Published and distributed by the Iowa Department for
Allen C. Harris, Director
Karen Keninger, Editor
Members of the Commission:
Robert Martin, Davenport
Julie Scurr, Coralville
Doug Elliott, Grinnell
Des Moines, Iowa
I look forward to each issue of the White Cane Update as it gives each of us an opportunity to see up close some of the activities the Department is involved with. As you will see, our Library continues to work toward our goal of being much more than a Library that just sends out books. I think you will agree that we are making progress through innovative and interactive programs for our patrons.
Also, you will read about the efforts we are making to grow and improve our Randolph-Sheppard Program. As government has gotten smaller, our dependence on state, federal and local facilities for business must change. Roger Erpelding, Darlene Greenfield, Mark West and Tim Wigans have worked hard to find new businesses and to make our existing business locations more profitable. Little by little, we are seeing success, and I feel confident about the future of our Randolph-Sheppard Program. It is exciting that we have our first troop dining facility at Camp Dodge. This project has been demanding, requiring all of us to work effectively to learn this specialized contract business. Glenda Wulf who completed her Center training and Randolph-Sheppard training this spring has begun her business career in a very challenging way, but she has proven to be up to the challenge.
You will see that our Independent Living Rehabilitation Program (ILR) has continued to innovate, finding ways to expand services to older Iowans. As a result, IDB is reaching more, older blind citizens in Iowa. I look forward to the opportunities that I have to meet with individuals who participate in our various ILR programs.
Pathfinders completed a very satisfying year with mentors and youth. Commissioner Scurr and I attended an awards banquet where we were privileged to give certificates of completion to program participants. We will begin a new year this fall, and we are looking for both Pathfinders and blind adults to serve as their mentors.
We had a very successful College Days program with about 70 students attending. IDB staff showed their usual high level of creativity in carrying out the horseracing theme. As always, we are anxious to both teach and learn from our college students, providing opportunities that will contribute to their success.
Our Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and Center programs continue to find ways to strengthen and improve our services to individuals who are working to achieve employment outcomes. IDB has continued to improve the average wage that our clients receive at the outset of a job. We are working to increase the number of individuals who have at least two years of education/training following high school.
In all, you will see that the Department is busy and always looking for ways to get better at fulfilling our mission. Our staff, and The Commission Board of Julie Scurr, Doug Elliott, and Bob Martin, are a team that strives to find consistent quality improvement.
On July 16, during the National Governors Association annual conference, Governor Thomas Vilsack presented the National Governors Association Award for Distinguished Service to State Government to Allen Harris, Director of the Iowa Department for the Blind.
"This award," Harris said, "is a recognition of the achievements of the entire Department. I am, of course, honored, but it is really because I am the Director of a Department which, quite frankly, continues to find ways to improve our results, and provide increased value for the resources we use. After all, the Department is in the business of changing lives. When you take our programs apart and look carefully at each effort to change attitudes about blindness or teach blindness skills, it comes to transforming individuals to become confident and capable blind persons."
Mr. Harris was appointed Director of the Department, by the Board of the Iowa Commission for the Blind in September of 2001. Department staff has been urged to higher and higher levels of creativity and excellence by his positive and dynamic leadership. The results have been significant. During austere fiscal times, Department staff has successfully created programs and mechanisms for improving services, adding opportunities for blind Iowans, and maintaining national status as a leader in the field of blindness.
In the Orientation Center, Steppingstones and Camp Discovery have added new dimensions to transition services, while the Pathfinders Mentoring project has linked youth with adults. Enrollment in the Center has increased, and a fresh approach to training was introduced by its director Sandy Tigges this year.
Vocational Rehabilitation has maintained the high standards for job training and placement which keep IDB at the top of national rankings in the categories which make the most difference to the people we serve--competitive job placement and high wages. The Mini-training programs in Independent Living have burgeoned, providing much-needed training opportunities for Iowa's older population in settings, which work well for them.
