Banner: Iowa Department for the Blind

White Cane Update

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

Members of the Commission:
Robert Martin, Davenport
Julie Scurr, Coralville
Doug Elliott, Grinnell

Spring 2005
Des Moines, Iowa

Table of Contents:
From the Director
RSA in Danger
Getting from A to B and Beyond
Blind Iowan Earns M.D.
New Medicare Prescription Drug Program
Dragons, Dreams and Daring Deeds at the Library this Summer
Camp Discovery
Getting the Most Out of Your Computer
B.E.P. Adds More Sites
Book Discussions for 2005
Career Seminar Succeeds in Mason City
Lt. Gov. Sally Pederson Presents Volunteer Awards
Outreach to Students Hits the Mark
Miss Iowa-USA 2005 Joins Department for the Blind Walk Team
Critical AntiVirus and Spyware Information Available
Senior Orientation Builds Confidence

From the Director

By Allen Harris

As we watch spring liven up our outdoor landscape, we also see the growth and flowering of programs at the Department and a few new seeds planted as well.

In this issue of the White Cane Update, you will read about transition activities designed to help our students and young people reach and grow. The Center staff has implemented the changes announced in our last issue, and the reviews are very promising. In addition, our Center continues to share knowledge and experience with several other state agencies by hosting members of their staffs and consulting closely with their leaders. Everyone involved is teaching, and everyone is learning.

The first floor renovation is nearly complete. The Recreation Room is very striking; we have achieved a retro look, which fits the original space wonderfully. On your next visit to IDB, you will find that our front entrance, stairs, and oak doors have been spruced up, and the new reception desk and waiting area offer a friendly and less crowded welcome to our visitors.

New wall covering, stained doors and chair molding unify the first floor with the Recreation Room as its focal point.

Come and see for yourself how these changes have opened and brightened the first floor. While you're here, you can also tour the home ec room and peek into the new office space on the second floor.

The staff in our Randolph-Sheppard program continues to find ways to improve and expand business opportunities for blind managers. Read about a variety of projects and businesses coming this spring.

Blind Iowans are finding work at ever-improving hourly wages. This is due to the work of our Vocational Rehabilitation and Access Technology staff. We have shifted staff to concentrate differently on employment activity and the early results are very satisfying. In our technology area, we have a wide range of exciting and innovative projects. We continue to work on our Project ASSIST tutorials and we have added new and unique on-line classes. E-Force, our case management system, is doing its job very well, allowing more efficient and productive use of staff time.

The number of older Iowans facing blindness or significant vision loss continues to increase. In response to this challenge, the Independent Living Rehabilitation program is working to develop additional methods to expand our services, especially to groups. Recently, eight older Iowans participated in Senior Orientation at the Department. They live in the Center and take classes for a week. Read about the changes, which occur in people's lives as a result of this training.

Of course, the library continues at a fast pace, there is always something new or improved to look at and use. Karen Keninger has worked to see that blind Iowans get reading materials in Braille, cassette and large print on "demand"; this is always a challenge but one which we constantly seek to meet. In addition, Karen and our library staff are hosting activities, which allow for interaction among patrons. Read about, and consider joining, one of the book discussion groups described later in this issue.

Lt. Governor, Sally Pederson presented awards at our annual Volunteer Luncheon and carried her thanks and that of the Governor to all who attended.

Speaking of volunteers, we are in the planning phase of upgrading our volunteer-based recording programs. Tim West, an experienced recording engineer and studio manager, has joined the library staff. He has extensive knowledge and experience in recording and producing sound and will help design and build our conversion to digital recording. We are very pleased to have Mr. West on our staff and hope you will get to meet him soon.

As you can see from this brief sampling, IDB is working hard to continue its traditional level of high quality services for blind Iowans. But that is never enough. We are striving to innovate, improve, and share.

RSA In Danger

At this writing, plans are underway to gut the Rehabilitation Services Administration at the Federal level.

The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) is the Federal agency providing vocational rehabilitation (VR) and independent living funding that facilitates the achievement by the blind and other people with disabilities of independence and competitive employment in Iowa and the United States. It is housed administratively within the U.S. Department of Education.

RSA is the primary source of funding for all programs at the Iowa Department for the Blind, including the Library, the Orientation Center, the Independent Living Program, the Assistive Technology programs, and Business Enterprises Program along with the basic Vocational Rehabilitation Program. If the plans outlined below are implemented, these programs could disappear, with their funding being absorbed into the general Workforce system.

Plans at the highest level of administration, both within the Department of Education and the White House, will, when implemented, eviscerate rehabilitation programs for people with disabilities everywhere. Following is a summary of proposed changes:

1. The Blind and Visually Impaired Division of RSA will be abolished, and monitoring efforts at the RSA's central headquarters will be structured along geographic (state) lines. This would spell the end of specialized services and expertise regarding the blind in the rehabilitation system, not to mention the elimination of the Randolph-Sheppard and Independent Living for Older Blind programs.

2. By October 1, 2005, RSA will close all ten of its regional offices and cut its staff by more than 50 percent. These offices provide valuable support and assistance to state VR agencies. Of the 65 positions that will be eliminated, 28 (43%) are held by people with disabilities. Moreover, RSA is the only agency within the Department of Education that has been required to absorb such a hefty reduction in staff. Monitoring of state agencies and services is proposed to be conducted by remaining staff at RSA's central office. We are told that this will result in more timely and efficient delivery of service. How more efficient service can be provided with less than 50 percent of the current staff is something that boggles the mind.

