Banner: Iowa Department for the Blind

White Cane Update

Fall 2004


Published and distributed by the Iowa Department for the Blind
Allen C. Harris, Director
Karen Keninger, Editor

Commission Board Members:
Julie Scurr, Chair, Coralville
Robert Martin, Davenport
Doug Elliott, Grinnell
Des Moines, Iowa

Table of Contents:
A Note from the Director 
Vision Loss Doesn’t Mean Job Loss for Jenny 
Hy-Vee Catalogs Available in Braille and E-Text 
Recreation Room/Lobby Renovation Project 
Library Offers Bookport on Loan 
Bristow Girl Reads Her Way to the Sky 
Protecting Your Computer 
Centenarian Focuses on Today and Tomorrow 
Descriptive Story Time Participants Needed 
Braille Programs Available for the Des Moines Civic Center Broadway Series 
Pathfinders Update 
Simpler Way to List Files & Folders in Windows with Your Screen Reader 
Slates, Styluses and Canes Needed for Blind African Children 
Braillers Donated to Needy Children 
Free, Comprehensive and Accessible Medical Information On-Line 
Long White Cane is a Joy and a Life Saver 

A Note From the Director

By Allen C. Harris

    The spring and summer months have been busy for IDB, and as you will read in the White Cane Update, we continue to find ways to get better at providing services to blind Iowans.   
    The Library has continued to strengthen our traditional services while adding a number of new and interesting activities.  The Summer Reading Club, was quite successful and the winner got an exceptional prize!!  We have opened our Career Resource Center (CRC) in the library, which will be dedicated to career exploration and employment success.  Library and Vocational Rehabilitation staff will support the Career Resource Center.  We have begun to test software to convert Braille books into electronic files.  This has far-reaching implications for preservation, duplication, and sharing on the Web.   We have some books, one of a kind and aging, that need to be preserved and Karen Keninger is determining the most efficient process for this goal.
    Curtis Chong and his staff continue to show creativity and a dynamic understanding of the changing demands on our college students.  Among other activities, they hosted an outstanding College Days seminar this summer.  I want all to know how proud I am of our commitment to this group of consumers.
    In the last issue of the White Cane Update, I wrote about the newest version of the Iowa Cane.  We have heard feedback from many users, and have placed a second order incorporating many of your suggestions.  Please continue to let Dave Hauge know what you think.  We want to get it just right.
    I am very sorry to report that on August 13th, Julie Scurr, Chair of the Iowa Commission for the Blind, had a stroke and is currently recovering at home.  We will be happy to forward any cards and well wishes to Julie if you send them to her in care of the Department.
    By mid September, IDB will bid the recreation room and first floor renovation, which we hope to begin in December and perhaps complete in the spring of 2005.  The recreation room will get a complete face-lift, along with updates to mechanical systems.    The Fourth Street entrance will be refurbished to reflect its original attractive space.  We will also move the reception area and central switchboard as part of the first floor makeover.  When completed, the changes will showcase our building to all visitors as they enter the Department. We have an appropriation from tobacco funds to complete this project.  Mike Hicklin and our maintenance staff continue to keep the building "sparkling," and everything in working order.
    As you read this White Cane Update, we will are actively participating in the budget process.  Over the last four lean years, IDB has seen its appropriations reduced by more than 25 percent.  We are working to address that in the appropriation for Fiscal Year 2006.   I am hopeful, believing that we can sell the programs and services provided to the citizens of Iowa. It is our responsibility to make our needs known and to garner the support from both the Governor and Legislature.