The Assistive Technology team has continued to break ground in training blind persons and assistive technology trainers in the ever-more-complex use of computer systems equipped with assistive technology. One specialty in this area has been training materials for deaf-blind persons and others who must rely strictly on refreshable Braille displays.
The Business Enterprises Program has expanded its opportunities in all areas, including a new project at Camp Dodge.
The Library has implemented new programming, including teleconferenced book discussions, and a BookPort project as well as initiating the move to digital audio recording and digital Braille
"The credit for these accomplishments," Mr. Harris says, "goes to an extraordinary staff, creative managers and blind citizens who take a very active role in the Department's work."
The Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center's annual Alumni Day and Banquet will be held on October 1. The theme this year is "Seasons of Change." Activities will begin at 11:00 a.m. with a buffet luncheon in the cafeteria. At 2:30 p.m., Director Allen Harris will give an update on the Department, and at 3:00 p.m., Dave Hauge will give alumni a tour of the newly remodeled Recreation Room and reception area. The banquet will be held at 6:00 p.m. in the Assembly Room, followed by a dance and hospitality at the new Hy-Vee Hall located just up the street. Alumni will also have an opportunity during the day to visit the library and make purchases at the Aids and Devices Store.
Banquet tickets are just $12.00 for adults. Children can attend free of charge. For reservations, call Rebecca Swainey at 800-362-2587 or 515-281-1302. Let her know also if you need assistance with transportation. Bring your family and friends and join us for another great Alumni Day. See you there.
Many authors write books in ordered series, carrying characters along from one book to another, building on the details of their lives and their worlds. Usually, these books are meant to be read in order. Other authors write books that are loosely connected but not necessarily intended to be read in a particular sequence. Series are very popular with the reading public--witness the excitement over this summer's release of the sixth book in the Harry Potter series for example.
Until now, library patrons have not found it particularly easy to read the books in a series in order, or to make sure that they get all the books in the series.
The Library has solved that problem by adding series subscription capability to our software. Now patrons can subscribe to a series. When they do, the books in that series will be sent out one at a time. When Number 1 is received back at the Library, Number 2 will be sent out and so on until the entire series has been sent.
This instantly popular feature has netted over 100 series subscriptions in the first two weeks. The library has identified over 1,500 series, covering fiction and nonfiction, and all genres. We have westerns, mysteries, historical fiction, family sagas, fantasy, science fiction, history, and Christian fiction to name a very few. If you are interested in subscribing to a series, please call your reader advisor at 800-362-2587.
First Lady Christie Vilsack has been invited to help honor the Library's eleven centenarians at a ceremony on Monday, September 26 at the Department. The ceremony is the inaugural event for Iowa's participation in the 10-Squared Club initiated by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) last year. Deborah Toomey, Network Consultant from NLS, will also attend.
Centenarians will each receive a plaque in recognition of their achievements as active readers and will receive first priority status when requesting any book from the Library. Staff will deliver plaques to those who are not able to attend.
Randy Landgrebe, the library's circulation supervisor, visited with three of the honorees recently. Here's what he discovered.
During my recent interviews with three of Iowa's centenarians I think I may have found that elusive "fountain of youth." One compelling characteristic that Catherine Hanlon, Dorothy Bryant, and Luther Goldberg, had in common was a tremendously cheerful view of life. Additionally, they all offered helpful insights into how Library services have positively impacted their lives.
Talking books, they each said, allowed them to keep their love for reading alive. It was clear to me that this love for reading is closely related to a zest for, and curiosity about the world around them. I was impressed with Catherine's quick and thorough grasp of today's political climate—surely enhanced by her reading of history and biography. Dorothy Bryant's wide-ranging knowledge of books, and the impact of reading on her life were evident in her thoughtful responses to my questions about the changes she has witnessed through her life. Luther Goldberg noted that he was thankful for the "wonderful, wonderful service that the library provides." Clearly the "religious" (as he called them) books he read made a difference in his life. Mr. Goldberg expressed thankfulness for every day of his life and offered a humble comment about his 103rd birthday as "just another day."
