Published by the
IOWA COUNCIL OF THE UNITED BLIND
An American Council of the Blind Affiliate
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com › Pages › Businesses › nonprofit organization
Carrie Chapman, President
200 Parkview Dr.
Waukee, IA 50263
Don Wirth, Co-Editor
921 9th St., #208
Ames, IA 50010
Sandy Tigges, Co-Editor
2904 34th St.
Des Moines, IA 50310
Table of Contents
President’s Message 3
Accessible Absentee Voting Update 4
Ankeny Student Receives 2020 Marie Hoenig Memorial Perkins Brailler Award 5
Shopping to Benefit ICUB 7
The Peter Principle in Action? 8
COVID Vaccine Websites Violate Disability Laws, Create Inequity for the Blind 10
What’s New at the Iowa Department for the Blind? 17
Donating Your Vehicle to Benefit ICUB 21
Those We Have Lost 21
News You Can Use 23
Across Iowa At-Large Chapter Report 25
Des Moines Chapter Report 26
Selecting ICUB as a Beneficiary 27
Calendar of Events 28
ICUB Board Members 34
Dear Members and Friends,
The last few months have been busy. We have been working very hard on our new website. It is really coming together nicely. It should be completed soon, and I am looking forward to sharing it with you. I think this will be a great place to find resources, upcoming events, check out the latest in our new blog, and learn about ICUB.
In January, we updated our existing database. Our previous database was outdated and needed to be moved to a different platform. Thank you to Nate Collins for updating the database and to Carol Flickinger and Elizabeth Soenen for making phone calls to update contact information. A big thank you as well to Jo Ann Slayton for keeping our database up to date for so many years.
In February I spoke to new staff at the Iowa Department for the Blind and to the Linn County Support Group. I was also invited to participate in “ACB In Action, Your Night to Shine!” This was an opportunity for affiliates of ACB to share something new or different they have been doing since COVID. It was a lot of fun and a great way to share ideas.
I have asked the Director of the Iowa Department for the Blind, Emily Wharton, to submit articles on a regular basis to our Bulletin. Beginning with this issue, Director Wharton will be giving us the latest happenings at the Department.
The dates for our 2021 Iowa Council of the United Blind Conference and Convention have been changed. The new dates are August 20th through August 22nd. As I have mentioned previously, this year’s Convention will be held virtually. We have already received some sponsorship support. I especially want to thank Democracy Live for its generous donation of $500.00 for our Convention. Watch for more information in the coming months.
Stay safe and we hope to see everyone soon!
Carrie Chapman, President
Accessible Absentee Voting Update
Voting issues have and continue to be highly controversial this legislative session. As we’ve just seen, the omnibus elections bill signed into law by Governor Reynolds has already been challenged in court. The decision by ICUB to not attempt to add absentee ballot marking provisions to that bill is proving to be a wise one.
Now is the time for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to hear from us that there is a true need for simple and effective ballot marking technology for Iowans with disabilities. Contact your State Representative and Senator and tell them the following:
• Iowans who have vision loss or another disability are currently not able to cast an absentee vote privately and independently.
• A small change in current law will allow for the use of assistive technology by disabled Iowans to cast absentee votes privately and independently.
• Helping Iowans with disabilities to cast absentee votes is not a partisan issue, but a simple issue of fairness.
• Please support legislation requiring the Secretary of State to implement an absentee ballot marking program.
• Please feel free to contact ICUB if you have any questions.
To get a list of State Senators and their email addresses, go to https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/senate . To get a list of State Representatives and their email addresses, go to https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/house .
Ankeny Student Receives 2020 Marie Hoenig Memorial Perkins Brailler Award
On February 1, ICUB President Carrie Chapman, Treasurer Jeana Mowery, and members Rose Stratton and Jo Slayton joined me over Zoom to present the 2020 Marie Hoenig Memorial Perkins Brailler Award to Jordyn Robbins, a third grader from Ankeny. Jordyn was joined by her parents, siblings, nominating teacher Shelley Smith, and teacher associate Kim Ling.
I knew we were going to have fun as soon as I signed on! Everyone else had already joined in, and laughter was everywhere. I introduced myself to Jordyn and asked, “Are you eight now?” Without missing a beat, she said, “Eight and a half!”
