WSU supports students with visual impairments through national camp

  • Envision, an organization that works to improve the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired, held their annual high school Level Up camp at WSU last month.
  • Blind and visually impaired students from across the country participated in the week-long camp.
  • They took classes in engineering, performing arts, culinary arts, networking, advocacy and many more. 
Students use drums during a performing arts class. Kayla Deines
Students use drums during a performing arts class. 

On June 23, Wichita State welcomed 40 high school students from across the country for Envision’s week-long Level Up conference. Envision, an organization that promotes advocacy and independence for individuals who are blind or visually impaired, has held its annual high school conference at Wichita State for the past several years. 

Students can choose from a variety of skill-building classes during the week, including biomedical engineering, culinary arts, programming, performing arts and aeronautics. While at Level Up, they also learn about interviews and resumes, networking, college planning, advocacy and communication.

Students choose toppings for their easy-to-make omelet in a cup. Kayla Deines
Students choose toppings for their easy-to-make omelet in a cup.

Will Henry, a returning student from the East Coast, enjoys making friends, using assistive technology and learning about aeronautics at the conference.

“I appreciate having a place like this because they don’t have anything like it where I live,” he said. “You can make your own mistakes and learn from them.”

Envision’s goal with the Level Up conference is to prepare students to successfully transition from high school to college and career. The program allows students to increase their independence in a safe, fun environment.

Hannah Christenson, the support program coordinator for Envision, loves how much the students support each other and grow as individuals during the week.

“The major changes I see are increased confidence, an understanding of what is available to them in regards to opportunities and jobs and new dreams based on those opportunities,” she said. “They are also better equipped to pursue those dreams.”

A student turns on a rocket engine with the help of WSU professor L. Scott Miller Kayla Deines
A student turns on a rocket engine with the help of WSU professor L. Scott Miller.

Wichita State’s partnership with Envision also includes low vision research and services that benefit WSU students attending classes each semester. Some of the services the partnership supports include working with multiple campus departments to translate print media to braille, provide assistive listening devices and help blind and low-vision students navigate campus.

Kathy Stewart, the assistant director and interpreter coordinator for WSU’s Office of Disability Services, has experienced this support help firsthand.

"It’s been a really good partnership in a lot of ways,” she said.

The Office of Disability Services, located in Grace Wilkie Hall, provides a variety of resources for students, allowing them to get the most out of their college experience. They serve more than 450 students each semester.

Ten private rooms in the office allow students to take tests in a quiet, distraction-free environment. American Sign Language interpreters are also available for students who need them. A full list of services can be found on the office’s website.

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