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Reaching Out Newsletter #82
February 2016

TVI Spotlight: Melissa Snyder

Public school teachers of the visually impaired (TVIs) serve a very important role when it comes to the support of the students needing these services. Melissa Snyder from Wahpeton is just one of many of these individuals. She is currently employed at Wahpeton Public Schools and works half days as an Early Childhood Special Education Teacher with 9 students. The second part of her day involves being a Teacher of the Visually Impaired with one student in the 8th grade.

When asked how she became interested in pursuing a career in vision, she described that she already had her Master’s Degree in Special Education/ Early Childhood and had worked with a student with low vision. A position opened up in Wahpeton for a TVI and she felt compelled to take it. She has not once regretted that decision and absolutely loves what she does. Some of her favorite aspects of the job are learning about all of the new technology along with her students. Melissa is a problem solver and enjoys researching solutions when issues arise. The students are what amaze her most with their ability of what they can do and learn. She looks forward to each day with a positive outlook

One thing Melissa would like to change for her students would be to have more time to work on specific skills related to the expanded core curriculum. She said it is difficult to fit in all of the regular school requirements for students as well as finding time to teach daily living skills, technology and orientation and mobility to her students. She is very thankful that her students have the opportunity to attend programming weeks here at ND Vision Services/ School for the Blind and work on some of these skills more in-depth.

Thank you, Melissa, for all you do! - Nicole Zambo

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

The Fourth-Generation Apple TV

For Apple enthusiasts thinking about adding a streaming device to their living rooms, the question wasn’t “Will the fourth-generation Apple TV be accessible?” but rather, “How accessible will it be?” This relative optimism, which was apparent even before early adopters got their hand on the device, is a hard-won victory for Apple, a company that continues to enjoy an unmatched reputation for building accessibility into its products. Apple TV isn’t the only game in town for eyes-free TV viewing, and it’s far from perfect, but it is by far the best option for users with visual impairments who want to stream their entertainment.

Access for Users with Low Vision

Though Apple has included several options intended to make the device easier to see, Apple TV will still be challenging for many users with low vision. The Apple TV’s visual layout has a few downfalls but can be adjusted to your needs. In Accessibility settings, you can enable bold, larger text, zoom, and increased contrast, and opt to reduce motion, which limits the amount of animation used when app icons are activated. With Zoom enabled, you can use the remote’s touch pad to pan around the screen and change the zoom level. The text enhancement features will be helpful to some low vision users who possess usable distance vision. If you have difficulty with light backgrounds, your best bet for working with Apple TV is to use Voice- Over.

Control Apple TV with Siri

Controlling the Apple TV with your voice is as easy as holding the Siri button on the remote and issuing a command. Ask for general information, like local weather or current time. Open apps or turn accessibility features on or off. Search for movies and TV shows or music by title, participant, and/or genre. Siri is context sensitive: when you’re in an Apple media app or a supported partner app, use Siri to catch dialog you missed. The Apple TV displays a “listening” interface on screen but does not play the familiar Siri tone. Some users will appreciate that Siri doesn’t make unwanted noise, while others will find the lack of feedback takes some getting used to. Siri works reliably and, like IOS, seems to add capabilities often. -From AFB Magazine

NDVS/SB Golden Guides Merchandise

Come to The Store at ND Vision Services/School for the Blind to see some new items you just can’t miss! Students have worked hard over the previous years to develop a mascot for our school, and it is with great pleasure that we can say that their hard work has paid off as we welcome the Golden Guides! A huge thank you to everyone that has helped make this idea a reality! This logo shows a lab guide dog wearing a scarf around his neck along with the lettering NDVS/SB Golden Guides and the braille dots. The Store has stocked a few items with the mascot on them to purchase. You can get water bottles in either blue or yellow color with a nice grip on the bottom of the bottle and a straw that can be flipped up to use or down to prevent leaking. Cinch sacks are also available in a bright orange color with the mascot printed on them in full color. The lettering is blue and the guide dog’s scarf is yellow. Contact Nicole Zambo today to take a look or get a product sent to you. You can reach her at or 701-795- 2714.

Superintendent’s Scoop

Strength is not always measured by what has been obviously accomplished. At NDVS/ SB there are many examples of accomplishments that our staff and students have achieved in the past year. There is much more to behold than what the eye can see, however. Some of the student accomplishments are obvious but many more are less visible. The internal confidence a student experiences is something we hope is visible, but it is what happens inside that is most important. Staff accomplishments are the same way. Our building and grounds are beautiful as a result of the hard work and care that goes into their maintenance. That accomplishment is one that is very visible and one that we are very happy to show off when people come to visit. Effective fiscal management of our agency operation can be taken for granted, but money is the tool that makes our system of service delivery work every day, every month and every year. That may not be obvious to everyone, but we have been blessed with a very competent business manager at NDVS/ SB, and the results are visible if one looks.

Since we are on the topic of money, I can report that in spite of a downturn in the state's economy, NDVS/SB is positioned well to weather the storm. As good stewards of state resources, we will continue to provide high quality services with the 4.05% reduction that Governor Dalrymple announced on February 1st. One factor that I can boast of when it comes to the service that our staff provides, is that it is of the highest quality because their high degree of dedication and expertise. That will not change one bit regardless of our budget. I sincerely hope that the quality of service is highly visible in North Dakota, but I do not mind pointing out how lucky we are in case this was not obvious to everyone.

I will end with a quick mention of something for which I am very proud of as an accomplishment. Our short-term programming (STP) is absolutely unique in the United States. We have made a commitment to provide special skills training to our visually impaired students who attend public schools around the state. For the 2015-16 school year we have implemented a 50 skills checklist that will track progress on what we consider the most important life skills necessary to become college and career ready. We are focusing on these indicator skills and measuring progress in a very quantifiable way like we have never done before. We know our students attain essential life skills through our programming, but now there will be undisputable proof.

Paul Olson,

Upcoming Events


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 Editors: Nicole Zambo ( and Leslie Pederson (

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