When I asked about the changes they had witnessed in their lifetimes, I was a bit surprised to hear all three note that though they had fond memories of the "good old days," they would just as soon not go back to them! However, the one thing that will stay with me from my interviews was the thankfulness for every blessing in life that Dorothy, Luther, and Catherine expressed. All three were delightful reminders of the value of looking on the sunny side of life. And if these centenarians are any indication, this attitude may well be the elixir for a long and fruitful life.
The Department staff would like to extend congratulations to the other eight honorees as well: Mildred Beem, Gladys Breer, Josie England, Marie Farrell, Irene Krause, Ethel McCombs, Pauline Stephens, and Jennie Ver Steeg.
By Liz Soenen, Project Specialist and Vivian Ver Huel, Rehabilitation Teacher
Mini trainings have provided a wonderful opportunity for groups of people with varying degrees of vision loss to learn effective blindness skills. Participants learn new skills within the safety and encouragement of a group setting. Interestingly, the attitudes of the group's leaders greatly influence the attitude of the group as a whole. If attitudes are positive, the atmosphere will be one of openness and encouragement. Skepticism, especially early on, is typical. However, overall, participants hold high expectations that the training will enrich their lives and that the time spent in training will be well worth their efforts.
Team 7 recently had just such a positive training experience at The Village, a retirement community in Indianola. The participants were members of a newly formed support group for visually impaired residents called, "Sightly Impaired." At the start of the training, we had the feeling that working with this group would be a rewarding experience—and they did not disappoint us. We worked with them over a course of 5 months arranging 2½ hour training times around the availability of the meeting rooms and various individual schedules. It was a challenge but, oh, so much fun with this group.
The group began simply wanting to learn a few home management things such as labeling and money management. We taught Braille at each meeting, and now many would like to continue learning the entire alphabet for label use in their homes. More challenging classes like travel and cooking were not initially requested. Toward the end of the training, however, we had interest in cane travel and cooking and we initiated some beginning training with the entire group.
At the culmination of seven sessions of blindness techniques training, the "Sightly Impaired" members and some spouses made a trip to Des Moines to tour the Orientation Center. Some of the members had previously toured, but this time around it was far more meaningful, and the work done here made more sense. The following thank-you note came "straight from the heart."
"I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for my new NIV Giant Print Reference Bible provided through the Lions Foundation. It is such a blessing to read and study it without too much eyestrain? Also, the tour on June 29 was an amazing revelation of the scope of your outreach to serve and enlighten others. Classes at the Village have been such a delightful learning experience. Thank you for all you do to provide educational services and hope.”
The "Sightly Impaired" members plan to continue their monthly support meetings, gathering more information about living with blindness. They will be positive role models to new members because of the things they learned and have implemented into their daily lives. The group also knows they can call on the Iowa Department for the Blind for services in the future should they need a refresher or have new members who need instruction. The Iowa Department for the Blind teaching staff will gladly rise to the call.
Others who attended the training in Indianola had these remarks to the following questions in the Satisfaction Surveys.
(1) Would you recommend this program to someone else who is having vision problems? And (2) What would you tell them?
"Yes, that there are well-trained staff persons at the Iowa Department for the Blind that can help them learn to cope with their disability."
"Do it - it's fun, you learn things!"
"Definitely! Learn all you can in blind training and coping skills. The services and training are wonderful, priceless and available. You can become more safe and independent."
"Yes, don't pass it by."
"Yes, try it!"
"Yes. This training will help you to be confident. That blindness does not make you unable to take care of yourself. Having Vivian as our teacher showed us that you can do it. You can learn a lot in these classes and have fun doing it. You also realize how your other senses take over to help you find ways to cope."
"Yes. This program sweeps away the impossibilities, and reveals the possibilities."
