Academy Teaching Visually Impaired Students Life Skills

By Ali Ingersoll

Published 07/29 2014 09:41PM

Updated 07/29 2014 11:51PM

Two dozen visually impaired students are part of the Summer Academy in State College where they're learning every day life skills as well as things specifically for the visually impaired.

"We're taught from a really early age how we're different and we need to access the world differently," says Jessica Minneci, a 17-year-old student at the Summer Academy.

The students are learning skills like cracking an egg, signing a credit card slip and crossing the street. Minneci says these are skills sighted people learn from watching their parents.

"I need to get into the world because I need to learn how to be independent with my visual impairment," says Minneci.  "It's a whole process of combating all this stuff and getting through it so you can go into the world and you can do different things."

Aside from the learning these skills, students say Summer Academy is helping them as they're building friendships, gaining confidence and feeling accepted.

"I was afraid to use my cane in public because I just don't like being noticed," says Lauren Sims, a 19-year-old student at the academy. "Coming here and everyone using it gets you used to it. When I go home, I'll be better with it."

Organizers hope the students take the skills they're learning with them as they enter college and the real world.

"We introduce students to as many successfully employed individuals with disabilities as we can with the really powerful, simple message 'If I can do it, you can too,'" says David De Notaris, the Pennsylvania Director of Labor and Industry.

Minneci says she feels the academy is setting her up to be successful on her own.

"If you're able to access things, even in a different way, you're going to be more successful," says Minneci.  "It's not that people with visual impairment are disabled; they're more challenged to be able to do something."

The students will graduate from the Summer Academy on August 1st.

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