“I wanna do something that matters … “
On May 25, the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI) celebrated the graduation of 9 young people. Graduation is also a proud day for us at the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation (IBCF), since supporting our students on their path towards independence and living their fullest potential is the reason we exist. This group of graduating seniors brought the number of graduates the IBCF has been privileged to serve since 1993 to a total of 323. Commencement speaker, Steve Beres- Service Members and Veterans Affairs Manager for Regions, who served in the U.S. Army Special Forces all over the Middle East until he lost his sight during combat in a traumatic accident.
Because this is IBCF’s 25th anniversary year, the ceremony seemed especially moving. As always, as the ISBVI band played “Pomp and Circumstance,” each student walked proudly – individually and alone – up the steps on the left and across the stage to receive their diploma, stopped to shake hands with members of the School leadership, and continued to the right side of the stage, down the steps, and back to their seats. Then the choir sang “I Was Here” by Lady Antebellum, the song chosen by this year’s seniors:
… You wait and see / Maybe I'll write like Twain wrote
Maybe I'll paint like Van Gough / Cure the common cold
I don't know but I'm ready to start 'cause I know in my heart
I wanna do something that matters …
I wanna do somethin' better, with the time I've been given
And I wanna try to touch a few hearts in this life
And leave nothin' less than something that says I was here …
When it came time for Steve Beres to speak, he, too, reiterated the theme of making something special of your life. “Don’t let anyone tell you no, or that you’re unable to do something,” he said. And to drive the point home he gave an unmarked envelope with a card in it to each graduate … except that one card said “winner.” That student, he explained, would have the opportunity to do a tandem sky dive alongside him – each of them accompanied on the jump by a professional parachutist. And the winner Christian – who (along with his mom, former Air Force) was thrilled! The jump is scheduled for July 12. Stay tuned! In the meantime, celebrate with us as each of these 9 new graduates strives to “do something that matters … with the time I’ve been given.”
Special thanks to Regions Bank - Commencement Speaker Sponsor
Written by Laura Alvarado, IBCF Executive Director
It is 2018! We are excited for what 2018 will bring and so very thankful for the increased community support that we experienced in 2017. As we look forward to this new year we thought we would highlight some of the movement and excitement of 2017.
IBCF, Regions Bank and nine13sports joined forces to bring the Kids Riding Bikes program to the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. This partnership brought in coaches from nine13sports, once a week for four weeks, and provided every student on campus the opportunity to be active using stationary bicycle simulators as a part of their physical education class. Being connected to a large screen monitor with software that not only tracks each student’s progress but motivates each student to go further made students feel like they were a part of a video game experience. This program couldn’t have taken place without the support and dedication of Regions Bank, also a new partner in 2017. The students and staff loved this program so much that it is now an annual partnership in January/February. Check out the news story on Fox 59 for more about this program and its impact!
IBCF partially supported the 2017 Braille Challenge with a grant from the Junior League of Indianapolis. The Indiana Regional Braille Challenge was hosted by the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired on Saturday, February 11, 2017 with 25 students in grades 1-12 who competed in this first stage of a two-staged national contest. Students received braille tests focused on reading, writing, spelling and comprehension throughout the morning, competing in his or her appropriate grade range. During the testing day, 125 family members of Challenge participants broke up into four separate groups that rotated between four workshops and sensitivity inspiring simulations that encouraged reflection on how they engage their family member who is blind in everyday activities. Check out the blog post from our very own ISBVI student who won the national contest!
The IBCF Board of Directors consists of fourteen highly dedicated community members who meet once a month to move our mission forward. In 2017 we added educational opportunities to our meetings to deepen our understanding and sensitivities towards those we serve. The Orientation and Mobility Specialists at ISBVI provided our Board Members with a better understanding of how to guide individuals who are blind by engaging us in a blind-folded simulation. Board Members were asked to wear a blind-fold and move throughout the school using a cane and/or being led by a guide.
