IDB Volunteer Newsletter - Volume 4 Issue 1

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Iowa Department for the Blind Logo

Iowa Department for the Blind Logo

Volunteer Newsletter                                                            Volume 4   Issue 1

Mission: Empower blind Iowans to be gainfully employed and live independently.  

Vision: To be the world's leader in blind rehabilitation services.

IDB Volunteer Newsletter

Welcome to our newsletter! In this issue, we are celebrating Braille Literacy Month and the upcoming 2022 Braille Challenge. We hope you find this newsletter useful and informative. Please feel free to share any suggestions you may have for things to include or ways to improve by emailing Janice Eggers, Executive Secretary and Volunteer Coordinator at  If you are a current volunteer, thank you for all that you do. If you are not a current volunteer, please visit our website at to learn about opportunities or fill out an application.

Volunteer Spotlight - Don Wirth

What is your role at IDB?  I serve as chair of the Library Consumer Advisory Committee. I also am Vice Chair of the Friends of the Library.

Why did you decide to volunteer at IDB? Over the last 12 years I decided I wanted to have more interaction with blind people as well as develop my skill set of living blind. I became a member of blind consumer organizations. Through those groups, I was introduced to opportunities to volunteer with IDB as well as other blind organizations. The work has helped me become more comfortable with my blindness as well as help others.

Where did you work before?  I had a career in financial management the last 30 years were with WOI-AM/FM/TV. I was able to work the final 18 years as a legally blind person thanks in large part to the assistance I received from IDB.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering at IDB? The interaction I have with other blind people and learning that there are many skills, technologies and services that are being developed and refined all the time. I still have a lot to learn about living blind and volunteering brings me into contact with so many resources and people experiences.

What is your favorite memory at the IDB? I haven't spent much time physically at IDB so most of my experiences are from afar. My one educational experience was an "Orientation on the Road" for a week long training session at a state park near Lake Red Rock. The introduction to a variety of skills really opened my eyes (metaphorically speaking) to potentials.

What do you like to do in your free time?  Read (my braille skills are improving slowly thanks to the ereader); listen to ISU athletics and Yankees baseball games; participate in ICUB, NFBI, ACB, and Ames Low Vision Support group meetings.

Employee Spotlight - Karly Prinds

What is your role at IDB?   Orientation Center Director

Why did you decide to work at IDB? When the Home Management job came open in 2015, I wanted to continue to teach students structured discovery and help them grow. I was living in Baltimore, MD at the time and I saw that IDB had an opening doing exactly what I was doing. Even better it was 3 hours from my family and hometown. If I could continue to show students they could do anything that they set their mind to, and I was much closer to my family, it was definitely a win win for me.

Where did you work before IDB? Blind Industries and Services of Maryland

What do you enjoy most about working at IDB? Camaraderie amongst everyone, progress of a student from when they start through graduation, and support among colleagues.

What is your favorite memory at the IDB?  I can only choose one? That is a loaded question, but I would have to say axe throwing last summer with the center. It was a great confidence builder and we had a student who at first refused to go anywhere near the axes, however in the end she threw and received a bulls-eye shot in the end.

What do you like to do in your free time? Read, cook, take walks, spend time outside as much as I can, spend time with my niece and nephew, and relax with friends.

Updates from the Director 

by Emily Wharton

We were delighted to learn that Governor Reynolds has included our full appropriation request in her budget. We greatly appreciate her continuing support for our programs and services. To learn more about our appropriation request, view IDB program and service data, and get updates on the budget process, visit

In addition to facts and figures, we have posted a selection of success stories  from the past year. These stories show how the work that our staff and volunteers do empowers blind Iowans to obtain their education, bind a fulfilling career, be a part of their communities, continue to live independently, and achieve their dreams.  One of the stories from this collection that particularly touched my heart  was the story of Evan. As someone who was not taught braille in school and needed to learn it as an adult, I was so happy to see that he is now getting the braille he needs to take the classes that ignite his love of learning and unlock his full potential.  It shows   the value of our Instructional Materials Center and all the work that our contractors and volunteers due to get high-quality, timely braille to students.

