The Promoter-November 2023

NDAB in blue inside the outline of the state of North Dakota.  Also includes the text: North Dakota Association of the Blind PO Box 824, West Fargo, ND 58078
a white cane is at the bottom of the image horizontally.

The Promoter – November 2023

Official Publication of the

North Dakota Association of the Blind

Available in four formats:

large print, email, braille and cartridge

Editor: Emily Stenberg Brown

Not they who lack sight,
but they who lack vision are blind.

Persons with vision loss will live
a successful, productive life.

“We strive to enhance the way of life for people

Who are blind or visually impaired,

To encourage employment opportunities,

And to educate the public about sight loss.”


From the President 3

From the Editor 5

Calendar for 2023 – 2024 5

Book Club with the Browns 6

The Enchanted Castle 6

Welcome to Our New Members! 7

Membership Renewal Notice 7

Grand Forks News from Ruth Phalen 8

Williston Wanderings from Janelle F. Olson 9

Bismarck & Other News from Robert Westermeyer 11

Spotlight on NDAB Member: Loris Van Berkom 12

Spotlight on NDAB Member: Ethan Thiseth 15

Spotlight on NDAB Member: Ruth Phalen 17

NDAB Summer Camp 2023: “All Roads Lead to Camp” 19

Walk for Vision/White Cane Day Wrap-Up 22


What are Daily Living Skills? 25

Technology Talk from ND Vision Services/School for the Blind 26

Using the Be My AI App 27

Check It off My Bucket List 28

Development Report Fall 2023 30

Legislative and Advocacy Report Fall 2023 33

Donations April-September 2023 35

North Dakota Association of the Blind, Inc. Board of Directors Meeting Minutes 36

North Dakota Association of the Blind, Inc. Board of Directors Meeting Minutes 38

2023 Post-Convention Report 42

Leadership Roster 43

Committee Chairpersons: 43

Local News Reporters: 43

Communication Connections: 44

From the President

Most animals in our region of the world are beginning to hunker down for a long winter. Some store up food in burrows, others eat as much as possible and prepare to hibernate, some will just fly south and get the heck out of here until next year. NDAB, on the other hand, works hard year-round and does some of the most important work when it is coldest outside. We are more like animals that form into large herds to stay safe and work together. With that said, I invite you all into the herd to work together and thrive during our long cold winters.

There are many things we can do to make NDAB better every day. A few things in the near future we need to focus on are making sure all of our new members are fed. Not with actual food for nourishment but support and information about our organization and life with vision loss. I encourage all of you to reach out to members you know and even those you do not know yet to see how things are going. It is so important to always lift each other up but we all know life with vision loss during our long hard winters is even more challenging. We struggle to get out and about and participate in many of our enjoyable activities we normally partake in during the other seasons of the year. The membership committee is working on some activities for new members to get introduced to the many great activities and resources with NDAB. There will be more to come with this opportunity in the not-so-distant future.

Any of you that attend board meetings or read the board meeting minutes know we are very busy with guiding our great organization. While this is important and time-consuming, we can always use more input from our members. The board is here to act on your behalf, and we do a great job at providing many opportunities and working to provide new activities for members to enjoy. However, we want you to be able to share your opinions and knowledge as well. Because of that, I will be leading Zoom sessions every other month that any member can join. We will be discussing many different topics of our organization. These “work sessions” will allow us to get into the ideas and finer details of a variety of topics. These could include everything from public relations opportunities, new fundraising ideas, committee structures, or new exciting activities that NDAB could be offering to members. I am so excited to see what great ideas our members may have to uplift NDAB. By the time you get this we will have already held our first work session. I am sure we will have many great members not only sharing their ideas but offering their time and talents to take the lead in many areas.

I am sure many of you think that we have everything handled. The organization is doing great financially, we have great activities, and everyone knows what we do in our state. To that I would say we can improve all areas drastically. There is always more to be done and more we can do for the individuals with sight loss in our state. I am asking each of you to email or call me with ways you feel we can be better. Last time I wrote this article and asked for input I received ZERO responses. Two things come from that. Either you don’t feel your voice means anything and you won’t be heard, or you think we are doing everything possible. Neither is true; I respect each and every one of our members and I know we can do more and do it better than ever before. Yes, it will take work. I am willing to help if you are as well. I want to know each and every one of you better, and let’s get to work together to make NDAB an organization that others see even if we cannot.

Best Regards,

Trampes Brown  

President NDAB 

From the Editor

Thanks to all of you who completed the survey about what should be included in the Promoter. Even though only about 10% of membership completed the survey, there were some great ideas shared that will be implemented. We will have more news from North Dakota Vision Services/School for the Blind, including a tech article and/or a daily living skills or life hacks column in each Promoter.

Many of you feel that the Promoter is too lengthy. And I agree! Many also felt that board meeting minutes should not be included. However, our bylaws state that minutes must be included in our official publication, which is the Promoter. Some people also feel that pictures are superfluous. I will continue to include some pictures, however. Our sighted and low vision members often appreciate them, and with alt text, they can add a thousand words for everyone.

