Banner: Iowa Department for the Blind

White Cane Update

Summer 2001

Published and Distributed by the IOWA DEPARTMENT FOR THE BLIND

R. Creig Slayton, Director
Karen Keninger, Editor

Members of the Commission:
Robert Martin, Davenport
Julie Scurr, Coralville
John Wellman, Des Moines
Des Moines, Iowa, Spring 2001 Newsletter


Creig Slayton Retires as Director After 36 Years of Outstanding Service.
Allen C. Harris to Serve as New Director.
Slayton Retirement Tea Overflows With Friends and Good Wishes.
ACB Convention Showcases Department.
Volunteers Enjoy "A Trip Around the World."
18 Years of Pioneering.
Speaking of Cassette Machines.
Governor's Golden Dome Awards.
Comings and Goings.
John Powers Retires from Independent Living Advisory Committee.
Iowa Lions Provide 9,000 Bibles Since 1972.
Orientation on the Road Teaches Super Confidence.
The Cedar Falls Office Has Moved!
Order of Selection.
Summer Reading Club.
Ticket to Work Delayed.

Return to Newsletter page.


On August 31, 2001, R. Creig Slayton officially retired as Director of the Iowa Department for the Blind.

Slayton began his tenure as Director in December of 1986. His first big achievement as Director was to guide the re-establishment of the Iowa Department for the Blind as a separate state agency. The Iowa Commission for the Blind had been reorganized into a Division under the Department of Human Rights a few years earlier, and under Slayton's direction, and with the combined efforts of the blind of Iowa, was re-established as the Iowa Department for the Blind in 1988. As its Director, Slayton steered a smooth course through the ups and downs of the state economy, the floods of 1993, and several revisions to the federal laws governing Vocational Rehabilitation. He maintained high standards for Vocational Rehabilitation services which have kept Iowa in the top ten percent of agencies throughout the United States for quality job placements. During his tenure the Library has expanded its collection and services, increased its efficiency, and has been able to support all of the blind students in K-12 and college with textbooks. The Business Enterprises Program has expanded, adding more vending sites including the roadside vending facilities along the interstates. And the Orientation Center has remained one of the very best in the nation.

Slayton also worked on the national rehabilitation scene, on a wide variety of boards and committees, serving as president of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind, and Chair of the Randolph-Sheppard Committee. Slayton also served on several committees as a member of the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Slayton began his 36-year-long career with the Department in 1965 when he was assigned to the Iowa City and Davenport areas as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. He remembers his early job placement efforts, working with employers who weren't convinced that a blind person could do the job. He recalls one incident in particular where the interviewer was far more interested in whether his client could get out of the plant on his own after the interview than he was with the interview itself.

Slayton graduated from the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in 1960, attended the Orientation Center in 1960-61, and graduated from the University of Iowa in 1965.

Slayton plans his retirement to include his hobbies of woodworking and cooking as well as volunteering opportunities.


The Iowa Commission for the Blind, at the conclusion of its August 17 meeting, announced a unanimous decision to appoint Allen C. Harris of Albany, New York, as the new Director of the Iowa Department for the Blind.

Mr. Harris, 55, most recently has been employed as a Bureau Chief for Field Operations and Implementation for the New York State Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped. In this position he was responsible for all policies dealing with blind consumers, managed a 100 plus staff, and administered a Vocational Rehabilitation budget of 20 million dollars. Prior work experience includes numerous years of teaching government and sociology and coaching varsity wrestling at Dearborn, Michigan, public high schools.

Mr. Harris graduated from the Michigan School for the Blind, and Wayne State University in Detroit with degrees in History and Secondary Social Studies and Curriculum Development.

Mr. Harris and his wife, Joy Harris, have been active in the organized blind movement since the late '60s. Mr. Harris has been a national board member and officer since 1981. Mr. Harris was a Governor-appointee to the five-member Michigan Commission for the Blind from 1983-1991. He also has extensive legislative work in establishment and passage of the Michigan Commission for the Blind, Voter Rights Legislation, and Highway Vending Act bills in Michigan, and Braille bills in Michigan and New York.

