Primary Tasks

    Secondary Tasks

      All staff and members of the public, with the exception of anyone age 2 and under, are required to wear face masks in the IDB building as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). If a person is unwilling or unable to wear a mask, they should continue to do business via phone and email. IDB is committed to protecting its employees, clients, patrons, and the public during the pandemic.
      our main door is unlocked and front desk is staffed Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. If you are needing assistance with entry to the building between 8:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. or 2:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m., please call 515-452-1335. Click here to view our in person services rules and guidelines.

      To make a referral, you may call 800–362–2587 or complete the referral form to contact the library, call 515-281-1323.

      New Stories

      Iowa Library for the Blind and Print Disabled was the Library of Congress' Library of the Year

      IDB Library Named NLS Regional Library of the Year

      The Iowa Department for the Blind is incredibly pleased to share that the Iowa Library for the Blind and Print Disabled, a division of the Iowa Department for the Blind, has been named 2020-2021 Regional Library of the Year by the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled at the Library of Congress. Our library provides reading materials in braille, audio, large print, and other alternative formats to Iowans of all ages who cannot read standard print. We also provide instructional materials in all alternative formats to pre-K12 students in Iowa schools through a grant from the Iowa Department of Education. 

      Once again, during a time of great challenge and uncertainty, our library embraced the challenges, kept services going, and even created new programs. Our library did not miss a day of sending out books, even during the early days of the pandemic. Our Instructional Materials Center ensured that all orders from schools for materials were filled in as timely a manner as possible to make sure that students struggling with online learning were not further set back by lack of textbooks and worksheets. We held online trainings for para-educators on braille, access technology, and library ordering that served over 30 para educators and provided a stipend to defer the cost of participation.  We created a new program called IDB Reads where narrators read and discussed books with patrons over the phone to help reduce isolation and create community. We took Maker Space Mondays and STEM and Stories Saturdays online. We have sent out materials and presented the programs live and via YouTube to the youth and families monthly. 

      As IDB Director, Emily Wharton, stated: “I’ve been telling our Legislature, the Governor, and everyone who would listen how fantastic our library is and about all the wonderful things they are doing to empower blind Iowans of all ages, especially the youth. It is truly gratifying to see their hard work and dedication recognized by NLS.” Library Director, Sarah Willeford, shared: “I want to thank our entire team for their creativity and teamwork. Your passion for braille literacy, providing timely and abundant reading material for all patrons, willingness to fight to make sure students get high-quality educational materials, and ability to adapt to change continue to give me joy and energy.”  The letter from NLS is below. To learn more about library services, visit


      Staff at the Iowa library for the Blind honored for their creative efforts to expand services amid pandemic for expanding services during the pandemic, the Iowa Library for the Blind and Print Disabled won the 2020–2021 Regional Library of the Year Award.

      Check out this story on

      Independent Living Program Updates

      IL Program Launches New Public Service Announcements

      Our Independent Living Program is proud to release new public service announcements to help raise awareness about our services for older Iowans losing vision. Click on the links below to listen or you can right click the link to download the WAV file to share. A big thanks to our library audio production folks and the clients who volunteered to voice these announcements. Check out the true stories of some of these individuals who benefited from IDB’s Independent Living Program below.

      40 second John version

      40 Second Rosemary version

      40 Second Shad Version

      There are also 30 second versions available for stations who prefer this length.

      IDB State Appropriation Update

      IDB is very grateful to Governor Reynold’s for including our full request in her budget. We are also very grateful to the House of Representatives for including the full amount in HF868 as well. The Senate appropriation bill, SF596, contains significantly less money for IDB services. The Senate bill allots $263,723 less than the House bill. If we receive the amount in the Senate bill, we will not be able to put a much needed 7th IL teacher into the field and there are likely to be further cuts to the Independent Living Program. If you would like to share how IDB programs have impacted your life, you can visit this page to locate your State Senator or visit this page to learn more about IDB’s state appropriation request

      Shad’s Story

      Shad, 70, was diagnosed with the eye condition Keratoconus when she was in her 20’s. Later, in her 50’s, she was diagnosed with acute glaucoma affecting both eyes. The Ankeny, Iowa, resident worked a career as a registered nurse while she raised two sons as a divorced single parent. Shad’s vision problems worsened over the years and eventually caused her to retire early at the age of 63. 

      In the summer of 2018, Shad fell in her home and punctured her right eye on a piece of furniture. The eye could not be saved and was replaced with a prosthesis. After the accident, Shad’s two sons did not think she could live alone anymore because of her blindness. They pushed for her to move into a care facility. Shad had always been a fiercely independent woman and was not ready to go to a “home”. Instead, she applied for Independent Living Program services with the Iowa Department for the Blind.
      support group for Independent Living clients. Here, Shad met positive blind role models and learned what a blind person is capable of doing. She learned how to advocate for herself and she made it clear to her sons that she was going to continue to live alone in her own home. Her friends from the support group helped with her adjustment to blindness, but they also helped support her through a cancer diagnosis in 2019 and subsequent double mastectomy surgery.

      Because of the Keratoconus, Shad has had multiple cornea transplant surgeries over the years. After the last surgery in 2020, the doctor told her this may be the last transplant possible. Shad knows that one day she will not have any vision in her one eye. She recognizes the need to learn blindness skills. She is currently learning how to read and write in Braille. She is learning non-visual techniques for cooking. She is learning how to use a long, white cane for safe and independent navigation. Shad continues to participate in a blindness support group. This summer she will participate in a week-long blindness skills training program, Independent Living Integration, held at the Department’s training center.

