Fall 2010 Bulletin


FALL 2010

Published by


Web Site: www.acb.org/iowa

Affiliate of the American Council of the Blind

Robert Spangler, President

1505 W. 4th St.

Vinton, IA 52349

(319) 472-4843

E-MAIL: Ka0wjz@q.com

Mike Hoenig, Editor

3119 Spring St.

Davenport, IA 52807


E-Mail: mhoenig@q.com

Jo Ann Slayton, Secretary

4013 30th St.

Des Moines, IA 50310

(515) 279-4284 – home

(515) 710-7875 – cell

E-Mail: slayton4284@gmail.com

Ruth E. Hamdorf, Treasurer

439 Lindale Drive, #218

Marion, IA 52302

(319) 373-8608 – Home

E-Mail: elliewag@q.com


Robert Spangler, President - Vinton, (319) 472-4843

Donna Seliger, Immediate Past President - Des Moines,

(515) 284-0505

Creig Slayton, First Vice President – Des Moines, (515) 279-4284

Mike Hoenig, Second Vice-President - Davenport, (563) 344-8787

Jo Ann Slayton, Secretary - Des Moines, (515) 279-4284

Ruth Hamdorf, Treasurer - Marion, (319) 373-8608

Joyce Davis, Director - Fort Dodge, (515) 955-1634

Rose Stratton, Director - Maquoketa, (563) 652-2546

Shirley Wiggins, Director - Cedar Rapids, (319) 550-6096

Stephanie Hunolt, Director – Kirksville, (660) 665-2404

Elsie Monthei, Director –Des Moines, (515) 277-0442

Gary Patterson, Director –Des Moines, (515) 278-2686

Dove Tanner, Director – Cedar Rapids, (319) 364-7128

Frank Strong, Director –Des Moines, (515) 285-7254


Anyone who cannot read this print bulletin, finds it difficult to have it read or wishes an e-mail or cassette may receive a copy at no charge. Please contact Jo Slayton at (515) 279-4284 to request an alternative format. Cassette readers are always invited to keep their copy of the Bulletin. However, if you would like to return cassettes when you are finished with them, please place in a NEW standard mailing envelope, write “Free Matter For the Blind” in the upper right hand corner, and return to the editor using the address on the front of this Bulletin. Also, please remember to contact the editor if your address changes. The Post Office rarely provides us with a new address when someone moves. We want to make sure that anyone who wants to receive a Bulletin gets one!


If you or a friend would like to remember the Iowa Council of the United Blind in your will, you may do so by using the following language: “I grant, devise, or bequeath unto the Iowa Council of the United Blind, a non-profit charitable organization, the sum of ______ dollars, ____ percent of my net estate, or the following stocks and bonds (please list them) to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons.” If your wishes are more complex, you may have your attorney call (515) 279-4284, or write Iowa Council of the United Blind, 4013 30TH Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50310.


Are you trying to decide how to dispose of a used vehicle? ICUB's Used Vehicle Donation Program offers the perfect solution. Your vehicle will be picked up from your home and sold at auction, with a portion of the proceeds going directly to ICUB. You claim a tax deduction equal to the dollar value of the vehicle. To donate or to learn more, call 800-899-4925.


Editor's Line 4

A Note from the Membership Committee 5

Blind Hikers Know No Limits 5

No Sight Is No Excuse for Unique Students 8

Regents Vote Will End Long-Term Residential 10

Program at Braille School

Help Older Iowans Maintain Independence 12

What the Twenty-First Century Communications 14

and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 Will Do for

People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

In Memoriam

Verna L. (Hoefer) Muhowski 16

Jerry Kakac 17

Ray O'Brien 18

Maxine Klahn 19

Shirley A. Conrad 20

Chapter Reports

Cedar Rapids Update 21

Dubuque News 22

Des Moines Christmas Party 23

Accessible Bibles Available from Optasia Ministry 23

Recipe Corner 24


By Mike Hoenig

The cold October wind tells me that fall is here, and the 115-degree July Phoenix temperatures seem a distant memory.

I had not been to an ACB convention since Minneapolis, and it felt great to be "back in the fold." By going a day early, I was able to experience a bit of the vastness which is the Grand Canyon. Unique experiences continued throughout convention week, highlighted by a visit with a blind senator from Barbados and the opportunity to welcome two outgoing first-timers at the DKM Reception. While sharing dinner with a friend from North Dakota, I learned that they, too, are struggling to gain youth membership. Our "youth representative," Tyler Juranek, blended right in to the proceedings, leaving Mom behind to hang out with his new friends at a Guide Dog users group meeting. He even managed to beat me in a game of audio darts. Tyler, hope you're up for a rematch next year!

A big thank-you to the Cedar Rapids Chapter for hosting another successful and well-attended picnic. I always feel so welcome there, and enjoy catching up with old friends. It was a special treat to spend time with Woody Miracle, my junior and senior high school English teacher and his wife Linda. Days earlier, I'd seen their daughter Marcia at the Iowa State Fair. The Marcia who I remember as an adolescent is now a rehabilitation counselor, wife and mother. Where do the years go?

