Banner: Iowa Department for the Blind

White Cane Update

Fall 1998

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.

* Commission Approves Year 2000 Budget Request
A First-Rate Citizen
On the Move
Excellent Employment Reports for IDB Consumers
Making Changes
International Interest in Project ASSIST
Dorothy Kirsner Believes!
Governor's Sixteenth Annual Volunteer Awards
Face Lift for Business Enterprise Program Facilities
New Members on Independent Living Advisory Committee
Inmate Recording Program in the Spotlight
Job Seeking Skills Seminar Expands
Braille Bus Schedules Available in Cedar Rapids
Pink Flamingos, Birthday Cakes, and Water Guns
College Day Reintroduced
Newsline for the Blind Expands
Web Site Has More!
The Toolbox
OWOW -- We Just Hung Out!!
Iowa's Team Success Showcased at National Employment Conference
Tech Days 1998
Everybody Wins with Summer Reading Club
Will Your Notetaker Be Okay in Year 2K?
Comings and Goings
Medicare Covers More
IRIS Expands
News Flash ...

Go Back to Newsletter Page.

Commission Approves Year 2000 Budget Request

On September 25 the Iowa Commission for the Blind approved a State General Fund budget request for Year 2000 in the amount of $1,861,448. This is an increase of $250,280 over the current fiscal year. The entire increase was earmarked to serve Iowa's rapidly growing population older blind persons.

In 1981 a total of 582 referrals were made to the Department for the Blind for services. By 1996 this number had grown to 1,343. In 1981 56.5 percent of all referrals were persons over age 65, but by 1997 this percentage had increased to 78.5.

The additional funding would enable the Department to hire four additional teachers to travel about the state making contacts with new referrals and providing training in alternative techniques of blindness. It is training in cane travel, Braille, and homemaking skills that will enable these older Iowans to maintain their own homes rather than being forced to seek care in a residential facility. By providing the necessary training to enable older Iowans to stay in their own homes, we are reducing future demands on the State of Iowa treasury and at the same time enabling these Iowans to continue being productive members of society.

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A First-Rate Citizen

Florence Otten used to do a lot of things. She taught school before she was married, and then spent many years helping her husband farm in Jones County. In 1974 she and her husband moved into town, and she turned her energies to transporting people to doctors' appointments, chairing the election board, and sewing quilts for Lutheran World Relief. Oh, she had a little trouble with her eyes now and then in later years, but nothing she couldn't deal with. Until one day in 1994 when one eye hemorrhaged.

"I was very upset," she said. The doctors told her she had macular degeneration, and there was nothing they could do. "It was frustrating." Florence had to give up her driver's license as her vision worsened. She resigned her position with the election board. "Things were pretty tough for a while," she says. "It was hard to accept."

During a recent election, the chair of the election board asked her to help out. The chair was unavailable, and two new girls would need someone to answer questions and give directions. "I told her I couldn't do it. I felt like a second-rate citizen--like I wasn't very good."

Florence took a big chance this summer. She let her Independent Living Teacher, Richine Sartain, talk her into coming to Senior Orientation, a week-long training event for seniors held at the Department.

"Since I've come here," she said at the end of the week, "I've had an attitude adjustment! This has been the best thing I can think of. Now I'm going on with my life."

Florence has always wanted to learn to type, and during Senior Orientation, she had her first typing lessons. "I've never touched a keyboard," she says, "But now I've got a good start on it. I'm going to practice at home." She wants to get good enough to write letters, and maybe she'll contribute to a family history her nephew has been writing.

Florence also had travel lessons with the long white cane. "My brother-in-law has been after me to use my cane. I have to cross a main highway near my home, and he says 'The drivers don't know you can't see very well.' I'll probably use it now."

Florence, who has been cooking and sewing all her life, also discovered that she could cook and sew with sleep shades on. "I learned lots of tricks for sewing on buttons which I never thought of," she says.

She has lots to do when she gets home. "I'm not so afraid to cook now that I've been cooking with sleep shades on," she says. "And I'll do a little sewing, too." She's looking forward to getting back to her garden and her friends, and, she declares, "I'm going to give my name to the election board. I'll substitute if they need me"" She knows she is a first-rate citizen, and that she can help them out.

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On the Move

The Department recently relocated both of its District Offices. The former Waterloo District Office is now located at:

2915 McClain Drive
Cedar Falls, IA 50613-5266
Iowa Wats 888-378-4397
Fax 319-268-2983

The Cedar Rapids District Office has remained in Cedar Rapids but has moved to the Iowa Building located at:

411 3rd Street SE, Suite 745
Cedar Rapids, IA 52401-1811
Iowa Wats 888-346-9557
Fax 319-298-9369

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Excellent Employment Reports for IDB Consumers

Every year the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) collects statistics from all vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies throughout the country. These statistics reflect the work agencies have done in helping people with disabilities become employed. RSA publishes comparisons based on these statistics which rank Vr agencies in a variety of categories. The Iowa Department for the Blind traditionally ranks high in these comparisons, and this year is no exception.

According to the most recent available statistics, (based on 1996 activities) the Iowa Department for the Blind ranks third in the nation in two important categories. The first category calculates the percentage of people served who successfully obtained paying jobs. The second is their average weekly wages. Iowa's average was $316.44. In 1997, we increased that figure to $327.