Ft. Madison: September 15, 22, and 29
Cresco: September 20
Spencer: October 4
Orange City area: October 11 - 13
Des Moines area: October 25 - 27
By Roger Erpelding
Since Memorial Day weekend, travelers along I-29 in western Iowa have been greeted with more rest area vending options. In late May, we opened two sites at Onawa (north and south bound) and one site at Sergeant Bluff (north bound). These are operated by John Buffington, who is also in charge of several Sioux City vending locations, along with the southbound Sergeant Bluff rest area vending. If customer response is any indicator, these new sites are welcome, and long overdue.
B.E.P. is always looking at new ideas to increase the size and profitability of existing businesses. An example of this is the Lucas Building Cafeteria, operated by Lonnie Harmon. On June 13 we began providing outdoor service to Capitol Complex patrons. The new service involves a number of freshly grilled items, including chicken, brats and burgers. You can also get a cold salad or fruit, along with cold soft drinks and water. This service will continue until weather dictates that it come to an end. This new endeavor has been so successful that it is likely to continue next summer, and may even expand to a second location on the complex.
New and unexpected opportunities in B.E.P. are always a plus. In May, I received a call from the Contracting Office at Camp Dodge, asking the Department's Randolph-Sheppard division to serve 175 troops here for Operation Quick Service. Of course, we couldn't accept fast enough, and on June 17, this operation began. We assigned a blind manager, and worked with our teaming partner, Blackstone Consulting, to broker a price and a contract, and to get the operation under way quickly as time was of the essence. Although the length of the contract is uncertain as of this writing, it will be in force at least through November. It may last another two and a half years if Army National Guard headquarters is pleased with the progress of Operation Quick Service. We are looking forward to a long and profitable relationship with Camp Dodge, and to giving our soldiers a better than excellent job in quality meals. Glenda Wulf is our manager in this endeavor. She is new, but enthused, and is rapidly learning the military troop dining end of the business. (Operation Quick Service is a project whereby vehicles worn out or damaged in combat are repaired or rebuilt).
By Deena Cross
Dragons, Dreams and Daring Deeds, the library’s 2005 summer reading program entertained 60 young readers—all of whom earned prizes. This year's theme and activities spurred 90% of the kids who entered the club to go beyond the first reading level. This earned them tickets to Adventureland that were donated by the management at Adventureland. They read a total of 880 hours and chose activities from a daily calendar for additional points.
The summer reading program’s top readers, Emily Gudenkauf and Caleb Mowrer, tied for first place with 103.5 hours of reading, and chose videos for their prizes. Emily got the set of Harry Potter movies and Caleb picked the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Our third place winner, Jill Von Fometti received a BookPort.
The 60 young people read a total of 880 hours. Braille reading was recognized by providing Braille readers with incentives, such as playing cards, slates and styluses and several games purchased from our Aids and Devices Store.
All participants had three opportunities to receive extra prizes. They could decorate a shield and mail it to the Library, and send a picture of themselves doing an activity from the calendar. The third activity was our first ever book discussion for kids through a teleconference call. Six children took part in the discussion of the book, Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate Dicamillo. This book was recently made into a movie and the children who participated had an enjoyable discussion. We are planning another book discussion for kids during winter break. The winter discussion book will be Shiloh by Phyllis R. Naylor.
The Summer Reading Club was sponsored by a variety of merchants and a grant from the Iowa Lions Foundation.
The theme for 2006 Summer Reading Club is Claws, Paws, Scales and Tales. Watch for a bibliography on our web site and sign up information next spring.
By Keri Nuzum
The Iowa Department for the Blind's Pathfinders Mentoring Program has proven to be a success. As we near the end of the summer, we are also completing our first year of the program, which matches competent and confident blind adults with young blind Iowans ages 16 to 26. We have found through feedback from many of our Pathfinders that the program truly meets their needs.
The Pathfinders have both learned from and enjoyed the time they have spent with their mentors. Together, they have attended plays, eaten at local restaurants, cheered at baseball games, performed volunteer work, and traveled to national conventions of blind consumer organizations. They have explored careers through job shadowing, volunteering, and interviewing mentors and other blind individuals. Through the Department’s five workshops they have also learned about consumer organizations of the blind, the importance of developing effective blindness skills and having a positive attitude about blindness, as well as how to become a better advocate. In addition, many of our Pathfinders are participating more in other Department programs, such as College Days, Weekend Retreats and Summer Camps, and the Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center.