Vision Loss Doesn’t Mean Job Loss For Jenny

            Jenny Repplinger of Indianola is losing her vision, but she's not losing her job with Principal.  Jenny has worked for Principal Financial Group for the past 17 years and is currently a Senior Information Technology (IT) Applications Analyst.  She plans to continue in this job indefinitely, despite the fact that she is now legally blind.
    Referring to her blindness, Jenny says, "I don't like it, but it doesn't control me.  It doesn't ruin my life.  At first the emotional drag is tremendous.  I was lucky.  I know it's coming, and I intend to use what I have to do what I want to do."
    Jenny's success is due to a three-way partnership between Jenny, herself, Principal, and the Iowa Department for the Blind.  The key players in this partnership are Jenny; Cathy Campbell, a Human Performance and Development Manager for the Retirement and Investor Services Business Systems section where Jenny works; and Brenda Criswell, Jenny's Vocational rehabilitation counselor at the Department for the Blind.
    To celebrate Jenny's success, and to share their story, Jenny, Cathy and Brenda showcased Jenny's experience at the National Employment Conference sponsored jointly by the Rehabilitation Services Administration, the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR), the National Organization of Rehabilitation Partners (NORP), and George Washington University in Washington D.C. August 16-18.
    "I love my job," Jenny says.  "I love what I do, and I love the people I work with.  I wanted to figure out a way to keep my job and still do my job well."  As an applications performance expert, Jenny helps programmers optimize their software and find ways to reduce costs while achieving required performance. In addition, she says, "When the system goes down, I help bring it back up."  She also trains new employees.
    "Jenny is a great resource to all of the IT employees," Cathy says, "because she has the background and knowledge of the system, and communicates very well with people."
    Three years ago, Jenny's diabetes began to cause problems with her vision.  For the first two years, she struggled privately, trying to cope on her own.  "Last year, it got to the point where it was getting tough to do my job," she remembers.  I could still do it, but it was tough."  Reading printed materials and taking notes became more and more difficult.  She could still read the computer screen but began to worry about accuracy and found herself needing to double-check everything.
    "Jenny is a long-standing employee who fills a very valuable role with us," Cathy says.  "We don't want to lose her as an employee.  At first she didn't want to 'come out of the closet'–she didn't want the whole workplace to know she was working her way towards blindness.  She didn't want people to see her as different, and she didn't want to lose opportunities.”
    "Jenny came to me as her first contact with the company.  She said she had to face reality.  She was having more surgery, and at some point she was afraid she would not be able to see well enough to do her job.  As a company we wanted to do everything we could to keep Jenny, and I let her know she is a highly valued employee.  I also let her know that no one had reported any change in her performance."
    When Jenny decided to talk to Cathy about the problems, the two of them set to work finding solutions.  Neither Jenny nor Cathy knew what would work, but research and a referral from Jenny's ophthalmologist led them to the Iowa Department for the Blind.
    The solution has involved a partnership with Brenda Criswell, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor at the Department for the Blind.  Brenda put Jenny in touch with a successful blind IT professional.  "He gave me insight which was very helpful," Jenny recalls.
    Convinced she could keep her job, Jenny took on the challenge of learning the skills and tools she needed.  She started with the assistive technology she needs at her desk--a screen reader to speak the text on her computer screen, a scanner to convert printed material to computer text, and Braille to label everything from files to conference rooms.  She spends half a day each week in the Department's Adult Orientation Center learning alternative skills of blindness while she continues full time on her job.  Her plan is to master the job essentials first, and then to move on to travel with the long white cane, home ec and wood shop, the other major core classes at the Orientation Center.
    The accommodations Jenny needs to do her job have been a joint effort between the Department and Principal.  Jenny's employer supplied new hardware, and the Department provided specialized software and training.  Jenny provided the will to learn it all.
    "We wanted to comply with the law," Cathy says, "but more than that, we wanted to keep Jenny as an employee.  Jenny is an outstanding performer, and adds too much to the workplace.  This experience has been very cost effective for Principal.  It would have been virtually impossible to replace Jenny.  We could bring in someone new, but they wouldn't know Principal, and they wouldn't know our systems.  We would have had a huge cost in loss of productivity and retraining."  By working with Jenny and the Department for the Blind, Cathy says, they have experienced very little interruption in service. 

