Banner: Iowa Department for the Blind

White Cane Update

Summer 2000

Published and Distributed by the IOWA DEPARTMENT FOR THE BLIND

R. Creig Slayton, Director
Karen Keninger, Editor

Members of the Commission:
Robert Martin, Davenport
Julie Scurr, Mt. Pleasant
John Wellman, Des Moines

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.

* The Department Celebrates 75 Years of Service to Blind Iowans.
* Keo Way Changes its Name.
* National Braille Association Conference in Des Moines.
* A Step in the Right Direction.
* Record Number of Jobs Attained.
* Library Equipment Audit.
* Kudos, Honors and Awards.
* New Display of Braille Devices.
* Mary Peckham, a Blind Iowan’s Story.
* Magazine News.
* Project ASSIST Store Goes On-line.
* New Cassette Machine Repair Program.
* The Toolbox - What's for Dinner?
* A Visitor from Vietnam.
* New Gadgets and Gizmos.
* Summer Reading Club 2000.
* Comings and Goings.

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The Department Celebrates 75 Years of Service to Blind Iowans

This year, we celebrate the Department’s diamond anniversary. The Department has been providing services to blind Iowans since it was established on April 1, 1925. We have been marking this milestone in our history through both our annual events and special activities.

The displays at this year’s annual Legislative Open House used the anniversary theme. Legislators and other attendees could see an exhibit depicting the evolution of the white cane and a photographic history of some of the jobs blind persons have been performing over the past 40 years. They also enjoyed refreshments Orientation Center students made from Oreos, Fruit Rollups, and other foods that have come on the market since 1900. A dip made with Spam, which was first produced in 1934, was particularly tasty. We were especially pleased to have Governor Tom Vilsack stop by and visit at length with Department staff and consumers.

The celebration continued on April 13, when approximately 400 guests attended Public Education Day at the Department. Employers, community service providers, librarians, educators, and others learned about the Department’s positive approach to blindness and the services available to blind Iowans. Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson was also able to attend. Guests could watch a video about the Orientation Center, tour the building, view an historical exhibit of Braille-writing and travel aids, look at displays about Department services and blind and deaf-blind organizations, try out some blindness techniques for themselves, and meet Department staff and consumers. They could also attend a program hosted by Director Creig Slayton, which highlighted three blind consumers and the positive effect Department services have had on their lives. The event was publicized through a feature article in the Des Moines Register and an interview on WOI radio in Ames.

While the April 13 event focused on educating the public about blindness, the accomplishments of blind Iowans and the Department’s history will be celebrated on Consumer Day, which will be held in conjunction with Orientation Alumni Day on October 7. Festivities will begin at 11:00 a.m. with a buffet luncheon. Afternoon programs will highlight the Department’s fascinating history and the achievements of blind Iowans. A formal banquet will take place at 6:00 p.m., with a dance to follow at the Marriott Hotel.

The final celebration will take place on October 26, 27, and 28, when the Department will host a Pre-Vocational and Vocational Conference for orientation centers from around the country. Participants will have an opportunity to learn about the unique and successful approach to providing services to blind persons that is used both by the Orientation Center and the Department as a whole. Issues like the use of sleep shades, dealing with special-needs students, and the role of centers in job placement will be discussed. Instructors will also have a chance to swap teaching tips with their counterparts in other states.

The positive effect the Department’s services have had on the lives of blind Iowans is apparent throughout the state. Blind persons can be seen living active, independent, and successful lives, whether at work, at home, or in the community. The Department is committed to continuing this trend as we move into our next 75 years of service to blind Iowans.

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KEO Way Changes its Name

The portion of Keosauqua Way which runs along the north side of the Department’s building has had a name change. As of August first, the portion of Keosauqua Way between 7th Street on the west and Grand Avenue on the east has been changed to Watson Powell Jr. Way. This name change honors the long-time Chair and CEO of American Republic Insurance Company which is located on the corner of 6th Avenue and Watson Powell Jr. Way. Mr. Powell, who passed away in January of this year, was active in Des Moines civic affairs throughout his life.