Even though the survey is closed, I would love to hear your ideas and any feedback you may have. Please email me with your thoughts,

I hope you all enjoy the holiday season and have a very happy 2024!

Emily Stenberg Brown

Calendar for 2023 – 2024

November 11 – Zoom Work Session from 9:30 – 11:30

February 1 – Membership renewal deadline

February 8 – Giving Hearts Day

Don’t forget that Coffee Chat is still held every Wednesday at 10 a.m. on Zoom. The first Wednesday of the month is Book Club; the other weeks are a time for members to socialize and visit.

Book Club with the Browns

Submitted by Trampes Brown and Emily Stenberg Brown

Join us at Book Club in 2024! Here are the book selections for the next few months.


December 6Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano (DB 98106)

January 3 – The Country of the Blind: A Memoir at the End of Sight by Andrew Leland (DB 115575)


February 7 – All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (DB 79182).

If you have any questions about book club or have book suggestions, please reach out to Trampes ( or 701-389-7982) or Emily ( or 701-795-2709).

The Enchanted Castle

Submitted by Loris Van Berkom

On August 25th, Susan, Janelle, and I headed to Regent, ND, to gather more information about the Enchanted Castle where our 2024 state convention will be held June 7-9. We picked up Lexee in Dickinson and soon turned south down the Enchanted Highway. The seven metal sculptures along the thirty-mile stretch led us to our destination. Gary, the castle owner and sculpture creator, gave us a tour of the entire building. We are looking forward to sharing this unique place with you where your surroundings will transport you back in time. Watch for more information in the next Promoter.

Welcome to Our New Members!

Daniel Leer from Wolford, ND

Jessica Miller-Wollan from West Fargo, ND

Ryan Wollan from West Fargo, ND

Angelita Martinez from East Grand Forks, MN

Kristina Brown from Dickinson, ND (returning member)

Membership Renewal Notice

A membership renewal form will be sent to you very soon! There will be a few changes on how the form is distributed this year, so please read this notice carefully. I am hopeful that these changes will make for a more accessible renewal process for everyone. I will NOT be mailing out hard copy forms to those of you with email addresses this year. If you have an email address, please watch your inbox and/or spam folder as I will send you an email with a Word document attached and a link to the online form. You may either fill out the Word document and send it back to me as an email attachment or complete the form on the website.

You will still be able to pay your membership dues either by sending a check to NDAB, P.O. Box 824, West Fargo, ND 58078, or via PayPal. Dues are $15 for adult members and $3 for junior members.

If you do not have an email account, don’t worry! You will still get a printed membership renewal form sent to you in the mail just as you have in the past. You can return it with your dues in the enclosed envelope.

If you are a new member who joined after January 1st, 2023, and none of your information has changed, you will not need to fill out a membership renewal form or pay dues for 2024. If you are a returning member who renewed their membership after May 31st, 2023, you are required to renew your membership and pay dues if you wish to remain a member of NDAB. All completed forms and dues are due no later than February 1st, 2024.

I hope these changes will not be too scary, and that this will allow for a smoother membership renewal process for all of us!

If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact me at or (701)260-8914.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and I look forward to your continued membership!

Respectfully submitted,

Lexee Steffan, Vice President/Membership Chair

Spotlight on NDAB Member: Loris Van Berkom

It’s been 40 years since Loris Van Berkom was “just” a camper at NDAB’s Adult Summer Camp. But this August, she was simply a camper again. “I enjoyed taking the classes instead of lining them up,” she said. In those 40 years, Loris was first an instructor, then for 25 years, she served as co-director, first with Leo Brilz, and finally for the last 22 years with Rick Feldman. At first, “the scheduling of the classes and 60-plus campers seemed daunting,” Loris explained. But Olga Neal “convinced me that I could handle it, so I agreed, and the rest is history.” In 2021, Loris retired from her co-director position, and this year she returned to camp, excited to be “just” a camper again. “It was very strange not being in a leadership position but rather refreshing knowing that the only person I was responsible for was me,” Loris said. Read on to find out more about Loris.

Tell us about yourself.

I am widowed, and I have 2 grown children and 5 grandchildren. I live in Williston. I grew up on a farm 25 miles northwest of Williston with 3 sisters. We were raised in a loving, musical, Christian home. I am the middle child between my two older twin sisters and my younger sister, the baby. I received my college degree in Elementary/Vision, an MA in Developmental Disabilities and certification in Preschool Handicapped. I always wanted to be a teacher, and I taught in Minnesota and North Dakota for a total of 24 years plus another 4 years as a part-time braille educator.

When I was 8 years old, I was diagnosed with deterioration of the retina, just as one of my older sisters had been and later on, my younger sister. We were rather a mystery to the eye doctors around here, but we found one in Grand Forks who thought he had the answer. We were diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa which affects the rods of the retina first and then the cones, but our cones were affected first, more like macular degeneration. As our retina deteriorates, we have more blind spots and see less. We have to adjust daily to the gradual vision changes. Now 67 years later, I don’t have much sight left.

