Be Among Friends

This week we are celebrating National Friends of Libraries Week.  Our Friends group supports our library in so many ways.  In 2016, the Friends of the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, provided $11,000 to assist our library.  The funds allowed the library to purchase early literacy materials for the collection; including early reader braille and audio books, activity kits, games and more.  These funds will also be used to develop early literacy programs.  Funds were also used to purchase digital cartridges, large print titles for the collection and to fund various programs throughout the year.

In 2015, the Friends provided the funding to purchase a 3D printer for the library.  The space-3d-tactilesprinter has been used to create 3D tactiles to be used by students and patrons.  This summer, 3D tactiles were printed for an astronomy program for teens.  These included 3D models of comets, space craft, space shuttle, Mars terrain and more.  These 3D tactiles will soon be added to the library’s collection and be made available for checkout. Watch for more information soon.

For more information about the Friends of the Iowa
Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped visit their website,


Celebrate National Friends of Libraries Week!

FriendsofBlind-Logo-BlueReversedOutThe Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped will spend this week, October 16 – 22, celebrating its Friends of the Library group as part of the 11th annual celebration of National Friends of Libraries Week.

Our Friends of the library, The Friends of the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, raises money that enables our library to move from good to great by providing funding for resources, equipment and programming throughout the year.  The Friends understand the critical importance of our library and advocates to ensure that our library gets the resources it needs to provide a wide variety of services to all ages.  The gift or their time and commitment to our library is so appreciated and it makes our library and community better.

Come and BE AMONG FRIENDS!  Join the Friends of the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped today.  More information can be found on their website:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Mead


Reading for the fun of it! Teen Read Week

Teen Read Week is under way!  The Library hopes that everyone is “reading for the fun of it!”  Below is a list of popular teen titles.  Some are recently published titles, while others are teen classics.

The Fault in our Stars by John Green (DB74112)

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (DB67159)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (DB75897, BR12551)

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (DB76406)

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (BR11484, DB22433, LT11371)

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (DB82683)

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black (DB80479)

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (BR20594, DB79109)

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough (DB83417)

The Giver by Lois Lowry (BR9626, DB37689, LT9517)

The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker (BR20909, DB81823)

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman (DB83004)

I am Princess X by Cherie Priest (DB82008)

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (DB82468)

The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick (DB80603)

White Cane Safety Day 2016

White Cane Safety Day, also known as Blind Americans Equality Day, is an annual, national observance that recognizes the achievements of blind Americans and the importance of the white cane as the basic tool of mobility and symbol of independence for the blind. It is also a day to remind all citizens of the laws granting the right of way to blind cane travelers. In 1964, the United States Congress authorized the President of the United States to proclaim October 15 of each year as “White Cane Safety Day”. In fact, White Cane Safety Day is now celebrated around the world in many countries on the same date.

White Cane Safety Day 2016 falls on a Saturday this year. The Iowa Department for the Blind (IDB) encourages all blind and low vision Iowans and their supporters to join in this fun and meaningful celebration of White Cane Safety Day 2016 by holding local events and by seeking proclamations of the date, October 15, 2016, from local governments.Links to template files for requesting proclamations from municipal and county governments and links that provide background information about this significant observance may be found here.

New Iowa Department for the Blind Director Selected

emily-wharton_0The Iowa Commission for the Blind has chosen Emily Wharton to serve as Director of the Iowa Department for the Blind. Wharton had been serving as the agency’s Technology Director since 2013.

“Emily Wharton brings three key qualities to the position of Iowa Department for the Blind director,” said Peggy Elliott of Grinnell, chair of the three-member Iowa Commission for the Blind, appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Iowa Senate to set policy for the state agency.

“She has personally struggled with the challenge of living successfully as a blind person and has met that challenge, showing others by her life that blindness need not stop a person from living a full and productive life,” Elliott continued. “She successfully used the Department’s services to achieve her goals and, though she at first viewed the services as provided out of pity, came to understand they are provided to empower. And she has made the commitment to provide her positive outlook and can-do attitude to fellow Iowans encountering vision loss.