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National Braille Association Conference in Des Moines

Des Moines, Iowa, was, for the very first time, the chosen site for the National Braille Association’s Regional Spring Conference. The Department for the Blind hosted the Conference’s opening event, a tour for 33 attendees. The tour itinerary took guests throughout the building, where they met and conversed with Orientation Center students and agency staff, and compared the programs for blind persons from their states and locales to Iowa’s approach. Iowa was envied for many features: our comprehensive effort that benefits consumers; the Orientation Center, especially for its emphasis on Braille as well as other communication skills; the value we place on volunteers and their expertise and contributions, particularly to library services; the success of blind Iowans in meeting career and life goals; and our well-maintained Department building.

Two and one-half days of focused, intense study of Braille codes and production methods in 22 workshops followed the tour. Topics ranged from transcription of standardized test materials to methods for producing tactile graphics to sessions on both translation and direct-entry software programs. The presentations were of the highest caliber--it was beneficial for many of our 44 volunteer Braillists and for staff who were able to attend.

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A Step in the Right Direction

By Jessica Hosier

The beginning of my junior year was supposed to be an exciting and thrilling time. The previous year I had been accepted into the School of Social Work and I was looking forward to finally starting what I considered to be my "real" classes. However, events that were out of my control lead me in another direction.

Within the first week of school I noticed a drastic change in the amount of usable vision in my right eye. The central vision in my right eye was completely gone. The doctors were less then helpful. Instead of relieving my fears, they listed off twenty different diseases that could be causing this sudden loss. I was scared. After two weeks of debating what could be causing this, they finally decided that it was due to inflammation resulting from an earlier laser surgery. Medication was all that was needed. A collective sigh went up from everyone who knew what was going on, but I wasn’t satisfied. I was left physically shaken, mentally out of control, and with my self confidence at an all time low. I decided to drop out of school and take some time to pull myself together.

Then out of the blue it hit me. The Iowa Department for the Blind was financing my education. Obviously I had somewhere to turn for the help I needed. The Department presented the perfect opportunity not only to learn the skills and alternative techniques I realized I needed to be a competitive student, but also a place to adjust mentally and emotionally to this new development.

After coming to the Center for a tour, chatting with current students, and talking with Sandy Tigges and my counselor it seemed perfectly clear that the Department offered a variety of classes to make me an independent consumer. The Center also had a strong support system to help me emotionally while I learned.

The Department offers five classes that every student must participate in: home economics, communications, cane travel, shop, and business class. Each class last two hours a day except for business, which is only an hour each day. Each student enters when he or she is ready, and each moves at his/her individual pace.

I began my day with home economics. The whole cooking thing was new for me, since cooking a box of Rice-a-Roni had always been a challenge. However, through practice on my part and patience on the instructor’s part, I learned to cook. Mary, the instructor, showed me alternative techniques for measuring, baking, and cleaning up. By the time I was done, I had cooked a seven course meal for 30 people. Imagine that!

Traveling onward through my day I then went to communications. I began this class by learning Braille. This was an important step for me, because I was used to reading everything visually. Losing my ability to read had been a devastating blow. I put a lot of time and effort into learning Braille, so that I would be able to continue reading for school and fun. Within three months I had finished Braille and went on to learn JAWS on the computer. JAWS stands for Job Access With Speech. JAWS is a computer program that reads everything on the screen. I would no longer have to spend hour upon hour staring at screens that I couldn’t see.

My next class was travel. This was a little nerve-wracking to begin with. Trusting a cane to see for me was frightening at first, but with practice and the learning of the proper techniques I was able to get around quite well. Not only did I learn the building, but I even traveled the downtown area of Des Moines. I sometimes got around better with my sleep shades traveling in the downtown area then I did without them. The big thing everyone tries to accomplish in travel is a five mile walk. It rained on me, I lost my cane tip, I got lost, and it took me four hours to finish, but I have never felt better about something I accomplished.

My last class of the day was shop. Shop class terrified me. Working with big machines, some that could potentially take off a finger if not used correctly seemed an insane idea for anyone to do with sleep shades on. However, with a very patient instructor and the willingness to learn I conquered this fear. By the time I was getting ready to graduate and leave the program, shop had become my favorite class. I got a thrill out of knowing the name of each tool and how to use it properly. Shop class gave me back a lot of the self confidence I had lost while at school.