Mr. Harris replaces current Director R. Creig Slayton of Des Moines, who is retiring August 31 after 36 years of leadership.


Approximately 250 friends, colleagues, and well-wishers joined R. Creig Slayton on August 30 to celebrate 36 years of outstanding service to the blind of Iowa. During the tea which staff hosted in the Assembly Room, Slayton was honored by Dr. Douglas Burleigh, Commissioner for Regions V and VII of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, Kansas City; Dwight Carlson, Administrator of the Iowa Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services; Rosemary Thierer, President of the Iowa Rehabilitation Association; The Honorable Sally Pederson, Lieutenant Governor, State of Iowa; John Wellman, Member of the Iowa Commission for the Blind; and Terry E. Branstad, former Governor of the State of Iowa.

Staff honored Slayton in a variety of ways. The tea was a joint effort of staff and friends, and featured festive balloons and streamers in Hawkeye colors, picture boards depicting scenes from Slayton's career, and excellent refreshments. Each division honored Slayton with "recommendations" for his future.

Slayton officially retired on August 31 and plans to take over the cooking and household chores while his wife Jo completes her career with the Veterans Administration. He also plans to take up his hobby of woodworking, and to find volunteer opportunities.


The Iowa Council of the United Blind recently hosted the fortieth annual national convention of the American Council of the Blind. The event held at the Convention Center in downtown Des Moines June 30 - July 7, 2001, drew over 1,100 participants from all across the nation. Convention participants had an opportunity to choose from a variety of presentations, focus groups, exhibits and tours including a tour of the Iowa Department for the Blind.

Department tours were offered on four afternoons of the week. After receiving an explanation of the organization and history of the agency, visitors began the staff-guided tour which showcased the library, Orientation Center classrooms, Field Operations and Independent Living offices, Aids and Devices, Business Enterprises Program offices and cafeteria, and the historical display cases on the first floor of the building. Over 150 convention participants learned about Iowa's services for the blind.

In addition to providing tours, some Department staff were involved in panel presentations at the convention. Four staff presented on maintaining independence, enhancing productivity and adjusting to vision loss during retirement years. Dewey Cummings, Rehabilitation Teacher, explained the Department's philosophy, discussed alternative techniques for work and play, and served as the panel's facilitator. Merry-Noel Chamberlain, Independent Living Service Coordinator, discussed the role of self-help groups and peer advisors in conjunction with the agency. Barb Busta, Independent Living Service Coordinator, shared her knowledge about adaptive techniques and devices regarding age-related conditions other than blindness. Betty Hansen, Deaf-Blind Specialist, talked about devices beneficial to those with hearing and visual impairments.

Betty Hansen also served on a panel for the Sight and Sound Impaired Committee (SASI). One of five on the panel, Betty represented the professional point of view in the discussion of how persons with both impairments can maintain their independence.

Rosie Thierer, Rehabilitation Counselor, represented the Department on a panel which discussed services for elderly blind. Along with representatives from other organizations, Rosie gave examples of ways Iowa's older blind are served so that persons living in other states can seek out similar types of services.

Mike Barber, Technical Specialist, spoke to the National Association of Blind Teachers and International Visually Impaired Entrepreneurs. Mike represented Project ASSIST and described the variety of tutorials produced by the Department.

Karen Keninger, Library Program Administrator, discussed the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped with the Library Users of America.

Director Creig Slayton also spoke at the first ACB general session where he welcomed participants to Iowa and provided them with information about the Iowa Department for the Blind.


