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      Adaptations That Are Just Good Sense

      By Barb Weigel, IL Project Specialist

      As Independent Living Teachers at the Iowa Department for the Blind (IDB) work with individuals with vision loss, we often encourage them to use a process of problem solving to find their way to alternative techniques for performing everyday activities. If a person can’t see to do something, how else can it be done? The answer is often found using other senses. 

      I Can’t See It, So Can I … 

      ... Feel a Difference? 
      For example:
      -- The ketchup bottle is different from the French dressing.
      -- A can of vegetables is larger than a can of soup.
      -- Heart medication may be smaller than a water pill.
      -- The blue shirt has small round buttons while the black shirt has larger round buttons.
      -- The closer a steak gets to being well done, the firmer it feels.
      -- Salt granules are larger than pepper.

      … Smell a Difference? 
      For example:
      -- Cinnamon smells different from garlic.
      -- Ranch dressing smells different from Italian.
      -- Pepper smells different from salt.
      -- Bleach will smell different from laundry soap.

      … Hear a Difference? 
      For example:
      -- As hamburger cooks, it sizzles more when it is done.
      -- Shake the salt and pepper. Salt rattles, pepper does not.
      -- Garlic salt rattles, garlic powder does not.
      -- A larger pill makes a different sound than a smaller pill when shaking the bottle.
      -- A can of Chicken Noodle soup will make a sound when you shake it, a can of Cream of Chicken will not.

      …Taste a Difference? 
      For example:
      -- Chocolate chips or butterscotch? Taste one.
      -- Salt or pepper? Taste one. 
      -- Sweet pickle or dill? Taste one.
      -- Yellow mustard or Dijon? Taste one.

      When other senses don’t lead to a solution, adaptations need to be made. Adapting a task involves creating a way to use another sense to accomplish the task. It is through the use of senses in combination with adaptations that you may function efficiently and independently. Implementing adaptations involves problem solving and some sighted assistance to initially implement the method of choice. 

      When preparing to use sighted assistance, planning ahead can make a big difference. 

      Consider this:
      -- Maximize help already available. For example, while shopping, you rely on a clerk at some point during the shopping experience, whether it is while locating items you want or while checking out at the cash register. Use this assistance to its maximum potential and be prepared to implement methods to help once you leave the store. Carry rubber bands with you to mark items at the grocery store so you can identify an item when returning home. Carry safety pins to a clothing store and apply a pin to the black pants but not the navy pair. Upon returning home, the items are identifiable without any further assistance and implementation of a long-term solution for identifying them is possible.
      -- Has help already been paid for? For example, as part of the purchase of a new computer, is tech support part of the purchase? 

      Think it through:
      -- Identify what items need to be adapted, i.e. the chicken noodle rattles when shaken but the cream of mushroom and chicken noodle are not distinguishable.
      -- How can it be adapted, i.e. placing a rubber band around the item; attaching a raised, foam letter; placing the item in a certain location; putting a small tear in the paper label; attaching Braille labels; etc.
      -- Have the items ready when help arrives. Thinking it through ahead of time will help prevent the need to modify it later and will save time for everyone involved. Have the items out and ready. For example, have Braille labels made, rubber bands ready, etc. Being prepared will help maximize the help while it is available. More can be accomplished in a shorter time if items are prepared ahead of time. 

      For more information on other independent living services, call (800) 362-2587 or e-mail

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      Tuning Into Better Employment

      By Betty Hansen, Deaf-Blind Specialist 

      As we reflect on the progressive struggle of the blind to achieve first-class citizenship and equal opportunity in our society, we are reminded that a positive philosophy of blindness is the foundation of the vocational rehabilitation program of the Iowa Department for the Blind. A direct result of the work of Kenneth Jernigan, whose dynamic approach toward the quality provision of services to blind Iowans was a direct result of his association with, and leadership in, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), this approach continues to adapt to the changing conditions of today’s economic circumstances. The NFB had advocated that rehabilitation programs for the blind should be conducted using a positive, “can do” approach to blindness. In 1958, Iowa provided an ideal opportunity to prove, once and for all, that a positive philosophy of blindness could be given practical expression in programs of rehabilitation training for the blind.

      Prior to Jernigan’s coming to Iowa, employment options for the blind were very limited. Jobs in chair caning, rug weaving, and broom making were typical. At the national level, during the 1950’s, blind people were not even permitted to take the Federal Civil Service Examination. Governmental and private agencies for the blind subscribed to the “medical” model of blindness--characterizing blind people as “patients” whom they were supposed to heal. These rehabilitation agencies lacked innovative thinking and an understanding of the importance of a positive philosophy of blindness. Consumers who talked about independence and self-reliance were often labeled as troublemakers. Sadly, the provision of services often depended on a person’s willingness to “cooperate” with the agency.

