Friday, 21 May 2010

When blind kids go camping.


Some unimaginative folks might think that blind and visually-impaired students would be less inclined to explore the great outdoors. My dorm mates and I at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind in Vancouver enjoyed camping just as much as our sighted peers. From my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, here is an account of two camping trips we took in 1969.

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Mr. Dunston took us camping again one May weekend. This campground was located near Tofino on the north end of Vancouver Island. Adding to the adventure was the news that we would go there by ferry. The only large ship I had ever travelled on before was a destroyer. Even then, we never left the harbour.

Once the bus was parked, Mr. Dunston allowed us to explore the ship. I eagerly wandered the decks, absorbed in studying the vessel. "Let's have a soccer game on the deck," Charlie said. As I knew the futility of arguing, I followed the others to an open spot. "Don't kick the ball over the side," Charlie admonished as we formed up into teams. I tried hard not to kick the ball overboard as I reluctantly played. On several occasions, the wind caught the ball and nearly carried it away. "I don't want to play anymore," I decided. "It's too windy." The other boys agreed and everybody scattered. Fortunately, Charlie was not angry that I ended his game.

The ferry docked at Nanaimo and Mr. Dunston drove the bus to our campsite. Since tents were already pitched for us, we were free to explore the grounds. I found a swing hanging from a pair of wooden poles. When I started pumping, I discovered it tired me out while not letting me gain any altitude so I quit.

I had a humorous experience that first night. I woke up and noticed what I thought were holes in the tent. The thought of getting rained on worried me. I hoped someone would fix those holes soon. Then it dawned on me, those were stars and I had somehow managed to get my head under the tent flap. I pulled it in and went back to sleep.

We also went to a campground on Bowen Island in May. It was especially designed for blind children. All the walkways were lined with railings on both sides and an open-air shelter had been built with protective rings around the supporting poles. I would have enjoyed that weekend but for my hay fever which first started bothering me that spring.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. This 196-page paperback, containing 6 black and white photos, sells for $25.00 through the PayPal-equipped InScribe writers group website. E-mail me for further information or if you don't have PayPal but still wish to place an order.

camping, "Bowen Island", blind, Nanaimo, "Vancouver Island", Tofino