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Spring 2010 Bulletin



Published by


Web Site:

Affiliate of the American Council of the Blind

Robert Spangler, President

1505 W. 4th St.

Vinton, IA 52349

(319) 472-4843


Mike Hoenig, Editor

3119 Spring St.

Davenport, IA 52807



Jo Ann Slayton, Secretary

4013 30th St.

Des Moines, IA 50310

(515) 279-4284 – home

(515) 710-7875 – cell


Ruth E. Hamdorf, Treasurer

439 Lindale Drive, #218

Marion, IA 52302

(319) 373-8608 – Home

E- Mail:


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

ICUB 2010 Convention in Retrospect

Resolutions Passed at the 2010 ICUB State Convention

Iowa Braille School Marched Its Way into History Books

Is Our Education Important?

Strong Selected for International Arts Fest

Digital Talking Books – Year One

Braille Challenge Update

In Memoriam

Margaret Meyer

Kathleen "Kay" Valen

Chapter Reports

Des Moines Update

Cedar Rapids Update

How Do You Spell It?

Recipe Corner

Editor's Line

By Mike Hoenig

Another convention is in the books! A big thank-you to the convention planning and arrangements committees for all the up-front and behind-the-scenes work. Each task, whether signing the contract with the hotel or providing transportation across town to pick up a last-minute item, is essential to a smooth, successful convention. A special thank-you to Donna Seliger for her convention summary which serves as this issue's lead article. Donna, you did a terrific job of summing it all up while saving the Bulletin editor a lot of time!

At our business meeting on Sunday morning, conventioneers offered two suggestions for the Bulletin which I am happy to implement. "How Do You Spell It" will give the correct spelling of words, names or phrases which we may frequently hear but not have occasion to read. "Recipe Corner" is self-explanatory. I welcome and encourage your submissions for both columns. If "Recipe Corner" generates sufficient interest, we'll add a "Recipe Review" section in which you can tell the readership what you thought about a recipe you tried.

Thanks to those of you who submitted your chapter reports. I implore those of you who did not to set aside some time each quarter to write an update on your activities. It doesn't have to be long, and if you'd prefer to do it by phone as Elsie Monthei did this time, that's great! I recently subscribed to the "Missouri Chronicle," quarterly publication of the Missouri Council of the Blind (MCB). It’s through those chapter reports that I really learn what makes MCB tick!

I'm anxiously awaiting the ACB convention in Phoenix to be held July 11-17. I'll be going out early in order to realize my dream of visiting the Grand Canyon. Tell you all about it in the next issue.


By Donna Seliger

The lobby of the Holiday Inn and Suites in Des Moines was a busy place on Friday, April 30. As members checked in at the front desk, they chatted with old friends and met new ones.

Down the hall ICUB’s treasurer, Ruth Hamdorf was handing out agendas, meal tickets and information. Ruth was assisted by a number of people throughout the convention with registration.

The convention got off to a fun start with Mike Hoenig throwing out trivia questions to two teams. Everyone had a great time again this year.

The first meeting of the 23rd annual convention began at 8:00pm with Robert Spangler, President, presiding. A five-member nominating committee was chosen with Donna Seliger as Chair. President Spangler appointed a three-member Audit Committee and our special guest, Mitch Pomerantz, President of the American Council of the Blind, gave a national update. Pomerantz began by explaining that thanks to the hard work of many advocates and ACB's attorneys, the Social Security Administration must now provide statements and other pertinent information in accessible formats to beneficiaries. As one might expect in this digital era, access to communication (websites, audio book readers, and on-screen menus) is demanding a great deal of attention. ACB continues to work with other advocacy groups, including NFB, to reach a solution to the pedestrian safety issues surrounding "quiet cars."

Of course, Hospitality followed with lots of conversation and singing accompanied by Frank Strong on the guitar. Several members donated a variety of delicious snacks.

On Saturday we began by listening to a panel of Karin Ford, a Disability Consultant from the Department of Public Health, Robert Spangler, Emergency Manager in Benton County and Shirley Wiggins, a 2008 Cedar Rapids Flood Victim. Following the presentations, many questions were asked of the panelists. For many of us, Shirley’s re-play of her experience was overwhelming.

As this is the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Mitch Pomerantz was asked to speak on the subject. Mitch is now retired from a 34-year job as ADA Consultant with the City of Los Angeles. He gave an overview of the history of the ADA, explaining how it has impacted blind and visually impaired people and improvements which could be made.

Senator Harkin (D) sent a personal video in lieu of a spokesperson from his office.