The last class was business. In this class we discussed blindness and the misconceptions, assumptions, attitudes, and the knowledge of blindness in general that most people have. We discussed how we, as people who are blind, could deal with our own misconceptions and help dispel those of the people around us. Business class was probably the most helpful class. I began to see that my blindness is nothing to be embarrassed of or keep hidden. Blindness is a trait that I possess, and it’s just a small part of a larger whole. Finally being able to admit that I am blind was a step in recognizing my whole self. No longer would I have to deny this little part of me that kept me from fully knowing myself. I could embrace and love my whole being for what and who I am.

In the Fall I will return to the University of Iowa and finish my degree with confidence that I can succeed in my chosen career.

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Record Number of Jobs Attained

The past year has been outstanding for vocational rehabilitation job placements for blind Iowans. Field teams have exceeded goals in almost every area. The result is more blind Iowans working in all kinds of jobs and earning competitive wages. Some of these jobs include:

Administrative Assistant
Artist (Arts and Crafts)
Assembler, Printed Products
Assembler, Small Parts
Assistive Technology Clerk
BEP Manager
Cafeteria Worker
Car Wash Attendant
Case Management Specialist
Cashier - Fast Food
Cement Finisher
Cleaner (Institutional)
College Teacher Aide
Computer Analyst
County Attorney
Custodian - Institutional Cleaner
Customer Service Representative - 4
Customer Service Representative/Teacher
Customer Service Clerk
Data Clerk
Day Care Owner/Operator
Elementary Teacher
Elementary Teacher of Technology
Faculty Member
Family Counselor
Farmer, General
Fast Food Worker
Financial Planner
Financial Aid Counselor
Food Service Worker
General Clerk
Grocery Store Clerk
Hand Packager
Hand Riveter
Home Day Care Provider
Independent Living Specialist
Insurance Agent
Itinerant Teacher of Blind
Kitchen Helper
Laundry Laborer
Lawn Care
Librarian (Public Library)
Limousine Business Owner
Livestock Rancher
Machine Operator
Manager, Credit and Collection
Manager, Retail
Manager, Distribution Warehouse
Medical Billing Clerk
Music Teacher
Music Instructor
Musician/Studio Recording Tech
Musician (Instrumental)
Naturalist Educator
Network Control Operator
Newspaper Carrier
Nurse Technician
Office Helper
Office Manager
Orientation Teacher
Plant Manager
Program Planner
Proof Machine Operator/Supervisor
Research Investigator
Retail Sales Clerk
Retail Salesperson
Sales Person - Cars
Sales Representative - Electronic Parts
Sales Associate
Sales Promotion Manager
Sales Person - Cosmetics
Seed Tech
Sheltered Workshop
Shipping/Receiving Clerk
Social Worker
Stock Clerk
Systems Analyst
Tax Preparer
United Methodist Pastor
Upholsterer (Self Employed)
Vending Facility Clerk
Vending Facility Operator
Voice Teacher/Soloist
Volunteer Coordinator/Program Assistant
Woodworker/Rug Weaver
Youth Worker - House Parent

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Library Equipment Audit

We anticipate an audit of our equipment records sometime within the coming year. If you have borrowed any equipment from us which you are not using for library service, please return it to the Library. Call Niels Andersen or Pat Kokke if you need mailing labels or packing instructions. Remember, too, that cassette machines, record players, or their attachments can be returned to us under the free-matter mailing privilege. We appreciate your efforts in this regard.

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Kudos, Honors and Awards

Jessica Hosier, a student and intern in the Orientation Center for the past year, won a scholarship worth $5,500 at this year’s annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Atlanta. Jessica plans to apply her scholarship to the completion of her degree in Social Work at the University of Iowa.

During College Day this spring, 26 students received certificates of academic achievement for achieving grade point averages of 3.5 or above in their college studies.

Tai Tran a student in the Orientation Center last year, received the Chuck Wood independent living award at the 1999 Iowa Rehabilitation Association (IRA) Conference.