3. The Bush Administration has tried repeatedly to push through Congress a provision often referred to as a super waiver. The super waiver would allow governors of states to consolidate rehabilitation and other unrelated programs into a single state plan. This is merely a thinly disguised attempt to raid the funding of the VR program to provide support for a struggling Workforce Investment System of one-stop centers. Many of these centers are not programmatically or physically accessible and lack the expertise to provide the comprehensive and specialized services needed by persons with disabilities in order to go to work.

4. The Bush Administration has made repeated attempts to downgrade the position of RSA Commissioner, currently a position requiring a presidential appointment with confirmation by the Senate, to that of a Director requiring neither. This is a clear indication that the Bush Administration wants to give rehabilitation a much lower profile than it now possesses.

5. Despite repeated attempts by National Industries for the Severely Handicapped to encroach upon the right of blind entrepreneurs to manage military dining facilities, the Department of Education has done nothing to protect their rights as guaranteed under the Randolph-Sheppard Act.

If you would like to express your opinion about these changes, you can contact Margaret Spellings, Secretary of Education by e-mail at and; by fax at (202) 401-0596; or by calling her office at (202) 401-3000.

You can also contact your Senators and your Representative to tell them what you think of these plans. We are enclosing a separate insert in this issue with a complete list of contact options for the entire Iowa Congressional delegation. For best results, call or visit one of the offices listed, e-mail, or fax a letter. Standard mail is the least effective option because it may not be delivered or processed.

Congressman Leonard Boswell
1427 Longworth House Office Building
Washington DC 20515

Iowa Office
300 East Locust, Suite 320
Des Moines, IA 50309
Phone: (515) 282-1909
Fax: (515) 282-1785

Congressman Jim Nussle
Cannon House Office Building
Room 303
Washington DC 20515-1502
Email through his website

Iowa Offices
Manchester, Iowa
712 West Main Street
Manchester, Iowa, 52057

Davenport, Iowa
209 West 4th Street
Davenport, Iowa 52801
563-326 - 1841

Dubuque, Iowa
2255 John F. Kennedy Road
Dubuque, Iowa 52002

Waterloo, Iowa
3641 Kimball Avenue
Waterloo, Iowa 50702

Congressman Jim Leach
2186 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington DC 20515
Fax 202-226-1278
Email through his website

Iowa Offices
214 Jefferson Street
Burlington, IA 52601
Fax 319-754-1107
Sue Zimmerman, Staff Assistant

129 12th Street SE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52403
Fax 319-363-5008
Gary Grant, District Director
Angie Charipar, District Scheduler
Leslie Charipar, Staff Assistant

Plaza Centre One
125 S. Dubuque
Iowa City, IA 52240
319-351-5789 Fax
Shay Carlson, Staff Assistant
Nick Mueller, Staff Assistant

105 East 3rd St Room 201
Ottumwa, IA 52501
641-684-1843 Fax
Deb McCurren, Staff Assistant
Glenn Nitzsche, Staff Assistant

Congressman Tom Latham
2447 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington DC 20515
Fax 202-225-3301

Iowa Offices
1421 South Bell Avenue
Suite 108 A
Ames IA 50010
Fax 515-232-2844

812 Highway 18 E
PO Box 532
Clear Lake IA 50428
Fax 641-357-5226

1426 Central Avenue #A
Fort Dodge IA 50501
Fax 515-576-7141

Congressman Steve King
1432 Longworth Office Building
Washington DC 20515
Fax 202-225-3193
No email listed on website

Iowa Offices
Office of Congressman Steve King
607 Lake Avenue
Storm Lake, Iowa 50588
Fax 712-732-4217

Sioux City Office
Office of Congressman Steve King
526 Nebraska Street
Sioux City, IA 51101
712-224 4692
Fax 712-224-4693

Office of Congressman Steve King
40 Pearl St.
Council Bluffs, IA 51503
Fax (712) 325-1405

Senator Tom Harkin
731 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
Fax 202-224-9369
202-224-4633 TDD
Email through his website at

Iowa Offices
210 Walnut Street
Room 733, Federal Building
Des Moines, IA 50309
Fax 515-284-4937

1606 Brady Street
Suite 323
Davenport, IA 52803
Fax 563-322-0417

150 First Avenue, NE
Suite 370
Cedar Rapids, IA 52401
Fax 319-365-4683

350 W. 6th Street
315 Federal Building
Dubuque, IA 52001
Fax 563-582-2342

320 6th Street
110 Federal Building
Sioux City, IA 51101
Fax 712-252-1638

Senator Chuck Grassley
135 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510-1501
Website http://grassley.senate.go

Iowa offices
206 Federal Building
101 1st Street SE
Cedar Rapids IA 52401
Fax 319-363-7179

307 Federal Building
8 S 6th Street Council Bluffs
Fax 712-322-7196

131 W 3rd Street
Suite 180
Davenport IA 52801
Fax 563-322-8552

721 Federal Building
210 Walnut Street
Des Moines IA 50309

103 Federal Building
320 6th Street
Sioux City IA 51101
Fax 712-233-1634

210 Waterloo Building
531 Commercial Street
Waterloo IA 50701
Fax 319-232-9965

Necessary security procedures have resulted in significant delays for delivery of letters mailed to Washington offices; therefore, it is best to fax or email letters.


