News

Quick Tap with CodeSnaps

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Categories: All News Items, Assistive Technology, Instruction, Student Programming

A tacklebox with CodeSnaps paper in the box.Perkins worked with Sphero and SAS to make ‘CodeSnaps’ an app that is for visually impaired and blind learners that use the camera to scan QR-Codes to build out a program.

CodeSnaps empowers educators across the country to learn how they can implement computer science education for students with visual impairments with Sphero BOLT and SAS® CodeSnaps braille blocks. 


Wanted: A Fair Chance

Monday, April 18, 2022

Categories: All News Items, Spotlight

Individuals with a visual impairment share their experiences looking for and maintaining employment in a world that often discriminates against them and is uneducated about their needs and abilities.

When Lexee Steffen graduated from Dickinson State University in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, she felt prepared for the real world and an independent life. “I had a degree and learned a lot during classes and felt I had plenty of experience working with a variety of people and advocating for my needs,” Lexee says, reflecting on her optimism post-college graduation. “I thought I would work in my hometown for a year or two to get my feet wet in the workforce and then move to a bigger city to work using my Spanish skills as an interpreter or in a bilingual setting and possibly get my masters,” she continues. Unfortunately, things haven’t worked out as she planned. She has kept busy with part-time work and volunteering, which has helped her maintain her computer skills and allowed her to gain experience in different work settings. But she has yet to find full-time consistent employment. “I think employers sometimes see us as a liability,” Lexee says. “I think they are worried about things going wrong because of us or that something might happen in the workplace that is discriminatory and that we would use that against the company.”

The “us” Lexee is referring to are individuals like herself who have a visual impairment or are blind. Lexee, who has Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), is not alone in her inability to find full-time employment. According to research by the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), only 44% of people who are blind or visually impaired are employed. And those who are employed are often underemployed, meaning they work part time or only part of the year (Disability Employment Research: Key Takeaways, 2020). With assistive technology available to level the playing field and public schools and colleges and universities being held to the standards set forth by the ADA, the fact that more than half the blind and visually impaired population is unemployed is surprising and disappointing. But there are other factors at play that affect individuals’ rights and opportunities, and, ultimately, their employment. 

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NDSB Foundation Card Contest Celebrates BVI Student Artists

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Categories: All News Items, News Event, Student Programming

A poster displays the front of the 15 cards that feature artwork made by ND students who are blind or visually impaired.Since 2006, the NDSB Foundation has sponsored a card contest to raise funds and awareness for its mission and programs. NDSB Foundation President Julie Anderson came up with the idea for the card contest, which is held every other year. “I was listening to a presentation during a Sunday school meeting,” Julie explains. “A company was telling us about how children from a Christian school were creating cards to sell for Christmas. I brought up the idea for an art contest for students in the state of North Dakota who are blind or visually impaired. I thought we could combine it with a medal ceremony, a speaker, and a meal, and get families together to get to know each other. Soon the card contest turned into so much more, and we began combining the awards ceremony with NDVS/SB’s Family Weekend.”

This year, a new set of student artists are being honored at a luncheon during NDVS/SB’s Family Weekend on April 23. At the ceremony, 15 student winners will be presented with a medal, a certificate, and a couple of cards with their own artwork on them.

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Meet Shanna Hanson

Friday, March 25, 2022

Categories: All News Items, Spotlight

Shanna poses with students and other staff in Medora.NDVS/SB Transition Specialist
Collaborator, Challenger, Grand Forks Native, Mom


One of the most exciting times in a young person’s life is high school graduation. As the time nears, students experience more and more rites of passage and more and more questions about the future. Will I work or go to college? Where will I work? Where will I go to college? How will I pay for college? And for students who are visually impaired or blind, there are even more unknowns. Luckily for students in North Dakota, North Dakota Vision Services/School for the Blind has someone on staff who can help them navigate all those questions and more.

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Using Google Family Bell – Notification Reminders with Voice

Monday, March 21, 2022

Categories: All News Items, Assistive Technology, Instruction

by David Olson, NDVS/SB Information Technology

Do you ever feel as if you have lost time or are on a last-minute dash to complete tasks? If you would appreciate audible reminders, Google Family Bell may be a useful feature for your Android devices, which include the Smart Speaker, Smart Display, or Android Phone.

Google Home added Family Bell reminders so that family members can add personalized voiced reminders throughout the day that announce when it’s time to start an online class, work on a task, take a break, settle in for reading time, have a snack, go to bed, or give any other reminder that a person may need. 

To get started, simply say “Hey Google, create a Family Bell” or select Family Bell in your Google Assistant settings. It includes suggested bells for activities like recess, nap time, or math time, or you can customize bells to alert someone of an upcoming activity.

