State Organization Helps Blind Community Hurdle Obstacles Even Snowbanks


DES MOINES, Iowa -- Like many Iowans, Emily Wharton makes zero excuses when it comes to winter.  "This is Iowa.  You put your boots on, you put your coat on and you go out there and trudge through it like everybody else," she said.  Unlike mos, Emily is blind.  "Normally you are gonna hit the grass line, so in the winter time it is the snow line," she said with a laugh.

Also serving as the Director for the Iowa Department for the Blind, she really appreciates clear walkways during the winter.  "You walk up one block and for a while it is just trudge, trudge and then it opens up and that is nice, then trudge, trudge, trudge," she said.

Her secret weapon no matter the terrain.  The "Iowa Cane," made of a thick flexible fiberglass with a metal tip that can bend in a tall snowbank she can navigate.  "I don't leave home without it.  It is my American Express Card, it is my arm," said Emily.

In the winter, Emily also alters her usual tapping to a more scraping technique.  She said, "If there's any slick spot or ice or anything, I want to catch that before."  Snow and ice doesn't just make things slippery, it also acts as a sound barrier, muffling noises the blind community needs to navigate.  Emily said, "Particularly if you go outside right after a snow storm. The way the cars tires sound, I think I would have heard it a little sooner if there weren't as much muffle because I didn't hear it until it came really close."

With practice, Emily has adjusted and she teaches those who utilize the Department of the Blind to embrace all obstacles.  "There's so much to do in life and that is really a big part of our mission."  Fortunately for Iowans it is a mission that unlike the snow will not melt away.  "You don't have to let blindness stop you from doing what you need to do and you don't need to let winter stop you from doing what you need to do either," said Emily.

If you wish to help volunteer or just looking for help from the Iowa Department for the Blind, visit


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