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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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Cane Travel Independence Training Program Youth Services

We’re open today, and sharks are on for tomorrow! The #BombCyclone has blown on by!

It was a relatively calm morning after yesterday’s Bomb Cyclone, with 8 to 12 inches of snow and extreme winds blowing the flakes sideways and into drifts. Admittedly we had to skate our way into the Center before eight this morning, climbing over ice boulders thrown onto the sidewalk along Prince Street by snowplows, but we are here. We are grateful not to be among the nearly 80,000 customers in the Metro area without power this morning.

And we are on for tomorrow’s shark dissection with Arapahoe Community College’s Terry Harrison. We’re plowing and digging and de-icing our way out in plenty of time for that! And the sharks come frozen anyway!

WHY DOES A SHARK GROW NEW TEETH?

Usually, a shark’s mouth has several rows of teeth, therefore when they lose one because of struggling with prey or just because they are renewing it, the correspondent tooth from the row behind it goes forward to fill the space in the jaw.

Sharks grow new teeth continually throughout their lives, and some may produce as many as 30,000 in their life. That’s an estimate.

Shark Facts and Information

Two sets of blue gloved hands exploring a shark from either side of the table

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Cane Travel General Colorado Center Information Independence Training Program

It’s snowing in Littleton Today, & all our students, including our 5 new ones, made the trek to CCB! #ShareLittleton

Fox Image
A snow covered fox serves as a goose deterrent

We expect no less. But it just goes to show that blind people are not afraid to travel in the snow, not even the new ones who come from such warmer states as South Carolina, Georgia and Arizona. Independence doesn’t depend on the weather!

Pictured above is one of our hopeful goose-deterrants. We’re still holding out for a group shot of snow angels. No takers, especially after warnings about goose poop in the snow.

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Cane Travel General Colorado Center Information Independence Training Program Senior Programs Youth Services

The First Week of Summer Means Lots of Firsts

Amber turns dirt over in the garden with Annette and Master Gardener Barb

No matter what the calendar says, it’s the first week of summer. The temps are in the 90s, the garden is being planted and summer staff are shadowing their ITP staff counterparts. Friday 25 teenagers (summer students) begin arriving and on Monday the elementary Confidence Camp kids start too.

So here’s another first or two. Above, Amber uses a spade for the first time out in the garden. When asked if she’d dug with a shovel before she promptly answered, “I’m about to.” And then she proceeded to do it. In the process she and classmate Annette planted this years pumpkin and zucchini hills.

Tyler went on his solo drop this morning, returning in time for lunch. He traveled in the heat out to Aurora in order to make his way back to Littleton. “It’s a good thing the light rail was the last stop,” he admitted. “I fell asleep on the bus three times.” Nonetheless, Tyler’s completed the daunting final travel challenge we call “the drop”. That is, he was driven around for a while (sometimes in circles), and let out with no information about where he was. He successfully used his travel skills to make his way back to the Center asking no more than one question.

Danielle made a first when she used the hot glue gun. “I was always told I wouldn’t be able to do that because I was blind,” she said. In fact, blind people are often told such things simply because no one knows how or cares to figure out how a blind person can do a task. “There aren’t many of those things left now,” Danielle reflected. “and now I’ve done this one too!” She’s been working with fellow art classmates Brad and Annette on a tactile map of the area covering the Center and the Littleton Downtown Station, including the light rail tracks and the bus loop.

That’s really what the Colorado Center for the Blind is all about – the things we as blind people have figured out how to do for ourselves, with or without the assistance of sighted teachers. The trick is to question the warnings that a blind person can’t do a certain task because, it often turns out that a lot of blind people have already done it!
Mashup of Tyler before and after his solo Drop

 

Danielle uses a hot glue gun for the 1st time, Ann Cunningham gives direction and in the background Brad uses the paper cutter
Duane Plants cucumbers
Marqus plants pole beans under a trellis
Phillis walks to the Center for the Senior meeting and senior art class with her dog Tylee
Brad leads on travel with ITP instructor Charles Bennett, shadowed by Summer Instructor  Jackson Schwoebel

 

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Cane Travel Challenge Recreation General Colorado Center Information Independence Training Program

Belding Travels with Hockey Stick All the Way to the First U.S. #BlindHockey team #LivetheLifeYouWant @USAHockey

Daniel works the puck across the ice
Daniel in full Hockey gear in action on the ice

 

Since January, fans attending Colorado Avalanche games have been treated to between-periods video of the Try Blind Hockey Day on January 17. Over 50 blind Coloradans went out on the ice that day, some for the first time, others with a stick in their hand for the first time. Fans are impressed by the video, but it is little more than an historical artifact now.

