April 25th S.O.A.R. Saturday Cancelled: Check out Books for Kids

Due to health concerns and our desire to make sure we keep everyone healthy and safe, we will be cancelling our S.O.A.R. Saturday on April 25, 2020.  The library will also cancel its extended hours on Saturday, April 25th form 10:00am – 2:0pm. Please continue to watch our blog and the Iowa Department for the Blind website, https://blind.iowa.gov/ for updates.

Books for Kids Program

During this time the Books for Kids program is a great way to keep kids reading!  It is designed to provide kids daily access to books throughout the year.  We want to motivate kids to help develop a love of reading, spark the imagination and provide tools for future success in school and beyond.

The program provides at least five Braille, print/Braille, large print and/or audio books each month to participants.  It allows for the child to choose the books they want in as many formats as they would like to receive.  The books can be sent to the child’s home, school and/or other addresses.  Check out the Books for Kids Page for more information and the registration form.

Braille Bits Online

Legos spelling the word brailleStarting next week, on Mondays and Wednesdays at 2:00 pm we will start our Braille Bits Online program. It will be conducted over Zoom, an online meeting platform that is very easy to use. Join us twice a week for 45 minutes as we listen to a Braille Bits podcast and have a fun and lively conversations surrounding all things Braille. Please contact Denise Bean at 515.452.1338 for more information or to register.

You can also register by completing this registration form

Join Us Next Week for IDB Read

Join us next week as we begin IDB Read.  Call in and listen to one of our wonderful volunteer narrators read live on the phone, followed by a short chat about the book.

  • Mondays and Wednesdays from 4:00pm-5:00pm, you call in and listen to our narrator, Christine Mach, read a cozy mystery. The first one is titled A Scone to Die For by H.Y. Hanna.
  • Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:00am – 11:00 am, you can call in and listen to our narrator, Bob White, read a western, titled Sackett’s Land by Louis L’Amour.

Please call the library at 515.281.1323 to get the conference call number for IDB Read.

We look forward to reading with you!

March 28th S.O.A.R. Saturday Canceled

Due to health concerns and our desire to make sure we keep everyone healthy and safe, we will be cancelling our S.O.A.R. Saturday on March 28, 2020.  The library will also cancel its extended hours on Saturday, March 28th form 10:00am – 2:0pm.  Please continue to watch our blog and the Iowa Department for the Blind website, https://blind.iowa.gov/ for updates.

STEM: Braille Yes

Braille Challenge LogoWe would like to congratulate all of the students who participated in the Iowa Regional Braille Challenge this past Saturday. And we would like to thank everyone who participated in the STEM Fest that followed the Braille Challenge, especially our partner the South Central STEM Hub. 72 participants visited 16 tables featuring interactive learning activities and hands-on demonstrations to connect youth with STEM post-secondary options and careers. It was a great day for Braille and STEM!

Three Braille Challenge particpants receive their awards. Student at a desk with Perkins Brailler for the Braille Challenge.Four Braille Challenge participants receive their awards.Students at STEM Table

STEM Fest at IDB – Saturday, February 29th

The Iowa Department for the Blind is hosting its first STEM festival on Saturday, February 29, from 2:00-4:00 P.M. The whole community is invited to learn from area professionals and check out educational and career opportunities.

The STEM fest relates to Iowa Department for the Blind’s mission statement by exposing our students to STEM career paths to give them the opportunity to be gainfully employed and live an independent life.

SC STEM Hub Manager, Sarah Derry, noted that there is an achievement gap in mathematics and science for students with disabilities. “Iowa needs innovators from diverse backgrounds. Events like this not only empower future STEMists with accessible experiences to ignite their interest, but they also show parents and employers what all kids can do in an inclusive environment.”

In partnership with the SC STEM Hub, 16 local exhibitors will feature interactive learning activities, hands-on demonstrations and fun make-and-takes. All booths strive to connect students with STEM post-secondary options and careers. The event is free, open to the public, and features universal design, making it accessible to all audiences. Exhibitors include:

  • Drake STEM
  • FIRST Lego League 47081: Eco-Squirrels
  • FIRST Tech Challenge 6103: JHS
  • Friends of Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled
  • Follmann—William Penn University
  • Garrett—William Penn University
  • Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation
  • Iowa Council United Blind
  • Iowa Department for the Blind
  • Iowa Library for the Blind
  • Iowa PBS
  • ISU Extension & Outreach Polk County 4-H
  • John Deere—Ottumwa
  • National Federation of the Blind of Iowa
  • NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador Volunteer
  • Science Center of Iowa

We hope students attending the STEM fest will gain greater access to STEM topics as well as showcasing STEM careers. The event will be held at the Iowa Department for the Blind, 524 4th Street in Des Moines. Parking is free for festival attendees. Follow signs to the lot just north of the building. The first 150 students will receive a free drawstring bag.

2020 Iowa Regional Braille Challenge

The Iowa Department for the Blind will host its 14th Regional Braille Challenge on February 29, 2020 from 8:30 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

What is the Braille Challenge? It’s an event that hosts blind students ages 6-19 to test their braille skills in five categories: reading comprehension, braille spelling, chart and graph reading, proofreading and braille speed and accuracy. All you have to do is contact Karen Cunningham at 515-452-1339 or email karen.cunningham@blind.state.ia.us to sign up!  Check out our Braille Challenge page for more information.

The Braille Challenge® is sponsored by the Braille Institute. The top 50 students in the nation with the highest scores are invited to Los Angeles in June for the final round – two days of competition, camaraderie and fun!
For those students that are not participating in the Braille Challenge, come join us for the Mini Braille Challenge.

