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Braille Cane Travel Computer and Adaptive Technology General Colorado Center Information Independence Training Program

Meet Adama, a Disability-rights Champion from Sierra Leone

Adama sitting at the table in the travel lobby with her phone and her slate and stylus.
After a lesson with her new iPhone, Adama reviews her Braille notes.

For the past three weeks, we’ve been delighted to have Adama Conteh as a special student at the Colorado Center for the Blind. Adama is from Sierra Leone, a country of about 6 million in West Africa. She has been in the U.S. under the sponsorship of Hope International, which has provided Adama with training at their headquarters in Tennessee, and transportation to Colorado to attend the Center for these three weeks.

You don’t have to talk to Adama more than a couple of minutes to understand that she is a disability rights and women’s rights advocate at her core. Blind since she was a very small child, she nonetheless went to college, worked as a teacher and was recently elected to city council in her home town of Makeni.

Not surprisingly, in a country where almost all daily cooking occurs outdoors over a wood fire or coal pot, and where only 12 percent of the population had access to electricity in 2016 (and that sporadic, she tells us), Adama had not learned to use accessible technology or even a Braille typewriter. She is, however, a marvel using a slate and stylus. Just think of the sound of a popcorn popper. Okay, a little slower than that, but just a little.

While at cCB,Adama has followed a very abbreviated schedule typical for our Independence Training Program (ITP). Thus, she worked on cane travel, home management and lots of Tech. Already Braille literate, her efforts there were to learn to use a Braille typewriter with its unique keyboard. In her work as an advocate and on the city council, she could effectively use her iPhone with a bluetooth Braille display, both for reading and writing e-mail, text messages and other documents.

At first, she didn’t see much use in a white cane, though. Streets in Sierra Leone are not regulated in the same way as they are in the U.S., and there are definitely no pedestrian sidewalks.

“If you (as a blind person) want to go somewhere,” she told us, “you take a scooter and they drop you right in front of the door.”

After a couple of weeks with a cane, however, she says she is excited about the increased independence it provides to her. She not only plans to use a cane when she returns home, but she plans to introduce it to other blind Sierra Leonians as well.

And calls home to her family?

“They can’t believe it,” she laughs. “”All those blind people are cooking? All the teachers and the director are blind?”

Adama gets it, though.

So, our thanks to Hope International for sending Adama to us, if only for three weeks. But also our congratulations. With a goal of empowering women with disabilities in Sierra Leone, you have found a champion, and we are proud to welcome Adama into our CCB family as well.

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Braille Events General Colorado Center Information Youth Services

The #Braille Blizzard Challenge in Littleton!

Ty in the meeting room
During the lunch break, Ty Gillespie talked about his experience going to the National Braille Challenge last summer, held at the Braille Institute in Los Angeles. Were you nervous? “I was really nervous.” Would you go again? “Oh yeah, I’d go again!” Ty took 2nd Place in his age group in 2018.

We hosted the Braille Challenge today, referred to as the “Braille Blizzard Challenge” by the seven Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind (CSDB) staff members who drove north  in the storm, sometimes at 25 MPH or slower.  It was also slow going for participants, teachers and parents who came from as far away as Dillon and Fairplay.  It even took as long as 90 minutes to get to Littleton from Aurora as wind and snow swirled across the Metro area this morning, beginning about 8 a.m.

There were 14  participants in the Braille Challenge hosted here today, and there were 25 in Colorado Springs last Thursday at CSDB.  No doubt, Braille Rules!

Based on the last couple of posts, readers might get the impression that it’s doing nothing but snow in Colorado this month. The truth is that, between storms, skies have been sunny and teperatures as high as 55 degrees. Not so rough. And since this is Colorado, this morning’s wind had died and the sun was trying to burn through the clouds by early afternoon.

A deep snow covers the grounds of the Colorado Center for the Blind
By early afternoon, the view of the front of the Center showed only the fresh snow from the blizzard, and the sun was burning through.
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Braille General Colorado Center Information

Kansas Comings & Goings Today at CCB

Luther Fuller of Kansas reads Braille before leaving for the National Braille Challenge

The NFB of Kansas President dropped by for a quick visit and tour this afternoon. Tom Page and his friend Nicole are in the area with Tom’s string band, the Haymakers. They played in Colorado Springs last night and will be in Denver at Cervantes’ Other Side tonight. Though a number of Kansas students have come to CCB for training over the years, this was Tom’s first chance to see the Center.

“The energy is amazing,” he said.

Tom and Nicole bumped into another Kansan this afternoon while visiting. Luther Fuller is part of the Summer for Success (College Prep) Program this summer. He’s just graduated from high school and is off to college in the fall to major in Music and Computer Science on the side.