The amazing team at Ossip Optometry and Ophthalmology surprised their 370 staff at the 2017 Ossip Expo with a beautiful performance from the ISBVI High School Choir. Following this performance, Dr. Scott Allison from Ossip surprised us with a check for $3500. This financial support didn’t end there as Dr. Allison challenged fellow Ossip staff to keep contributing throughout the day. Due to the financial support provided throughout the day, IBCF was able to assist ISBVI in purchasing numerous Bluetooth accessible laptops and MacBooks for the Assistive Technology Lab, making learning more accessible and efficient for students. Thank you to our friends at Ossip for making this support and awareness possible!
75 people joined together to walk in support of IBCF in the Walking for Dreams Event raising close to $5000 in support. Due to this support, we were able to bring in Playworks Indiana a few months later to engage 35 ISBVI staff in a Power of Play and Group Management training aimed at strengthening positive play activities that build social skills and inclusiveness during recess and free time.
June is both a happy and sad time around here at ISBVI. It is the start of the summer and the end of the school year. But for some, it is also the end of their time at ISBVI. While we are sad to see our seniors go each year, we know they are off to new horizons. In 2017, IBCF was happy to provide each of the twelve graduating seniors a small pocket scholarship.
The Expanding Your Horizons Summer Camp, the only week-long overnight summer camp for children with visual impairments in the state, engaged 23 children ages 10-15 throughout Indiana in experiences and activities tied to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) themed lesson plans and concepts. We are thankful for the financial and voluntary support from the Genesys Foundation, formerly the Interactive Intelligence Foundation, for making this camp such a success!
Dr. William Zeh participated in the Rainstorm Ride, a 660 mile bicycle ride in Southern Indiana, raising both financial support and awareness towards our mission. Dr. Zeh’s campaign, Roll for a Goal, brought in nearly $5000 in support from all over the country. We are thankful for individuals like Dr. Zeh who not only understand the importance of our mission but engage their network in learning about the work that we do.
The foundation received its first State of Indiana 2017 grant award from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) through the Neighborhood Assistance Tax Credit Program (NAP)! IBCF was awarded the ability to provide $4128 in tax credits to eligible donors allowing IBCF to earn $8,256 in contributions towards its mission and educational programming at ISBVI.
The 2017 golf event had some ups and downs due to extreme weather that caused a move in the date of the event but that didn’t stop the 90 golfers who stuck with us and played to support our mission on the July rescheduled date generating over $17,000 in support.
Playworks Indiana provided a training to 35 staff at ISBVI on the Power of Play and Group Management Techniques. The workshop was led by Playworks Pro-Trainer, Neetu Agrawal, who inspired staff to learn or strengthen activities that assist ISBVI students in connecting with other children, feel a sense of belonging, and become more active on the playground.
The Kendra Scott store at Keystone at the Crossing invited the foundation and four ISBVI students to join them in the store for an afternoon of jewelry making. Each of the four students created a piece of jewelry to take with him or her as well as a piece that was donated for our 2017 Through the Looking Glass Gala. The students and staff had a wonderful time and hope to go back this spring for another session.
The 2017 Through the Looking Glass Gala generated a record-breaking $150,000 in support of the IBCF mission. Of this total, $41,275 was raised towards the arts and music programs at ISBVI during the Fund-A-Need moment. Our special guest, Jim Platzer, inspired our audience to discover his or her sense of purpose no matter where you are on your journey. Emcees, Laura Steele and Barry Lantz, as well as our auctioneer, Mark Bisch, kept the audience entertained and on their toes all evening. Thanks to the Sertoma Club of Broad Ripple, our guests were able to enjoy casino games ranging from roulette to blackjack. Big thanks to the 2017 Gala Committee and Chair, Lindsey Jordan, for their support and making the evening such a success! Check out the photos from the 2017 TTLG Gala here!
We were thrilled to receive a phone call from our friend and local artist, Barry Lantz, sharing that he was chosen to be the LUXE Design Showcase event keynote speaker. As the keynote speaker he chose IBCF to be the charity beneficiary for the 2018 event on Friday, February 9th. Click on the following link for more details about the upcoming LUXE event!