Another measure of success is whether people are working full time. The average hours worked per week were 36, with 73 percent working full time.

This translates to better and better jobs for blind Iowans.

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Making Changes

The Iowa Department for the Blind is in the process of making some changes regarding how service delivery is organized. The intent of these changes is to reach newly referred individuals in a more timely manner and to provide more efficient and comprehensive rehabilitation services to blind Iowans. As of October 1, a new team approach will be in effect. Each team will include a vocational rehabilitation counselor, a rehabilitation teacher, a member of the Orientation Center staff, and a secretary.

In the past, the county territories covered by the counselors did not coincide with those covered by the teachers. Therefore, one counselor may have coordinated services with several teachers, and vice versa. As we reorganize the territories to reflect this new approach, you may be getting a new counselor or teacher. The changes will not affect your library service in any way, however. Orientation Center staff will do some work in their teams' assigned territories as well, but their involvement will be scheduled so as not to impede training provided in the Orientation Center. The secretary for each team will handle all of the clerical needs for that team.

Department staff are working hard to ensure that case transfers and all aspects of this transition process will proceed as smoothly as possible. This new team approach to services resulted from a year-long study of the needs of our consumers, and we are confident that these changes will culminate in even better service provision to blind persons throughout Iowa.

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International Interest in Project ASSIST

Project ASSIST With Windows has been in full swing for about a year and a half. The goal of the project is to create tutorials for using Microsoft Windows and Windows programs with screen readers. The project is being funded by the U.S. Department of Education - Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. The project goals have kept the ASSIST staff very busy! To date, they have created fourteen tutorials and are currently working on three more.

The World Wide Web has proven to be both a great advertising tool for the project and an easy way to distribute the tutorials. We also use the "old-fashioned" method of "snail mail" for cassette versions. Our phones ring daily with requests for information and orders. The number of tutorials distributed indicates that the project has been a success. So far, approximately 3,300 tutorials have been downloaded from the web site. In addition, the staff has sent out nearly 1,500 tutorials on cassette tape.

The ASSIST staff has learned a great deal about computer assistive technology and has had fun sharing their discoveries with people not only around the U.S., but around the world. The number and variety of people who have visited the web site and have inquired either via the telephone or e-mail reflects the keen interest the project has generated. Our web site has had visitors from every state in the U.S. and from numerous countries, including Canada, Mexico, Ireland, England, India, Israel, South Africa, Japan, Sweden, Italy, and Turkey.

Project staff have also presented the project at two regional and two national conferences during the past year.

The following tutorials are currently available:

* Windows 3.1 with JAWS For Windows
* Windows 3.1 with Window Bridge
* Windows 3.1 with WinVision

* Windows 95 with JAWS For Windows
* Windows 95 with Window Bridge
* Windows 95 with WindowEyes
* Windows 95 with WinVision

* Word 6 with JAWS For Windows
* Word 6 with Window-Bridge

* Word 97 with WinVision

* WordPerfect 7 with JAWS For Windows
* WordPerfect 7 with WinVision

* Netscape Navigator 4.03 with JAWS For Windows
* Netscape Navigator 4.03 with Window-Bridge

All tutorials are available on cassette or in Braille. Electronic versions can be downloaded directly from our web site at In addition to the tutorials, you'll find some "cheat sheets" for popular software as well. Try out the new audio link for two of our tutorials, and let us know what you think!

Keep track of further developments by visiting our web site at For more information, or to order a tutorial, contact Shan Sasser at (800)362-2587, extension 11338.

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Dorothy Kirsner Believes!

Dorothy Kirsner believes in the cause. She believes in the capabilities of persons who are blind. She believes in the approach to rehabilitation that the Department for the Blind employs--that is, given the opportunity, proper training and education, a person who is blind can live a full and productive life.

Whatever else you glean from Dorothy's resume of contributions, remember that she believes.

The strength of her belief and her commitment to blind persons and to her community are the qualities which earned Dorothy a 1998 Women of Achievement Award presented to her by the YWCA of Greater Des Moines earlier this summer.

When accepting the Award, Dorothy described herself as a "professional volunteer." Much of her volunteer career has been devoted to work with and for blind Iowans.

The earliest documentation of Dorothy's efforts is her certificate of competency as a qualified Braille transcriber which boasts the signature of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The date? 1942! How many of us can say that we have given 56 years to the cause of equality for blind persons!

From that time forward, Dorothy has spent herself in a variety of endeavors all geared toward assuring blind persons opportunities for participation in any arena. Dorothy Brailled textbooks for students, including works in foreign languages. She created a device to improve the performance of the Perkins' Braillewriter, a tool which is still in use today. Dorothy taught Brailling to many--to prisoners in Fort Madison, to parents and to other family and friends of blind persons.

Dorothy advocated for equal rights and treatment for blind students in the Des Moines Public Schools. She served as a member and as Chair of the Iowa Commission for the Blind. During her tenure on the Commission, Dorothy successfully raised funds to purchase the Department's current building in downtown Des Moines. Our location and facilities, ours chiefly because of Dorothy's work, continue to contribute much to access and success for blind persons, especially those in training at the Department's Orientation Center.

