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Unisys Hosts Special Camp

Aug. 7, 2002

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Three area middle school students are being schooled to the art of web page design this summer.

Jessica Whitney, Igor Semyenob, and Cris Arenivar are participants in a camp hosted by Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind (CLB), Unisys Corporation, and Northern Virginia Regional Partnership.

Unisys Corporation’s Reston branch is the host of this particular camp. It has participated in this capacity for the past three years, said Julie del Rosario, a Unisys spokesperson.

This program is one of many offered by CLB. Students employ a variety of software to create their own web pages.

The software includes Jaws, a program that provides audio as to what the mouse is pointing to, and Zoomtext, a program that enlarges on-screen text.

"THE CHILDREN CONTROL all aspects of their web site," said Tracy Leonard, the instructor at the camp.

"I really enjoy making web pages," said Whitney, 14 and attending her first web development camp.

Semyenob, 12, is a veteran of CLB camps, and is capable of taking a computer apart and reassembling it.

"We had to tell his parents that if he went home and took their computer apart, we weren't liable, " joked Leonard.

The children's web sites focused on sports, music, or their personality.

CLB is a national non-profit, based in Washington D.C., that provides training to about 500 visually impaired persons annually. Besides having this camp for middle school students in Reston, there is alsom a camp for high school students in Fairfax at the Government Center.

"We have programs and services for the vision impaired so they can achieve independence at home and at work," said Kim Zimmer, vice president of CLB.

CLB also hosts a week-long residential camp in the Shenandoah Valley, and Camp Lighthouse, a day camp in Washington D.C. The organization also offers a variety of services to adults, including employment counseling and placement.

The class sizes are generally very low at these camps.

“We keep it low so we can provide a great deal of one-on-one instruction,” said Leonard.

UNEMPLOYMENT among the legally blind and visually impaired is a definite issue in this country, said John McInerney of CLB. According to statistics compiled by the American Foundation for the Blind in 1995, there are seven to 10 million people who are blind or visually impaired.

Legal blindness in the United States means a person's vision is 20/200 or less in the better eye when using the best possible eyeglass correction.

For those legally blind or visually impaired of "working age," which is given as 18 to 69 years old, about 60 percent are unemployed. The figure is even higher when the survey group becomes just those who are legally blind, climbing to 70 percent.

CLB continues to work against this trend with the programs and training they offer.

"It's important to target kids so they can compete in both school and in the workforce," said Zimmer.