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We offer tools and training for employment and for helping seniors remain independent and active. As Minnesota’s accessible reading source we also transcribe books and other materials into alternative formats, including audio and braille. We assist Minnesotans who are blind, DeafBlind, losing vision, or who have another disability that makes it difficult to read print.

We hope you find what you need here. We've also created a Tips for Using Our New Website page.

If you’d like to apply for services, learn more, or have more questions, just give us a call. You’ll find contact information for all of our offices on our contact page, or you can call our main office at 651-539-2300.

Thanks for visiting.

COVID-19 Updates

Stay Safe Minnesota

First, we hope that you are healthy and safe. These are challenging times for all of us, and focusing on health and safety is what matters most. As you know, in order to provide for the safety of Minnesotans, and to ensure that those on the front lines get the equipment and supplies they need, Governor Walz has issued a stay at home order. We’re writing to let you know about how this will effect our operations and services here at SSB, to let you know the best ways to be in touch with our staff, and to offer some resources that may be helpful. Download our updates.

Families with Seniors Losing Vision - How to Help

During these times, we know that many families have limited contact with senior family members or friends who are adjusting to vision loss and coping with the added complications presented by restrictions related to stemming the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Learn more about what we're doing and what you can do.

SSB Not Accepting New Volunteers at This Time

For the health and safety of our staff, customers, and current volunteers, we are unable to accept new volunteers at this time and are not processing applications. We remain extremely grateful for your interest, and look forward to receiving your application at a later time.

Upcoming Events/News

Get Pumped for PEP

Peer Educator Programming

We are excited to offer free July opportunities for students to connect and learn. Please email Sheila.koenig@state.mn.us to register and get Zoom information. Students may participate in one, several, or all of these programs.

Seeing Success in Self Advocacy
  • Learn and discuss advocacy strategies for people and students who are blind.
  • Mondays
  • July 13, 20, and 27 from 7-8 p.m.
College Readiness Series
  • From these programs students can expect to learn about a variety of things, including: time management and organization, college life hacks, and having a social life during college.
  • Tuesdays
  • July 14, 21, and 28 from 7-8 p.m.
Complexity of Identity
  • Join us as we dive into a discussion about our identities and the identities of others both related, and unrelated to blindness.
  • Wednesdays
  • July 15, 22, and 29 from 7-8 p.m.
Sight Loss and Resilience
  • During this workshop, we will break down the different layers of sight loss. We will discuss types of sight loss, the effects of living with sight loss, the resilience gained from it.
  • Thursdays
  • July 16, 23, and 30 from 7-8 p.m.

100 Years of Vocational Rehabilitation

June 2020 marks 100 years of publicly supported vocational rehabilitation in the United States. On June 2nd, Steve Grove, the Commissioner of Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development, paid tribute to the importance of VR with the following statement. You can read more about the celebration of one hundred years of vocational rehabilitation on the U.S. Department of education website.

As we continue with heavy hearts to navigate a challenging time in our state and in our country, I’d like to take a moment to honor an important milestone.

Today, June 2, is the 100th anniversary of the public Vocational Rehabilitation program, which in Minnesota includes the programs and services provided by Vocational Rehabilitation Services and State Services for the Blind here at DEED.

Throughout our history people with disabilities have been marginalized, overlooked, and undervalued. Far too often they’ve been denied full inclusion and integration into our communities, and frequently unable to find competitive employment in our workplaces. We know too that Minnesotans with disabilities from communities of color have experienced discrimination and marginalization at to an even greater extent, and our commitment is to ensure that in One Minnesota, no one is left behind or left out.

Today we are observing 100 years of the only publicly funded program that is committed exclusively to providing employment services – counseling, training, placement services, and job supports – to citizens with disabilities. In a very real way, the public VR program is an expression of our core values of equity and inclusion for all Minnesotans.

President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Fess Act of 1920, also known as the Industrial Rehabilitation Act and referred to as "The National Civilian Vocational Rehabilitation Act," into law June 2, 1920. That year, Minnesota became one of the very first states to create its own VR program, and over the past century, the program has grown into a national partnership in all states and territories, with both federal and state funding. The program has also evolved significantly over time to include people with any and all disabilities – whether they’re physical, mental, emotional, or developmental, as well as deafness and visual impairments.

Thank you to Minnesota's public VR programs for a century of great work assisting people with disabilities to achieve their employment goals. Thanks, as well, to the hundreds of Minnesotans who have served over the years on the citizen advisory councils – the State Rehabilitation Councils – providing stakeholder input, guidance, and counsel to the VR programs. Thanks to the broad statewide network of community partners who work closely with VRS and SSB to provide these important services. And a very big shout out to all of the large and small businesses who have employed so many thousands of VR participants over the years.