Getting from A to B and Beyond

By Becky Criswell

Each life is a journey. We are always looking back and talking about where we’ve been, or looking ahead and talking about where we are going and how we will get there. We learned in high school that “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” Lately I’ve heard a new spin on that old saying. In Des Moines, the shortest distance between two points is always under construction!

It’s this notion of “under construction” that I want us to think about in terms of life’s journey – especially in terms of the Independent Living (IL) program. New people come to us through a variety of channels and with varying degrees of information. The Department averages approximately 1200 new referrals annually, and approximately two-thirds of these individuals are age 65 or older. Let's look at some of the situations these new referrals find themselves in. Think of these people as being at Point A on a particular leg of their journeys. (Note that names and places have been changed.)

Ms. N. lives in Lee County. She is 89, hard of hearing, and has a colostomy. She is blind due to macular degeneration. She attended an Open House the Department held in her home community and referred herself for services. She requested that a teacher call on her to show her some sewing techniques.

Ms. B. lives in Crawford County. She is 62 and lives alone. Four months ago she lost her vision due to wet macular degeneration and one month ago her husband passed away. She is afraid that she will not be able to live alone. A friend and former IL client referred her for services.

Mr. R. lives in Woodbury County. He is 75, never married, and lives alone. He is on oxygen. He stutters but, according to the referral source, with patience you can understand his speech. He was referred by Aging Services and would like his appliances marked and help using his phone.

Ms. L. lives in Marion County. She is 93 and wears hearing aids. Her doctor referred her. Her blindness is due to macular degeneration. She is reportedly in denial and still drives.

Mrs. H. lives in Marshall County. She is 81, lives alone in her own home, and uses a walker. Her husband is in a long-term care center. She is blind due to macular degeneration and is interested in library services.

Ms. P. lives in Des Moines County. She is 78, widowed, and lives alone. Her daughter referred her. She is blind due to macular degeneration and can only read headlines. She is upset because she can no longer read the Bible. She is still driving.

Ms. L. lives in Polk County. She is 64, widowed, and lives with her daughter. She cannot speak English. She is blind due to diabetic retinopathy and was referred by a nurse.

Ms. W. lives in Des Moines County. She is in her seventies and her cause of blindness is unknown. A local medical supply company referred her for assistance with monitoring her blood sugar.

Ms. H. lives in Monona County. She is in her seventies. She lives alone and is blind due to macular degeneration. Her family has been staying with her and they have worked out a schedule of rotating shifts, but they cannot continue this schedule indefinitely. A family member referred her.

Now that we’ve heard about the people at Point A, let’s hear from people at Point B, people who have received training and met their independent living goals. These quotes are taken from letters, responses to surveys, and responses from evaluations we ask people to complete after going through any of our training programs.

“I was very much pleased with the program. The schooling last April (2004) was so good that I felt encouraged that I could adjust so well.”

“I was grateful for the training I received in Burlington. I have a roommate who does very little for herself and she has the same problem with her eyes I do.”

“Don’t let blindness take away your dignity. There is help and everyone is entitled to it.”

“If you’re losing your eyesight now is the time to get help and this program is the solution.”

“I can’t find words enough to praise the Iowa Department for the Blind. They have helped me tremendously to have confidence to live alone and do things I did not think I could.”

“After my husband’s death a friend was so worried about how I could manage my affairs and hopefully stay in my own home. She made some inquiries for me and found some wonderful help for me.”

“Iowa has a great Department for the Blind organization. I am so thankful for the Senior Orientation and all of the home visits to help me be as independent as possible. Independence is so important.”

“I learned that you’re still able to do a lot of the things you normally did. The workshop gives samples of several areas of everyday life, and shows you that you can do things by yourself and not depend on someone else for everything. The workshop gives you ways to adapt everyday items (household, grooming, leisure, etc.).”

“There are no limitations to what you can do with training and a positive attitude.”

So, how do you get people from A to B? As you can imagine, most people at Point A think they’ve reached the end of the line. They don’t know about Point B, or if they do, they don’t know how to get there. The move from A to B is the IL story and recalls the notion that the shortest route between two points is always under construction.

The bedrock of the IL program is the provision of both training in blindness skills and guidance and counseling. With these services individuals can develop the techniques and confidence they need not only to live independently but also to engage in activities that make life meaningful – a journey well worth undertaking. Training is provided in a variety of venues including a person’s own home, workshops (mini-orientation sessions) held in communities throughout Iowa, Senior Orientation held at the Department for the Blind, and in support groups that exist in various communities. Over 80 individuals participated in 17 mini-orientations conducted during the past 6 months in communities ranging from Davenport to Council Bluffs, and Burlington to Algona.

Peer interaction is laced throughout all of our training programs. I believe it is what helps those seeds that are planted take root and grow. Iowa is fortunate to have successful blind individuals who serve as positive role models. They have proven to be a tremendous resource to our program and most importantly to those we serve. They have created a positive, upward spiraling effect. The more people benefit from our services the more they want to share what they received with others. In this way, more people travel the road from A to B, and they travel in good company.

It takes work and relationship building to get people to accept training and begin the journey. For people first to accept training and second, to really embrace it, they must be willing to reconsider their notions about blindness – and therein lies the challenge.