We need your help to make the Pathfinders Mentoring Program successful for another year. We are now recruiting Pathfinders and mentors for the second year of the program. If you are a blind Iowan between the ages of 16 and 26 who thinks you can benefit from the program, or if you are a competent and self-confident blind adult who would like to have a positive impact on the course of a young person's life, give Keri Nuzum, Transition Mentoring Specialist, or Jodi George, Transition Secretary, a call. Keri can be reached at 515-281-1322 and Jodi at 515-242-5746. They can also be contacted at 800-362-2587.
If you think mentoring may be the volunteer job for you, you will need to attend a mentor information and training workshop on September 17, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., at the Iowa Department for the Blind building in Des Moines. We will explain our program in detail and give you the opportunity to ask questions and discuss your concerns before making a firm commitment to the 2005-2006 program year. For more information or to make a reservation, call Keri or Jodi.
By Becky Criswell
After serving nearly twelve years on the Independent Living Advisory Committee, Alice White decided not to seek reappointment. Alice explained that her health will no longer allow her to participate as fully as she would like. Indeed, Alice was an active member and did much during her tenure to support and promote the Department's Independent Living program. She was constantly on the alert for useful information on potential resources or services, as well as information on issues and challenges. She always made sure she had something to share at committee meetings. Alice was also a strong advocate and worked tirelessly to educate her legislators and local officials regarding the value of the Independent Living program. However, Alice will probably best be remembered for her efforts to educate the public regarding the value of the long white cane. Every fall in honor of White Cane Safety Day, Alice made the rounds to elementary schools in her surrounding communities to share her positive attitude about blindness. Alice's many contributions are certainly appreciated, and the Department is grateful to her for lending her positive approach, her energy, and her commitment to the advancement of Independent Living services for blind Iowans.
While Alice will definitely be missed, the Committee is pleased to welcome its newest member, Janet Kessler. Janet is from Creston, and was interviewed for the last White Cane Update as a recent participant in Senior Orientation. She has a lot of enthusiasm and the Department will certainly benefit from her "get up and go" attitude. In fact, Janet has already invited the Department to host an Open House in Creston in order to showcase Department services. Welcome aboard, Janet!
As a routine part of their training, all new staff at the Department, regardless of their jobs, is required to spend some time as students in the Orientation Center. Like all other students, they are required to wear sleepshades throughout the day if they have any vision.
Randy Landgrebe joined the Library staff in June as the new Circulation Supervisor. As part of his initial training, he spent a month in the Orientation Center. Randy worked under sleepshades, completely immersed in the Center's curriculum. Here is a brief description of his experience.
My month of training in the Department's Orientation Center, though brief, was life altering. It was an unforgettable collection of simple daily acts that moved me toward understanding that a person could do better than simply get along without sight. I discovered that a person could be blind and still expect to do whatever it was they wanted to do in life. Indeed, my one overriding memory of Orientation is the positive atmosphere of the Center. It is impressive how clear it is that positive attitudes create a positive atmosphere, which in turn creates confident students—students who are sure that whatever difficulty arises, they will problem solve their way through it.
When I analyze my time in Orientation, I think of it as four pieces that form a unified puzzle. The four pieces are: (1) self-awareness gained by internalizing positive attitudes about blindness; (2) practical travel skills; (3) coping skills such as patience, with one's self and the wider public; and (4) fitting in wherever one is at—at work or outside of work. Writing these four components was far easier than doing them—though certain parts were getting easier and some parts I felt comfortable with from the very beginning.
