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      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 a.m. or 2:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m., please call 515-281-1333.

      New Stories

      IDB Announces the 2023 Elizabeth Perowsky Volunteer Award Recipient

      Our Elizabeth Perowsky Memorial Volunteer of the Year Award is given in honor of Elizabeth Perowsky of Des Moines, Iowa, who was a volunteer Braille transcriber for more than 60 years. She taught herself to Braille and was certified in literary, Nemeth, and music Braille by the Library of Congress. Elizabeth was the group leader and main teacher for the Temple Sisterhood Braille Group. She also conducted Braille workshops throughout the country, teaching others how to Braille. Near the end of her life, Elizabeth’s hands were so impacted by arthritis that she would tell her assistant which keys to press on the computer keyboard to form the Braille letters. This allowed her to continue Brailling when she could no longer type. Elizabeth was still Brailling within a few weeks of her death at the age of 97 in May 1996.

      The text on the Elizabeth Perowsky Memorial Volunteer Award states: "For extraordinary spirit and inexhaustible dedication in volunteer service to those who are blind" is one of the best ways to describe this year's recipient.

      It is our honor to present the Elizabeth Perowsky Memorial Award to Sandi Ryan. Sandi has shown inexhaustible dedication in volunteer service to those who are blind in so many ways. Her true dedication has shown through in her many volunteer roles. These have included advocacy, mentoring, braille proofreading and public service as a four-term member and Chair of the Iowa Commission for the Blind. “We are thankful for Sandi’s constant support of the library. Her passion for braille and braille literacy especially for our youngest patrons is infectious. Sandi exemplifies exactly what this award stands for,” said Library Director, Sarah Willeford.

      Her work as Chair of the Iowa Commission for the Blind has helped the Iowa department for the Blind to continue to innovate and expand services to blind Iowans of all ages. Sandi's amazing attitude, words of wisdom and sense of humor have impacted so many. IDB Director, Emily Wharton, stated: "Whenever I needed anything, someone to look over a draft policy, someone to talk through a challenging decision, someone to make me laugh instead of cry at one of the many absurdities that arise when trying to make change within the state bureaucracy, Sandi was there with ideas, honest feedback, understanding, and a swift kick when I needed it. She has been an invaluable mentor and so much of the success we have achieved is at least in part due to her work on behalf of blind Iowans."

      “Sandi completed all of the lessons in the Instruction Manual for Braille Transcribing from the National Library Service, which is quite an accomplishment! Sandi proofread and made corrections on collection books done on a Perkins by one of our volunteer braillists. We could always count on Sandi to take on proofreading projects and help with scorekeeping for the Braille Challenge. Sandi’s work was always accurate & detailed,” shared Karen Cunningham, IMC Librarian, and Roxanne Book, Braille Coordinator.

      Youth Librarian, Denise Bean expressed, "Sandi's warmth and love for others is simply undeniable. Sandi lives her life with a clear vision and intention to make this world a better place, if only more in the world could be like her, if so, our world would be a better place. She would share countless stories of her family that would bring laughter and even a tear to a room. Thank you, Sandi, for being a rock to so many around you. You have taught all of us to stay strong, stay determined, and most importantly, stay passionate in what you believe in."

      Normally this award would be awarded during the library's annual Elizabeth Perowsky Workshop and Luncheon in April. However, after a year-long battle with liver cancer, Sandi has entered hospice care. We determined it would be wise to present her with the award early. However, we also look forward to celebrating again in April at the Elizabeth Perowsky Workshop and Luncheon.

      Please help us in congratulating Sandi Ryan for her many years of impactful volunteer service to the Iowa Department for the Blind. She has made a difference in the life of countless blind Iowans. Her work will go on and her work will be picked up and carried forward by other passionate and hard-working volunteers and advocates.

      IDB Hires New Chief Information Officer

      I would like to introduce myself as the new Chief Information Officer for the Iowa Department for the Blind. I am Connie Mendenhall, I was raised in Des Moines, graduated from Des Moines East High School, attended Des Moines Community College where I received and Associates in Science Degree with a Paralegal Certification.
      Prior to accepting the position of Chief Information Officer, I most recently worked as an Independent Living Rehabilitation Teacher for the Iowa Department for the Blind. As an Independent Living Rehabilitation teacher most often my clients were people who were facing blindness for the first time in their lives. I encouraged them to learn the non-visual skills needed to continue living independently. Along with teaching the non-visual skills to maintain independence I taught my clients to advocate for themselves and maintain the highest quality of life possible. I worked with the LEAP apartment staff and students over the summer in the mornings working with the kids to get their day started.
      Prior to working for the Iowa Department for the Blind I was employed by Merchants Bonding Company for 13 years. I worked in the area of Compliance as a Quality Assurance Specialist, specializing in policy and procedure writing and dissemination. I was the liaison between the IT departments and the system end users for process improvement and redesign. My duties as the quality insurance tester included reporting to the Board of Directors and Executive Committee results and recommendation findings of testing. Prior to Merchants Bonding Company I worked in different areas of insurance, reviewing policies for customers, as an underwriter and a customer service person. Every area of insurance required clear, accurate and concise written and verbal communication. I bring a wide communication skill set to the Iowa Department for the Blind.
      Outside of work I have been a long time member of the Benevolent Patriotic Order of DOES #25 a nationwide chartered benevolent organization. I served a 4 year term to become President of the Des Moines drove #25. As with any charitable organization this involved hosting and organizing an annual District meeting, overseeing each of the various committees, promoting, organizing and hosting charity events. I have been a long-time volunteer for Park Avenue Elementary school in the classroom, fun nights, field days and working with a neighboring business to raise money to adopt families at Christmas.
      I attended the Iowa Blindness Empowerment and Independence Center in 2019. Much like many of my clients when I was faced with my sudden loss of sight, I thought my life would never be the same. My personal trip through the Iowa Blindness Empowerment and Independence Center presented me with an opportunity to start a new career path. In my position as an Independent Living Rehabilitation Teacher I began making a difference in people’s lives. My opportunity to work with the LEAP students over the summer reinforced my belief that no Iowan, of any age, quality of life should be diminished simply because they cannot see.
      We now have a multitude of communication platforms available to us, as an agency we can reach out to every area of the state. As the Chief Information Officer my personal goal is to provide valuable, concise and informative information to all internal and external consumers in a format that is accessible to everyone.

      Access Technology Fair October 14th

      When: October 14, 2022
      Time: 1:30 pm – 4:30 pm
      Where: Iowa Department for the Blind Assembly Room
      524 4th Street, Des Moines, IA 50309

      Join IDB for the return of our in-person Technology Fair. You will have the opportunity to see the latest in access technology, including braille displays, electronic magnifiers, and more. IDB Access Technology and Library staff will be available to demonstrate and discuss accessible mainstream technologies, the NLS braille e-Readers, BARD, and other technologies.

      Outside vendors include:

      NanoPac, Inc.

      Email: patrick@nanopac.com
      Direct Phone and Text Message: 402–699–4357

      The Low Vision Store-
      1–800–871–8780

      This event is free and open to all.

      For more information please contact:

      Enrique Mejia, Technology Instructor
      Iowa Blindness Empowerment and Independence Center

      at enrique.mejia@blind.state.ia.us or 515–443–3038