Imagine you’ve never spent a night away from home, you don’t know how to cook, do laundry, travel, or shop by yourself. You live in the dark, and you don’t feel confident enough to independently navigate any space away from home.
For a lot of blind and vision-impaired teens, this is life. These kids often feel frustrated, isolated, and hopeless. How can they move away to college if they don’t know how to do laundry, use a computer efficiently, or navigate public spaces? How can they get a job if they’ve never had an interview and don’t know how to identify clothing? Not knowing where to start often keeps these kids from trying. Navigating the world with a disability is challenging on a good day.
Keys to Work, a 2-week camp for teenagers put on annually by NewView Oklahoma, is designed to change this. They stay in a hotel, living independently for the first time in their lives. They work together and with staff at NewView Oklahoma and our community partners to learn many fundamental life skills from job interviewing to shopping, traveling, cooking, and more. Many of these young adults may have never even considered living independently as an option before. But with the support of the Department of Rehabilitative Services and our donors, NewView is able to provide this exponentially impactful camp at no cost to the campers or their families.
One camper, Chloe, said that one of her goals was to change her attitude. She said that at home she was “yelling and screaming,” but by the end of camp, she had a new appreciation for all the work her mom does around the house after learning how to do her own laundry and dishes. Her entire attitude about the world around her had shifted to a more positive light just by gaining enough independence to wash dishes.
Isaiah set a goal for himself to be as helpful as possible while still learning as much as he could. NewView’s Assistive Technology Instructor, Kyle Ivy, used Isaiah’s love for video games as common ground to gauge his existing vision and help him use it to his advantage for professional applications like email, using the Uber app, or surfing the web! Isaiah’s goals also align perfectly with what’s at the heart of being an Assistive Technology instructor.
Trinity set a goal of being more independent. She hopes to move out on her own, and with the skills she learned from the resume prep, mock interviews, budgeting, and financial literacy seminar she completed, all provided by Tinker Federal Credit Union, she has the tools she will need to eventually live independently. Trinity can walk to the grocery store, find the items she needs, budget for them, and get them home on her own, something she wasn’t confident in doing before.
Another teen, Ben, wanted to learn more about budgeting and cooking. He spent time in our ONEOK kitchen where he learned how to cook. Imagine cutting produce or pouring yourself a cup of hot coffee without being able to see what you’re doing. Sound scary? Learning to do all these things safely has given Ben a newfound sense of independence and security. Ben and Anita, one of NewView’s COTAs, also talked about alternatives to sweeping, like vacuuming, to accommodate his physical restrictions so Ben could clean up after himself as well.
River, who has some usable sight, was able to learn to safely use a table saw in a project sponsored by Inframark. For anyone with low vision, being able to use power tools is something that’s typically not even considered an option. Inframark employee Jesse Mata worked with him all afternoon, and his confidence skyrocketed knowing he could now do something he never thought possible.
This camp is truly life-changing for these teens. It gives them hope for a future with more independence, a career, living life on their own terms, making friends their own way, and more.
It’s not only about the skills they learn, but the potential they feel they have going home.
If you’re interested in seeing more of the impact Keys to Work had on participants, check out the video below. We also ask that you consider donating to help support our services and events. NewView Oklahoma is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, your donations are tax deductable.