By my junior year in high school, I could no longer see well enough to read the textbooks or handouts so I had to hire readers or my mother read them to me. There were no IEPs (Individual Education Plans) so Mom was my advocate for what I needed. In college, I was able to get many books on cassette tape or someone would record the handouts on a tape. I even had one book while working on my master’s degree on reel-to-reel.

When did you become an NDAB member?

I attended my first NDAB state convention which was held in Minot in 1983 and joined that weekend. I met so many nice people at that convention and I felt like I really fit in.

What is your favorite memory from NDAB events?

I had been invited to attend the NDAB Summer Camp for Adults for many years before I ever joined NDAB but did not consider myself blind enough to spend a week with a bunch of people who were blind. Boy, was I wrong! When I finally got talked into going to camp in 1983 at the age of 35, it took me that whole week to finally face my sight loss and start to deal with it emotionally. That was the beginning of accepting myself, sight loss and all. Before then, I had been trying to hide my sight loss, feeling like less than a whole person. That experience at camp totally changed my life and is responsible for who I am today.

Tell us about your involvement in NDAB.

I have served as a board member, vice president and president. I also chaired the Family Adjustment Seminar for several years and was the Co-Camp Director for the NDAB Summer Camp for 25 years. I received the Ed Christensen Award in 1999.

What do you consider NDAB’s greatest accomplishment?

NDAB has a very rich history established by those who went before us who formed the foundation of our organization. They saw the need for an organized group to speak for the people who were blind. Now, 86 years later, we are still carrying out the goals that those before us began, and we are hoping that the next generation will continue.

Why should someone join NDAB?

NDAB is a statewide organization for individuals and their families and friends who are dealing with sight loss. By getting involved in NDAB, you will meet others who are dealing with the same issues. You will discover that you are not alone. By attending NDAB activities such as camp, sports and rec retreat, and the state convention, you will have the opportunity to learn new skills, meet new people, connect with other resources, and form treasured friendships.

How do you see blind possible?

I marvel at all of the changes in technology that have been developed in my lifetime. How much easier it would have been in 1973 to go online to find the textbook that I needed to read for one of my college classes rather than listen to it on a reel-to-reel tape recorder. My laptop with a screen reader along with my other accessible devices allow me to live independently.

Caption: Loris standing on the dock at Camp Grassick this past August during NDAB Summer Camp.

Spotlight on NDAB Member: Ethan Thiseth

Did you know NDAB now has a Junior member? Junior members are those under the age of 18, and they only pay $3 for membership. NDAB’s first Junior member is Ethan Thiseth from Fargo. Find out why he joined NDAB and his plans for the future by reading on.

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Ethan Thiseth. I am 16 and am in 10th grade. I have retinopathy of prematurity. I don’t see much out of my left eye, but I read large print with my right eye. I live with my mom and dad and dog. I am an only child.
What are some of your hobbies?

I like to make videos for my YouTube Channel. I also like to watch YouTube videos. I also love traveling and going on new adventures.

How long have you been a member of NDAB?

I joined NDAB last spring.

Why did you become a member?

I became a member so I could go to the retreats.

What is your favorite memory from NDAB events?

My favorite memory was sitting in the bottom of the canoe and getting soaked at Wesley Acres.

What do you think NDAB should do differently?

I think they should continue to offer retreats so we can get together more often.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?

My greatest accomplishment was getting a job and making money. I also started my own snowblowing business.

What are your future plans?

I want to graduate high school. I want to find a job I enjoy after I graduate.

How do you see blind possible?

I do not let my vision stop me from doing anything. I have enjoyed ziplining, parasailing, rock wall climbing, driving 3-wheeler in the country, sky diving simulator, roller skating, biking, kayaking, riding electric bike, and so many other things. The only thing my vision has stopped me from doing so far is getting my driver’s license.

Caption: Ethan, who wears glasses and has blond hair, hugs his black and white dog next to his face.

Spotlight on NDAB Member: Ruth Phalen

Each month we profile an NDAB member. This month it’s Ruth Phalen from Grand Forks.

Tell us about yourself.

I’m Ruth Phalen. I live in Grand Forks. I grew up in Sykeston, ND, but I’ve lived in Grand Forks for the last 52 years, so this really is home. I had 6 children; my oldest son has died, and I have 3 stepchildren, 23 grandchildren, and 13 (soon 14) great-grandchildren. My husband was in the military and for 17 years we moved quite a bit. We lived in two foreign countries, Taiwan and Sweden, as well as Alaska, Texas, Colorado, and Virginia. I grew up in a family of nine. Three of my younger siblings are still living. I have macular degeneration. I was diagnosed with it about 30 years ago. I had known for quite a while that it was there, and suddenly one day, I didn’t have much vision anymore. Back then there wasn’t really any treatment for it, but now they have more treatments and shots. My father had macular degeneration, and so did 6 of us girls, but none of my brothers have had it.

What are some of your hobbies?

My main hobby is reading. I’ve been a reader all of my life. I think the NDAB book club was just made for me. I also like plants and flowers, although I’m not able to do much with that anymore. And I like to travel. I’ve done quite a bit of that. I’m very grateful to have Talking Books.

How long have you been a member of NDAB?