The morning rounded out with the annual report from the Iowa Department for the Blind's Independent Living Program's Becky Criswell. She replayed some stories about clients she had encountered and helped to keep their independence. Becky has been a welcome guest on our agenda for the past several years.

The annual luncheon was especially enjoyable this year. Mary Swander, Iowa’s Poet Laureate, read from one of her works and enlightened the audience with short tales about her class and how they became involved in making art accessible. The Marie Hoenig Memorial Award was presented to Kadyn Haggard, a second grader from Humboldt who was delightful and excited about having his own Perkins Brailler.

After lunch everyone gathered for the annual elections. This year all officers and four Director Positions were up for election as well as one Director Position to fill a one-year term. Those elected were: President, Robert Spangler; First Vice President, Creig Slayton; Second Vice President, Mike Hoenig; Secretary, Jo Ann Slayton and Treasurer, Ruth Hamdorf. The four Directors elected were: Joyce Davis, Stephanie Hunolt, Dove Tanner and Shirley Wiggins. All of the above positions will expire in 2012. Since Dove Tanner replaced Ruth Hamdorf when she became Treasurer, a one-year position was open. Frank Strong was elected to fill that position.

The next presenter, Mike Hicklin, Iowa Department for the Blind Building Manager, chronicled the history of the building that sits at the corner of Fourth Street and Watson Powell (formerly Keo). It has undergone a number of renovations through the years including the restoration of the Rec Room so now it looks much as it did in the early years.

ICUB welcomed 13-year-old Tyler Juranek who was a delight to all of us. He talked enthusiastically about his computer skills and his interest in ACB Radio. By the end of his presentation, during which he demonstrated a variety of technology and computer applications, most of us felt like dinosaurs!

We heard from Louise Duvall, President of the Friends of the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. She reported the Friends group received donations and the proceeds from the annual garage sale to donate a check to the Library for $10,000. Membership in Friends has exceeded 100. The funds will help with the children’s Summer Reading Club, production of sacred texts, and other projects the Library has planned.

Superintendent Patrick Clancy from the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School answered questions and addressed concerns ICUB members had pertaining to the possible closing of the school. He noted that the 2010 Iowa Legislature asked the Board of Regents to convene a study committee which is charged with making recommendations to the Legislative Council by August 31, 2010, regarding the future of residential services in Iowa. Committee membership is comprised of the presidents of ICUB and NFBI, parents of children with visual impairments, and representatives of a variety of state-level organizations such as the Iowa Department of Education and the Iowa Department of Human Services. Meeting agendas and minutes are available on the Iowa Board of Regents website.

The final presenter, Karen Keninger, Director of the Iowa Department for the Blind, made a few remarks and then asked each Department Supervisor to report on his/her area. Director Keninger explained that so far, the Department has not had to cut positions and went on to say that this may not be the case next year. She noted the many celebrations planned throughout the year to recognize anniversaries of the library and Independent Living program. In offering the library update, Beth Hirst recognized our own Rose Stratton for receiving the Florence Grannis Award for her volunteer work as a proofreader.

This year’s banquet was well attended by members, friends and families. Arlo Monthei emceed with a variety of humor. We were honored to have the President of the American Council of the Blind with us. He covered several topics of interest during his time at the microphone and echoed Tyler Juranek's message about the importance of advocacy.

Each year one of our members is honored with the Linda Dietrich Volunteer Award. This year I, Donna Seliger, was shocked and surprised to receive this coveted award.

On Sunday morning, Shirley Wiggins officiated over the non-denominational memorial service.

The ICUB business meeting was held with reports from the Secretary, Jo Ann Slayton, who read all of last year’s minutes; Ruth Hamdorf, Treasurer, who reported on ICUB’s assets and Bulletin Editor Mike Hoenig, who thanked everyone who wrote articles and those responsible for copying and sending out cassette tapes and large print versions of each issue.

Creig Slayton, Resolutions Chair, read three resolutions which were approved by the assembly. Mike Hoenig read a fourth on the subject of IBSSS which was also approved. Resolutions are reprinted at the end of this article.

Each chapter was given the opportunity to report on its activities and upcoming events.

Robert Spangler, president of the IBSSS Alumni Association invited all to attend the reunion to be held June 10-13, 2010 at the school. Conventioneers held a lengthy discussion of the need to grow ICUB's membership. President Spangler appointed Shirley Wiggins to chair a membership committee.

Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Dubuque and Fort Dodge chapters each donated $25 for the final door prize. This year it was won by Dove Tanner of Cedar Rapids. Congratulations Dove.

Keep checking the Bulletin for updates on the 2011 ICUB Convention.



SUBJECT: Audio Information Services.

