Banner: Iowa Department for the Blind

White Cane Update

Spring 2001

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, Coralville
John Wellman, Des Moines
Des Moines, Iowa, Spring 2001 Newsletter


Director's Message.
Order of Selection.
Volunteer Luncheon and Workshops Planned.
Record Successes in VR for FFY 2000.
Pebbles in a Pond.
Descriptive Video New Releases.
Legacy ...Independent Living.
A New Look for Fifth and Sixth Floors.
Business Enterprises Program Continues to Expand.
How Well Do You Know Your Library?
More Independent Living Services Reach Iowans.
OPAC Now Available for Ordering Books.
The Iowa Angle in the Library.
The Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 Implementation.
Project ASSIST Means Jobs.
Braille Book Boxes Needed.
Check It Out In Waukee.
The Toolbox: What's for Dinner.
Comings and Goings.
3 New Magazines from Recorded Periodicals.


As this issue goes to press, the Iowa Legislature is working out the details of the budget for the next state fiscal year. Because revenues are down significantly, and because the State cannot operate with a deficit, the legislators are looking for areas to cut budgets. The Department for the Blind may have to take its share of budget cuts along with the rest of state government. At the very least, no new funds will be appropriated for the Department. Because nearly every state dollar appropriated to the Department matches four federal dollars of Vocational Rehabilitation funds, every dollar which the state cuts costs the Department five dollars.
In September, the Iowa Commission for the Blind made its budget recommendation to the Governor. That recommendation included a state appropriation of $1,826,993. With federal match, along with some incidental income, this appropriation would provide a budget of $9,030,099.

In addition, the Commission asked for three budget packages beyond level funding. The Commission asked for $50,000 to be divided between the Iowa Radio-Reading Information Service for the Blind and Print-Handicapped (IRIS) and Newsline for the Blind. It also asked for an additional $25,000 to match federal funds and help pay for increasing costs of assistive technology needed for blind people going to work. The third budget package requested $8,000 to introduce JobLine to Iowa. JobLine allows blind persons to access national job banks via telephone and would be very helpful for people looking for jobs.

In the first round of recommendations, Governor Vilsack recommended level funding for the Department, but excluded the three additional budget requests. During the second round of negotiations, the Governor has continued to recommend level funding for the Department. The final decision will come from the Legislature later this spring.

In order to prepare for potential budget cuts, the Department has submitted a State Plan which includes an Order of Selection for Vocational Rehabilitation clients beginning no later than October 1, 2001. (See the following article for an explanation of Order of Selection.) This strategic move positions the Department in case funds are cut. If funds are not cut, we will continue to serve all blind Iowans who are eligible for services as we have in the past. If funds are cut, Order of Selection provides a systematic and federally approved method for determining the order in which eligible individuals will be served.


Due to recent legislative actions, the Iowa Department for the Blind has begun the process of implementing an Order of Selection. It is expected that the Order of Selection will be implemented no later than October 1, 2001. Our agency may experience a loss in state appropriations which carries with it a loss of federal funds. This reduction in revenue could prohibit us from providing the full range of services to all eligible individuals during the current Federal Fiscal Year and the 2002 Federal Fiscal Year. When an agency can no longer provide the full range of services, federal regulations require that we implement an Order of Selection that provides for individuals with the most significant disabilities to be selected for services before all other individuals with disabilities. If you have any questions regarding the implementation of the Order of Selection, please feel free to contact Kent Farver at 800-362-2587 extension 1256, or 515-281-1256.


On Friday, June 22, volunteers from across the state who give such valuable and needed service to the Department on an on-going basis will gather to increase their knowledge in their specialized areas and to celebrate the achievements of all volunteers. The day will include workshops for braillists and tapists at which they can learn new techniques and meet others doing the same work. The luncheon will host all volunteers, including those who repair cassette machines, rewind tapes, burst Braille, help with filing, and the myriad other services they provide. The luncheon is provided by the Iowa Council of the United Blind, and will feature Mary Peckham as the guest speaker. Mary will tell us about her girlhood at the Colorado school for the blind in the '20s and '30s, of romance, travel, and success in the '40s, and her abiding interest in all things related to Braille. We will also celebrate the contributions of all volunteers and announce this year's winner of the Elizabeth Perowsky award. Be sure to make your reservations by calling Beth Hirst at 515-281-1280 or 800-362-2587.


