ICC - Idea & Philosophy
The idea to organise Camps on Communication and Computers for blind and partially sighted students is simple - and this simplicity seems to be its power:
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, started their work of supporting blind and partially at university by taking the effort to enable blind and partially sighted students to study equally in mainstream courses and mainstream fields of study - the usage of ICT and AT was a prerequisite from the very beginning.
The concept of support focused on the supply with study materials in digital formats and in consequence on the usage of the computer for every study aspect. Like a wheelchair enhances the physical mobility of people with a motor disability, the computer enhances the "literal" mobility of this target group by opening a door to the "digital universe", easily accessed by computers equipped to meet its needs.
Additionally the process of making a profound decision what and where to study, to find out how to organise one's educational career and where to get the support needed calls for counselling and supply of information. Once the decision is made it is necessary to prepare the new career.
The high complexity of this process for blind and partially sighted youngsters in terms of technical, pedagogical as well as social aspects asks for an early start of preparation well ahead their entry at university. That is what ICC was developed for.
The International Camp on Communication and Computers
- Aims at making young blind and partially sighted students aware on the benefits of efficiently using Information and Communication Technology as well as Assistive Technologies, what skills are a "must", 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 educational and vocational paths and motivates an early and profound preparation before starting,
- Is an excellent opportunity to make contact with partially sighted and blind peers from other countries and to exchange interests and experiences and build up social networks.
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 20 years, ICC is still an encouraging and promising event.
Applying Technology - A Social Process
ICT, equipped with custom-fit AT devices, is accessible to blind and partially sighted and furthermore facilitate their integration into society and community. Access to information (in apted digital formats) grants new possibilities and chances. Might it be in school, higher education, job, leisure time, culture, or politics: The better these possibilities are used, the greater are the chances for a successful integration.
Nevertheless: Integration and segregation are social processes we build up in our everyday thinking and acting and technology influences social processes but is in no case a solution by itself. This means that "handicaps" might not be "compensated" by just applying technology – or even worse:
Technology applied the right way has the potential to improve situations; used the wrong way it builds up new barriers.
'Pure technology' often causes problems because of the lack of reflecting the usage in complex social situations. Therefore ICC must never be a pure technical event but is an event on the application of technology in a socially reflected manner.
The Basic Role of Inclusive Education
The increasing complexity of everyday life and the even higher complexity resulting from a visual impairment require educational processes and initiatives at diverse levels. Education is the key for participating in all kinds of processes within society and its importance is still growing.
Inclusion into mainstream education becomes 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 because this system is too complex and changing 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 into educational processes.
European integration asks for 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.
Taking into account the (still existing) discrimination of blind and partially sighted people, the importance of education and the existing and increasing technical tools of support, the need of initiatives for taking up these chances in a socially reflected manner is obvious. Of course, a single computer camp is not able to solve all the problems stated above - 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. ICC is also a good opportunity for experts taking part: to learn - hands on and not in theory - from each other and to get to know concepts and methods applied in other countries.
- Teachers and specialists from all over Europe accompanying the students or preparing a special workshop have a unique opportunity to learn from other colleagues, other cultures and concerning their professional working area.
- Last but not least ICC offers a unique chance to the local organisers to make the public aware of their work and the need for integration and inclusion. The big audience the camps always get as "sensational events" with technical, social and international highlights in local, national and international press, radio and TV can support the PR work.
The refreshing international atmosphere away from the often difficult daily life, the freedom in contents and methods to concentrate on the youngsters´ needs and the intensive support put these goals into reach.