The Iowa Department for the Blind could not do the work it does without its large contingent of volunteers throughout the state. These volunteers donate hours and hours of personal time, commitment and talent to various activities which enhance the lives of blind Iowans.

Every year the Governor honors Iowa’s volunteers at ceremonies throughout the state, and as usual, volunteers who work for the Department were well represented at all of these ceremonies. This past year those honored were:

Ottumwa Ceremony, 10/1/99

    Ruth Ferdig, Ottumwa
    Lila Fisher, Ottumwa

Cedar Rapids Ceremony, 10/1/99

    Carol Macon, Iowa City
    Tom Nutt, Cedar Rapids
    Avonell Rutherford, Iowa City
    Teresa A. Wakefield, Waterloo

Sheldon Ceremony, 10/8/99

    Marvin De Young, Sioux Center
    Edna Fletcher, Emmetsburg

Camp Dodge Ceremony, 10/14/99

    Rod Brink, Ames
    Dorothy Cocking, Des Moines
    Gregg Durlam, Ankeny
    Roy Kenagy, Windsor Heights
    O. Gene Maddox, Clive
    Patrick McNulty, Des Moines
    Patricia Moren, Des Moines
    LeRoy Newton, Grimes
    Mary Ann Nielsen, Johnston
    Eileen Poch, Atlantic
    Harold Poch, Atlantic
    John N. Taylor, Des Moines
    Frances Thayer, Urbandale
    Harlan Watson, Des Moines
    Nancy Wente, Urbandale

Eldora Ceremony 10/15/99

    Ralph Bender, Marshalltown
    Matteo A. Cardella, Ames
    Nancy Tjaden, Jewell

Carroll Ceremony, 10/21/99

    Delphine Shives, Denison

Council Bluffs Ceremony, 10/28/99

    Patsy Doebelin, Council Bluffs
    Wyman Howard, Council Bluffs

Davenport Ceremony, 10/29/99

    Calvin Crail, Fort Madison
    Gloria Crail, Fort Madison
    Mary Durante, Fort Madison

Dubuque Ceremony, 10/29/99

    Helen Poppe, Strawberry Point

Return to Index.

New Display of Braille Devices

Braille is one of the most significant tools which allow blind people to compete with their sighted peers. Comparable to print in its detail and function, Braille provides the only true means of literacy for blind people.

To recognize the history and contribution of Braille to the lives of blind Iowans, the Department has designed and constructed a display of tactile reading and writing systems. Housed near the assembly room at the Department in beautiful wood and glass display cases constructed by our maintenance crew, the collection covers the spectrum of tactile reading and writing systems used in Iowa over the past 150 years.

The display is a combination of items contributed by the Department and by Mary Peckham of Corning. Louise Duvall and Alan Ackley scoured the corners of the building to locate the Department’s contributions to the display. Cynthia Qloud and Jessica Hosier researched the history of the various items.

The tactile systems represented in the display include a form of embossed print, New York Point, American Braille, and modern Braille. New York Point, developed in the late 1800s, uses two horizontal rows of dots to complete a cell. Cells range in width from one to four dots. American Braille, in use in the early 1900s, uses the familiar six-dot cell, but dot combinations differ from the ones we use today.

The display also includes an amazing variety of Braille slates, many of which are on loan to the Department from the collection of Mary Peckham of Corning, Iowa. Mrs. Peckham’s contributions include slates made in Japan, Germany, France, England, and Austria as well as many from American manufacturers. Interpoint, interline, upward-writing, pocket, board, card, micro-Braille, jumbo-Braille, and open-backed Brown or math slates meet the needs of Braille readers and writers around the world. Specialized slates for marking playing cards and cassette labels are also represented.

The evolution of the Braillewriter is well represented by 15 different models of machines designed to write Braille and/or New York Point.

The collection also includes several talking book machines, including the original 1930s model and the most recent combination cassette and record player. A TeleTouch, an Optacon, and a Taylor Math Slate add variety to the display.

This collection will be on display through October, after which Mrs. Peckham’s portion of the display will return to Corning.