This year’s annual holiday tree sale and family event was one for the record books! It was a non-stop day at each event area on campus. The IBCF pancake breakfast fed over 150 attendees in just 3 hours. We are thankful to all those who came to support this event that kicks off the holiday season here at ISBVI!
Written by Maria Quinton, IBCF Communications Intern
A few days before school began at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Playworks Indiana traveled to ISBVI to train 35 staff members in the Power of Play. Playworks is a national non-profit that strives to improve the health and well-being of children by increasing opportunities for physical activity and safe, meaningful play. IBCF brought Playworks to ISBVI with the financial support raised at the 2017 Walk for Dreams Event back in May of 2017.
The techniques taught at the training helped ISBVI staff learn or strengthen activities that assist ISBVI students to connect with other children, feel a sense of belonging, and become more active on the playground. On how this training has impacted staff and students so far, ISBVI staff member, Paul Smith, stated, “It has helped us build self-esteem among students, think differently about staff and student engagement on and off the playground, and get students transitioned in a positive way.”
As the first school for the blind to participate in this training our Playworks trainer, Neetu Agrawal, made adaptations to certain games and techniques so that ISBVI staff could better apply them to our students. The popular playground game of ball tag known as the Fox and the Hound, was adapted by adding a bell to one of the balls used in the game, allowing staff and students to hear the ball coming towards him or her.
The training enlightened staff on just how powerful, safe and inclusive play can be for children. Many participants were surprised by how much they learned about the transformative impact of positive play. Many staff indicated that their favorite part of the training was the emphasis on positive affirmation and how far being positive can go. ISBVI Preschool Teacher, Tami Purkey, shared, “I really liked the positive reinforcement...making that conscious effort to continually be positive.”
We are very thankful for our partnership with Playworks, and we could not be happier with the outcome of the training session.
Written by Maria Quinton, IBCF Communications Intern
Barry Lantz is a nationally known interior designer who in 2010 began his professional career as an artist. He has a very accomplished background and is an exquisite and admired painter. After a tour of the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired with IBCF Executive Director, Barry was moved by his experience here at ISBVI and decided to make a difference in a number of ways.
Barry’s tour of the ISBVI campus inspired the creation of a 60”x60” acrylic painting, Through the Looking Glass, which Barry generously donated for silent auction at the Through the Looking Glass Gala.
After the completion of the painting, Barry decided he needed to do more, something that in addition to his painting would directly impact the students. In August, Barry came to ISBVI to teach a unique master painting class to ten middle and high school students. The students learned how to uniquely create landscape scenes using their favorite colors. The day was met with joy and gratitude, as Barry spent two hours with the students assisting them on their paintings. The students were grateful to learn under an accomplished artist for the day, and they all had a lot of fun getting to know Barry. Thank you Barry for such a wonderful partnership!
Written by Maria Quinton, IBCF Communications Intern
The Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation (IBCF) is thrilled to have 20/20 Institute as the platinum sponsor of the 2017 Through the Looking Glass Gala. Dr. Diana Fisher, CEO of 20/20 Institute is an IBCF Board member with a deep connection to our mission. Dr. Fisher has an extensive career working with people with visual impairments. In fact, the desire to work in the field of optometry started for her as a little girl. She knew that she wanted to become an optometrist in order to positively impact the lives of those with low vision.
As the communications intern with the Foundation I had the opportunity to visit Dr. Fisher's office and speak with her about her involvement with IBCF. On becoming an optometrist she shared,
“I have had a lot of eye problems in my life, I started wearing glasses when I was just two years old because I had a lazy eye. My mom always instilled in me from the day I received my glasses how amazing it was that one day I could just see. She likes to tell this story how it was a fall day and the leaves had just started to fall from the trees. I said, 'Look mommy the leaves are falling,' and she thought, oh, my poor baby has never seen a leaf before, and would go on to exclaim, 'Oh! My baby can finally see!' This is why I decided to go to optometry school.”