Although the Brailler had arrived at the Robbins’ household two weeks earlier, the family decided to wait until the award ceremony to open the box. That gave us the chance to experience Jordyn’s excitement as she first found the Braille eraser and then pulled the Brailler from the box. As she prepared to test it out, she proudly said, “I have my OWN Brailler!”
In presenting the award, I was proud to celebrate some of Jordyn’s accomplishments with the group. As a second grader, she developed and carried out a school-wide blindness awareness campaign. That same year, she mentored a visually impaired student new to her school. Brailler in hand, she plans to start teaching her siblings to read and write Braille. She impressed all of us as a young leader who sooner rather than later could have an impact as an ICUB and ACB member!
For the benefit of our newer members and readers, here is a little background on the Brailler award. My sisters (Joyce and Jan) and I established the award in 1998 following our mother Marie’s passing to recognize her commitment to Braille literacy. We chose the Perkins Brailler as an award because Mom decided at the end of my fourth grade year that I should have a Brailler of my own and purchased one from Perkins. Our family established a partnership with ICUB to administer the award in the early 2000’s and formed the Brailler Award Selection Committee. With one exception, we have awarded at least one Brailler every year.
Until last year, I managed all of the Award’s logistics and finances. In early 2020, President Chapman and Treasurer Mowery contacted me to explain ICUB’s desire to play a more active role in Award administration and fund distribution. I’m very pleased to say that we worked through the details to make that happen! I would like to give a special “shout out” to Jeana for her patience in working through the minutiae. My sisters and I feel confident that the Brailler award is in extremely capable hands, and I’m personally grateful to be a part of it!
If you would like to learn more about the Award or to join the Selection Committee, please contact President Chapman or get in touch with me directly at 563-349-3922 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shopping to Benefit ICUB
Are you an online shopper? You can help ICUB secure some additional funds when you shop at smile.amazon.com .
There, enter your email address and password. You will be prompted to shop for the charity Amazon is promoting that day or to select your own. In the dialog box for selecting your own, type our name, Iowa Council of the United Blind. We will then be the charity of choice each time you shop at https://www.amazon.com . ICUB will get 0.5% of the value of eligible purchases. As of March 2021, ICUB has received $312.46 through this program.
You can also now support ICUB using the Amazon shopping app on your mobile phone. Download or update the app and then open it. Go to “Settings” in the main menu. Tap on “AmazonSmile” and follow the on-screen instructions to turn on AmazonSmile. You can also find the instructions by going to: https://www.amazon.com/b?ie=UTF8&node=15576745011
The Peter Principle in Action?
A few issues back, I asked if we are practicing Parkinson’s Law during this time of less freedom of interaction by taking more time doing ordinary activities because we had more time to do them in. At that time, I suggested we may visit some other principles of life in organizations. Today let’s talk about the Peter Principle, which was developed by Lawrence Peter in his 1969 book of the same name (BARD #25213).
The premise is that a member of an organization is so good at their job that they are promoted. This process goes on until the employee is promoted to a job that they are not as competent at. There they sit, not feeling as productive or enjoying the new job as much as they had when they worked at a lower level. Also, the organization suffers because it does not receive as much benefit from the employee’s work as it had.
At this point, you may well ask, “What’s that got to do with ICUB?” Well, read on and I will tell you. In all books about organizational theories, the author provides anecdotes to illustrate their theory in action. I will do the same here.
In advocacy organizations such as ICUB, there are many opportunities to offer your services. A blind guy joins ICUB. He speaks up at meetings. The President hears him and thinks, “Ah, a smart guy. We have an opening for the editor of our newsletter. I’ll ask him to do the job.”
The blind guy says, “OK, as long as I get some help.” So, the president enlists a second member as co-editor who is really very good at organizing and making things run on time--not to mention at writing, too.
As two co-editors now, they get along well and produce many good newsletters together. Unfortunately, the co-editor decides the time has come to move on to other challenges. The president has to find a new co-editor. A superb replacement is found within the membership who is great at editing, writing, and organizing. The newsletters continue to be very well done.
