Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Categories: All News Items, Assistive Technology

by Tracy Wicken
NDVS/SB Assistive Technology Specialist

A student listens to a book being read audibly on an iPad. A word is highlighted to show which word is being read.Something new that Bookshare has launched for Individual Memberships is the ability to read their books via an Alexa-enabled device. Using an Alexa skill called Bookshare Reader, a reader can link their Bookshare library account, list books on their Alexa Reading list, and listen to books read aloud via their Alexa device. They can stop a book while reading, save their reading spot to pick up where they left off later, and adjust the reading speed.  

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Friday, April 29, 2022

Categories: All News Items, News Event, Spotlight, Superintendent

by Paul Olson
NDVS/SB Superintendent

Wearing a white dress shirt and blue and gray checkered tie, Paul Olson smiles at the cameraI am excited to share that a diverse group of leaders in North Dakota have agreed to serve on a council to provide valuable input and help guide NDVS/SB in our effort to be continually improving. The Guide Council will meet via video conference several times a year to discuss and provide thoughts on the bigger issues we face as an organization. Any comments and suggestions will be brought back to our Staff Council and Visions Team for consideration to help us in policy development, or even the smallest changes to make on how we can serve children and adults better.

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Friday, April 29, 2022

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

by Cindy Williams6 students and 2 staff members smile and stand in a line in the gym at South Dakota's gym where they played goalball.
Student Program Coordinator

As the end of the 2021-22 school year draws to a close, I reflect on how wonderful it has been to have our students attend student programs in-person! We’ve had our usual student programs occurring on-site and had additional learning and social events occurring off-site as well. 

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Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Categories: All News Items, Spotlight, Student Programming

NDVS/SB Student Program Coordinator
TVI, Student Advocate, Collaborator, Cat Person

Cindy sits beside a student who is working on an iPad.When Cindy Williams is asked how she became the Coordinator of Student Programs at NDVS/SB, she claims, “the stars aligned.” And like the stars in the sky, her path was not straight. While she knew from a young age that she wanted to be a teacher, she attended a business college after high school. She ended up in Grand Forks after her husband accepted a position here and found a job as secretary at NDVS/SB. “After working for a little over a year and seeing what the teachers’ roles were, I decided I had to pursue my dream and educational degree. That was my first step,” she says. 

While attending UND for her elementary education degree, she continued working at NDVS/SB as a houseparent. Then, she became the Evening Activities Coordinator, a position that oversees the houseparents and plans recreational activities for the students attending in-house programs. As she neared the completion of her master’s degree as a Teacher of the Visually Impaired, she was hired as the Outreach Teacher serving the Devils Lake region. A few years later, the Outreach Teacher position serving the Grand Forks region opened up, and she was able to work closer to home. Since 2018, Cindy has been the Coordinator of Student Programs. “Looking back on my career thus far, I am thankful for every position I have held as I have learned so much, and each one has contributed knowledge and experience which I use in my current role,” Cindy says. Read on to learn more about how her knowledge and experiences have turned into opportunities for the students she serves.

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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. 

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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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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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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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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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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