Save the Date! 2023 Iowa Regional Braille Challenge

Iowa Regional Braille ChallengeBraille Challenge Logo
Saturday, February 25, 2023
at the Iowa Department for the Blind

The Braille Challenge is the only academic competition of its kind in North America for students who are blind or visually impaired. Braille Institute launched the Braille Challenge in 2000 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 first through twelfth grades who can read and write braille is eligible to participate in the preliminary Braille Challenge regional events. All contestants are tested on fundamental braille skills such as:

  • Reading Comprehension
  • Spelling
  • Speed and Accuracy
  • Proofreading
  • Charts and Graphs

For Braille Challenge Finals, 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!

To hone your skills and prepare for the contest, see sample contests here.

We will have an exciting day of testing and prizes as well as parent sessions and will finish up the day with a STEM Fest in partnership with the South Central Iowa STEM Hub!

Watch the Braille Challenge page of our Instructional Materials Center blog for more details on the upcoming Braille Challenge. 


Library Chat Podcast: November 2022

November’s Library Chat Podcast, is all about friends.  With Thanksgiving and the holiday season upon us we thought it would be a great time to talk about Friendsgiving.  Learn about our Friends of the Library group, books about friends and friendships and podcasts hosted by friends about friends.

Books from the November Library Chat Podcast (all titles can be found on BARD):

November Makerspace Monday Recap and What’s Next in December

What a special night at our library for our November Makerspace Monday, learning all about science, but science mixed with art. Michele Brown from UPLAND took us on a special journey centering around touch, all powered by nature. She showed us how to take a 10-foot willow branch that transforms the trunk of the branch into pieces of charcoal. We discovered the science of carbon that turns wood into tools for creating art! The night ended by drawing with charcoal onto thick textured paper and braille paper while sipping on a delicious cup of hot cocoa as an added treat.

December's Makerspace Monday

Time for singing and celebration because you do not want to miss what is coming up next month, Ornament Making Workshop!”  The night will be filled with delicious sugar cookies, Applesauce Cinnamon Ornaments, Sleigh Bell Wreaths, and Twirled Wrapped Snowballs.

Date: December 12th
Time: 6 – 7:30pm

Activity: By Request “Ornament Making Workshop!”
Where: 524 4th Street, Des Moines, IA 50309

If you are unable to join in person, no problem, just complete the online registration form and choose “mail activity kit and video link” directly to your preferred address. 

Please contact Denise Bean at or 515-452-1338 

Check out the Makerspace Mondays page!

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. 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.

National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled Announces Patron Listserv

Want to get the latest news and updates from the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS)?

NLS’s Patron Engagement Section now hosts an announce-only listserv that will include announcements about NLS programs, services, and products that might be of interest to patrons. New announcements will be posted to the list few times a week.

If you are interested in signing up for this listserv, please send your name and email address to the Patron Engagement Section at You will be able to unsubscribe yourself from the list at any time. So email now!

Image of National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled Logo

A Message from Our Friends of the Library

Save the Date

Holiday Benefit Concert
Friday, December 2nd from 7:00pm – 9:30pm
at the Iowa Department for the Blind (524 Fourth Street, Des Moines)

Time to get in the holiday spirit!  Sing along with Antique Harmony and Midnight Madness as they harmonize to your Holiday and Barbershop favorites also with Frank Strong & Dave & Cindy.

Only $10 a ticket – Tickets available at the door

A benefit concert for the Friends of the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

2023 Friends of the Library Campaign

If you love the services you receive from the Iowa Library for the Blind and would like to see them expanded, read below about a great way to make your gift go even further.

The Friends Board of Directors have renewed their matching challenge. For the first 50 new members (defined as someone who has not been a member for 2 years) or renewals of those who were new last year who joins by February 28,2023 $20 will be given.  This year we have a donor who will match our Board match dollar for dollar up to a total of $475.  This means, for each new member and renewal of the new members from last year, the Friends will receive an additional $40 per member!

If you are not already a member of Friends, this would be an excellent time to join since your membership will generate an additional $40 for Friends.

If you are already a member of Friends, please renew your membership and help spread the word about our matching grants.

Below is our 2023 Friends Campaign Card.  Please fill out the card and return it with your check.
2023 Friends of the Library Campaign Card

Friends of the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

PO Box 93046

Des Moines, IA 50393Friends of the Iowa Lilbrary for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Logo