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Biennial Report of the Department for the Blind

As Required by Section 216B.7 of the Code of Iowa
February 12, 2003

The Iowa Department for the Blind is the state agency responsible for providing most of the services Iowans who are blind or severely visually impaired need to live independently and work competitively. Its mission is to be “the means for persons who are blind to obtain for themselves universal access and full participation as citizens in whatever roles they may choose.” The Department accomplishes its mission through its four divisions: the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Field Operations, the Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center, and the Business Enterprises Program.

The Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped circulates a collection of over 90,000 books and 120 magazines in such alternative media as cassette tape, Braille, and large print to Iowans who cannot use standard print because of blindness, reading disability, or physical disability. The Library also transcribes into Braille and recorded formats employment, educational, and leisure materials that are not already available. A grant to The Iowa Radio Reading Information Service for the Blind and Print Handicapped, Inc., makes it possible for over 250 volunteers to continue the work of providing a unique radio reading service. The Department also supports NEWSLINE, perfected by the National Federation of the Blind, which is a computerized, nationwide delivery system for all the text in newpapers.

Through Field Operations, eligible blind Iowans receive Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and Independent Living (IL) services. Designed to help clients prepare for, obtain and retain employment, VR services may include assessment, training in blindness skills, vocational training, and job placement and follow up. Through the IL program, rehabilitation teachers work with elderly and multiply disabled blind persons in their home communities, teaching them blindness skills and connecting them with the local resources they need to live independently and participate actively in community and family life.

The Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center is an intensive residential training program that helps at least forty blind adults each year become full members of their communities by encouraging them to develop self-confidence and by teaching them such blindness skills as travel with the long white cane, Braille, computer, industrial arts, and home and personal management. The Business Enterprises Program provides statewide opportunities for legally blind VR clients to manage a wide variety of food service operations, including cafeterias, restaurants, coffee bars, vending locations, and highway rest area vending sites.

The Department’s programs are successful because they are based on a positive approach to blindness that says, “It’s okay to be blind.” The effectiveness of this approach is borne out, for example, in the lives of blind Iowans who have received VR and IL services. Society benefits not only from the skills and talents employed blind persons contribute but also financially from the taxes they pay and the public support they no longer require. Elderly and multiple-disabled blind persons can stay in their own homes, thereby avoiding such costly institutional alternatives as care centers.

1998 1999 2000 2001 2002
Number of VR Case Closures: 114 146 171 175 140

1998 1999 2000 2001 2002
Number of client goals achieved: 1,385 1,447 1,334 1,702 1,733

1998 1999 2000 2001 2002
Readership: 8,761 9,123 9,470 7,590 7,537
Book Titles Circulated: 172,307 179,485 189,850 205,438 225,404
Book Volumes Circulated: -- -- -- 212,185 234,387
Magazine Subscriptions: -- -- -- 15,250 17,071

34 CFR 361.62 provides that the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education will reduce the amount otherwise payable to a state for a fiscal year by the amount by which the total expenditures from non-federal sources under the state plan for the previous fiscal year were less than the total of those expenditures for the fiscal year two years prior to the previous fiscal year.

In other words, a maintenance of effort penalty imposed by the Secretary is a dollar-for-dollar forfeit of federal funds equal to the state’s deficiency in its own support of rehabilitation services for Iowa’s blind citizens and is in addition to the loss of federal matching funds in the second previous year when the violation occurs.

State general fund appropriations are now insufficient to satisfy the Department’s maintenance of effort requirements in federal law.

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