From a young age, Dr. Fisher understood the impact the field of optometry has on people with vision challenges. She has dedicated her life to supporting people with visual impairments, and this is what attracted her to IBCF. Her involvement with the Indiana Blind Children's Foundation began with attending a Through the Looking Glass Gala. She attended the Gala and enjoyed her time so much she decided to join the gala committee. Shortly after that she joined the IBCF board of directors. She speaks of the Indiana Blind Children's Foundation highly, saying, "The thing I love most about this Foundation is that people are passionate, they are in it heart and soul, they get involved with the school, they get involved with the community. They really care about growing the Foundation and making sure the kids are taken care of, and they find out about their needs.”
Dr. Fisher takes any opportunity she can to engage with the students and parents of the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. She and her husband have attended the ISBVI registration day the past two years, and also attend the Holiday Plant and Tree Sale each year to get to know the students and parents impacted by the school better. She stated, "Meeting the parents and their children and getting to know them personally, as well as the families seeing us, helps bring us all together. I believe the parents and children understand that we are not just somebody who is out there telling people how or what to do. We are there, asking questions to learn how we can help."
IBCF is grateful to have such a supporter, board and gala committee member who is truly invested in getting to know those we support. This will be the fourth year the 20/20 Institute has supported the Through the Looking Glass Gala, and each year their support continues to grow. The 20/20 Institute is a one of kind organization that shows compassion for all those they serve. In addition to providing amazing services for those with vision challenges, they give back to their community.
“I believe in the purpose of ISBVI and the Foundation, assisting those with visual impairments achieve their highest potential in school and life to the greatest possible degree.”
Dr. William Zeh, Indianapolis based Ophthalmologist, is riding the 2018 Triple Bypass event, a 120 mile bike ride through the heart of the Colorado Rocky Mountains from Evergreen to Avon, Colorado on July 14, 2018. Dr. Zeh is combining his love of riding and desire to do more on behalf of children who are blind or have low vision by raising financial support and awareness of the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation through this ride. All donations made through this page will help further the Foundation’s mission of investing in children with visual impairments. Help Dr. Zeh reach his goal of $5000 and donate today! Your donation is completely tax deductible.
The Indiana Blind Children's Foundation (IBCF) invests in children with visual impairments so each child will thrive in school and daily life. The Foundation is a philanthropic foundation that supports the unique work of the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI). Since 1993, IBCF has focused on raising money to support academics at the ISBVI. Over the course of time the Foundation has extended its reach to impact all facets of the students' intellectual, social and emotional lives.
If you are learning about the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation for the first time through this page please take a moment to learn about some of our support efforts and impact over this last year:
- Supported the first stage of a national two-staged contest known as the Braille Challenge which tests and supports Braille literacy.
- Provided the necessary assistive technology such as blue tooth accessible laptops, iPads and BrailleNote Touch technology for students to access information and learn more effectively in the classroom.
- Sponsored the only full-week overnight summer camp for children with visual impairments, Expanding Your Horizons Summer Camp, which impacted 23 children between the ages of 10-15.
- Brought in Playworks Indiana to train 35 ISBVI staff members in the Power of Play and Group Management Techniques. Playworks is a national non-profit that strives to improve the health and well-being of children by increasing opportunities for physical activity and safe, meaningful play.
- Raised over $41,000 towards music and arts programming at ISBVI at the 2017 Through the Looking Glass Gala. These funds supported items such as new uniforms for the choirs and jazz band, musical technology for elementary, middle and high school students that explores sound development, musical instruments, pottery wheels and more.
- Purchased all new uniforms, shoes and travel bags for the ISBVI wrestling team.
- Partnered with Nine13sports, a local non-profit organization, to bring the Kids Riding Bikes program to ISBVI which promoted health, wellness and exercise for elementary, middle and high school students over a four week period.
By IBCF Board Member, Toula Oberlies
Hollyhock Hill restaurant, our neighbors up the road on College Ave., approached us with a wonderful proposition for a partnership between their establishment and the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. They wanted to carry special flowers grown, nurtured, and arranged in an assortment of pretty coffee cups by ISBVI students in the Greenhouse Program, in their restaurant on Mother’s Day. The Greenhouse Program, run by Ms. Elizabeth Garvey, quickly got to work, and within a week, some very pretty arrangements were created by our students and greenhouse volunteers. Hollyhock Hill purchased 75 of these beautiful arrangements, featured them on their tables as centerpieces, and sold them on Mother’s Day. We understand they were a big hit!