In just three short months, blind hockey has gone from being nonexistent in Colorado to a sport avidly pursued by dozens of players. And it’s produced a member of the newly-formed U.S. National Blind Hockey Team under the auspices of USA Hockey.

Daniel Belding, Cane Travel Instructor at CCB, was invited to be a member of the first U.S. team. The only other team right now is Canada, but other countries are anxious to get their blind athletes out on the ice soon, spurred on perhaps by the first-ever international blind hockey games planned for October. That’s when the new U.S. team will meet Canada in Pittsburgh for a best-of-three series.

Since January, about a dozen and a half Metro-area skaters, men and women and some as young as six years old, met weekely for practice. Craig Fitzpatrick, a member of the Washington Wheelers was temporarily located here for his day job and certainly helped inspire young blind hockey players. Fitzpatric visited CCB in March to talk about blind hockey, though a number of students were already going to practices. Fitzpatrick was also picked for the U.S. team.

As a result of all that ice time, Belding and fellow Cane Travel Instructor Steve Patten were invited to attend the 14th annual Toyota-USA Hockey Disabled Hockey Festival in Chicago last weekend. It was from among the 80-plus blind skaters that Belding, Fitzpatrick and others were invited to try out for the national team.

It’s never been a secret that Daniel loves hockey. So much so that he played on sighted teams in high school leagues in the Denver area. Though he didn’t think of himself as blind at the time despite limited central vision and even more limited peripheral vision. He nonetheless developed a number of alternative techniques to stay on the ice.

“You can hear the (standard) puck a lot better as the game goes on,” Daniel said of one of those alternate techniques, noting that the ice gets rougher with prolonged play.

But his experience with blind hockey dates to January 17 and the Try Blind Hockey Day at the Pepsi Center. He couldn’t be having more fun!

Blind hockey is a relatively new sport in the U.S. Though it started in Canada in the 1970s it wasn’t played below the 49th Parallel until three years ago. Along with teams in Canada, there were at least seven teams active in the U.S. at the start of this year, including the Wheelers. There will soon be more than a dozen. So the rapid rise in popularity of blind hockey in the Denver area really isn’t anything new, but parallels the rapid expansion of blind hockey in the U.S. since 2014. And maybe it prefigures a worldwide trend to come!

What’s up next for the national team is a skills camp in July and then a final cut-down to 14 from 30 in August. Those will be the players that face off against Canada in the fall.

For Belding, there’s no chance he’ll be slowing down. The chance to play the game he loves so much has energized him. He and Patten have been on the ice three mornings a week at Denver University for months already – at 5:30 a.m. If anything, he’ll be looking for more ice time now!

Craig Fitzpatrick holds up an adapted hockey puck while he gives a talk about Blind Hockey at the Colorado Center for the Blind

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Cane Travel General Colorado Center Information Independence Training Program

Cupcakes and Support Drops

Rebecca beams as she holds up a box of her Birthday cupcakes

Rebecca’s birthday was Tuesday and she received a special birthday delivery from her mom. It was surely especially welcome since Rebecca has been at CCB for about a month. But really, what mom could forget her daughter’s birthday? The entire center was excited about Rebecca’s birthday. Naturally we sang “Happy Birthday” at announcements, along with “The Dirge”, which only insiders will recognize, but the delivery included mini-cupcakes enough for almost everyone!

On Tuesday both Melissa and J.D. learned at announcements that they were going on their support drops. And happily they made it back in time to get cupcakes!.

