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

Winter 2006
Des Moines, Iowa

Table of Contents

From the Director
Friends Group Forming for Library
Blind Iowans Continue to Get Good Jobs and Maintain Independence
Jim Crawford Retires--Again!!
IDB Partners with Wolfe Clinic
Fun for Teens at the Fall Transition Retreat
Library Enters the Digital Age!!
New Ventures in Business Enterprises
Monster Reads--Adult Summer Reading Program
Iowa Guide to Keeping You Safe
University Museum to Host Exhibit on Blindness
Raising Cane for a Cause
Instructional Materials Center
Library Honors Postal Employees
2006 SSA Changes & Amounts
What Happened to My Books?
Upcoming Events

From the Director

By Allen C. Harris

The real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight.  It is the misconceptions about blindness commonly held by members of the public and by many blind people themselves, which erect the barriers and prevent blind men and women from fully participating in work, home and community. With proper training, tools and opportunities, the average blind person can and does perform the average job in the average workplace as competently as his or her sighted peers.  The Department's programs were built on this positive philosophy of blindness articulated so clearly by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan.  For more than 45 years, this philosophy has been born out in the continuing successes of blind Iowans at work, at home, and in their communities.  In this issue of the White Cane Update, you will see a variety of jobs blind Iowans have taken during the past year, and you will be pleased to see that the average wages for those jobs is 12 percent higher than the average wage in Iowa.  I am pleased with the wide range of jobs, which our clients choose--it is a reminder that blind people are just like everyone else. They have varied interests and abilities and a wide range of successes--just like society at large. 
          We continue to work on our access technology programs to bring distance learning to blind persons around the United States.  We are writing tutorials for our Project ASSIST series, and the demand for these materials and our programs is strong.  We are consistently challenged by the wide range of work sites, which require some level of adaptation and access technology to be used by a blind employee. 
       In the Library, we are reaching out to our patrons in many ways.  This fall we inducted eleven centenarians into the 10-Squared Club and recognized individual postal carriers for a job well done.  We expanded our youth programming, and added three new magazines.  We've nearly finished building our recording studio and are busy recruiting new narrators.  We've also established a Friends Group to help support the Library in a variety of ways.  
          You will read about the ongoing efforts to improve and upgrade the businesses in our Randolph-Sheppard (RS) Program.  As I have discussed with you on previous occasions, the nature of our RS Program businesses is changing and we are challenged to respond to today's opportunities.  Also, on the national level Congress has put a spotlight on the RS Program and has criticized it harshly.  It is our responsibility to work with Congress and other interested individuals to maintain the integrity of the RS Program and see that it is not merged with general disability programs.  I am working with the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB), consumer groups and others who will help us plan and execute an effective strategy.
            Our Independent Living Rehabilitation (ILR) Program is faced with a rapidly growing demand for services to older Iowans who are experiencing blindness and severe vision loss.  The challenge is to find ways with declining revenues and increasing costs to see that IDB can continue to give quality service to as many individuals as possible.  This has meant that our ILR staff has been developing new and effective practices to get services to more people around Iowa.  We have not found the perfect answer yet, however, we are making progress, and the feedback we get from our clients continues to be very supportive.  
          We know that a head start is a real positive factor for assisting our blind students as they transition to our adult training programs.  We also know that youngsters who are mentored by blind role models are likely to have higher expectations for themselves and more likely to achieve career choices which reflect their dreams.  Therefore, we are very proud of our Transition Programs. Both our Pathfinders Mentoring Program and our year-round Transition activities are very busy working with youth ages 14 and up.  You will read about one of them, the Teen Retreat Weekends, later in this issue.  
          The Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center Programs look for ways to strengthen our ability to get students to adopt our positive attitude about blindness, and master the alternative skills of blindness, both of which they need to achieve complete independence.  For the first time in a while, we have a blind travel instructor. Cynthia Qloud, a remarkable role model in this area, spends half of her workday sharing her expertise and practical experience with Center students on travel throughout the Des Moines metro area.  
          On March 21 we will hold our annual Legislative Breakfast at the Capitol.  This gives us a chance to talk to our friends in the Iowa House and Senate to explain the work we do and serve some breakfast treats made in Orientation.
          We must work to maintain our traditions and high standards of service in order to keep the trust with Dr. Jernigan and all of the staff and students who created this unique institution.  After all, we are different.  We have a philosophy of blindness which seeks to change attitudes about blindness and recognizes that the blindness skills we teach will only be effective if we achieve success in transforming attitudes toward blindness.