People find it very difficult to change life-long views of blindness and to recognize that Point A is only a beginning. Yet, these are critical keys to the successful delivery of IL services – getting people to change. We are asking our clients to make big changes in the way they do things and in the way they think and feel about blindness.

This is very hard work for staff and clients alike, but it certainly carries with it its own reward. Every day of every year we say “hi” to those new referrals just beginning the construction route. And, every day of every year we get to wave “fare well” to others as we watch them travel on from B to C and points beyond.

Blind Iowan Earns M.D.

Tim Cordes, an Iowa native and blind since birth, will receive his M.D. from the University of Wisconsin Medical School in May. We have provided an article about Dr. Cordes from the Associated Press in this issue of the White Cane Update.

Blind student earns M.D.: 'Things are only impossible until they're done'

By SHARON COHEN, AP National Writer

MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) -- The young medical student was nervous as he slid the soft, thin tube down into the patient's windpipe. It was a delicate maneuver -- and he knew he had to get it right.
Tim Cordes leaned over the patient as his professor and a team of others closely monitored his every step. Carefully, he positioned the tube, waiting for the special signal that oxygen was flowing. The anesthesia machine was set to emit musical tones to confirm the tube was in the trachea and carbon dioxide was present. Soon, Cordes heard the sounds. He double-checked with a stethoscope. All was OK. He had completed the intubation.
Several times over two weeks, Cordes performed this difficult task at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics. His professor, Dr. George Arndt, marveled at his student's skills. "He was 100 percent," the doctor says. "He did it better than the people who could see."

Tim Cordes is blind. He has mastered much in his 28 years: Jujitsu. Biochemistry. Water-skiing. Musical composition. Any one of these accomplishments would be impressive. Together, they're dazzling. And now, there's more luster for his gold-plated resume with a new title: Doctor. Cordes has earned his M.D.

In a world where skeptics always seem to be saying, stop, this isn't something a blind person should be doing, it was one more barrier overcome. There are only a handful of blind doctors in this country. But Cordes makes it clear he could not have joined this elite club alone. "I signed on with a bunch of real team players who decided that things are only impossible until they're done," he says. That's modesty speaking. Cordes finished medical school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the top sixth of his class (he received just one B), earning honors, accolades and admirers along the way. "He was confident, he was professional, he was respectful and he was a great listener," says Sandy Roof, a nurse practitioner who worked with Cordes as part of a training program in a small-town clinic. Without sight, Cordes had to learn how to identify clusters of spaghetti-thin nerves and vessels in cadavers, study X-rays, read EKGs and patient charts, examine slides showing slices of the brain, diagnose rashes -- and more. He used a variety of special tools, including raised line drawings, a computer that simultaneously reads into his earpiece whatever he types, a visual describer, a portable printer that allowed him to write notes for patient charts, and a device called an Optacon that has a small camera with vibrating pins that help his fingers feel images. "It was kind of whatever worked," Cordes says. "Sometimes you can psych yourself out and anticipate problems that don't materialize. ... You can sit there and plan for every contingency or you just go out and do things. ... That was the best way."

That's been his philosophy much of his life. Cordes was just 5 months old when he was diagnosed with Leber's disease. He wore glasses by age 2, and gradually lost his sight. At age 16, when his peers were getting their car keys, he took his first steps with a guide dog. Still, blindness didn't stop him. He wrestled and earned a black belt in tae kwon do and jujitsu. An academic whiz, he graduated as valedictorian at the University of Notre Dame as a crowd of 10,000 gave him a standing ovation. Cordes finished medical school in December but still is working on his Ph.D., studying the structure of a protein involved in a bacteria that causes pneumonia and other infections. Though he spends 10 to 12 hours a day in the lab, Cordes also carried the Olympic torch when it made its way through Wisconsin in 2002 (he runs four miles twice a week) and has managed to give a few motivational speeches and accept an award or two. He's even found time to fall in love; he's engaged to a medical school student. 

But Tim Cordes doesn't want to be cast as the noble hero of a Hallmark special. "I just think that you deal with what you're dealt," he says. "I've just been trying to do the best with what I've got. I don't think that's any different than anybody else." He also shuns suggestions his IQ leaves his peers in the dust. "I just work hard and study," he says. "If you're not modest, you're probably overestimating yourself." 

Through the years, plenty of people have underestimated Cordes. That was especially true when he applied for medical school and was rejected by several universities, despite glowing references, two years of antibiotics research and a 3.99 undergraduate average as a biochemistry major. Even when Wisconsin-Madison accepted him, Cordes says, he knew there was "some healthy skepticism." But, he adds, "the people I worked with were top notch and really gave me a chance." The dean of the medical school, Dr. Philip Farrell, says the faculty determined early on that Cordes would have "a successful experience. Once you decide that, it's only a question of options and choices." Farrell worried a bit how Cordes might fare in the hospital settings, but says he needn't have. "We've learned from him as much as he's learned from us ... one should never assume that any student is going to have a barrier, an obstacle, that they can't overcome," he says. 