WHEREAS, The Iowa Council of the United Blind recognizes the need for audio information services to assist blind persons with current topical information; and

WHEREAS, The Commission for the Blind has long recognized two audio information services serving distinct separate populations of blind Iowans through monetary and staff support; and

WHEREAS, The Iowa Radio Reading Information Service for the Blind and Print Handicapped (IRIS), principally serving older and technologically-challenged blind persons with recorded newspapers and periodicals over a radio signal provided by Iowa Public Radio and other private radio stations; and

WHEREAS, Newsline is the other service providing newspapers and periodicals over the telephone using synthesized speech with interactive control by the listener; and

WHEREAS, The Iowa Council of the United Blind recognizes the need for both of these services in order to serve all blind Iowans equally;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by The Iowa Council of the United Blind in convention assembled in Des Moines this second day of May 2010, that this organization calls on the three-member Commission for the Blind to affirm through policy that these two audio information services serve separate, but equally important segments of the Iowa population; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the three-member Commission for the Blind require through policy that both of these important services be treated equally when developing funding and other staff support; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that when dealing with the Iowa Legislature Commission staff be instructed to clearly inform legislators regarding these policies; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the President and Board of Directors of this organization be directed to disseminate this resolution where appropriate.


SUBJECT: Accessible Mass Transit

WHEREAS, it has long been recognized that blind individuals have an ongoing need for mass transportation of all kinds; and

WHEREAS, it has come to this organization’s attention that it has become increasingly more difficult for persons who do not drive to access both buses and trains for travel between cities because of the location and business hours of depots and stations, for example, it has become fashionable to locate bus depots adjacent to interstate highways or when they are in the central city, restricting their operational hours to 12 or less, making it difficult for non-drivers to effectively use these modes of transportation; and

WHEREAS, train stations exhibit some of the same problems as they are few and far between and can be located in small communities without other transportation;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by The Iowa Council of the United Blind in convention assembled in the city of Des Moines this second day of May 2010, that this organization calls upon transportation carriers and governmental bodies to seriously consider where depots and stations are located;, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that when these facilities are located in remote areas, alternative arrangements are developed to assist non-driving patrons; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the President and Board of Directors of this organization be instructed to actively pursue the purposes of this resolution.


SUBJECT: Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School

WHEREAS, The Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School (hereinafter referred to as IBSSS) has educated blind children through its residential programming established in 1852 and housed in Vinton since 1862, once enjoying a reputation of being one of the top-rated schools in the country; and

WHEREAS, The number of students in residence at the school has dwindled from a peak of over 200 to nine, with a further reduction anticipated during the 2010-11 school year; and

WHEREAS, Students educated in public schools continually report feeling isolated from their peers without sufficient opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities; and

WHEREAS, Time constraints placed upon itinerant Teachers of the Visually Impaired make it impossible for mainstreamed students to receive adequate expanded core curriculum instruction, thereby leaving students with independent living and social skills deficits; and

WHEREAS, Federal law requires that all states offer a continuum of educational placements, including residential placement, to blind and visually impaired children; and

WHEREAS, a number of states, including Ohio, Washington, Alabama, Arkansas and Massachusetts operate residential schools which consistently demonstrate high student achievement levels; and

WHEREAS, Short-term placements at IBSSS have proven highly successful for many mainstreamed blind children in Iowa; and

Whereas, Iowa Administrative Code Section 270.10 stipulates that IBSSS shall be closed no sooner than two years following a thorough legislative study; and

WHEREAS, the 2010 Iowa General Assembly has asked the Iowa Board of Regents to appoint a committee to study the future of IBSSS and issue recommendations to the Legislative Council by August 31, 2010; and

WHEREAS, IBSSS superintendent Patrick Clancy has informed parents of current IBSSS students not to anticipate availability of a residential program in Vinton for the 2011-12 school year; and

WHEREAS, Elimination of the residential program in 2011 violates Iowa Administrative Code Section 270.10; and

WHEREAS, Significant human and capital resources critical to the education of blind and visually impaired children remain in Vinton;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE IOWA COUNCIL of the UNITED BLIND in convention assembled in Des Moines this second day of May 2010, that this organization direct its representative serving on the Legislative Study Committee to strongly oppose the elimination of residential programming in Iowa; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that ICUB's committee representative be directed to demand that Iowa comply with Federal statutes requiring a continuum of educational options, including a residential option; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly advocate the position that a final recommendation be deferred to the full legislature, rather than the Legislative Council; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the ICUB Committee representative support this organization's position that a residential component be retained at the present IBSSS campus in Vinton; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization send a letter articulating these positions to Regents President David Miles, Department of Education Interim Director Kevin Fangman, Governor Chet Culver, Senate President Jack Kibbie, and House Speaker Pat Murphy.


