The idea to organise “International Camps on Communication and Computers for Blind and Partially Sighted Youth” is simple - and this simplicity seems to be its power. When the Educational Endeavour "Computer Science for the Blind" at University of Linz, Austria and the "Study Centre for Visually Impaired Students" at University of Karlsruhe (TH), Germany 1991 started their support for blind and partially sighted students at their universities, proficiency in using ICT and AT was a crucial prerequisite from the very beginning.
The process of making a profound decision about if and where to enter higher education or a job career, to find out how to organise and prepare one's studies/career and where to get the support needed calls for counselling and accessible information.
This process is complex – especially for blind and partially sighted students in terms of technical, pedagogical as well as social aspects – and requires an early start in preparing for, for example, starting university. This is why ICC was developed.
The International Camp on Communication and Computers
- Aims at making young blind and partially sighted students aware of the benefits of efficiently using Information and Communication Technology as well as Assistive Technologies,
- Shows and develops “compulsory” skills, where to put efforts to enhance technical as well as social skills and the level of mobility,
- Supports students in finding a decision for their career paths and motivates an early and profound preparation before starting,
- Is an excellent opportunity to build up a sustainable network with other partially sighted and blind peers from their own and other countries all over Europe and to exchange experiences.
ICC is an event to start this process and to give an incentive to youngsters to do their best to graduate from secondary school and to prepare themselves well for the entrance into Higher Education and labour market.
After almost 30 years, ICC is still an encouraging and promising event – with a recognizable shift towards social skills and inclusion but nevertheless with a strong technological background.
The Basic Role of Inclusive Education
Inclusion in mainstream education is becoming more and more important. We are not able to build up an equivalent 'mirror' of the mainstream educational system just for blind and partially sighted students because this system is first and foremost discriminating and secondly way too complex and the whole system changes way too fast to keep a redundant scheme up-to-date.
ICC is set up to prepare for this situation, for inclusive education and for lifelong learning. Again, a profound knowledge in handling modern technology is the key prerequisite for equal inclusion in education.
Being International: Connecting to Peers, Experts - and EBU
European integration requires efforts that foster networking, mobility, intercultural communication and international exchange. ICC is a contribution to this process for a group with only limited exchange opportunities. Of course, a single computer camp (be it as special as ICC) is not able to solve all issues on a very long list towards successful inclusion and a fulfilling career - but that's not the goal.
ICC offers an incentive for exchanging experiences, for taking the initiative, for engaging and becoming an expert in one´s needs - and for further technical, social, pedagogical and intercultural work and co-operation. Experts benefit from ICC as a good opportunity for networking and learning - hands on and not in theory - from each other and to get to know concepts and methods applied in 21 different countries in Europe and worldwide.
The last two camps 2021 and 2022 had to be moved online, following the directive “Better digital than cancelled”. The barriers were too great for our hosts in Slovenia and Portugal to get national funding and to organise this big group of about 110 people not only safe and secure in terms of their blindness / visual disabilities but also concerning the pandemic and rising prices (not only for flights and travel). Well aware of the difference and drawbacks of limited social interaction, a limited number of participants and experts taking part online, these two camps were planned to keep the international group together and give them at least this chance of meeting up via internet until a meet up in presence wass feasible again.
And in this critical time, ICC is proud and happy to have EBU as competent, open minded and reliable partner at their side. Starting from a “bookmarked fund” that had to be postponed due to Corona starting its devastation some years ago, the partnership developed and ICC was in the lucky position to get the best EBU could give in this situation: peer experts leading great workshops, be it on self-advocacy, Andrej Hatar’s experiences on making lasting impressions or Vytautas Ziedelis, who guided us to his spectacular way of raising personal efficiency, saving time and gaining more control with modern apps, equipment and user proficiency!
This refreshing international atmosphere away from the (often difficult) daily life at home, the freedom in content and methods to concentrate on the youngsters´ needs and the intensive support put ICCs goals also in times of online camps into reach – we are looking forward very much in meeting up and experiencing what is possible with this new strong support at ICC 23 in Telč, Czech Republic that is already in preparation.
To “Celebrate it normal, as it was, but much better” as one of our participants 2022 summarised it.
Come and get involved: https://www.icc-camp.info