As we all know, people who come to the Orientation Center are at all ages and stages of their adult lives. Some are looking forward to, or are in the midst of college training. Others are ready for their first job, or maybe contemplating a return to, or change in, career. Still others are done with all that and are ready to enjoy the fruits of their endeavors. And whatever stage of life they may be in, everyone relishes the opportunity to relax and have a little fun.
This newsletter focuses on recent Center activities highlighting various stages of life. But regardless what stage a person may be in, the first tenet of the Center holds true for all, “It’s OK to be blind.”
As we all know, in the
And so the Center continues to prompt
students to expand their horizons and be active participants in life. Read on
for one current student’s take on the May activity, another’s views on a
ten-day camping trip, and some remembered experiences from the vantage point of
During my fourth week at the
After a stop for lunch at Perkins, we
arrived at a facility in
I should mention that Alpha Point is not
just a training center. It contains a couple of workshops for the blind and
other services as well as the orientation classroom area. However, with these
visual cues and since they are not required to wear sleep shades, it was not
much of a challenge for the students to get around and certainly didn’t seem
to provide much opportunity to practice blind travel skills. Even though we
don’t like to wear them—they itch!—as students of Iowa’s Orientation
Center we recognize that it is necessary to give students the opportunity to
hone their blindness skills in order to develop the confidence they need to
continue on with their dreams, knowing that they can accomplish their goals with
or without vision.
The tour itself was far different from
what we are used to in
Another thing that was disheartening was
that the workshops and the training center were within the same facility. They
made pens for the government in two workshop areas and plastic bottles of
various kinds in another. One of the sections for assembling pens housed the
multiply disabled students. Since the purpose of this workshop was to provide
work experience, they were paid a minimal amount for assembling each pen and
might make only a few cents per hour. They could work eight hours for under a
dollar. Workers in the other sections could make a more reasonable salary, about
nine dollars per hour. But it didn’t seem as though the students or workers
were encouraged to go out into the community to find a job that they were
interested in or were capable of doing.
The other center that we visited was in
Their students take a conglomeration of
every class that’s offered, just as we do here. And the class list sounded
exactly the same—home economics, computer with JAWS access, Braille, shop,
travel and Business.
The only difference in our Centers is
the housing arrangement for students. In
In the evenings in both cities the whole
group of us headed to the downtown areas to eat dinner. We were in sleep shades.
At first, I thought that wearing the shades was too much.
I wanted to see the areas that we were in, as unreliable as my vision
was. After a while, though, I
realized why we were wearing them. We
do need to realize that we can do things and enjoy ourselves without trying to
constantly bother with trying to see everything we come up against. And, you
know, we had a really good time. What’s more, I began to have more confidence
in myself. I have a long way to go but I think that I will get there. GOD give
me the patience with myself to succeed and I will be OK! --Tammy Raver
Sleeping with the bears, eating
dehydrated food, taking a six minute shower and not being able to use good
smelly products after was never on my top-ten list of things to do. I kept
hearing “this is an experience of a life time!”
But as these words played over and over in my head I kept trying to
figure out how someone like me, who hates nature with a passion, would possibly
get any enjoyment out of this camping trip in Yellow Stone National Park. I
would definitely be out of my comfort zone. Nevertheless, after much coaxing, I
agreed to accept the challenge. I had no idea just how much I would come to
appreciate nature and all it has to offer.
I went into this trip imagining the
worst kinds of things like I’m going to drown, or get lost hiking, or fall off
the side of a cliff. On the first day we only hiked for about two miles but it
was so hot that it felt like ten. That day I definitely put my strength to the
test, but every time I felt like giving up I reminded myself that, if I wanted
to get out of there, I had no choice but to go on. All that hiking though was
merely a warm-up to get us ready for the biggest hike of all which was to go up
We got into groups. At first my only
thought was that I wanted to be in the one that was moving at a fast pace so
that I could get to the top quickly and be done. But as I started to hike up the
mountain and we went higher and higher off the ground, I looked out over the
trees and was amazed to see how far we’d come and how beautiful things looked
from a distance. I felt so proud. I kept thinking to myself I made it to the top
of a huge mountain and was able to look back and see miles of green trees and
clouds that seemed so close it almost felt as if I could reach out and touch
them. I was amazed. How could something so dirty be so pretty at the same time?