Sandy Roof, the nurse practitioner who worked with Cordes in a clinic in the town of Waterloo, wondered about that. "My first reaction was the same as others': How can he possibly see and treat patients?" she says. "I was skeptical, but within a short time I realized he was very capable, very sensitive." She recalls watching him examine a patient with a rash, feel the area, ask the appropriate questions -- and come up with a correct diagnosis. "He didn't try and sell himself," Roof adds. "He just did what needed to be done." Cordes says he thinks people accepted him because most of his training was in a teaching hospital, where he blended in with other medical students. One patient apparently didn't even realize the young man treating him was blind. Cordes grins as he recalls examining a 7-year-old while making the hospital rounds with Vance, his German shepherd guide dog. The next day, he saw the boy's father, who said, "I think you did a great job. (But) when my son got out, he asked me, `What's the dog for?' " With his sandy hair and choirboy's face, Cordes became a familiar sight with Vance at the university hospital. The two were so good at navigating the maze of hallways that interns would sometimes ask Cordes for the quickest route to a particular destination.

Some professors say Cordes compensates for his lack of sight with his other senses -- especially his incredible sense of touch. "He can pick up things with his hands you and I wouldn't pick up -- like vibrations," says Arndt, the anesthesiology professor. Cordes says some of his most valuable lessons came from doctors who believed in showing rather than telling. "You can describe what it feels like to put your hand on the aorta and feel someone's blood flowing through it," he says, his face lighting up, "but until you feel it, you really don't get a sense of what that's like." Dr. Yolanda Becker, assistant professor of surgery who performs transplants, noticed that Cordes had a talent for finding veins. "I tell the students, 'You have to feel them ... you just can't look.' For Tim, that was not an option." Becker soon became one more member of Tim Cordes' fan club. "He was a breath of fresh air," she says. "He appreciated the fact people took time with him to feel the pulse, feel the grafts, feel where the kidneys are. ... He asked very good questions."

Cordes' training included observing surgery, helping treat psychiatric patients at a Veterans hospital and traveling beyond the hospital walls to the rural corners of Wisconsin. For six weeks, he experienced the front lines of medicine with Dr. Ben Schmidt, accompanying him from house calls to the hospital, tending to everything from heart trouble to chicken scratches. They took time, too, to indulge Cordes' passion for cars. Cordes, who reads Road & Track and Car and Driver magazines faithfully, is a Porsche fan. Knowing that, an internist in Schmidt's clinic brought her husband's metallic gray Turbo 911 to work one day. Schmidt took the wheel, roaring down the road with Cordes in the passenger seat -- his keen hearing detecting the sounds of the valves opening up. 

Cordes also enjoys camping and canoeing with his fiancee, Blue-leaf Hannah (her exotic first name comes from a character in "Centennial," a James Michener novel). They met when both interviewed for medical school. "I was just mostly curious how he was going to do it," she says. "I must have asked him a million questions." "I figured she was just sizing up the competition," he teases. She was impressed. "He was smart and pretty modest," she says. "Handsome, too," he adds. "Yes, handsome," she laughs. They began dating and will marry this fall. It's a match made for Mensa. Hannah is now in medical school. She already has a Ph.D. in pharmacology – her dissertation was on a human protein implicated in heart disease called thrombospondin. "Too long for a Scrabble game," Cordes jokes. The two have talked about starting a research lab together someday.

Looking back on medical school, Cordes says he savored the chance to help deliver babies and observe surgery -- things he's probably not going to do again. "I just made it a point to treasure them while I had them," he says. He once thought he'd become a researcher but is now considering psychiatry and internal medicine. "The surprise for me was how much I liked dealing with the human side," he says. "It took a little work to get over. I'm kind of a shy guy." 

Cordes plans to attend graduation ceremonies in May. For now, he's humble about his latest milestone. "I might be the front man in the show but there were lot of people involved," he says. "Everybody was giving a good effort for me and I wanted to do right by them." 

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

New Medicare Prescription Drug Program

Everyone who receives Medicare will need to make a decision regarding the new Medicare Prescription Drug program. The decision each individual Medicare beneficiary makes today will have serious consequences for the type and cost of coverage he or she may receive under this program in the future. If you or someone you know is covered by Medicare, you will be interested in the enclosed information made available by the Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP). It is precisely because this information is so important that we are happy to make it available as part of the White Cane Update. We encourage you to pay close attention. For more information on this subject, contact SHIIP at 1-800-351-4664.  Visit the following link to learn more about the SHIIP program in Iowa.

Dragons, Dreams and Daring Deeds at the Library this summer

By Carol Eckey

The Library will host a Summer Reading Club from June 6 - July 24, 2005. Any registered library borrower ages 3-17 is invited to join us in a reading extravaganza you won't want to miss! Our theme--"Dragons, Dreams & Daring Deeds"--will draw you into a world of magical creatures, fantasy, and intrigue.

It's easy to join! You'll receive a reading club information packet from us sometime in May. Just mail your registration form to us at that time or call us now at 1-800-362-2587. Once we know of your desire to join, we'll set you up and mail a small registration prize.

There are many ways to participate! You may read a good book, enter a contest, or try a fun activity from our "2005 Summer Reading Club Calendar." Something new we're offering this year is a teleconference book discussion to be held in July. The book chosen for discussion is "Because of Winn Dixie" by Kate Dicamillo. This will provide an opportunity for you to get acquainted with other club members across the state.

Prizes this year will be awarded by how much time you've read. After reading just one hour, we'll mail you an Adventureland ticket or special prize. There will be weekly drawings for prize packets, contest prizes, prizes for reading in Braille, trophies for the top three readers, and two grand prize drawings. Grand prizes will include either a descriptive video or a BookPort. (A BookPort is a small hand-held device used to play digital books).

We hope you join us this summer for good books and fun! HAPPY SUMMER READING!