I joined in 2002. I became a member because I was open to finding out anything that could help me stay independent and meet new people. I had become a member of the vision support group in town here, and they asked if I was interested in attending a Family Seminar that NDAB was having. So I went to that, and then I was asked if I wanted to go to camp. I’d been camping with my family for a long time – first tents, then with an RV – so NDAB camp interested me. I went to camp in 2003, and that’s basically when I became a little more active. I’ve been to camp 17 times or so. I love camp.

What is your favorite memory from NDAB events?

Of course camp is my favorite memory. I think of the friendships and the knowledge gained from attending camp. The fact that everyone is ready to help others there.

What do you consider NDAB’s greatest accomplishment?

The fact that they have a camp and keep it going, and now there is a recreational part too. I also think it was great during the pandemic that they were able to offer things through the internet and keep our contact with other members. It gave us a chance to learn some interesting things and talk to people that otherwise we would have lost contact with.

Why should someone join NDAB?

It’s important that we try to keep learning and pass knowledge on and encourage people, and NDAB does all that. There is knowledge to be gained, and there is friendship. I think sometimes because of visual impairment or a different handicap, people tend to withdraw. NDAB would draw them out. Besides the knowledge, there’s fun. That’s one of the things I’ve always thought about camp. It lets you lose some of your inhibitions. Janelle led a class one time about the child in us. It lets us have some freedom – instead of doing the things we’re supposed to do, we can just be. I think once people join NDAB, they’d find there’s value in being in a group like this.

How do you see blind possible?

What I see in that is if you take advantage of everything you can with what you have, you will be able to do the most you can with what vision and what resources you have. I look at what some of the totally blind people can do and am absolutely amazed. And all of the different things that people with visual impairment can do, it’s great. Get

the most out of what you have.

Caption: Ruth, who wears glasses and has short white hair, smiles at the camera.

NDAB Summer Camp 2023: “All Roads Lead to Camp”

The 52nd annual NDAB summer camp took place from August 6th-13th at Elks Camp Grassick on Lake Isabell. There were 36 campers and staff in attendance. We had five new campers: Ron Abbot from West Fargo, ND; Harley Feist from Menoken, ND; Carol Marshall from Emerado, ND; Dean Minard from Williston, ND; and Julene Ramirez from Fergus Falls, MN. The weather was beautiful throughout the week with cooler temperatures on Thursday and a rainy Sunday morning sent us home.

Twenty-three classes were offered this year and seventeen of those classes were held. We had a few new classes and instructors. Pinch Pottery was taught by Anna Brock; Bible Study was taught by Carol Scallon; The Power of True Fun was taught by returning instructor, Janelle Olson; and Fishing was taught by Gerald Byron and Tom Six. Thank you to all our new and returning instructors for your time and willingness to teach. After classes were done for the day, swimming in the lake, with Jenny as lifeguard, and pontoon rides from Tom were offered during afternoon free time.

Evening activities included a Sunday night mixer led by Janelle, where each camper talked about their favorite trip. Monday night was our trivia night hosted by Tim Kachel. Tuesday was our casino night where Helen Baumgartner led Black Jack and Paula Anundson led bingo. Wednesday night’s hayless hay ride, arranged by Jenny, was full of fun and laughter for all. Thursday night was our talent show, which was hosted by Mark Kueffler. Thank you to all those who participated for sharing your various

talents with us. Friday night was our banquet led by Janelle and Gerald, which consisted of a delicious surf and turf meal. The meal was followed by a program presented by Janelle, where we recognized those members no longer with us who have previously taken the road to camp. Nick Pavel sang “God Bless the Brokn Road,” by Rascal Flats during the banquet presentation. The banquet was followed by a dance and live band. Tiffany Krum, Kelle Black and Melissa from the Bismarck and Williston areas put on an awesome show filled with a variety of music for us to enjoy. During the intermission, our friends from the kitchen staff, Letty and Glenda, sang a few songs and played the accordion. We were all blown away by their amazing talent! Saturday night was our picnic and campfire send off. Sunday morning devotions were led by Susan Jorgenson followed by breakfast and a reading written by Janelle and read by Karlyn Frantsen.

Thank you to all who attended camp. Each and every one of you had a part to play in making the week so incredible. A special shout out goes out to our five new campers. Thank you again to our talented instructors. We appreciate all you do. Thank you to Bobby Westermeyer for leading flag raising every morning. Thanks to Tom Six for giving us your time and for driving the pontoon. Thank you to Jenny Hunt and to your assistant directors for everything you do for NDAB and for continuing to let us use your campground every year. It means a lot to have a home we can always come back to. Thank you to the kitchen staff for not only the delicious meals, but for your warmth and kindness as well. Thank you to Mark for hosting the talent show, Janelle and Karlyn for the Sunday morning reading, Carol Scallon for lining up table grace and all those who led grace before every meal, and Susan for Sunday’s devotions. Thank you to Janelle and Gerald for all the time and effort you put into planning the banquet. It was wonderful! Thank you to Allan Peterson for helping to plan camp and for ensuring that live music returns for our banquet dance. Thank you to Tim for doing all the things as co-camp director, for the daily announcements, and of course, for your dad jokes. Thank you to Helen Baumgartner for basically being a jack of all trades throughout the week. Your efforts do not go unnoticed. Finally, thank you to Missy Miller for planning camp and for always being only a text or phone call away. Although you could not physically be at camp this year, your presence was felt and you were most certainly missed.