Today Dorothy champions IRIS, Iowa Radio Reading Information Service for the Blind and Print Handicapped, a 24-hour radio reading service reaching central and northwest Iowa. Her contributions to IRIS are threefold. She covers a regular stint as an IRIS reader narrating the Des Moines Register pages on Tuesday mornings. Dorothy is a primary fundraiser, a short word meaning long hours of research, courting, conversation and advocacy to secure essential dollars to operate and expand IRIS. Dorothy also serves as an IRIS board member, participating in the decision-making that is crucial to IRIS' sound management.

As Sally Vander Linden, executive director of IRIS, commented during presentation of the Women of Achievement Award to Dorothy, Dorothy has "... backed up belief with the most precious resource one can give to any great cause ... herself." For her gift of self, we are most grateful to Dorothy Kirsner and congratulate her on this most deserved honor.

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Governor's Sixteenth Annual Volunteer Awards

In recognition of the time, commitment and service that over 80,000 volunteers give to state agencies, certificates of appreciation were presented to 1800 volunteers for state agencies throughout the state of Iowa. The following individuals received certificates from Governor Branstad for their volunteer contributions to the Department for the Blind.

Maxine Brenneman, Mount Union
Lorraine Brown, Des Moines
Thomas Brown, Des Moines
Helen Hern, Burlington
Burns H. Davison II, West Des Moines
Betty Dietz, Council Bluffs
Charles J. Dietz, Council Bluffs
Catherine Ford, Des Moines
Bill Johnson, Des Moines
Barbara Kates, Des Moines
Athena Kautz, Des Moines
Kitty McClintic, Indianola
Bob Meisenheimer, Des Moines
Sterling B. Nelson, Des Moines
Richard Trump, Des Moines
Shirley Wiggins, Cedar Rapids
Des Moines Life Member Club, Red Rock Chapter, Telephone Pioneers of America

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Face Lift for Business Enterprise Program Facilities

Business Enterprise Program facilities are undergoing some major remodeling this summer. The first project to be completed is the Lucas Building cafeteria. Located on the sixth floor of the Lucas State Office Building, the cafeteria has been closed for a complete overhaul, including new interiors and new equipment. The cafeteria will resume full service for breakfast and lunch this Fall.

The cafeteria in the Woodbury County Courthouse is also undergoing structural renovation, and the Federal Building cafeteria in Des Moines is scheduled for a face lift next year.

A new rest area vending facility is being completed near Grinnell on Interstate 80. This will be the first indoor roadside vending facility, combining rest rooms, a welcome center and the vending facility under one roof. A second combined facility at Sergeant Bluff on Interstate 29 is on the drawing board. Plans are also underway to remodel existing sites at Decatur and Wilton.

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New Members on Independent Living


Over the years the staff and consumers of the Iowa Department for the Blind have been well served by the Independent Living (IL) Advisory Committee. IL Committee members provide a vital link between the agency and blind Iowans by assisting with referrals, promoting public awareness, consulting on program development, and providing advocacy. During its fifteen plus years of existence, the IL Committee has reaped the benefit of the skills, talents, and commitment of many fine members. This year the Committee regretfully said goodbye to three members: Cheryl Parker, Elizabeth Petersen, and Mildred Collins. Cheryl passed away earlier this year and the IL Committee joins the many people who miss her creativity, enthusiasm and generosity. Both Mildred and Elizabeth chose to retire from the Committee after over 10 years of dedicated service. Their experience and commitment will be long remembered and appreciated.

Fortunately, the IL Committee has been able to maintain its ability to attract quality members. Shirley Conrad, Edna Fletcher, and Calvin Crail have all recently been appointed to serve on the Committee. Shirley and Edna both attended Senior Orientation and then went on to attend the Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center. Calvin participated in an Orientation on the Road. They are all active in their communities and bring with them a wealth of experience.

The Department and its consumers can be assured that it will continue to be well served by the IL Committee. Thanks go out to all IL Committee members, past and present, for their unflagging commitment to the IL program and those it serves. The dedication of Committee members as evidenced by their regular attendance at meetings (for some over 4 hours of travel one way), their involvement in outreach efforts, and their tireless advocacy remain an invaluable inspiration to staff.

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Inmate Recording Program in the Spotlight

The Reading Assistance Program (RAP) at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Oakdale has been recognized recently for outstanding contributions to blind and disabled students and library patrons. Inmate workers record and duplicate books, magazines, computer tutorials, and other materials on cassette tape for the Department for the Blind Library and for the office of Student Disability Services at the University of Iowa. This program was featured in the June issue of Corrections Today, the official publication of the American Correctional Association, as one of the "Best of the Best" initiatives in a correctional facility in the United States. The benefits of service to the community, meaningful, educational work for prisoners, and cooperation amongst state agencies were highlighted.