Hy-Vee Catalogs Available In Braille and E-Text

    Judd Kirklin of Home Town Grocers and the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped have collaborated to make the Hy-Vee catalog available in Braille and electronic text.  Catalog information includes the item name, brand, size, and category.  For example: "Hy-Vee Mozzarella Cheese 8 OZ Chunk," or "El Paso Enchilada Sauce Hot, 10 OZ."
    The catalog contains over 9,300 items carried by Hy-Vee Grocery Stores.    You can browse the catalog to see just how many kinds of salsa you can buy, or you can use it to make a specific grocery list, complete with brand and size. 
    If you are interested in receiving a copy either in electronic format or in Braille, contact Laura Williams at 800-362-2587, Ext. 11292.

Recreation Room/Lobby Renovation Project

By Mike Hicklin

    The recreation room is to receive a general remodeling/modernization that will retain the original character of the building.
    The carpet and stone flooring will be removed and replaced with ceramic tile with a pattern to mirror wood beams in the ceiling.
    Existing wood paneling will be removed and replaced with gypsum board and oak wainscot. 
    A direct vent fireplace will be installed.  Directional lighting will be used to highlight the fireplace.
    The ceiling will be removed and replaced with a gypsum board ceiling with wood beams at a height that will allow the arched windows to be once again exposed to the interior of the room.  The wood beams are to be revealed on the underside to create shadow and depth.  The windows will be trimmed in oak.   The ceiling will have floating wood panels in coffered areas with indirect fluorescent strip lighting above.  Pendant lights will hang from the floating wood panel areas of the ceiling.  Recessed wall wash can lighting will be provided at the entry corridor to attract attention to the recreation room from the main entry.
    All existing doors, frames and hardware are to be replaced, with the exception of the southwest fire door.
    A new lockable coat storage area will be provided in the northwest corner of the room.
    A new kitchenette will be created in the south end of the room.  New base and wall cabinets, counter top and sink with disposal, will be provided.  The kitchenette will be equipped with an electric range, microwave, exhaust hood, and refrigerator.  A wood accordion type folding partition will be used to conceal the kitchenette from the remainder of the space when not in use.  The partition will fold into a pocketed area when the kitchenette is in use.  A new storage area will be created to store stereo and PA system equipment.
    The existing heating/cooling wall units will be removed from the recreation room and staff offices connected to the recreation room and replaced with a forced air system.  A new larger air handler system will be added to the industrial arts shop ceiling area and will be ducted up to the first floor recreation room/office area.  This will improve indoor air quality and remove some mold/mildew issues.
    The existing kitchen and storage area (107) will be renovated to create a new office space.  New carpet, wall finishes, high efficiency lighting and a suspended acoustical ceiling will be provided.
    The middle office (106) will receive new carpet, wall finishes, high efficiency lighting and a suspended acoustical ceiling.
    The south "log cabin" office (105) will receive new carpet.  The existing ceiling will be repainted and new light fixtures will be provided.  Walls are to remain the existing log veneer.
    The northeast office (103) will receive a new higher ceiling to allow opening up the arched window, high efficiency lighting, new carpet and wall finishes.
    The recreation room corridor will have new lighting, wall and floor finishes.
    The Fourth Street entrance doors will be repainted and the old oak fire doors at the top of the steps will be refinished and restored.
    Administrative office (139) will be renovated into a new reception area with curved counter open to the 1st floor lobby on two sides.  Cabinets and lockable storage will be provided. 
The first floor lobby will receive new gypsum board walls and acoustical ceiling.
    The existing reception/switchboard area will be opened up and a small waiting area created.  A new east entrance will be created for the Aids and Devices showroom area.  The north wall will be opened up to create a six-foot wide passage area that will be in addition to the present entrance.  Traffic flow into the north and west sections of first floor will be greatly improved.
    The vinyl wall finishes will be replaced on the north hallway leading to the assembly room.
    This project will be worked in phases to minimize disruption.  When it is complete, several building code issues will be resolved.   
Funds for the remodeling come from a special appropriation from the legislature of Tobacco Funds.

