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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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Careers General Colorado Center Information In the Media Independence Training Program Senior Programs

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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General Colorado Center Information Independence Training Program Youth Services

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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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

Categories
Events General Colorado Center Information In the Media Youth Services

Here’s news about the 2 high school students who submitted successful essays to attend #NFBinDC with @nfbco:

Drawing of the US Capitol with the NFB Logo and Whosits in front of the steps

Editor’s Note: In the fall we invited blind Colorado high school students to apply for our first-ever scholarship to attend the National Federation of the Blind‘s annual Washington Seminar. Students were asked to submit an essay telling us why they wanted to go, and we selected two students to come with us. In fact, that’s where some of us are right now, including three staff members and three ITP students along with the high school students. Tomorrow we’ll be on the Hill going to appointments at all nine offices of the Colorado Congressional delegation. Here’s a press release issued today by the National federation of the Blind of Colorado.

Littleton, Colorado (January 28, 2019) -Deyannira Villa Cazares, 16, of Denver, and Ian Lee, 18, of Aurora, join other Coloradans participating in the National Federation of the Blind’s Washington Seminar, January 28-31. Villa Cazares and Lee were chosen in a statewide essay contest.

Two Colorado High School students will travel with more than a dozen blind Coloradans to Washington, DC to advocate for legislation to improve the lives of the blind throughout the country.  The group will join more than 500 blind Americans at the 2019 Washington Seminar Jan. 28-31, held each year by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).

Deyannira Villa Cazares, a 16-year-old sophomore at DSST: Conservatory Green High School, and Ian Lee, an 18-year-old senior at Aurora West College Prep, were the winners of an essay contest sponsored by the Colorado Center for the Blind in cooperation with the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado for blind high school students to attend the annual event. Deyannira of Denver and Ian of Aurora will each receive an all-expenses paid trip to the seminar, where they will meet with Colorado’s congressional delegation and learn from leaders in the National Federation of the Blind.

“One of the biggest reasons visiting Washington would enrich my life is that I want to be able to advocate for people like me, blind or visually impaired, to have the same rights or opportunities as sighted people,” Deyannira wrote in her essay.

“I need to know what laws impact my life and what I can do to help influence changes in the future,” Ian wrote.

According to Julie Deden, Executive Director, Colorado Center for the Blind, “Beyond the legislative issues, these two bright, engaged students will be traveling the halls of our nation’s capital with blind adult role models. Our nation’s capital is big and complicated for anyone. But, they will learn that blind can go anywhere and engage members of congress just like everyone else.”

While in Washington, the students will join others in educating representatives and senators about three legislative priorities:

The Access Technology Affordability Act (ATAA), which would provide a refundable tax credit for qualifying purchases of critically needed access technology. With this bill, Congress would stimulate individual procurement of this technology and promote affordability of these tools.

The Greater Accessibility and Independence through Nonvisual Access Technology (GAIN) Act. The legislation would have Congress set minimum accessibility requirements for advanced digital interfaces which create barriers that prevent blind individuals from independently operating essential devices that enhance quality of life.

The Disability Employment Act (DEA) is intended to spur innovation that will increase and enhance modern employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

The Washington Seminar is an annual event of the National Federation of the Blind to introduce Congress to priority issues for blind Americans that require congressional attention over the coming year.

Categories
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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Challenge Recreation General Colorado Center Information Independence Training Program

Thumbs Up for Scuba Divers!

Group of 14 in Scuba Gear in the corner of the pool smile and wave
Brian organized the scuba experience at A-1 Scuba in Littleton. A certified diver himself, he found satisfaction in sharing the sport he loves with his friends and fellow Center students.

A group of seven Colorado Center for the blind students took a scuba lesson on August 31, thanks to the enthusiasm, organization and experience of one of their peers, Brian Bussard and A-1 Scuba and Aquatics Center in Littleton. In fact, A-1 donated the lesson, including gear and instructor time!

Bussard, who came to CCB as a student six months ago, is already a certified diver. He has been for 10 years and loves the sport, but hadn’t been diving in the two years since he became blind, so it was as much his own motivation to get back to the sport as his desire to share it with his fellow students that resulted in his setting up the entire adventure.

“It was really satisfying to share this (scuba diving) with my friends,” he said. From the looks of these photos, everyone found it a pretty satisfying experience!

Thanks to A-1 for working with Brian and our students!

Two women in wet suits stand inside a swimming poolWith her instructor Carol, Annette Gives the thumbs up.
A young man in diving mask and snorkel gives the thumbs up after surfacing with his instructorLoren decided to try snorkeling. Here he is in the pool with his instructor AnnaMarie.

 

Two women at the surface of a pool with diving masks pushed onto their foreheadsDanielle and instructor Rita surface near the edge of the pool.
A tall young man in t-shirt stands with his petite, wet-suited instructor in the shallow end of the poolAbdi (6 feet, 8 inches)and Lynn (not so much) partner in the pool to prove, not only that blindness need not hold you back, but there are no maximum or minimum height limits to enjoy scuba diving.

 

Four pairs of divers, some at the surface, some just below, and some on the bottom of the pool
Students paired off with A1 instructors for their practice dives.
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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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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!