Here are some of the jobs blind Iowans have acquired in the past few months.
Sales Person--Computers
Nursing Assistant
Director of Placement
Rehabilitation Counselor
Kitchen Helper
Teachers: Visually Impaired, Daycare, Secondary School, Vocational Rehabilitation
Material Handler
Peer Advisor
Administrative Assistant
Vending Stand Operator
Job Placement Specialist
Community Living Specialist
Dining Room Attendant
Deli Cutter
Technical Writer
Manager Retail Trades
College Professor
Medical Transcriptionist
Civil Rights Investigator
Software Testing Technician
Elementary School Teacher/Counselor
Dietary Aid
Program Director
Dining Room Supervisor
Training Consultant
Guidance Counselor
Resident Care Aide
Customer Service Representative
Substitute Special Education Teacher
Metal Sorter
Small Engine Mechanic
Attorney/Assistant County
Cafeteria Attendant
Garbage Collector
Ad Account Executive
Fast Food Worker
Regional Coordinator for Independent Living Services
Laundry Worker
Rehabilitation Home Ec Teacher
Mechanic Helper
Assembler, Production
Bottle Redemption Clerk
Marketing Information Specialist
Hand Packager (Assembly Line)
Counselor (Telephone)
Bank Manager
Professor, Communications
Kitchen Helper
Community Advocate
Manager, Department
Policy Holder Information Clerk
Production Data Entry Clerk
Pastoral Assistant
Grain Broker
Registered Nurse
Apartment Manager
Library Aid
Orientation Instructor
Production Supervisor
Horticultural Worker
Director of Patient Services
Disease Prevention Specialist
Sales Representative


Every year, over 100 dedicated volunteers donate HOURS AND HOURS of their time to transcribe thousands of print pages in textbooks, magazines, leisure reading materials, personal and professional items into recorded and Braille formats so that blind Iowans can read, study, and work. More volunteers check and rewind tapes, clean and repair cassette machines, and help with other tasks. All of these efforts combine to make services to blind Iowans some of the best in the nation.

The Elizabeth Perowsky Volunteers' and Transcribers' Workshop is one way to say thank you to all of these volunteers and to recognize them for their unflagging achievements. It also gives volunteers a chance to meet and talk shop with kindred souls throughout the state.

One of the highlights of the day was the presentation of the Elizabeth Perowsky Memorial Volunteer Award. This award was presented to three very special individuals who embody Elizabeth's "extraordinary spirit and inexhaustible dedication in service to those who are blind:" Zeta Haas for her work repairing cassette machines, Marge Kauffman for her work recording books, and Barb Kates an outstanding braillist. Their names and areas of service have been engraved on the perpetual plaque which is displayed in the Department's reception area. They each received an individual walnut plaque bearing a medallion of the Lamp of Learning.

Volunteer pins were also awarded to the following volunteers for completing their first transcript: Braille -- Lila Fisher, Lois Horgeshimer, Barb Kates, Verdell Leek, Roger Leslie, Thea Leslie, Betty Treakle, Kathy Wulf, and Jeane Zech; Tape -- Rod Brink, Linda Hale, Bernie Herman, Jeanette Kopel, Judy Miller, Mike Miller, and Sue Schaeffer.

The workshop and luncheon was held Friday, June 22, 2001. More than 75 volunteers, guests, and Department staff participated in the day's activities. The theme, "A Trip Around the World", was carried out through international table decorations, name tags adorned with a colorful globe illustration, and seminar classrooms designated the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

Guests were welcomed with a delicious continental breakfast and opening remarks from Director Creig Slayton and Library Manager Karen Keninger. Concurrent seminars for braillists and tapists were held both before and after lunch. Following the presentation of transcriber pins and awards, Keynote Speaker Mary Peckham regaled the crowd with stories from her extraordinary life. Iowa author Dorothy Garlock was a special guest. She discussed her writing career in the afternoon taping session and met with other volunteers during the tea, the closing event of the day.

The morning's Braille workshop was led by Rhonda Sturtz, supervisor of the Anamosa Braille Center. The topic was textbook formats including charts, graphs, and tables. In the afternoon, Joan Boggess facilitated a round-table discussion covering topics submitted by braillists. The Department's resident trainer, Laurie Merryman, demonstrated a music Braille translation program called Toccata and Jodene Ludden demonstrated new technology for creating raised line drawings.

