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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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General Colorado Center Information

Thanks to our 2019 #WesternWelcomeWeek Guests!

Ernesto talks about travel techniques while 3 children and one adult practice walking with white canes

We want to thank the 40 or so of our neighbors and new friends who stopped in, tour the center, got a Braille alphabet card and tried some of the killer chocolate chip cookies students had been baking all day. The real goal, and the real benefit of the event was that we all got to meet and talk. Our guests got the inside story on what the center is all about and, we trust, learned that blind people aren’t really all that different than themselves.

In fact, as one soon-to-be 6th grader put it, “It’s really cool that blind people can use the saw just with touch and listening!”

And hey, look for us in the Western Welcome Week Parade on Saturday!

A large group gathers around while Eliza talks about Braille

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General Colorado Center Information In the Media

Catch These Words: Meet Current Student Holly Scott-Gardner & Words Worthy of Catching: @CatchTheseWords

Holly Scott-Gardner Hiking along Clear Creek on her first day at CCB

Holly Scott-Gardner is from the United Kingdom. By many measures, she is a very successful woman, yet she wanted to come to the Colorado Center for the Blind for training. On her first day at the Center, she accepted the challenge to go rock climbing. She attended the National Federation of the Blind Convention with us in Las Vegas last month, and a few weeks ago attended a conference on blindness in Guadalajara, Mexico.

We thought the best introduction to Holly would be to send you to her recent blog post about being at the Center. On her blog site, you can learn much more about her.

Read Holly Scott-Gardner’s blog post, Measuring the Impossible.

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Careers General Colorado Center Information Independence Training Program Senior Programs

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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General Colorado Center Information Independence Training Program Senior Programs

Our thanks to @RepJasonCrow for his visit & tour today!

Rep. Jason Crow visits with CCB Braille Class

We were honored to have freshman Congressman Jason Crow visit the Center this morning. Rep. Crow serves Colorado’s 6th District, which includes the Colorado Center for the Blind. Though he only had an hour, it was plenty of time to learn what we are about, and to meet our students and staff. He even got to say hello to our Tuesday morning Seniors support group!

Thanks for coming meeting and listening Congressman! It meant a lot to everyone!

Rep. Jason Crow visiting with CCB staff and students in the Travel Lobby

Rep. Jason Crow with Brent, Scott Julie and Dan in front of the mural

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General Colorado Center Information Independence Training Program Senior Programs Youth Services

We’re all in for Colorado Gives Day December 4, and you can schedule your gift now! #cogives18

Julie and Lexi Reading Braille

Colorado Gives Day is Tuesday, December 4, and we’re in for the mega-million-dollar statewide day of giving, sponsored by First Bank and the Community First Foundation! Your gift to us on CoGivesDay2018 ensures that we can continue to offer programs to youth, seniors and working-age adults that challenge, impart skills and infuse the confidence in themselves our students can draw on throughout the rest of their lives!

Sure, we’ll take your gifts any time, but there are some advantages to both of us if you contribute on December 4:

  1. It’s an easy online giving platform just for Colorado!
  2. First Bank & Community First waive all but 2 percent of the credit card fees, meaning more of your contribution goes to the Colorado Center for the Blind and our programs, and
  3. Your gift addds to our total and thus is eligible for a portion of the $1 million Incentive Fund. That means that your gift helps us draw down even more dollars!

Schedule Your Gift Now

The holiday season is a time of giving, but it’s also a time of lots of holiday activities. If you’re worried you might forget about Colorado Gives Day, relax! You don’t have to wait for December 4. You can get that holiday giving spirit by scheduling your gift for Colorado Gives Day, and take that item off your calendar. You can schedule right now, and all you have to do is select “CO Gives Day” during checkout. Your payment will roll over on December 4, making it eligible for the reduced credit fee and the $1 Million Incentive Fund!

So now you have time for one more school play or choir concert!

And thank you for all of your support for the programs and people at the Colorado Center for the Blind!

Colorado Gives Day Logo

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General Colorado Center Information Independence Training Program

“No End in Sight”, CCB Student Podcast launches: https://bit.ly/2ORWE0x

No End in SightIt could be called a convergence. A handful of students who want to talk about their blindness, what they are learning at the Colorado Center for the Blind, how they are learning about being blind and proud – and how they’ve learned from their teachers, but especially one another, to laugh at themselves when they make mistakes.

And yes, at one another.

Couple that with the recent arrival of Brett Boyer, a CCB alum and experienced commercial broadcaster, as our newest Technology instructor, and you have a – well, imperfect storm.

What you get is “No End in Sight”, a monthly podcast featuring Boyer and a rotating cast of CCB students which launches this week.