SUBJECT: Thank You

WHEREAS, The Iowa Council of the United Blind has just held its 23rd annual convention at the Merle Hay Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites; and

WHEREAS, the accommodations have been most adequate and the staff gracious and helpful; and

WHEREAS, the staff of the Merle Hay Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites has contributed to the overall success of the 2010 convention;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Iowa Council of the United Blind in convention assembled in the city of Des Moines this second day of May 2010, that the President be instructed to convey the thanks and appreciation of all convention attendees to the staff and management of the Merle Hay Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites.


(Reprinted from the Cedar Valley Daily Times, April 9, 2010.)

This photo reprinted from the Cedar Valley Daily Times, April 7, 1967, shows members of the Iowa Braille School marching band marching down the main sidewalk on the school’s campus. At its peak the band had 35 members. With the help of the local Lions Club, the band attended national Lions Club activities three times.

VINTON— “Marching into History” was an article which appeared in the January 2010 ‘Lion’, the international magazine of the Lions’ Clubs. The title, “Marching into History”, refers to the appearance of the marching band from the Ohio State School for the Blind during the Rose Bowl Parade in January this year. “Why did the word ‘first’ cause a ripple of protest from some Iowans when indeed the Ohio band was ‘first’ in the lineup of marching bands in the famous Rose Bowl Parade,” Rose Mary Miner, asked. “That’s modern history.” Miner, a teacher at the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in Vinton from 1966 to 1999, shared that the Iowa school was marching long before the Ohio musicians took to the streets in Pasadena. “Under the direction of John Best, Iowa Braille had the first marching band of all blind musicians.

The 35-member band marched in closed rank with partially sighted students flanking the outside of each row,” Miner stated. This Iowa band made its first appearance in Chicago at the Lions International Convention in July 1958. In the spring of the next year the band marched again. That time it was at the Lions International Convention in New York City. The Vinton Lions’ Club provided new uniforms for the New York trip and the Iowa students proudly strutted to “76 Trombones,” as a tribute to Meredith Willson, Iowa’s own composer. “In 1961 John Best passed the baton to his understudy and capable student teacher, James Grupp, who carried on the tradition of the now famous marching band as well as the symphonic band which toured the state of Iowa,” Miner said.

The school’s archives state that in October 1961, all students and faculty at the school heard the all-call bells announcing frantically for everyone to come to the chapel. All were greeted with a rare opportunity to meet a very special guest - none other than Meredith Willson himself. “He explained to the surprised audience that he had seen the Iowa Braille band in the New York parade two years earlier and was so impressed that when he and his wife were passing through Vinton, they decided to stop at the school to express their appreciation and admiration to the group,” Miner said. Records show that much to the delight of the students, Willson and his wife, Renee, gave an impromptu concert including many of the hit songs from “Music Man” and a sneak preview to Willson’s next musical ‘The Unsinkable Molly Brown”. In July 1967, under Grupp’s leadership, the marching band (sporting new hats and plumes provided by the local Lions) made its third and final appearance at the Lions International Convention parade in Chicago.


An Editorial by Stephanie Hunolt

(Reprinted from The Cedar Valley Times, June 2, 2010.)

As a blind or visually impaired Iowan, I am bothered by the actions taken in the past decades to reduce the quality of education being offered to the blind and visually impaired children of this state. How many parents of blind and visually impaired children know there is a school for the blind in Iowa? How many public schools keep those kids in the school districts because of the funding they generate?

The Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School has been serving the blind and visually impaired of Iowa since 1852. The school has had several names that indicate the nature of the school, but the most famous was the Iowa College for the Blind from 1872 to 1929. It was during this period (1882 to 1889) that Mary Ingalls attended the school. The Iowa school has in the past been looked at as a leader in the education of the blind. The school had the largest Braille and large print library in the country and was looked to as an example by other states. Today through mainstreaming and cuts in programming the school has lost its place in the field of education.

Recently, alumni from the 1970's and 80's have had opportunities to associate with the blind and visually impaired of today. At this gathering, alumni reminisce of their education at Iowa Braille and tell of happenings while students listen and ask questions. Time after time we hear the same comments, “Gee, I wish I had known about the school.” With this comment we follow up with a question of our own, “Didn’t you enjoy making friends in your school?” followed by their response of “what friends, I didn’t have any real friends.” “What about all the opportunities of mixing or socializing with sighted peers or participating in marching band or school plays?” Most answer, “We were in band but not really accepted. In marching band we walked with sighted partners carrying the bands banner or a flag. Standing as part of the scenery is not the same as what you have told us about your school.”

