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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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Peaches, Chiles and Chives – Our Post-Labor Day Harvest

Octavia picks Peaches from the CCB Garden

During the latter part of August in Colorado, and into the first week or so of September, we are all going crazy about Western Slope peaches. They are big, they are juicy, and they are to die for. They are in the supermarkets, the farmers’ markets and many from the Front Range make the trip across the Divide to get a case or two, and maybe even attend the Palisades Peach Festival. They end up in cobblers, pies, crisps, freezers, and we have heard at least one reported instance of homemade peach ice cream. Some folks never get around to any of that, but eat as many as two to four fresh peaches a day during this period.

Well, they aren’t Palisades peaches, but they are from our very own peach tree. The day after labor Day students in Jen and Eliza’s morning Braille classes harvested peaches from the tree in our Legacy Garden. There were some other things to harvest, too, so we thought we’d share a few of the photos from that morning with all of you.

Thanks as always to our Colorado Master Gardeners!

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CCB Senior & Alum Launches “the Tactile Traveler” Radio Program & Podcast @kdnkradio

Nick crossing Shepperd Ave

You can’t keep Nicky out of the news. Glenwood Springs’s Nick Isenberg, who first attended our Seniors in Charge program and then came back to complete the Independence Training Program at age 73, is back in the news where he spent his professional career. This time it’s as “The Tactile Traveler”, the monthly radio program and podcast he launched on KDNK in Carbondale July 30.

KDNK is a ppublic access radio station which, according to its web site, reaches over 100,000 listeners from Rifle to Leadville to Marble, as well as streaming on the web. Here’s what the web site says:

Nicky News Premiers “The Tactile Traveler” on KDNK
Journalist Nick Isenberg applies his skills and experience to a new show that seeks to “empower blind and low vision people to explore the world and help the sighted to see the world in a new way.”

“The Tactile Traveler” is available from the Apple Store and other podcast distributors. Just search for “Tactile Traveler”.

Clicking this link will open the podcast and begin playing it.

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Making Connections 2019 Agenda – Take an Early Look!

Colorado Center for the Blind Logo



3rd Annual Career and College Seminar

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

9:00 am: Registration
9:45 am: Welcome and Opening Remarks: Julie Deden, Executive Director, Colorado Center for the Blind; Diane McGeorge, Board Chair and Founder of the Colorado Center for the Blind; Kathleen Conti, Arapahoe County Commissioner

10:00 am: “A Blind Accountant? Crunching the Numbers”. Cody Bair, Certified Public Accountant, KPMG LLC

10:30 am: “From Ukraine to Colorado: Working in the Communications Industry”. Petr Kucheryavyy, Senior Accessibility Manager, Charter Communications

11:00 am: We will divide into two groups. One group will enjoy lunch while the other group meets our dynamic exhibitors.
12:00 pm: We will switch groups.

List of Exhibitors

Arapahoe Douglas Workforce Center
Blind Institute of Technology
Charter Communications
City of Littleton
College Information Table
Colorado Association of Blind Students
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (Business Enterprise Program)
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Littleton Adventist Hospital
Team EEI
Visa Card Services
Yoga Body LLC

Breakout Sessions 1:00 to 2:00 pm

1. There is a job for you with the federal government: what you need to know to get started. Patricia McMahon, Outreach and Educational Coordinator, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (Large conference room, upstairs)
2. Take time to relax: don’t let stress and anxiety limit your potential. Julie Hill, Yoga Therapist, Yoga Body LLC. (Small conference room, upstairs)
3. Essential interviewing techniques: practice your skills with several managers from various companies. (Gym, downstairs)
4. Rehabilitation Services: a vital resource. Josie Shea, Rehabilitation Counselor, Blind and Low Vision Services, Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. (Tech room 1, downstairs)
5. The Business Enterprise Program: not just a job, a career. Ellie Karre, Program Manager, Business Enterprise Program, Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. (Tech room 2, downstairs)
6. Get started in high-school to ensure your success. Martin Becerra, Director of Youth Services, Colorado Center for the Blind and Michelle Reed, Orientation and Mobility Specialist, Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. (Braille room, downstairs)

Breakout Sessions 2:00 to 3:00 pm

1. What you need to know to get a job in the technology industry. Cala Estes, Director of Candidate Services, Blind Institute of Technology and Adam Campfield, Engineering Architect, Charter Communications. (Large conference room, upstairs)
2. Take time to relax: don’t let stress and anxiety limit your potential. Julie Hill, Yoga Therapist, Yoga Body LLC. (Small conference room, upstairs)
3. Essential interviewing techniques: practice your skills with several managers from various companies. (Gym, downstairs)
4. Mapping your future: how to choose a vocational goal. Josie Shea, Rehabilitation Counselor, Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. (Tech room 1, downstairs)
5. Competing in college on a level playing field. Dan Burke, College Preparation Skills Instructor, Colorado Center for the Blind. (Tech room 2, downstairs)
6. Get started in high school to ensure your success. Martin Becerra, Director of Youth Programs, Colorado Center for the Blind and Michelle Reed, Orientation and Mobility Specialist, Colorado Division of Rehabilitation. (Braille room, downstairs)

Thank You Sponsors!

