SSB News, Notices and Reports

SSB News

Start Planning Now for Summer Enrichment

Summer's ComingIt's not too early to starting thinking about summer camps, educational programs and skills-building opportunities for blind, visually impaired, and DeafBlind teens and young adults. Here are many options for summer 2015.


With offices in Hibbing, Duluth, Brainerd and Walker, the Center for Independent Living of Northeastern Minnesota provides a variety of programs.

Boys and Girls Club 

Programs focus on leadership, education and career development, health and life skills with the goal of paving the way toward academic success, good character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles.

Conservation Corps – Minnesota

Conservation Corps provides hands-on environmental stewardship and service-learning opportunities to youth and young adults while accomplishing conservation, natural resource management and emergency response work.

Courage Center 

Offers adaptive sports and recreation opportunities, aquatics, fitness and wellness, as well as vocational and independent living services.

Helen Keller National Center For Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults

How Far Can You Go?

Dates: July 27-August 7, 2015 at HKNC – 141 Middle Neck Road, Sands Point, NY

Cost: $2,600.00 for two weeks – includes tuition, room and board

Intermediate School District 917 Vision Program Extended School Year Expanded Core Curriculum

Two week program focusing on skills in the areas of independent living, daily living skills, recreation and leisure, social interaction, career education, and orientation and mobility for students who are blind/visually impaired.

Dates: August 3-13, 2015

Leader Dog for the Blind Summer Experience

This program is a free, one-week camp experience for 16- and 17-year-olds that is all about fun, learning new things, challenging yourself and making new friends.

The camp is held from June 26-July 3, 2015, and is held in Rochester Hills, Michigan.

Application deadline is: April 1, 2015.

Minnesota Life College Summer Internship Program

Session 1: June 7-26, 2015.    Session 2: July 5-24, 2015.

Students will have the opportunity to experience the real world, by living in an apartment-setting with roommates, working and engaging in community life with new friends.

The Summer Internship Program is a hands-on learning, taught by MLC instructors and job coaches. This opportunity will provide students the chance to develop

  • Social skills and participate in fun community activities
  • Work skills through an internship experience, with a student stipend at the end of the three weeks
  • Independent living skills including: organization, budgeting, healthy choices and safety

Cost: $5,000

Minnesota State Academy for the Blind's Independence 101

The Independence 101 Summer Program will offer opportunities for both middle school and high school age students. Each group of students will participate in activities encompassing the three areas of transition (post-secondary, employment, and independent living).

Focusing on increasing functional learning skills, this program is designed to create an active learning environment for students entering grades 7-12.

For more information, call 507-384-6700 or 800-657-3634.

National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Youth Slam

Four-day STEM academy in Baltimore, Maryland Focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Northern Plains Vision of Sport Camp

Visually impaired and blind children from MN participate in an annual sport and recreation camp.

Contact Dr. James Mastro at: 218-755-3772

PREP Program at BLIND Inc. in Minneapolis

An eight-week summer program designed to prepare blind high school students for academic, employment, and social success.

Dates: June 14-August 7, 2015

Right Track

Right Track is Saint Paul's pipeline for youth career development and building a diverse future workforce. Important partners are joining forces to ensure Saint Paul youth are on the right track to future success. The Right Track Initiative brings together the City of Saint Paul, Saint Paul Public Schools, businesses, and community-based organizations to provide work readiness and employment opportunities for youth.

STEP-UP Summer Jobs Program

For Minneapolis youth ages 14-21. Youth must complete a competitive application process and work readiness training to be considered for a position with the STEP-UP program. Youth ages 14-21 are offered a paid internship experience and matched with positions at local businesses.

For more information, contact Tammy Dickinson at (612) 673-5041.

Summer Transition Program

Dates: June 13 – 25, 2015, at the University of St. Thomas

The program focuses on employment, post-secondary education and independent living. STP must be in the transition student’s IEP.  Costs are split between student’s school district and SSB.

Tree Trust Summer Youth Employment Program

Youth spend their summer working hard throughout the Twin Cities seven-county metro area. Whether they're working as a team to build a staircase at a local park or working by themselves to help a local organization catch up on data entry, participants earn wages, develop pride in their abilities and gain transferable skills to take to future jobs. The community benefits, too. Residents see improvements in their parks and recreation areas, and businesses get to draw from a competent, experienced workforce of young people.

Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center

Classes focus on the local, natural, and cultural history of Minnesota. Designed to incorporate many different learning styles.

Yes Duluth – Youth Employment Service

Program provides education and employment services for youth 16 to 21 years old, with a focus on: 

  • Individualized tutoring to help participants earn a GED or high school diploma
  • Paid work experience opportunities
  • Funding for training
  • Help with college enrollment
  • Career guidance
  • Job search skills (resume writing, cover letters, interviewing and follow-up)

Summer Jobs Program offers short-term summer employment and work experience with local employers.

For more information, call 218-302-8400 and ask for a YES Duluth Youth Specialist.

Your Input Can Help Make Government Data More Accessible

Minnesota Star ProgramSeeking input and ideas on how to use geographical data for the public good, Hennepin County is hosting a Geo:Code event Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 21-22, at the Minneapolis Central Library, 300 Nicollet Mall, in Minneapolis.

The two day code-a-thon will bring technology developers and coders together with county officials, community  members and Geographic Information Systems professionals and enthusiasts to create technology that improves county services and gives residents greater access to government data. Possibilities include websites, online and mobile apps, and anything in between.

The Minnesota Office of Accessibility is partnering with Hennepin County to help developers understand the importance of accessibility.

Register to participate in the code-a-thon. Submit your project ideas or vote for your favorites on Idea Scale. Learn more about the open data and resources that will be available at the event.

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.

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.


Job Placement Vendor Training Announcement

All contractor staff doing job placement with customers of SSB are required to attend a training session in placement-related issues specific to employment of people who are blind, visually impaired or DeafBlind.

Two Training Sessions Dates are available:
Tuesday, January 27, 2015, 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Friday, January 30, 2015, 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

For more information, see the Vendor Forums tab on the Information for our Vendors webpage.

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.


SSB Reports