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WayAround Scanning and Tagging System

Monday, March 7, 2022 at 11:00 pm

Categories: All News Items, Adult Programming News, Assistive Technology

by Laurie Westling, Assistive Technology Specialist

an assortment of WayAround tags and buttons lie scattered on a dark backgroundNorth Dakota Vision Services/School for the Blind is a pilot site for WayAround Public Tags. We are working with WayAround to add WayTags throughout our building. We started with the main restrooms and the Coca-Cola vending machine. We are currently working on the other public restrooms in the building, and then we will work on the elevator and the exits.

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Imagine a World with No Limits: A Conversation with Neva Fairchild

Monday, February 28, 2022 at 11:00 pm

Categories: All News Items, Instruction, News Event, Spotlight, Student Programming

professional image of Neva Fairchild, a woman of middle age with gray hair, wearing a blue shirt and a necklaceNeva Fairchild will be presenting at NDVS/SB Family Weekend April 22 – 23 in Fargo. Neva is the National Aging and Vision Loss Specialist at the American Foundation for the Blind and has lived with a visual impairment her entire life. As a child, she dealt with worsening vision, bullies, little support from teachers, and, fortunately, parents with high expectations. “I did all the things my siblings were expected to do. My parents didn’t know much about dealing with my vision loss, but they knew they wanted me to be able to do everything that every other kid on the block was doing,” Neva says. It’s those possibilities that she hopes to encourage when she speaks to families in Fargo in April. “Families need to find solutions to problems they encounter and encourage others to support them and their child all along the way toward adulthood. It’s coming… gotta get ready,” she says. Read on to learn more about Neva, the possibilities she made for herself, and how a future of no limits is possible for your child.

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Meet Sky Gabel

Friday, February 25, 2022 at 11:00 pm

Categories: All News Items, Adult Programming News, Instruction, Spotlight, Student Programming

Sky smiles standing in a corn field.NDVS/SB Psych Extern
Doctoral Student, Roller Derby Girl, Soon-to-be-missed 
(and soon-to-be-married)

One of the hidden secrets of NDVS/SB is our partnership with UND’s psychology department. For 20 years, NDVS/SB’s clients, students, and staff have benefitted from the placement of an extern from UND’s doctoral psychology program. Working under the supervision of UND professor Dr. Joseph Miller and NDVS/SB’s student program coordinator, the psychology extern has provided counseling services to clients of all ages, as well as social skills curriculum and psychoeducational testing to students. This spring, Sky Gabel will become the final psychology extern to serve NDVS/SB. As she prepares to leave NDVS/SB and UND, Sky reflected on her time in Grand Forks and shared her plans for the future. 

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Faith in the Future

Thursday, February 17, 2022 at 11:00 pm

Categories: All News Items, Instruction, Spotlight, Student Programming

Faith stands in a field wearing a white floral top and blue jeans.One of the biggest decisions in a high schooler’s life is deciding where to attend college. Location, cost, degree programs, and so many other factors affect college choice. And for high schoolers who are low vision or blind, there are additional questions to consider. Will I be able to easily get around campus or around the community? Will the disability support services office accommodate me? Will I even know what accommodations to ask for? High school senior Faith Norby of Killdeer, ND, recently made her decision; she’ll be attending the University of Mary in Bismarck in the fall. “When I went on a tour with my mom of UMary, I knew for certain that it was the college for me,” Faith explains. 

Now that that big decision is out of the way, there are other questions to consider, some of which revolve around her visual impairment. Faith has cone dystrophy, a genetic disease that renders her colorblind and very light sensitive. But her low vision didn’t stop her from having a “wonderful high school experience,” she says. “I participated in numerous activities throughout high school including four years of cross country, two years of basketball, FFA, speech, science Olympiad, choir, one-act play, and our high school musical. I enjoyed high school because I was able to participate in activities that I was passionate about.” By participating in these activities, Faith was able to gain self-confidence and begin to know her own strengths. “By participating in FFA I learned that some of my strengths are public speaking and organization. I also gained many leadership skills in FFA and cross country,” she explains. 

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The right assistive technology truly changes lives

Sunday, February 6, 2022 at 11:00 pm

Categories: All News Items, Assistive Technology

by Reva Kautz, Marketing Director, ND Assistive

This article is from our partner agency, ND Assistive, whose goal is to bridge the gap between ability and disability using assistive technology. Their technicians serve the entire state with demonstration centers in Fargo and Bismarck.

Assistive technology (AT) changes lives, but not just any assistive technology will do. Every user has unique needs and matching those needs to the available assistive technology is key. And making use of the technology devices a person already owns and uses well can produce an even better result.

Is there anything more frustrating than purchasing an item that does not do what you thought it would? Sadly, AT device purchases often end up in that frustrating category, and as a result are not valued or used. In an effort to help you select the right AT device, and save you time, money and patience, ND Assistive’s consultants will discover the best fit between person, environment and device.

ND Assistive has a long history with ND Vision Services/School for the Blind. We share the goal of assisting people with low vision to live as independently as they can. We also both share information on high-tech devices as well as free applications that can be found on a person’s own smartphone to improve people’s lives.

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