Envision will hold its 10th annual Assistive Technology (AT) Camps May 26 to 31 (for middle school students) and June 26 – July 2 (for high school students). The week long programs are designed to establish independence through college and career development as well as provide technology instruction for children and teens who are blind or visually impaired.
Each year, students nominated by Kansas Teachers of the Visually Impaired are selected to participate in Envision’s AT Camp. This year’s participants include more than two dozen high school students and nearly as many middle school students who will receive academic or vocational training, as well as more than a dozen teacher mentors from Wichita State University and nine Kansas District teachers of the visually impaired (TVI).
Following individualized assessments and introductory computer instruction using assistive technology, the students will attend sessions to help develop life skills and job search and interview skills, and make excursions to community businesses. Motivational and inspirational presentations will be offered throughout the week to imbue camp attendees with the confidence and drive to put what they’ve learned to use.
At the end of the week, campers will receive a customized computer with software, as well as the recognition of staff, volunteers, peers, instructors and community leaders for taking a critical step toward achieving a more independent life.
Heather Hogan, Vice President of Corporate Development & Strategy for Envision, says AT Camp provides a critical benefit to youths in Kansas whom are blind or visually impaired, and is a vital component of the educational aspect of Envision’s mission. With more than 44,000 school-age children in the United States who are legally blind, the number of children born visually impaired in the country has grown significantly in the past decade. The national unemployment rate for individuals who are blind or low-vision is at a staggering 63 percent, she says, providing access to assistive technology and training people to use it is essential to securing a brighter, more independent future for the rising generation.
“Children who are visually impaired who use assistive technologies are much more likely to finish high school, seek higher education and not become an unemployment or underemployment statistic as adults,” Hogan explains. “Unfortunately, fewer than 10 percent of children who are visually impaired children own their own assistive technology. AT Camp provides them with the tools and training they need to compete more successfully in school, in the job market and aspire to more independent, fulfilling lives.”
Expenses for Envision AT Camp run about $80,000 each year to provide computer hardware and software, lodging, meals and course instruction. Support from sponsors such as Cox Communications, the Walmart Foundation, the Cargill Care Fund, Spirit Aerosystems, and CPA firm AGH LC, will not only help cover these costs but also enable Envision to consider ways to broaden the AT Camp syllabus and services.