Iowa Department for the Blind - AFB Directory Profile

General Information

Iowa Department for the Blind
524 Fourth Street
Des Moines, IA 50309-2364
(515) 281-1333 (Local)
(515) 281-1263 (Fax)

Brief Description

Provides comprehensive services to Iowans who are blind or visually impaired. The Department supports and encourages independent living and full participation in life – at home, at work and in communities. Services are available throughout Iowa with the majority of services provided at no charge.

Hours of operation: Mon.-Fri. 8:00 AM- 4:30 PM.
Clients served on average per year: 9,000
Number of staff: 62
Geographic area served: Iowa


Kimberly Barber, Supervisor, Independent Living, (515) 281-1299,
Alan Bickell, Program Administrator/Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center, (515) 281-1313,
Alan Bickell, Program Administrator/Business Enterprises Program, (515) 281-1313,
Keri Osterhaus, Vocational Rehabilitation Program Supervisor, (515) 281-1281,
Andrew Pulford, CFO, (515) 281-1293,
Helen Stevens, Program Administrator; Education and Training, (515) 829-7411,
Emily Wharton, Director, (515) 281-1334,
Sarah Willeford, Director, Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, (515) 281-1291,

Services Offered

Services for Adults

  • Advocacy
    • Staff of the Iowa Department for the Blind will provide advocacy for clients of the agency and assist them with learning to advocate for themselves.
  • Assessment
    • Independent Living Teachers and Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors meet with individuals and assess their specific needs related to their vision loss.
  • Assistive Products
    • Sells adapted items useful to Iowans who are blind or visually impaired in the Aids and Devices Store. Products for sale include white canes, braille and talking watches and clocks, braille-writing equipment, magnifiers, measuring devices, braille and large-print playing cards, games, cooking, sewing aids and more. Purchases may be made in person, by phone, or through the mail.
  • Braille and Reading Instruction
    • Braille instruction is available through home visits with an Independent Living Teacher or through the Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center.
  • Braille/Electronic/Audio/Large Print Production
    • Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped assists with transcribing printed materials into Braille or audio format. This may include educational texts, employment materials (i.e. policies or manuals), or a client's individualized requests (i.e. a favorite cookbook or a book currently not in the collection). The Library will also assist professionals and businesses with transcribing materials such as menus, brochures or handouts for a conference.
  • Business/Personal Services
    • The Business Enterprises Program (BEP) provides opportunities for Vocational Rehabilitation clients of the Iowa Department for the Blind to manage their own businesses -- operating vending machines, road side vending sites, or snack bar/catering services. Through BEP, clients learn all aspects of the food service business, from ordering merchandise to managing employees.
  • Computer Training/Assistive Technology
    • Training is available in the home, at the work-site or through the Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center. Training may include assisting someone identify the assistive technology or computer program that best meets the needs of that individual. Upon selecting the device and/or program, staff assists the person with learning to use it.
  • Daily Living Skills/Independent Living Skills Training
    • Rehabilitation services include Transition, Vocational Rehabilitation, the Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center, and Independent Living. Services provided depends on the needs/wants of the clients. Through rehabilitation services, clients learn the skills and gain the confidence necessary to live and/or work independently.
  • Employment/Job Training
    • Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors travel throughout the state to assist Iowans who are blind with obtaining and maintaining employment. Services may include evaluation, pre-vocational and vocational training, vocational placement, follow-up service, or vending facility training.
  • In-Home Services
    • Independent Living Teachers and Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors meet with individuals in their homes to assess their needs and provide the services necessary to meet each person's goals enabling them to live and/or work independently. Services may include learning to cook, use/set appliances, pay bills, manage the mail and other print materials, get to/from work or learn to use assistive technology for the job.
  • Information and Referral
    • Information and referral is provided regarding additional services clients may qualify for. This may include services through the local area agency on aging, social security, and more.
  • Library Services
    • Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped loans reading materials to those who cannot read standard print efficiently due to blindness or physical, learning, or reading disability. Materials are avialable in large print, Braille, and audio (cassette and digital) formats. Materials include books, magazines, religious texts and textbooks and are sent through the postal service. Players for audio materials are also provided on loan.
  • Low Vision Services
    • Low Vision Services may include learning to use a hand-held magnifier, borrowing large print reading materials, or learning to use screen magnification on a computer. Services are individualized for each client and his/her needs.
  • Support Groups
    • Iowa has independent support groups located throughout the state. For more information on the the groups, visit The Iowa Department for the Blind may assist with starting a new group and serves as a resource for active groups.
  • Travel/Orientation and Mobility
    • Orientation and Mobility training is provided where the blind or visually impaired person lives and through the Adult Orientation and Adjustment Center, located in Des Moines.
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