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Mary Peckham, A Blind Iowan's Story

In February of this year, Mary Peckham of Corning, Iowa, graciously loaned her collection of Braille slates, styluses and Braille writers to the Department for its anniversary display.

Mary Peckham has collected Braille-writing tools all of her life. She obtained her first Perkins Brailler as a senior in high school at the Colorado School for the Blind, and since that time she has collected slates and braillers from every corner of the world.

Mary grew up in Colorado and attended the Colorado School for the Blind. She learned Braille as a small child at a time when the Braille we know today was coming into vogue. A year of school in New York in the 1920s gave Mary her knowledge of the New York Point system.

After graduation, she attended Colorado College in Colorado Springs. During her college years, Mary says, she got $20 a month to spend on a reader. Otherwise, she was on her own.

Mary wanted to study languages as well as English, but had difficulty finding a competent reader. All of her readers had to be approved by the superintendent of the Colorado School for the Blind, Mary remembers. She found a reader for her German class, but because the reader was a boy, she was not allowed to work with him.

"I did manage to take German, French and Spanish in spite of it all," Mary says, "but I needed a lot more of all of them for a language major."

Mary graduated in 1935 with a Bachelor's degree in English and a teaching certificate. "After I practice taught," she says, "I thought well, that's not for me." She moved to Denver and worked in a hospital doing medical transcription.

"I had plans to write the great American novel, but that didn't work out." Instead, she edited a small pass-around magazine in Braille called the Literary Spokesman. The magazine had 12 to 15 subscribers, several of whom lived in England. Mary started corresponding with Chris, one of the English subscribers, and by the time World War II broke out, she knew she wanted to meet this fellow.

"The war got in the way," and it was not until 1945 that she was finally able to book passage to England. With 24 hours notice, she rushed alone from her home in Colorado to New York to catch a berth on the Cunard line.

"They only allowed me to take 44 pounds of luggage," Mary remembers. Her mother was not happy about her plans to go alone to England, but Mary went anyway. She and Chris published the banns and were married three weeks and two days after Mary landed in England.

Times were rough after the war. Food and gasoline were rationed, and work was hard to find. Mary found a job as a secretary.

She took dictation on a Braille short-hand machine which produced one line of Braille on a continuous tape. By threading the tape through two safety pins secured to the desk in front of her typewriter, she was able to pull the tape across in front of her, reading and typing as she went.

After some years in England, Mary and her husband moved back to Colorado where they lived and worked until her husband's death in the 1960s. Through another correspondence club, Mary met her second husband, Brad Peckham, and moved to Corning, Iowa, where she has lived ever since.

Mary's collection will be on display through October at the Department.

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Magazine News

This is a good time for library patrons to review their recorded magazine selections. A number of upcoming changes may affect your service, and you may wish to add different titles to your list.

As of January 2001, all remaining titles that have been on flexible disc will be converted to cassette format. If you have been receiving the discs and do not have one of the Library’s cassette players, we encourage you to request a cassette machine soon. You may keep the record player if you also use talking book records; however, if you only use it for magazines, you may wish to return it after the first of the year. Those of you who are cassette-only borrowers may want to request magazine order forms, which show titles currently on tape, those recently converted, and the ones which will switch to tape in January.

There are also a few changes in the cassette magazine list. The Goldfinch, Music City News, and Story will no longer be offered because the print magazines have ceased publication. Music City News may be replaced with a similar country music title, but we are still awaiting word on that. We will soon be adding Modern Maturity, the popular magazine produced by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). If you are interested in receiving this title or wish to make any other changes in your magazine service, please contact your reader’s advisor.

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Project ASSIST Store Goes On-Line

In January, team members updated the Project ASSIST web site to include an online store. Now, people from all over the world can order a tutorial 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Visit our site on the Web at

The Project ASSIST team has had a busy year! Since July 1999, we've produced fourteen tutorials. Here is a list of tutorials created in the last year:

Windows 98 with JFW 3.3.
Word 2000 with JFW 3.31.
Internet Explorer 5 with JFW 3.3.
Outlook 2000 with JFW 3.5.
Outlook Express 5 with JFW 3.5.
Eudora Pro 4.0 with JFW 3.5.
Internet Explorer 5 with JFW 3.5.
Excel 97 with WinVision 5.
Windows 98 with Window-Eyes 3.0.
Word 2000 with Window-Eyes 3.1.
Internet Explorer 5 with Window-Eyes 3.1.
Outlook 2000 with Window-Eyes 3.1.
Outlook Express 5 with Window-Eyes 3.1.
Eudora Pro 4.0 with Window-Eyes 3.1.