The RAP also received both national and international commendation during the month of July. A seminar entitled "Reading by a Captive Audience: How Collaboration and Resource Sharing Can Benefit Both Colleges and Correctional Facilities" was chosen to be presented at conferences on higher education and disability in Las Vegas and Innsbruck, Austria. Helen Harriman, supervisor of the RAP, and Donna Chandler and Tina McRee, of the University of Iowa's Student Disability Services, made the presentations. Included was the showing of a video tape produced by prison inmates which communicates the pride, disability awareness, and educational benefits that are shared by all parties of the reading services program. Helen reported that rehabilitation service providers from other states were highly impressed by the partnership among state agencies, and that the Department for the Blind was included in the positive commentary.

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Job Seeking Skill Seminar Expands

Job Seeking Skills Seminar is a quarterly event put together by Department counselors and other staff. It's primary goal is to refine the job-seeking skills individuals need to apply for, interview for, and land jobs.

The most recent seminar was held July 27-31, 1998 in Des Moines. Six people who are ready to find jobs participated in the seminar. Vocational Rehabilitation counselors directed the seminar, and drew on the expertise of other staff members, including support staff Donna Carroll and Candy Coleman in the presentation. Agenda topics included: Self Concept, a panel presentation of blind persons who are successfully employed; Skills and Abilities Identification; Resume/Cover Letter; Computer and Alternative Technology; time spent in the Orientation Center Business class and tour of agency; Labor Market Information; Interviewing Techniques; Practice Interviews; and Community Interviews.

Previous seminars lasted for three days, but this most recent event was extended to five days. The purpose was to give participants additional time to invest in the experience. They worked on such tasks as developing or revising their resumes and integrating agency philosophy into the job search process. Participants asked questions such as "How do I feel about my blindness?" and "How can I better meet the employer's needs?" The longer time also gave participants a chance to spend more quality time together building rapport within the group.

The community interviews were very successful in terms of providing solid job leads and networking for the participants. Job Seeking Skills Seminar has once again proved to be a major catalyst in our quest to provide quality job placement opportunities.

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Braille Bus Schedules Available in Cedar Rapids

The Five Seasons Transportation Center in Cedar Rapids is making Braille bus schedules available upon request. They will produce the schedule for any route you request. Call Pam Schneider at 319-398-5367 or stop by the Cedar Rapids Ground Transportation Center.

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Pink Flamingos, Birthday Cakes, and Water Guns

Pink flamingos, birthday cakes and water guns--what do these items have in common? Take a guess. Here are some hints.

The mascot of the Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center is a six-foot-tall stuffed pink flamingo named Crawford. Sporting a black top hat and matching shoes, Crawford has a habit of showing up in the most unexpected places around the Center. One Christmas, he was spotted sitting in a rocking chair by the Rec. Room fireplace wearing a Santa hat. On another occasion, he was found in the travel teacher's office wearing sleepshades and holding a long white cane. He has even accompanied Center staff and students on a camping trip to southwestern Iowa.

This summer, Orientation staff member Travis Robinson had his sixtieth birthday. Students and staff helped him celebrate with a surprise birthday party. He was presented with a birthday cake that proclaimed him to be "old as dirt" and with gifts that included a box of 40 percent Bran Flakes and a house plant that would look better in a garbage can than on a window ledge.

One hot day in July, Orientation Center student Emily Wharton successfully completed her final cane travel route--a five-mile walk that combines many of the travel routes she had learned during the course of her training. Since Emily loves water, her fellow students helped her cool off at the end of her trek by drenching her with water spritzers, a Super Soaker, and water guns.

So what do pink flamingos, birthday cakes, and water guns have in common? They are all Orientation Center training tools. Iowans who have lost vision come to the Center to learn skills that will help them deal with their blindness. They also regain their self-confidence as they come to realize that it is okay to be blind. Students learn these new skills and attitudes not only through their daily classes in Industrial Arts, Home and Personal Management, Communications, and Cane Travel but also through light-hearted activities that allow them to experience for themselves the fact that blindness should not prevent them from participating fully in all of the little pleasures of life.

If you would like more information about the Orientation Center, please contact the Iowa Department for the Blind at 800-362-2587 or 515-281-1333.

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College Day Reintroduced

On May 21, 80 college students sponsored by the Iowa Department for the Blind attended a College Day in Des Moines. The focus of the day centered around planning a college curriculum that would lead to employment. Department counselors and Orientation Center staff planned the curriculum which included information about setting goals, mapping out college course work that would lead to employment, ways to access materials on tape, using readers, ways to meet professors to obtain the names of course textbooks, and how to order books from the Department's Instructional Materials Center.

For many of the students this was the first time they had visited the Department. This gave them the opportunity to tour the Orientation Center as well as to visit the library and meet the people they speak with over the phone. Some of the students were accompanied by their parents or spouses. The planned curriculum was well presented and well received; but the highlight of the day was the opportunity for students to network with other blind college students. At the end of the day many of them were exchanging addresses and phone numbers so that they could maintain contact.

Of course the day could not have gone off as well as it did without the cooperation of staff from all divisions. Counselors and teachers played the roles of readers, drivers, and college professors. Library staff checked booklists and provided information about the Instructional Materials Center. Orientation Center Staff conducted tours and provided an evening cookout on the roof. The Cafeteria provided a nice box lunch for all the participants.

This was the first College Day seminar sponsored by the Department since 1992 when a week-long event was held in Mount Vernon. For many years prior to 1992, the Department held a College Day every Fall for its college students.

