My name is Jorge. I’m a member of the NYC chapter of the National Federation of the Blind the Blind of New York, Inc.
My parents first got involved in the federation back in 2000, with Maria Garcia, the current president of NYPOBC. In 2002, we went to our first state convention. However, we were not active in the Federation on till 2007.
In that year I remember one of our NYS affiliate members commenting to us about a program called Blind Inc., run by a private corporation which had been certified by the NFB. She personally had attended the College Introduction Program, a 9 month program taught for adults entering college. However, she mentioned that there was a “life one on one” program, which ran for youth ages 13 to 17.
For the next three years we applied and researched the program, until at the start of 2010, I got an email from them letting me know I could go and should start talking with my CBVH counselor to start the process of requesting the funding.
When I first began the program, I was shocked to discover that all our counselors were blind. Not that I had any misgivings, as I had seen successful blind people before. The thing was, back then I had been used to “camps for the blind” run by the sighted.
Let me just start with the fact that the blind teaching the blind is perhaps one of the most unique experiences I’ve had, and at the same time one of the best.
To learn techniques certified by the NFB and corresponding authorities for everything from cooking, to industrial arts, to cane travel, and have these techniques taught by blind roll models with day-to-day enforcement in the various activities that we did after school and during the weekends is the best part of the camp. To make it even better, we were learning everything with almost no modifications from the standard tools and techniques of the sighted.
It’s one of the best experiences I can remember, and I can say with full confidence that I truly began to believe in the NFB’s philosophy and gain real confidence and independence. It was rewarding to both learn, and have to use these techniques, and be able to have people who could help me if I needed help. Many times, I turned to my friends or counselors for quick help, and they always gave me exactly what I needed, while always challenging me to achieve new levels of independence.
I would certainly recommend this program to any parent of the blind for their kids, especially if their kids are between the ages of 13 and 17. When sighted kids start gaining real independence from there parents, I think it’s crucial for our blind kids to learn and understand that they are not and should not be left behind, and just as their friends get to go to the movies by themselves, etc., so do they. The only exception is that there aren’t any blind drivers–yet. But who knows, with the blind-driver-challenge pushing onwards, someday we may be giving learner’s permits to 16 year old blind and low vision students.
The key is that you have to learn from these centers. Once you know the techniques and use them, your life is truly in your hands, and the road to independence begins. It is a road that will lead you to success in every area of your life.