Banner: Iowa Department for the Blind

Orientation Newsletter
July 2005
Vol 25, No. 1


Table of Contents
Pride of Iowa
A New Old Look
A New Way
Instruments Of Change
Touring Western Iowa
Calling All Woodworkers!
Make Note


It doesn’t take long being around the Iowa Department for the Blind, especially the Orientation Center, before coming to understand the value we place on attitude. Over and over again, the message is delivered—believe in yourself and take pride in your accomplishments, pride in your work, and pride in yourself. We don't mean a false pride based on empty words with no real meaning but a sense of pride that has been earned because it is backed by actions.

This Newsletter is about the well-deserved pride we have in the Center--pride in our facility, pride in our program and, most important of all, pride in the many accomplishments large and small of the Center’s alumni. Remember to mark your calendar now to join us on October 1 for the Orientation Alumni Day and Banquet so that you can share that pride with us. Come help celebrate the pride we have in one another and in the program that brought us all together. For now, read on to learn of our most recent newsworthy accomplishments.


In our last edition of the Newsletter, we reported that work was underway to renovate the Rec Room and Reception Area. We are proud to announce the work is complete and the results are spectacular! Under the direction and watchful eyes of Mike Hicklin and our own Dave Hauge, the architect and crew have succeeded in taking the space back in time with a design reminiscent of the building’s original era.

Done in rich, subtle shadings of brown, the room has an air of warm elegance. Pendant lights with marble-veined parchment colored shades hang suspended from the ceiling on oak “clouds”. The wall covering is in muted shades of beige with an oak wainscot at the bottom. The original marble Terrazzo floor has been restored to its former beauty. Large area rugs have been placed strategically to create intimate group settings. Mission style furniture in oak with cushions in tones of purple, burgundy, teal and hunter green complete the overall design.

For more details and a first-hand look at the remodeling, come to the Alumni Banquet this fall and learn about the renovations from Dave himself. He will be in the Rec Room that afternoon to give a brief presentation and answer questions about the changes that have been made. Meanwhile, next time you have an opportunity to visit the Department, please take some time to check out the new-old look. We think you’ll be favorably impressed.


By Sandy Tigges

We not only take pride in our newly remodeled Recreation Room but also in our newly remodeled program as well. In our last newsletter I shared with you that, this January, we began what we call our student-centered approach in Orientation. I am pleased to report that, over the past few months, this new approach has proven to be a success.

Our student-centered approach makes better use of the many talents of our instructors and helps us meet more fully the individual needs of our students. Most of our teachers are now providing instruction in more than one training area, and students who need training in areas outside of the traditional set of classes can now get it. Each student's needs are carefully assessed when they enter the Center so that they begin their training in the appropriate classes and levels. Classes in such areas as spelling and grooming are scheduled when there is need for them. Before students finish training, they will also spend a few weeks in our new Career Exploration class.

Teachers are enthusiastically putting into practice some creative new ideas in their classes as a result of implementing this new approach. Cip bounces out the Fourth Street doors with her travel students in tow, Larry gives his students pointers on writing effective resumes, Mary hands out Braille cheat sheets, and our resident vegetarian Mark shows students how to tell when hamburger is done. Students are responding positively to this new approach and feel that their needs are being met better. Be sure to come visit us on Alumni Day, October 1, so that we can share our exciting new program with you.


by Bridgit Kuenning and Beau Borton

It was exciting to be told that we were chosen to be part of a group going to visit the training Center for blind persons in Topeka, Kansas. We were told that they wanted to make a change and we were going there to help them model their program after ours.

We started our adventure on Monday, May 16, with a five-hour bus ride to Topeka, during which most of us slept. Then, after getting refreshed and having lunch at Chili’s, we went for our first glimpse of the Kansas Center. We found that they have a very nice, compact campus. After a tour and a meet-and-greet we went back to our hotel to organize our initial thoughts and prepare for the next day.

Tuesday started with announcements, after which we compared notes on what we do in each class area in our respective Centers. In Iowa, we are used to a structured and professional environment where there are high expectations and guidelines to follow, and everyone is expected to participate in all areas. In Topeka the approach is very different. Students are not required to wear sleepshades and can choose whether or not they want to take some of the classes offered, like Home Ec. Braille is mandatory for only six weeks. Using limited vision is encouraged, while the use of blindness techniques is discouraged. Over and over again throughout that week, we demonstrated that blindness techniques do work and that blind people can and should expect to lead full, productive lives. We decided it would be fun to have a joint picnic on Thursday evening, our last night there, so we planned and cooked for one all week in Home Ec. Class.

While most of us were preparing for the picnic, Mitch did his final travel route. He had never been in Topeka before, but together with his travel teacher Cip, he gathered information and planned his route prior to leaving Iowa. When he set out Thursday morning, many from Topeka thought it was an unreasonable expectation to think that he could go all over town to places he’d never been and find his way back to their facility--especially since Mitch is totally blind. It was good to see their students’ reactions when he got back and told them all the places he’d been. They were intrigued by the idea that it was possible to do something like that successfully.

The picnic was a great success with the good food prepared by students and hot dogs and hamburgers grilled right there at the park. Mitch and Beau, along with Dave Hauge, manned the grills and taught some of their staff and students how it’s done without vision.

