An exhibit highlighting the lives of blind Iowans is making its way around the state. Ten libraries are hosting the exhibit titled “The History of Blindness in Iowa.”
Meredith Ferguson, with the Iowa Department for the Blind, says many visitors leave with a greater understanding that the blind can accomplish the same tasks as a sighted person.) “We want (people) to walk away knowing that blind persons are just a cross section of the population,” Ferguson said.
“They’re really no different than a sighted person, they just do things a little differently.” The traveling exhibit also includes photos and news clips from decades ago. Ferguson noted that many media reports about blind Iowans used the word “amazing” to describe how they dealt with their lack of sight.
“We really want to get away from that and let people know that it’s not ‘amazing’ – they just do it and accomplish the task in a different way,” Ferguson said. “That’s really the heart of what we want this exhibit to get at.”
The exhibit includes audio from dozens of blind Iowans who were interviewed for the project. All of the interviews are featured on the website www.Iowablindhistory.org. Eldred Gerhold, a 92-year-old man from Cedar Rapids, recalled his days at the old Vinton School for the Blind in the 1920s and 30s.
“In those days, they had quite a bit of industrial shop work,” Gerhold said. “They taught us to make hammocks – I made a few of those. I did a little bit of chair caning and a little bit of rug weaving.”
The History of Blindness in Iowa exhibit is now on display at the Denver Public Library. Future stops include Mason City (July), Decorah (August), Dubuque (September) and Fairfield (October).