Our thanks to the 20/30 Foundation and to the Verizon Foundation for generously sponsoring this seminar.

About the Keynote Speakers

Cody Bair

Cody is a totally blind individual who earned his Bachelor’s Degree in accounting from the University of Northern Colorado and a Master’s of Taxation from the University of Denver. Following his graduation from the University of Denver, Cody began employment with KPMG LLP where he has worked for the past three and a half years in the Business Tax Services Department. Cody’s responsibilities at KPMG include reviewing business tax returns, tax consulting, corporate tax provision review and conducting research and development tax credit studies. In his free time Cody enjoys outdoor activities, blind hockey and traveling.

Petr Kucheryavyy

Petr was born in Ukraine, just two months prior to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion. He discovered that he was losing his vision at age nine, shortly after his family immigrated to the United States. By age 10, Petr was declared legally blind. Petr’s career journey began with his work in hospice care, after which he went on to teach “It’s Your Health”, an innovative approach to health and wellness at Emory University, his alma mater. He later went on to complete his Wellness Coaching Certification with Wellcoaches Corporation. Petr’s passion to ensure equal access for people with disabilities also became a great part of his life and led him to the work he did at the Colorado Center for the Blind in their adult and senior programs. Additionally, he was inspired to co-found Socially Accessible, a consulting agency that works with businesses to incorporate diversity and inclusion. His commitment to accessibility brought Petr to Charter Communications where he is currently building accessible employee and customer experiences as Senior Accessibility Manager. Petr’s true passion is to inspire transformational thinking that leads to positive health.

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Signs of Spring

Omar, Charles and Kameron move picnic tables while Julie and Duncan figure out placement

Sometimes spring arrives in Colorado in waves that feel like that bad bus driver, the one who alternately steps on the gas and then lets off, again and again, rocking you forward and back into half-nausea. That’s how it’s been this year – 80 degree days followed by an icy blast of wind and snow and then it starts again. But underfoot (and a couple of times under the snow), the grass is greening and the smell of the damp, warming soil is like a reassuring promise, while overhead in the budding trees robins and sparrows and towhees announce their return.

Even though the center was closed for Good Friday, it was a busy week. Both Omar and Lauren graduated this week. Adrian completed his Drop on Wednesday, and his Monster Route on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Tuesday Seniors group traveled to Boulder to visit the Celestial Seasons herbal tea factory (located, appropriately enough on Sleepytime Drive).

Here are a couple of pics that speak of this spring. One of them is a group of volunteers, under the direction of Director Julie Deden and Senior Services Director Duncan larsen, moving the picnic tables onto our new patio outside the meeting room door. This was a classic “No, I don’t like it there, let’s try it over here” kind of activity. (Those picnic tables are made of steel, just saying.) The patio was put in last year as part of our parking lot and grounds redesign project. It’s the perfect place to enjoy your lunch in the spring sunshine and listen to the birds sing.

Our roof at the McGeorge Mountain Terrace Apartments is new,after the the big January snowstorm revealed serious leakages. The final exterior touches involve painting the roof trim. But while we have the painters up on ladders, we’re doing the necessary maintenance of painting the window trim and changing the colors. Why not? Spring is a great time for fresh new color!

Enjoy the Easter weekend all!

Repainting the trim at McGeorge Mountain Terrace

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College Prep and Falafel @msudenver @ArapahoeCC

Shaun, Davina, Loren, Mikayla and Dan cross at Church and Prince on the way to ACC

Over the past couple of weeks, the college prep class has visited local campuses. Our thanks the staff at Metro’s Access Center and Arapahoe CC’s Student Access Services for sharing their time and expertise with us during our recent visits.

When a blind student leaves high school and goes to college, the world tilts a bit, maybe even seems to wobble slightly on its axis. That’s because the rules change, because the laws governing disability change, and then there’s the part that effects sighted students too. Responsibility shifts more noticeably onto the student’s shoulders than ever before. The sooner students get their feet under them again, the more successful they will be. In college prep class, students learn about these changes, but the best way to begin to understand the truth of it is to visit real professionals at places like Metro and ACC. They both provide access to students with disabilities, but they are different institutions with different missions, and so might have slightly different answers to similar questions about student access. What students gain from this exercise includes an understanding of the kinds of accommodations that are possible and which they may request, practice in asking questions about processes and procedures to request accommodations, and to know what they will need to have equal access in college.

At both Metro and ACC, the staff are always extremely generous in giving their time to CCB students, confirming the reality of college we’ve been discussing in college prep, but also sending the unmistakable message to our students that this is doable, and that self-knowledge and self-advocacy are the starting points.

