver two-and-a-half hours of newspaper reading throughout Iowa each weekday morning from 8:00 to 10:30.

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Vision loss shouldn't prevent you from keeping track of your own money. Here are some ideas to try out.

You can identify coins and paper money in a straightforward, uncomplicated way. Coins can be distinguished by their size and the texture of their edges. A dime is smaller than a penny and has a rough edge, while a penny's edge is smooth. A nickel is smaller than a quarter and has a smooth edge, while a quarter's edge is rough.

Although paper money can't be identified by touch, you can still keep track of what you have. Try folding each denomination differently. You might want to keep your $1 bills flat, fold your $5 bills in half, double fold your $10 bills, and fold your $20 bills lengthwise. You're the best judge of what system works best for you.

If you prefer to pay your bills and make the majority of your purchases by check, you can use a check writing guide to fill out a standard check, or you can have someone fill out the check for you. Sign your check using a signature guide. You may also be able to purchase checks with raised lines from your financial institution.

You can keep track of the checks you write in several ways. Braille is the most efficient way. An alternative is to use a large print check register available from the Department's Aids and Devices store. You can also call your bank to get your balance, obtain other information, and transact business. Choose the system in which you have the most confidence.

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On February 2, the Department invited Iowa Legislators to an "open house" in the legislative dining room on the ground floor of the Capitol Building. Orientation students prepared and served snacks, and Legislators were invited to meet staff and blind consumers, circulate among display tables, and learn about the Department's programs. Twenty-five Representatives, 22 Senators, and eight members of the Governor's staff attended the open house.

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Newsline for the Blind, an automated, telephone-based service which provides access to several daily newspapers, including the Des Moines Register, has expanded its coverage. Now if you live in Ames or Dubuque, you can call Newsline without paying long-distance fees. For more information, or to sign up for Newsline services, contact the Department?s toll-free number at 800-362-2587.

Newsline is a joint project of the Department and the National Federation of the Blind.

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If you have just lost some or all of your vision, you may feel that computer technology has the answers to most of the problems resulting from your diminished eyesight. "If I could just read the computer screen," you might say to yourself, "I could keep my old job or find a new one that doesn't require good vision."

If only it were that simple. Computer technology may solve some of the problems you encounter as a newly-blind person, but it won't solve all of them. In order to work competitively and live independently, you must also learn the blindness skills that will help you solve the problems you face both at home and on the job. The Department's Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center not only provides intensive training in these skills but also helps you develop the self-confidence you need to put them into practice.

Center students take classes in five major skill areas. These include home and personal management, industrial arts, cane travel, Braille, and of course, computer. Students learn nonvisual methods for cooking, cleaning, clothing care, shopping, and budgeting so they can take care of their own homes and get themselves ready for work. They learn travel with the long white cane so they can get to work, church, shopping, and anywhere else they need to go safely and independently. They learn Braille and computer so they can take notes and also communicate with their friends, families, and co-workers. They make a complex project with power tools so they can develop confidence in both themselves and the techniques they are learning. In a sixth class, they discuss the business of blindness and how to solve the problems they are encountering because of it. If you are unhappy with the changes that vision loss has made in your own life, give Center training a try. Take a tour or spend a day or two with us. It will be time well spent.

For more information, contact us at 800-362-2587.

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by Scott Van Gorp

All of us at one time or another have probably asked ourselves, Am I able to volunteer my time for something I believe in? I asked that question during this past summer, and the answer was "yes."

I am a college student, and wanted something to do for the summer. I spoke with Catherine Ford, Program Administrator for the Library, and we discussed several volunteer possibilities. The more I thought about it, the more I felt like this was my chance to give something back to the agency from whose staff and resources I had benefitted for so many years.

During the summer, I cleaned cassette machines, proofread hundreds of math and literary Braille pages, and made phone calls to recover cassette machines no longer in use. It was great to meet new staff members and to reconnect with people who had been there when I was a student in Orientation several years ago. My experiences as a volunteer weren't always rosy, but one thing is for sure: I wouldn't trade my volunteer experience for any internship.

This experience has shown me once again that blind people are capable of doing anything we want to accomplish. We just have to figure out how to get there.

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The Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) amount for blind persons in 1999 is $1,100 per month or $13,320 per year. This means that if you are working, you can continue to receive Social Security disability benefits as long as your gross monthly earnings are less than $1,100. This amount applies only if you are receiving Social Security disability benefits on the basis of blindness. A different set of guidelines applies if you are receiving Social Security disability benefits on the basis of any disability other than blindness, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Social Security Retirement benefits.

Medicare Part B premiums in 1999 are $45.50 per month. The deductible amount remains at $100.

Maximum SSI benefits for an individual in 1999 are $500 per month. If you are blind, you will also receive the $22 state supplement. Maximum benefits for a couple receiving SSI are $751 per month.

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Will the year 2000 date change affect your assistive technology? The answer is maybe--it depends on what you have. We researched several products and got the following answers.

Braille terminals, according to Blazie, Alva, and Humanware, have no date-related functions. So they should not have any problems with Year 2000.

Henter-Joyce says that versions of Jaws for Windows 3.0 or higher are Year 2000 compliant. Anyone with a serial number lower than 8000 will need to get a replacement authorization disk to avoid date conflicts related to Year 2000. Contact Henter-Joyce.

DecAccess software is Year 2000 compliant. If you have a DecTalk Express or DecTalk PC, you need a software version 4.2C or higher to avoid Y2K problems. Upgrades are free and can be obtained at

Artic Technologies says that Magnum 2000, BusinessVision and WinVision are all Y2K compliant. They don't use dates, so no problem. All of Artic Technologies' hardware products, with the sole exception of TransBook (which is discontinued), have been designed to be Year 2000 Compliant.

G. W. Micro says: "Vocal-Eyes 3.0, Window-Eyes 3.0, Sounding Board, and the Speak-Out speech synthesizers are Y2K compliant and beyond. The software products (Window-Eyes, and Vocal-Eyes) are not date dependant and therefore have no date calculations. The Speak-Out and Sounding Board synthesizers do have date calculations, however, Y2K issues were taken into account during their development, and consequently, they are compliant."

If you have questions about your screen reader or synthesizer, contact the manufacturer.

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WordPerfect 5.1 has been a true friend for many of us blind computer users. Reliable, accessible and fast, it is the word processor of choice for this editor. How will the year 2000 date issues impact this trusty old friend?

According to Corel, the company which now owns WordPerfect products, WordPerfect 5.1 does have some date-sensitive issues users should be aware of. Corel points out that WordPerfect 5.1 takes all of its dates from the operating system's date. So whatever date you see when you type "date" at the DOS prompt is the date WordPerfect uses. DOS allows dates from January 1, 1980 through December 31, 2099. Dates before 1980 or after 2099 are invalid, and you can't set the operating system date outside this range. DOS permits you to enter a two-digit year when setting the date for the years 1980 through 1999. For all other years in the allowable range, from 2000 through 2099, you must enter a four-digit year. Best practice is to train yourself to enter a four-digit year whenever you enter a date. The syntax for entering the date at the DOS Prompt is mm/dd/yyyy enter.

Corel lists the following uses of dates in WordPerfect 5.1: date-stamping files; entering the current date into the text, or placing a date code in the document; and document creation and revision dates found in the document summary. All of these features use the operating system date. Therefore, if your operating system date is set correctly, WordPerfect 5.1 should handle dates without any problems.

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WHITE CANE UPDATE is published by the Iowa Department for the Blind. Please direct questions and suggestions to the Iowa Department for the Blind, 524 Fourth Street, Des Moines, IA 50309-2364, 515-281-1333.