Banner: Iowa Department for the Blind


JUNE, 1997 - VOL. 173, #1

Little Rock

Mention the word "travel" and you receive a wide variety of reactions. To a new student the word may bring a sense of unease, even dread, while to a veteran student it means a sense of accomplishment. Travel can mean going across town by bus to explore a shopping mall, or across the state to take part in a festival. Travel can mean leaving the state and visiting a special restaurant, or discovering how other orientation centers stack up to Iowa. Whatever its current meaning for you, come along with us through the pages of this newsletter as we share some recent insights on travel.

Homeblock Alone

Shan Sasser (Shan is a Documentation Specialist currently helping to develop tutorials for various Microsoft applications for the Department. The following reflections on travel were made during the time she spent in the Orientation Center last fall.)

I mentally prepare for an event which I fear by comparing it to a trip to the dentist. I make such a comparison so I can properly determine how much stress I should feel before the event occurs and how relieved I should feel once the event has passed. For example, telling my dad the back of the house was nearly ripped off because I forgot to roll up the awning on a night when severe thunderstorms hit the area? That event warranted a rating of a cavity filling. My oral exams, the last hurdle to my Master's degree? A wisdom tooth extraction. So when Larry posed the question "How do you feel about doing homeblock alone?" I smiled sheepishly and said "okay," but what I really thought was, "root canal."

I walked up to the reception desk and stated I was going out on travel. "Okay, good luck" was the sincere, encouraging reply. As I went out the door I muttered to myself, "She may as well have said "Shan Sasser, the doctor will see you now." I successfully reached the starting point of my trip. I eased into position, faced south, and took a deep breath. I noted the plastic end of the cane felt the same as the vinyl arm of a dentist chair. I'm sure that my grip on the cane produced the same white-knuckled appearance as when I grasped the chair's arm nervously waiting for the dentist to begin. I started out haltingly but soon the rhythmic tap, tap, tap of the cane lulled me like a soothing voice telling me to relax; the procedure will be over in no time. "trust your cane- Trust your cane," I said repeatedly to myself.

I grew confident as I rounded the corner onto Grand Avenue. Suddenly, however, my trusted guide bore into my sternum as it hit the first in a series of cracks; the jabbing sensation was like the prick of a novocaine shot. The betrayal was too much. I fumbled, wielded my cane, and hit upon something which produced a "kalunk, kalunk" sound. "Oh honey, that's my car. It's parked here. You need to go forward," an unfamiliar voice advised. With growing uneasiness, I continued. Tap, tap, tap, thump. "Thump?" I was puzzled, "What is that?" I thumped the unknown object again. This time the object responded saying "That's my leg, but it's fine." I apologized to the leg and stumbled toward Fifth Avenue. Upon reaching the corner I realized I was half way home. I also knew that this street was the trickiest part; there were too many entrances, exits, shrubs, trees, drills, suction gadgets, and cotton swabs to trip me up. Yes, I was in the thick of it but it was too late to panic now; the root was already exposed.

The first few steps didn't bode well. I ran smack into the girder supporting the skywalk; the cold steel greeted the nerves in my face with a sharp slap. I moved forward and received another shot of novocaine to the sternum. Thoroughly agitated, I stopped. I determined to make that jab the last. I took a deep breath, oriented myself, and let the procedure begin again. But, knew I would get through this little operation if I stayed focused and didn't let the little nicks, jabs, and trips break my concentration. I finished my route with a renewed sense of confidence. I didn't walk; I strode to the rhythmic tapping. I let my cane take the lead as I tap-danced across the entrances and exit of the parking ramp and two-stepped around a parking meter. Until, finally, I dosey-doed with the pole marking the end of Fifth Avenue and the beginning of Keo. I paused briefly and smiled because I knew it was all over but the rinsing and spitting. As I made the last turn on to Fourth I reflected on my first solo trip and basked in the glory of success. When I heard Larry say "Congratulations you made it" I felt a warm and numbing sense of relief. And when he asked "How 'bout trying it again in reverse?" I thought a minute and said to myself "teeth cleaning."


Ike Rocha

In January of 97 I had some business to take care of in Ohio and I thought that since I was going to be there for a week maybe I could tour their school for the blind. I got on the phone to the school for the blind in Columbus Ohio and talked to one of the secretaries. When I told her I was a student at the Iowa Department for the Blind and asked if it was all right for me to tour their Center she seemed puzzled why I would want to visit them. After many questions concerning why I was coming to Ohio and how I was to get there she asked my age. When I told her she replied, "Well you're an adult. You can't be a student here in this school." I told her that I didn't want to be a student there I just wanted to visit their school. So she replied that she was going to check with her supervisor and that she would get back with me. A few days later I received a message telling me that I could tour their facility. When I got there one of the first things I saw was that the students don't have to wear sleep shades to any classes. They don't teach the students much cane travel. The computer is taught with a program called MAGIC, which is large print screen access, rather than using a speech program to access the computer nonvisually. As for Home EC., students are put in the kitchen and watched to see how they do with cooking. If they feel that the student needs more help in that area they may stay a couple of weeks longer, otherwise the stay is only three weeks. I felt that I was wasting my time. I mean, what can you do in three weeks?


Carolyn Dullard,, a teacher at IBSSS, was married Saturday, April 12,1997 to Mike Hibbs, a former IBSSS instructor.

Missy Powell is working at Devan Marketing in Des Moines.

Dan and Kristal Hagemoser Platt are proud to announce the birth of Halie Joelle on April 28, 1997.