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Newsline for the Blind Expands

Newsline, an automated service that affords Iowans who cannot read conventional newspapers the opportunity to read four newspapers via their touch-tone telephone, has now become available to Iowans who live within the free-calling areas of Waterloo and Iowa City.

Newsline is managed by the National Federation of the Blind and funded in cooperation with the Iowa Department for the Blind. Its purpose is to provide full, independent access to daily newspapers for Iowans who are blind. The service is also available in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Davenport and Sioux City.

For further information, or to sign up for Newsline services, call Doug Elliott, Coordinator of Newsline for the Blind of Iowa, at 515-236-9300.

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Web Site Has More!

The Iowa Department for the Blind first put its web site on line at in May of 1997. Since that time, web site activity has been steadily increasing. The site began with information on Project ASSIST with Windows, including links to download free tutorials. It also included pages on Upcoming Department Events, Related Internet Sites, and the Library's On-line Public Access Catalog (OPAC).

In the past year, Web surfers from every state in the U.S. have visited the Department's web site. Our international reputation is growing as well. Visitors from Canada, Japan, Israel, Mexico, Italy, Turkey, Australia and the United Kingdom have logged on to see what we're all about. Approximately 3,300 visitors have downloaded tutorials from the Project ASSIST page.

The web site is updated and revised regularly. It currently contains information on the following topics in addition to the original sampling:

Aids and Devices: From this page you can receive information on the types of products that are available for purchase. You can also check the used equipment bulletin board and check store hours.

Business Enterprise Program: Access this page to learn about food service and vending opportunities and the rules and regulations that apply. You may also view pictures of various cafeterias and vending sites.

Independent Living and Rehabilitative Services: This page offers information on the Independent Living Services program as well as the Deaf-Blind program. You will also find handy tips for alternative techniques.

Laws and Proclamations: This page includes information on chapters from the Code of Iowa that mandate procedures for the Department.

Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped: Access the OPAC (On-line Public Access Catalog) from this page or receive a virtual tour of Library services.

Orientation and Adjustment Center: From this page you can learn more about the Orientation experience, arrange a tour of the Center, find discussions of different philosophical approaches to blindness, and read the Orientation Center newsletter.

Vocational Rehabilitation: Check out this page for details about Vocational Rehabilitation Services, job placement, and educational information.

Volunteer Opportunities: From this page you can learn about becoming a volunteer for the Department.

Web Site Accessibility Features and Tips: Access this page to find out what you can do to make your site accessible to web-surfers who have a disability.

The Department's web site address is

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The Toolbox -- Looking Good!

Vision loss should not prevent you from always looking your best. Here are some simple suggestions for managing your wardrobe. Try some of these ideas and experiment with a few of your own.

You can tell many items of clothing apart just by touch. Your brown skirt, for example, may be the only one with a lining. Your green shirt, on the other hand, is made of corduroy.

If you know Braille, you can use Braille color-identification tags. Just sew them onto the label or some other inconspicuous place in the garment.

Create your own color-identification system using safety pins, French knots, or notches cut into the labels of your garments. One notch or pin could signify white, two black, three blue, and so on.

Sock color can be identified in several ways. You can tell some socks apart by style and texture. Use safety pins, sock clips, or sock sorters to keep them paired, both in the drawer and in the laundry. Try folding like colors in the same way or storing them together.

A little ingenuity can also help you keep your shoes matched. Put like colors together on the same row of your shoe rack. Store shoes of the same style but different color in boxes marked with Braille, staples, or rubber bands. Put different kinds of laces in laced shoes of the same style.

Keep your closet and drawers organized. Hang coordinates together. Group garments by color and type. Hang ties with the jackets they match. Store your silver jewelry in one place and gold in another. Explore your favorite stores for handy wardrobe organizers.

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OWOW -- We Just Hung Out!! by Casey Boyle

Editor's note: Orientation to the World of Work is an annual activity co-sponsored by the Iowa Department for the Blind and the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School. It's goal is to give blind high school students the opportunity to work, often at their first jobs, along with a variety of other experiences. The following article was written by one of this year's participants.

At the end of the 1997-98 school year, I found myself in the mood for a departure from my usual dull, rather unproductive summer vacation. I had recently learned of my eligibility for the Orientation to the World of Work program, otherwise known as OWOW, and, with the help of my itinerant teacher and other personnel, was accepted to the six week program to take place starting June seventh.

The students and their families were welcomed at the ROTH Complex on the University of Northern Iowa campus in Cedar Falls by an informal meeting which was designed to explain what we, as students, would be doing throughout the course of the program. Jobs would be found for each student, transportation would be arranged, daily living skills discussed and performed, and activities involving all members would be planned; all of these things were to be accomplished with the assistance of qualified staff members.

On the third day of the program, I began my job at a UNI cafeteria in Redecker Hall. Brief instructions were given to me and I was sent to work under the supervision of a job coach. These job coaches were assigned to each of the students to assist with any problems related to the student's performance. After the student became comfortable in his or her work settings, the student performed most tasks independently. I found my job rewarding, as I had never been employed by any business, and was pleased by my quick adaptation and prolonged efficiency.

