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State offers services for the blind

January 15, 2013
By Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer , Estherville Daily News

One common misconception is that people have to be totally blind to receive help from the state.

Well Liz Soenen, rehabilitation teacher with the Iowa Department for the Blind, set that misconception and others straight when she met with a group Tuesday afternoon at Friendship Terrace in Estherville.

Anyone can made a referral to the department, and there is no charge for services, Soenen said.

Article Photos

Liz Soenen, rehabilitation teacher with the Iowa Department for the Blind, told an audience at Friendship Terrace Tuesday about services for the blind.
EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

Soenen said a person is defined as being legally blind when he or she has 20/200 vision with correction.

"What we look at most is functional blindness," said Soenen, who showed everyone a variety of aides available for the blind, such as a large timer with prominent black numbers against a white background and a black grid that holds paper so people can continue to write letters and fill out forms. There's even free directory assistance available for those determined to be legally blind, she said.

"Blind to people is totally blind," Soenen said, noting the popular misconception. "There's all kinds of levels of blindness." A person with 20/200 vision can use a magnifying machine for reading, for example.

Soenen said her department offers community-based training to help people cope with their environment, practicing hands-on tasks so they can remain in their own homes. The department also offers two week-long sessions in Des Moines - something that's particularly helpful for students transitioning into a college environment. College-bound young people can learn how to be independent in a nonthreatening environment.

When people who are having vision loss learn to cope with it, it's a lot easier for those around them, Soenen said.

Every person who works for the department goes through the training which helps them empathize even more with clients. The department also has an extensive collection of audio books, with over 1,000 checked in and out every day, she said.

For more information, contact Soenen at 800-362-2587, try the TTY line at 515-281-1355 or e-mail liz.soenen@blind.state.ia.us.

 
 
 

 

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