Ruth Ferdig

Chicago, Chicago that toddling town... What fun; what an eye opener! We visited two centers in Chicago and, my, was I amazed at the difference in methods and philosophy. Some of the things I saw and heard made me very grateful that I live in Iowa and have the Orientation Center's progressive program available to me. Both of the Centers were clean and neat, but the people seemed nervous about our visit. At ICRE (formerly IVHI) my first impression was of two blind people being led around. It didn't appear that any effort was being made to teach cane travel, they were just being led around. The only instructors that acted like they were interested in the students were the Braille and computer teachers. I felt like the other teachers were just putting in their time. I was also shocked to find that the length of stay is thirteen weeks, with the students choosing the classes they want to take--not necessarily the classes they need--and sleepshades being optional, sometimes even discouraged. At The Chicago Light House for the Blind we saw a great video with lots of P.R. in it, but I never got a real feel for the place. We were rushed through a tour and didn't see much except their aids and appliances and a brief glimpse of their sheltered workshop. I had the impression of a pretty caste on the outside with nothing but an empty courtyard in the center. If this is all Chicago can offer the blind all I can say is "Take me home, Dave!" Now for the fun part of the trip. When we checked into our hotel we had a short wait before our rooms were ready, so spent some time in the eatery attached to the hotel where we found good food and pleasant surroundings. When our rooms became available we put our sleepshades on before entering to explore the room and unpack our bags. What an experience! On our first night out we went to Beni Honas where your meal is cooked on a grill right where you are seated. The chefs with lightning speed threw knives and shakers around and never missed a beat. None of them were missing any fingers either. The sounds and smells of food sizzling on the grill made our mouths water. The next day we climbed on the bus for a tour of the city. We saw many things including the Sears Tower, North Western University, and Lake Michigan. Cane travel on sandy beaches was indeed an unique experience. That evening we had reservations at a restaurant that served Latin Cuisine. What a treat for the senses: Latin music, tropical scenery, handsome waiters dressed in black T-shirts and slacks, and the menu describing such delights as "Jungle Chicken". The service was the best I have ever had. No ashes were allowed to linger in the ash trays. No goblet of ice water was ever allowed to have more than a sip or two taken from it before it was replenished. And, oh the desserts--sweet, rich, luscious--they were to die for. The entertainment was a "Latin beauty" singing Carmen Miranda style; a little 'long in the tooth' but fun nonetheless- Everyone had a gay ol' time at the Rumba Brazil. Next day we turned the bus back west and headed our tired old bodies home to Iowa. A class is a class is a class and the three days spent in Chicago were chock full of new experiences I will remember for a very long time to come.


Sandy Tigges

This April, while students took an extended spring break, the eight-member Orientation staff headed south in a quest for new ideas and approaches to improve the Center's program. We toured Lions World Services for the Blind in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the Louisiana Center for the Blind in Ruston, Louisiana, exploring their programs and sharing information with their staff. We also learned a lot about each other after spending five days traveling together over seventeen-hundred miles of highway in a fifteen-passenger van. The trip gave staff a good opportunity to become better acquainted with each others' quirks and foibles. In between rounds of Trivial Pursuit, Travis Robinson sang out the names of every restaurant between Des Moines and Ruston, including a place in Arkansas that serves "all you can eat" frog legs for $5.95. Dave Hauge demonstrated his inability to select a decent restaurant when he stopped the van for lunch at a little shack in southern Missouri, where customers were expected to eat hot dogs and goulash perched on the six counter stools that were the only seating the restaurant provided. On the last night of our trip, we learned that Sherri DeJoode, who has no compunction about sucking the brains out of a crayfish head, suffers from a marshmallow phobia so intense that it overwhelms her passion for chocolate. On this occasion, she refused to finished the Death by Chocolate dessert she had ordered when she became frightened by a tiny marshmallow buried in the concoction. More important, though, we learned a lot about the best ways to provide Orientation training to our students. The contrasts between the Arkansas and the Louisiana programs were startling. Lions World Services, which provides both adjustment and vocational training to blind persons from all over the country, emphasizes skills training, psychological adjustment to blindness, and vision enhancement. The Louisiana Center for the Blind,, on the other hand, emphasizes learning the alternative techniques of blindness in conjunction with developing a positive attitude. Under sleepshades, students quickly gain self-confidence and come to trust the blindness skills they are practicing. Modeled after our Center, the Louisiana Center is run by Joanne Wilson, a graduate of the Iowa program. We have incorporated several ideas we gathered from the Louisiana Center into our program. Each new student, for example, is now assigned a fellow student as a mentor to help in the adjustment to Center life. Every student is also assigned a staff member as an advisor to help deal with both day-to-day and long-term concerns. Probably the biggest change, however, is the Center's new sleepshade policy. Students now wear sleepshades from eight to five, with an hour break at lunch if they wish. Sleepshades are also becoming a greater part of outside activities. As a result of this change, both staff and students have already noticed that students are developing more quickly a high level of self-confidence and proficiency in the alternative techniques of blindness.


The Easter Rabbit died in a surfing board accident at Lacuna Beach, Hawaii, on May 6 under suspicious circumstances. Larry Sidwell, cane travel instructor at the Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center, alleges that Rabbit, who disappeared from the Center just before Easter, had secretly stowed himself away in the luggage Sidwell and his wife took on their Hawaiian vacation. According to Sidwell, Rabbit turned out to be "a big Hawaiian surfing dude who wiped out on a big one." A witness to the mishap, Sidwell claims that his rescue efforts were unsuccessful and that Rabbit never resurfaced after disappearing under the waves. Sadly enough, the last words spoken by Rabbit before climbing onto the surfboard were "Some bunny loves you!"


Rick Stone and wife, Jennifer, are the happy parents of a daughter, Holly, born January 5, 1996.

Don Anderson is working in the machine shop at Lake Avea Industries near his home in Sunrise Beach, Missouri.


Speaking of travel, don't forget to make your travel plans to come to Des Moines on Saturday, October 4 for the Annual Alumni Banquet.

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