About two weeks into the program, I began a second job at Craft Cochran Screenprint and Design, a T-shirt printing company in the Waterloo area. My employers voiced their appreciation for the quality of my work, which gave me much-needed self confidence and a sense of accomplishment. I am extremely grateful for their patience and encouragement.

I learned of several different technological devices designed to aid the blind, most of which I would not ordinarily have access to. Some of these devices will now be made available to me for this coming school year, including the Braille Lite, Blazer, closed circuit unit, and software for my Windows based program.

Activities included water-skiing with the Waterloo area Water Hawks, go-carting, miniature golfing, viewing movies (including a drive in feature), and just conversing with fellow students and staff. I made quite a few friends at the program, including staff members, which made the entire six weeks fun-filled and enjoyable, even while drudging away at work, which, by the way, put a little money into my pockets.

This program has definitely been a life changing experience for me. My future is now more focused, obstacles seem less difficult to overcome, and most importantly, I have made friendships which are sure to see me through the rest of my productive life.

Did I mention how much fun we had?

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Iowa's Team Success


Carl Shawhan, Statewide Coordinator of Job Placement for the Iowa Department for the Blind, and one of our business partners, Sears Regional Credit Card Center (RCCOC) presented Team Success to more than 800 participants at the National Employment Conference which was held in Washington, DC on August 8-10, 1998.

This was one of 3 programs selected nationally to share successful strategies in building effective employer relationships. The presentation spoke to the Department's marketing efforts with employers. The emphasis was on Team Success, a program which provides employers the opportunity to sell other employers on the benefits of recruiting, hiring and advancing qualified persons who are blind.

Shawhan says "This is a model for organizations serving people with various disabilities, but more importantly, serving people with unique interests, skills and abilities. It is a model for employers to profitably access this vital labor pool of qualified applicants who have a disability."

The RCCOC has been a leader in hiring individuals who are blind. They work closely with the Department to make necessary accommodations which allow the person who is blind to be competitive. "Our continuing relationship helps to make further accommodations as systems and job descriptions change," Shawhan explains.

Bobbi Liker, Employment Specialist, explained how the RCCOC has hosted numerous employers from around the state who come to see individuals who are productive and profitable for the employer. "It is one employer telling another how the blind person fits into work teams, is reliable, capable and is a solid corporate investment." She noted that the RCCOC hired their first blind employee more than 6 years ago after having visited another Department employer partner.

Alma Graham stressed the credibility of employers showing other employers what individuals who are blind CAN do. "The employee who is blind is a vital part of the team, demonstrating what they CAN do." Alma, RCCOC Supervisor, shared how she does her job as a blind employee and how she had the opportunity to advance in her career path. The presentation included pictures of successful employees at their work stations.

Ms. Liker explained how the Des Moines RCCOC, which employs more than 900 workers, has been able not only to sell other employers in Iowa, but also how they have impacted Sears at the national level. Sears has made hiring qualified individuals with disabilities a focus of their diversity efforts.

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Since the last publication of the White Cane Update, blind persons receiving Department services have acquired jobs in the following areas:

Food Assembler
Mail Room Attendant
Nurses Aid
Manufacturer's Representative, Self-Employed
Machinist, Wood
Teacher, Blind Children
Bus Person/Cleaner, Restaurant
BEP Vending Facility Operator
Sheltered Workshop
Independent Living Caseworker
Custodian, Church
Stock Clerk
Kitchen Helper
Interviewer II
Tax Preparer
Programmer, Information Systems
Metal Casting Machine Operator
Consultant, Computers
Data Entry Clerk
Statistician, Applied
Production Assembler
Massage Therapist
Rehabilitation Center Manager
Groundskeeper, Self-Employed
BEP Roadside Vending Operator
Substitute School Teacher, Elementary
CAD Drafts Person (Structural)
Restaurant Manager
Telemarketing Representative
Receiving Clerk
Salad Counter Attendant
Childcare Worker
Automobile Detailer
Laborer (Environmental Service Worker)
Fast Food Worker
Furniture Assembler
Materials Handler
Senior Assistive Technology Analyst
Customer Service Representative
Automotive Mechanic
Laundromat Owner/Operator
Physical Therapy Technician
Sales Clerk, Retail Trade
Teacher Aide for the Blind
Cashier, Food Service
Children's Librarian
Manager, Business Operation
Animal Breeder
Instructional Technologist
Family Counselor
Fitness Director
Meat Counter Clerk
Instrumental Musician
Stock Clerk
Exercise Instructor
Electrical Engineer
Piano Teacher

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Tech Days 1998

The Iowa Department for the Blind sponsors "Tech Days" each year to provide consumers with information on new developments in the world of technology.

So far this year, the Department has sponsored or participated in three technology events.

On April 9, 55 people from five counties attended the Tech Day in Clinton. Visitors had the opportunity to view and sample many types of technology, including slates and styluses, talking clocks, scanners, electronic notepads, and screen readers for DOS and Windows-based computer systems.

On April 16 and 17, the Iowa Program for Assistive Technology (IPAT) held its annual technology fair at the Des Moines Convention Center. Department staff gave a presentation on using the Internet with a screen reader and designing accessible web sites. The Department also staffed an information booth where they displayed a variety of assistive technology devices and answered questions. Approximately 45 people visited the booth and learned about the various services provided by the Department. Doris Moritz also helped organize the attendance of many vendors at the IPAT event.