The camp committee hopes that everyone enjoyed their week at camp and made many lasting memories from your time there. We look forward to planning for next summer and hope to see you all again next year!

Respectfully submitted,

Lexee Steffan, Camp Committee Member

On the next page are pictures from 2023 NDAB Summer Camp.

A picture containing person, person, indoor, cage

Description automatically generatedCaptions: Below left, Sue lines up her shot in archery. Below right, Gerald works on his caning project.

Captions: Above left, Sheryl from the highway department (AKA Janelle) fooling around, greeting a line of female campers. Above right, Ron working on his caning project.

Walk for Vision/White Cane Day Wrap-Up

Submitted by Allan Peterson

We had an excellent Walk for Vision/White Cane Safety Day event on the afternoon of Monday, October 16, at the NDSU Crossroads Lutheran Center.

The White Cane Safety Day proclamations we received from ND Governor Burgum and Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney were read. Plus, we addressed the history and importance of the white cane and dog guide for their use as independent mobility aids for people with sight loss and the importance of drivers to understand that the white cane means that they must yield to people using these mobility aids.

A reporter from WDAY TV and the Fargo Forum joined us to do a story about our conjoined White Cane Safety Day and NDAB Walk for Vision event. The link to the news story can be found at:

We did a commemorative 25th NDAB Walk for Vision trek around the block at the NDSU Campus Lutheran Center. The weather cooperated nicely with a temperature near 60 and very little wind.

I thank NDVS/SB Superintendent Paul Olson for joining us; his presence and contributions added so much to our event. Thank you too to the NDSU Campus Lions for their assistance. They are a great group of young adults. And a big appreciative thank you to the NDAB members who joined us to celebrate this conjoined White Cane Safet Day and Walk for Vision occasion.

A very appreciative heartfelt thank you to my wife Judy for all her work shopping and setting up the refreshments that we enjoyed concluding our affair.

Finally, thank you to our lead sponsor, the Horace Lions, for their significant donation to Walk for Vision that will be used to help create our Match Fund for Giving Hearts Day. And thank you to Hornbacher’s Foods and Thrivent Financial for their support too.

As you may be aware, White Cane Safety Day is celebrated annually on October 15 through a joint resolution adopted by Congress in 1964. More broadly the whole month of October is observed as Blindness Awareness Month.

Caption: Nine people lined up on a sidewalk near the Lutheran Campus Center at NDSU, some with canes, ready to start the Walk for Vision.


Submitted by Amy Osvold

What is SUPPORT Day? Participants will learn how to:

Support each other through the changes and challenges associated with vision loss

Understand the emotions associated with vision loss for the individual and their support persons

Pursue independence throughout the vision loss journey

Promote healthy relationships throughout the vision loss journey

Optimize your strengths to help cope with the changes and challenges of vision loss

Reach for the possible

Take control of life, love, and happiness with vision loss

Who: open to ND residents and their support people (family, partner, or friends) regardless of vision condition or degree of vision loss.

Where: Anywhere in ND we can find a space for the event.

Number of Participants: We would like at least five individuals with vision loss and their support persons to commit to this 4-hour session.

For more information, contact:

Amy Osvold, MSW

701-857-7635 or 701-340-9226

What are Daily Living Skills?

Submitted by Ken Dockter, NDVS/SB Adult Program Coordinator

What are Daily Living Skills (DLS)? What are Activities of Daily Living (ADL)? For those who have experienced extensive vision loss and are struggling with daily tasks. DLS and ADLs are activities that are completed each day as we go through life. They can include, but are not limited to, cooking, food management, grocery shopping, eating, keeping track of mail, money management, medications, personal grooming, clothing identification, housekeeping, and organization. There are many non-sighted and low vision techniques that a person can use to help complete all of these skills if they have limited vision. Completing DLS and ADL’s independently, efficiently, and safely are important to a person’s outlook.

Often, the person themself, friends, and family do not understand how people with low vision or blindness complete tasks of daily living skills, if there has not been training since the vision loss. Once a person has had some instruction in daily living skills, a person will learn to complete the skills more efficiently and safely. What does training look like? Here at NDVS/SB, we have instructors who can travel and see you in your home teaching skills that you find important to your independence. We also have center base weeks where you can come to NDVS/SB and learn more intensive skills. This could be DLS, Technology, Orientation & Mobility, Braille, Adjustment. Please reach out to me to learn more. Email me at or call 701-795-2724.

Technology Talk from ND Vision Services/School for the Blind

Submitted by Tracy Wicken, Assistive Technology Specialist

North Dakota Vision Services/School for the Blind is the demonstration center for assistive technology for persons with vision loss. The Assistive Technology Department has a number of pieces of technology that are available for demonstration and trial for anyone in ND wanting to try something out to see if it works for them. Recently, NDVS/SB acquired a device called Vision Buddy Pro. The following information is a good description of what the Vision Buddy Pro is and how it can help a person with vision loss.