Iowa Braille offered many activities to the students that would not have been available to them in the public schools: swimming, track and field, wrestling, cheer leading, and music contests. Many of the sporting events held in the public schools cannot be adapted to allow the totally blind to take part. Sports at Iowa Braille were tailored to meet the needs of the blind and visually impaired. The track was setup with running wires along the straight-aways; long distance running was done with a partially sighted partner running in tandem. Wrestling was slightly altered to allow constant contact with the opponent. Events such as goal ball and beeper ball were specifically designed for the blind. The teams from the Iowa school would travel to surrounding states to compete in events with other blind and visually impaired people. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri each had teams. Also, each sport had a larger tournament that would bring other teams to compete on a regional level.

Recreational events offered many activities to the residential programming such as bike riding, swimming, bowling, and off campus activities such as camping and shopping. Several times, special teams of students and staff competed against celebrity event teams such as the local television stations, KWWL, KCRG, and WMT/KGAN. All events allowed the blind and visually impaired child to intermix with other children with similar disabilities to prove that they could overcome whatever fears they may have to better themselves.

Educational programming at the school was top quality as the teachers were dedicated to the needs of the students at the school. Class sizes were small, usually 8 to 10 students. This allowed all to be assisted and needs addressed. Over all the once proud school has been reduced to being administration for the statewide services for the blind, a program that keeps the blind and visually impaired in their home school district where their specific needs are only addressed by Para-educators and teachers of the blind and visually impaired who travel the state to spend time with the student on a weekly basis rather than allowing them to attend a school were the teachers are there every day working with the student throughout the school day.

Those pushing for the closure of the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School are throwing numbers around that refer to each student costing Iowans $250,000 to be educated on the campus. What they are not telling anyone is that the numbers at the school are being reduced and forced to remain low by turning those wishing to attend away. Parents no longer have the choice as parents. Instead, school district administration, Area Education Agencies, Department of Education and other educators force parents to remain in the home school district. The system is closing the school to align with their beliefs not because the school is no longer needed.

There are several national conferences for the blind held annually where it is clear that the current education system is overlooking the important needs of the blind and visually impaired. No longer can young adults travel without the use of sighted guides or special assistants and no longer do those young adults read Braille or have proper social skills. Taxpayers are not forced to pay for adult education at special centers were young adults who are blind or visually impaired receive that training once thought to be so important to children. Don’t believe the stories the educational system is telling you today because as blind and visually impaired experts we know the real truths.

It is a shame that our education system has allowed this failure in education, no matter how we protest that continued neglect of the true educational needs and potential of our blind and visually impaired. Today it is the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School; tomorrow it will be the Iowa School for the Deaf and then our local school districts as we allow those calling themselves experts in educational needs to continue downward trends in education.

Press Release


(Editor's Note: Frank Strong was elected to the ICUB Board of Directors at the 2010 state convention. He is the Associate Director of the Central Iowa Center for Independent Living in Des Moines.)

Local artist 'Freight Train' Frank Strong has been selected to perform at the 2010 International VSA arts festival on Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at noon at the Smithsonian Discovery Theater in Washington, D.C.

VSA arts is an arts and disability organization that hosts an International Festival every four years. This festival will take place in Washington, D.C. The event is a multi-cultural celebration of the arts and arts education. The festival features visual, performing, literary and media artists, as well as a guest list that includes more than two thousand participants from all corners of the globe. For a complete list of artists and performers see

VSA arts is an international nonprofit organization founded 35 years ago by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith to create a society where people with disabilities learn through, participate in, and enjoy the arts. VSA arts showcases the accomplishments of artists with disabilities and promotes increased access to the arts for all. Each year, 7 million people participate in VSA arts' programs through a nationwide network of affiliates and in 54 countries around the world.

Locally, Frank Strong's artistic journey began when he was 18 years of age. By then he had learned that his poor vision would not improve and could not be corrected. He found, however, that performing music was an antidote to the uncertainty and fear he experienced because of his visual problems.

After many years of study and practice, and by overcoming disappointment and experiencing success, Frank gradually began performing publicly. Frank eventually became a VSA artist. Frank has since become a rostered artist with other arts organizations, and travels throughout Iowa presenting musical residencies to students of all ages. He has worked with local at-risk youth, and presents harmonica training at various arts days throughout the community. Frank also sings, plays guitar and

harmonica while presenting residencies on railroad history through songs and stories, in addition to work as a blues harmonica player with local bands. More information about Frank can be found at Frank also produces arts events like the annual "Botanical Blues" series at the Des Moines Botanical Center. “The Botanical Blues" series will begin in 2010.


