For blind campers, a first chance to swim and canoe

BROCKPORT, N.Y. -On her first attempt ever at the long jump, the applause came before 16-year-old Dah Ku even broke a stride.

"Follow the clapping sounds, Dah Ku," cried Marielhi Rosado, Ku's counselor at Camp Abilities, a developmental sports camp for the blind, visually impaired and deaf-blind at the College at Brockport, State University of New York.

Ku, who is visually impaired, followed the noise from Rosado's hands and ran 14 strides down the track before abruptly stopping. A few false starts later, she jumped six feet.

Rosado, an undergraduate studying orientation and mobility for the blind at Florida State University, teared up and clapped in celebration.This is only her first full day at camp and she's coming along so much," Rosado said of Ku, whose family moved from Thailand to Utica, New York, two years ago and who speaks limited English. "By the time Friday comes I know she'll be even more independent and confident," Rosado said.

Makka Djouma is seen at Camp Abilities in Brockport, New York, June 26. There are now Camp Ability modeled camps in Costa Rica, Finland, Guatemala, Ireland and Ontario, Canada. Similar camps in Latvia, Turkey and Brazil are in the planning stages. Mark Blinch / Reuters

Ku is one of 52 students who recently spent a week at the not-for-profit camp, founded in 1996 by Lauren Lieberman, a professor at the College at Brockport and an internationally known researcher and author on adaptive physical education.

The goal of the camp is twofold, using sport to foster independence and confidence in youngsters with limited sight and to form a basis for research into teaching methods and adaptive curricula.

"This is the next generation of people with visual impairments," said Lieberman, gently motioning toward the College at Brockport's swimming pool, which was teeming with campers - some, like Ku, swimming for the first time. "I see them as being independent, competent, leaders and I know that sport will help others and themselves see that too." Continue reading