During the last week of July, a Job Seeking Skills Seminar was held at the Department. Seven participants had the opportunity to utilize technology in their job search. Each participant was able to use the Department's new Training Lab on second floor to write resumes and cover letters, and to perform a job search on the Internet. Staff was available to assist individuals as needed. On the last day of the seminar, participants received one-on-one training suited to their particular needs. Requests included more information on note taking devices, scanners, and screen readers used with Windows applications. This was the first time the Job Seeking Skills Seminar included training on technology. Because students considered this training to be very helpful, it will be included in future seminars.

The next Technology Day will be held in Northeast Iowa in the Spring. Demonstrations are also available at the Department in Des Moines by appointment. Contact Doris Moritz at 515-281-1309 or 800-362-2587 to schedule an appointment and learn about the latest technology available!

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Everybody Wins with Summer Reading Club

Sixty-nine youngsters across the State experienced a "jammin'" 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 to 16, inspired young readers to complete an incredible 964 books between June 1 and August 1 -- a record number.

The Club's theme, "Rock 'n' Read," explored various musical motifs, with "noteworthy" and "classical" activities and prizes offered to suit every taste. Two mid Summer contests highlighted the fun. Sixteen readers entered the contests, with Bryan Miller, of Iowa City, the winner of a song lyrics contest and Jacob Bowers, of Alburnett, and Kelcy Jones, of Luana, joint winners in a word contest. "High tech" participants could browse the library's OPAC (On-line Public Access Catalog) for reading ideas or submit book reports via e-mail. Non-techies could call or mail in book reports. 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 or a prize packet. In addition, weekly drawings offered chances for further assorted prize packets. Kelcy Jones, of Luana, captured the distinction of being top reader, completing 258 books! Brothers Jacob and Adam Bowers, of Alburnett, first and second runners-up, completed 148 books and 111 books respectively. All three readers were awarded personalized, engraved trophies for their achievements. Kelcy, Jacob, and Adam say they always look forward to the Club as a high point of their Summer, something their entire family enjoys. To culminate the festivities two grand prize drawings were held in late Summer and won by Mark Hittenmiller, of Davenport, and Sam Springer, of Creston.

Prizes were donated by corporate sponsors including Adventureland, Coca Cola, Cosi Cucina Restaurant, Earl May Nursery, Learning Post, Living History Farms, McDonald's, Miller Music's Family Music Center, Peeples Music, The Theatrical Shop, Wild Birds Unlimited, and Youngerman Music. Theme-related prizes included such diverse items as harmonicas, musical pencils and straws, kazoos, nose flutes, compact discs, bird whistles, and musical stickers, to name just a few.

Reflecting on the Summer's events, staff and borrowers alike agreed that a good time was had by all!

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Will Your Notetaker Be Okay in Year 2K?

Electronic note takers have become a must for many blind people. With speech or Braille output, these portable mini-computers are great for keeping calendars and address books, taking notes, and writing papers. Because they use computer technology and process dates in the calendar, in date-stamping files, and in their date and time features, the Year 2000 issues which are plaguing the world of computers and chips of all kinds, impact these notetakers as well.

How important are these impacts? It depends on how you use your notetaker. If you use the calendar features, or if the date stamp on files is something you rely on, Year 2000 issues may be very important. If you use it primarily for taking notes and keeping your address book, the date issue may not matter as much to you.

What does "Year 2000 compliant" mean anyway? As far as your notetaker is concerned, it has to do with the way it stores dates and whether it knows that the year 2000 is a leap year. Older notetakers store only the last two digits of the year's date. Thus, the year 1998 is represented as 98. When the century rolls over, your notetaker may go back in time to 1900 instead of ahead to 2000. This will make the date stamps on your files wrong, and the calendar wrong as well. If your notetaker is year 2000 compliant, then it will store dates with a four-digit year, and it will also know what day of the week July 20, 2002 falls on.

We checked out some popular brands, and here's what we found.

Revisions of Braille 'n Speak and Type 'n Speak products from Blazie Engineering are not compliant before 1997. If you have a Braille 'n Speak 640 with a revision date earlier than 1997, you'll still be able to use it; however, you'll run into difficulty when it comes to sorting files or using the calendar because of the two-digit issue. Any Type 'n Speak purchased with the 1997 revision on will be fine. If you have the old Braille 'n Speak Classic, you'll need to get a new Braille 'n Speak as these cannot be upgraded. Obviously, if you have the Braille 'n Speak 2000 or the Braille Lite, there is no problem.

What about the Artic notetakers, such as TransType, Braille Pad or Squirt? If you have the 1997 or 1998 release of these products, the Year 2000 issues have been addressed and you'll be okay. If you have models purchased before those years, you will need to send your unit in for a firmware upgrade. The exception to this is if you have the TransType. Then, you can call and a disk with the proper software can be sent to you. Check with your dealer, or call Artic Technologies directly for upgrade pricing.

According to Humanware, the Braille Companion meets Year 2000 requirements. If you own a notetaker other than those mentioned here, call your dealer or the company that makes it.