Library Offers Bookport on Loan

    The Bookport is a small electronic device about the size of a remote control unit, which is designed to play digital files.  The user can listen to the new Daisy format files, MP3 files, electronic text files, and digital Braille files.  Electronic text files and digital Braille files are read with a synthesized voice, while Daisy audio files and MP3 files sound like tape recordings.
    The Library will begin a short-term loan program to introduce patrons to the BookPort as an option for listening to digital books. This pilot program will be limited to five BookPort units with a loan period of eight weeks.  Each unit will be loaded with examples of Daisy audio files and an MP3-format radio show.  The borrower will choose from a list of text files of public-domain books and also a book from the NLS WebBraille collection.
    The BookPort will be shipped with headphones, a cassette copy of the user's manual and fresh batteries.
    If you are interested in trying out this reading option, please contact your reader advisor.

Bristow Girl Reads Her Way to the Sky

Miranda Snyder, 14, of Bristow, won the grand prize of her first plane ride in the Summer Reading Club sponsored by the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.  Miranda and her father Kevin Snyder joined Library Director Karen Keninger and pilot Donald Wood at the Hampton airport on Saturday, August 14 to fly over their acreage in Bristow in a four-passenger Cessna.  The pilot, Donald Wood of Des Moines donated the flight time.
    Miranda, a freshman this fall at North Butler Senior High School, won the prize by reading Talking Books from the Library's collection.  Her favorite, she says, were the Harry Potter books. 
Forty-four other blind and reading disabled students statewide participated in the club this summer.  Using "Trail Cards" for each week, which focused on topics such as "Trails West," "Trail Blazers" and "Into the Woods,” children "discovered new trails at the library."  They read books on Talking Book, in Braille, and in large print, and turned in completed "Trail Cards" for each week.  They also drew pictures, wrote stories, and participated in related activities with family and friends.  All club members who turned in their "trail cards" won prizes.  Miranda won two additional prizes for a horse-drawing contest and a story she wrote.
    The purpose of the summer reading club is to encourage students of all ages to read during the summer months.  This year's members read over 625 hours.
    Sponsors of the Summer Reading Club were: Devin Rowling, Cosi Cucina's Restaurant; Jackie Ackerman, The Iowa State Fair; Jack Krantz and Molly Vincent, Adventureland; Rick Long, Coca-Cola Bottling Co.; Plaza Lanes Bowling of Des Moines; and Betsy Watson, Anderson Erickson Dairy Co.


By Dr. Sandy Tigges

    On Saturday, October 2, the Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center will be holding its annual Orientation Alumni Day.  Our festivities will have a Hawaiian theme this year in honor of the many staff from Hawaii's agency for the blind that have received training at our Center.  For only $12.00, you can participate in the luncheon from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., afternoon programs, the banquet at 6:00 p.m., and a dance afterwards at the Renaissance Savery Hotel. 
For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Rebecca Swainey at 515-281-1254 or 800-362-2587.  Family and friends are also welcome.  Remember, you don't have to be a grad of the Orientation Center to attend.  See you there!

Protecting Your Computer: Can it Be Done Using Nonvisual Access Technology?