This brings the total number of tutorials available to 37. We are currently working on a tutorial for creating a Microsoft Access database.

Due to funding changes, we began charging for the tutorials late last Summer. We were determined to keep the prices affordable and comparable to the cost of a computer manual available from a bookstore. The cost for a tutorial on tape is $35.00. The cost for a tutorial downloaded from the online store is $25.00. Keyboard guides downloaded from the online store cost $5.00.

We’ve also experienced staff changes. Steve Smith joined the team as an Assistive Technology Analyst. After initial training in Orientation, he has begun learning the ins and outs of assistive technology. Steve replaced Lisa Gard. We're happy to report that Lisa is still working with us part-time.

Jolene Horsman has also joined our efforts. In addition to her responsibilities at the Aids and Devices store, Jolene handles all tutorial sales transactions and mailings. She has been a wonderful and much needed addition to our team.

We've been active in sharing our information with others across the nation. In March, Karen Keninger and Laurie Merryman gave a presentation at the CSUN Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference in Los Angeles, CA. Mike Barber and Karen Keninger presented Project ASSIST at the National Federation of the Blind’s 1999 Convention in Atlanta, GA. Finally, Mike Barber gave a presentation at the American Council for the Blind Convention in Louisville, KY in June.

Project ASSIST With Windows is now in its fourth year. The purpose of Project ASSIST is to create tutorials and keyboard guides that help people who are blind use popular Windows programs like Windows 98, Microsoft Office, Corel WordPerfect, and Internet Explorer. The tutorials use keyboard instruction and include screen reader specific keystrokes and strategies. Step-by-step exercises provide hands-on experience with the programs.

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New Cassette Machine Repair Program

Cassette machines...cassette machines...cassette machines... You as borrowers and we as staff have long pondered how best to keep cassette machines working and in repair. Nearly a dozen Telephone Pioneers toil weekly at the task. While the Pioneers’ spirits and hands are willing, their hours fall short of what is needed to tackle a backlog of 3,000 machines that require attention and expertise.

Staff and inmates of the Mount Pleasant Correctional Facility have come to our rescue! After weeks of collaboration, operational planning, and staff training, Department of Corrections’ staff Ken Burger, Jeri Martin, Don Huffman, and Bruce Noble transformed an empty storage area into four repair stations staffed by inmates. The work area is well-organized, and the repairmen are well-trained, producing great results. From February 8, 2000, through July 21, 2000, the men have repaired 863 machines. They, together with continued support from the Des Moines Life Member Club Red Rock Chapter Telephone Pioneers, enable us to readily supply you with replacement cassette equipment any time the performance of the unit you now use deteriorates. So do not hesitate to contact Niels Andersen or Pat Kokke of the Library staff if you need a replacement cassette machine. You may call them at 800-362-2587 or, locally, at 281-1333.

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The Toolbox - What's for Dinner?

Blindness should not prevent you from making that holiday meal for your family, or from grilling burgers on the 4th of July.

With a few easy techniques, there is no reason to be nervous in the kitchen. You probably use many of these techniques already without realizing it.

A light, quick touch with your finger will help you determine whether meat or biscuits are brown. Touch can also tell you when pie crust or pizza dough is smooth, or if cake frosting covers the entire cake. You can also tell when a bowl is scraped clean.

Using an oven can be intimidating, but with the right techniques baking that pastry is, well, as easy as pie. Let's start with getting pans in and out of a hot oven. Using mitt potholders, follow the sides of the oven until you find the oven rack. Pull the rack out slightly and locate the pan using the oven mitt.

To test for doneness, use a metal spatula or wooden spoon to locate the food in the pan. Slide your hand down the utensil until you reach the food. A cookie that is done will feel firm around the edges, a cake will spring back when touched in the center, and a fork will slide easily in and out of meat that is done.