Tapists and other volunteers held a lively discussion with staff on formatting, proofreading, and recorder problems. After an entertaining session with Dorothy Garlock in the afternoon, Beth Hirst continued the taping seminar by sharing the work of Ray Hagen, National Library Service narrator, columnist, and expert on taping technique.


Zeta Haas sits at a work bench dismantling a cassette player. She has no idea how many times she's taken one of them apart and put it back together, but during the 18 years that she's been volunteering to do cassette machine repair with the Telephone Pioneers, the Pioneers have repaired approximately 18,000 machines. "There's a lot of self-satisfaction in doing this job, cleaning up a machine, finding out what's wrong with it, and then fixing it" she says.

Zeta retired from the personnel department at the telephone company in 1977, after "forty-seven years and four months," and she is proud of that record. She started as an operator at the age of 17. "I told my parents I didn't much want to be an operator, but a 17-year-old during the Depression doesn't have much clout." "Oh yes you do, young lady," they said. "Tomorrow you get down there and tell them you want to be an operator." "I went down the next day, and stayed all those years."

Zeta is good at sticking with things. In 1983,six years after she retired, she started repairing cassette machines, and she's kept at that for nearly 18 years and counting.

Now she is the ringleader for a group of Telephone Pioneers who assemble every Thursday to work on cassette machines. She chuckles when she remembers the first time she saw information about the Pioneers' machine repair project on a bulletin board. She asked a man whether he thought she could do it. "He said he didn't think a woman could do this work," she laughs.

"We have a lot of fun," she says. Zeta and her fellow Pioneers receive malfunctioning machines from the Iowa Library for the Blind. Usually, she says, replacing all the little rubber parts, cleaning the heads and the case will make a machine work like new. Sometimes, though, it's more complicated than that. "If I don't know how to fix one," she says, "I give it to Bob." Bob is another Pioneer who spent his working career as an engineer for the phone company.

Zeta also keeps the records for the Pioneers. She notes the model and serial number for each machine they repair, as well as what was done to it. She also keeps track of who came and how many hours they worked. Zeta also orders supplies for the group--batteries, repair kits, and cleaning supplies.

For her 18 years of unflagging service as a volunteer for the Department, Zeta was one of three volunteers to receive the Elizabeth Perowsky Award this summer.

All of the Telephone Pioneers who repair Library cassette machines are retired from the telephone company after long careers. "We need some younger people to help with this work,"Zeta says.

To supplement the work of the Telephone Pioneers, the Department has arranged a repair program at the Mount Pleasant Correctional Facility. Niels Andersen and Pat Kokke, Department staff members responsible for maintenance and distribution of cassette machines, estimate that they send out approximately 200 machines each month as replacements or to new borrowers and receive about 100 back in need of repair.


Have you ever wondered why sometimes when you put a cassette into your machine, it plays really fast? And the only way to fix it is to take it out and put it in again? Niels Andersen tells me that the reason is this: If your finger covers the square hole in the front of the cassette (where the tape is) when you're inserting it into the machine, the tape gets behind a little capstan and doesn't track right. The solution is to hold the cassette by the solid plastic corners when you put it into the machine. Or, if you miss, just take the cassette out and put it in again.

Remember that the battery in your cassette player, and all other rechargeable batteries you use, will last longer if you unplug the machine and run down the battery each time after you charge it. Charging takes 24 hours. You can listen to cassettes while it's charging. The battery will last for five to six hours of normal playing--less if you're rewinding or fast-forwarding a lot.

Remember to rewind the last cassette in each book, or any other cassette you don't finish. This will save our rewinding volunteers a lot of time.