Friends Group Forming for Library

    On Friday, April 21, 2006, the first meeting of the Friends of the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped will convene at the Department.  The meeting will begin immediately following the annual Elizabeth Perowsky Volunteer Awards Luncheon, at approximately 1:30 p.m.  During the meeting the Board of Directors will be elected, and the Constitution and Bylaws will be adopted.  
          The purposes of the Friends Group are to build support in the community for the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped; to encourage gifts, endowments, bequests, and memorials to the Library; to enhance the image, materials, services, and facilities of the Library by undertaking specific projects on its behalf; to maintain an association of individuals, civic organizations, businesses, and other groups interested in the Library; to create public awareness of the activities of the Friends of Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and encourage participation in the organization; and to assist in outreach helping to find newly blinded persons not aware of library services for the blind in the state of Iowa.  
           The official address of the Friends Group is:
Friends of the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
PO Box 93046
Des Moines IA  5039 3-3046

If you have any questions about the Friends Group or would like to volunteer, please contact Karen Keninger or Randy Landgrebe at the Library-800-362-2587.

Blind Iowans Continue to Get Good Jobs and Maintain Independence

By Curtis Chong

          During the past federal fiscal year (October 1, 2004 through September 30, 2005), our Vocational Rehabilitation, technology, and Independent Living programs continued to improve the quality of life for blind Iowans.  
          Our Vocational Rehabilitation program placed approximately 120 blind Iowans in good-paying jobs that were well above the minimum wage.  In keeping with our high standard of performance, those clients who obtained full-time employment realized average hourly earnings that were 12% higher than the prevailing hourly wage in the state.  This is a very high standard, which most agencies for the blind around the country have not been able to approach, not to mention beat.  Examples of the many jobs that we have been able to help our clients to obtain or retain include chiropractor, substance abuse counselor, supported living technician, and clerk-typist.  
          Nonvisual access technology continued to play an important part in our successful training and job placement programs.  Rehabilitation technology specialists worked with blind Iowans and employers to ensure that speech, Braille, and screen magnification technologies could be used and integrated into worksites with maximum efficiency.  We provided access technology training and over-the-phone technical support to over 200 individuals.  Our ASSIST Online program, designed to help blind people across the country to obtain certification as Microsoft Office Specialists through a distance learning approach, has worked with over 70 students since its inception four years ago.  Five of these students have obtained Master level certification.  Iowa continues to lead the way in technology distance learning training and is regarded as a model program across the country.  
          Well over 1,300 individuals were referred to our Independent Living program.  This reflects a growing demand for services brought about in large part by the increasing number of older Iowans, for whom a leading cause of blindness is age-related macular degeneration.  The most critical service provided by this program is training in the nonvisual alternative techniques needed to carry out the routine activities of daily living essential to maintaining an independent and active life style.  This training ranges from very simple and fundamental techniques to more complex skills, depending on the unique needs and goals of each person served. Training is provided on an outreach basis one-on-one (we come to you) or in small groups.  
          To keep pace with the increased need for training, our Independent Living program last year expanded its community-based training opportunities.  Small-group sessions were held in communities throughout Iowa and provided training in such things as communication techniques (how DO you dial that phone if you can’t see it?); cooking techniques (so you say I can still measure, pour, and use the stove safely?); leisure activities (what about handcrafts and table games?); and medication management (how to keep track of all those pills).  In total, the Independent Living program conducted 30 sessions in large and small communities throughout Iowa with 157 participants, many of them in their eighties and some in their nineties.

Jim Crawford Retires--Again!!

Jim Crawford is retiring from his post as poet laureate for the Orientation Center.  His service to the Department began in 1960 when, as a member of a Des Moines Lions Club, he helped build shelving for the new Library.  It has continued through the next 45 years, including work as a counselor and as a travel instructor.  In 1996 he officially retired from his employment as a travel instructor in the Orientation Center, but he maintained his post as resident poet, creating rhymes for students and staff alike.  Each Christmas Jim wrote a poem containing all the names of the current staff.  Below is his final poem for the Department, delivered at the December staff meeting.  Allen Harris presented Jim with a plaque in appreciation of his many years of service.  