Setting the oven temperature can be easily accomplished by marking the oven dial with Hi-Mark (available from the Department).

When working on the stove top it is helpful to place your pan on the burner before the heat is turned on. This way, the pan can be centered on the burner. When the pan is hot, use a metal spatula to find the burner and center the pan.

Use a spatula to locate the food. When meat has been flipped it feels firm and passes the fork test. Scalded milk leaves a film on the pan that can be felt when stirring with a wooden spoon. When boiling liquids listen for bubbling sounds or feel for vibrations on the handle.

With practice it is relatively easy to learn to judge the fullness of a container by sound and weight. You can also determine when a glass or cup is full by placing your finger over the lip, or by using a liquid level indicator. With very thick mixtures such as cake batter, check that the level is even all across the pan. When filling an angel-food cake pan, cover the hole in the middle with a small plastic bag or a tiny jelly tin.

Try these techniques and create your own. Bon Appetit!

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A Visitor from Vietnam

In February, Ha Huey Dinh, the Uncle of one of our former students, was a guest in our Orientation Center for three weeks. Mr. Ha, who is a banker in Vietnam, is working with his friends to establish an orientation center for blind persons in his own country. Pleased with the training his nephew had received at our Center, Mr. Ha wants to bring our positive approach to blindness training back to Vietnam.

Public attitudes about blindness are very negative in Vietnam, and the services blind Vietnamese receive reflect that attitude. Few services are available to them, especially if they live in rural areas. Vietnam has one school for the blind, but the education it provides to its students is very limited. Blind Vietnamese do not receive job training. They are not expected to work, especially in an economy where few jobs are available for people who are not disabled. Now that the government has lifted its ban on providing services to the blind through a private source, Mr. Ha can offer new hope for people who are blind in Vietnam.

Mr. Ha is very excited about the new approach to blindness he is taking back to his country. The Department has offered to provide him with technical assistance as he gets his center established. We wish him well in his endeavors to improve the lives of blind persons in his country.

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New Gadgets and Gizmos

The Department’s Aids and Devices Store provides ready access to a wide variety of items for blind and visually impaired Iowans. The store is located in the Department’s building at 524 Fourth Street, Des Moines, and carries a wide variety of hard-to-find items. We don’t publish a catalog, but you are welcome to call the Department about items you are looking for.

Here are a few new products we’ve discovered:

1. Talking clock -- includes clock, timer and calendar. Measures 2 3/4" x 2 3/4" x 2 1/4". Male voice. $41.00.

2. Talking AM/FM electric clock -- It talks while you set it as well as announces the time on the hour. Features volume control, 0.6" LED display (red), and operates on AC with 9V battery backup. Includes free instructional audio cassette tape. $51.00.

3. Gold expandable band talking watch -- Choose from three alarm sounds. Hourly report. $41.00.

4. Voice Mate talking organizer -- Pocket size. 40 minutes recording time. Voice activated and operated. Record up to 650 names. For each name, you may store 6 phone numbers and record an address. Speak any name and have the phone numbers instantly displayed and/or spoken. Voice Mate can even dial that number for you from any touch tone phone. Digital recorder record short memos on the spot, or make longer notes that you can edit later. Voice Mate provides full digital recorder functions fast forward, rewind, pause, and insert/replace. Scroll through your memos using just two keys. $261.00.

5. Magnifiers -- hand held and lighted. 3x, 4x, 6x, 8x, and 10.5x. Priced from $19.00-$24.00.

Contact Aids and Devices by calling 800-362-2587 or, in Des Moines, 281-1357.

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Summer Reading Club 2000

Thirty-seven youngsters across the state experienced a "star-spangled" Summer of reading and fun as members of this year’s Summer Reading Club, sponsored by the Department’s Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. The annual event, open to Library borrowers ages 6-16, inspired young readers to complete an incredible 351 books between June 1 and July 15--a stunning achievement!