      Shad has a very active life. She enjoys attending the activities of her four grandsons. She is on several committees at the building cooperative where she lives. She is currently running for the board of directors of the cooperative. Shad has assisted her neighbors throughout the pandemic by placing online orders for them for groceries and supplies. She plants a garden each year, now using non-visual gardening techniques. She loves reading the audio books sent to her by the Department’s library. Sadie, her Cocker Spaniel dog, is always close by. Sadie doesn’t like it when Shad leaves her home alone, but now that Shad has learned how to use public transportation she is always on the go somewhere. She enjoys meeting friends for lunch at local restaurants. Shad has learned that living with vision loss is still living. It just means doing things differently.


      Rosemary’s Story

      It’s no wonder that Rosemary, 86, is independent. She comes by it naturally. The mother of five children became a widow at the age of 42. Her youngest two are twin boys. She worked as a registered nurse for many years at Broadlawn’s Hospital in Des Moines to support herself and her children. At the age of 50, Rosemary was diagnosed with macular degeneration. Her vision remained stable for many years after her diagnosis. She was able to retire from her job in 1997, and four months later began working again as a part-time nurse. She continued her post-retirement nursing work for another 13 years.

      The Altoona, Iowa, resident started her relationship with the Iowa Department for the Blind several years ago through its library service. Always an avid reader, Rosemary enjoyed the vast selection of large-print books the library offered. When she turned 80, her vision deteriorated affecting her activities of daily living. She used to enjoy spending winters in Texas but stopped traveling there because she knew the drive was too much with her limited eyesight. When she turned 83, she stopped driving all together. This was perhaps the most difficult consequence of her vision loss to adjust to. Like for many, driving represented her independence. 

      Other changes quickly followed. Large-print books were replaced with audio books which Rosemary now says, “I thoroughly enjoy!” She reached out to the Department’s Independent Living Program for assistance. She began working with an Independent Living Rehabilitation Teacher who introduced her to the long, white cane. She learned non-visual skills for setting her appliances, cooking, labeling, and identifying the colors of her clothing. She learned about accessibility features for her phone and her computer. She participated in a week-long training program, Independent Living Integration, held at the Department’s training center. She became involved with a blind consumer organization and a local blindness support group, meeting other blind people like herself. She has learned tips and tricks for living with blindness through all of these connections. This has allowed her to live alone, comfortably and securely, in her townhome. These blindness skills also allowed her to work another four years at a part-time job in food service at Adventureland Park in Altoona. At age 85 she did not return to this job in 2020 due to the pandemic. 

      While the pandemic has stopped Rosemary from doing what she wants to do, she does not let blindness stop her. Once things open up again, Rosemary plans to return to her regular activities at the Altoona Senior Center. She and her girlfriends from the Center have already resumed their lunch outings to Perkins Restaurant. She wants to get back to square dancing. She has a trip planned for this-coming summer to San Rafael, California, where she will train to get a guide dog. Rosemary also wants to visit her nine grandkids, nine great-grandkids, and two great-great-grandkids. She misses their hugs. Rosemary is an example that one can do more than “survive” blindness; one can “thrive” with blindness.

      SELF Weeks Accelerate VR Clients Training

      While coming to the center is the most efficient and comprehensive method for mastering the skills that blind people need to be successful in employment, there are a variety of reasons why people can’t attend the center. This is why we have Vocational Rehabilitation Teachers (VRTs) who travel the state to work with VR clients in their communities. While this is very helpful to clients in moving forward toward their vocational goals, the lack of community and time between teacher visits are definite downsides to this training model. In order to give VR clients the opportunity to come together for a week of intensive training, the Education and Training Team created SELF Weeks. DuringSELF Weeks, VR clients get as much in person instructional time with VR Teachers and Rehabilitation Technology Specialists as they could get in a year of home visits. SELF Week participants work on their training goals daily, join in evening activities, and attend daily blindness discussion seminars with Center students.

      clients come to SELF Week with a wide range of skills and abilities. They also bring a lot of things they want to work on. For one person, ordering your own coffee at a downtown coffee shop might be something totally new and challenging while for someone else it might be making a soup or conquering a tech challenge. As one participant put it: “I appreciate how the staff is able to recognize the different levels each of us is at and help us grow at our own pace.” one of the staff instructors shared the observation: “One of the coolest things to see were the relationships that developed between people. Another instructor commented: ”The growth I saw in the individuals from the beginning to the end of the week was HUGE and each of the clients I worked with could identify that they had accomplished things during this week that they never dreamed they’d could accomplish .. When they left they held their heads higher and saw themselves as a more independent person."

      Some of the other highlights that participants have reported include:

      • “Finding out how quickly I picked up some of the skills and staff support on growing those skills.”
      • “Finally being able to get over stairs during cane travel.”
      • “listening to everyone’s stories”
      • “My Braille class where I got progressively faster at reading compared to before this week and even at the beginning of this week. I’m honestly very proud of myself for improving as fast as I did, even though it’s only been though a week.”
      • “Meeting more people with blindness”

      March 15–19, 2021 IDB held our fourth SeLF Week trainings. Ten clients attended. We anticipate that the number of participants will continue to rise as COVD–19 becomes less of a challenge. During the pandemic, clients have stayed in hotels to allow for better distancing. We are hopeful that clients will be able to return to staying in the IDB building during the first fall session. In 2022, we will be adding a fourth session in the summer. If you are a VR client and would like to participate in an upcoming SELF Week, speak with your VR counselor or teacher.