I’d personalize the stuff they do by those words you’d know.
When John Taylor became Director, he asked with a little laugh could I write a Christmas poem including all the staff?
Yes!  And I did for many years and had a lot of fun.
Some guys said they liked them – every lousy pun.
But now I think it’s time to quit – though I could write some more.
There are lots of poets around who also know the score.
So give 'em a chance.  We cannot tell who best could do the job.  Just be sure, whoever does, you must name all of the mob.
So let me bid farewell this way.  I promise not to bawl.
I’d like to say we’ve had great fun.  Merry Christmas to y’all!

IDB Partners with Wolfe Clinic

By Liz Soenen

          On November 5, 2005, the Iowa Department for the Blind partnered with the Wolfe Eye Clinic to host an informational presentation on age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss among retirement-aged Iowans.  Over 150 guests interested in learning more about the disease and the Department filled the Assembly Room for an information-packed presentation by Dr. David D. Saggau and Dr. James F. Lawler from the Wolfe Clinic. 
       The program was packed with information. IDB Director Allen Harris and Library Director Karen Keninger shared highlights about IDB’s philosophy of blindness and the services available to help people with significant vision loss to continue full and productive lives. Julie Bergeson, Rehabilitation Teacher and her client, June Thomas, held a dialogue panel about June’s personal experiences with AMD and her participation in several of the Department’s training opportunities. Dr. David D. Saggau and Dr. James F. Lawler presented the latest in medical treatment and research on AMD, showing slides and answering audience questions. 
       The ever-popular Aids and Devices Store displayed products for demonstration and sale. Informational display boards from the Library, Independent Living, Vocational Rehabilitation, Orientation Center and the Wolfe Eye Clinic provided additional information to guests.  Three tables of computer and magnification technology gave people an opportunity for hands-on experience.  
          Mr. Harris summed up the event this way, “Macular degeneration needs to be understood. We are pleased to have this opportunity to work with the Wolfe Clinic to educate people about this widespread eye condition and also to let everyone know that people with significant vision loss can live normal, independent, and productive lives.”

 Fun for Teens at the Fall Transition Retreat

By Yolanda Garcia

          I am one of the blind college students who work as a counselor for the Department's Transition Program.  Through this program, we help Iowa's teens that are blind or severely visually impaired make the transition from high school to living independently and working competitively as adults.  Through such events as weekend retreats and summer camps, they participate in activities that will build their self-confidence and teach them effective blindness skills.   
          The teens that participated in this year's fall weekend retreat learned a lot and had a good time doing it.  The program was held at Camp Hantesa near Boone from November 18th to the 20th.  Some new faces joined many of the teens that had been participants in our previous transition retreats and Summer Camps.
          On Friday night, we settled in our living quarters before heading off to a scrumptious family-style dinner in the cafeteria. Once our tummies were nice and full, we returned to the rec center for ice-breaking and team-building games.  We popped balloons and read the surprise Braille questions inside. We played "heightened senses," which challenged everyone, while wearing sleepshades and remaining silent, to find a way to line up by height. Finally, we ate yummy snacks and watched a DVD of all of the fun activities we experienced during last summer's Camp Discovery.  
          Saturday was filled with more team-building and other activities.  In a game called the "Floating Stick,” team members had to cooperate with each other to balance lightweight wooden dowels on the backs of their fingers and then lower them to the ground.  The harder we tried to lower the sticks, the more they seemed to levitate into the air.  Then our special guest, David Lenz, one of the Department's Job Placement Specialists, talked to participants about the importance of finding part-time jobs while in high school, exploring future careers, writing resumes, and dealing with blindness in a job interview. 
       After lunch, we took on another team-building challenge.  We split the group into two teams, each team forming a line with balloons wedged between players.  The object of the game was for each team, without using their hands, to walk across the room without dropping the balloons.  Afterwards, we had a serious discussion about the effect blindness could have on the choice and pursuit of a career.  That evening was spent playing board games, cards, and even the piano.  
       After breakfast on Sunday, we hurried back to the lodge to play one last team-building game before packing up to go.  Groups of four had to tie a knot in a rope without moving their hands or letting go of the rope.  We looked pretty hilarious twisting around as we went over and under each other's arms trying to tie that knot. 
       After packing up our belongings and eating one more delicious lunch, we hit the road.  Although it saddened me to say goodbye to our new and old friends, we were already looking forward to getting together again at the spring retreat, which will be held the weekend of March 3-5.

 Library Enters the Digital Age!!