I am struck by the number of obituaries in this issue of the Bulletin. My sympathies go out to all of the families. Once again, we are reminded of how important it is to take advantage of every opportunity to get together to rekindle our friendships. Let's all do our best to attend one of the upcoming Holiday banquets.

By the time you read this, the 2010 elections will be history. I hope each of you took the time to exercise your right to vote, and that many took advantage of the accessible voting machines. We fought hard to get them, and it's an empowering feeling to be completely independent at the polls. Enjoy a Blessed Holiday season. See you in 2011!


By Shirley Wiggins, Committee Chair

Time is passing and soon it will be time to pay dues. We want to thank all of you who always seem to be prompt. But there are some of us who just don't seem to get around to paying, so please remember to get your dues in by the first of January. Dues are $10.00 and can be sent to our state treasurer, Ruth Hamdorf at 439 Lindale Drive N.E., Marion, Iowa 52402. Let's try to bring our membership up, not only for our sake, but for the money our dues bring in to ICUB. Your membership dues help us with many expenses such as publication and distribution of the Bulletin and sending our state president to meetings which he needs to attend. Thank you.


By Dennis Wagner

(Reprinted from USA Today, October 14, 2010.)

(Editor's Note: Given that our ACB convention was held in Arizona this year and several Iowans experienced the Grand Canyon during the pre-convention tour, this story is very timely.)

Just before dawn, 13 blind and visually impaired hikers begin a descent into the abyss, unable to see the trail or the gaping chasm they're bout to enter.

Their plan seems audacious if not crazy: A group of adults and kids from the Foundation for Blind Children is out to complete the Grand Canyon's 24.3 mile trek from rim to rim in one day on a rock-scrabbled route where even sighted hikers are one false step from a fatal plunge.

The challenge, considered grueling, even for experienced sighted outdoorsmen, is so demanding that signs warn not to attempt it.

But the Canyon Crawlers, as the hikers facetiously dubbed themselves before last Sunday's expedition, are out to make a point to themselves and to the world - that those who can't see can achieve and appreciate one of the planet's Seven Natural Wonders without viewing it.

By day's end, 10 of the adventurers make it out, some of them long after dark, sporting blisters and scrapes as badges of courage. Two spend the night with guides on the canyon floor exiting a day later. One gashes his leg so badly in a fall that he must be flown out by helicopter.

Marc Ashton, chief executive officer at the Phoenix-based foundation, says he believes the expedition set a rim-to-rim record for hikers who can't see.

"Our goal was to prove to the world that blind people can do anything," says Ashton, whose 14-year-old son, Max, was among the successful trekkers. "Our climbers proved they could."


Camping Saturday night, the hikers share dinner and anxious humor around a bonfire at 8,500 feet.

Seven men, four women and two boys trained for months with volunteers, practicing on urban peaks. But the Canyon crossing has no comparison: More than 50,000 steps, with extra strain and stress for those unaware of what's underfoot.

By firelight, the youngest, 12-year-old Dillan Owens of Mesa sits in silent trepidation. Dillan's vision began to fail in fourth grade. Doctors found a brain tumor. Two surgeries have followed, and then repeated chemotherapy treatments since last September.

"I'm pretty nervous," the boy admits. "But we're going to prove to people that the blind and vision-impaired can do something."

Mike Holsten of Phoenix, the oldest participant at 64, was a correctional officer at a state prison until late last year. An infection after cataract surgery took nearly all of his vision in January.

Holsten chokes up briefly at his loss - "It was like getting hit with a baseball bat, you know?" - Then apologizes for what he considers his momentary weakness.

Though Holsten and his wife, Rosey, are experienced hikers, he admits being unstable. "I can't see my own feet when I'm standing up," he says, "So every step is a crapshoot."


Wakeup call Sunday is 4 a.m. Fed and prepared, the group assembles an hour later. The guides are wearing headlamps.

Each visually impaired person works with at least one sighted guide who provides step-by-step instructions that reverberate softly against canyon walls: "Step down here .... Step down again.... Mule crap here.... Now a big rock.... Step up. Cliff on the left ......"

Dillan latches onto the backpack of his father, Jay Shingleton, and seems to become a trailing appendage.

Mike Armstrong, a 40-year-old with prosthetic eyes, follows the jingle of cowbells on a guide's belt and uses a pair of walking sticks as antennae, reading the trail like Braille. When he strays near a ledge, a guide to his rear shouts, "Whoa, Mike, where are you going? And taps him back in line.

Because paces vary, the Canyon Crawlers are soon separated over several miles. Sighted people along the way are curious and amazed.

"Pretty ambitious," says Brian Clark, 33, of Pittsburgh. "I thought about what it would be like to do this with my eyes closed .... I'd be filled with anxiety."

At noon, word spreads that Michael Holsten fell after only a few miles, cutting his leg, and was evacuated by air. Twelve remaining hikers, duly sobered, continue.