Vision Buddy Pro is designed to be the simplest device out there to assist visually impaired individuals watching TV, as well as being able to perform simple day-to-day tasks. Vision Buddy is specially designed for various low vision eye conditions like Age-related Macular Degeneration, Glaucoma and Retinitis Pigmentosa. Through its use, you can:

  • Watch your favorite TV programs with enhanced image quality and have the ability to zoom in and out.
  • Independently watch your surroundings, see faces clearly, and enjoy your hobbies again.
  • Read with the ability to zoom in and out or use built-in OCR to read text aloud from your favorite books, newspapers, and magazines.
  • Perform day to day activities like changing the thermostat, operating a microwave, and reading medicine labels, etc., with ease.

Vision Buddy is the world’s first simple Television Watching System for the Visually Impaired. To watch television using the Vision Buddy, you just plug the Vision Buddy Streamer into an existing cable TV box or any other TV provider, and watch live television on the Vision Buddy headset. One can zoom in or out to enjoy a movie theater experience right in your living room and with a click of a button switch to magnification/camera mode and see the world around you.

The Vision Buddy headset has a Reading Mode where you can have text scanned and read out loud. Things like one’s mail, prescription bottles or any other printed material is read via OCR out loud to the user.

One can read books with the portable CCTV Mini stationary camera connected to the headset.

One can watch content or complete work tasks with Computer Link which displays the entire desktop of your computer in the headset.

Vision Buddy Pro has all of these capabilities in one package. The cost of Vision Buddy Pro is $3995. If you just want to use it for watching television, there is the Vision Buddy for $2995. The device comes with a 1-year warranty.

If anyone is interested in finding out more about this device or you have questions, please contact Tracy Wicken, Assistive Technology Specialist, at NDVS/SB by emailing or calling 701-795-2720.

Using the Be My AI App

Submitted by Allan Peterson

Using VoiceOver on my iPhone, I discovered a fun and possibly very useful app called “Be My AI”; it can be downloaded from the App Store and then be accessed as an option within the Be My Eyes app.

To use this app, 1 finger double tap on the Be My Eyes app, swipe until you find the “Be My AI” app, 1 finger double tap on it, then swipe until you find the take picture button and do a 1 finger double tap on that.

VoiceOver will then announce “analyzing picture”; after that has been done, a description of what’s in the picture is given. To get more details, swipe to the “Ask More” button and 1 finger double tap on that. Then swipe to the message button and 1 finger double tap on it. Double tap to get to the “insertion point at end” button, then 2 finger double tap on it, and say what detail you would like to know more about in the picture, then double tap and swipe to the send button and double tap on that button. After a slight pause, Ask My AI will answer the question to the best of its ability.

To conclude the session, swipe to the “Do you want to end the chat” button, 1 finger double tap on that, and then swipe to the “yes” button, and 1 finger double tap on it. Then swipe to the “Give Feedback” buttons and select from the “I experienced problems” and “I had a good chat” buttons and 1 finger double tap on the option of your choice.

I have used the app to check out what things are in our house; it has given me a lot of quite detailed information. It’s impressive! For example, I found a picture of my granddaughter and used the Ask More feature to find out what color dress she was wearing. It also told me what brand of chips were lying on the counter.

I very much wish to thank my iPhone instructor for her very good and patient help – she’s a wonderful instructor. I truly believe this app can be very useful to people with sight loss.

Check It off My Bucket List

Submitted by Loris Van Berkom

I have always wanted to learn how to tap dance, and I decided that it was time to fulfill that desire. I began by talking to the owner of the dance studio located in our Sons of Norway Lodge building. I was very excited to learn an adult tap class was scheduled to start up at the end of August to be held every other Thursday evening. I didn’t want to go alone so I told Janelle she was going with me, and she, being an obedient little sister, followed me into the studio and onto the dance floor. We thought the other “adults” would all be beginners like us, mature adults with no tap dance experience. Boy, were we wrong! They all had tap shoes and previous lessons. After our first class, we guessed that somewhere in their childhood closets, competition trophies would be found. Most of the twenty or so tappers were young enough to be our grandkids. I was committed. It was my bucket list and my journey. We moved ahead.

We danced in our stocking feet the first two lessons before we finally got shoes that fit. Neither of us have very good balance so we spent the entire hour in the back of the room at the bar, ballet bar that is, going back and forth practicing each new step.

Our instructor was in her thirties and full of energy. She had never worked with anyone with sight loss, but she embraced the challenge.

I had no idea how hard it would be to learn to tap. We were both mentally and physically exhausted at the end of each session. The brain needs to tell the feet what to do and that does not come automatically. Just like learning anything new, it takes practice, practice, practice. My goal for us was to perform a tap dance number at the NDAB Summer Camp Talent Show, and with smiles on our faces and top hats on our heads, we did it!

