Blind Teen Discovers Additional Talents through ONI Programs

Self-confidence is what ONI programs have given Emily Keating, a visually impaired first-year student at Papillion La Vista High School. “These programs have given her so many opportunities and shown all of us that the visually impaired can do so many things,” Sherry Keating, Emily’s mother, said.

Last fall, Emily began keyboarding and iPhone training at Outlook Nebraska. I have been using my BrailleNote, but I know the computer will allow me to do things more like sighted people,” she said.

The BrailleNote is a device used by the blind and visually impaired for note taking, word processing, and managing contacts. However, Emily knows that being able to surf the web and type papers on a computer will be very useful skills as she begins high school.

Technology truly makes a difference in the lives of blind students. “Being blind has its challenges,” said Emily. With today’s technology, it is now possible for people who are blind to have the same access as people who are sighted and make the list of challenges shorter.”

“The school district and ONI are working together to reinforce skills that she is learning at school and ensuring that she understands how to use technology so that she can have the same access as sighted individuals,” Leigh Mcauliff, TVI for Papillion-La Vista Public Schools, said.

Everyday tasks like looking at Facebook or sending a text message on a cell phone are things usually taken for granted by today’s teens. However, if you are blind and do not know about your phone’s accessibility features, you will not be able to use your phone to its full potential, if at all. For Emily, the iPhone training has made her feel more like her peers. “Now that I know how to use my phone, I feel more confident when it comes to technology,” she said. “I can interact with others and communicate more effectively, just like everyone else.”

For many blind teens, sports and other physical activities can be difficult. Emily has attended Camp Abilities Nebraska, a week-long sports camp for blind youth, for two summers. She also participates in ONI’s teen recreation program, where she discovered that she had a talent for fishing. “She loves fishing,” said Sherry. “She probably would have never gone fishing if she had not attended May’s teen rec event.”

Camp Abilities Nebraska, co-sponsored by ONI and Boys Town National Research Hospital, and ONI’s teen rec programs show blind and visually impaired students that they can fully participate in these activities by using some adaptive methods.

Whether it is overcoming the challenge of rock climbing at Camp Abilities with the use of only one hand (Emily has Epilepsy and only has full strength on one side of her body) or being able to do her school work with ease because of technology, both Sherry and Emily feel confident in her future. “All of our experiences with ONI and Camp Abilities have been amazing,” said Sherry. “The volunteers and the support system here are setting her up for success for the rest of her life.”

Emily is looking forward to the upcoming teen recreation activities and will be continuing her training sessions at ONI this fall.