On June 14 of this year five department employees were awarded certificates by Governor Tom Vilsack to mark major milestones in years of service to the State of Iowa. Doug Cole received an award for 30 years service. Louise Duvall, Craig "Pat" Martin, Dawna Ray, and Mark West all received awards for 25 years of service. Doug and Dawna both work in the Library, Louise is the Program Administrator for Field Operations, Pat is on second shift maintenance, and Mark works in the Business Enterprises Program.

Also one of our vendors, Don Ostrander, along with his staff will receive a Golden Dome Team award for their operation of the cafeteria in the State Capitol. Don will receive the award because of the excellent service that he and his staff provide throughout the year.

These awards are an effort by the Governor and others in state government to reward State employees not only for their length of service but also for outstanding efforts that they have put forth within their agencies. Congratulations to all!


Creig Slayton, Department Director for the past 15 years, is retiring after 36 years of service with the Department. His last day will be Friday, August 31.

Gene Sopher, who worked on the maintenance crew, is also retiring. After 33 years of service to the Department, Gene will count August 23rd as his last day.

Merry-Noel Chamberlain, Independent Living Service Coordinator in Western Iowa, is resigning her position effective August 14.


The Independent Living Advisory Committee regretfully says goodbye to John Powers after 15 years of dedicated service. The Committee's role is to serve as a link between the Department and blind Iowans by promoting public awareness, encouraging referrals, consulting on program development, and providing advocacy. Thanks to John's involvement, the Committee has been most effective in fulfilling its purpose. John brought to the Committee a strong commitment to ensure the provision of quality services to blind Iowans. This commitment was demonstrated by his regular attendance and active participation in Committee meetings, his involvement in public awareness activities, and his advocacy efforts. Committee members will also miss John for his frank opinions, his sense of humor, and his warm friendship. Staff will miss John for many reasons, but especially for the inspiration he offered by his dedication to quality services.


Since October 1972, almost 9,000 Bibles have been given to visually impaired or physically handicapped Iowans. This has been due to monies given by the Iowa Lions Foundation to the Iowa Department for the Blind. If you have not previously received a Lions Bible, are an Iowa resident, and have either a visual or physical handicap that prevents you from reading a standard print book, you are eligible to receive a Bible on behalf of the Iowa Lions Foundation.

The versions available are as follows:
King James (KJV)--complete
New International (NIV)--complete
New American Standard (NAS)--complete
Good News (TEV)--New Testament only

Cassette Bibles usually come in a 4-album, 48 cassette format and may be played on either 2-track or 4-track playback machines.

Large Print
King James (KJV)--complete, 14-point type, bonded leather cover
King James (KJV)--complete, 18-point type, soft cover
Good News (TEV)--complete, 14-point type, soft cover
New American Catholic (NAC)--complete, 14-point type, bonded leather cover


For those preferring Braille format, please contact the Iowa Department for the Blind Library as you would for the above formats, and we will give you further information as to how you may obtain a free copy.

If you are already enjoying a Lions Bible and have a cassette tape that becomes defective or broken, please return this tape(s) to the Library, with your name and address, and request a replacement. We will duplicate a new copy from our master and return the new tape(s) to you.

Please note that the Bible is a gift from the Lions, and should you not wish to keep it, please do not pass it on to others. The Bibles need to be returned to our Library, with your name and address, and indicating that you no longer wish to keep them.

We truly hope that you will enjoy having your own Bible.

For our Jewish friends--you have a unique opportunity to make the forthcoming High Holidays truly special and memorable for you. The Jewish Heritage for the Blind will send a free Hebrew/English volume of the Deluxe Edition Large Print or Braille Edition High Holiday Machzor.

Contact your physician or eye-care specialist to have them fax or mail a note to The Jewish Heritage for the Blind confirming that you have difficulty reading regular print. Mail, fax or email your request to:
The Jewish Heritage for the Blind, 1655 East 24th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11229.
Fax out-of-state: 877-230-2205 (toll free)
Fax in New York: 718-338-0653

This offer is available one per household as supplies are limited.


This spring, Department staff orchestrated two of the week-long training seminars known as Orientation on the Road.