This partnership mutually benefited ISBVI and Hollyhock Hill. Our students helped to beautify the restaurant and as a result of the purchases, many homes in the Indianapolis metro area, thus spreading the word about the school’s amazing program. The financial support gained from this purchase has gone right back into the Greenhouse Program.
Look for flowers from ISBVI to be featured at Hollyhock Hill again in the fall, when students in the Greenhouse Program will create centerpiece arrangements for each table at Thanksgiving. They too will be for sale. We thank Hollyhock Hill and their proprietors for their support of ISBVI and our kids!
EYH Camp, Expanding Your Horizons Camp, received a second year of financial support from the Interactive Intelligence Foundation to help us support 22 campers this year. Their donation of $10,000 made it possible to host children ages 7-14 with any visual impairment in the state of Indiana for a full week overnight summer camp. From sun up to sun down the campers experienced numerous adventures. Some of the activities included: paddle boating, zip-lining, go-carting, horseback riding, along with crafts and experiments. The Expanding Your Horizons camp centered on getting campers out of their comfort zones while gaining the confidence to do anything they put their minds to.
We would like to thank the Interactive Intelligence Foundation for their continued support and volunteerism each year in the camp.
By IBCF Communications Intern, Maria Quinton
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” —Winston Churchill, 2017 Class Motto
On June 9th, 2017, the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired commencement ceremony took place.12 students graduated and showcased their bright futures as they walked across that auditorium stage. All 12 students were beaming with gratitude and support from the ISBVI community. The commencement ceremony began promptly at 10 A.M., and we celebrated our graduates with pride. The ceremony included beautiful music by Ms. Janelle Pivec, the ISBVI middle school/high school choral director, along with the ISBVI middle school/high band performing under musical director, Fritz Graf. The day was met with a whirlwind of emotions, and will be a day the graduates remember for years to come. Congratulations again to our 12 ISBVI graduates!
The 2017 ISBVI Class Valedictorian, C.A., spoke of his appreciation for all he had learned along the way at ISBVI. During his speech he stated, “When you reach other obstacles in your future, turn them into opportunities. You have the choice. You can overcome and be successful, or you can allow it to overcome you and be a failure. The choice is yours and yours alone.” Alongside the ISBVI Valedictorian the Commencement Speaker, Jim Platzer, also gave a moving speech discussing the possibilities present today for children with blindness or low vision. We are thrilled to have Jim joining IBCF for the upcoming Through the Looking Glass Gala as this year’s keynote speaker.
Jim Platzer is a former President of a fortune 500 company, and he began to lose his sight at age 20 which forced him to retire earlier than anticipated. Now he enjoys his time by being a motivational speaker, and someone who advocates for people with blindness or low vision.
By IBCF Communications Intern, Maria Quinton
This past April the ISBVI high school choir had a magical performance in front of nearly 370 Ossip employees at their 2017 Ossip Expo. Before their performance our Executive Director, Laura Alvarado, stood up before the crowd and introduced the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, ISBVI, High School Choir. This new audience learned about the mission of the Indiana Blind Children's Foundation, IBCF, and experienced firsthand the strengths of our students. What a spectacular day filled by the sound of our students' gifted voices, which evoked tears from many eyes in the crowd. It was the perfect opportunity to showcase their abilities with such a captivated audience. Thank you, Ossip + Ophthalmology and 502 Event Centre for a wonderful day; we had a grand time.