By Tim West

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) has determined to implement digital audio technology as the framework of the future Talking Book system. Cassette books and machines will continue to be the backbone of the system through approximately FY 2007, but in the five years between FY 2008 and FY 2012, digital books and machines will effectively replace cassette books and machines as the primary technology employed in the system.

NLS has been developing its collection of Digital Talking Books since FY 2002 and has goals to produce 10,000 new titles in digital format by FY 2008, convert another 10,000 existing analog titles (books recorded on tape originally) to digital format by FY 2008, and continue to produce an average of 2,000 titles per year during FY 2008 and in future years.

Compared to the cassette-based system, digital audio technology offers significant improvements to patrons of the program, network libraries, and NLS. Audio reproduction quality is superior in flash memory, which will provide better sound quality in playback; flash memory has higher storage densities and capacities than cassettes, which will provide better portability for patrons; there will be fewer items for patrons to keep track of (generally one cartridge instead of several cassettes), and there will be no need for patrons to flip a switch or turn the cartridge over during play.

Playback devices will have smaller physical size and weight and better portability than cassette players and require less storage space in network libraries. The machines will be more reliable than cassette machines, resulting in fewer malfunctions and fewer repairs by network agencies and NLS contractors.

The medium to be used for digital books is expected to be a high-density 128 MB flash memory cartridge, or card. A single card would be capable of holding the digital files for an average NLS book (approximately 12 hours), having been compressed using the AACPlus algorithm. The card would be physically larger than a credit card, but smaller than a cassette, and would be labeled in large print and Braille. 

The Library has been busy preparing for these changes! Karen Keninger has been actively involved with NLS as a member of the Long-Term Digital Planning Group keeping the Library updated on future NLS changes. In March, Tim West joined the IDB Library staff in a brand new position as a Digital Recording Specialist. With an electronics background, 17 years in the telecommunications business, a computer programmer, a recording studio owner for 13 years and a performing musician for over 30, Tim brought experience in many areas to assist in the migration from analog to the new digital world. Participating in the Elizabeth Perowsky volunteer workshop in April, Tim presented audio demonstrations and recording tips. This summer, Tim visited about half the volunteer narrators across the state of Iowa in their homes to see how they do what they do and also to offer some recording advice.       

Speaking of volunteers, for many years now we have had a number of volunteers who record on cassette machines in their own homes.  Thousands of books, magazines, manuals, classroom instructional materials, etc., have been recorded this way. We really could not thank these volunteers enough.  We do have good news for them, though.

In the months ahead, we will start replacing the tired old cassette recorders with new digital recorders! Our volunteers, who have struggled with cassette recorders and tapes long enough, will soon be making high-quality digital recordings with seamless editing – you may never know a mistake was made! For a time these digital masters will be reproduced onto analog cassettes, until each patron has their own digital playback machine.

And the real thriller is our new studio being built right here in our Library! In May we started designing a new recording studio including a voice-over booth and a monitor room to meet the high-quality requirements of digital recording. Because digital is so clean, noises that may go unnoticed in an analog recording  become very obvious in a digital recording. In general, the ideal studio room for recording voice-overs (narrations) is small, quiet, and acoustically dead. Quiet means soundproof (that is, free from exterior sound coming through the walls, ceiling, or floor); acoustically dead means free of unwanted room sound (reflections, flutter echoes, boxiness, or other sound coloration) that might adversely affect the recordings. Our studio is built with 13-inch multilayered walls that float, a floating ceiling and floating floor, and an acoustically sealed door. The window facing the control room is custom made with four pieces of laminated glass. One is ½” thick and the other ¼” thick, so there is a reasonably high amount of sound isolation between the monitor room and the voice-over booth.

In September we received a grant from the Wellmark Foundation to help buy the recording equipment for the studio and to record some much-needed new material on diabetes. 

In October we started clearing out the area where the studio would be built. 

In November real progress was evident as the floating floor, walls, and ceiling were being built. Great care goes into the design and construction of an audio recording studio, because even the smallest crack in a wall, ceiling, or doorway can let sound into or out of the studio. The heating, air conditioning and ventilation system (HVAC) is a specially designed system that can't (or shouldn’t) be heard when it runs! When finished, the studio will be sonically treated with bass traps, sound absorbers and fixed diffusers to scatter sound and suppress standing waves. (Translation: should sound real good in here!)

