Skip Navigation - The Official Portal for North Dakota State Government
North Dakota: Legendary. Follow the trail of legends
Students using CCTV to magnify the page they are reading. North Dakota Vision Services



blue line
Upcoming Events graphic leading to the Upcoming Events page

Reaching Out Newsletter #83
September 2016

TVI Spotlight: Brandi Trom-Anderson

Teachers of the Blind and Visually Impaired (TVI's) provide direct and/or consultative special education services specific to students with visual impairments. This may include interpreting medical reports, conducting functional vision and learning media assessments, and providing direct instruction in the expanded core curriculum. The only TVI in the district, this will be Brandi Trom-Anderson's 19th year providing these key specialties in the Bismarck area.

Brandi says that teaching chose her. "I always knew I was going to be a teacher. I never considered any other career." With that she attended the University of Mary before graduating in 1997 with a BS in Elementary and Special Education. After college Brandi worked as an aide in special education. Wayne Triska (a former TVI) and the assistant director of special education for Bismarck Public Schools both visited with Brandi about a tuition/grant program that was set up to recruit, train, and retain TVI's in North Dakota. "I didn't even want to think about going back to school, but it intrigued me. It also meant a teaching job with no additional student loans." It was a win-win for Brandi as she started classes and began her career right away as a teacher in training working for Bismarck Public Schools in the area of visual impairments. She began taking classes for her TVI endorsement through UND in the summer of 1998 and completed her Master's Degree in Special Education/Visual Impairment in August of 2003.

"I am most motivated by the times in my day where I am working directly with students!" Some of Brandi's greatest experiences came from working with students at the high school level. She tells of her passion for teaching braille and technology, "I used to spend hours just digging for the correct way to braille math, science and Spanish! Tech support at Humanware, Duxbury and Freedom Scientific knew me on a first name basis." This shows the love she has for the challenges of teaching concepts to students who are blind or visually impaired. "I'm competitive… even if I am competing with myself"

Brandi's key mentors in her life are former co-workers Kathy Fraase and Wayne Triska. She says "I could not have asked for a better team to work with. We always learned from each other's expertise and respectfully appreciated our differences." Brandi notes that there are also many staff at NDVS/SB that continue to mentor and influence her. "I consider them a great resource and sounding board."

Thank you, Brandi, for all you do! - Ryan Torgerson

We will be featuring a TVI in each newsletter so if you would like to be included, email Ryan at for information.

A Braille Tablet For the Visually Impaired

By Ronan O'Connell

US researchers are developing a braille e-reader which will allow the visually impaired to read text on a digital device in ways previously impossible.

A team from the University of Michigan are building a Kindle-like device which will give those fluent in braille the ability to read an entire page of text on its refreshable display.

Braille e-readers do exist currently, but they have limited displays, often limited only to about 40 characters per page, which amounts to roughly ten words. This makes them labour-intensive to use for reading braille, the alphabet designed for blind or sight-impaired people, which can be interpreted by running the fingers along a sequence of small bumps.

These current, limited devices are also prohibitively priced, costing upwards of $4000 each.

The University of Michigan researchers set out to not only create a braille e-reader with a vastly expanded capacity, but also a lighter and smaller one that can retail at a far lower price point.

Its users will be able to read words, as well as feeling graphs and spreadsheets embedded on the displays in braille.

Associate Professor Sile O'Modhrain, from the University's School of Information, is leading the project.

"One of the advantages with our display is that it's entirely pneumatic which means we can drive it either with air or fluid," she says in the video.

"In practice what that means is we have a series of bubbles which are either inflated or not inflated, and those bubbles in turn push dots up and down (creating the braille pattern).

"That means we're able to produce a display that's a lot cheaper than existing displays which rely on electronics. We never have to worry about wiring, we never have to worry about assembling individual mechanical objects we just build up layers of bubbles."

Dr O'Modhrain says these new e-readers would allow for not just recreational reading but for technical purposes.

"One of the consequences of blind people not being able to access braille, is that they're limited in terms of the kind of scientific or mathematical things they can do in their access to spatially displayed information," she said.

"And even being able to do something fun, like see a graphic that represents performance statistics for their football team over the last year. That's something that people with vision do all the time, and it would be really nice to think that we could actually bring that back."

Article from

Superintendent’s Scoop

Reaching Out is about what is happening with and for real people. Reaching Out is the voice of NDVS/SB and we want it to be a positive voice in your life! If you are reading this issue of Reaching Out you must have some connection with a child or adult with visual impairment. Either you are a family member, a teacher, a friend, another service provider, a community leader, a legislator--maybe even a Governor. Whatever your connection is, we want Reaching Out to speak to you.

When we assemble articles of possible interest for Reaching Out we are hoping the information meets your needs and gives you something of value. We have many great stories to share, information about new technology and other resources and we like to tell people what NDVS/SB has to offer. We are excited about the services we provide and we strive to live up to our mission.