By Tracey Morsek

Library Director, Iowa Department for the Blind

The future is here – and it sounds fantastic! Since May 2009, the library has been distributing digital talking books and players. Readers who have received one of the new digital talking book players have raved about the improved sound quality of the new format. New features of the players – especially the “Sleep” button – are also proving popular with library patrons. It has been very rewarding to hear the enthusiasm that has greeted this long-awaited shift to the digital world.

And yes, the transition to digital books is moving fairly quickly: so far, 3,000 Iowans have received their new NLS digital talking book players, and most audio book patrons are complementing their cassette reading with digital books. Thanks to our participation in the NLS pre-launch testing, the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped is well on its way to distributing digital players to all audio patrons by the end of the year.

We are encouraging avid readers to keep their cassette players. Since our collection of digital books is still smaller than the collection of cassette books that we’ve been building for nearly 30 years, many of the older titles in the audio collection are available only on cassette. Also, borrowers who receive audio magazines by mail should keep their cassette players, since audio magazines are still produced only on cassettes.

Of course, readers with Internet access have another option. More than 18,000 audio books and issues of all NLS-produced audio magazines are available on the BARD website. To use BARD, patrons register for BARD online, receive a password by e-mail, and are then able to download as many of the audio books and magazines as they wish. Truly, a new level of convenience and independence has arrived! In May, Iowa readers downloaded more digital books than we mailed to readers on cartridges. All told, 21% of our audio book “circulation” was actually downloaded by patrons themselves.

A certain level of technical expertise is needed to be successful at downloading digital books, and patrons who have difficulty may contact the Library for assistance. If we are unable to help by phone or e-mail, it is often possible for one of the IDB independent living teachers to visit and clear up some of the confusion. And a guide to getting started with the BARD download site is available in print, cassette, and Braille formats – and on our website at

Iowa readers seem to have mastered the BARD website; they have downloaded more than 11,000 books since October, including a number of copies of Little Heathens, Mildred Kalish’s memoir of her childhood in 1930’s Iowa, and The Girls from Ames, a chronicle of the friendships of 11 women from Ames, IA by Jeffrey Zaslow.

One of the more popular downloads is the King James Version of the Bible narrated by Alexander Scourby. Those who do not have download capabilities can obtain a copy of the Bible by contacting the Library. Funding from the Friends of the Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped allows us to give interested readers a personal copy of the Bible on digital cartridges that they may keep. The Friends’ Sacred Text program also provides large print, cassette, CD, and Braille copies of sacred texts to patrons. Contact the library if you are interested in obtaining your own copy of a sacred text in digital or other formats.

I suspect many ICUB members have heard that three staff members from the Library will be retiring by the end of June. We wish reader advisor Cindy Valin, library associate Doug Cole, and secretary Dawna Ray happy and healthy retirements, though their skills and knowledge will be sorely missed. While we are in the process of hiring a replacement reader advisor, the phone lines will be answered by other staff members, so those readers who used to call Cindy can still dial the same number.

Meanwhile, our staff continues to add to its reputation for excellence. In May, digital recording specialists Tim West and Karen Schweitzer were asked to present a program at the National Library Service’s biennial conference, an acknowledgement that our recording program is one of the most respected in the nation. Librarians from states near and far were much impressed with the technical expertise of the Iowa program. The conference was held in Des Moines, allowing 120 of our colleagues to tour the Department and see the details of our operation. Since then, I have received numerous compliments on all of the staff who participated in the conference and tours, and I hope you share my pride in the quality of the Department’s personnel.

I’m pleased to be able to say that the number of digital books available from the library is increasing daily. Our duplication system for digital talking books is up and running and we are now able to make multiple copies of the books our readers have requested. While 18,000 titles are available in digital format from the BARD website, NLS has provided only 2,000 of these titles to us on cartridges. With the help of volunteers, Lynda Wood duplicated an additional 1300 books in May, filling many reserves and adding to the variety of books available to be mailed to readers. OPAC users should know that books that have not been supplied by NLS have a status of “Special Order” in the catalog. If you are interested in one of these books, choose “Send now” and the book will be added to the duplication queue.

The new format is also having an impact on our Telecom Pioneers, the volunteers who help to repair our playback equipment. In June, Kevin Watson of NLS will be visiting with the Pioneers here in Des Moines to train us on repairing the new players – and on keeping the aging cassette players in good condition. Cassettes are still our most popular format because of the wonderful backlist of titles available on tape.

