Lyra Thompson: ‘We can accomplish so much more than society tells us we can’

Lyra Thompson - Sep 06, 2019

Tags: Level    Programs    Up    Youth   
Envision has published many articles over the years about our summer Level Up programs that target youth who are blind or visually impaired nationwide who want to excel in academics, their personal lives and future careers. Now we’re giving you the opportunity to experience Level Up through a participant’s perspective, 13-year-old Lyra Thompson: 
 
Dear Friends, 

Envision is an organization that does many things for people with visual impairments. One such thing is a summer camp called Level Up. There are two separate camps, a middle school one for students going into sixth, seventh, or eighth grade, and a high school camp for older students. Often times, students who attend the high school camp also participate in the middle school camp as student mentors. This allows the students to get advice from and interact with other teens like them. This also benefits the high schoolers, by allowing them to have leadership experience. At Level Up, campers get a Windows computer and learn to use it efficiently with a magnifier or screen reader software. They learn about key commands and other shortcuts to help them navigate faster. The skills I’ve learned from Level Up camp have been very helpful in school. They’ve allowed me to work at the same pace as, or ahead of, my peers.
 
On one occasion, this year at camp, we were going bowling, and I had a very in-depth conversation with another camper and a sighted volunteer. My friend and I were both able to explain our vision condition and how it affected us, and we discussed the myths and misconceptions about visual impairments. I specifically talked about the many misconceptions about albinism and how it is portrayed in media.
 
Level Up camp is a wonderful, engaging camp for blind and visually impaired students to interact with other students like them and learn to use the technology available to them. At the time of writing this, I have been attending for three years now. In my second year, I was asked to write and say a speech about what Level Up camp and Envision means to me. Here is what I wrote:
 
“If a fully-sighted person walked into the lounge and saw us playing games, laughing, talking, and just having a great time, they probably wouldn’t be able to tell that we are visually impaired and blind. They would later find out that we are, and they would most likely be surprised. What I am saying is that I believe Envision has had a bigger impact on people who can see, more than it has on us. People see us socializing and doing things that everyone can do, and their opinions on us change. What they thought they knew about visual impairments, and what they thought we could accomplish, is changed. We can accomplish so much more than society tells us we can and Envision really proves that. It allows people who are blind to connect with others with the same struggles and same disability as them. I am happy that I am a part of this wonderful camp. Thank you.”
 
Sincerely, 
Lyra Thompson