Click here to watch a short video from the 2017 Ossip Expo
In addition to raising awareness for ISBVI and IBCF, Ossip provided financial support for assistive technology at ISBVI. This donation made it possible for IBCF to purchase numerous Bluetooth accessible laptops and MacBooks for the students of ISBVI. One of the ISBVI students had this to say about the newly purchased laptops:
“I am a 16 year old braille student who utilizes technology every day. I use technology in most of my high school classes. When I attended public school, every student received a laptop. When I went there, I did not have a braille device to connect to my laptop. I had to use the screen reader in everything that I did because I was unable to use braille. It was bad because not everything was accessible. Bluetooth accessible laptops are helpful, especially if you use a braille device because websites, email, and document writing programs are more accessible. Bluetooth laptops connected to braille devices are useful because listening to a class lecture and a screen reader at the same time can be difficult, especially in math class! Being able to use braille will help a student’s literacy and spelling skills increase. Using a computer with a braille devices not only helps literacy skills, but it also promotes independence!”—K.R. Sophomore at ISBVI
Photos and article by IBCF Board Member, Toula Oberlies
"I can't wait to do this again next week!"
That was the exuberant proclamation from a young boy after his first session on the bikes provided by Nine13sports to students in gym class at Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. As stated on their website, this non-profit organization “promotes health, wellness, and exercise for local youth between the ages of 5 and 18” through their Kids Riding Bikes® program. This fun program has proven to be a huge success at many area schools, including at ISBVI.
Tom Hanley, CEO and Executive Director of Nine13sports, says “the bicycle is the ultimate equalizer, with kids of all ages and capabilities doing exactly the same thing.” The bikes are set up on a stationary system and connected to a computer program and screen simulating various situations. The riding is harder going uphill, and then easier going downhill and as the course ultimately levels off.
Pictured at Right: Tom Hanley and Ashley Acuff from Nine13sports
Tom first visited and toured ISBVI in October, and states he quickly “fell in love with the physical beauty of the campus, the staff, and the energy and excitement of the students.” Soon thereafter along with the sponsorship of Regions Bank represented by Ms. Kim Borges, VP and Area Marketing Manager, the 4-week bike program was set for January and February 2017. The kids fell in love with the entire experience, and comments such as “this is so fun,” “when do we get to do this again,” and “I can’t wait till next week!” could be heard in the gym and the entire campus.
The mission of Nine13sports is one that will impact these students well beyond the bike. Tom Hanley said it best… “This is just a great way to enable students to realize they can do anything they put their minds to, and they can achieve and find success with hard work.”
On the final day, Larra Overton of WXIN News and a camera crew from Fox-59, came out to ISBVI to cover the bike-riding sessions and to interview Tom Hanley and one of the students. “It’s fun because I’m independent. It helps me stay strong and makes me get some energy, more energy,” an elementary student exclaimed! Smiles abounded all around.
To view the entire segment as aired on Fox-59 WXIN, please click here!
The Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation is proud to acknowledge our partnership with Tom Hanley and his colleagues at Nine13sports, and Regions Bank. We are grateful for their interest in ISBVI and support of its students in first through twelfth grade. The program will continue in the fall semester, when they will return to work with students of various grade levels.
By ISBVI Student, M.B. (M.B. is pictured second from the right in picture)
The Braille Challenge is an academic competition designed to motivate students who are blind in grades 1-12 to participate in a braille assessment of skills. There are annual regional state competitions throughout the U.S. from January to March. The Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI) has been hosting Indiana’s regional competition for the past nine years. Braille students in five contest age categories exhibit their skills in reading comprehension, speed and accuracy, proofreading, spelling, and reading tactile charts and graphs. The five contest age categories in the Braille Challenge consist of: Apprentice, Grades 1-2; Freshman, Grades 3-4; Sophomore, Grades 5-6; Junior Varsity, Grades 7-9; and Varsity, Grades 10-12. Each category is proctored and scored by volunteer teachers with final scoring completed by nationally certified braille transcribers. At the end of the all-day competition, students receive certificates and medals in braille and valuable feedback on their performances in each skill level. The top three contestants in each of the five age categories receive prizes. The top 50 contestants nationally are invited to the Braille Institute in Los Angeles, California in June, for a two day competition.
This past February, I participated in my eighth Braille Challenge here at ISBVI - the theme being, “Indiana Braille Challenge 2017: A Carnival of Fun.” Each year, the school does a fantastic job organizing not only the competitions, but workshops and activities for all family members to fill their day while they wait for us to finish our respective levels. We end the day with an awards banquet. One big difference in this year’s challenge was the move from EBAE (English Braille American Edition) to UEB (Unified English Braille, the official Braille code for the U.S.) for Apprentice and Freshman levels. Participants in the Sophomore Level had a choice of UEB or EBAE this year with the move to all UEB code next year.