But Tom almost missed seeing Luther. the younger Kansan is flying to Los Angeles in the morning to compete in the National Braille Challenge at the Braille Institute, representing Kansas of course. It’s Luther’s 7th trip to the competition – and his last. He ages out of the competition this year.

So if you’ve read this far you’ll be delighted that we recognize our longest-standing connection to Kansas – Tom and Linda Anderson. Tom and Linda came to Colorado in 1987 to help open the doors of CCB in January, 1988 – 30 years ago! That’s back when CCB was an upstart start-up in the world of rehabilitation training for the blind. But our founding staffers knew where we were going with training blind people, and Tom Anderson was rock-steady as a teacher, mentor, role model and rock-climber. Tom retired in 2015 after 27 years as Braille Instructor, when he and Linda returned to Kansas. They are both active in the NFB of Kansas, and pretty darn busy for retired people!

So, here’s your shout out Dr. Dots! May the Kansas Connection Continue!

NFB of Kansas President Tom Page and Nicole with Julie Deden on their 1st Visit to the Center

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Braille General Colorado Center Information Youth Services

Blowing off Steam After Competing in the Braille Challenge CSDBBulldogs

A student in sleepshades prepares to make a throw iwht the goal ball

After spending much of the day in their chairs, giving their best in various Braille skills as part of the 2018 Braille Challenge, participants in the Metro area competition found goal ball the perfect way to unwind.

It’s the third year we’ve hosted the event for Metro-area kids, which is organized in Colorado by the colorado school for the deaf and the blind. Students scores on reading, writing and more are collected regionally and given rankings, then compared to scores across the country. Eventually, the Braille Institute in Los Angeles will bring the most competitive students there for a final competition. In the meantime, there’s a little goal ball, some local and regional prizes and pizza for lunch!

Congrats to all the participants- you’re all winners with Braille!

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Braille General Colorado Center Information Independence Training Program

Snow Already!

David K. walks through the snow on a winter morning

If you’re on the Front Range of Colorado this post won’t surprise you, because you drove/walked/bussed in a steadily-falling snow this morning.

But let’s admit it – this 3 to 5 inches of snow is a bit early this year, just think of all those trees whose leaves have yet to drop! Tonight will be a killing freeze, whith temps in the low 20s. That will likely mean an icy commute tomorrow morning. Tricky, but it’s part of the deal. Blind people have to go to work in good weather and bad, just like anyone else. And that’s what we teach and expect here at the Center. So, we’ll be open tomorrow just like today, unless of course frozen branches knock out the power, as they did in an arc that went around us, vfrom the Bemis Library to the Littleton Downtown Light Rail Station.

Charles S. reading from his Braille instruction book

To make it all worthwhile today, Charles S. finished learning the Braille alphabet. This is the kind of thing that is regularly announdcd over the PA system or at announcements first thing in the morning.

Who would want to miss out on achieving that kind of milestone?

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Braille

Thoroughbred Thursday: Throwdown, Throwback and the Thrill of Success!

a smiling girl with missing front teeth and a woman with their hands on the same page of Braille
Lexi and Julie take turns reading alternate lines from the same Braille page. Lexi’s teacher wanted the two to meet and to talk about ways to read Braille as fast as possible!

It’s a horse race, for sure. It started this morning with the announcement that Laura was about to go on her support drop with Daniel. She made it back about 11:30, no problem.

Mickey has been working on her mini-meal – for fifteenn guests – for the past couple of days. At noon she served a penne spaghetti with meatballs to die for, and chocolate chip brownies big enough for your head stone. There were plenty of extras to go around, no sweat.

Julie has been excited all day about meeting 9-year-old Lexi to talk about Braille. Lexi’s teacher, Janet Anderson, brought her over to meet Julie and talk about ways to read Braille even faster. Lexi is an excellent reader and loves to read, so she and Julie have a lot in common!

In Philosophy Class today we watched the 1976 documentary film about the Iowa Commission for the Blind’s training center, “We Know Who We Are.” The film focused on the strategies used there by it’s then-director, Kenneth Jernigan in what was the most successful program in the country. The principles in that program are the basis of what we do at the Collorado Center for the Blind today, some 40 years later. No doubt!

Tomorrow the CCB Student Association is holding a pie-baking throwdown, so they auctioned off the claimants to each pie. Winner is the highest bidder on the pie that the impartial panel of judges chooses. If you’re a judge, there’s no way you can lose.

