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Iowa Department for the Blind's

Independent Living Program

Spring 2006 Newsletter



The Iowa Department for the Blind partnered with The Lodge of Ashworth retirement community in West Des Moines to bring information to visually impaired residents, friends and family. The Lodge furnished refreshments, and the Department furnished the programming.

Aids and Devices

The Macular Degeneration Support Group from The Lodge, Sightseekers, invited the Department to talk about services, display various aids and devices used in every day living and provide an opportunity to ask questions about life with vision loss. People enjoyed exploring things like talking watches, scales, large-print playing cards and getting some answers.

Real Life Example

Margaret Oliver, Peer Counselor at the Department, spoke to the support group members. She shared with them her own journey with blindness, both her own and her family’s reaction to it and the outcome after training.

Hands-On Experience

Next was an open house, which allowed residents and community members the opportunity to learn through hands-on experience. Students from the Department’s Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center assisted with teaching nonvisual techniques for pouring water, writing a check, and identifying money. Others used talking medical devices or played adapted games. All had fun!

Exercise the Senses

The final event included The Lodge, Department staff and students from Mercy College of Health Sciences. Everyone participated in “Exercise the Senses!” Large bags containing a variety of objects with a common theme (i.e. items found in a junk drawer) were placed around the room. Each participant chose an item, identified the object using senses other than sight, and then described the object to the other participants. When all objects had been identified, the group was challenged to figure out what all of the objects had in common. The experience not only encouraged fun, it also promoted a more positive attitude about blindness. Often, when a person begins to experience extreme vision loss, he or she also begins a negative pattern of thinking, “I can’t…, I can’t …, I can’t… .” This activity allowed for realizations that there are lots of “I can” opportunities in everyday activities.


Lorraine Holland, Director of Member Services at The Lodge remarked, "I was so pleased to see so many people from the outside community come and participate in these different events. I believe it let them know others do care about them and how they're getting along.” She added, "I have heard many positive comments about these sessions and events. On behalf of The Lodge, we look forward to many more opportunities to work with the Iowa Department for the Blind.”

Lodge residents Arlene Crum and Helen Newsom enjoyed the mysterious bag items. Arlene said, “I had to draw on other senses,” in order to identify things while Helen enthusiastically stated, “That was fun! You have to learn how to feel. We did a lot of guessing but also we were right on a lot of it.” Helen identifies lots of things by feeling but realizes that everybody isn’t used to that. When asked about the Department’s role in her use of other senses, she stated, “Absolutely the Department has helped me learn these things.”

If you would be interested in similar activities in your retirement community, please contact the Iowa Department for the Blind, Barb Weigel, Cedar Falls office, 888-378-4397, or Liz Soenen, Des Moines office, 800-362-2587. For more information about services available through the Department for the Blind, call 800-362-2587 or visit

Upcoming Events

To find out what is happening at the Department and in your area, choose the Upcoming Events link.


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INDEPENDENT LIVING PROGRAM NEWSLETTER  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.