Camp Discovery

By Megen Johnson

As summer draws near, so does Camp Discovery. As in years past, Camp Discovery students ages 14-20 will spend five weeks this summer learning the skills of blindness and gaining confidence in themselves as blind and visually impaired young adults. This year's camp will run from June 19th – July 1st, and then again from July 10th – July 29th.

Camp Discovery students will live in furnished residential apartments located on the Grandview College campus in Des Moines. Along with transition staff, students will be living independently in their apartments. They will be responsible for paying rent, utilities, garbage pickup, cable TV and Internet service--that is if they and the other students with whom they share the apartment choose to have these services. Students will learn to travel safely in residential areas, use the bus system, and navigate a college campus. The majority of the time, students will be responsible for planning and preparing their own meals. They will also be going out to eat, sometimes to the area's best restaurants. Students will have computers with assistive technology available in their apartments and will be introduced to a wide variety of other assistive devices by the Department's nationally recognized technology specialists.

One very special facet of Camp Discovery that participants never forget is giving back to the community. Students will participate in several different volunteer activities that give them both valuable experiences and great resume builders. We will cook a large meal for over a hundred hungry people at a local homeless shelter. We will also do yard clean up for a needy person in the area. As we know from past experience, campers will work very hard and will be very tired by the end of the day, but they will be very proud of their accomplishments.

We are never short on fun activities during Camp Discovery! Some of the many exciting things we have planned include swimming, going to an Iowa Cubs game, apartment parties, camping, hiking, boating, shopping, and going to a play and the movies. We are always on the go and there is definitely no time to get bored. This year, we will wrap up Camp Discovery with a one-week trip to Colorado. We will spend two days hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, two days on a white water rafting trip, and the remainder of our time checking out the local attractions.

If you or anyone you know might be interested in applying to participate in Camp Discovery, please feel free to contact Megen Johnson at 800-362-2587.

Getting the Most Out of Your Computer: A Technology Seminar

By Curtis Chong

The Iowa Department for the Blind is pleased to offer another in its continuing series of technology-related seminars designed to help blind Iowans to get the most out of their computers. Members of our technology team will discuss knowledge gained through personal experience that will help you to enjoy your computer while, at the same time, ensuring that proper maintenance and housekeeping take place.

When: Saturday, June 18, 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM.

Where: the Des Moines office of the Iowa Department for the Blind, 524 Fourth Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50309.

During this seminar, our technology experts will discuss, among other things:

-- Simple Things you can do to keep your computer healthy
-- Windows XP's Service Pack 2 and Compatibility With Nonvisual Access Technology
-- Pros and cons of Refreshable Braille Displays
-- Connecting USB Devices to Your Computer
-- Accessible MP3 Players - Does One Really Exist?

These are but a few of the topics we plan to cover on June 18. Mark your calendars now! Anyone who is interested in attending the seminar should contact Curtis Chong by phone at 515-281-1361 or via e-mail at

Business Enterprises Adds More Sites

As part of its aggressive program to expand, the Business Enterprises Program has added several new locations this quarter.

In March of this year, we began vending service at Workforce satellite offices in Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Davenport and Sioux City. This has resulted in increased sales for four blind managers. Vending consists of snack, pop, and in the case of Sioux City, coffee service.

We are in the process of negotiating a contract to begin vending service at Iowa Public Television in Johnston. The level of vending service has been agreed upon, and we look to moving into this location in May.

Construction is under way to add additional rest area vending locations at Onawa and Sergeant Bluff. Again, May is the target date to finalize construction, and place snack and beverage vendors at three roadside locations. These will go with the facility at the Woodbury County Court House Cafeteria in Sioux City.

Book Discussions for 2005

By Marilyn Jensen

The Iowa Library for the Blind currently has five groups holding book discussions. More groups will be formed as people ask to join. One group meets in Clinton and four groups, with seven members each, meet by telephone bi-monthly for an hour to an hour and a half. The group suggests titles to discuss and they also set a date and time to hold their discussion. Copies of the selected book, along with a discussion guide, are sent to members two months to six weeks before the event.

In 2005 the groups are discussing this year's All Iowa Reads selection, The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich. Other books to be discussed are: Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver; Crow Lake by Mary Lawson; Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich; Alice's Tulips by Sandra Dallas; Evans Above by Rhys Bowen; Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder; Wish You Well by David Baldacci; Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd; and We Need to talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver. These books and their study guides in Braille, large print or on cassette are available upon request from the Library for personal use by our library borrowers.

The purpose of these book discussions is to give our patrons opportunities to read and talk about books. For more information on how to participate, call Marilyn Jensen at 515-281-1348 or800-362-2587.

Career Seminar Success in Mason City

By Brenda Criswell

On April 19, 2005, David Lenz and I, Rehabilitation Employment Specialists, with help from Victoria Kollmann, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the area, hosted a career seminar at the Mason City Workforce Development (IWD) office. Two employers from Mason City and four Vocational Rehabilitation clients from Riceville, Forest City, and Charles City participated in the daylong activity.

The seminar included discussions about dealing with blindness in the interview, writing resumes and developing career placement plans. A guest speaker discussed the importance of a positive attitude about blindness during the job search, and participants engaged in several self-discovery exercises. Employer representatives conducted mock interviews with each participant as well.

