July 16, 2018
Hi, my name is Abigail Lester. I have an eye condition called Congenital Fibrosis of the Extraocular Muscles. This means that I have limited eye movement and my eyes don’t open fully. I love playing tennis, playing with my dogs, acting, and traveling. This summer, I went to the LEAP program which is located in Burlington, Vermont on the campus of the University of Vermont. This program is intended to help visually impaired and blind youth have a brighter future by gaining life skills, work experience and community involvement.
At LEAP, we take turns cooking every night and making our own breakfast and lunch. We had chores to do each day such as cleaning the bathrooms, cleaning the living room, and washing dishes. We also practiced taking the bus and navigating around the city of Burlington.
One of my goals for the first week of the program was to get more comfortable riding the bus downtown. Since that was my goal, we started to take the bus to and from work every day. This was very helpful as I haven’t had experience taking a bus in a city. A few times a week, the teenagers in the program would get O&M (orientation and mobility). The purpose of this was to make us more comfortable with navigating the town on our own. I would get on the bus with the instructor and practice my navigation and looking for landmark skills. After a few sessions, I was ready to do it on my own and am confident I can use the bus system elsewhere too. Since this was the goal of the O&M, I was pleased with the result.
Overall, LEAP was a very positive experience for me and the other teenagers that attended. I hope this program continues to grow and develop and I also hope it expands to offer other types of programs. LEAP helped me to hone my leadership skills and gave me confidence in my abilities. I especially enjoyed being able to help others by being a human sighted guide when needed. I am so happy to have gone to LEAP. While I am grateful for the skills I got at LEAP this summer, I will mostly cherish the memories and friendships that came out of it.