What is the Mini Braille Challenge? An introduction to the braille alphabet and numbers with fun, hands-on activities centered on braille. The Mini Braille Challenge will be held from 12:30 p.m.-1:45 p.m. To sign up, contact Denise Bean at 515-452-1338 or email denise.bean@blind.state.ia.us!  check out our Mini Braille Challenge page for more information.

We don’t want to leave anyone out! This is a family event! Parents and siblings are welcome to attend and join in on the fun! In addition, we are hosting a STEM Fest this year from 2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.

We look forward to hearing from you!

January S.O.A.R. Saturday

1,000BooksLogoEditJoin us for January 26, 2019 join us for S.O.A.R. Saturday from 9:00am to 3:00pm at the Iowa Department for the Blind.  This S.O.A.R. Saturday will be held alongside our 2019 Regional Braille Challenge.

At this program, children and their families will learn about library and services that can help youth patrons become Successful, find Opportunities, develop Aspirations, and READ.

Register for January S.O.A.R. Saturday Here

During our January S.O.A.R. Saturday, we will have special activities throughout the day.  One of those activities will be The Mini Braille Challenge that will focus on the braille alphabet, tactile recognition and form words by using 2 to 3 letters. You will also get to braille your name by using the Perkins brailler and write a special note to share with a friend.

If you would like to learn more about the Braille Challenge take a look at our Braille Challenge page on this blog.

Whether you are participating in S.O.A.R. Saturday or the Braille Challenge – join us for a great day!

For more information, contact Lois Crozier at 515-281-1295 or lois.crozier@blind.state.ia.us.

2019 Iowa Regional Braille Challenge

BC 2019_Iowa_Dot T-shirtOur Regional Braille Challenge is held the last Saturday in January each year—January 26th for 2019. It will take place at the Iowa Department for the Blind. More information and registration forms will be available soon!  Watch our Braille Challenge page and postings on this blog for up-to-date information.

See our Instructional Materials Blog for more information

What Is the Braille Challenge?

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 visually impaired student in grades 1 – 12 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, 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, please visit https://www.brailleinstitute.org/braille-challenge

Contest Age Groups

  • Apprentice—1st and 2nd grades
  • Freshman—3rd and 4th grades
  • Sophomore—5th and 6th grades
  • Junior Varsity—7th, 8th and 9th grades
  • Varsity—10th, 11th and 12th grades

Taking A Contest That Is Below A Student’s Grade Level

Only students who take the preliminary contest in contracted braille that corresponds to their age-appropriate academic grade level will be eligible to be invited to the Finals. However, to encourage full inclusion and maximum participation in the preliminary round, a student may take any level of contest. Also, the Apprentice preliminary contest is offered in uncontracted braille and also can be taken by students of any age.

Link for sample tests: https://www.brailleinstitute.org/braille-challenge/sample-contests

iBraille App

The iBraille App is a free app created to bring braille and digital literacy together. Through the app, using an iPad and a refreshable braille display, students can practice and hone their braille literacy skills anywhere, anytime! Visit https://www.brailleinstitute.org/ibraille-challenge-app

Please encourage your students to join in the Braille Challenge on January 26th!!

LEAP Transition Resource Fair

The Iowa Department for the Blind (IDB) and the Iowa City Community School District present a resource fair for students K-12, parents, teachers, and service providers featuring exhibitors, informative sessions, and family activities. The fair offers information about services and resources available to assist low vision and blind students navigate their school careers and prepare for post-secondary education and/or employment.


  • Information sessions:
    • Session 1 — 10:00-11:00 am
      “Introduction to IDB Services – Vocational Rehabilitation, the Orientation Center, the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the Library’s Instructional Materials Center, and the Aids & Devices Store” –  Learn what services are offered by the Iowa Department for the Blind and how they can help low vision and blind transition-age students during their school years.
      “Converting Text to Audio —  How to Scan Books”  with Enrique Mejia, Rehabilitation Technology Specialist
      Blind and low vision students starting college may suddenly realize they no longer have a TVI to take care of ordering their accessible study materials for them. The responsibility of being prepared for classes falls primarily on students themselves. They need to have the skills to find and get access to information. One important skill is the ability to scan materials. This session will cover just a few of the tools, inexpensive and sometimes free, that are available to students.
    • 11:00 am – Exhibits open until 3:00 pm
    • Session 2 — 11:10 am – 12:00 pm
      “Early Intervention in Low Vision and Blind Students Lives” with Julie Aufdenkamp, Transition Specialist
      This session will address the crucial question of:  “What should the expectations be for children who are blind or low vision?”
    • 12:00-1:15 pm  Lunch (you may bring your own or find options nearby in the area),  exhibits remain open
    • Session 3 — 1:15 pm – 2:00 pm
      Vocational Rehabilitation – “Today’s Learners Become Tomorrow’s Earners” with Julie Aufdenkamp,  Transition Specialist
      “Vocational Rehabilitation from the Iowa Department for the Blind doesn’t start until my child/student graduates from high school… right?” Wrong! Session participants will learn what VR is and why early connections are important.
    • Session 4 — 2:15- 3:00 pm
      The Orientation Center – “Nonvisual Skills and Independence” with Nami Wallace, Orientation Center Instructor
      An in-depth look at the Orientation Center, it’s philosophy of learning, what classes are offered, the use of learning shades, and how attending the Center fits into a student’s overall development.
  • Exhibitors and resource tables focusing on transition services, tech vendors, advocacy groups

Where:  The Commons and Room 118, The Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa, 2301 Oakdale Blvd, Coralville, IA  Link to Google maps and directions

Free and open to the public, students of all ages welcome