We were encouraged to apply to the Life Enrichment program, which if approved, would reimburse 75% of the cost that we incurred for the lessons, the shoes and transportation. We extend a huge thank you to NDAB for accepting our applications and encourage you to try something new. Step out on whatever your dance floor may be for your new experience and enrich your life.

Development Report Fall 2023

Submitted by Allan Peterson

Fundraising, anyone? Many find it impossible to ask for a donation. The truth is, most nonprofits, including NDAB, couldn’t function without seeking contributions. Fortunately, NDAB is financially stable. And, as NDAB’s fiscal stewards, we want to keep it that way! Unless it’s a raffle, an auction, or some other form of a sale, most of our income comes from our two major annual fundraisers: the NDAB Walk for Vision and participation in Giving Hearts Day.

Holy moly! Did you know, this year marks NDAB’s 25th Walk for Vision? This year’s Walk for Vision event will again coincide with the observation of White Cane Safety Day on October 15. The importance of the white cane and dog guide to people with sight loss are publicly acknowledged through the promotion of White Cane Safety Day, established initially by a joint resolution of Congress in 1964 which designates October 15 of each year to be observed as White Cane Safety Day. We commend and extend our gratitude and thankfulness to North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum and Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney for their proclamations that declare October 15, 2023, to be observed as White Cane Safety Day in the State of North Dakota and in the city of Fargo.

Our joint event, celebration of White Cane Safety Day and NDAB’s 25th Walk for Vision, will be held Monday, October 16 in Fargo at the NDSU Crossroads Campus Lutheran Center 1201 13th Ave. North in Fargo. Registration will begin at 4 P.M. The event will include sharing information about the use of the white cane, a commemorative walk, demonstration of using accessible technology, door prizes, and refreshments for participants. Students from the NDSU Campus Lions club will help us host our event.

We are truly grateful for the support received from our lead Walk sponsor, the Horace Lions Club, and support from Hornbacher’s Foods and Thrivent Financial for our Walk event in Fargo. We’ve also sent a letter to potential donors that invites them to be sponsors of our 2023 NDAB Walk for Vision appeal. All proceeds from the walk go towards funding the many service programs that NDAB offers to people who have visual impairments.

Our Walk event sets the stage for the second of our major (really, big SHOW) fundraising activities, our participation in the 2024 Giving Hearts Day Appeal (GHD). Following are some basic facts about Giving Hearts Day:

  • Giving Hearts Day 2024 is our 8th consecutive year that we will be among the worthy causes that will benefit from this region wide Appeal!
  • A fundamental requirement of all Giving Hearts Day participating organizations is that they create a Match Fund that’s secured in advance of the Appeal. The purpose of the fund is to be an incentive for donors on Giving Hearts Day. In essence, it tells Giving Hearts Day donors that their donations will be matched and, as a consequence, be doubled. Our Match is secured from a mix of sources – individual donors, donations from Lions clubs, organizations that have charitable gaming licenses, and contributions from our NDAB Walk for Vision event.
  • The final total of NDAB’s participation in last year’s Giving Hearts Day Appeal was $18,703. Prior to GHD, a Match Fund of $25,186 was created for a grand total of $43,889. Skipping the formalities, our goal is, of course, to exceed this total in 2024.

The following is a brief review of basic guidelines for Giving Hearts donors:

  • Giving Hearts Day is a one-day-only, online fundraising appeal that will happen on Thursday, February 8, 2024. The allowable giving period will begin at 12:01 A.M. that morning and will end that day at 11:59 P.M.
  • To make a secure online contribution on February 8, go to and click on the Giving Hearts Day Donate button and then select North Dakota Association of the Blind from among the listed charities. Donations can be made by credit or debit card. Donations must be at least $10 to qualify toward the match. All donations are eligible for a tax deduction.
  • Donations can also be made by check prior to February 8. Checks should be dated February 8, 2024, and mailed to our treasurer, Rebecca Anderson, P.O. Box 824, West Fargo, ND 58078, Checks should be mailed at least ten days before February 8 so they can be credited as a Giving hearts Day donation.
  • An appealing way for busy people to make a donation is to schedule a donation in advance by creating a GHD account at between January 2 and February 7. After the account is set up, add donations to the cart before checking out. Your donation will then be processed at that time and credited as a NDAB Giving Hearts Day donation prior to February 8, 2024. Donations made in this way will prevent the stress of having to make the gift on the specific day of February 8.

At present we are approximately four months away from February 8. 2024. If you have any questions or suggestions about NDAB’s fund raising efforts, contact me at 701-282-4644 or email me at And please do stay tuned for more to come about our participation in the 2024 Giving Hearts Day Appeal.

Legislative and Advocacy Report Fall 2023

Submitted by Allan Peterson and Zelda Gebhard

Opinion: The work we do to influence legislation could best be referred to simply as advocacy. Given that our advocacy is primarily directed to influence decisions made by legislators, the word legislative also fits well into this title.

Our advocacy was on full display at the lunch with Legislators at this year’s NDAB Convention in Grand Forks. We had 7 guests at this lunch – 3 local state senators and 2 state house members plus representatives from U.S. Senator Cramer’s and Congressman Armstrong’s offices. U.S. Senator Hoeven sent us a letter that complimented us for the work we do. The meeting over lunch proved to be a great opportunity for members of NDAB to voice their concerns to an audience of people that are part of the lawmaking process.