The clients' feedback was very positive, and included such comments as: "I really appreciated having the employers come and do mock interviews." "I wasn't as nervous as I thought I would be." "I thought the employers' feedback in the session after our interviews was really helpful." "I enjoyed the group activities and appreciated the worksheets being in Braille and large print." "Besides being blind, I have a stuttering problem and I couldn't believe that it was no big deal during the interview. She said I did great!"

David and I will hold more Career Seminars in various locations throughout the year.

Lt. Gov. Sally Pederson Presents Volunteer Awards

Lieutenant Governor Sally J. Pederson presented awards to volunteers at the Iowa Department for the Blind on Friday, April 15 during the Department's annual Volunteer Recognition Luncheon. Volunteers received awards for their work recording, Brailling and proofreading books, repairing cassette machines, and inspecting library materials for the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

The Elizabeth Perowsky Memorial Award was presented to Virginia Degen of Holstein for her 33 years of outstanding service as a Braillist and mentor for the Library. Mrs. Degen has Brailled thousands of pages of library books and textbooks. She is one of a handful of Iowa volunteers who can Braille math and science textbooks using the Nemeth Code, a specialized code used to convey mathematical and scientific information in Braille. She has also mentored beginning Braillists, helping them learn Braille and prepare for certification exams.

Five volunteers were awarded the Florence Grannis Library Service Award for outstanding service to patrons of the Library. Recipients were: Robert Wilson of Des Moines, for 23 years of service repairing cassette machines; Helen Boddy of Keokuk, for many years of Braille proofreading; Pat Smith of Des Moines for 33 years of service as a Braillist; Joyce Keller of Streetsboro, Ohio, for 42 years of service recording books for Library patrons; and Roger Christenson of Des Moines for 14 years of faithful service inspecting and rewinding returned books.

Transcriber pins were also awarded to volunteers who had completed their first major transcription or proofreading assignment or had volunteered at least 40 hours for the Library. Narrators receiving these awards were: Loraine McKay, Des Moines, IA; Eileen Herrstrom, Champaign, IL; Esther Bordwell, Washington, IA; Judy Madson, Clear Lake, IA; Terry Turner, Sergeant Bluff, IA; Jan McGinnis, Marshalltown, IA; Anne Heitz, Fort Madison, IA; and Cindy Pitts, Charles City, IA. Des Moines-based volunteers Richard Eckman and John Gonzalez received awards for proofreading Braille, and Martha Swigart and Eunice Coppens received awards for repairing cassette machines.

The luncheon was underwritten by donations from the Des Moines Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa and the Des Moines chapter of the Iowa Council of United Blind.

Craig Kiser, former Iowan and a graduate of the Department's Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center gave the keynote address at the luncheon. Kiser is currently the Director of Blind Services in Florida.

Along with the luncheon, the day included workshops for Braillists and for narrators. Freddie Peaco, a representative of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, a division of the Library of Congress, spoke to Braillists and answered questions about the NLS Braille Development Program. Larry McKeever, owner of Lariam Associates Recording Studio in Des Moines talked to volunteer narrators about the advantages of using digital recording processes. In the afternoon, Library staff hosted round-table discussions on Braille and on the Library's new digital recording program.

The Library serves over 7,500 Iowans who cannot read standard print because of visual, physical or reading disabilities. Last year it circulated over 400,000 books, videos, and magazines to Iowans in all corners of the state. Circulation is primarily achieved through the U.S. Postal Service, bringing reading materials directly to patrons' doors.

Over 120 volunteers provide time and expertise each year to help the Library provide and circulate books and magazines for educational, vocational and leisure reading.

Outreach to Students Hits the Mark

On March 11, Julie Bergeson, Independent Living Teacher, and Liz Soenen, Project Specialist, talked to students at Webster City Middle School about blindness as part of a "Big Character Counts" celebration day.

When students were asked to write about the things they learned during the day, some of them wrote:

"I learned that you shouldn’t just say, ‘Oh, you’re blind, you’re helpless. I’ll help you.’ They have a life – they’re people just like us. They just can’t see. We shouldn’t treat them any different than us."

"I enjoyed hearing about everything. You have a special job to be able to teach and help other people understand about blind people. Please come back again. Thank you for coming. I hope you enjoyed your visit here at Webster City Middle School."

"I learned how to write and read Braille and that was fun. I also learned how to play bingo. I also learned how to ask a blind person if they need help before assisting them. Also, if I see a blind person, I will say hi to them."

"I learned that it’s very difficult to move but that they learn just as us. I learned a lot of how they do things. Like the money and writing. Thanks for showing us how important it is to accept everyone and treat the blind the same as others, no matter what their disability."

"Blind people can learn to do the same thing as we do just not in the same way. You should always ask a blind person for help instead of just saying, here, I’ll help you. You have a lot of character counts in you. Thank you for coming. You showed a lot of character in you today."

"I learned you have to get the hang of walking with a cane and blind people can learn how to do awesome stuff! I also learned a bit about Braille. Thank you for coming and I hope to see you next year."

"Today I learned a lot about the blind! Braille is what they use to read and write with. You should always treat blind people the same as anyone else! Now that they have come to talk, I can have a better conversation with the blind lady at church!"

"First of all, I want to thank you for coming to talk to us. I really enjoyed how we got to experience what it is like to be a blind person. How to approach a blind person by saying, “Hello,” instead of just walking away. How to ask if they need help and not just help them."

"I learned how independent people that are blind can be. I also never knew how blind people keep track of their money."

