Editor’s note: This post was written by Jane Flower of Guide Dogs for the Blind. Jane will also be a panelist on the upcoming APH ConnectCenter webinar, Blind Kids Just Want to Have Fun: Thriving Our Way Into the Future of Physical Distancing at Summer Camp. You can register here:
Growing up with a visual impairment, I wanted nothing more than to just fit in and feel included in school activities like games on the playground, or extracurricular activities after school. Most often I found myself sitting alone on the lunch benches while my friends and classmates ran around, freely playing whatever fun game was popular at the time. I could not wait until summer when I could attend Braille Institute’s youth program which included day camp programming and the highly anticipated weeklong trip up to Camp Edwards! At summer camp I felt like I belonged! Camp Edwards was a place where everyone understood about being visually impaired or blind. It was the place where I was not only included, I was actually encouraged to participate and try all kinds of fun new things. Not to mention, I was able to make new friends, some of whom I am still friends with today. Many of my most cherished childhood memories took place during these summers. There was horseback riding, roller skating, swimming, arts and crafts, trips to the beach, hiking, campfires, canoeing; and my personal favorite, the “messiest cabin” competition at Camp Edwards! Summer camp also provided me with many opportunities to help others. At camp I was able to assist campers who had other disabilities in addition to their blindness. These experiences not only taught me empathy and compassion, they taught me how to think outside the box and be creative. Helping others succeed built up my own self-esteem as a child. My experiences helping others made me realize that I was capable; I was not helpless just because I couldn’t see. These wonderful experiences growing up led me to becoming a camp counselor many years later at the San Francisco Lighthouse’s Enchanted Hills Camp for the Blind, another life-changing experience you’ll have an opportunity to learn more about by joining me at the Kids Just Want to Have Fun panel!