Recording an audio book would seem to be uncomplicated compared to recording other audio projects, right? Actually, it's a creative/technical task not to be taken lightly! Speech sounds are harmonically and dynamically complicated because of the way vocals are produced.  The dynamic interaction over time of the chest; lungs; diaphragm; larynx; the oral cavity, including the tongue, hard and soft palates, the teeth and lips; and the nasal cavities; create a complex set of variables.  For instance, explosions of air bursting from the mouth, the lips and tongue can sound wet, and “sss” sounds can over-modulate a track.

Voice-over artists understand these factors, and the best know how to use them to produce their own voice character. As professionals, they can be counted on to back off for louder passages, to suppress hard plosives like P and T, and to stay a consistent distance and angle from the business end of the microphone. Nonetheless, for a good quality recording, the engineer/monitor on the other side of the glass has to have a keen ear, a good technical understanding of how to capture the voice cleanly and a well-developed sense of how to interact with the narrator. 

Extra Volunteers Needed! We are looking for people who are good storytellers and who have a voice that's not too sibilant or too dull. Mouth noises and the like can be taken care of during editing, even little clicks in the middle of words. But you've got to start with a narration artist who has a voice that possesses clarity and a pleasant quality.  We're also looking for volunteers willing to be trained as monitors.  If you are interested in being trained as a narrator or monitor, in a professional-quality facility, please contact the Library at 515-281-1333 or 800-362-2587, or e-mail us at

 New Ventures in Business Enterprises

By Roger Erpelding

          On December 1, we began vending service at the Sioux City Convention Center. This type of location is a first for our program. We are counting on success here that will lead to more vending at other similar locations throughout the state.  
          On December 20, a two-year project to totally remodel the Federal Building in Davenport and turn it into a federal court house will be complete. As a result, we will begin snack and beverage vending at that location as of this date.  
          Plans are still on the drawing board to accept bid proposals from contractors for construction of a vending building, south bound Missouri Valley rest area. This should be opening in the spring.  
          Due to re-deployment of the Camp Dodge troops to another part of the country, our dining facility contract ended early on October 14. This was a profitable experience for all parties, and if Camp Dodge hosts another project, we hope we have the honor of serving our troops again.

 Monster Reads--Adult Summer Reading Program

By Randy Landgrebe

Monster Reads, the first annual summer reading program for adults at the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, will begin Monday, June 12, 2006.   Coinciding with the library’s summer reading programs for children and teens, Monster Reads will offer adult participants chances to win monthly prizes, and a Grand Prize for simply checking out and reading from a large group of specially selected “monster” books from the Iowa Library for the Blind.  Monthly drawings will take place Friday, June 30th and Friday, July 28th.  The Grand Prize will be drawn Monday, July 31, marking the end of the program.  Participants may read talking books, Braille books, and large print books, or enjoy descriptive videos to earn points and become eligible for a chance to win the monthly prizes and the Grand Prize.  Contact Circulation Supervisor, Randy Landgrebe, at 800-362-2587 for more information about Monster Reads.


Each year the Department selects an employee of the year, a team of the year, and a leader of the year from its staff.  "It's a hard choice," says Karen Keninger, Chair of the Department's Employee Recognition Committee.  "We have so many worthy candidates for these honors."

This year's Employee of the Year is Jim Swanson.  Jim works in the Library managing cassette books and overseeing the work of volunteer rewinders. 

The Team of the Year award went to the Project ASSIST team, consisting of Michael Barber, Laurie Merryman, Shan Sasser, and Linda Trogdon.  Project ASSIST has developed training materials and a distance learning certification program for blind computer users. 

Bruce Snethen, Deputy Director of the Department, received the Leader of the Year award.  In part, his nomination reads:  "Bruce is an extraordinary person who has committed himself to the success of IDB and who shares in our challenges and accomplishments with enthusiasm.  His leadership is a significant reason for our continued success and our commitment to on-going improvement.  Finally, and perhaps most important of all, Bruce believes in blind people, and he believes in our mission.  Day in and day out, he helps all of us remain focused on that mission and carry it out at every turn."

