SSB News, Notices and Reports

SSB News

Assistive Technology Product Showcase

Assistive Technology from OptelecState Services for the Blind's assistive technology team and representatives from Clear Vision Midwest will showcase the latest in assistive technology products on Thursday, Jan. 15, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at SSB headquarters, 2200 University Avenue West, St. Paul.

Don't miss this opportunity to try out the new line of video magnifiers from Optelec, a brand known for exceptional video magnification and text to speech products. Among the products to be shown:

- Optelec ClearView+Speech video magnifier
- Optelec ClearView+ C closed circuit TV with a C-shaped design
- Optelec MultiView 24-Inch HD video magnifier
- Optelec Compact 7 HD portable video magnifier

Assistive technology helps people with low vision stay independent, pursue their goals and enjoy an active life. With the right tools, people with low vision can perform their daily activities, continue their hobbies, read, write and maintain employment.

Clear Vision, which carries some of the newest and most innovative technology for people with low vision, has been selling and servicing Optelec products in Minnesota since 2008.

Understanding Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income

Social Security Administration logoAn upcoming Social Security Administration webinar explains the differences between SSDI and SSI, two programs for the disabled administered by the federal agency.

Although they sound similar, the two programs differ greatly in how you qualify for and receive benefits. The webinar will be Tuesday, Jan. 27, from 9 to 11a.m. and Wednesday, Feb. 11, from 2 to 4 p.m.

If you want a solid understanding of the programs, this is an excellent session for people new to the topic. The webinar covers entitlement factors, benefits, and explains important details such as the onset date, living arrangement and earnings from working.

You will learn about the application process from the initial stage to the appeals level. The webinar also covers online tools and resources available to assist both the general public and disability advocates. 

After you register online, you will receive a confirmation email containing instructions for joining the webinar.

Helpful Tips for Online Grocery Shopping

Image showing an online shopping websiteStephanie Ahrens, Operations Manager for online shopping at Lunds and Byerly’s grocery stores paid a recent visit to State Services for the Blind. She wanted to know more about how blind, visually impaired and DeafBlind customers use technology to navigate online shopping sites. Lunds and Byerly’s is one of several grocery delivery services in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

After learning more about screen-reading software and other technology that individuals use to navigate the web, Ahrens offered several tips that customers might find helpful when shopping for groceries online.

“In any week we will have a thousand or more sales items, and we can only highlight a few hundred of those,” she said. Ahrens suggested using a generic search term, like “yogurt” and then selecting “specials” in the brand drop-down list to find all sales items for that category. She also suggested trying the same general search terms and selecting “price, low to high” from the sort drop-down list.

“If price is your primary concern it's always worth checking on our everyday prices in addition to checking the specials, as often we’ll carry items with a lower price than our sale items," she said.

The notes section on the website can be very useful for providing specific instructions to the employees who fill the orders. “You might, for example, want to specify some yellow and some green bananas so that you’ll have some that are ready to eat and others that will ripen a few days out,” Ahrens said.

Another important note: Customers with manufacturers coupons are given online store credit if they provide the coupons when their groceries are delivered. 

Ahrens welcomes feedback on how to improve the accessibility of the Lunds and Byerly’s online shopping site. She's also available to answer questions about the site. Reach her at 952-915-3753. You can also reach customer service representatives for online shopping every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at 952-548-1400.

Americans with Disabilities Act Survey

Logo: ADA - 25 Years CelebrationIn 2015, the ADA turns 25 years old. How has the federal law changed the employment landscape in Minnesota? 

To better understand the ADA's impact, the Minnesota State Council on Disability is surveying employers and people with disabilities who are employed or are actively seeking employment.

The survey will examine the following:

  • Familiarity with the ADA and laws regarding employment of people with disabilities
  • Opinions about the ADA and experiences with employment, job-seeking and hiring
  • Changes and experiences with employers' human resources personnel
  • Best practices for employing people with disabilities

The survey will also collect basic demographic information from respondents.

Employers and people with disabilities may take the survey online. Deadline is Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015. 

The survey will be conducted by the Improve Group, a St. Paul, MN-based research group. See a list of partners participating in a variety of ADA 25th anniversary activities and events.

Changes in Relay Services

SSB has received the following information important to many of our DeafBlind customers:

Effective November 14, 2014, Purple has stopped providing IP Relay service. Sprint Relay is now the only remaining provider of IP Relay service in the United States. Register for Sprint IP Relay service. For more information, email Sprint.

Report comments or concerns about the relay service to the Federal Communications Commission.

Get an iBill Demo at the Communication Center

ibill deviceThe new iBill® Currency Reader, a small device which identifies and speaks the denomination of a U.S. banknote, is available for demonstration at the Communication Center. 

A currency reader will soon be available for free to all eligible blind and visually impaired individuals. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is beginning the distribution of these devices through the National Library Service. NLS patrons can pre-order their currency reader through the Communication Center by calling us at 1-800-652-9000 or 651-642-0885 or by calling the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library at 1-800-722-0550.

The currency reader, which is about the size of two packs of gum, has a slot for inserting a U.S. bill. Press a button and the device speaks the denomination of the bill. For privacy, bills can be identified by a series of beeps, or as a pattern of vibrations, which can be useful for DeafBlind customers.

To see the iBill® Talking Banknote in action, stop by Audio Services in the Communication Center at our St. Paul office, or call to make an appointment. More information is available on the website of the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Openings on State Rehabilitation Council for the Blind

Are you interested in helping State Services for the Blind shape its work and goals? Consider applying for a position on the State Rehabilitation Council for the Blind. Council members are appointed by the governor, and represent various constituencies. Current vacancies include:

  • Two Business, Industry or Labor Representatives 
  • One Parent Representative 
  • One Governor’s Workforce Development Council Representative 
  • One Deaf‐Blind Community Representative 
  • One Vocational Rehabilitation Services Recipient Representative
  • One United Blind of Minnesota Representative
  • One American Council for The Blind Representative

For more information or to apply visit the Secretary of State's webpage.


SSB Rochester Office Has Moved to a New Location

State Services for the Blind
2070 College View Rd. E.
Rochester, MN 55904

Phone Numbers:
Toll Free: 1-800-366-2715
Fax: 507-280-5592

SSB Phone Numbers

  • Our toll free number is (800) 652-9000.
  • Our general number for our front desk is: (651) 539-2300.

Here is a list of phone numbers for all SSB staff and all special phone numbers: 

Deaf or hard of hearing customers, please call in using your preferred relay system.


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