ISD welcomes braille library

The Iowa Educational Services for the Blind & Visually Impaired Professional Library held a grand opening Tuesday at its new location at Iowa School for the Deaf.

The library opened at the ISD Careers Building, Suite 170, at the beginning of the school year, said Chris Short, Braille and low vision literacy consultant, who oversees the library. It continued to operate out of the former Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in Vinton until then, even though the school closed in 2011.

The library stocks expanded core curriculum, orientation materials, early childhood communications references, books with textured illustrations for tactile exploration, geometric shapes, science kits, Braille books, educational toys, magnifiers, Braillers (which type pages embossed with Braille) and other learning aids, Short said. Many of the materials are purchased from American Printing House for the Blind, a nonprofit organization that was designated in 1979 as the official supplier of educational materials for all children in the U.S. who meet the definition of blindness and are working at less than college level.

“I don’t know how I would teach without their products,” she said.

Materials from the library are sent all over the state to blind students, teachers, school districts and area education agencies, Short said.

“It’s a good example of outreach services for kids who are blind or visually impaired around Iowa,” said Steve Gettel, superintendent of IESBVI and ISD.

The state provides up to almost $300 per student per year for educational materials specifically designed for blind children, Short said. However, the library is able to stretch the dollars by reusing items once students are finished with them.

The space now occupied by the library was once an auto body shop and paint booth for vocational education, said John Cool, assistant administrator. Before remodeling, it was being used as a garage.

“We just redid the whole thing,” he said.

Workers spent about five months putting in a suspended ceiling, drywall and floor covering; replacing the lights and windows; and installing a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, Cool said.

The state has seven consultants who, like Short, travel all over the state and assist teachers and parents in working with blind or visually impaired students, she said. Each consultant specializes in a particular subject area. Most teachers work through an area education agency but are still employed by IESBVI.

The Iowa Board of Regents, which governs the Vinton campus as well as ISD and the state’s public universities, wants to have Iowa Educational Services for the Blind & Visually Impaired off the campus by next summer, said Steve Gettel, superintendent of IESBVI and ISD. That will free up the property to be sold to another party.

There are about a half-dozen buildings on the campus, Gettel said.

“The buildings and campus get good use, but the bulk of it is not (used for services for the blind),” he said.

IESBVI still has a business office, maintenance facility and offices for consultants and itinerant staff on the campus, Gettel said. The AmeriCorps program leases dorm rooms and space for training volunteers, storage and managing its operations.

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