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Michael Barber

I was born blind in 1949, one of two twins who were near the last of the Retrolentalfibroplasia kids whose retinas were burned with oxygen because glasses were not applied to them in the incubator. Regardless, my mother expected that we would grow up the same as the other kids with the same expectations for good behavior, in spite of my grandmother and my father. The only difference was that we both attended the School for the Blind in Vinton, Iowa from K-12 where we got a decent education. It was there I learned to have an interest in the many library books available, both in Braille and in audio formats.  When it got lonely at school, books filled the lonely spot for a while.

As I grew, the library became even more important to me and I learned to do research so I could write papers that would reward me with decent grades. My favorite publications were My Weekly Reader and the Reader's Digest because they had plenty of current affairs to keep me up with what was going on in the world.

My favorite assignment in school was when we held a mock election and I was Governor Murray running against Governor Harold Hughes.  It was a tough assignment, and it took a lot of digging through the newspapers, but I succeeded in winning the election by a landslide, and I attribute it to my helpful reader and all the research we did.

After I graduated, I eventually went into the food service business where I stayed for about 15 years and then went on to work as the first totally blind customer service representative at Wells Fargo Card Services.  I was there for five and a half years and then took advantage of a grant through the Department for the Blind to produce and disseminate tutorials for the Windows operating system from a strictly keyboard approach, something which had never been done before.  I got the job, even though it would likely only be a 3-year job.  Well, as luck would have it, 3 years turned into 18 years where I was happily employed at IDB producing tutorials and teaching other newly blind to learn to use the computer with proven alternative techniques.  It is hard to say how many lives were changed through the dissemination of those tutorials during those years, since they were sent around the world!


Finally, due to severe health issues, I had to retire, even though in my mind I wasn't ready. I can say that the years working at the Department for the Blind were the most fruitful and rewarding years of my life.

I am married to my soul mate, Kim, who is a great friend and companion.  We have 3 granddaughters and one grandson.

Gail Reese   

I have always enjoyed reading and worked at the school’s library in my youth.  Like many of my family members, I became blind from ADNIV. In 2010, I went through the Orientation Center at IDB.  I am married to Kern and together we raised two children, Carrie and Mike.  Mike inherited my family’s genetic tendency for blindness, and I’m proud to say he is currently enrolled at DMACC .  

Kern and I enjoy our grandkids, Natalie and Kaleb.  We love to travel and enjoy going to sporting events.

Elsie Monthei

Uprooted from the rugged individualism of Idaho, I graduated from Boise University, was replanted in Iowa and became a blossom of community service.  As a blind artist, I have supported blind services most of my life, giving my talents to fund-raising events for The Friends. I am a member of the Very Special Artists of Iowa and exhibit my art in various venues. As an avid reader, I am proud to be a board member of The Friends of the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. As a gardener, I love to make things bloom.