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The majority are telecommuting, and all have risen to the challenge of our new, temporary normal. As for those we serve, we are seeing resilience on the part of students, creative adaptation by instructors and new collaborations unfolding. It turns out we have been poised to make better use of distance learning technology, stretching our abilities and ever more readiness for collaboration between organizations. A good example of this is a weekly phone-based “Coffee Chat,” that provides an opportunity for adult consumers to visit about how they are doing under these unusual circumstances. This is a collaboration with the ND Association of the Blind.

It has been both a little nerve-racking and exciting witnessing the rollout of new ways of doing things, but it has been truly impressive. The resulting ingenuity and enthusiasm has been infectious (just a little pun intended). These promising signs in no way diminish the devastating nature of the pandemic and the lives lost and changed will hurt forever. It is highly likely many will feel the pain of economic hardship as well. Notwithstanding the very challenging circumstances, there is no going back! We are going to continue to adapt and work together. We are going to push the envelope of innovation in ways that we had a hard time imagining just a couple of months ago. There is no way we will completely return to normal practices because we have all been changed.

Whether you’re a student, a family member of a student, or, a partner in service, know that the dedicated staff of North Dakota Vision Services/School for the Blind continues to work on your behalf. As mentioned before the majority of our staff are working from home, but our core services continue. In fact, we have been working hard to connect with those we serve and new in exciting ways. We will continue in our mission by providing individualized services and resources to infants, children, and adults with visual impairment to empower them in achieving their goals

Continuing Core Services:

  • Consulting with our public-school partners
  • Collaborating with parents by phone calls, texts and video conferencing
  • Providing materials and equipment to support education
  • Attending IEP meetings via videoconferencing
  • Providing video lessons with students of all ages Page 4 Continued on following page

Lately in the Braille Access Center I’ve been creating stick-in braille to assist with a new set of interactive books being made by our Region 4 Coordinator Sandy Brandt. NDVS/ SB has purchased two copies of the 25 book Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Williams which will have braille and other interactive elements added. This is the beginning of a tactile library the literacy team is creating, starting with where our TVIs have found gaps for students. This series is being made specifically for the early emergent braille reader. Sandy thought these books were a perfect fit for the project because they have high repetition, build early success, and have lots and lots of high frequency words. The reading patterns are fairly predicable but the ending is not. They also have a wonderful humor in them which will hook kids on early reading. We can get them past the struggle if the reading is fun and it keeps them guessing to the end. Each book is in 30-point font and will have stick-in braille. They will include audio sound dots that give an audio description through a Braille Access Center: Leslie Pederson Pen Friend. These fun descriptions help students who are braille users understand the humor in the pictures. For our students who are low vision, the pictures are delightful and clutter free. Simple tactiles on each page will also add to the joy of reading. Ten books are geared to the end of kindergarten and fifteen books are designed for the beginning of first grade. More books and tactile materials will be created in the future through volunteers and the literacy team. The goal is to create a Legacy Library so we have readily available tactile materials to use in new books or other projects for students. These books will become available as completed with the target date of the beginning of the 20/21 school year. They will be available for short term loan with a Pen Friend if the school or parent does not have one. 

  • Calling and checking on adult clients by providing a good listening ear and a supporting word
  • Conducting a weekly group “coffee chat” over the phone with adults in collaboration with the ND Association of the Blind
  • Our non-profit NDVS/SB Store is sending essential aids and appliances through the mail as usual.

In conclusion, please know that we hope to return to our schedule this Summer and Fall with short-term programs for students and adults. We will provide updates through our website and through our Facebook page.

Take care and be well,

Paul Olson

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