Michael Barber - President
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.
Jim Rechkemmer - Vice President
I grew up in Oakville, Iowa. I am a graduate of Wapello Community High School (1966), Southeastern Iowa Area Community College (1968), and The University of Iowa (1971) with a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) Degree.
At the age of thirteen, I couldn’t see the baseball coming off the bat and I was having difficulty seeing in dark places such as movie theaters or restaurants. My eye doctor checked my visual acuity which was at or near 20/20. Finally, during my senior year of high school the eye doctor tested my field vision. As a result of this test, I was referred to the University of Iowa Hospital and the doctors discovered I had Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). Three to four years after my diagnosis, my older brother Kenny was also diagnosed with RP.
I attended the Iowa Department for the Blind Orientation Center in 1973. On April 1, 1974, I began my career at Interstate Assurance Company in the Actuarial Department. This was the beginning of a 28+ year career in the insurance industry. My job in the Actuarial Department allowed me to utilize my math and accounting skills. Later in my career, I was Manager of the Reinsurance Department and finally Manager of the Commission Accounting Department. In Commission Accounting, we were responsible for getting the commission rates loaded to the system, paying our agents, providing them with tax reporting information, and collecting bad debts. It was during this phase of my career that Mike Barber helped install the JAWS screen reading program on my computer. I am a recipient of the tutorials Mike helped develop. I still pull them out to see if the key strokes work with the current versions of Word and Excel.
I am an avid fan of the New York Yankees and the Iowa Hawkeyes, a member of The 600 Club in bowling, and rode on 4 RAGBRI’s including the century loop in 2003.
Cindy Ray- Secretary
I am Cindy Ray. I have spent most of my life in Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa. I was a student at the Iowa Orientation and Adjustment Center for the Blind when the library was very new—1964-1965--and Florence Grannis was the librarian. I have always been an avid reader, and I love Braille.
Music is my love, and I received an organ performance degree from the University of Kansas. Then in 2001 I went to seminary to become a Presbyterian pastor. I have done a number of things such as chaplaincy at Broadlawns, preach in pulpit supply, studied spiritual direction and Stephen Ministry. Currently I write quite a bit of the liturgy used at our church, Windsor Presbyterian.
I am studying the NLS Braille Proofreading Course and look forward to its completion.
I am very happy to be a part of Friends