I have been fortunate to have won the regional Braille Challenge five times now and have been selected to travel to California six times to compete with the best braille users in the nation.
In the national competition in California, the testing periods are longer and we have double the work. It requires practice, practice, and more practice! For me the best part of the Braille Challenge is meeting other braille users and seeing my “old” friends again whom I have met over the years. The most difficult part of the Braille Challenge for me has been the speed and accuracy category --the one you HAVE TO master. We have to braille quickly AND accurately at least seven pages of braille from listening to an audio recording and transcribing. The pressure is really on for this challenge!
Being braille literate is very important to me. Braille helps me to connect with the outside world and I love all the braille technology that enables me to produce my braille more efficiently (not to mention sharing it with others in braille, print, or electronic format). I enjoy writing and I am grateful that I have mastered the braille code to be able to write independently and communicate with the world.
The Indiana Blind Children's Foundation was a proud supporter of the 2017 Braille Challenge thanks to the support of the Junior League of Indianapolis.
Photo and article by IBCF Board Member, Toula Oberlies
A walk in the dark with the aid of a cane is every day practice for many students at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI). Learning how to better use their cane and recognize the environments around them is the job of ISBVI Mobility Specialists, who through funding from the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation (IBCF), now have a new stock of 171 canes and 26 different cane tips to use with their students.
Mobility Specialists work with students to teach them to safely navigate the school’s hallways, stairways and the campus’ grounds, and to be aware of outside environments such as sidewalks, street crossing, busy intersections, riding a bus, and going into stores and restaurants. Mobility Specialist, Jessica Hunt, explains that specialists work with students as often as they need it, one or two quarters per year for some, and year round with others.
There are three techniques to walking with a cane, Diagonal Trail, with the cane next to the wall, Constant Contact, sliding the cane between 10:00am and 10:00pm, and Two-Point Touch, tapping it outside of each shoulder. Cane training begins by walking up and down a school hallway, with the specialist walking behind the student to observe their manner.
Photo features Jessica Hunt, Mobility Specialist, working with ISBVI students.
Having a supply of canes available is necessary because as students grow taller, they are provided with new, longer canes, and as cane tips wear out after a period of time, new tips can replace the old. It’s also important to have a healthy supply of canes available in stock to loan-out when a student’s cane suddenly breaks.
There are many varieties of cane tips, the least expensive of which, is the Marshmallow. It comes in a variety of colors. There is also the Roller, the Ceramic, and the High-Mileage, all at slightly higher cost, and available for students at ISBVI. What a student chooses to use comes down to personal preference.
Mobility training involves setting goals for skill learning, with points earned at completion. These points add up, and at a certain point privileges such as walking on the Monon Trail, traveling to Broad Ripple for pizza, or to Kroger at Nora to buy milk and bread, are earned. Jessica Hunt explained how excited the students are to venture out into the community. Along with their mobility training, they are encouraged to use Google Maps to locate their destination by putting in addresses for a walking route.
Just how valuable canes are for a student’s mobility was demonstrated on a recent visit to ISBVI with Mobility Specialist Jessica Hunt, and students M.T., age 17, and M.V., age 15.
M.V. has been blind since birth, and received her first tiny cane in pre-school. She had a specialist to work with her in learning how to use it in her home city of Richmond, IN. She was recently shown her very first cane, and said “Was I really that small?” M.V.’s current cane is 56” long. Her cane broke on the day we visited the school, so she consequently missed the bus to take her to North Central High School, where along with ISBVI, she also takes classes.
M.T. developed a vision impairment at a young age, and became totally blind when he was 10. That is when he came to ISBVI. His current cane is 54” long. Among his many activities, M.T. is a musician and World Series Champion Beep Baseball player. He proudly wears his World Series Champion ring. He’s excited about earning enough mobility points to go on an outside excursion, exclaiming with a big smile, “Broad Ripple, sounds like my kind of thing!”