By Curtis Chong

    The Iowa Department for the Blind is pleased to announce the second in our continuing series of technology seminars for the blind of Iowa.  This seminar will focus on protecting your computer from the dangers running wild on the Internet and the strategies used by experience blind computer users to protect their individual systems.  Our team of technology experts will discuss such topics as computer viruses, unsolicited e-mail (spam), spyware, unsolicited pop-up ads, and the use of nonvisual access technology to defend your precious data.
    Mark your calendars for Saturday, November 6, 10:00 a.m.  There will be two hours of lecture, lunch (on your own) and more time to obtain hands-on experience with some of the strategies recommended by our technology experts.  The seminar will be held at the central office of the Iowa Department for the Blind, 524 Fourth Street, Des Moines Iowa 50309.
    If you are interested in attending the seminar, please contact Curtis Chong, Director of Field Operations, by phone at 515-281-1361 or via e-mail at

Centenarian Focuses on Today and Tomorrow

     Dorothy Bryant has much more interesting things to talk about than her loss of vision. At the age of 100, she is planning for tomorrow.  Sitting comfortably in her apartment in Story City, where she still does her own cleaning and cooks two meals a day, she discusses packing to move the treasures she keeps in her display cabinet.  She'll be moving to a new apartment in Perry in October and wants to be sure everything makes the trip safely. She is looking forward to more space and a second bedroom where she can put her desk. She apologizes for boasting, but tells me about her twin granddaughters who have just graduated magna cum laude and summa cum laude from their college.  She reminds me of the importance of family, and talks about three generations of her own family as well as her own genealogy.  She talks about her trivia games and her plans to organize new trivia groups when she moves to Perry.  She attends tai chi classes several times a week and continues her aerobics in her apartment.  She chuckles as she tells me that sometimes she and another lady who is a year younger than her are often the only ones at the tai chi classes.  "We say those other people just don't want to get as old as we are.  Some people just sit in their rooms.  That's sad.  Why not try to keep motivated about something and do more to make life more pleasant?  Keep active both physically and mentally, and do everything you can to retain the memories you have and make some new memories worth preserving."
    When coaxed to talk about her vision loss, she said, "Now that I'm losing my sight, which is very poor now, it has been much easier to adjust because I know what the blind can do."
    Dorothy first learned about blindness when she accepted a job in the fledgling Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in 1961.  Working for Kenneth Jernigan and Florence Grannis, she helped build the biggest and most patron-centered library for the blind in the country.  She worked as a talking book librarian until her retirement in 1969.
    Dorothy has always loved to read.  When she graduated from grade school, her parents gave her first book–an anthology of Longfellow's poems.  She still has it, although the cover has worn off and she has sent it to be rebound.
    The books she reads now are talking books from the library she helped to build in the 1960s.  Instead of the heavy records she used to ship, she receives the little green boxes in the mail with cassette tapes containing her books.  "I really hope I get the book by Helen Thomas that was listed in the last catalog," she says it is satirical, and I would love that." 
"When I first started working there, we were open at night until 9:00," she recalls. "One night a Lions Club was visiting.  One of the men [Orientation Center students] who had not been here very long was conducting the tour.  He came into the talking book area, and I told him I knew it was hard to learn Braille.  ‘You've done wonderfully well, and it's already helping you," I told him.  ‘Well,' he said, ‘it was either that or be illiterate. I wouldn't want to live that way.'" 
The library, which Dorothy helped build and now uses regularly, serves 23 patrons over 100 years old, the oldest of who will be 107 this year.

Descriptive Story Time Participants Needed

By Dan Bakke

    The Library would like to start a descriptive story time using the Internet and the telephone.  The Story Time will be aimed at children ages 3 through 6.  If you are interested please contact the library and give us the following information:  E-mail address, telephone number, child's name and age and which day and times of the week would be best for you.  Please respond by Monday, October 11, 2004.
    Once we have compiled a list we will contact you and let you know the schedule.  If you have Internet access we will send you a link where you will be able to enter our Iowa Library virtual room.  We will then have a Storyteller reading the story from our Braille copy and another volunteer describing the pictures as we continue through the storybook.  You will need to have speakers on your computer to hear the story and if you have a microphone you will also be able to interact with us over the computer.  We will also set this up on a teleconference, so if you don't have access to a computer you will be able to follow the story and actively participate over the telephone. 

