Banner: Iowa Department for the Blind


DECEMBER, 1996 - VOL. 16, #2

'Twas the month before Christmas and all through the place were the greetings and smiles on each friendly face.

The students were gathered in Braille room and home ec to create holiday festive from sixth floor to rec.

First an outing to Murphy's to cut our own tree-- then to Southridge mall for a big shopping spree.

We gathered and added each name to a list to make sure at our party no one would be missed.

Now our holiday season is full of good cheer as we wish you, one and all, a most happy new year!

Welcome! Welcome!

The Orientation center staff and I would like to welcome a new member to our team. Some of you had an opportunity to meet her at orientation alumni day in October. Sherri Dejoode joined us on August 19 and will be performing the duties of a newly created orientation position, that of rehabilitation aide. She will be participating in a wide variety of duties, from housekeeping and monitoring fifth and sixth floors, to facilitating speaking engagements with students in the community, to working with students in such areas as grooming, shopping, and cleaning. Her sense of humor, good judgment, and willingness to work hard have already made her an indispensable part of the Orientation Center's program. Sandy Tigges


Thank you Sandy for the introduction. As Sandy mentioned, I am the newly appointed Rehabilitation Aide. My background is in social work, for which I received a degree from Iowa State University (Go Cyclones!!!).

Originally, I'm from a small town in northwest Iowa, but have lived in Des Moines for over a year. Before coming to the Department I was a residential counselor at Link Associates and a home manager at Martin Luther homes. I have spent three months training in the orientation center, and am now officially starting my position. Or, as Cip said, "they cut me loose!" I've had a tremendous experience so far, and look forward to continuing the trend. Sherri Dejoode

Alumni Day

The 1996 Alumni Day was, as always, chock full of good food, congenial company, and a flurry of activity. From the 75 people who attended the luncheon on second floor, to the 180 who attended the evening's banquet in the assembly room (not to mention those folks who just stopped by sometime during the course of the day) the steady hum of voices renewing old friendships and making new acquaintances could be heard throughout the building.

A lull came in mid-afternoon while people gathered in Lucy's area on second floor to view the first showing of the Orientation Center's new video, "Making A Difference". The room was packed and the video was well received. After its showing, Creig Slayton announced that individual copies would be made available for sale. Copies of the video can now be purchased for $5.00 through Aids and Appliances.

People had a great time dancing at the Marriott (how many times can you do the maccarina?!), then said good-bye and made their way home as another alumni day came to a close.

A Chance to Serve

It was about 30 years ago that I became a student at the Adult Orientation Center in Des Moines. I was just a fresh-faced kid out of the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School who thought he had all the answers and didn't need to learn anything else. After all, I was 18, and when you're 18 you know practically everything---right?

I remember the first day as a student. The first person I met was Manuel Urena, then the Director of Orientation. Remember him? Well, for those who do not, Manuel was one who really made you face yourself and think. I learned a lot about this kid who thought he knew it all. Principally, I learned that I didn't know as much as I thought I did (great shock), and I also learned that I wasn't as confident about my blindness--although I'd been blind since birth-- as I thought I was. Take cane travel for instance. Witte got me out there on "home block" between 4th and 5th on grand. This huge truck came roaring by and I immediately made for the safety of the building!! "He's out in the street," Witte said. "keep going." That's not what I had in mind, but I figured I'd better do what he said anyway, albeit reluctantly.

Just to give you a flavor of what it was like back then (I sound like an old codger, don't I?), when you came into the orientation area on third floor, immediately on your right after you entered the fire door was Manuel's office. On down the hall was Pauline Carmody's office. The typing room was on the left and then the Braille room. Then I think Mabel had an office in the corner past the Braille room. Ramona's office was next followed by an office for Mary Ellen Anderson (now Jernigan). On second floor was home economics, which was totally different than it is now. The rec room was there (minus carpet, paneling and the fine furniture the students now enjoy). Of course, Witte held court in the "log cabin" room. The shop was still where it is now but Don Black was teaching at that time.

Well, things have changed considerably as far as the physical plant is concerned. But one thing has not changed, and that is the positive philosophy of blindness brought to Iowa in 1958 by Dr. Jernigan. That's the philosophy which says it's okay to be blind and that with training and opportunity, a blind person can perform the average job in the average place of business as well as, or better than his sighted neighbor. Business class is held five days a week where this philosophy is discussed and where students are encouraged to discuss their concerns and ask questions.

So what about this fresh-faced kid of 30 years ago? Well, after several years in the Business Enterprises Program (BEP), and after several years of successful employment with Norwest Corporation, I'm now employed as an Assistive Technology Analyst (one of two) under a 3-year federal grant here at the Department. Along with Shan Sasser, Documentation Specialist, Laurie Merryman, Assistive Technology Instructor, and Lisa Gard, Assistive Technology Analyst, we will be looking at various windows screen reading programs and developing tutorials for eight different Microsoft applications. The purpose is so that when an employed blind person finds him/herself faced with the dilemma of having to learn Windows in order to keep their job, tools will be available for them in order for that to happen.

It's a good feeling. For years, I've been a client of this agency, always on the receiving end. Now I'm on the giving end and it makes me feel good. I'm proud of our agency, and I'm excited that we're doing our dead level best to stay on the cutting edge of technology so that blind persons won't be left behind in the job market, but will instead be able to keep up with their sighted peers. That's the way it should be.

So although some things have changed over the years, our goal of promoting independence for blind individuals has not changed and I trust it never will. Mike Barber


It's getting close to December 20th and my last day as a student at the Department for the Blind. I look back at all the things I was able to do here to prepare me for the outside world as a blind individual. At the Center we say a class is a class and everything we do from learning Braille to camping and rafting proves that. On December 3rd we went to Murphy's tree farm to choose and cut down our own Christmas tree, even with the cold and the ride in the wagon pulled by a tractor, standing up , over rough hill and dale we laughed and had great time. After a couple of the guys dragged our tree up the hill it was back to the Center to decorate. The fun thing was everyone is involved and you can't help but want to be, we have a beautiful Christmas tree and decorations in the recreation room now to have our soup supper with that evening.

The next day we're at classes as usual but with anticipation for December 5th to go shopping. We are going to go to the Amanas and Williamsburg. No, maybe not, the weather was to bad to travel out of town. We just turn to plan B, and decide to hit the South ridge mall, Garfields for lunch and Valley Junction for more shopping before we head back to the Center. It was a great time, we can split up or go with another if we choose. The fun is sharing all we have done with everyone else and how we did it the same as always, differently.


The Holiday Season is a time of sharing joy with family and friends and Lucy Bagley, you have been both. As you approach your retirement date of December 31, 1996, we share your anticipation and joy. Your cheerful and gracious presence will be missed both by those here at the Department and those who call in for orders. Just remember that the coffee is on in Home Ec. so don't be a stranger. Enjoy your retirement. We wish you and Don good health for many years to come. Mary Clarke

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