People Help People with the New Be My Eyes App

Be My Eyes is an app that gives individuals with low vision or blindness more opportunities to be independent. This app connects people with low vision or blindness to people who are sighted.

Sited volunteers can download the app on their iPhone or iPad and create an account as a site helper. Users with low vision or blindness also create an account but do so as a blind user. When a person with low vision or blindness needs a set of eyes, they can open up the app and send a request for assistance. Once a person accepts the request, the two can now communicate with one another. The camera on the phone of the person with low vision or blindness will be activated so the helper can see what the person’s camera is capturing.

This app launched last fall and so far there are 198,886 sited helpers, 17,589 users, and 65,930 instances where people were helped through the app. This app is a free app and is currently only available through the Apple store for Apple devices. There will be an app for Android supporting devices coming out soon.

Check out the website for Be My Eyes for more information and video that gives some example uses.

ABLE Act Gaining Traction in States

The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act was enacted at the federal level at the end of last year. Since then, 45 states are pursuing ABLE accounts this year to allow families to set aside funds in tax preferred accounts for disability related expenses. Over 29 states have already filed ABLE bills this legislative session.

On March 24, the ABLE Act was passed in North Dakota. As of yet, the legislation is rather vague. It is unknown if it will be following the federal guidelines completely or if there will be guidelines specific to North Dakota. As of right now, it is thought that this program will follow the federal guidelines. This program will be administered by the Bank of North Dakota. They will make sure that it is in compliance with IRS standards. The Bank of North Dakota may impose an annual administrative fee to recover expenses.

If you want to learn more about the ABLE Act, check out the ten things you need to know about the ABLE Act.

A Note on Bullying from our Systems/Community Advocate

I present a bully prevention program. This program is near and dear to my heart because I was bullied growing up. I haven’t had to experience bullying since high school, until recently. While I was at a school presenting the bully prevention program, I was bullied (trust me, I see the irony).

I began the program by defining bullying and soon moved into various bullying situation examples. One of the examples talked about how someone throws a piece of paper at someone. A student then interjected with, “How do you throw a piece of paper?” He held up one of the handouts I had given out as an example.  I had to laugh a little at the odd question. I answered it and moved on.

Soon, odd interjections began to turn into rude comments. Students giggled during videos that discussed bullying and suicide. They said mean things about the kids in the videos. I looked to the teachers to speak up, but none of them did. I pressed the issue of the seriousness of bullying and soon moved on. I began to talk about how students could stop being bystanders and stand up for their classmates. I gave an example of what someone could say to a friend who is bullying. One of the students jumped on the opportunity, “Oh so we should bully each other?” After clarifying my intention, I asked them how they would handle a bullying situation. No one spoke. I asked again, but still no one spoke.   Again, I looked to the teachers for support, but not one of them spoke up.

I continued on with the presentation. I shared personal stories, as I always do, about being bullied as a teen. I talked about how I was bullied because I was overweight and talked about the impact those moments still have on me today. When I finished this story, I paused.  It was then I heard one of the students say, “She really is fat.”

Being called fat isn’t new to me, but it still hurts as much as the first day I heard it. It brings back a lot of pain that I had locked away. I couldn’t let those four words slide away and I knew I couldn’t let that student win. I gave the teachers one last chance to speak up. When they didn’t, I said, “But I’m fabulous.”

After the presentation, I followed my own presentation’s advice: talk to a trusted adult.  The counselor took down a few names of students and I went with her to the superintendent’s office. When the superintendent said those students are the biggest bullies in their school, I wasn’t surprised.

While the administration at the school seemed to take bullying seriously, the rest of the school did not. Bullying isn’t just a part of growing up and it isn’t just a fact of life. Those are just excuses people use so they can beat people down without the consequences. We need to stand up against bullying because there is no reason big enough to excuse hurting someone for life. Every time we bully someone, we put a wrinkle in their heart and it will never go away.

Slide the City Event Registration Open. All Proceeds Go Toward Universal Playground

The Mandan Park District is hosting Slide the City in Mandan on August 2 from 10 am to 8 pm. This event will take place on Sunset Dr. adjacent to Mandan High School.

Slide the City is a family-friendly event with a 1,000 foot slip-and-slide water party event. Mandan Park District is partnering with Mandan Progress Organization to help bring food and craft vendors, a farmer’s market, musical entertainment, and inflatables to the event.

The event is a one day event open to the public. Ticket rates vary according to the number of times you would like to go down the slide. Tickets and rates are available at Onsite registration will be located near the bottom of the slide. Tickets will be available for purchase the day of the event. Substantial parking will be available in the school parking lots and off street parking in the adjacent neighborhoods.

The City of Mandan approved street closure and water use. The water will be recycled and not wasted, and water quality checks will be performed every twenty minutes by qualified technicians.  The total amount of water used will be restricted. The event will require the street to be shut down to vehicle traffic, allowing participants safe access to the slide.