      Jim Kerch tunes a piano.Photo: Piano tuner Jim Kerch, shown here in 1970, pursued his dream of independent employment as a client of IDB’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services.

      Contrast the bleak picture of the 1950’s with where we are today. Today, our vocational rehabilitation counselors participate in sleepshade training in our Orientation Center for up to six months. They emerge from the experience with a strong belief in the ability of people who are blind to live a normal, active, and independent life. Instead of considering blind people as patients, our counselors work collaboratively with clients, taking into consideration their capacity, interests, and resources to assist them in making an informed choice. Successful vocational rehabilitation clients, representing a cross section of the population, obtain widely-varying jobs with widely-varying pay scales and hours. Types of jobs include building inspector, cashier, computer programmer, electrician, customer service representative, and securities and commodities trader.

      Blind people are no longer prohibited from taking the Federal Civil Service Examination and some now hold jobs in the federal government--all the way to the White House.

      As a long-time employee of the Department, I can only imagine how things must have been back in the 1950’s. Imagine, if you will, the life of a blind person being dictated by trained professionals in the field of blindness who said they knew what was best. If you were born with the talent to be an actor, no worries, you’ll do just fine working in a factory. If you were born to be a master chef, no need to panic, you will earn a fine living making brooms. All of that changed in 1958, and the results were apparent as early as the late 1960’s.

      One Iowan, Jim Kerch, chose piano tuning as his career in 1967--nine years after Kenneth Jernigan came to Iowa. Although this was an occupation that had been viewed to be a “blind trade,” it was what he really wanted for himself. “I was going to be a piano tuner whether I was blind or not,” he said. His counselor listened to what he wanted and supported his plan. Jim attended the Piano Hospital and Training Center for the Blind in Vancouver, Washington to learn his trade before returning to Iowa to run his own business. He calls himself a maverick. “Piano tuning is a business, and I made good money. I also worked part-time for Critchett Piano Company in Des Moines, Iowa for five years before joining them full-time for 27 years.”

      Another member of Jim’s family also received services from the Iowa Department for the Blind. His younger brother, who is also blind, subsequently attended Iowa Lakes Community College in 1978 and now runs a popular restaurant in Minnesota.

      These examples demonstrate that once Kenneth Jernigan’s approach to service delivery was introduced in our agency, informed consumer choice became a hallmark of the vocational rehabilitation process. The positive philosophy of blindness at the core of our program of service delivery continues to make the program what it is today. 


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      What Makes a Book a Book?

      by Beth Hirst, Assistant Library Director

       “Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness.” 

      --Helen Keller

      Braille dots on paper.What is a book? What constitutes reading? Is it the act of holding a volume in one’s hands, seeing words and images, turning the pages?

      We at the Iowa Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped know that there are many kinds of books and ways to read them. Alternate methods of reading for the blind have been in development for centuries. Braille was created in the 19th century and took precedence over several other tactile methods by the early 20th. Thomas Edison invented his sound reproduction machine, partly with the idea that it could be used to read to people who were blind. By the 1930s, Congress established the National Library Service for the Blind (NLS), which, through a network of regional libraries, managed production and distribution of Braille materials. NLS developed the Talking Book Machine and long-playing records to provide books in audio format. As technology has changed and improved, NLS has provided higher quality, more durable audio players and formats, culminating with the digital players and cartridges in use today. 

      Computer applications, designed for people with reading disabilities, will enlarge text or highlight words as a synthetic voice reads them aloud. Background and text colors can be changed, and preferred fonts can be applied. The reader can check definitions of words with onboard dictionaries and find other helps for reading comprehension.

      Interestingly, the general reading public discovered the usefulness of alternative methods, such as audio books, over the last 25 years or so. Books on cassette and later, on CD, became huge sellers. They quickly became an acceptable substitute for reading print for individuals who were busy and wanted to read in their cars or while performing other tasks. 

      More recently, e-books that can be read on computers and e-reader devices, such as the Kindle and the Nook, have soared in popularity. A single device can hold thousands of titles. Purchases can be made instantly through Wi-Fi or 3G. E-books can even be borrowed from public libraries, although there remains room for improvement with this service. Suddenly, rumors abound that print books and the publishing industry itself may be in danger of extinction. An ongoing debate rages over the value of print, the issue of ownership, accessibility of e-readers, the reading “experience,” and more.