I would be lying if I said that we did not have significant challenges in the next year and in the next biennium (2017-2019) because of budget cuts. We accomplish so much with a small and dedicated staff, but our services are already stretched in many ways. Those of us who are doing our best every day to deliver vital services recognize how much more work is needed to deliver quality instruction and truly make a difference in the lives of students. Budget cuts do have a noticeable impact. Nevertheless, we are going to both survive and thrive during North Dakota's economic downturn.

On the bright side, we are being creative and attempting to do service delivery in new and innovative ways. We hope to do more instruction and consultation across the state with video-conference technology. We hope to provide more support to parents in teaching their children special skills with short instructional videos on YouTube. As much as we would like to make it into every home that is difficult in our huge state. We are beginning to realize that we can put more trust in our awesome parents and local partners.

One last thought I would like to leave you with is that we have a tremendous need for new vision professionals entering the field. Nationwide and in North Dakota there is a shortage of teachers of the visually impaired and certified orientation and mobility specialists. We are anticipating a number of retirements of public school teachers as well as NDVS/SB staff. If you or anyone you know is interested in an exciting and unique career in vision, there is much opportunity. I would be happy to visit with and promote this career choice with anyone. Please email me at or call my office at 701-795-2717.

Available at The Store

I am pleased to announce the arrival of the Dakota Disk by Ambutech. The Dakota Disk is made from a durable plastic and is for use with mobility canes that utilize the hook type tips. This item, although not designed for extended use on concrete, pavement or dirt roads, is excellent on uneven surfaces such as sand, pea gravel, grass, snow, etc. which other cane tips may get caught up on.

The Store also has Golden Guides gear still available. If you are planning to be out and about, these items would be perfect to keep you hydrated and carry a few extra things that you may need. These great products and many more are available at The Store and are listed in our most recent catalog that is available online at our website or a copy can be sent by contacting Ryan Torgerson at or by calling (701)795-2714.

High Volume Talking Book Player and Headphones

The National Library Service (NLS) has developed a high-volume version of the digital talking book player for use by patrons who experience a significant hearing loss. The player has been programmed to have an amplified volume up to 120 dB. The high-volume feature only works when using the high-volume player and specialized NLS-supplied stereo headphones. This new player and headphones replace the amplifier/headset accessory currently in use. Patrons will need to return their current digital player and headset after receipt of the new player and headphones. A return label will be included with the high-volume player.

To apply for the high volume talking book player and headphones, please contact the ND State Library in Bismarck at 1-800-843-9948, or Elaine Legg at the ND Vision Services/School for the Blind, at 1-800-421-1181 or (701) 795-2711. The application which will be submitted to NLS must include certification of hearing impairment by a physician or audiologist, and the application must also be signed by the certifying medical personnel.

NDVS/SB on YouTube

NDVS/SB has started a YouTube Channel! NDVS/SB's Golden Guides YouTube Channel gives you tips on living independently with low vision or blindness. Our teachers and staff will show you step-by-step how to navigate all areas of life from the kitchen to the bus stop. We hope parents, families, and other teachers of the visually impaired will enjoy and learn from these "golden guides" to an independent life.

Check out our first video about pouring liquids, and be sure to subscribe to our channel so you'll be the first to view them! Find the link on our Facebook page, or go to: You can also search for "NDVS/SB Golden Guides" on YouTube.

If you've got an idea for a "golden guide" video, be sure to let us know. Email Emily, or call 701-795-2709.

New Additions

Welcome to NDVS/SB Leonard Shadle and Erika Long.

Leonard has been working in our maintenance department since May. He was born and raised in Jersey Shore, PA then moved to Fredericksburg, VA before ending up in the Grand Forks area. Since moving to the area, Leonard has worked for GFK Head Start, FedEx Express, and Acme Tools. In his free time, Leonard enjoys relaxing, working around his house, fishing and cooking.

Erika Long was hired for the Minot office at NDVS/SB as an outreach teacher for students from birth through graduation. She is also the region 1&2 coordinator. Erika is originally from Missoula, MT. She moved to North Dakota in 2010 for school and is currently living in Velva, ND. Erika graduated from Minot State with a degree in elementary education and a concentration in reading. Most recently she has been working as a kindergarten teacher in Turtle Lake. In her free time, Erika enjoys going to movies, being outside, spending time with her family, reading and taking her dogs for walks.

Upcoming Events

  • OCT. 30-NOV. 4 TEEN STP

Reaching Out is published by the ND Vision Services/School for the Blind, an agency funded by the state of North Dakota for the benefit of people with visual impairments. ND Vision Services/School for the Blind is a division of the ND Department of Public Instruction. NDVS/SB does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in employment or provision of services Reaching Out is available in alternative formats upon request. Please send comments to:

REACHING OUT ND Vision Services/
School for the Blind
500 Stanford Road
Grand Forks, ND 58203-2799

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Kirsten Baesler

Superintendent, ND Vision Services/School for the Blind: Paul Olson -

Reaching Out Editor: Ryan Torgerson ( and Leslie Pederson (

blue line


spacer : spacer

Privacy Policy

spacer spacer spacer XHTML Validation Link spacer CSS Validation Link spacer Priority 2 Accessibility Link
blue line