Afterwards one participant wrote, "It's always a little scary going some distance to a new place where you know no one and are not exactly sure what you will be doing or what is expected of you. But I went with the attitude that I was going to learn all I could. I'm so glad I went! Not only did I learn lots, but I also came home with super confidence that I can do EVERYTHING!! I took my cane to church with me Easter Sunday. Even though I knew all eyes were on me, my small frame stood tall. Today I went biking with a friend and did fine, but my friend took a nasty fall. THANKS TO ALL for a wonderful week!"

Seven blind and visually impaired consumers participated in the first seminar, held the week of April 8 through the 13th, at Dayton Oaks Camp in Dayton, Iowa. Nine people attended the second one at Cedar Valley Grove in Mechanicsville the week of June 24 through the 29th.

At both seminars, students worked hard in classes in home economics, cane travel, Braille, computer, home management and business class. In the evenings, they played hard at games, shopping, dinners and outings to nearby points of interest.


On May 2nd, an Open House was held in the Cedar Falls district office. The office recently relocated to its new location in Black Hawk Village (next to EconoFoods). The open house was held to promote the new location and to educate the Cedar Falls/Waterloo and surrounding communities about the services available through the Department. The event was a success with 85 individuals signing the guest book.

The new address is 2915 McClain Drive, Suite A, Cedar Falls, IA 50613. The phone number is 319-268-2981 or toll free at 888-378-4397.


In our last issue, we told you about the fact that the Department was facing significant cuts in our state appropriations and that we would be required to implement an Order of Selection to manage these budget cuts. In late May, the Iowa Legislature finished their 2001 session and the State of Iowa's budget was finalized for the 2002 state fiscal year. The Department did indeed suffer a state appropriation reduction of just under $70,000 for fiscal year 2002. Since the Department uses the state appropriation to match or pull down federal funding, the state budget reduction resulted in the loss of $258,638 in federal matching funds. The Department's actual budget for state fiscal year 2002 which began July 1, 2001, be will reduced by a total of $328,638. This is a significant reduction in the Department's operating budget and will indeed prompt the agency to implement an Order of Selection Policy on October 1, 2001. The Order of Selection will be based on providing services first to those who have the most significant disabilities, followed by those with significant disabilities. Under this policy, there is a possibility of a waiting list being established and eligible individuals waiting to be served. If you have any questions about the Department's Order of Selection Policy, please contact your counselor, teacher, or the Department at 800-362-2587 or 515-281-1256.


The Summer Reading Club for 2001 was quite a success! We had over 50 registered youth, ages 6 through 17, from all over the state. Instead of reporting the number of books they read, members reported how much time they spent reading. Our theme this year was "Reading Road Trip USA" with prizes and contests related to the theme. Weekly prize packages were mailed to each member who reported his or her time. Josiah and Patrick Gregg worked hard to become the top readers this year and received engraved trophies for their achievements. Two names were drawn from all registered members. The two grand prize winners, Alexander Kuchlenz and Taylor Sullivan, will each receive a tactile globe.

Prizes were donated by Coca-Cola, The Learning Post, The Theatrical Shop, Cosi Cucina Restaurant, Wild Birds Unlimited, McDonalds, Earl May Nursery Center, Living History Farms, and Adventureland. We thank them and others for their support and donations.


The Social Security Administration (SSA) has delayed the official start date of the Ticket to Work Program. SSA is now targeting a Fall release date to mail the tickets.

All Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income Beneficiaries who are between the ages of 18 and 64, and are not expected to medically recover, will be receiving a ticket during a four month roll-out period once the program starts. The delay has been caused by slow recruitment of employment networks for the program. Employment networks are providers that assume responsibility for the coordination and delivery of services for ticket holders under this program. The Department will be an employment network and will assume all responsibilities of an employment network in the ticket program. If you have any questions regarding the Ticket to Work program, please call Kent Farver at 800-362-2587 extension 1256, or 515-281-1256.

Return to Issue Index.

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.