U.S. Space and Rocket Center hosts camps for visually impaired students

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala – Laughter filled the U.S. Space and Rocket Center as campers completed simulated aviation and space missions and went scuba diving with an underwater astronaut trainer.

Space Camp for Interested Visually Impaired Students (SCIVIS) had more than 80 students this year. But, before the pandemic, the program had grown to more than 200 students from 13 different countries making the journey to Huntsville.

SCIVIS works closely with embassies to get students enrolled in the program and with a unified English braille code students can communicate with each other easier. Dan Oates, SCIVIS’s director, said, “There’s a unified braille code now that’s quite popular throughout the world. So, braille can be read by children everywhere in the same format and in the same language.”

Along with braille, the Center also uses large print and electronic magnification to provide campers the best experience possible as they go through Space Camp and Aviation Challenge.

Many of the children have gone through a lot to get to where they are and this week gives them the opportunity to interact with children like themselves.

“We get a lot of kids who are blinded by brain tumors or they may have cancer of the eye and they may have a really tough go of it. But, they fought through all of those problems and here they are succeeding with other children,” Oates said.

During the camp, students have a session with visually impaired NASA employees and get to ask them questions concerning their life, education and how they got to where they are today.

Those conversations inspire campers. Oates reiterated that just because they cannot see well doesn’t keep them from being a child. “This is a place where these kids can come and not be questioned about why they’re blind or why they use a cane or why they wear sunglasses. Here, everyone is on the same page.”

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