Attitude adjustment came relatively easy for me. However, learning to become physically oriented with world was somewhat more difficult. I struggled to travel with any kind of grace. Yet I believe that I could eventually learn the skills required to travel anywhere with confidence. Likewise, my fingers were slow to read Braille, and slow to write it as well. Still, this "negative" experience was remarkable because I know that with work I can learn to read and write Braille. My successes in Woodworking Shop, Home Economics, and Computer Class helped me get past believing merely intellectually that I could do normal things without my sight. Actually, every success in class convinced me at deep, emotional level that blindness ought not keep anyone from living a full, independent life. Ultimately, the Business class brought all the pieces together. The frank, thoughtful, and practical discussions were like glue that sealed together the pieces of the puzzle. Thank you, to all the students I shared time in Orientation with, to my teachers, and to Sandy Tigges for allowing me the opportunity to better understand what blindness is, and more to the point, what it is not!
This year, the Iowa Department for the blind's Transition Program held its fourth annual camp for transition-age Iowans who are blind or severely visually impaired. Camp Stepping Stones is a one-week camp designed to provide one-on-one training to young people who need intensive instruction in the daily activities of life. Many of these students go on to participate with others in Camp Discovery, a five-week program where they develop self-confidence and learn effective blindness techniques for accomplishing such everyday activities as getting around, shopping, budgeting, cleaning, and cooking. Besides getting a chance to try out Braille and travel with the long white cane, these young people soon discover that there is a new, better, and more positive way to view their blindness.
These camps are so effective because most of the instructors are competent, confident, and successful blind role models. Through their own example, the instructors demonstrate to the students that it is possible, without vision, to shop for groceries, take a city bus, go to a movie, eat in an elegant restaurant, throw a party, and cook a meal for the homeless. Housed at the student apartments at Grandview College in Des Moines, the camps also emphasized the responsibilities involved in maintaining an apartment, such as cleaning, cooking, paying utilities, and budgeting for unforeseen expenses. This year, Camp Discovery culminated in a one-week trip to Colorado. Having had several weeks to practice their blindness techniques, participants were ready to explore Pike's Peak and the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, tour the Cave of the Winds, and take a wild ride over the Royal Gorge in a sky coaster. The trip ended with an exciting, overnight, white water rafting adventure down the Arkansas River.
Many of the students who attended these camps will also be participating in the two winter retreats the Transition Program sponsors each year. In any case, the experiences they had this summer have gone a long way to convincing them that "It's okay to be blind." For more information about the Department's Transition Program, please contact Megen Johnson at 515-281-1253 or 800-362-2587. She can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Iowa Department for the Blind technology team has been busy planning for the Technology Day that is set for Saturday, February 18, 2006. Technology Day will be held in our Des Moines office. Past Technology Day seminars have covered topics such as computer security, system maintenance, and the use of peripheral devices like scanners and USB drives.
To help us plan for this and future seminars, we need input from you. Please take a few moments to complete the survey below and let us know what subjects you would like to see us discuss. For each question, you may select as many choices as you like. Type an X in the space provided before each choice. E-mail the completed survey to Mike Barber email@example.com. If you don't have Internet access, you may call Mike at (800) 362-2587, and complete the survey by phone. Your responses will help us make sure we present information you want and need. Click this link to fill out the technology survey online and have the results e-mailed directly to Mike Barber.
Thank you for your help.
1. Which of the following topics would you like to see discussed in future Technology Day seminars? (Choose as many as apply.)
Accessible Cell phones (hardware and software)
Getting Rid of Wires: How to Set Up and Protect a Wireless Network
Digital Voice Recorders: What They Do, and How to Choose One
Taming Difficult Document Formats (PDF and others)
Accessible Financial Management Software (Quicken, Talking Checkbook, Excel, Money Talks)
Using the Iowa On-Line Public Access Catalog (OPAC)
Out on the Web: Getting Things Done on the Internet (tips for navigating a web page with JAWS, on-line newspapers and libraries, ordering on-line, search engine tips and tricks)
Keeping Your System Safe: What's New In Computer Security? (anti-spyware, antivirus software)
Other (please list)
2. Which of the following styles of presentation do you prefer?
Interactive question and answer session
A combination of the above
3. In which of the following formats would you prefer to have session handouts?
Return to the Contents
Return to Newsletter page.
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.