J.D signs in after returning from his drop
Lia signs in after returning from her drop

 

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Cane Travel General Colorado Center Information Independence Training Program Woodshop and Home Maintenance

What You Carry in Your Soul & a Trip to the Wood Shop: A Visit from Alum Cathy @Kudlick

Cathy, Julie and Anahit smiling across the table at a local restaurant
Cathy Kudlick, Julie Deden and Anahit LaBarre reunited for dinner last Thursday. Cathy and Anahit, who works in our Senior Services Dept., were students together in 2000 to 2001.

It has been nearly 18 years since Catherine Kudlick first arrived in Littleton as a student at CCB, but the lessons of her training have endured, as she told staff and students in Philosophy Class last Thursday.

Cathy’s blindness is due to Nystagmus and she had never used a cane before she came for training. Still, she counted her travel training as one of the most important classes for her. She told students in frank terms about her internal struggles in that class under sleepshades.

“You ask yourself why you have to do this travel assignment. You hate it while you’re doing the travel, maybe getting turned around. But then you get there, and you know you did it. It’s an incredible feeling!”

Cathy was already a faculty member at the University of California-Davis but, as she told students and staff in Philosophy Class last Thursday she knew she needed blindness skills to continue to be successful in her academic career And to be around blind people to help her deal with the denial about her blindness and identity as a blind person. Besides, the course of her research in French History of the 19th Century had increasingly drawn her into the place of disability in history.

“Being here among others who were coming to terms with blindness and finding friends and Camaraderie helped her in long-lasting ways. One result was an end to the shame she’d felt around her blindness.

“You’re in a good place,” she told students, adding that she became choked up as she walked through the front door for the first time since 2001.

The things students gain at CCB are long-lasting and life-changing, she told them. “You carry that with you in your soul when you leave. Nothing can take that away from you.”

Now the Director of the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability and Professor of History at San Francisco State University, Cathy took her own advice to students to gather it all in and embrace every challenge given them. She spent the afternoon in the wood shop with Instructor David Nietfeld.

“We didn’t have the shop when I was here,” she explained after making her first cut on the chop saw.

We didn’t. In fact, CCB had just moved to Littleton before Cathy arrived, and the wood shop didn’t have a place in the building that was still new to us until after she had already graduated in 2001.

Watch Cathy Kudlick in the Wood Shop:

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Cane Travel General Colorado Center Information Independence Training Program

Your White Cane Can Take You Very Far: A Travel Note from Libby at Antelope Canyon Arizona

Editor’s Note: Libby graduated from the Center this fall. She recently sent us this photo following a tour to this beautiful spot in her home state, a Navajo Tribal Park. It’s a great testament to how far a blind person can go with a white cane. Sounds like a great trip Libby!

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I got to mark Antelope Canyon off my bucket list. I traveled up to northern Arizona with my cane and explored the wind- and water-whipped walls. It was absolutely spectacular! So very grateful to have had the training with my cane so that I could still navigate the dark canyon along with the rest of the tour.
Libby with her cane exploring the wind and water whipped canyon walls at Antalope Canyon Arizona

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Cane Travel General Colorado Center Information In the Media Independence Training Program

CCB Alum @vi_poonam Guest on @bbcworldservice “The Conversation” w/ @KimChakanetsa

Smiling Poonam rining her bell
Poonam Vaidya rings her Freedom Bell at her CCB graduatin in 2016.

In this part of the world, the BBC’s World Service can be heard during normal sleeping hours on one of our public radio stations. This week our volunteer photographer/videographer Mike Thompson had the BBC World Service on while falling back to sleep in the wee hours when he heard a familiar voice and a familiar name – Poonam Vaidya.

Poonam is from Bangalore, India and was one of our international students. (We always try to have one international student at any given time.), She graduated in 2016. Poonam was one of two blind women interviewed for the BBC program, “The Conversation.” The 30-minute radio podcast gives interesting insights into how blindness is viewed in other cultures.

And thanks for the great plug Poonam!

https://player.fm/series/the-conversation-1301459/being-blind

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Cane Travel Challenge Recreation General Colorado Center Information Independence Training Program

A Stroll through the Corn Maze

Students and staff took a Friday afternoon to visit the Chatfield Farms Corn Maze. Martin took his GoPro along and brought back this footage. It was “Structured Discovery” at its most fun!