Jean Davis, an Independent Living client, won the Chuck Wood Memorial Award from the Iowa Rehabilitation Association.  Here is her nomination letter, written by Julie Bergeson, her Independent Living Rehabilitation Teacher.
      In December of 2002, Jean underwent surgery. Jean was expecting to spend the holidays with her family, but did not return home until March of 2003.  Jean developed a life threatening infection, resulting in kidney and liver failure and being placed on a respirator. She was in a coma for several weeks with doctors predicting a grim, one-in-four chance of survival. Further complications of surgery and recovery left Jean with significant damage to her optic nerve and legal blindness. 
      Although Jean and her family were thrilled for her return home in March, her long road through rehabilitation was just beginning.  Jean was so ill and weak that she had to learn to walk again.  Jean and her family were somehow able to cope with the physical limitations, but the blindness was something no one expected. 
      Jean was extremely angry and depressed regarding her blindness, believing that her hobbies of reading, cross-stitching and scrap booking were now things of the past. Jean accepted Independent Living Services from the Iowa Department for the Blind, but, at first, was not overly eager to begin. 
      Jean participated in both home training and group training opportunities through IDB. She continues to learn the skills of home management, Braille, using a white cane and leisure time activities. An avid library borrower, Jean enjoys reading again, only through recorded books. She is labeling her spices, movies and other household items in Braille. 
      This summer Jean’s husband, Grover, underwent knee replacement surgery, leaving Jean without her driver. With white cane in hand, Jean took public transportation to and from the hospital during his recovery. Also, she and her granddaughter, Lexie, enjoyed a wonderful trip to the zoo by taking the bus. 
      Sewing was also a great interest for Jean, but after blindness Jean considered selling or giving away her sewing machine. Through encouragement from her rehabilitation teacher, Jean kept the machine. She has now completed six beautiful quilts for her grandchildren in Colorado--each quilt sewn with a different pattern and fabric to match the children’s interests and personalities. 
      It is through the group training program that Jean really shone. Not only did she participate and learn with eager willingness, but also she has become a quiet leader of this group of participants. Others look up to her accomplishments, positive attitude and spirit. Through her leadership and positive peer support, the other participants are making longer strides in their own rehabilitation. 
      Jean’s personal achievements include, first and foremost, continuing to be a wife, mother and grandmother of eight. She and her husband, Grover, have taken several trips for some much needed vacation. They continue to walk almost every morning and can be found either at Southridge Mall or the pond in Pleasant Hill. Jean continues her scrap-booking hobby, filling pages with her travels, grandchildren and even pages from her training with IDB. 

       Steve Decker of Dubuque was honored with the Youth Services Award on Wednesday, October 12, at the Friends of the Iowa Commission of Persons with Disabilities Awards Banquet. 

       In Cedar Rapids, on October 27, Dolores Reisinger was honored during a banquet sponsored by the Citizens for People with Disabilities. She received two awards: Outstanding Service Award presented by the Citizens for People with Disabilities and the Star Award presented by Michael Barber on behalf of Allen Harris and the Iowa Department for the Blind.  Her nomination read, in part: 
           Blind since birth, she has, for many years, helped blind people with the acquisition of skills to make them independent in their daily living activities and has advocated for their full inclusion in the ranks of society. 
          As a young girl, Dolores left home and went to a specialized school for blind children, later receiving a Masters Degree in History in her native country of Brazil. In 1969 she came to live in the United States of America where she received her teaching certificate and a Masters Degree in Spanish. She subsequently taught languages at the high school and college levels in Iowa schools. 
         In 1976 Dolores went to work for the Iowa Department for the Blind as a Vocational Rehabilitation Teacher where she worked with blind persons in an 11 county area for eighteen years. 
        After retiring, Dolores began volunteering her services in the community. 
        In the last four years, she has served on the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission, reviewing cases and educating commissioners on issues affecting the blind. She has inspired many with her upbeat personality and her outlook that she is 'a person who happens to be blind' who is overcoming the "inconvenience of being blind."
      She has recently led the charge to equip area restaurants with menus in Braille so blind patrons can have the same independent dining experience as fully sighted customers, after which she has her sights set on arranging bowling for the blind in local bowling alleys.
      She assists in teaching English as a Second Language at Kirkwood Community College.
      She is a dedicated volunteer for the National Federation of the Blind, speaking frequently to groups about blindness and about the Federation's life-enhancing philosophy. 
      Presently she is helping with a project called the Imagination Fund, which raises money for the Jernigan Institute, a research institute on the cutting edge of technology for the blind. 
      Dolores also discusses with groups the services available to blind persons through the Iowa Department for the Blind.

