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Independent Living Program Updates

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      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.