Debi Black, 51, of Sun Lakes, blinded by retinitis pigmentosa for nearly 30 years, falls several times, twisting an ankle, suffering scrapes and bruises. Undaunted, she listens as guides describe majestic cliffs beneath a dazzling blue sky. She says she can picture the scenery from their words, as a person conjures images while reading a book.

"Everything echoes in the canyon," she adds. "You can just feel how huge it is."

By dusk, hikers are strung out along switchbacks on the Canyon's Bright Angel Trail. Fatigue and reduced oxygen levels at high altitude take a toll on Dillan, who begins wheezing. His father and another guide urge him on.

As the boy summits the South Rim, he seems stunned, speechless, and proud.

"He tells himself he can't do things, and I know it's totally the opposite," his dad says. Debi Black is the last to complete the trek on Sunday - after 17 hours.

"That was the hardest thing I've ever done," she says later, "worse than childbirth. But it was just beautiful. So beautiful, but so painful."


By Estela Villanueva-Whitman

(Reprinted from The Des Moines Register, April 7, 2010.)

Vivian Ver Huel grew up going to school and cooking at home like others her age. The only difference is that she used the Braille system to read and alternative techniques to do everyday tasks.

For 21 years, she’s used her experience to teach skills to others with vision loss as one of nine independent living rehabilitation teachers in the Iowa Department for the Blind’s field operations division.

Ver Huel, 44, began loosing her eyesight when she was around 18 months old. A rare type of eye cancer, retinal blastoma, led to blindness by age 5.

As the first blind student in Mattoon, Ill., special education teachers taught her the Braille system and she began typing some assignments by third grade. When other families with blind children moved into the district, her family served as mentors.

“It has always come naturally to share what I know,” she said.

Like other department staff members, Ver Huel went through the department’s Orientation Center in downtown Des Moines when she was first hired to get a better feel for what clients experience at the residential training facility.

In addition to visiting clients’ homes, workplaces or care centers throughout Iowa, Ver Huel and her colleagues staff the Orientation Centre for mini sessions with seniors a few times a year. They also can provide community-based group training and help form support networks. Eighty percent of referrals are senior citizens.

Success is often tied to a client’s attitude.

Elaine Pote, 83, lost much of her vision to macular degeneration and sought services after a friend mentioned that the department offered talking books. When she inquired about them, staff members connected her with Ver Huel, who came to Pote’s home in Stuart and placed tactile markings on her microwave, washing machine and thermostat to help operate them.

At Ver Huel’s urging, Pote reluctantly agreed to attend “senior orientation” in Des Moines. There, she learned how to sew a button and shopped for a birthday card at Walgreens on her own. The experience helped her gain confidence.

“I thought I was going to do something goofy if I went out in public. You have to overcome that, otherwise stay inside the four walls of your house,” Pote said.

Another client, Janet Kessler, 74, was so impressed with Ver Huel and senior orientation that she became a member of its advisory board. Despite macular degeneration, she lives independently with her husband in Creston and does the cooking and ironing. The training helped lift her out of depression, she said.

“If I hadn’t gone there, I’d still be sitting in the chair feeling sorry for myself,” she said.

During home visits, Ver Huel can teach clients how to use a white cane, prepare meals, read Braille and dial a phone. They can identify and organize canned goods based on the size of containers, or affix rubber bands or raised letters. Tactile markings can be used to set an oven or label medications. A safety pin can help in matching different colors of clothes.

Adaptive aids, such as a check-writing guide, talking calculators or a tape recorder, can help manage finances.

Ver Huel says even she is still learning to adjust and accomplish tasks without vision.

“We live in a very sighted world and vision is very important. But we also firmly believe you can still work, raise a family, take care of the grandkids, travel and do whatever it is that you want to do regardless of how well you’re able to see to do those things,” she said. “We see that it’s true based on what our clients are able to achieve.”


By Richard Pratt

(Retrieved from the GazetteOnline.com August 5, 2010)

The state Board of Regents today unanimously approved a plan that will end the traditional long-term residential program for students at the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in Vinton by fall 2012.

The seven recommendations, drafted by a study committee formed at the direction of the state Legislature, now must go to the Legislative Council before full implementation.

The plan does not close the Vinton campus, which will remain as a location for summer and short-term programs for blind and visually impaired students and as the headquarters for the Statewide System for Vision Services. But it does end the long-term residential program at the 150-year-old school.

Much of the $2.2 million now used to support the Braille School in Vinton will be used to hire more teachers to provide more and better services around the state, closer to the home communities and schools of blind and vision-impaired students, officials said. The statewide system serves about 400 students, while Braille School enrollment was nine students last year, down from 34 students in 2005.

When students do need the long-term residential services now provided at the Braille School, the system will partner with other agencies in regions around the state to offer those, Braille School Superintendent Patrick Clancy said. He expects that will be a small number, in the single digits.

The plan also changes the name of the Braille School and the statewide system to Iowa Educational Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

The changes take into account what is best for students, several regents said.