More and more blind Iowans are finding or improving their jobs with the help of the Vocational Rehabilitation program at the Department. In the year 2000, 171 blind Iowans either found new jobs or significantly improved the ones they had. This marks an 80% increase in employment outcomes over the past five years. The average hourly wage for the positions obtained through our Vocational Rehabilitation program in 2000 was $12.19, an increase of 7% over last year, and a figure very close to Iowa's average hourly wage.
An upward trend in employment for blind Iowans is evidenced by the figures in the table below. Iowa's economy is undoubtedly responsible for some of this increase. The team approach to services which the Department implemented three years ago also has a lot to do with the increase in successful attainment of employment goals.

Year, Number of Closures
1981, 109
1982, 90
1983, 91
1984, 98
1985, 90
1986, 93
1987, 96
1988, 100
1989, 102
1990, 86
1991, 82
1992, 96
1993, 69
1994, 89
1995, 95
1996, 97
1997, 101
1998, 114
1999, 146
2000, 171


Last October, the Department hosted a national Prevocational-Vocational Conference for Orientation Centers as part of our celebration of 75 years of service to blind Iowans. Representatives from eight other states attended the conference, sharing information in an effort to improve the programs they offer to the blind persons whom they serve. Like pebbles tossed into a pond, the ripples caused by the conference continue to have an impact on the services being provided to blind persons across the country.

As a direct result of the conference and the close look at our Orientation Center that it provided, Hawaii has decided to make some fundamental changes in its center programs. Two Hawaiian staff have braved Iowa's ice and snow to study our Center more closely so that they can make recommendations that will be implemented in their center later this year.

Nebraska Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, enthusiastic about the opportunity to share ideas with representatives from other states, has taken on the responsibility of hosting the next conference. It will be held this June in Lincoln, Nebraska. Iowa plans to send several representatives, who are looking forward to another chance to learn and share ideas with staff from other states.


The library has a collection of approximately 250 descriptive videos. These are movies and documentary films which have been enhanced with narration for blind and visually impaired people. The narration is professionally done and added to the regular sound track, telling you what's happening when nobody is talking. They play on a standard VCR.

With funds provided by Iowa Lions Clubs, we have just added six new titles to the collection.
DV250 Hello, Dolly!
DV251 Tarzan
DV252 Life is Beautiful
DV253 Mrs. Doubtfire
DV254 The Sixth Sense
DV255 Shakespeare in Love

If you are interested in borrowing these or any other descriptive videos, please contact Marcella Edmonds at 515-281-1246 or 800-362-2587.

Note that a separate application is required to borrow descriptive videos, along with a one-time fee of $20 plus tax ($21.20).


Note: The following item appeared in the Department's 2000 annual report along with a variety of other snapshots of blind Iowans. Copies of the Annual Report are available on tape, in Braille, and in standard print from the Department.

Shirley Wiggins appreciates any gathering of persons who are blind for two simple reasons: there blindness is just incidental, and there blind people are in control of their own lives. They are what she loves about her days at the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in Vinton, what motivates her 45 years of active participation in statewide consumer organizations of the blind, and what inspires her involvement in community-based self-help groups of blind people. They also motivate her volunteer work as a peer counselor for newly blind persons and keep her active on the Independent Living (IL) Advisory Committee, which she is chairing for a third term.

For years, Shirley's primary contact with the Department was as an avid reader of the books and magazines she borrowed from the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. She considers the Library to be one of the most essential services the Department provides to blind Iowans, especially those served through the Department's IL Program. In 1984 when she was first asked to serve on the IL Advisory Committee, she admits she had no idea what it was all about. At the time, she could not participate as fully as she wanted. After years working as a homemaker, parent, and entertainer, she found herself immersed in care giving for her parents and her husband.