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Braille Cane Travel Computer and Adaptive Technology General Colorado Center Information Home Management Senior Programs

Sleepshades, Cinnamon Pudding Cake & Seniors In Charge May 2017

Steve works with Janet to learn the Braille Alphabet using a muffin tin and tennis balls

You wouldn’t have needed to be told that Dorine’s Cinnamon-Pudding Cake was an award-winner if you had been anywhere near the Center’s kitchen this afternoon. It’s our spring Seniors in Charge week, and we have five dynamic seniors determined to keep living the lives they want. This afternoon, of course, they were cooking and baking under sleepshades, and the smell of that cake had mouths watering out in the lobby and beyond!

Sleepshades are optional, though encouraged, in the five-day training for seniors. This group is pretty game though, and all are giving them a good workout this week.

All five, along with some of our Senior Services staff, are staying in our apartments, traveling back and forth to the Center on the bus every day. They’re learning cane travel, Braille, technology and of course the tricks of cooking and cleaning up without vision.

The group come from all over Colorado and as far away as Portland, Oregon. The week wraps up on Friday morning with the Friends and Family gathering.

Sally wears sleepshades while chopping Bell Peppers
Nick stirring a pan of ground beef and freshly-chopped onions

 

Holly and Janet reading Braille Books
Dorine holding up her award-winning Cinnamon Pudding Cake

Holly and Petr returning to the Center after a Cane Travel lesson

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Braille Independence Training Program

From Beginner to Braille Master: A Day in One of Jen’s Braille Classes

Oh yes, we’re big on Braille here at CCB, because it is fundamental to literacy for blind people and has high correlations with successful employment of blind adults. Our camera man Mike stopped by one of Jen’s classes recently and collected this video.

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Braille Events General Colorado Center Information Independence Training Program Youth Services

Pleased to host #BrailleChallenge and the #SRC all today!

Yes, we’re pleased and excite to be the host site for the Braille Challenge for 2017! Fifteen Metro-area students ages 6 to 17 are here to demostrate their skils in reading, writing and more using Braille. It’s our third year to host the Metro Challenge, which is sponsored by the Braille Institute of America and coordinated in Colorado by the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind. Last week, students in Colorado Springs met the Braille Challenge as well.

This afternoon the State Rehabilitation Council met at the Center. The SRC is required of each state’s Vocational Rehabilitation program, and includes members from across the state representing many disabilities.

Where were all our students, you may well ask. They were displaced today, working in all their classes from our McGeorge Mountain Terrace Apartments.

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Braille Cane Travel Computer and Adaptive Technology General Colorado Center Information Home Management Senior Programs

No let-up this week – not with Seniors in Charge!

A man and woman prepare food in the kitchen
Ralph fixes a plate of sliced cheese while Sheila slices tomatoes for the sanwitch bar

Littleton’s 2016 Western Welcome Week, including our tours and participation in the Saturday parade, was sure a lot of fun! This week has already seen Matt complete his support drop, our canoeing trip postponed due to thunder, our first rock climbing trip today for the (really?) fall!

seven people go out the front door with white canes
Senior students and staff head out to get some groceries. Left to right: Sheila, Anahit, Dianne H., Wayne, Ralph L., Marianne and Petr.

Even as the 10-day Western Welcome Week celebration was winding down on Sunday, Seniors in Charge students were arriving at the McGeorge Mountain Terrace apartments for a week of taking on new challenges in blindness skills. Offered by our Senior Services staff led by Duncan Larsen, Seniors in Charge gives a week’s worth of intensive training in Braille, cane travel, technology and home management skills.

“Last year I could see,” Ron said in the introductory meeting on Monday morning. This year his vision is significantly limited. Like his five fellow students, Ron wants to learn everything he can to ensure his continued independence.

And that’s the goal of the week – to assist blind seniors to maintain their independence. It includes plenty of opportunities for senior students to talk about their blindness and what they learn as the week progresses. Seniors in Charge is offered twice a year, and this group has four students staying at our apartments and two day students. For those staying at the apartments, Senior Services staff work with them on cooking and more in the evening, staying at the apartments with them.

As Duncan reminds us, the skills and discussions are all pointing to developing a positive, can-do attitude about blindness.

A Photo Collage: Top, Diane McGeorge works with Ron and Mickey using muffin tins and tennis balls. Below, Dianne H. types on a Perkins Brailler.
A Photo Collage: Top, Diane McGeorge works with Ron and Mickey using muffin tins and tennis balls. Below, Dianne H. types on a Perkins Brailler.

On Tuesday, along with other classes, the Seniors in Charge prepared a sandwich bar, then built their own sandwiches and ate together. The program will culminate on Friday morning with a “Friends and Family” session when Senior students can talk about what they’ve gained over the week. This is also a critical part of the program, because family and friends also have an opportunity to examine the fears and doubts they have about their loved ones’ ability to continue living the lives they want, and they can do so in light of all that those loved ones have learned during the week.