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Braille library finds happy new home in Iowa after years of disruption

Blind child reading braille book. Source: Shutterstock
Blind child reading braille book. Source: Shutterstock

A Braille library for the blind and visually impaired has thrown open the doors at its new location for the first time.

Chris Short, a Braille and low vision literacy consultant, who oversees the library, was thrilled to reopen Iowa Educational Services for the Blind & Visually Impaired (IESBVI) professional library in its new home at Iowa School for the Deaf (ISD).

The IESBVI has endured a difficult recent history. It had operated out of the former Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in Vinton, despite the school’s closure in 2011.

After a five-month renovation project, the library reopened officially at the beginning of the school year at the ISD Careers Building, with the grand opening taking place this week.

The school’s new space was originally being used as a garage, an auto-body shop and a paint booth.

“We just redid the whole thing,” said John Cool, the assistant administrator, speaking to The Daily Nonpareil.

During the renovation period, workers fitted a suspended ceiling, floor covering and drywall. Crucially, they installed a new heating system along with ventilation and air-conditioning. All lights and windows also needed replacing.

A yearly allowance of nearly US$300 is provided per student by the state. The funds are allocated for the purchase of educational materials specifically designed for blind and visually impaired children.

Short, however, claimed that they are able to stretch the money further by sharing certain items and reusing them where possible.

The library works as something of a hub for the blind and visually impaired within the state of Iowa. The vital materials are transported to teachers, students, school districts and area education agencies all over the state.

The materials are making a real difference to children with sight difficulties and those who teach them. The library stocks “expanded core curriculum, orientation materials, early childhood communications references, books with textured illustrations for tactile exploration, geometric shapes, science kits, Braille books, educational toys, magnifiers, Braillers (which type pages embossed with Braille) and other learning aids”.

The majority of materials supplied at the library are bought from American Printing House for the Blind (APHB). In 1979, APHB were made the official supplier of educational materials for all blind children in the US who are studying at a less-than-college level. They are a totally nonprofit organisation.

“I don’t know how I would teach without their products,” Short said.

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