In 1988, Shirley was able to concentrate more on IL interests. She learned that the focus of Independent Living is just as its name implies: to enable blind Iowans who are at least 55 years old or severely multiply-disabled to maintain active and full lives in their homes and communities. From the Department's IL teachers, they learn self-confidence, a positive attitude about their blindness, and the blindness skills they need to live independently and as full members of their families and communities. Two factors drive the IL mission: the high incidence of blindness in Iowa's growing elderly population and the frequent premature institutionalization of these persons in nursing homes because of their vision loss.

Shirley tells of an older woman who was struggling with her blindness. The woman was afraid of everything. Shirley was asked to speak with her. The woman's daughter brought her over to Shirley's home frequently for chats, lunch, and some work on cooking, cane travel, and Braille skills. Where once the woman had been silent, withdrawn, and on the verge of going into a nursing home, she now comes to self-help group meetings, travels independently, rides the bus, handles her banking, hosts others for lunch, and joins in activities. Shirley is convinced that when IL staff and experienced blind persons intervene promptly as teachers and role models to give support and training to newly blind persons who are frightened or in denial, it is possible to prevent extreme solutions and decisions.

Shirley's work on the IL Advisory Committee and through consumer and self-help organizations affects all blind Iowans. She educates the public about blindness through speaking engagements, and she contacts legislators and local officials both personally and through letters about programs, funding, and legislation that impact blind persons. Shirley believes, "Anything good can be strengthened." On that note, she vows to continue her commitment to the Independent Living Program, the IL Advisory Committee, and the Iowa Department for the Blind.

Margaret Oliver was just the kind of person who would have benefited from Shirley Wiggins' peer counseling. The eye specialist may have told Margaret that he would refer her name to the Iowa Department for the Blind, but she doesn't remember it. Of course, that was probably after he told her she was blind and that her sight would not come back. So when a Department staff person telephoned, her response was short and nasty: "Call me back in two weeks. Nothing you can do will bring my sight back. Maybe I'll talk to you, maybe I won't." Upon reflection, however, Margaret, then in her early 70s, realized she might well live another couple of decades, and she wanted to do so capably. She decided to let the Department into her life.

Now as a peer counselor and a staff member in the Department's Independent Living Program, Margaret remembers her own adjustment to blindness and is cautious in her first calls to older newly blind Iowans who need time to grasp their circumstances and needs. She contacts blind residents of Polk and surrounding counties approximately two weeks after a rehabilitation teacher has made an initial call or visit. She reassures them, brainstorms possibilities, shares her own experiences, and forwards specific needs and requests to appropriate staff for action. In later calls, she might be giving tips on operating a cassette playback machine, suggesting recipes, or encouraging someone to attend a local self-help group meeting.

Too often, Margaret says, newly blind older persons and their families jump to extreme solutions right away, the most troubling of which is the decision to give up their homes and retreat to nursing homes. The best solutions are usually much smaller and more manageable. Techniques like putting tactile marks on stoves and thermostats, learning some basic cane travel skills, and obtaining checks with raised lines can keep elderly blind persons living independently in their own homes.

Margaret says she pursued the modest solutions and some more thorough ones as well. She came into the Department's Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center for training to work on both her attitude and skills. The whole Center experience was an eye opener (no pun intended) for her, she says. Working, studying or talking with other blind persons, all of different ages and at different points in their progress, day-after-day, helped her. Her attitude and her self-acceptance improved gradually. "When I got to the point where I could say I am a blind person and I am okay with it, I knew I was all right." Her daughter also recognized Margaret's transformation, feeling that the Center had given her mother back to her.

Margaret feels that her own confidence encourages others to be positive about their blindness. Her young grandson occasionally explains to others that his grandmother's eyes are broken, and he eagerly helps her label her canned goods. For Margaret as well as her family, blindness is no longer a big deal, and she is passing this legacy on to others.