      This brings us back to the question posed at the beginning of this article: what is a book? Is it a physical item, print or Braille, that sits on a shelf? Is it a cassette, a CD, a cartridge, a file on a computer? Is it all of these things, or none of them?

      I contend that the items just listed are merely delivery methods. The contents of the book are ideas put into words, transcribed from the author’s mind to paper, a computer screen, or a voice recorder. The words convey information, tell a story, create atmosphere, or place the reader in a particular place and time. It does not matter if the reader receives the words through sight, hearing, or touch. The communication taking place between the author and the reader is much the same. In the case of an audio book, the narrator becomes an equal partner in the collaboration of author and reader. 

      It is true that a child learning to read needs to experience spelling and grammar through the medium of print or Braille in order to master writing. When the ability to read and express coherent thought in writing is established, extracting meaning from content can be accomplished by other means. Readers can choose the most effective method for them.

      “I love books. I will resist purchasing an e-reader until my dying day, plain and simple. I love the whole reading experience: the heft of a Pynchon novel, the dry rasp of paper under my fingertips, the sound of the pages sliding against each other with each turn, the satisfying thud of closing the cover.” 

      --The Abysmal (a blog)


      There are those who say they prefer the feel of a book in their hands, the smell of the paper and binding, the tactile satisfaction of turning the pages. I agree that certain kinds of books are intended for a print presentation, for example, coffee-table-size art or photography books, children’s books like Pat the Bunny, books with creative formatting in which the visual effects require printed pages, or even flip books that produce animated illustrations. I maintain, however, that when the primary purpose of a book is to impart information or enjoyment through the text, a digital book on an e-reader or an audio book can fulfill that objective equally well.

      I do not believe that print is doomed. Reading devices are great, but need to be charged frequently. What if the power goes out, or by some disaster, energy sources become severely limited? We will continue to use printed resources for a variety of reasons. 

      What may change, sooner than we think, is the author/publisher/retailer model of book sales. Self-publishing authors are marketing through online sellers, such as Amazon, and are releasing some content on their own websites for free. Rather than destroying sales, free access is generating more purchases by readers who discover authors they like and want to own. 

      Columnist Chris Rechtsteiner writes in “Digital Book World”:

      When looking specifically at traditional publishers and booksellers, two questions arise:

      Could it just be that traditional booksellers and publishers aren’t innovating quickly enough to meet the needs of today’s authors and readers? (Absolutely)

      Could it be that traditional booksellers and publishers are being out innovated by, of all parties, cash and funding-strapped libraries? (Absolutely) …

      Libraries across the country are innovating as quickly as they can with e-book lending, e-reader lending and myriad other programs. Authors are creating all types of new works to experiment with gaining readers and improving reader engagement …

      Publishers (both old and new) must step up and provide the platforms (and rights management frameworks) for innovation needed by booksellers (all types of booksellers) and authors to push reading forward. If they don’t, publishers will fall by the wayside as true innovation will be limited to a few (one?) large players … while authors take their storytelling to completely new platforms that are altogether outside of the bookselling and library frameworks.

      Rechtsteiner’s call for innovation ties in to the adaptations that we in the business of services for the blind and print-disabled are developing and promoting every day. Library services will continue to evolve rapidly, to the point where the Library may be unrecognizable in as little as five years. The cassettes will be withdrawn by the end of 2015; downloading will be commonplace; and other delivery methods for digital content that we have yet to imagine may be fully established. What will not change is our commitment to our library patrons and their desire to read what they want, when they want, and in the formats of their choice. 

      From the Librarian

      The versatility, convenience, and re-usability of the National Library Service’s digital cartridge are attributes that can’t be overstated. You can download Green Eggs and Ham (5 minutes) and The Green Mile (12 hours) from BARD, and put them both on a single cartridge. Or, you can put one each on two separate cartridges, depending on your preference. A blank cartridge resembles an empty book case. You can build your own library by buying and filling cartridges with books. Or, if you prefer, you can download books, read books, and then wipe a single cartridge clean, using (and reusing) one cartridge for years. No mail, no new manufacturing of cartridges, no new shipping containers—that’s walking pretty softly on the land! Either way, the choice is yours.

      The Friends of the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped are providing, through a grant, one free cartridge and shipping container to every Library patron. If you don’t have your free cartridge yet, just contact your reader advisor to get one. You might also consider thanking the Friends of the Library as well. Contact Friends of the Library President, Pat Smith, at for more information about the Friends. 