“We commissioners look forward to the positive results Emily’s energy and experience will bring to the leadership of a state agency serving fellow Iowans who often, as Emily once did, underestimate their own potential,” Elliott concluded.

Born legally blind, Wharton grew up in Aurelia, Iowa. Her parents expected her to help out around the house and at the family’s hardware store, get good grades, and go to college just as they did her two sighted sisters. She struggled to read print through thick glasses and deal with bullies.

“Although I wish that I had learned Braille as a child, I am forever grateful that my parents never let me get out of work because of my eyesight,” Wharton observes. “I actually learned some ways of doing things non-visually that I didn’t even realize. This was the best thing they could do to prepare me for adult life.”

Wharton’s first contact with services from the Department took place when she was a senior in high school. A vocational rehabilitation counselor from the Iowa Department for the Blind contacted her school guidance counselor.

“They offered to help me pay for college. I really wanted to go to Drake but didn’t know how I was going to pay for it,” Wharton recalls. “The idea of accepting ‘government assistance’ didn’t really settle well with me, though. I told everyone they were giving me ‘pity money.’”

Wharton was academically successful at Drake, but a lack of non-visual skills and low self-esteem due to the internalization of negative beliefs about blindness and herself as a blind person made college life a struggle for her.

“One night I was trying to finish some reading for a paper at 1 a.m. and a bunch of my friends came back from the bar laughing,” Wharton remembers,  “and I felt so angry that it was taking me so much longer  to get things done than my friends.”

Wharton’s rehabilitation counselor finally convinced her to take a tour of the Orientation Center in which the Department offers intensive training in non-visual techniques such as travel with a white cane and using computers that voice information through speech synthesizers. This was the first time she had ever met another blind person or considered that she could use power tools safely and competently.

“The director of the orientation center was a former English professor,” Wharton says. “I saw people walking around quickly without staring at the ground. I saw people using table saws. And everyone seemed relaxed and comfortable with themselves. I knew that was what I needed.”

Wharton finished college a semester early in order to attend the center before starting graduate school.

“It took a lot of work and a lot of patience from the staff,” Wharton comments. “I was a pretty obnoxious, argumentative student. But eventually I came to realize that being blind was OK and that I was a full, complete person. I wasn’t broken or inferior.”

The freedom that this realization brought set Wharton on a new career path. She wanted to help others obtain that same freedom. She took a job teaching cane travel at BLIND, Incorporated, a training center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Over the next fifteen years, she taught cane travel, Braille, job seeking skills and assistive technology.

She trained and mentored new staff and set up and managed the organization’s computer network and website. She created a new curriculum for teaching Braille to adults — the Code Master Adult Braille Learning System — which won two national awards in 2013, the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award from the National Federation of the Blind and the Touch of Genius Prize for Innovation from the National Braille Press.

“Having learned Braille as an adult and working with others who had as well,” Wharton explains, “I realized that there is a faster way for adults to learn the Braille code that utilizes their strengths and learning styles.”

The Code Master system is now being used by the Department in its center and field training.  Materials are available to patrons through the Department’s Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped service.

In 2005 while teaching at BLIND, Wharton completed a Master of Fine Arts degree at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN.

When the opportunity arose to return to her home state in 2013, Wharton was elated.

“I love Iowa and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give back to the agency that empowered me to live a full and happy life,” she sums up. “I am truly honored and excited to be named Director and will put my heart and soul into fulfilling the Department’s mission of empowering blind Iowans.”

Wharton lives in Des Moines with her spouse Shawn Mayo.

The Iowa Department for the Blind is a state agency providing an array of services to Iowans who are legally blind, defined as having ten percent or less of normal vision. Agency staff provides information and services designed to enable Iowans with vision loss to have full and productive lives using non-visual methods of performing tasks. Those services include library service, assistance in training for and finding work, options for living independently as a senior citizen, and intensive training in use of non-visual techniques. For more information please call 515-281-1333 or 800-362-2587 or visit the web site