Contractors have been hard at work remodeling the dormitory portions of fifth and sixth floors. Improvements will eliminate fire code violations and make these areas fully accessible and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This is the first time these areas have been remodeled in 35 years. All of the old paneling will be removed and replaced with painted walls. Each room will have a new door, a new ceiling, new flooring, and new furniture when the project is completed in August. A bathroom on each floor will also be fully wheel-chair accessible.


Last summer, construction was completed at the west- bound Victor rest area along I-80. As a result, a vendor was assigned to that facility in August. Previously, the east-bound location had been combined with another vending facility.

If plans go as scheduled, and weather permits, construction will begin on a new roadside vending facility along I-29 just north of Glenwood at Pacific Junction. Plans are for construction to begin in late March or early April, with completion of the construction and assignment of a blind vendor to take place by July 1.

Upon completion of this project, there will be fourteen blind vendors assigned to roadside facilities. An additional vendor has one roadside location in combination with a cafeteria.

Efforts are also under way to expand the Business Enterprises Program (BEP) into other locations. A new BEP marketing brochure will be available soon which will assist in this effort. In addition, other blind vendors are taking the initiative to expand their locations in their geographic areas.


Do you know who your reader's advisor is? Your assignment depends on the spelling of your last name. Here's the breakdown:
A through E, Marilyn Jensen
F through K, Darin Schneider
L through RI, Gail Stricker
RO through Z, Lynne Paff

You can call your reader advisor at any time to ask for help in finding a particular book, to subscribe to new magazines, to change the number or type of books we send you, or just to get a recommendation for something to read. You can ask for help operating your cassette machine, or request that a book we don't have be taped or put into Braille for you. Just call 800-362-2587 and ask for your reader advisor. The operator will ask for your name and then transfer your call to the right one.

How many books does your library circulate? During the last fiscal year, the library circulated almost 200,000 cassette, Braille and large type books. Library patrons also received approximately 105,000 magazines. That's a lot of material being handled by our staff--roughly 1000 pieces of mail each day.


Within the past few years, the Iowa Department for the Blind has added a new kind of position called an Independent Living Service Coordinator. Two of the many tasks which these Service Coordinators perform in their assigned territories are hosting short training workshops in local communities, and recruiting and coordinating the activities of the peer advisors.

Training experiences, scheduled for 12 to 15 hours over three or four days, are conducted in or near the town where most of the participants live. Called "Mini-Orientation" these workshops give blind and visually impaired participants a taste of the kind of training available through the Department's various orientation programs. Participants learn the basics of Grade One Braille, cane travel, cooking skills, independent living skills, and much, much more. They also complete a craft project and mingle with others in the same situation as themselves. Participants unanimously report that they have grown in understanding of their own capabilities as blind persons. For some, this is all the training they feel they need. Others, however, find that they want more--more skills, more independence, and a more positive view of life. Many who have received the training in Red Oak, Atlantic, Des Moines, Burlington, Mason City, and Dubuque, state that it is an experience that has improved their lives forever.

Service Coordinators also manage the Peer Advisor Program. Peer Advisors are volunteers who have received training in the area of blindness and have a good attitude regarding their own blindness. These individuals must have great blindness skills and be willing to share their experiences in dealing with their own vision loss. Peer Advisors provide a valuable service within their communities. They work closely with the Department in assisting with group trainings, speaking engagements, educating the public about blindness and the White Cane Proclamation, helping people sign up for library service, hosting open houses, and developing local self-help groups.

For more information on group training or the Peer Advisor Program, call the Department and ask for the Independent Living Service Coordinator in your area.