The transition to the new digital format has brought a number of changes with it, including new duties for the library staff. But most importantly, it offers more options for readers. In addition to NLS books and magazines, the digital players can play MP3 files, .wav files, and books from Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic. Readers with computer access can download books for quick, convenient access, even when the library is closed. I encourage all readers – even those who have used only large print or Braille – to try the new digital talking book player. Contact your reader advisor, or e-mail the library at to borrow one of the new players. You can experience the future of talking books today!


By Gail Stricker, IMC Librarian, Iowa Library for the Blind

I am pleased to announce that Annabelle Costanzo and Lauren Thomson were selected as finalists to be invited to the 2010 Braille Challenge nationals in Los Angeles, California on June 26, 2010. Only sixty students, twelve students from each of 5 age groups were selected to advance to the finals. Annabelle and Lauren were selected out of nearly 800 contestants that submitted entries in the preliminary round of the contest this year.

Both Annabelle and Lauren have been outstanding contestants in the national Braille Challenge. Annabelle Costanzo advanced to the finals in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. In 2007 Annabelle placed first in the Freshman Group and in 2008 she placed 2nd in the sophomore group of the national finals. Annabelle also won the NBC4 Braille Superstar Award: For Excellence in Reading Comprehension in 2008.

Lauren Thomson advanced to the finals in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. In 2007 Lauren placed second in the Apprentice group of the national finals. We are indeed proud of Annabelle and Lauren’s accomplishments and the accomplishments of each of the students that participated in the 2010 Iowa Braille Challenge.

Thank you for your continual support of the Braille Challenge. I hope this information is useful.


Margaret Meyer

CEDAR FALLS - Margaret A. Meyer, 67, of Cedar Falls, died Friday, March 19, at her home. She was born Nov. 14, 1942, in Cedar Falls, daughter of Lawrence W. and Helen C. Carlson Cranston. She married Donald R. Meyer on June 12, 1965, in Cedar Falls. She was a 1960 graduate of Cedar Falls High School and was employed as a secretary with the Iowa Unemployment Office, First Presbyterian Church and the Iowa Department for The Blind, retiring in 2005. Survived by: her husband; two daughters, Kristen (Jeffrey) Byers of Cedar Falls and Lynn (Robert) Gottchalk of Bethesda, Md.; a son, Chad (Rebecca) Meyer of Overland Park, Kan.; six grandchildren; and two brothers, Loren (Karen) Cranston of Naples, Fla. and Donald (Pam) Cranston of Algonquin, Ill. Preceded in death by: a brother, Gordon Cranston; and a sister, Betty Klingenborg.

Memorial services: 10:30 a.m. Monday at First Presbyterian church, with inurnment later in Fairview Cemetery, both in Cedar Falls. Public visitation from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Richardson Funeral Home.

Memorial fund: has been established. Condolences may be left at

Kathleen "Kay" Valen

STORY CITY - Kathleen (Kay) H. Valen, 86, of Story City, passed away Sunday, May 16, 2010 at Bethany Manor. A memorial service will be Thursday, May 20 at 1:30 p.m. at Bethany Manor Chapel in Story City. Burial will be in the Story City Municipal Cemetery.

Kathleen was born July 29, 1923 to John M. and Carrie Olivia (Severaid) Valen in Story City, Iowa. She received her education at Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in Vinton, Iowa, graduating in 1942. Kathleen was a caregiver for her mother for ten years. She then trained and became a switchboard operator and receptionist at the Commission for the Blind in Des Moines, Iowa. Kathleen was at the Commission for 20 years, retiring in 1984.

Kathleen is survived by her brother, John (Dorothy) Valen of Story City; her sisters, Ruth Valen of Story City, and Hannah Ellis of Linden, Washington; and many nieces and nephews.


Des Moines Update

By Elsie Monthei

At its May meeting, the Des Moines Chapter elected the following officers: President, Elsie Monthei; Vice-President, Jo Slayton; Secretary, Donna Seliger; and Treasurer, Arlo Monthei. Board members are Roger Christiansen, Marilyn Natale, Mavis McVeety, Frank Strong, Norma Boge, and Gary Patterson. Recent speakers at our meetings have included Louise Duvall, promoting Friends of the Library and signing up new members; Mike Hicklin, giving us a very thorough and interesting history of the Department for the Blind building, and Elsie Monthei, explaining the process for becoming a master gardener. I am pleased to report that I have established working committees to take responsibility for major chapter events and activities. One such activity was a bake sale, which netted over $300. Many of our members also assisted with the Friends of the Library garage sale held on June 11-13. The Des Moines Chapter picnic, this year called a social and potluck, will be held at the Iowa Department for the Blind on Saturday, July 31. The building will be open starting at 10:30. Hope to see you there!