"Julie and Liz showed us that just because others have handicaps, like being blind, doesn’t mean we should treat them different or feel sorry for them. Blind people live with the loss of sight everyday and have learned to deal with it, so we need to help them adjust to a normal life just by being considerate and normal."

"I have learned that blind people can do many things that we can do. I also learned that the blind are multi-talented people."

"I learned how blind people live their lives normally. I learned that not all blind people are completely blind."

"I learned there are about 80 blind people in Hamilton County."

Miss Iowa-USA 2005 Joins Department for the Blind Walk Team

Miss Iowa-USA 2005 Joy Robinson joined the Iowa Department for the Blind walk team, Raising Cane, to raise money and awareness for juvenile diabetes. The Raising Cane walk team participated in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, International's annual walk through the Des Moines skywalk system on March 5 to raise funds for diabetes research. Joy also worked to raise awareness about vision loss due to diabetes and the services the Department for the Blind provides.

Julie Scurr, Chairperson of the Iowa Commission for the Blind, partnered with Joy for the walk. Julie developed late on set juvenile diabetes at the age of 25. Insulin-dependent since that time, Julie became legally blind in 1992, had her first kidney transplant in 1994, became an amputee in May 2004 and had her second kidney transplant in January 2005. Julie attended the Department's Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center where she learned alternative skills of blindness and reinforced her belief that with proper training and opportunities, she could do whatever she chose despite her blindness. She was appointed to the Commission Board in 1999 and has served as its chairperson since 2001.

Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness among working-aged adults. Each year the Department serves over 7,500 blind Iowans, providing training which helps them live independently, find and hold jobs, read books, magazines, and newspapers, and participate fully in family, community, educational and employment activities.

Critical Antivirus and Spyware Protection Information Available

By Curtis Chong

On November 6, 2004, the Iowa Department for the Blind held a very successful seminar on protecting one's computer from the ravages of the Internet. Some of the topics covered were antivirus software, spyware, and the proper technique for keeping your suite of protection software up to date.

Tapes of that seminar along with a compact disk containing handouts are now available. If you are interested in receiving this material, contact Jean Saner by phone at 515-281-1364 or via e-mail at


On October 20, 2004, the Iowa Department for the Blind received the Distinguished Agency Award, presented by the Citizens Committee for People with Disabilities in Cedar Rapids.

The Department was recognized in front of a large group of professionals representing organizations and human rights agencies.

Dolores Reisinger, a Cedar Rapids Civil Rights commissioner, nominated the Iowa Department for the Blind. She represented the award to Jonathan Ice, the Independent Living teacher serving southeast Iowa.

Senior Orientation Builds Confidence

By Becky Criswell

During the week of March 28 - April 1, the Department was home to seven older Iowans ranging in age from 69 to 89. They were here as students to attend the Department’s Senior Orientation program. This program is designed specifically for individuals who experience a severe loss of vision later in life and provides concentrated training in non-visual techniques for daily living. Students wear sleepshades (blindfolds) and learn techniques for home and personal management; communication; how to safely walk up and down stairs and cross streets using a long white cane; and techniques for leisure activities. While all of these techniques are important, students claim that the most important thing they take home is confidence.

Each day begins with a discussion class about blindness, and students talk about the things they find either difficult or impossible to do since they lost their vision. Often the very things they identify become their next lesson. Some expressed fear about safely plugging things into an electrical outlet, others found it difficult to use a phone, and some felt that threading a needle and operating a sewing machine would be impossible. These all became activities in various classes. For instance, one lady lamented the fact that she could no longer make homemade noodles. She later reported that she was surprised to find herself making dough, rolling it out and cutting it for noodles in her very next home ec class. Everyone was pleased with the end product, and she happily announced that she would again be making noodles when she returned home.

Janet Kessler of Creston was one of the seven students. Janet lost her vision in one eye twelve years ago and experienced a sudden loss of vision in her other eye in March 2004. Prior to becoming blind, Janet enjoyed a very active and full life. She stated, “I can’t tell you everything I did because I just did so much.” She is a wife and a grandmother of eight, so it is easy to believe that she was on the go all the time. Janet said, “After I was told there was nothing that could be done for my eyes I was so depressed, you can’t imagine. I was just devastated.” Fortunately, Janet decided she had too much to lose to let herself be defeated by blindness. She explained, “I started looking around for alternatives. I have an aunt who is blind and uses library services from the Department, and she referred me for services.” Janet said she was visited by a home teacher from the Department and was able to attend part of a local workshop the Department held in her hometown. She learned some cooking techniques and felt she would be interested in more training. Nonetheless, she was a little hesitant to attend Senior Orientation when her teacher first suggested it. In fact, when her husband, Robert, brought her to Des Moines for the program, she asked him to wait until she was sure she wanted to stay. Janet said she was immediately impressed with the facilities and staff and was soon willing to wave goodbye to Robert for the week.

Now, looking back on her experience she said, “Much to my surprise I did enjoy it all.” Janet explained she is able to use a combination of what she learned in training and her remaining vision. She regularly carries her cane and stated, “I feel more secure in walking, especially going up and down stairs and curbs.” She was also excited to say she was able to learn enough Braille that she was recently able to read the floor numbers on an elevator, and she makes regular use of the “hints in cooking” she learned. Janet is well on her way, and it is clear that she will not let blindness defeat her. Janet said she highly recommends the training program for anyone who wants to become more independent.

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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.