During the past nine months, the Department's VR counselors have helped blind Iowans obtain or retain jobs in the following fields:

Accounts Payable Bookkeeper
Agency Licensing Manager
Apartment Manager
Art Instructor (Adjunct)
Assembler, Small Parts
Assembler, Sheltered Employment
Assistant Manager
Baker/Kitchen Worker
BEP/Vending Facility Manager
Car Wash Attendant
Chemical Dependency Counselor
Child Monitor
Community Health Consultant
Computer Engineer
Computer Networker
Concrete Flatwork Contractor
Customer Service Representative
Data Entry Clerk
Dining Room Attendant
Director of Religious Education
Director, Counseling Center
Economics Professor
Electrician, Apprentice
Elementary School Teacher
Farm Bookkeeper
Fast Food Worker
Furniture Assembler
Grocery Retail Service Worker
Grounds Keeper
Hand Packager
Insurance Salesman
Inventory Control Clerk
Kitchen Helper
Library Assistant
Management Analyst
Manager, Advertising
Manager, Retail Store
Mechanical Engineer
Medical Receptionist
Medical Transcriptionist
Office Assistant
Office (Fiscal) Manager
Office Manager, Veterinary Office
Patient Care Attendant
Personnel Clerk
Phone Order Processor
Policyholder Information Clerk
Product Assembler
Program Coordinator
Program Manager BEP
Programmer, Information Systems
Proofreader, Braille
Quality Assurance Specialist
Rater, Insurance
Rehabilitation Center Program Aide
Rehabilitation Center Manager
Rehabilitation Consultant
Rehabilitation Teacher
Retail Sales Clerk
Secondary Education Teacher
Security Guard
Senior Assistive Technology Analyst
Senior Draftsman
Shipping/Receiving Clerk
Social Worker
Stock Clerk
Teacher Associate
Teacher, Secondary (Substitute)
Telemarketer-Supported Employment
Telemarketing Assistant
Tool Maker (Owner)
Transportation Maintenance Supervisor
Truck Body Repair
Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor
Vocational Training Teacher
Waste Water Maintenance Supervisor
Water Treatment Superintendent


The OPAC is due for more upgrades, and now it's time to beta-test the ordering process. If you would like to begin ordering books on-line, call your reader's advisor at 800-362-2587. Please note that when you choose to reserve a book, it will be sent to you as soon as it is available. The current OPAC does not have capacity to put books on your request list. You will need a user ID or PID, and you will also need a password or PIN. You must get both of these from your reader's advisor.

You can find the OPAC at:

Happy reading!


Our community newspaper is well-known for finding the Iowa angle in every news story. Iowa residents are interested in the effect of world events on themselves and their neighbors. And which of us can resist a tidbit of gossip about a local celebrity? Here at the Library, we find that enthusiasm for Iowa authors and subjects runs high, but the selection provided by the National Library Service (NLS) is limited. To fill this gap, we have produced many books with an "Iowa connection." From mysteries and westerns by Iowa authors to biographies, histories, and even ghost stories, the Library has a wealth of Iowa material to share. Here is a list of some of the cassette titles which can be ordered from your reader's advisor:

RCO 12566 Collins, Max Allan, Damned in Paradise; a Nathan Heller Novel 1998
RCO 12123 Collins, Max Allan, Nice Weekend for Murder 1994
RCO 12125 Collins, Max Allan, A Shroud for Aquarius 1985
RCO 12134 Time and Chance; an Iowa Murder Mystery Edited by Barbara Lounsberry 1998 (17 Iowa Authors Combine Forces to Write an Iowa Mystery)
RCO 12527 Recknor, Ellen, Me and the Boys; Or, the Glorious Adventures of Gini Kincaid: My Perilous Times in the Territory 1995
RCO 12528 Recknor, Ellen, Prophet Annie; Being the Recently Discovered Memoir of Annie Pinkerton Boone Newcastle Dearborn, Prophet and Seer 1999
RCO 12529 Recknor, Ellen, Leaving Missouri 1997
RCO 12563 Gorman, Ed The Day the Music Died 1999
RCO 12928 Harstad, Donald Known Dead 1999
RCO 12929 Harstad, Donald The Big Thaw 2000
RCO 12943 Harstad, Donald Eleven Days; a Novel of the Heartland 1998