So, you ask, “How does the Peter Principle apply to this scenario?” Well, what did you see the first blind guy doing in all of this? In both cases, the co-editors were the primary impetus for getting out very fine newsletters. The first blind guy was able to provide a little nudging here and there but did little or no work. He also got recognition as co-editor. Perhaps he might have served best by staying in his original role of newsletter reader. However, he did perform one important function: he was there providing some support regardless of how competent he was. So, here comes the punch line as to how and why the Peter Principle is important to ICUB.
ICUB offers many opportunities for our members to participate in promoting our organization and to help blind folks live more fulfilling lives. You should consider how you can offer your services. Work at that effort. Then continue until you reach beyond the pinnacle of your competency and it isn’t fun anymore. Then step back. Identify what was fun and pitch in again where you are competent and like what you are doing. ICUB and the blind community will applaud you and be glad for your efforts.
COVID Vaccine Websites Violate Disability Laws,
Create Inequity for the Blind
By Lauren Weber and Hannah Recht
(Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Kaiser Health News, February 25, 2021.)
Many COVID vaccination registration and information websites at the Federal, State and local levels violate disability rights laws, hindering the ability of blind people to sign up for a potentially lifesaving vaccine, a KHN, [Kaiser Health News], investigation has found.
Across the country, people who use special software to make the web accessible have been unable to sign up for the vaccines or obtain vital information about COVID-19 because many government websites lack required accessibility features. At least 7.6 million people in the U.S. over age 16 have a visual disability.
WebAIM, [Web Accessibility in Mind], a nonprofit web accessibility organization, checked COVID vaccine websites gathered by KHN from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. On Jan. 27, 2021, it found accessibility issues on nearly all of 94 webpages, which included general vaccine information, lists of vaccine providers and registration forms.
In at least seven states, blind residents said they were unable to register for the vaccine through their state or local governments without help. Phone alternatives, when available, have been beset with their own issues, such as long hold times and not being available at all hours like websites.
Even the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vaccine Administration Management System, (VAMS), which a small number of states and counties opted to use after its rocky rollout, has been inaccessible for blind users.
Those problems violate the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which established the right to communications in an accessible format, multiple legal experts and disability advocates said. The Federal Americans with Disabilities Act, a civil rights law that prohibits governments and private businesses from discriminating based on disability, further enshrined this protection in 1990.
Doris Ray, 72, who is blind and has a significant hearing impairment, ran into such issues when she tried to sign up for a vaccine last month with the CDC’s system, used by Arlington County in Virginia. As the outreach director for the Independence Center of Northern Virginia, an advocacy center run by and for people with disabilities, she had qualified for the vaccine because of her in-person work with clients.
When she used screen-reading technology, which reads a website’s text aloud, the drop-down field to identify her county did not work. She was unable to register for over two weeks until a colleague helped her.
“This is outrageous in the time of a public health emergency, that blind people aren’t able to access something to get vaccinated,” Ray said.
Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, wrote to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department in early December, laying out his concerns on vaccine accessibility.
“A national emergency does not exempt federal, state, and local governments from providing equal access,” he wrote.
Dr. Robert Redfield, who was then leading the CDC, responded that the interim vaccine playbook for health departments included a reminder of the legal requirements for accessible information.
CDC spokesperson Jasmine Reed said in an email that VAMS is compliant with federal accessibility laws and that the agency requires testing of its services.
But more than two months into a national vaccine campaign, those on the ground report problems at all levels.
Some local officials who use VAMS are aware of the ongoing problems and blame the federal government. Arlington Assistant County Manager Bryna Helfer said that because VAMS is run by the federal government the county cannot access the internal workings to troubleshoot the system for blind residents.
Connecticut Department of Public Health spokesperson Maura Fitzgerald said the state was aware of “many accessibility issues” with VAMS. She said it had staffed up its call center to handle the problems and was working with the federal government “to improve VAMS and enable the functionality that was promised.”
Deanna O’Brien, president of the National Federation of the Blind of New Hampshire, said she had heard from blind people unable to use the system. New Hampshire’s health department did not answer KHN questions about the problems.
Blind people are particularly vulnerable to contracting the COVID virus because they often cannot physically distance themselves from others.