Iowa Guide to Keeping You Safe

We have just had Brailled the electronic version of a book published by the Iowa Department of Public Health.  The book is entitled IOWA GUIDE TO KEEPING YOU SAFE - The Simple Steps You Can Take Now To Be Prepared For A Public Health Emergency.

This booklet is being made available to the public free of charge with sponsorship by Hy-Vee, and is available from the Library in Braille and on cassette.

University Museum to Host Exhibit on Blindness

By Barb Weigel

          On February 6, 2006, In Touch With Knowledge:  The Educational History of Blind People will open at the University Museum at the University of Northern Iowa.  The traveling exhibit from the Callahan Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind offers visitors the opportunity to discover how blind people learn reading and writing, geography, mathematics, and science.  It not only explores past techniques but also offers information on current methods, such as a talking globe and the Nemeth code.  The exhibit will close on May 26, 2006.
       In addition to the exhibit, educational presentations will be offered throughout the Cedar Falls/Waterloo area pertaining to the education of blind people in Iowa.  Iowa Department for the Blind staff, Joe and Barb Weigel, have been part of the planning committee for these events.  Several staff and clients of the Iowa Department for the Blind will be part of these panels.  Topics include health and physical issues, local resources and support groups, educational options, orientation and mobility, assistive devices, and more.   
          For more information, contact the University Museum at 319-273-2188 or visit their website at 

Raising Cane for a Cause

By Mark Edge

           Iowa Department for the Blind staff, along with students of the Orientation Center, will once again form a walk team to participate in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s (JDRF) Walk to Cure Diabetes.  This annual event held in the downtown Des Moines skywalk system is set to take place on Saturday, March 4, 2006.  Local JDRF officials are hoping over 7,500 walkers will help the charity meet its goal of raising $2.1 million in a single day.  Monies raised will aid JDRF to focus on its single goal – accelerating research progress to cure diabetes and its complications. 
       One of those complications, blindness, has spurred the IDB walk team, known as Raising Cane, to participate in the diabetes walk every year since 1999.  Raising Cane’s team goal this year is to recruit 100 team members who will raise $15,000.  New to the team this year will be the addition of members from the IDB Transition and Pathfinder programs.  Both programs will host activities that weekend which will include joining forces and walking to help find a cure for diabetes.  
          Anyone affiliated with the Iowa Department for the Blind, along with their friends and family members, is welcome to walk with the team at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 4.  Following the event, walkers are invited to return to IDB and enjoy a delicious lunch prepared by the Orientation Center students.  
          To join the IDB walk team, or to make a donation to the cause, please contact Mark Edge at (515) 281-1257.  Some assistance with transportation and lodging may be provided on an individual basis for those coming in from out of town.  For more information about JDRF, visit  We hope to hear from you soon!

 Instructional Materials Center

           The Instructional Materials Center (IMC) at the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped provided over 1,750 books, worksheets, workbooks and other educational and vocational materials to Iowa's blind students and workers during the 2004-2005 school year.  The IMC staff, consisting of librarians Gail Stricker and Carol Eckey, and their assistant librarian, Deena Cross, search the nation for specific textbooks in Braille, recorded or electronic formats, to fill the needs of approximately 200 students from kindergarten through college.  When a book or worksheet is not already available in the format the student needs, the IMC works with the Library's staff and volunteers in Braille and tape production to have the materials Brailled or recorded for the students.  
           Over 40 of this year's students are Braille readers in Iowa's public school system.  The IMC staff work with classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, and Teachers of the Visually Impaired to gather, research and either purchase or produce the books each child needs for all classes, including math, science, reading, history, foreign language study, and health.  
           Winter is a slower time in the IMC than the frantic months of July and August; when the rush is on to get all books out for the beginning of the new school year.  All the same, IMC Librarians report with delight that they are already getting orders for the 2006-2007 school year.

 Library Honors Postal Employees

            The Florence Grannis Library Service Award was presented to eight individual postal employees, and to the entire staff of two Iowa post offices, at 2:00 p.m., Friday, November 18, at the Iowa Department for the Blind.   
        These awards are a way for Library patrons to say, "thank you," to the United States Postal Service employees who carry library materials, free of charge, to every patron’s mailbox.  
           Library patrons who saw a dedication that set their postal workers apart and qualified them for the Florence Grannis Library Service Award nominated the following eight honorees.  Butch Harrison, Denison; John Husstaling, Des Moines; Ron Richey, Dubuque; Connie Gamble, Hedrick; Jim Latchum, Hedrick; Portia Figland, Oskaloosa; Marvel Pearce, Waterloo; and Mark Hanson, West Union.  The two U.S. Post Offices receiving special recognition were West Union and Hedrick.