It didn’t take us long to understand that, while their Center is quite a bit different from ours, their students are not. They have the same problems and concerns as we do and are attending their training center looking for answers. Being presented with an alternate philosophy got many of them thinking. We had planted a seed, and a week after coming back to Iowa, we were gratified to learn the students in Topeka themselves asked to wear sleepshades and that their program be changed. We had made a difference; we don’t know how, but we did. It was awesome to have been a part of a change like that. Even more awesome was that they hired Mitch and Ross, another of our Iowa students, to help them implement the change. Now it will be exciting to see what happens next.


by Ryan Blair and Janet Quam

During the week of May 16, about half of the Orientation Center went on a week-long jaunt around western Iowa. The main purpose of the trip was to be representatives at the Department's Open Houses being held in Sioux City and Council Bluffs, but we also planned some fun activities along the way. We loaded everything into two vans and left the Department on Monday, May 16, around 11:00 a.m to begin our adventure.

Our first stop was near Manning, about two hours from Des Moines. We stopped first for lunch at the German-themed Hausbarn Restaurant and then, wearing our sleepshades, went on a tour of the Hausbarn. The 350-year-old hausbarn, which had been brought over from Germany, was a building that served as both a barn and living quarters for farmers and their families. The family lived in one end and livestock were sheltered at the other end. It was the job of the farmer and his wife to make sure the farm was in good working order. While the farmer took care of the fields and farm equipment, it was the wife’s job to keep the barn clean, which meant clearing out what the animals left behind several times a day. Our tour guide was well-versed in her subject and shared numerous interesting and humorous tidbits about life in a hausbarn.

From there, we drove to Sioux City where we checked into our motel. There were several places to eat—KFC, Culver’s, Pizza Hut, etc—within easy walking distance of our motel so everyone was on their own for supper that night. Next morning, after enjoying the complimentary continental breakfast, we gathered in the lobby to begin our day of sight-seeing. Our first stop was the Memorial to the plane crash that took place in Sioux City in 1989. Some of us had been quite young when this happened and knew very little, if anything, about it before our visit. Next we went to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. Pretty much everything there was hands-on. If it wasn’t, they were really good about describing things. The Interpretive Center focuses on the portion of the expedition that took place around the Sioux City area. We learned about the different men who joined the expedition as well as the different skills that were required. It was a lot of fun and we learned a lot at the same time. Even more impressive, Marcia Poole, the Interpretive Center’s Director, was interested in our input and asked several times how they might adapt the displays to make them more readily accessible. When we left, she gave each of us a paperweight and a book entitled Building a Dream, The Story of The Sioux City Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. That night we went to Southern Hills Mall where we were given some time to shop, eat and explore the mall.

Wednesday morning we checked out of our motel, loaded the vans and went to help set up the Open House. With our sleepshades on, we helped position display tables, cover them with tablecloths and set up rows of chairs. The purpose of the Open House was to let people in the Sioux City area know about the Department, our philosophy of blindness, and the type of services we provide. It was also a great opportunity for people in the area to learn about assistive technology. There were a lot of people there—we heard we had over 100—and the event seemed to be a big success.

One of the outcomes of the event was particularly noteworthy. A local TV station sent a reporter to cover the Open House and conducted a pretty lengthy interview with our own Jodi George. For those of you who don’t know, Jodi was a former student and is now the support staff person for the Orientation Center. The interview was shown that night at both 6:00 and 10:00. Although the reporter misspoke a few times, Jodi did quite well and presented a very positive attitude about blindness. We were all extremely proud of Jodi.

After the event was over, we helped clean up and then hopped in the vans and left for Council Bluffs. When we got there, we checked into our motel and then drove over to The Pizza King for supper. Next morning we all enjoyed another continental breakfast, after which we gathered in the lobby to go to the Council Bluffs Open House. Just as in Sioux City, we arrived early to help set up tables and arrange chairs. Much of the room in Council Bluffs was already in place so we didn’t have as much to do. There weren’t as many people at the Council Bluffs Open House but it was still pretty well attended. After it was over, we went back to our motel and everyone was on their own for the evening. Some of us decided to go back to the mall, some decided to check out another local restaurant, and others decided to just hang out at the motel.

Friday it was time to go back to Des Moines, but first we made a detour to the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha. That day it was really a zoo--there were school kids everywhere! And it was really hot, but despite that, we had fun. When we arrived, the first thing we did was visit the rain forest with our sleepshades on. After we finished there, we broke up into smaller groups to explore other areas of the zoo. Some went through the desert exhibit, some the aquarium and some walked through the “Creatures of the Night”. After four hours of zoo, we all met at our designated gathering point to begin the return drive to Des Moines. It was a busy week and we were all happy to be back home, but we had also enjoyed the trip and agreed we would like to do more of the same.


The Woodsmith Store in Clive, Iowa, is again sponsoring a Woodworking Extravaganza on September 23, 24, and 25. This year The Woodsmith Store has offered booth space to us. We are looking for blind woodworkers who take pride in their craft and are interested in participating in this event. In past years, the Extravaganza has attracted over seven thousand people and virtually every woodworking vendor you’ve ever wanted to meet. This is an excellent opportunity to meet other hobbyists and perhaps give some hope to those who think they need to give up their tools because they are losing their sight. So, if you can be here for all or part of that weekend, please call Ric Frambach, Industrial Arts Instructor, at 515-281-1310, or e-mail me at


This year the first Saturday of October falls on the first day of the month. That means it will be far too easy to overlook the day until it’s too late and you’ve missed the 2005 Orientation Alumni Banquet. Please don’t let that happen to you! Make note of the day now to ensure we will enjoy the pleasure of your company on Alumni Day.

Return to Table of Contents

Return to Newsletter page.

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.