“When I go to the grocery store, I do not have the option of walking around and not being near a person,” said Albert Elia, a blind attorney who works with the San Francisco-based TRE Legal Practice on accessibility cases. “I need a person at the store to assist me in shopping.”
There is no standardized way to register for a COVID vaccine nationwide — or fix the online accessibility problems. Some states use VAMS; some states have centralized online vaccination registration sites; others have a mix of state-run and locally run websites, or leave it all to local health departments or hospitals. Ultimately, state and local governments are responsible for making their vaccination systems accessible, whether they use the VAMS system or not.
“Once those portals open, it’s a race to see who can click the fastest,” Riccobono said. “We don’t have time to do things like file a lawsuit, because, at the end of the day, we need to fix it today.”
Common programming failures that make sites hard to use for the visually impaired included text without enough contrast to distinguish words from the page’s background and images without alternative text explaining what they showed, the WebAIM survey showed. Even worse, portions of the forms on 19 states’ pages were built so that screen readers couldn’t decipher what information a user should enter on search bars or vaccine registration forms.
The new vaccine pages had more errors than states’ main coronavirus pages but slightly fewer than state government websites in general, said WebAIM Associate Director Jared Smith.
In Alameda County, California, when Bryan Bashin, 65, who is blind and CEO of the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco, tried to sign up on Feb. 9 for his vaccine appointment, he encountered multiple hurdles. The appointments slipped away. That night he received an email from the city of Berkeley offering vaccinations. But after two hours struggling with its inaccessible website, all the slots were again taken, he said in an email. He was only able to get an appointment after his sighted sister signed him up and has since received his first shot.
“It’s an awful bit of discrimination, one as stinging as anything I’ve experienced,” Bashin said.
Susan Jones, a blind 69-year-old in Indianapolis, had to rely on the Aira app, which allows a sighted person to operate her computer remotely, when she tried to register for her vaccine appointment.
“I resent that the assumption is that a sighted fairy godmother ought to be there at all times,” said Sheela Gunn-Cushman, a 49-year-old also in Alameda County, who also had to rely on Aira to complete preregistration for a vaccine.
Emily Creasy, 23, a visually impaired woman in Polk County, Oregon, said she tried unsuccessfully for a month to make the scheduling apparatus work with her screen reader. She finally received her first shot after her mother and roommate helped her.
Even Sachin Dev Pavithran, 43, who is blind and executive director of the U.S. Access Board, an independent agency of the federal government that works to increase accessibility, said he struggled to access vaccine registration information in Logan, Utah.
The Indiana Health Department, Public Health Division of Berkeley and Oregon’s Polk County Public Health did not respond to requests for comment. Utah’s Bear River Health Department did not answer questions on the issue.
After Alameda County received complaints from users that its site was not compatible with screen readers, officials decided to move away from its preregistration technology, Health Department spokesperson Neetu Balram said in mid-February. The county has since switched to a new form.
If vaccine accessibility issues are not fixed across the country, though, lawsuits could come next, Elia said. Members of the blind community recently won landmark lawsuits against Domino’s Pizza and the Winn-Dixie grocery chain after being unable to order online. And, Elia said, “this is not ordering a pizza — this is being able to get a potentially lifesaving vaccine.”
What’s New at the Iowa Department for the Blind?
I am happy for the opportunity to share what’s happening at the IDB with ICUB members. We were extremely grateful that Governor Reynolds included our full appropriation request in her budget. The Governor has been a great supporter of IDB and has shown a real concern for blind Iowans every time we have met. We are very lucky to have a Governor who shares our commitment to empowering blind Iowans and ensuring that blind Iowans can participate in all aspects of community life. On February 16th, we presented to the House Education Appropriation Subcommittee regarding our appropriation request. This presentation and our request appeared to be well received. If folks are interested in sharing their support for IDB with their State Representatives or Senators, you can find more information regarding our request and how you can go about this at: https://blind.iowa.gov/ask22 .