Good news to share! The advocacy we’ve been working on to secure an accessible absentee ballot for people with sight loss and other disabilities is about to be realized. In a recent visit with election officials in the North Dakota Secretary of State’s Office, we learned that an absentee ballot that will be accessible to North Dakotans who are blind and visually impaired should be available for use by January. Thus, it should be available for people with disabilities to vote in the primary election in June 2024. As we learn more about these developments, we will be sharing that information with you.

A potential detrimental concern about voting has arisen as of late. Recently Allan was interviewed by a reporter from the Fargo Forum to get reactions to a petition filed recently to strictly use paper ballots to conduct elections in North Dakota. If this petition were to be successful, it would eliminate the Express Vote machines used by people with disabilities at polling sites to vote a secret independent ballot. Allan’s comments which encouraged defeat of this petition were published in a Forum news article. FYI: The original petition was withdrawn by its authors but unfortunately has been replaced by another that’s similar to the original filing.

A link to the story in which Allan was interviewed about the ballot measure to limit voting to a paper ballot can be found at:

The updated ballot measure in full can be found at:

A head’s up: We have joined with numerous organizations of the blind and people with disabilities to offer comments to counter the Department of Justice (DOJ) proposed ADA Title 2 changes regarding website accessibility that, if implemented, would be detrimental to people living with vision loss. Title II applies to services provided by state and local governments. Our action to join with others to offer these comments is in keeping with resolutions we’ve adopted at NDAB’s Conventions to establish accessibility guidelines for access to web sites and applications.

Partisan politics is often a part of the legislative process and something we need to avoid because of our status as a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. The hope expressed here is that the intra party squabbling that has taken over politics in the U.S. House of Representatives will be resolved soon so politicians can get back to doing the business of the people.

Donations April-September 2023

Submitted by Rebecca Anderson

Treasurer/Registered Agent

April-September Donations Total $17,570.10

GHD Bonus $272.85

Stripe Transfers

Impact Foundation

Memorials $335.00

Cassel Everson in memory of Cheryl Brooks

Loris Van Berkom in memory of Mickey Teubner

Jerry Bergquist in memory of Angie Kokott

Kelsey Hagen in memory of Mickey Teubner

Carol Schmitt in memory of NDAB friends

Mary Englund in memory of Joe DeKaria

Paula Neufeld in memory of Edna Scherman

Other Donations $2,982.25


Blackbaud Giving Fund

Bright Funds

Gate City Bank

Keiser Endowment Fund

Mercer County WARC

Rodney Lynn Miller

Rick Vannett

John Weiss & Denise Karalis

Your Cause

Lions $500.00

Gateway Lions

Charitable Gaming $13,500.00

Belfield American Legion Post 144

Bismarck AmVets

Bismarck Eagles

Bismarck VFW Post 1326

Devils Lake Rotary

Dickinson Eagles Aerie 2328

Drake Columbian Club

Edgeley American Legion Post 146

Enderlin Alumni Association

Fargo AmVets Post 7

Fargo Elks

Hazelton American Legion Post 126

Jamestown All Vets Club

Kenmare Vets Club


Maddock Rural Fire

Mandan Moose

Minot Moose Lodge 822

Napoleon American Legion Post 72

Park River American Legion

Plaza Community Club

Rolette American Legion Post 194

Souris Fire Department

Steele AmVets

Tioga American Legion Post 139

Tolley Fire Department

West Fargo VFW Post 7564

Williston American Legion

2023 Post-Convention Report

Submitted by Paul Olson and Emily Stenberg Brown

The 2023 NDAB Convention was held at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Grand Forks, ND, June 9-11. Thirty-nine people registered with 11 more attending the banquet on Saturday night. Steve Johnson, a Lion from Grand Forks, was the banquet speaker. Eagle’s Crest catered the banquet and provided boxed lunches for Saturday. Tracy Wicken led a memorial service on Sunday morning for the NDAB members we lost this past year. A picnic was held at ND Vision Services/School for the Blind on Friday night with local Lions Clubs providing the food, cooking, and serving. A breakdown of costs is below.

Income $1,025.42

Total Expenses $8,686.83

The expenses include convention stipends, board member’s mileage and rooms, room reimbursements, snacks, an honorarium for the Color Guard, boxed lunches, and banquet costs.

The Convention Planning Committee would like to thank all of its members for helping make this a successful event in Grand Forks. We look forward to the 2024 Convention in Regent, ND!

Communication Connections:



Communication submissions:

Address: NDAB, PO Box 824, West Fargo, ND 58078

All members are encouraged to submit items of interest to the editor at for publication. Deadline is the 10th of the month prior to quarterly publications of February, May, August, and November.

NDAB is a nonprofit organization which promotes the interest of ND residents who are blind and visually impaired. As a nonprofit organization, we welcome donations to help in advancing the cause of persons who are blind and visually impaired. For more information about NDAB, visit