Blind and deaf Iowans oppose elements of governor’s state government realignment

DES MOINES — Blind and deaf Iowans are urging lawmakers to reject some of the changes proposed in the governor’s state government reorganization plan.

A spokeswoman for Governor Reyonlds says there are no plans to close the Iowa School for the Deaf in Council Bluffs, but some advocates point to a part of the governor’s bill that would repeal the Iowa law that says the legislature has to approve a move to close the school.

Speaking through an American Sign Language interpreter, Sarah Young Bear-Brown says her six-year-old daughter is thriving at the school.  “It’s like our second home,” Young Bear-Brown says. “I don’t want to see another school close. I do not want to see that. We need to keep the Iowa School for the Deaf open.”

Young Bear-Brown, a graduate of the Iowa School for the Deaf, tried to share her views during a Senate subcommittee meeting Monday, but there was no sign language interpreter on the online platform.

The government reorganization bill also calls for Governor Kim Reynolds to start appointing the director of the Iowa Department for the Blind. For nearly 100 years, the Iowa Commission for the Blind has selected the agency’s director. Cindy Ray of Urbandale is an officer with the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa.  “I have seen that blind people running the agency understand and know blind people,” Ray said.

Mary McGee of Des Moines, who has been blind all her life, says the agency’s training gives blind Iowans the confidence to work and contribute to society.  “And we’re going to lose that if friends of the governor or good political supporters or optometrists get on that board and consumers have no input like they do now,” McGee said.

Molly Severn, an aide to Governor Reynolds, says Iowans have the perception that state government officials are accountable to the governor, so governors should be appointing the agency’s director.