2006 SSA Changes & Amounts

Listed below are the 2005 and 2006 amounts for Social Security Disability benefits and Supplemental Security Income benefits.  Columns in the table follow in this order:  Program; 2005 amount; 2006 amount

Social Security Disability (SSDI) Amounts; 2005; 2006  
Benefit Amount - COLA raise
; 2.7%; 4.1%  
Medicare Premium Part B; $78.20; $88.50  
Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), Non-Blind; $830/mo; $860/mo  
Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA), Blind; $1,380/mo; $1,450/mo  
Trial Work Period (TWP) - trigger;  $590/mo; $620/mo

Supplemental Security Income (SSI); 2005; 2006  
Individual; $579/mo; $603/mo  
Couple; $869/mo; $904/mo  
SSI Student Exclusion Limits, Monthly Limit; $1,410; $1,460/mo  
SSI Student Exclusion Limits, Annual Limit; $5,670; $5,910

What Happened to My Books?

By Susie Stageberg

I've been a Reader Advisor in the Library for a couple months now, and I am thoroughly enjoying getting to know borrowers whose names begin with H through O, both over the phone and in person. It's great fun to talk about books with people who enjoy them as much as I do.  
           Recently I have been getting a lot of calls from people wondering why they're not receiving their books. With this in mind, I thought it might be interesting to follow a book from the time it is requested until it reaches the post office.

 Step 1: The Request

When you call to request a book (or send in a written list), your Reader Advisor goes to the computer and opens your "account", which contains all the information about your library service. If you have given us a book number, we can enter that into the computer and the rest of the information about the book will appear. If there are no copies of the book you want on our shelves, the computer lets us know. If you have asked for a book that is temporarily unavailable, we can put the book on reserve so it can be sent to you when it comes back into the Library. If the book is available, we click on a button on the computer screen labeled "send." Once the book has been "sent" it will be listed in the computer as having been checked out to you.

 Step 2: Processing

        In the middle of the night, when most of us are asleep, the Library's main computer searches for and lists all the books that have been checked out during the day. Early the next morning, before most of the staff comes in, the computer sends the list of checked-out books to a printer. Cards are printed to go with each book that has been checked out. You can find these cards on the front of the box containing your cassette book, or in a sleeve inside the cover of a Braille or large type book.

 Step 3: The Stacks Team Swings into Action

       After all the cards have been printed, the group of employees known to us as the Stacks Team must retrieve the actual cassette container or volume of Braille or large type. The card is inserted into the book. Then the book goes to a holding area to wait for the mail carrier.

 Step 4: "Attention, Library!  The Mail is Here"

      Some time between 9 and 10 each morning, the mail carrier arrives. His arrival is announced to the whole building as the important event it is, and the Stacks Team brings their wheeled containers full of books to the loading dock at the back of the building, where they are put into the mail truck and taken to the post office.  
       Many people work hard every day to make sure your books keep coming to you. All of us in the Library want you to be able to read what you want to read when you want to read it, and we all do our best to meet that goal.

 "But Where Are My Books?"

      Sometimes there is a snag in the system. The main computer needs to be repaired. The mail truck is late arriving. The book you have requested has already been checked out to someone else. The Post Office is having a busy month and mail is moving more slowly. Any number of obstacles can get between you and your book. We do our best to move these obstacles out of the road, but sometimes things happen that are beyond our control. For example, if the Post Office is having a busy month, your books may be delayed. In such a situation, we can and do offer sympathy to a borrower suffering from book withdrawal. Unfortunately, we can't go to the Post Office and demand that your books be sent immediately, as much fun as that might be.

          You can help us send you the books you want by giving us as much information as you can about the book you are requesting. If you only have bits and pieces of information, we can turn ourselves into detectives and, if possible, track your book down!  
        Call your Reader Advisor any time with questions about how your library service works!

Upcoming Events

February 7 – Public Hearing on Administrative Rules, at 1:00 p.m. at the Department for the Blind, 524 4th Street, Des Moines

March 21 – Legislative Breakfast, 7:00-9:00 a.m. in the Legislative Dining Room at the State Capitol

March 21 – Commission for the Blind meeting at 10:00 a.m. at the Department for the Blind

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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.