Most kids just want to fit in with their peers, and in the summer, that includes attending summer camp. Children who are blind or visually impaired are typically limited in the selection of overnight or day camps at which they can safely attend and fully participate.
IESBVI offered more than a dozen regional camps across Iowa the summer of 2023, which included both day and overnight options. The expanded learning department facilitates summer, weekend and extracurricular events for IESBVI students. Although they’ve offered Camp Sunnyside as an IESBVI option in the past, this summer they added a day camp for high-level needs campers on the eastern side of the state- Camp Courageous in Monticello.
IESBVI staff work at the regional camps, while Camp Courageous and Camp Sunnyside employ their own summer staff, which may not be familiar with the needs of IESBVI campers. IESBVI has staff present each day of camp, providing a familiar face to campers and helping Camp Courageous and Sunnyside staff to understand about needs of IESBVI students.
“We train their summer staffs specifically about visual impairment, and we touch on albinism, of course, because we stress how important it is to keep those kids out of the sun,” Susan Rolinger, director of expanded learning, said. “We talk about access for kids who are blind or visually impaired, access for our kids who have cortical visual impairment.”
The slate of camps offered through IESBVI are a great opportunity to interact with children with similar visual challenges, one parent said in a survey. It provides a chance to “feel more like everybody else in a way they can’t with most peers.”
There is never a cost for the regional camps IESBVI hosts. Waivers and IESBVI funding pick up the tab for fees charged by Camp Courageous and Sunnyside. To further reduce barriers to attending, IESBVI also provides transportation for day camps.