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Comings and Goings

Four new people have come aboard since January, and we've missed several who've left.

Joan Barnhart, who worked in Field Operations for nearly ten years, retired this spring. We all wish her a well-deserved and happy retirement!

Mary Eischeid joined the staff in June as our Volunteer Coordinator. Mary, who lives in Ames, spent the last 10 years as Leisure Services Coordinator for Green Hills Retirement Community in Ames. Her interests include nature and animals and spending time with family and friends.

Mary is taking over from Holleen Lawrence, who left in March to take a position with The Principal in Des Moines. Good luck to Holly in her new work.

Don Owens joined the maintenance staff in April and works the evening shift. Don comes to the Department with a varied background that includes work as a personal fitness trainer and as a signal man for the railroads. A number of staff remember Don from his student days in our Orientation Center.

Nola Tendrock who hails from northwest Missouri and resides in Carlisle started with us in May as a Clerk Typist 3 in Field Operations. Nola's special interests include her two sons Tom and Steve and, when she has time, needlework and gardening.

Dee Clayton has returned to the Department as our full-time receptionist. Dee worked part-time in that capacity for several years before accepting a full-time job at Sears. We're delighted to have her back answering the phone and greeting guests.

Julie Hengesteg has moved from the Library to take a teacher's position in Field Operations. Julie has taken over the territory in northwest Iowa formerly served by Bob Butcher. Bob left the Department in the Spring to pursue other interests. Good luck, Bob.

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Medicare Covers More

Medicare is covering more diagnostic and preventive medical procedures than it used to. If you think any of these procedures or services would benefit you, talk to your doctor.

Mammograms: Medicare Provides coverage for annual screening mammograms for all women age 40 and over, and waives the Part B deductible for screening mammography.

Pap Smear and Pelvic Exams: Medicare provides coverage every three years for a screening pap smear and pelvic exam (including a clinical breast exam) for all women. Women who are at high risk for cervical or vaginal cancer can be tested annually. Medicare waives the Part B deductible for screening pap smears and pelvic exams.

Prostate Cancer Screening Tests: Medicare provides coverage for annual prostate cancer screening for men over age 50.

Coverage of Colorectal Screening: Medicare provides coverage for colorectal cancer screening procedures including: (1) fecal-occult blood tests for persons age 50 and over, (2) flexible sigmoidoscopy for persons age 50 and over, (3) colonoscopy for persons at high risk for colorectal cancer, and (4) some other procedures.

Diabetes Self-Management Benefits: Medicare provides coverage for diabetes outpatient self-management training services furnished in non-hospital-based programs. (This is already covered in hospital-based programs.)

Medicare also provides coverage for blood glucose monitors and testing strips for all diabetics (already covered for insulin-dependent diabetics). Payment for testing strips used with blood glucose monitors will be reduced by 10 percent.

Bone Mass Measurements: Medicare provides coverage for procedures to identify bone mass, detect bone loss, or determine bone quality, including a physician's interpretation of the results. Persons qualifying for these procedures include estrogen-deficient women at risk for osteoporosis, and persons: (1) with vertebral abnormalities, (2) receiving long-term glucocorticoid steroid therapy, (3) with primary hyperparathyroidism, and (4) being monitored to assess the response to, or efficacy of, an approved osteoporosis drug. Services will be paid under the physician fee schedule.

The legislation also authorizes coverage for flu shots.

For more detailed information about these services, you can contact your doctor, or read a legislative summary of the provisions of the law on the internet at http:/

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IRIS Expands

Iowa Radio Reading Information Service for the Blind and Print Handicapped continues expansion plans as part of the IRIS broadcast is carried on the secondary audio programming (SAP) channel of Iowa Public Television. One hour of the New York Times is heard from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. each weekday on Channel 11. The Des Moines Register front page, metro, Iowa, and business news is broadcast from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m. If all goes well, the broadcasts will be extended, as well as carried on Channel 12 in eastern Iowa by the end of the year.

Plans also continue with WOI-FM officials and National Public Radio Satellite Services to offer the IRIS broadcasts to all public radio stations in Iowa through a satellite uplink.

"It's been our goal to be available to every print handicapped person in Iowa by the year 2000," said IRIS executive director Sally Vander Linden. "We're excited to think it may happen before then. IRIS has received many requests throughout the state for the reading service."

Vander Linden said IRIS is seeking names of individuals in the Sioux City, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls, Waterloo, and Council Bluffs areas who might benefit from the service.

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News Flash ...

Word was just received that Jean Saner of the Department staff has been selected to receive the 1998 Service Award from the National Association of Rehabilitation Support Staff division of the National Rehabilitation Association. Congratulations! Although other Iowans have received this award over the years, Jean is the first Department for the Blind staff member to be so honored. She will receive the award in Orlando, Florida, on November 5 in recognition of her exemplary assistance to persons with disabilities both at the Department and in her volunteer activities outside of work. Jean is employed as a lead secretary and works directly with Louise Duvall, Program Administrator for Field Operations. Again, congratulations to Jean and a big thank you to all who assisted in compiling letters for her nomination packet.

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Return to Newsletter page.

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.