Here is his story:

Evan is a 9th grade student who received little to no math materials in braille for the past three years. Evan struggled and seemed to not care for math classes. However, this year, a new TVI came on board and Evan’s paraeducator advocated for him to have braille for all of his math & Spanish materials. Evan’s paraeducator’s goal is to make Evan totally independent in his class work. The Iowa Department for the Blind’s Instructional Materials Center (IMC) has produced a lot of algebra worksheets, quizzes, and tests for Evan this year. He is excelling in math and now wants to take both Algebra 2 and Geometry next year. His goal is to take Calculus the following year. Evan’s para called to thank the IMC team for all of the quality materials they provide. She wished she would have known about us sooner.  You can read the rest of these stories at

Braille Challenge b* Braille Institute*

2022 Iowa Regional Braille Challenge:  The Magic of Braille

by Sarah Willeford

The 2022 Iowa Regional Braille Challenge will be held on Saturday, February 26, 2022 at the Iowa Department for the Blind.

The Braille Challenge is the only academic competition of its kind in North America for students who are blind or visually impaired. Braille Institute developed the Braille Challenge to motivate students to practice and hone their braille literacy skills, which are essential to academic and employment success.

Any blind or low vision student in grades 1st – 12th who can read and write braille is eligible to participate in the Braille Challenge. All Contestants are divided into five categories and tested on fundamental braille skills such as reading comprehension, spelling, speed and accuracy, proofreading, and charts and graphs. Contests are proctored by volunteer Teachers of the Visually Impaired and scored locally by volunteer transcribers, based on national guidelines.

All students can compete in the preliminary Braille Challenge events, like our Iowa Regional Braille Challenge, which are held from January through the end of March throughout the United States and Canada, but only the top 50 students (10 in each category) with the highest scores are invited to Los Angeles for the final round – two days of competition, camaraderie, and fun!

For more information about the Iowa Regional Braille Challenge, please visit

For more information about the Braille Challenge, please visit

We would like to thank all the volunteers who help make our Iowa Regional Braille Challenge such a success.  And a special thank you to the Friends of the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped for providing the funding for the activities, lunch, and the t-shirts for the participants.

The Black Book of Colors

When Story Time Comes to You Program  

by Sarah Willeford

This year the Iowa Library for the Blind and Print Disabled is partnering with Iowa public libraries to provide a unique program.  Denise Bean, our Youth Services Librarian, began the program this fall with visits to 13 public libraries around the state and will visit more this spring.  Denise met with over 215 people during these programs.  The program featured the book, The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin.  This unique book has entirely black pages and bold white text and is meant to be experienced with your fingers and allows the reader to experience colors through other senses.  Denise paired this book with information about Louis Braille and the braille code.  Participants had the opportunity of hands-on activities centered around braille.  The Library thanks the public libraries for the opportunity to share information about braille and braille literacy with their communities.

For more information about the Library, please visit

Volunteers Needed:  Audio Editor

An audio editor is responsible for the technical aspects of the digital processing of audio books. This volunteer position operates computer editing equipment to process recorded audio files in preparation for duplication and distribution.

Specific tasks

  • Using equalization (EQ), compression and other audio editing tools
  • Adding markup coding for navigation within the audio book
  • Digital format conversion and distribution
  • Assisting with quality control of narration and recording technique

Required Skills

  • Excellent verbal communication and vocabulary skills
  • Good listening skills, good hearing
  • Patience, understanding, and flexibility
  • Team player
  • Extreme attention to detail
  • Good manual dexterity
  • Aptitude for working with computers
  • Aptitude for electrical, electronic, and mechanical systems and equipment, especially audio-related

Beneficial Background or Related Experience

  • Computer and audio/electronic experience
  • Work that required extreme patience and interpersonal diplomacy
  • Work that required close attention to detail

Processing Requirements

  • Recognizing and correcting narration or formatting errors
  • Coaxing the best possible results from the existing recording
  • An attentive mind and ear, even if the material being read is boring
  • An open mind regarding the variety of books selected for recording (at times subject matter may be offensive to personal tastes and beliefs)

Processing is very demanding and can be tedious and repetitive.