Everyone in our broad statewide coalition is absolutely vital in making the VR program a success and ensuring that it will continue for at least another 100 years into the future. Congratulations and thank you to the approximately 400 staff and managers at SSB and VRS for continuing to live into our core values of full equity and inclusion for all Minnesotans. Thank you to the Minnesotans with disabilities who have held us to the highest standards, advocated for equal rights and dignity, called us out when we were wrong, and worked to shape our services to best serve the people of our state.

With admiration, Steve Grove, Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

More Ways to Listen to Radio Talking Book

SSB is proud to announce the new RTB app for iPhone and Android, and the RTB skill for Alexa-enabled devices. In October of 2020, we will discontinue broadcasting over the radio, with the closed circuit radio receivers. Listeners will be able to access our programming through our apps, via the online stream, or on any Alexa-enabled device. Read all about these changes in our FAQs.

Remembrance: Sally Ankeny Anson

sally-ansonWith sadness, State Services for the Blind marks the passing of Sally Ankeny Anson, who, while carrying out the legacy of her family, helped shape and strengthen the work of our Communication Center. "Sally always cared about excellence, and making sure we were meeting the needs of consumers in the best possible way," said SSB Director Natasha Jerde, "She could be counted on to ask good questions and offer thoughtful advice. She will be greatly missed here, and we extend our deepest sympathy to her family."

"The partnership established between Sally's family, through the Hamm Family Foundation and the Communication Center back in the early '50s was truly revolutionary," said Angela Bodensteiner, SSB's Development Director, "They made it possible for blind Minnesotans to have access to current books and magazines, and to have recorded the specific textbooks and other materials they needed for school, work and life. This put the blind consumer at the center."

"Later," Angela continued, "Through a unique partnership between Minnesota Public Radio, the Hamm family, and the Communication Center, we launched Minnesota's Radio Talking Book, the first-of-its-kind radio reading service."

Sally, an active member of the Communication Center Advisory Board for many years, carried on her families commitment to making print accessible to blind, DeafBlind, visually impaired Minnesotans, and Minnesotans with other print related disabilities. Just this year, SSB launched the Minnesota Radio Talking Book app for iOS and Android, and a RTB skill for Amazon devices. "In keeping with the vision of the Hamm family and those early Communication Center pioneers, we're joining RTB with mobile technology, and keeping up with the needs and preferences of our consumers," said Director Jerde.

Sally Anson died peacefully in Minneapolis on April 30, 2020 at age 89. A full obituary, with more details of her remarkable life, can be found in the StarTribune.

"Even as we mourn her loss," Director Jerde said, "We will proudly carry out the vision of full and equal access that her family began, and that she so faithfully continued."

Learn About the Census and Commit to Be Counted

We Count. Minnesota is a collaboration of businesses, governments, non-profits, and community groups across the state. Its aim is to support a fair and accurate 2020 Census by educating Minnesotans about the importance of the census and promoting their participation in it. Full participation in the upcoming 2020 Census - making sure everyone is counted - will provide our communities with vital information about who we are and what we need. All of us must come together to ensure every Minnesotan counts. The data that will be collected by the 2020 Census are critical for counties and communities across our state. They will shape political representation, funding of government programs, the flow of business and commerce, and the planning and delivery of services to local communities. Historically, the census has missed certain groups - including young children, people of color, indigenous people, people with disabilities, and urban and rural low-income households - at disproportionately high rates. Being undercounted deprives communities of equal political representation and private and public resources. By signing this simple Commit to be Counted form you’ll get timely information about filling out your census form in the spring of 2020, and you’ll help build a strong Minnesota where everyone counts!

New Video Makes the Case for Digital Accessibility

A video produced by Minnesota’s Office of Accessibility shows how universal design has made life easier for everyone.Making sure that documents, websites, and other digital content is accessible also benefits many of us. Included are some helpful tips and resources.

What Would I Do, if I Couldn’t See?

Lots of us ask that question from time to time. The simple answer is that with a few new skills, you’d be going about your everyday life. Three short videos showcase Minnesotans who are blind, losing vision, or DeafBlind, doing just that.

"How Could I do This Job If I Can't See" (audio described) shows Minnesotans using high tech and low tech solutions at work. It’s a nice introduction for hiring managers who might be wondering if an applicant who is blind, low vision, or DeafBlind could indeed be the best person for a job.

"How Can I do It If I Can't See It" (audio described) speaks to the experience of seniors who are wondering how to live well with vision loss.

"How Can I Read It If I Can't See It" (audio described) is for everyone who loves reading and worries that vision loss, or another disability, might take away their ability to read. This video demonstrates how our Communication Center has become "Minnesota’s Accessible Reading Source."

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