Braille Programs Available for the Des Moines Civic Center Broadway Series

    The library and the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines are combining efforts to provide Braille programs for the 2004-2005 Broadway series. Braille programs will be available at the west coat check window upon request.  You can also rent binoculars for $5 per show, or receive an assistive hearing device at no charge at the coat check station.  If you would benefit from sitting close to the stage because of visual impairment or mobility impairments, call the Civic Center ticket office at 515-246-2320 to make arrangements. 
The Civic Center is located at Third and Walnut in downtown Des Moines. The Broadway series includes:  Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, October 12-17; Def Poetry Jam, November 16; Chicago, November 23-28; The Producers, December 7-12; Mamma Mia!, January 25-30; Peter Pan, February 15-20; Movin' Out, March 8-13; and Miss Saigon, April 19-24.

Pathfinders Update

By Keri Nuzum

    This summer, I have been traveling throughout Iowa to meet with potential mentors and mentees to participate in the Department's new Pathfinders Mentoring Program.  During my travels, I have met many interesting people with fascinating careers and goals.  For example, I have met with pathfinders who want to own their own bakery business, have their own daycare, become a social worker, a psychologist, work for a newspaper, law office, or hospital, and others who are interested in the sciences, specifically in the fields of animal, computer, occupational and physical therapy, and mortuary science.  I have conversed with students who want to go into the workforce immediately, and some who are interested in going on to college.  I have had applications from students across the entire state, from the far southwest, to the northeast.  I have met with students here in the Polk county area, as well as some living very close to our neighboring states.   I am looking forward to meeting with even more pathfinders and mentors in the near future.
    I am still accepting applications for both mentors and pathfinders--the young people ages 16-26 who can benefit from contact with successful and confident blind adults who can help them achieve their goals.  I am still looking for potential mentors who are pursuing careers in these or related areas:  teaching, journalism, culinary arts, auto repair, physical and occupational therapy, social work, mortuary science, and veterinary science.  Remember, as a mentor, you could have a positive effect on a young person's life. 
The first of our five workshops will be held in October.  At that time, our mentors and pathfinders will be introduced to each other.  They will learn about the program's goals, expectations, and plans, as well as their individual roles in the mentoring process.   
For more information about the Transition Mentoring Program and how to apply, please contact Keri Nuzum, Transition Mentoring Specialist at the Iowa Department for the Blind.  I can be reached at 800-362-2587 or 515-281-1322.  I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