      Randy Landgrebe


      Old Glory, the American flag.2012 Presidential Election Bibliography
      By Rachel Bussan

      Every four years the American people have the opportunity to vote for a candidate to fill the highest office in the land. In this issue, we offer books by or about the two major candidates for 2012, plus information on political parties and processes. Many other titles from all points of view are available in the Library’s collection. Be an informed voter! 

      The Obamas by Jodi Kantor.

      New York Times correspondent conducted hundreds of interviews to create a portrait of Barack and Michelle Obama and their life in the White House. Kantor examines the first lady’s influence on and advocacy for her husband and explores the political consequences of their personal dynamics. Bestseller. 2012.

       DB/RC63126, BR16808
      The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama.

      Democratic senator from Illinois and author of Dreams from My Father (RC 43877) details his ideas to improve the country. Discusses American values, the U.S. Constitution, religion, globalization, race, and other subjects of interest to voters. Commercial audiobook. Abridged. 2006.

      The Real Romney by Michael Kranish.

      Boston Globe political reporters explore the life of former Massachusetts governor and 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney. They discuss the influence Romney’s father, the late governor of Michigan, had on his political views and describe Romney’s Mormon upbringing, his marriage, and his role at the investment company Bain Capital. Co-author is Scott Helman. 2012.

      No Apology: The Case For American Greatness by Mitt Romney.

      Former Massachusetts governor and 2008 presidential candidate asserts that the country’s primary objective should be “to keep America strong and to preserve its place as the world’s leading nation.” Discusses geopolitical threats and domestic challenges. Proposes solutions for overhauling Medicaid, reducing dependence on foreign oil, and improving education. Bestseller. 2010.

      American Political Parties and Elections: A Very Short Introduction by L. Sandy Maisel.

      Distills the American electoral process and critiques its imperfections. Surveys the history of political parties, the electoral college system, presidential campaigns, and state party organizations. Author laments low voter turnout, the lack of competition among political parties, and the state of campaign financing. 2007.

      Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America by Kate Zernike.

      Examination of the American Tea Party movement, which evolved after the 2008 election of President Obama. Describes its members’ opposition to taxes, deficits, and illegal immigration; their strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution; and their influence on the 2010 midterm elections.

      To request these or other titles contact your Reader’s Advisor at (800) 362-2587.


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      Adaptation a Daily Task in the Center

      Scenes from the Orientation Center-watering plants on the roof, preparing a meal in Home Ec, note taking in Braille, boarding the bus for a field trip, and graduation day in the Director's Conference Rebecca Swainey, Braille Teacher

      Check definitions of the word `adaptation` in Webster’s New World Dictionary and you’ll find the following: “… adjustment to environmental conditions as (a) adjustment of a sense organ (as the eye) to the intensity or quality of stimulation … or as a physical adjustment to meet changed conditions …”

      People with vision loss know about making adaptations to meet changed conditions. Whether the loss has been from birth, developed slowly over time, or come as a sudden shock, they have, of necessity, made adjustments to their physical environment to adapt to changed conditions. These adaptations may be minor or extensive. They may be undertaken with the intent of remaining an active member of society, or as a withdrawal from a world in which they no longer feel included.

      Some have adapted by relying more and more heavily on family members and friends. They deal with problems of mobility and transportation by narrowing their boundaries. Their world becomes the path to the mailbox, the front porch, or even simply the inside of their home. They depend on others to provide transportation to doctor’s appointments, grocery stores, church; they withdraw from organizations and social engagements because they have become too difficult to navigate. They stop using their stove and oven, as well as utensils such as sharp knives, because they don’t feel safe in the kitchen. To them adaptation to their loss means being dependent on others.

      Then there are those who choose not to adapt; to ignore their vision loss, pretending it doesn’t exist. They continue to drive despite uncomfortably close calls. They bump into walls, as well as other individuals, or slip off curbs they didn’t notice were near. They strain to read the print on a menu, a price tag, a computer monitor or in a book. They hold fiercely to their independence with the belief that acknowledging their vision loss, adapting to the changes in their life, is the equivalent of giving up.