It's been an extraordinary year, full of previously unimaginable challenges. I could not be prouder of the ways that our IDB family stepped up and took on those challenges. In some ways, we were able to make some really delicious lemonade from the lemons the pandemic handed us. A number of these were in our library services. I told the appropriation subcommittee that we have the best library for the blind in the country, and I'm willing to arm wrestle anyone who says otherwise. I would encourage you to subscribe to our library blog to get updates emailed to you, or if you do not receive audio cartridges, subscribe to the Library news podcast. The library blog can be found at: https://iowalibrary.blog . Here are some 2020 statistics that really highlight our library's impact:
Registered Patrons: 5,728
BARD Users: 562
Patron Phone Calls Answered: 10,330
Program Attendance (In Library and Outreach): 1,448
Books Produced for Collection (Audio and Braille): 557 Instructional Materials Center AEM Projects Produced: 2,150
2 Blogs (Library and IMC): 3,378 visitors and 14,996 views
3 Podcasts (Library News, Library Chat and Braille Bits): 33
Volunteer Hours: 4,930
Staff Members: 14
In January, Center students moved into apartments. These two-bedroom apartments are located near Principal Park, are on bus lines, and within walking distance of IDB. On the first day after move-in, I was delighted to hear that three students were one minute late for announcements. While I don't usually endorse being late, I was very excited that they had decided to take a detour to Hy-Vee to get coffee. This is the kind of real-life opportunity having apartments will promote. Because I had asked students to return virtually on January 4 and not resume in-person training until after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, our tours were limited, and our student numbers are low. We should have numbers rising steadily through the spring as more people feel comfortable beginning or resuming center training. We currently have four scheduled start dates for March and April.
During business class on January 13th, Center Director Al Bickell, Commissioner Sandi Ryan, and I talked with students and staff to get ideas for a possible name change for the center. We all call it the center or some folks who have been around longer call it the "OC." But, when I'm writing up a flyer or presentation, the Adult Orientation & Adjustment Center doesn't give potential students, families, educators, or legislators much of an idea about what the center does or why it is so vital. I discussed this with the ICUB and NFBI presidents at our monthly call, and I brought the discussion to the Director's Forum in January and February. Some of the keywords that people liked included: blindness, individualized, discovery, independence, learning, training, and comprehensive. We will hold an evening brainstorming session by Zoom on Wednesday, March 24, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. If you are unable to attend this listening session or Director’s Forum, please send any ideas or thoughts you have to email@example.com .
A few weeks ago, Mr. James Omvig sent a letter to our Commission Board, current and former consumer group leaders, and myself asking that the IDB building be named in tribute to Kenneth Jernigan. In order to explore this request in a way that gains the greatest amount of public input and uses the least possible amount of IDB staff time, I proposed the formation of a task force to the Commission Board at their March 9th meeting, and it was approved. This task force will gather public input, propose a name to the Commission Board, complete the needed paperwork, and raise funds for signs or plaques. The purpose document can be found at: https://blind.iowa.gov/sites/default/files/08%20Building%20Naming%20Task%20Force.docx .
We anticipate more VR field training clients and IL clients to want to work with teachers in the spring and summer. We are continuing to require masks and using other precautions in all our services for the comfort and safety of all. We will be excited to have our VR Self Week students come to Des Moines for a week of intensive training in early March. We are planning another SELF Week for May and IL Integration for late June. We will be re-building the ramp on the north side of the building in July. There will be more information on alternative entrances as we come closer to the construction time.
There is so much more going on at IDB than I can share here. I am strongly committed to being as transparent as I can with staff, clients, and everyone who is impacted by our agency. If you aren't subscribing to our email announcement or newsletter lists and would like to be, visit our website at: https://blind.iowa.gov and select the sign-up link at the top of the page, which will take you to a form where you can sign up for any of our general announcements, board meeting announcements, job openings, volunteer newsletter, and more. Another good way to get more information is to attend our Director's Forum Zoom calls, which are held from 12:00-1:00 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month. In this call, I share what is happening and learn about people’s interests and concerns through their questions. If you can’t attend the Forum, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my Executive Assistant, Janice Eggers, at (515) 380-1944 to set up an appointment or to relay your information. To receive Zoom meeting connection information, please email Janice.Eggers@blind.state.ia.us or call 515-380–1944.