RCO 12100 McCaughey, Kenny, Seven from Heaven; the Miracle of the McCaughey Septuplets/Kenny and Bobbi McCaughey with Gregg and Deborah Shaw Lewis 1998
RCO 12101 Acton, Richard, Lord, A Brit Among the Hawkeyes 1998
RCO 12140 Fry, Hayden, Hayden Fry: a High Porch Picnic/Hayden Fry with George Wine 1999
RCO 12554 Chapman, Mike Gotch: an American Hero 1999 (Fictionalized Biography of Frank Gotch, World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion from 1908 to 1915, Who Was Born in Humboldt, Iowa.)
RCO 12571 Schmidt, Duanea, Iowa Pride 1996 (Brief Biographies of 110 Iowans Who Thought of Better Ways of Doing Things and of Better Things to Make.)
RCO 12593 Lucas, James, Birth in a Chicken House 1999 (Day-To-Day Stories of a Small Town Veterinarian from Southern Iowa.)
RCO 12595 Wundram, Bill A Time We Remember: Celebrating a Century in Our Quad Cities 1999 (A History of the Quad City Area--Davenport, Bettendorf, Moline, and Rock Island.)
RCO 12626 Bryson, Bill, The Lost Continent; Travels in Small-Town America 1989, 1990 (An Unsparing and Hilarious Account of One Man's Rediscovery of America and His Search for the Perfect Small Town.)
RCO 12684 Hein, Ruth D. Ghostly Tales of Iowa/Ruth D. Hein and Vicky L. Hinsenbrock 1996 (Collection of Ghost Stories Gathered in Response to a Request in Local Newspapers Asking for Real-Life Ghostly Encounters in Iowa.)
RCO 12927 Willson, Meredith And There I Stood with My Piccolo 1948 (Autobiographical Novel by the Iowa Musician, Best Known for "The Music Man" and "The Unsinkable Molly Brown.")
RCO 13024 Patterson, Marjorie, A Town Called Perry; Midwest Life in Small-Town Iowa 1997 (...Not Intended to Be a History of Perry [Iowa], Just Stories about Perry Out of History. The Material Has Come from More than 100 Years of The Perry Chief Files.)


Ticket to Work Program
Work Incentive Enhancements
Health Insurance Improvements
Ticket to Work Program

Iowa has been selected to be a pilot state for a new program from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The program is named the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act. Selected Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries will receive in the mail a ticket and a brochure explaining how the program will operate. These tickets are tentatively scheduled to be mailed beginning June 1, 2001. The initial mailing of the tickets to eligible individuals will last for approximately four months. The ticket can be used for vocational rehabilitation (VR) and employment support services from an approved provider of the recipient's choice (called an employment network). An employment network can consist of a single provider (public or private) or an association of providers, which will assume responsibility for the coordination and delivery of services. These networks will be required to demonstrate specific expertise and experience and provide an array of services. At the present time, there are only two employment networks within the state of Iowa, and they include both state VR agencies.

SSA will select and enter into agreements with employment networks, conduct periodic quality assurance reviews, and establish a method for resolving disputes between beneficiaries and employment networks.
As always, the Department will continue to provide vocational rehabilitation, employment support services, and all of our other services as we have in the past to eligible individuals regardless of whether they are a ticket recipient or not. It is important to understand that this program is completely voluntary, and that you are not required to participate.

Work Incentive Enhancements

A.) Expedited Benefit Reinstatement
Expedited benefit reinstatement became effective on January 1, 2001. Individuals entitled to SSDI or SSI benefits may receive expedited reinstatement of benefits following termination of benefits because of work activity.

SSDI: An SSDI beneficiary whose entitlement to benefits has been terminated due to earnings above SGA (Standard Gainful Activity) following the 36 month extended period of eligibility may request reinstatement of their SSDI benefits without filing a new application as long as the request is made within 60 consecutive months following the month that the SSDI benefits were terminated.

SSI: Under this benefit plan, the individual must have had his or her benefits terminated on account of excess income resulting from work activity for a period of at least 12 months. The reinstatement request must be made within 60 months of the termination of benefits.