The Club’s theme, "Cosmic Connections," focused on books, games, contests, and out-of-this world activities that featured space, aliens, the earth, and technology. Two mid-Summer contests highlighted the fun. Thirteen readers entered the contests, with brothers Jacob and Adam Bowers, of Alburnett, first and second place winners of a "Cosmic Connections Game," and Joshua Gray, of Council Bluffs, winner of an "Alien Drawing" contest. Upon completion of both contests, participants were awarded special Mission Certificates. Depending on their reading interests and individual tastes, members could select books in Braille, large print or cassette from our diverse Library collection. Book reports could be submitted via e-mail, phone, or the mail. And for those who liked to win, opportunities for prizes abounded!

Everyone completing at least one book received either a ticket to Adventureland or Living History Farms. Each week anyone finishing a book received a prize packet, and weekly drawings offered opportunities for still more prizes. Jacob Bowers, of Alburnett, captured the distinction of being top reader, completing 50 books. Braden Gardner of Milo, won second place by reading 43 books, and Kristina Plowman won third place with 38 books. All three readers were awarded personalized, engraved trophies for their achievements. First-time participants Braden, Tristan, Evan, Hillary and Sean Gardner considered the Club a "high point" of their Summer, something their entire family enjoyed. To culminate the Summer’s festivities two grand prize drawings were held and won by Bryan Miller of Iowa City, and Kristina Plowman of Sioux City.

Prizes were donated by corporate sponsors, including Adventureland, Coca Cola, Cosi Cucina Restaurant, Earl May Nursery, Learning Post, Living History Farms, McDonald’s, Woodlink, The Theatrical Shop, Wild Birds Unlimited, and Iowa Lions Clubs. Theme-related prizes included such items as alien drinking cups, alien play dough, stretchy aliens, alien hand puppets, alien finger puppets, and planet earth globes, to name just a few. Bird houses and t-shirts were other popular awards.

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Comings and Goings

We've had a lot of comings and goings in the past year at the Department. You've all noticed new voices in the Library, new counselors and teachers, and new maintenance workers. You've also missed some well-known personalities as well. Here's how it happened.


Eleanor Floss retired as the secretary in the Cedar Rapids office on July 22, 1999.

Greg Phelps, long-time counselor in Eastern Iowa, retired in December after 28 years of service to the Department. Greg and his wife Keiko have moved to southern California for their retirement.

Diann Weinman retired on March 30 after 33 1/2 years with the Department.

John South put in 33 years on the maintenance crew before he retired at the end of June, 2000.

Kenny McClain is retiring from his job in the Library at the end of July, and Doris Moritz will be retiring from 10 years in Assistive Technology at the end of August.

We've been keeping the Orientation Center busy with new staff as we added new positions in Independent Living and replaced those who have sought new horizons. New faces include:

Jesse Brennan, Counselor, Southeast Iowa
Barb Busta, Independent Living Service Coordinator, Eastern Iowa
Merry-Noel Chamberlain, Independent Living Service Coordinator, Western Iowa
Kent Farver, Rehabilitation Consultant
Paul Hagen, Assistive Technology Specialist
Marilyn Jensen, Reader's Advisor
Pat Kokke, Library Associate, Machines
Judy LeVan, Secretary, Cedar Rapids office
Todd Ohnesorge, Counselor, East-Central Iowa
Toni Reimers, Counselor, Central Iowa
Carter Simmons, Maintenance
Steve Smith, Assistive Technology Analyst
Chrissy Stocker, Typist, Independent Living
Gail Stricker, Reader's Advisor
Joe Weigel, Counselor, Northeast Iowa
Linda Wood, Instructional Materials Center
Jim Wooten, Maintenance

In addition, some staff have changed positions:

Jonathan Ice is now the Independent Living Teacher in East-Central Iowa.

Karen Keninger has replaced Diann Weinman as Coordinator, Program Evaluation and Planning.

Jolene Horsman moved from the Library to Aids and Devices last Summer.

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All address corrections and requests to be added to newsletter mailing list, should be sent to: White Cane Update, Iowa Department for the Blind, 524 Fourth Street, Des Moines, IA 50309-2364. This newsletter is available in standard or large print, on cassette tape, and in Braille. If you wish to receive your copy of the White Cane Update in a different medium, please so advise.

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.