Mikayla walking in front of the ACC Main Building

These photos were taken on our way to ACC thiss week. But there was one more requirement for college prep class which we’d not been able to fulfill yet. College is also about curiosity, discovery, and greater self-knowledge. To that end, no CCB college prep student completes the class until they have tasted falafelf. (It is surprising how many students have not!) It is a completely arbitrary requirement imposed by the instructor for no other reason than he loves falafel. It is a requirement, nonetheless. Typically, this requirement is fulfilled on the Metro campus, where there is an outstanding Mediterranean food truck. But when we went to Metro a couple of weeks ago, it was spring break and the truck was closed. So Tuesday, after visiting ACC, we jumped on the Route 66 and took it to the Damascus Grill. There, the hunger for knowledge was well-satisfied, if only momentarily.

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Meanwhile, down in the gym, a dozen blind students were dissecting dog sharks! @ArapahoeCC

Deya and Alma examine their Shark

These Denver high school students, Deya and Alma were two of the dozen middle school to college prep students who experienced all the sensory data of a spiny dog shark when they opened one up today at the Center.

Well, except for taste.

Thanks again to Arapahoe Community College’s Biology Professor Terry Harrison for leading these blind students through a meaningful lesson about anatomy – a lesson with the side benefit of learning that vision isn’t the only sense with which to do real science!

Terry Harrison with the 2019 Shark Dissection Group

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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!


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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Still Thick as Thieves, These CCB Alumni Reunite, Tell Their Stories & Offer Wise Counsel to Students

Anahit, Kathy, Bill and Julie 2019

Let there be no doubt – students at the Colorado Center for the Blind form lifelong friendships. Monday, three such friends reunited at the center Kathy Kudlick, Bill Lundgren and Anahit LaBarre. They are shown above standing in front of our tactile CCB logo, left to right, Anahit, Kathy, Bill and Director Julie Deden

All three were students at the same time, in fact, they began arriving shortly after our move to Littleton in August, 2000.

Kathy was first in October of that year. A professor of French History at the University of California-Davis at the time, she came ready to at last embrace her identity as a blind person. Today, she is Director of the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University.

A psychotherapist, Bill came in November of 2000 from Philadelphia. He was not just at a transitional moment with the progress of his vision loss, but also in his life. After graduating in 2001, Bill made a fresh start when he opened a new psychotherapy practice in Denver. He’s still practicing.

Anahit LaBarre came to Littleton in January of 2001 as an international student from Armenia. She had finished college an been successfully employed as a blind person in Armenia, yet she felt further opportunities were very limited. Anahit wasn’t named LaBarre when she came to CCB. That came later, when she married Scott LaBarre. They have two children. Anahit has worked part-time with the Seniors’ program at CCB for many years. This year, as her two teenagers move into high school, Anahit has simultaneously increased her hours of work and started a Master’s Degree program to become a teacher for blind kids.

The three of them talked to our current students and staff during Philosophy class on Monday, offering advice and answering questions. The clear takeaway: Embrace this momement that is your training at CCB, and the friends you are making here, the friends you go through so much with, the friends you grow with for 6 to 9 months. For Kathy, Bill and Anahit, that moment of their training occurred 18 years ago now, but they’ve been reaping the benefits ever since.

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Who has snow blowers on their roof? McGeorge Mountain terrace Apartments does!

Roofing crew on top of McGeorge Mountain Terrace Apartments with snow blowers

Okay, we haven’t been talking about this much, because it’s kind of stressful. But on January 11 the roof of the McGeorge Mountain Terrace Apartments began to leak. The leaks were massive, and the insurance adjuster traced them back to hail damage that would have occurred last summer. Water damaged the ceiling in all 12 of the 2nd story apartments. In most, the damage was minor, in a few others water was collected in buckets for several days while disaster mitigation crews worked to dry things out.

The stress of course was for Director Julie Deden, Residential Manager Vicki Sayler and the rest of us, worrying about the roof and further damage, when we can get it fixed, etc. But some of the stress has been borne by our students. Most second floor apartments are definitely livable, but others had to be abandoned for the time being. So some of our students had to move, a couple of in apartments with three students instead of the customary two. this occurred just as we had a whole new batch of students arrive after the first of the year. Let’s say this right here – our students have been great!

Okay, our insurance is covering the damage. We’re working with 5280 Disaster Restoration and R3NG/CP&M will replace the roof. And we are really thankful to be working with these folks – really thankful!

That January storm was more like a typcal Colorado spring storm – lots of wet, heavy snow. Lots of moisture content. For the past few storms, R3NG/CP&M crews have been shoveling snow from the roof in order to prevent more leakage. fortunately, we haven’t had a big snow storm in the past month, just smaller ones. Replacement of the roof was initially set for last week, but the temperatures need to be above 40 degrees. The bittercold of last week turned into a heavy snow last night – eight to ten inches. Today the sun came out and that snow started turning to water very fast.

And the roofing crew from R3NG/CP&M got right on it. Because various pieces of equipment have already been waiting in our apartment parking lot, they were able to put snow blowers on the roof this morning, ensuring they could get the snow off in time to avoid serious further damage.

What a sense of relief when we found out that they were up there, maybe even a few tears. And as the temps continue to rise, we’re still on track for the roof replacement to begin on Monday!

Yes, thankful!