Pansies for Mother’s Day
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!
Interactive Intelligence Foundation
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.
A Graduation to Remember
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.
2017 Ossip Expo
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
The Ultimate Equalizer
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.
2017 Braille Challenge
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.
A Walk in the Dark
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!”