Tim Day investigates the Braille Lite in the exhibit hall at the 1998 NFB Convention.
A Trip To Remember! by Tim Day ********** From the Editor: Tim Day is one of the young people whose parents comprise the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. In many ways he has grown up in the NFB, but everyone has to discover the truths the Federation has to offer for him or herself. The following story first appeared in the Summer, 1998, edition of the Blind Washingtonian, a publication of the NFB of Washington. Here is Tim's story: ********** Blind Washingtonian's note: Tim Day is the teenaged son of Debbie Day, active member of our Parents of Blind Children Division. Here is what he had to say during the parents lunch meeting, held in conjunction with our State Convention. ********** The past few years I have enjoyed going to a regular old summer camp where you have lots of fun goofing off with other kids and no responsibilities. I loved it! But then I graduated from the camp, due to my age, and my mom started talking about something different. She started talking about sending me to the Buddy Program that is held each summer at either the NFB Center for the Blind in Colorado or Louisiana.
I did not want to go. First of all, it meant possibly flying alone to one of these states, staying a month, and then, instead of just doing nothing but have fun, I was expected to learn skills to be independent! No way!
Independence sounds great, but the fact is that it's hard. Maybe for people who are just blind it's easier, but for me it's hard, and I certainly did not want to go to a summer program where the fun was going to be replaced by work! I could not believe that my mom was even suggesting it--but then again she was big on this idea of independence.
Even though she kept mentioning it from time to time, I did not really think she would send me, but then the official word came--I was going! I imagined all sorts of things, like maybe they would let me starve to death if I didn't prepare my own meals, or maybe I'd get lost because I wouldn't know my way around. I could not believe my parents were really going to do this to me!
But on July 12, I boarded a plane alone for Denver, Colorado. While there, I lived in an apartment off campus with my counselor Alan and Robert Riddle, a kid from Vancouver, Washington. All of us were blind.
Well, I am going to tell you that it was hard, but it was also fun--more fun than hard, too! Most weekdays we had to be up early, shower, eat, make a sack lunch, and catch the bus to campus for classes. We took classes in daily living skills, Braille, computer, and orientation and mobility. All my teachers except one were blind, and they talked about what it meant to be blind.
We did some job shadowing out in the community, learned to rock climb, went to movies, and went out to dinner. We shopped for our own food, cooked our own meals, and cleaned up after ourselves. Instead of using a car as we do at home, in Denver we used public transportation for everything.
They have two programs. One is for the younger kids, nine to fourteen, and it's a month long. That's the one I attended. The program for the high school students is eight weeks long and includes attending the NFB National Convention for one week. The younger kids do job shadowing while the older kids actually hold paying jobs in the community.
One of the things I enjoy most is foreign languages, so I was very fortunate that Robert, my roommate, knew Spanish. We often would spend the entire bus ride each morning talking with each other in Spanish, much to the delight of the others on the bus.
Dan Wenzel, the director of the Buddy Program, told my mom a funny story. One day he and I were out walking on a mobility lesson when we passed a couple of teenaged boys talking in Spanish. Well, I came to a complete halt, turned, and then started talking to them. After a few moments of complete silence, they responded, and soon we had a conversation going. Dan knows very little Spanish, so he had no idea what we were saying, which made him a bit nervous. He kept gently mentioning that we should continue on, but these kids and I kept right on talking. We were just chatting, so I thought it was pretty funny when Dan told my mom that he was secretly praying that we weren't setting up some kind of drug deal as he silently stood there smiling!
The staff at the Center recognize my skill with other languages and know that I want to become a translator. So as I continue to attend the program, they will work to provide opportunities to help me reach that goal.
But probably Dan is going to have to learn a bit more Spanish if he wants to relax when we're out together!
Learning skills to be independent is hard, and it was not that I learned so many new skills while I was in Colorado that's made such a difference. It was getting the feel of being an independent blind person by living it every day with other blind people that has changed me. Before I left, I resisted every attempt my mom made to make me do things for myself. When I returned, I shocked her (and maybe me too!) with my new attitude.
I have been cooking my own breakfast and lunch, using the microwave every day since I returned, and soon I will be working on using the stove and adding more complicated stuff. I no longer fight my mom when she introduces a new skill or increases my chores. I cannot wait to surprise the staff at the Center next summer with all the new things I am able to do independently.
It's funny, I did not want to go to Colorado, but once I was there, I did not want to go home! I really liked all the counselors, teachers, and other students. It was great fun living in the apartment and making our own decisions.
Everyone is just really nice there. They are patient and helpful as they work to teach you new skills and always make you feel good about yourself. I am really, really glad I went, and I definitely plan on returning next summer. **********