A Simpler Way to List Files and Folders in Windows with Your Screen Reader

By Curtis Chong

    As I work with blind friends, acquaintances, and colleagues to master nonvisual access to the Windows operating system, it has become apparent to me that many people have not been shown convenient ways to list the valuable files and folders stored on their computer's hard drive, CD's, and floppy disks.  I thought, therefore, that it would be appropriate to describe one method that seems to work for me to list files and folders on my computer.
    I have found that you do not need to use "My Computer" or "Windows Explorer" to bring up a list of files and folders on a given drive.  Instead, simply use the "Run" dialog, and specify which drive you want.  I will discuss the "Run" dialog box in just a bit, but I will say at this point that it presents a display which is much simpler to work with than the one you get using Windows Explorer or My Computer.
    What is a drive, you may ask?  The term "drive" simply refers to a physical device that stores and retrieves data.  There is your "hard drive," which is sometimes called the "hard disk;" this is where just about everything you work with on the computer is kept.  There is your floppy disk drive, which is used to read and write to floppy disks, a storage medium that is beginning to fall out of use.  Then, there is your CD drive, which (as you might expect) reads and (under the right circumstances) writes data to compact disks.  To make matters more complicated, there are network drives and removable drives, but these are typically not found on your average home computer.  Each drive is given a letter designation followed by a colon (:).  For instance, your hard drive is designated as "c:," your floppy drive is called "a:," and your CD drive is usually "d:."
    Each drive contains a collection of folders and files.  While files cannot contain folders, folders can contain files and (yes) other folders.  Every drive has a great big folder called backslash (\) which holds everything that is stored on the drive.  Think of the drive as a file cabinet, backslash as the master folder for the file cabinet, and everything else as being stored inside of a folder called backslash.  If I haven't lost you yet, let's now return to the Run dialog box.
    The easiest way to open the Run dialog box is to press and hold down the Windows key then press and release "r."  If your computer lacks a Windows key, open the Start Menu by pressing Control plus Escape, arrow up to the "run" selection, and press Enter.  A dialog box will appear.
    Don't worry about what is in the dialog box.  At this point, you have to make a decision--that is, what drive do you want to manage.  Most often, you will want to look at files on your hard drive, but at other times, you may want to look at the contents of a CD or floppy disk.  Remember the drive designations discussed earlier?  Well, these become important at this point.  For now, type "c:" and press Enter.
    What next appears is a simplified view of your hard drive.  In the first window is a list of folders followed by a list of files.  These are folders and files contained at the "top" of your hard drive--the first layer, if you will.  You can move through the list using your up and down arrow keys, and you can manipulate these folders and files the same way you would if you were using My Computer or Windows Explorer.  (For those of you who want to get to "My Computer" from this point, all you have to do is to press the Backspace key.)
    In the second window, there is an "address box," which you can use to change the focus to a different drive or drive/folder combination.  You can move between the first and second windows by pressing the Tab key.  When you are in this second window, you can type another drive designation (e.g., "a:") and press Enter to go to that drive.  Alternatively, you can type something like "c:\windows" and press Enter.  If you then press Tab or Shift+Tab, your focus will move to the new list of folders and files.

Slates, Styluses and Canes Needed for Blind African Children

The Pacelli School for Blind Children in Lagos, Nigeria is in desperate need of white canes, Braille slates and styluses and other supplies for the children at the school.  At one time, says Bitrus Gwamna, an alumnus of the Pacelli School and now an assistant professor at Iowa Wesleyan in Mount Pleasant, the government of Nigeria operated the school.  However, the government ceased to fund the school, and now the Catholic Church has taken on the responsibility.  If you have slates and styluses, or extra white canes, either long canes or folding canes, and wish to donate them to the school, please contact Bitrus Gwamna at 319-385-2114, or mail them to him at 1134 S Linden Lane, Mount Pleasant IA 52641

 Braillers Donated to Needy Children

    The Department is donating four refurbished Perkins Braillers to the School for Blind Children in Merlo Norte, Argentina.  The school serves approximately 100 blind and visually impaired students from 45 days old to adults and has only three working Braille writers.   The Rotary Club of Merlo Norte has taken on the challenge of securing ten much-needed Braille writers for the school.
    The Braillers the Department is donating were used for many years by volunteer Braillists to transcribe print books into Braille.  With the advent of computer Braille, the transcribers have left the Perkins behind for the faster, easier, and more flexible computer format. Alan Ackley, a library staff member and long-time expert in reconditioning Perkins Braillers, completed the reconditioning work to make these sturdy machines ready for their new job.  The Library still has an abundance of Braillers available for new transcribers. 
New transcribers use the Perkins for the first several lessons of the Library of Congress Braille Transcribers' curriculum before graduating to computer input.