But let’s give kudos to this first cast of characters, the instigators of “No End in Sight”, if you will: Abdi Mumin, Annette Wilson, Cory Williams and Nick Isenberg who range in age from 22 to 77, not to mention others working off-mic. They have a message about blindness they want you to hear.

Take a listen and subscribe if you like it. “No End in Sight” is available through all the usual outlets. It’s worth your time!

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Careers General Colorado Center Information Independence Training Program

Chaz wraps up summer of giving back

Julie and Chaz laughing. Julie gives Chaz a hug as she presents his card.
Julie presents Chaz Davis a Thank You Card during Morning Announcements

This is Chaz Davis’ final week as a Social Work Intern at the Center, and Director Julie Deden marked the occasion with a short ceremony and presentation of a thank-you card, followed by cookies.

“I joined the blind community four years ago, though not by choice,” Chaz told staff and students this morning. “But I really found that sense of community when I came here (as a student).”

A Master of Social Work student ad the University of Denver, Chaz has been serving as an intern here since February, at first just two days a week and then five days a week this summer. He arrived as a student at CCB in the early fall of 2016 after competing in the ParOlympics In Rio that summer.

It was that sense of community that brought him back to CCB when, after graduating from the center in July 2017 and entering the MSW program at DU, he asked Julie about doing his first internship here.

And he has given back a great deal to this current cohort of students, working with students on housing after graduation, Social Security and Medicaid concerns, as well as one-on-one counseling. In fact, the latter may be the part he liked the most.

“I really enjoyed getting to hear people’s stories, hear where they are in terms of adjusting to blindness, and What their goals are after they graduate from the center,” he says. “It’s great to see people’s growth.”

That experience may have altered the trajectory of his own career. Instead of working on a macro level, in some type of administration, he now sees himself moving toward clinical practice.

Julie cited all the work Chaz has done for our students, and of course how much we’ll miss having him here.

“We have a card for you from all of us,” Julie said. “It’s all in Braille except this last part because we didn’t want it to go to your head … It says ‘You’re an incredible person!'”

Chaz’ next internship will be in a high school setting assisting students develop both soft and hard work skills for their post-high school transitions. He graduates from DU next spring.

Thanks for everything Chaz – especially the chance to have cookies!

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General Colorado Center Information

Everybody Loves the #WesternWelcomeWeek Parade! #ShareLittleton

Kirk marching with CCB in the Western Welcome Week Parade
Students and staff from the Colorado Center for the Blind, along with friends and family, march in the Littleton Western Welcome Week Parade

Staff and students of the Colorado Center for the Blind, as well as members of the NFB of Denver Chapter once again marched in the Littleton Western Welcome Week Parade on August 18. From Eileen, 92, to our favorite toddlers, Mason and Jackson with their parents, and all five of the Batron kids it was a family adventure as always!

Thanks to Kirk for use of his selfie.

“I’d never been in a parade before,” he said later.

Doing something you’d never done before – even before becoming blind – that makes it worthwhile, because pushing beyond what others (and we) expect of us as blind people is the point!

Two Blind Parents pull their son in a stroller as they march in the parade
Blind parents Jen and Dishon Spears each have a hand on 2-year-old Mason’s stroller as they approach the bandstand at Main and Rapp in the 2018 Littleton Welcome Week Parade. Other staff and students of the Colorado Center for the Blind march with them
Blind Senior in a red hat marches in the Parade with a group from the Colorado Center for the Blind
Eileen, 92, is flanked by Senior Services Director Duncan Larsen and Senior Outreach Specialist Chris Kinney during the Littleton Western Welcome Week Parade. In front of them is Ashley and behind them are Martin and Brad.
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General Colorado Center Information Independence Training Program

Eric Duffy tells his story in Philosophy class

Eric tells his story in Philosophy class

He was in the neighborhood, so he stopped by for a visit. Eric Duffy, a long-time member of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), spoke to our Philosophy class recently when he came to visit the Center.

Duffy, who was visiting his brother and family in Colorado Springs, previously served as the President of the NFB of Ohio and, most recently, directed the Access Technology department at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute (NFBJI) in Baltimore.

Philosophy is an almost-daily class in which staff and students discuss every and any aspect of blindness as it affects our day-to-day lives and our hopes and dreams. We use this time to examine the limiting low expectations of society and ourselves with respect to our blindness, and to acknowledge that the things we are learning about ourselves and our blindness stand in contrast to those low expectations.

Eric shared the story of his childhood in Ohio, where he attended Ohio’s residential school for the blind. Eric’s is a story of a young boy finding a sense of independence away from home and never wanting to let it go. It is also the story of his older brother, that brother he was visiting in the Springs, who encouraged and supported his independence as he grew into adulthood.

It’s a wonderful story, and one that our students very much appreciated. We all did! Thanks again for stopping by Eric!