Donating Your Vehicle to Benefit ICUB
Do you need to dispose of a used vehicle? ICUB's Used Vehicle Donation Program offers a perfect solution. Your vehicle will be picked up from your home and sold at auction. A portion of the proceeds go directly to ICUB. You can claim a tax deduction equal to the dollar value of the vehicle. Call 800-899-4925 for more information.
Those We Have Lost
Editor’s Note: Since our last issue, we have lost three former IDB staff and one long-time member of ICUB. Debra “Deb” K. Peek was a secretary for the agency for many years, and Margaret “Marge” DeRuyscher retired as a vocational rehabilitation counselor. Although Alan Keith Ackley had retired as an accountant, he was better known in the blind community for repairing Perkins Braillers. Ruby Butler, longtime member of ICUB and wife of Neil Butler, passed away December 26. Neil was the first BEP cafeteria operator in Iowa and served in various positions within the organized blind movement in Iowa, including as ICUB’s Treasurer for many years. Ruby and Neil were a team.
After retirement, Ruby worked as a volunteer in Field Operations at the Department for several years. Her family shared the following remembrances of her:
Ruby particularly enjoyed watching her grandchildren perform on the stage, court, or field. She made the drive to Waverly and Decorah many times to see the grandchildren perform. She was able to watch many music concerts and plays over the years, which gave her much enjoyment and some very controlled bragging to friends. When Josh and Jenny attended Drake, she was quietly ecstatic for the opportunity to see and watch them again. But, she still managed to drive to Waverly and then up to Decorah with family to watch Jon perform.
She and Neil attended Mike’s college football games far and near. They only missed one in 4 years. Not bad considering the distance she drove to attend.
After Neil died she met many friends in her condo building that proved to be very close friends. With some of them there was the daily ritual of mall walking and coffee up until the last very few years.
Throughout the years she kept close contact with friends she and Neil met at the Commission for the Blind. It seemed like they had made many little outings together. Her driving skills were well appreciated. And for many years she did volunteer work at the Commission for the Blind.
News You Can Use
Norma A. Boge
Looking for an organization that focuses on the needs and interests of persons with low vision? Low vision is defined as having a visual acuity of 20/70 to 20/200. Becky Dunkerson and Robert Spangler are leading efforts to form the Midwest Council of Citizens with Low Vision (MCCLV), as a regional chapter of Citizens with Low Vision International (CCLVI). For more information, contact Becky or Robert at email@example.com .
The Internal Revenue Service's Alternative Media Center (AMC) provides services to assist visually impaired taxpayers. The website includes links to accessible forms and publications and instructions on how to obtain accessible copies of notices or letters. If you need assistance with a print notice or letter or need other information about the AMC, please call 800-829-1040 or visit https://tinyurl.com/7ssvyznk .
Living through a pandemic with blindness or low vision comes with unique challenges, including a lack of meaningful access to materials. The CDC Foundation, in partnership with Georgia Tech’s Center for Inclusive Design & Innovation (CIDI), aims to help alleviate as many barriers as possible through the distribution of accessible emergency safety information. You can order embossed Braille emergency response information and guidance at no charge directly from the COVID-19 website, https://cidi.gatech.edu/covid/braille . The website also has accessible documents in Word and PDF formats.
Kelly Services in Dubuque is recruiting for the position of Assistive Technology Specialist. For more information on this work-from-home opportunity, visit https://tinyurl.com/hw5x3ems .
Although we may be physically distancing, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is open virtually for exploration and conversation! Through Zoom, visitors who are blind or have low vision are invited for virtual verbal description tours of the Intrepid Museum’s historic spaces, collections, and exhibitions. Accessible by web link and by call-in phone number, these programs take place quarterly and are free with advance registration. The first program of 2021, “Concord, Flying with Style,” will be available on March 16 and 18. To register, go to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Across Iowa At-Large Chapter Report
The ICUB Across-Iowa Chapter is proud to announce that we donated $150 to the Friends of the Library group. We have lots of exciting topics coming and hope you will join us. If you want to laugh a lot, learn a lot, and listen to our President get the agenda out of order, then we invite you to our group. Please join our lively calls the first Thursday of each month from 7:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. by calling 605.472.5428, access code 837272#. This year’s m