Because safety is their number one priority, they have established standards and procedures to ensure a safe ride for the sliders. All patrons must sign a waiver, must be 46 inches tall to ride, and all participants are required to use a tube. An EMT and paramedic will be on-site all day staffing an ambulance in case of an emergency.

All proceeds for this event will help fund the universal playground. The new universal playground is going to be placed in what is now Eagles Park in Mandan. A universal playground is a playground that meets the needs of everyone.

For more information on this event, visit or go to

Have Writing Difficulties? There’s an App for That

An app has been created to help students with writing difficulties. For individuals with disabilities that impact writing, filling out a worksheet could cause frustration and cause the individual to fall behind academically.

The SnapType app was created to help a 5th grader with dysgraphia. He knew the material, but he wasn’t able to write his answers in the space provided quickly or neatly enough to be successful. An occupational therapist in training noted his difficulty and decided to find the solution. When she couldn’t find it, she created it alongside a developer.

This app allows a student to take a picture of any worksheet or workbook page with an iPad, and then add text using the iPad’s virtual keyboard, an external keyboard, finger, or stylus.

Using this app is easy. It is as simple as snapping a picture, and then type or write the answer. A slider at the top of the app window allows you to change the font size so the writing fits into the blank space. Documents can be shared as a PDF, image, or SnapType document by using the share button. This allows the individual to use the image in any app on his/her device which can accept images or PDFs. This means that worksheets can be emailed to the teacher.

The SnapType app would be beneficial to any person with a disability that impacts writing. The app allows you to type anywhere on the document by creating text boxes. This could help someone fill out a job application or other necessary forms.

This app is free and can be found in the iTunes store.

New Technology Enhances Capital Area Transit (CAT)

With the utilization of RouteMatch’s hardware and software, the CAT hopes to help disseminate route and schedule information as well as streamline its data and connectivity internally. While the RouteMatch hardware and software has been in place with Bis-Man Transit’s paratransit service since this time last year, many of the features used on a fixed-route system could not be tested due to the nature of door-to-door service. An example of this is the verbal indicators for approaching or departing timing points which are only needed on the fixed-route system where riders can exit the bus anywhere along the route.

The CAT Manager, Nate Vatnsdal, estimated that it took eight to 10 hours to outfit each bus. He went on to say, “We have had to be creative with how we’ve juggled getting some of the components installed, while still keeping busses on all the routes and not sacrificing service.”

The rider’s experience on the bus isn’t the only change. A free phone app called RouteShout is available. It will put more route and schedule information than ever at the fingertips of their customers. This app allows the user to pick various timing points along the CAT routes and see when upcoming buses will be traveling by those respective routes.

Scheduled times of arrival and the estimated times of arrival will also eventually be provided through the app. The users will have the ability to save or favorite stops and routes they frequently use. If a rider is not familiar with the CAT routes, an option will also be available to simply enter their location into the app and have it search for the nearest routes and timing points. The app is available for Droid and Apple devices, but is not available for Windows-based phones.

Another useful feature is the ability for customers to find route information through texting. Someone will be able to text various timing point codes to 25252 and see the various routes that are scheduled to go by that timing point in the next hour. These texting codes will be available on signs at various timing points and can also be found on their website at

The new system will also be heightening service from behind the scenes. The new system will track the number of riders getting on and off each bus. The automation of some of these processes will eventually lighten the driver’s workload and allow them to focus more on the route.

For more information about this, and other services the CAT provides, you can contact staff by calling 701-258-6817. Information is also available at

Annie’s House has Adaptive Recreation Program for People with Disabilities and Veterans

Annie’s House at Bottineau Winter Park is a year round adaptive recreational facility, nestled in North Dakota’s scenic Turtle Mountains. Annie’s house provides an array of life-changing opportunities for individuals and veterans with disabilities to participate in activities such as skiing, hiking, fishing, and canoeing. They have specially trained instructors, modifications and adaptive equipment to help ensure that every person’s recreational experience is a success.

Annie’s House currently has a Veteran’s with Disabilities Adaptive Recreation program. This program works to give veterans opportunities to try recreational adventures. In order to qualify for this program a veteran must be able to qualify for benefits from the VA and have a 10% or higher disability as determined by the VA.

This program is made possible through a grant from the Veterans Administration. The VA Adaptive Sports Grant allows Annie’s house to offer the following: mileage to and from Annie’s House, lodging, meals, fees for adventures at Annie’s House, trained instructors to assist the veteran in having a successful and enjoyable experience, and adaptive equipment.

To learn more about Annie’s House or the Veterans with Disabilities Adaptive Recreation Program, please contact:

Mike Cerkowniak

Annie’s House Adaptive Recreation Program Coordinator


Phone: 701-263-4556