Cedar Rapids Update

By Shirley Wiggins

Hello to all. It is time for another report and we really don't have a bunch to report. We had one meeting after the State Convention at which time the five of us who attended the convention reported on the happenings for the rest of our members. Yes, of course, we planned our coming picnic. As always, it will be held in Shawnee Park. Date-August 28th, time-11:00 AM for as long as you can stay until 4:00 PM. Just bring your table ware, and because we know there are so many good cooks amongst us, we want your favorite recipes. There will be coffee and lemonade. We also provide ham. We are looking forward to seeing all of you; don't let us down.

Before I get to the Support Group report, I need to ask you for help. During the convention, the subject of membership came up. It was noted that we had no membership committee and have not had one for many years. President Robert Spangler asked me to chair such a committee and I accepted. I have asked Ruth Hamdorf, Jo Ann Slaton, and Rose Stratton to serve with me on this committee and they have accepted.

It is a recognized fact that many of our members are deceased, but it is not certain that we have been notified about all of them. As in any organization, some persons quit paying their dues without notifying us of their desire to no longer belong. Sometimes, time just gets by and dues are forgotten. No matter what, we need to hear from any of you who have forgotten, or any of you who wish to be taken off the membership list. If any of you know of someone who is deceased that we might have missed, we need to hear from you. Not only will your input help us get an accurate account of our members, it will help those who put out the Bulletin. We want all our members to receive the Bulletin but believe it is being sent to persons who are deceased or who no longer wish to receive it. The Bulletins cost thirty cents a cassette and much more for each large print copy. Removing people from the mailing list who no longer wish to receive the Bulletin will help us reduce expenses. Please remember that the Bulletin is available electronically at no cost. We encourage those of you who have computers to request an electronic version. You can contact me, Shirley Wiggins-1225 42nd St. S.E., Apt. 112, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52403 or email The committee and I will appreciate any help you can give us. Thank you.

The Support Group has been active with guest speakers. We had a dietician, and that was a little humorous as she spoke on the day we planned our picnic dinner with anything but what she suggested. We had a gentleman speaking about a new transportation group of drivers who are just getting started. We had our yearly visit from Low Vision Enhancement; each year they bring us some new news. And just this last month we had our picnic. We have good cooks in that group, too. I took the accordion so we did bunches of singing and Eldred sang "Just A Closer Walk With Thee." We even drew some audience from outside our picnic. We might be able to make some money by drawing admission, ha ha ha!

I know that many of you know Rolland and Laverna Saeugling so join with me in wishing them a very happy 50th anniversary the 30th of July. It is late hear, so I will say good night to all and hope to see you in August.


Compiled by Jo Ann Slayton

People in the News: Former VP candidate Sarah Palin (S-a-r-a-h P-a-l-i-n); Senator Harry Reid (R-e-i-d); House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (P-e-l-o-s-i); Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano

(N-a-p-o-l-i-t-a-n-o); Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (R-a-h-m E-m-a-n-u-e-l); Missing AL teenager Natalee Holloway

(N-a-t-a-l-e-e- H-o-l-l-o-w-a-y); Suspect Joran Van der Sloot (J-o-r-a-n V-a-n d-e-r S-l-o-o-t); Teenage sailor Abby Sunderland (A-b-b-y S-u-n-d-e-r-l-a-n-d) Former Iowa candidate for governor Bob Vander Plaats (V-a-n-d-e-r P-l-a-a-t-s)

Featuring Iowa Fishing: Crappie (C-r-a-p-p-i-e); Large mouth Bass (B-a-s-s); Bluegill (B-l-u-e-g-i-l-l); You need bait (B-a-i-t); Fathead minnow (m-i-n-n-o-w)

Everyone’s talking about: iPhone (i-P-h-o-n-e); iPad (i-P-a-d)


Creamy White Chili

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts Cut into half-inch

1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder cubes

(I use a clove of fresh garlic, minced) 1 medium onion,

1 tablespoon vegetable oil chopped

2 15-ounce cans Great Northern beans, 1 can chicken broth

rinsed and drained 2 4-ounce cans

1 teaspoon salt chopped green 1 teaspoon ground cumin chilies

1 teaspoon dried oregano 1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup whipping cream

In large skillet, sauté chicken, onion, and oil until chicken is no longer pink. Add beans, broth, chilies and seasonings. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream and whipping cream. Serve immediately.

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