That is when I began to look past the surface and learn to be more appreciative.
Where do I begin to list all that I
gained from this trip? All the well-known tourist sights such as Mount Rushmore,
Crazy Horse and
In 2005 we reported the completion of
the remodeling of the Rec Room and front lobby on first floor--a project which
has garnered numerous comments of praise and appreciation.
Now we are gearing up for yet another round of remodeling, this time
involving all of third and fourth floors. Both floors will be completely
gutted—all the old, wood paneling will come down—and offices will be rebuilt
in a new configuration. In addition the heating and cooling system throughout
the building will be revamped to allow for better temperature control and air
This project will obviously be a long,
dusty, time consuming one, and many of the Department staff will be temporarily
displaced. Those who can, such as VR counselors, home teachers and BEP staff,
will work from their homes. Some Library staff will do the same while others
whose jobs require working on site—such as the Readers’ Advisors—will be
temporarily housed in different locations in the building. As to Orientation,
the third floor classrooms and offices will move to space on second floor and we
will continue to operate without disruption, as will all services and functions
of the Department. The only change will be that the staff will temporarily be
working from more widely spread locations.
With the remodeling, one change in the normal routine of the
With the remodeling, one change in the normal routine of the
In the meantime, alumni are always
welcome to stop by individually to check out the remodeling, see what the Center
is up to or simply say hello. Watch future issues of this newsletter and other
publications of the Department for the announcement of a huge Open House to
unveil our new look when the remodeling is complete in 2009.
Meanwhile, the door is always open, and we look forward to your visits
and calls, so do keep in touch.
Speaking of keeping in touch, we
recently received the following reminiscences from Fred Mansfield, a frequent
participant of many an Alumni Banquet in the past.
Banquet goers always look forward each year to Fred’s invocation
sprinkled with a few jokes.
My eyes were bad enough by November 1981
that, when a neighbor in
The last week of January 1982, I moved
into Room 609. I still remember my first full day. Breakfast in the cafeteria.
Then work out my schedule with Revanne. Listen to the Dishwashing Tape, followed
by the new student tour of the building. Then to my first class—Home Ec with
CIP and an introduction to the kitchen, followed by Shop with Dave and
introduction to try square and awl, and saw and two-by-four.
Time out for lunch. Then resume classes
with Cane Travel with Rosie and getting acquainted with third floor hallways.
Finally at 2:30 a chance to sit down in Beulah’s Typing Class. I’d been
typing for 35 years. A typewriter looks different through sleep shades. Then
another sit down class, Braille, with Revanne. Learned a, b, c but stumbled on
d. End up the day with Business with Jim Witte. Out to supper with my new
classmates, and back to the building to enjoy the calming effects of the Rec
Room. Oh, yes, I forgot to mention, the day began with Jim Crawford rousing me
and the other men at 6:00 a.m. for a trip to the gym.
For the next ten months this would
roughly be my schedule. I say "roughly," for there would be other
activities to add to the fun: trips to the bowling alley and skating rinks,
smelt fishing in Duluth, a visit to the Minnesota School for the Blind, travels
on Moby the bus (even wrote a poem about it), representing the Department at a
county fair, tour guiding, and a few more “extras” I can’t remember at the
The day I first visited the Department I
learned about the three-fold approach to blindness training: skills, confidence
building, and the business of living as a blind person in a sighted world. I
took each of these seriously, but profited most from the confidence building
aspect. After thirty years as a pastor, I now found myself no longer able to
read a book or drive a car or write a paper; skills highly valuable to one in my
profession. Right from the start I began to see that there were alternative ways
of doing some of these things and accommodations one could make for others. I
built a desk in shop. I may never build another one but learning and practicing
all that it took to build this one convinced me I could do a creditable job in
many other areas. Besides, Shop was fun—mostly.
How often with leaden feet I would set
out on a travel route through the jungles of
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The Orientation Center 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.