Under either of the benefit plans, reinstatement can be made under the proceeding circumstances without the need for a new application or disability determination. While SSA is making a determination pertaining to a reinstatement request, an individual is eligible for provisional benefits (cash benefits and Medicare or Medicaid, as appropriate) for a period of up to 6 months. These provisional benefits will not be considered an overpayment regardless of the reinstatement decision outcome.

B.) Changes to Continuing Disability Review (CDR)
This rule went into effect on January 1, 2001 for beneficiaries using Tickets. Beginning on January 1, 2002, this rule will automatically go into effect for all SSDI beneficiaries and will provide 24 months of protection.
Beneficiaries using Tickets will not be scheduled for medical CDRs.

Social Security defines using a ticket as follows:
First two years--ticket has been given to a member of an employment network.
Third year--a person must have worked at a level above non-blind SGA for at least 3 out of 12 months.
Fourth year--a person must have worked at a level above non-blind SGA for at least 6 out of 12 months.
Fifth and following years--a person must have worked at a level that would allow them to terminate their benefits due to excess income for at least 6 out of 12 months.

Eventually, all SSDI beneficiaries will be automatically protected from work-triggered medical CDRs for 24 months. This will go into effect at a later date.

Scheduled medical CDRs will still be conducted.

Health Insurance Improvements--Medicare

Extending Medicare Coverage for SSDI Benefit Recipients.
This rule went into effect on January 1, 2001. SSDI beneficiaries are allowed to test their ability to work for at least 9 months without affecting their disability or medical benefits. Disability payments are discontinued when a beneficiary has monthly earnings at or above SGA ($1240) after the 9 month Trial Work Period and the 3 month grace period. (SSA will pay SSDI benefits for the month the disability ceased due to earnings above SGA or medical improvement plus the next two months before discontinuing payments.)

If the beneficiary remains disabled but continues working, Medicare benefits can continue for an additional 93 months, for a total of 8 years of coverage. For example, an individual who had not used any of his or her trial work period before starting a new job began working in January of 2001 at a level above SGA. He or she would continue to receive medical benefits throughout the trial work period that would last through September, 2001. At that time, the trial work period would end assuming that he or she is still working at a level above SGA. Medicare coverage would continue for another 93 months, through July, 2009.

The previous rule allowed only 4 years of extended coverage including the 9 months of trial work experience. This legislation has extended this coverage by 4 years.

by Mary Mills

Des Moines--Last summer 49-year-old Susan Stageberg of Clive decided to return to the workforce after 18 years at home raising her children. Knowing nothing about computers, Stageberg realized she was at a disadvantage.

"You just don't get hired in this day and age without knowing computers," Stageberg said. "And I didn't know a mouse from a modem from a disk drive."

Her first step? Getting a computer. "The guy came over plugged it in, set it up and said, 'here you go.' Honestly I didn't know what to do," she laughed.

Learning how to use a computer can be challenging for anyone, but even more so if you're blind, as Stageberg is. She cannot use a mouse to navigate a computer. She must perform all functions using the keyboard and she relies on a screen reader and a speech synthesizer to read what's on the screen, be it text or commands such as "enter."

"How would I know what I was doing if he (the computerized voice) wasn't talking to me?" she said.
And, most screen readers do not explain how to use popular programs such as Microsoft Office, Windows or WordPerfect. That's why Stageberg was glad to hear about the state's Project ASSIST, a series of tutorials and keyboard guides that teach people who are blind how to use basic software programs.

Karen Keninger, Program Administrator for the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, developed Project ASSIST five years ago. It was borne out of personal experience. Keninger, who is also blind, recalls "crashing" her way through her first computer. She learned through extensive trial and error deciding to save others the same heartache. The timing couldn't have been better.

"We ran into a gap repeatedly with clients. At the time, many businesses were switching to Windows, so people lost their jobs or were demoted because they couldn't keep up with the software. We developed the tutorials to fill that need," Keninger said.

Keninger won a federal grant to pay for the project. Her staff of four has since developed 40 tutorials distributing more than 16,000 of them worldwide. Initially the tutorials were free, but a funding change last year, prompted the department to charge $35 per tape to cover expenses. (The tutorials are available on cassette tape, disk, in large print and in electronic Braille and can be ordered online.)