Training May Be Required

If a person has a technical aptitude, but does not have audio-related experience, the technical responsibilities can be taught. The other listed skills are sometimes hard to find in a person who is gifted with technical abilities.

Processing Sessions

  • Flexible scheduling
  • Edit station open 8 AM – 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday 

For more information, contact:

Tim West 515-281-1360 800-362-2587 (toll-free)

Did You Know?

Find Braille Learning Resources
for Literacy, Work and Pleasure

by Sandi Ryan

Every January, we celebrate Braille Literacy Month, which coincides nicely with the birthday of Louis Braille on January 4. Louis Braille invented Braille as a young student at a French school for the blind at age 15 in 1824. Braille has changed some since then but is still the accepted standard for reading and writing for blind people. Braille offers literacy to people who are blind or have low vision, aids them in getting and keeping jobs and in doing the work required of them, and can bring hours of reading and writing pleasure.

The Iowa Department for the Blind offers several resources for learning Braille, for clients and their friends, families, and educators, and for librarians. Our resources are available in January, and throughout the year. Take advantage of them and make 2022 the year you learn and begin to use braille--or brush up your skills and make braille a part of your life moving forward!

CodeMaster: CodeMaster is a multimedia system for learning braille in a short time. The system is available to clients of the Department and to library patrons by requesting it from the library. Committed students can learn braille through CodeMaster on their own, but active clients of the Department’s Vocational Rehabilitation or Independent Living programs may also learn by joining the Department’s Braille Class Self-Advocacy Seminars (SAS). These classes are currently available in-person in Iowa City, Fort Madison, and Des Moines, and by phone, and are led by Terri Wilcox. Each class provides an hour of braille and an hour of discussion about blindness and advocacy. For more information about eligibility and to join the class that’s right for you, contact Terri Wilcox: 515-452-1333 or

Another opportunity to learn braille using CodeMaster is to attend the Department’s Iowa Blindness Empowerment and Independence Center. In the Center you will receive comprehensive training to provide non-visual skills, self-confidence, and a positive attitude toward blindness. To apply for Center training that includes braille, contact your Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor.

Braille Bits: If you are a family member, friend, or educator of a blind person, or you think you may be interested in transcribing braille, check out Braille Bits, created just for sighted people who want to learn braille. Braille Bits is presented through a group of podcasts on IDB’s podcast page: or can be presented through the mail. Each podcast presents a lesson about braille and introduces a person who uses braille.

Braille Bits for Librarians: If you are a librarian interested in knowing more about braille, attend the Braille Bits for Librarians class. Introductory and wrap-up sessions are presented as group sessions an online classroom, with the lessons between self-taught to give librarians enough knowledge of braille to help blind patrons best use their services. For more information on this program, contact: Sarah Willeford, Director, Iowa Library for the Blind and Print Disabled: 515-494-8439 or

Braille is useful and exciting! Get learning!


Upcoming Events

2/25-27 Youth Weekend Retreat

2/28 May Self-Week application deadline

3/13-19 Self-Week

3/15 Commission Board Meeting at 12:00 pm; LEAP application Deadline

3/25-27 LEAP Staff Camp

3/26-4/3 Spring Break. Students travel home Friday evening and return Monday morning.

4/5 Last day to enter case notes, complete applications/closures, and mark authorizations paid in eFORCE for federal reporting

4/22-24 Youth Weekend Retreat

4/30 July Self-Week application deadline

5/15 – 5/21  Self Week

5/20 YATP Last Day of Classes.

5/30 Memorial Day 5/31- LEAP Staff training Begins.

6/12 LEAP Student Arrival

6/14 Commission Board Meeting at 12:00 pm

7/4 Holiday 4th of July 

7/7 Last day to enter case notes, complete applications/closures, and mark authorizations paid in eFORCE for federal reporting

7/24 – 7/30 Self Week

8/7 -18/12 IL Integration

8/13 LEAP Final Day

9/5 Labor Day

9/20 Commission Board Meeting at 12:00 pm

10/30 - 11/4 IL Integration

11/11 Veterans Day

11/24-11/25 Thanksgiving Holiday

12/6 Commission Board Meeting at 12:00 pm

12/26 Christmas Holiday