Free, Comprehensive and Accessible Medical Information On-line

    MedlinePlus at is a good place to start looking for information on medical issues, and pharmaceutical drugs.  Sponsored by the National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus is a government web site, which is free to all users.  Page design   follows guidelines for accessible websites.  Links, graphics and buttons are properly tagged, layout is consistent, and the design is simple and straightforward.  No advertising, pop-up windows, Java scripting or complex frames complicate the page.  The Skip Navigation link works consistently.
    MedlinePlus serves both as a source of consumer data on 650 medical conditions and as a gateway to a plethora of other resources.  All other resources are carefully chosen on the basis of quality, authority and accuracy along with several other criteria. 
You can look up information on Health Topics, find Drug Information, read a Medical Encyclopedia, consult a Medical Dictionary, review the past 30 days worth of medical news from Reuters Health, the New York Times Syndicate and other services, link to lists of health care providers listed by specialty, or choose from a list of other resources.  A Spanish version is also available.
    You can also search MedlinePlus from every page by filling in the search field near the top of the page and activating the search button.  Results will be returned by category; so searching aspirin will return results in health topics categorized by disease (stroke, Reyes Syndrome, heart disease–Prevention, etc.), drug information, the medical encyclopedia, and news. Information is written for a general audience. 
For in-depth research of current medical literature, go to Other Resources and follow the link to PubMed/Medline.

Long White Cane is a Joy and a Life Saver

    June Svec Heitland of Ackley will be 85 soon, and she's just begun learning Braille and how to use a long white cane.  "I have taken every opportunity I have ever had to be a student," she says, "I love to learn.
    June has just completed a week-long training program for older Iowans who are losing their vision.  Known as Senior Orientation, this training program is held at the Iowa Department for the Blind in Des Moines.  June's class includes eight students, and focuses on personal adjustment to blindness.  Students learn to cook, use a computer, travel with a long white cane, read a little Braille, thread a needle and do some hand sewing, all without using any of their remaining vision.
    Before she came to Senior Orientation, June used a standard wooden cane to help her navigate Ackley' streets.  When she arrived in Des Moines, her teacher, Jen Hutson, gave her a long white cane to use.  "From the time I got it, it has brought me so much joy, because I can tell distance now," June says." I can measure the depth of something.  When I'm going to step down a curb, I can tell when it goes way down.  Without my cane I would have tripped."
    June began losing her vision four years ago due to macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss in older Americans.  June, like the other students in Senior Orientation, is not totally blind.  In fact, she regained some vision through surgery last spring, but she still cannot see at night. "When people asked me to go places at night," June says, "I wouldn't go, but now I will go with my new cane."  June walks at least two miles every day and is excited about the prospect of using her long cane when she returns home.  "My cane is going to be my life saver."
    Another milestone for June has been learning that she can cook and use the oven safely.  "I made a beautiful chocolate cake with icing," she says.  June used to bake and decorate cakes for weddings, but has been afraid to use the oven for the past four years.  "I found out that wearing big long oven mitts I don't get burned and don't catch anything on fire."  During class, she also cut up vegetables, and baked bread. "This is a wonderful accomplishment for me."
    During classes, June and the other students wore sleep shades, which blocked all remaining vision. "When I put the shades on at first, I got a little panicky. I was afraid I would get vertigo, and I took little bitty steps.  I got over that by the second day," she says. "The blinders [sleep shades] have taught me a lot, too, because now I won't be afraid to go out at night.  Now I have much more confidence."
    According to June's teacher, Jen Hutson, the purpose of the sleep shades is two-fold.  First, and most importantly, students understand that the techniques they are learning will work regardless of how much vision they have.  They learn that the successes they achieve are due to their use of alternative techniques and not their remaining vision.  The sleep shades also prevent the need for further training if more vision is lost.
    In addition to skills training, June and her classmates along with teaching staff addressed their personal attitude toward blindness.   It is often the misconceptions held toward blindness by the general public and by many blind people themselves that limit the person the most when attempting to maintain their independence after vision loss.   Each day throughout the week, June's class held a "business class" They discussed topics such as the use of a white cane and public reactions to it; family acceptance of their vision loss; and their own personal stories and achievements.

    When June returns to Ackley, she intends to continue her routines, including walking to coffee everyday, exercise class twice a week, and around town for her daily constitutional.  She'll take her long white cane with her when she leaves for her annual trip to winter in Florida.  She'll also continue her study of Braille.

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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.