Keninger said she has received a number of "unsolicited thank yous."

"It's a great opportunity for blind people," she said. "It allows them to compete for jobs and further their education because it gives them the information they need to run a computer."
Stageberg can vouch for that.

"I didn't take a class. I had no formal lessons. I just sat there with the tape recorder and did what it told me to do. I was able to teach myself," she said.

Shortly thereafter, Stageberg landed a job with the Department for the Blind as a clerk in the production unit of the library. Knowing how to use a computer was key, as she spends a good portion of her day updating library databases.

"It's wonderful," she said. "I love my job and without the tutorials I never would have been hired."

For more information on Project Assist, please contact Karen Keninger at 515-281-1291 or 800-362-2587.


Do you have any extra Braille book mailing boxes sitting around the house? If so, please return them to the library. We currently have a shortage of boxes and need them to mail more books out.


The Waukee Public Library has taken a giant step forward in making its materials accessible to blind and visually impaired patrons.

Due to the generosity of the Waukee Lions Club and funded, in part, with a federal Library Services and Technology Act grant as administered by the State Library of Iowa the library now offers an Internet computer station with screen enlargement and screen reading software and an Aladdin Rainbow Reader that enlarges and/or changes text color. In addition, Walnut Hills United Methodist Church provided funds to purchase a selection of magnifiers for checkout.

This will be a great resource for people in Waukee, and a model for other libraries throughout the state.


Vision loss shouldn't 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 the Oven--With the right techniques baking that pastry is, well, as easy as pie. Lets 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 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.

Using the Stove Top--When working on the stove top it is helpful to place your pan on the burner before the heat is turned on to center it. When the pan is hot, use a metal spatula to find the burner and center the pan.
Similar to working in the oven, use a spatula to locate the food. When meat is brown, 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.

Miscellaneous Tips for the Kitchen--You can separate an egg by breaking the egg into your hand and draining off the white through your fingers. It is also possible to buy a special tool for separating eggs.

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!


It's been a busy season for employee changes at the Department. Field Operations has a new counselor, Randy Scanlan, who will work in the Cedar Rapids office covering southeast Iowa. Two new support staff, Sue Allen and Linda Trogdon, are working hard in Field Operations supporting their field teams.

The Library has its compliment of new faces as well. Susie Stageberg has joined the staff to provide support in Braille and tape production. Darin Schneider joined the readers advisors. Darin will be helping all library patrons whose names fall into the alphabet from F through K. Deena Cross has added a much-needed pair of hands to the team that manages the books in our library, preparing them for the mail, receiving them back when patrons are finished with them, inspecting and shelving them so they're ready for the next borrower. At a rate of nearly 1000 pieces of mail each day, they all keep very busy.

Roger Norton is now adding his expertise as a power plant engineer to the second shift of the maintenance staff. Our building and sidewalks remain clean and in excellent condition--a real source of pride--as a result of the efforts of all of our maintenance crew.

After 24 years of service, most recently in the Orientation Center, Travis Robinson retired at the end of March. He and his wife Gail are looking forward to a life of leisure in their new home in Clear Lake.

Catherine Ford, who served the Library faithfully and well for the past 18 years, has chosen to move on to other endeavors. Karen Keninger has been appointed to succeed her as the library's program administrator.


Library patrons may be interested in three new recorded

Recorded Periodicals has three new magazines available on cassette:
The Family Handyman
The New Yorker
O, the Oprah Magazine

The subscription fee for each is $36 per year, and should be sent to:
Recorded Periodicals
Division of Associated Services for the Blind
919 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 627-0600, Ext. 3208
(215) 627-0692 Fax

DES MOINES IA 50309-2364

This newsletter is printed on recycled paper using soy-based ink. The Iowa Department for the Blind is committed to preserving the environment and to reducing waste.

If you would prefer not to receive this newsletter, please send the mailing label from the back of this newsletter to the Department requesting that we delete your name from our mailing list. Also, all address corrections 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.