      Often the adaptations people have chosen, or lack of them, leave the individual feeling frustrated and alone. When they finally make a connection with the Iowa Department for the Blind for the first time, it’s a turning point in their lives. And when they decide to enter the Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center for training, they are making a huge commitment to change. Classes in the Center are designed to help students adapt from visual to nonvisual techniques. They learn to travel with a long white cane rather than rely on their limited vision to locate obstacles, stairs or curbs. They learn speech access to operate computers rather than visually reading the monitor. They learn Braille as an alternative to print for personal communications needs such as labels as well as for more extensive reading. They learn simple ways to adapt everyday tools like bending measuring spoons into ladles to dip into rather than pour from containers, or using a spatula to center a pan on the stove. They learn they can safely operate power tools and machinery with very few adaptations—using a rotomatic, a tool for tactile measuring, or a strip of brass as a guide in welding. These simple adaptations allow the individual to independently navigate and interact with their environment.

      But, in order for their adaptation to be truly complete, they must also change the way they think. They must learn to problem solve, to “think outside the box” about how they might do things nonvisually, and adapt to meet their own changing conditions. Most of all they must reevaluate what they believe it means to be sighted and what it means to be blind. When they can adapt their thinking to truly accept that “It’s ok to be blind,” they have achieved the ultimate goal of their training in the Orientation and Adjustment Center. 

      Did You Know?

      Over 1,500 students have attended the Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center since it opened in 1959.

      Photo panel: New Multimedia Exhibit Graces IDB Library’s Reading Room
      Part of the History of Blindness in Iowa project, this multimedia presentation in the Reading Room of the library presents vintage films, IDB history, and philosophy.


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      Camp Palooza Makes a Splash at Honey Creek

      by Julie Aufdenkamp, Transition Counselor

      Transition student tubing at Honey Creek on Lake Rathbun.The 2012 IDB Transition Summer programming wrapped up with Camp Palooza which ran from July 16 through July 19. The Camp was held at Honey Creek Resort on Lake Rathbun near Moravia, Iowa. 

      The focus was to provide the teens with a multitude of opportunities to explore and experience recreational activities in the “great outdoors.” The goal of the camp was to help students learn that they don’t have to limit themselves because of their vision loss and that alternative techniques can be used to adapt to situations in all aspects of life.

      Activities featured opportunities to build skills and experiences in areas such as the alternative techniques of blindness. These include the concepts of structured discovery, problem-solving, communication, building confidence, and overcoming challenges and fears. 


      The students and staff met with a naturalist to learn about orienteering, which involves the use of compasses and stride (step) counting to find a particular location. Braille and talking compasses were used instead of compasses that must be accessed visually. The group broke up into teams, and the naturalist helped team members to determine the length of their strides. The teams were then given the nautical directions and distances to reach a series of locations. The students calculated the number of strides it would take to travel the distance and stayed on course by feeling or listening to their compasses. It was necessary to rely on canes in order to detect and steer around obstacles in their paths of travel. The activity was a great exercise in orientation and mobility as well as problem solving. 


      Boating and tubing were among the students’ favorite activities. The teens and staff boarded the boats--one was a pontoon and the other was a speed boat. Much of the afternoon and evening were spent flying across the water on tubes pulled behind the boats. For some students, tubing was a new experience which pushed them out of their comfort zones. All were successful and gained confidence in themselves. They certainly learned some new alternative techniques with regard to getting on the tubes, swimming back to the boats after tubing, climbing into the boats from the water, and moving about in the boats.

      Kayaking and Fishing

      Student trying out the solo kayak.Although Mother Nature provided scorching hot temperatures, kayaking and fishing provided some great learning experiences. Participants learned how to get in and out of the kayaks, how to sit properly, how to use the paddle, and how to control the kayak. They learned that they had to rely on their listening skills to maintain their orientation while on the water. The students also learned some of the basics of fishing--how to use a rod and reel and how to use their sense of touch to bait a hook, to determine if fish were biting on their lines, and to remove fish once they were caught. 

      Night Hike

      One evening, a naturalist led the students and staff on a “sounds of the night” hike, a trek along paved and dirt/grass trails through wooded and open areas. At times the trails followed the lake shoreline. It was very dark, and participants were forced to rely on their cane travel skills as well as listening skills. The students listened as the naturalist used recordings to call birds and owls.

      Dutch Oven Cooking 

      A Honey Creek naturalist demonstrated how to use a cast iron Dutch oven and hot coals to bake two scrumptious desserts. The students learned, hands-on, how to safely work with the hot coals and ovens.

      At the end of the four-day-long Palooza, the teens took home more than bags of dirty camp clothes. They also took home experiences that reinforced the fact that, with alternative techniques and the willingness to adapt, blindness doesn’t have to stand in the way of success in life. 


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      Adaptations for Success in Self-Employment

      By Roger Erpelding, B.E.P. Program Administrator

      We learn to adapt to situations all of our lives. When the pan is stored in an upper cabinet, we grab a step stool or chair; when the apple is ten feet from the ground, we bring a ladder; when the jar is too tight to open, we seek out a device that will enable us to obtain a firm grip and twist the lid.

      As blind people, we learn some adaptations or alternative techniques quite early. I began to learn Braille in kindergarten and to write with the slate and stylus in third grade. Other techniques were obtained later in life--especially in gardening and cooking. In fact, we will continue to learn new techniques all the rest of our lives from mentors, our families, our friends, and our neighbors.

      It is the same with self-employed business people in the Business Enterprises Program. Many of these adaptive and alternative techniques are learned at our Orientation Center, others while in training, and still others while we are on the job--whatever the situation warrants. The bottom line is simply this--do they work? Our philosophy and experience says “yes”--loud and clear. Our business managers are living proof that this is so. Examples include using a dog guide or cane, reading and writing Braille, voice computer screen readers, bar code readers that use speech, readers, drivers, and the iPhone.

      Terry Brannen, doing business as Marathon Vending, manages the Des Moines Post Office snack bar and vending machines at the main Des Moines post office. A valuable tool he frequently uses is the I.D. Mate, a bar code reader which speaks, and identifies products for Terry. Besides product name, it can also read product ingredients and nutritional facts. Terry also employs a magnifier which enables him to write his own checks and to verify invoices. Terry’s two employees read code dates to him, as there is no current adaptive device available for this purpose. Terry’s employees may also serve as a temporary driver, “if we need emergency groceries,” Terry states.

      Terry lives a few blocks from the post office, so he uses his cane when he walks to and from work.

      Part of Terry’s training involved lessons on how to use JAWS with Iowa Department for the Blind technology staff. “This allows me to read supplier catalogs and to take advantage of online specials” he said. 

      Terry also takes advantage of what he calls “tactile products.” Many of the packages of potato chips feel the same, and many bottled beverages also feel alike; thus, the I.D. Mate makes inventory control and product sorting possible and efficient for a blind person. “When I was in training, I learned how different many candy products feel. As I’ve gained experience as a manager, my experience in this area has increased. Snickers, Almond Joys, Mounds and Salted Nut Rolls are tactilely different.”

      Randy Kluesner, D.B.A. R & Y Vending, manages a large vending route in the Davenport area, which includes two rest area vending sites. Earlier this year, Randy purchased an iPhone. “I’ve never been much for technology,” he declared, “but this phone is really helpful for a blind person. The GPS and compass features help me know where I’m at and help me run my route more efficiently. If I have to train a new driver, or go to a new location, these features are very helpful.” Randy has programmed a list of telephone numbers into this device, and it even has a reminder feature that assists him. “Earlier this summer, I received a large shipment of chip products with expiration dates of July 27. I programmed this into the phone, and when the time got near, I was reminded that I needed to check this product.” A unique feature for Randy has been the phone’s ability to help him find objects he has dropped on the floor.

      Randy is a huge believer in carrying and using his cane while at work. He is often stopped by customers, who exclaim “I didn’t know a blind person could do this job.” To Randy, the cane is all about efficiency and competency.

      Scott Marchant, D.B.A. Cam’s Vending, manages a large vending route in the Cedar Rapids area. He uses many of the adaptive equipment and alternative techniques pointed out above--the I.D. Mate, the white cane, and the iPhone, just to name a few. 

      Scott Marchant and his guide dog, Cameron, service a vending machine.Photo: BEP manager Scott Marchant and his guide dog, Cameron.

      In addition to this, Scott uses two additional adaptive methods in his business. His dog guide, Cameron, accompanies Scott on his route. Cameron draws customers, and this gives Scott a chance to educate them on the techniques of using a dog guide, and also allows his customers the opportunity to observe him being active in his many business endeavors. “Sometimes the customers pay too much attention to Cam,” he observed. When Cameron is not well, Scott’s competency in cane skills stands him in good stead.

      Scott also uses a digital voice recorder. Inventory control and ordering are its main functions for him. “I can also record how much coinage I need at my various locations so I can obtain the correct amount I want when I go to the bank,” he stated. 

      As Scott grows in his business, he is also seeking a device that will help him to program his vending machines with speech. If this is available, it will assist him with pricing and other program functions that are currently visual in nature.

      As our businesses grow and change, we will find adaptations which will present alternative techniques to keep up with many aspects of being self-employed. After all, adaptation is required for survival and profit. 


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