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ICC 2017 in Leuven

A brief history

In the Nineties, after many experiences with blind and partially sighted students, the universities of Linz and Karlsruhe came to the conclusion that supporting their transition from school to university was of paramount importance. That's how the idea of a summer camp was conceived, as a place where potential students could be met and helped at a very early stage.

The idea became more concrete in 1993, when the University of Linz took part in the EU workshop "New Study and Vocational Possibilities for Visually Handicapped Students" and could present it to a broader international group of experts. The approval was anonymous, but it was agreed to organize a national computer camp first, extending it to foreign countries only in case of satisfactory results.

Since then, ICC has taken place in different countries all over Europe, attended by about 1700 young people and led by 1300 experts.

What is ICC exactly?

The International Camp on Communication and Computers (ICC) is a summer camp for blind and partially sighted young people. It welcomes participants from Europe and Japan an takes place in a different country every year.

The camp aims to prepare the young participants for their higher education and the labour market. It provides them with a variety of workshops about technological aids and social skills, among which participants can choose to create their own personalized programme. For instance, they learn to work with screen readers and apps on different devices (laptops, smartphones etc.), with special attention to products and solutions still unknown to most, such as NVDA, the open-source screen reader for Windows. As for social skills workshops, they address many different topics: cooking, public speaking, assertiveness... The workshops are run by (often visually impaired) experts and professionals from the participating countries, which fosters the international exchange of knowledge and good practices.

ICC 2017

For its 23rd edition, the ICC will come to Belgium for the first time in its history: it will be hosted in Leuven between 23rd July and 1st August. The camp is open to about 60 blind and visually impaired people, aged between 16 and 21 and coming from 15-20 European countries and Japan.

During the camp, participants get to attend many interesting workshops focusing on a variety of topics (see above). Also, they can broaden their network, reaching out beyond their home country. They can play music, do sport, learn about different cultures, or simply relax and enjoy a drink, chatting away with their new international friends.

The camp is being organized by ICC Belgium, in close collaboration with Leuven University and with the support of the City of Leuven. Whereas workshops will take place in the Department of Electrical Engeneering (ESAT) of Leuven University, the night accommodation will be at the Blauwput, a youth hostel very close to the station.

ICC Belgium

ICC Belgium consists of young and enthusiastic volunteers, most of whom are visually impaired. Many of them have participated to ICC-camps themselves and run their own workshops. One idea they definitely have in common is that the ICC had a positive impact on their professional and social lives. "It was actually thanks to the ICC and its workshops that I went on Erasmus to England last year. Without that great experience, I doubt I would be where I am right now", says Anthony Reyers, the person in charge of communication at ICC Belgium. "Services for disabled people weren't always good there, so sometimes I even had to convert the course material myself. Fortunately, at the ICC I had learned to use a very handy software to do just that!".

The organization was set up in 2013, just some weeks after the ICC in the Czech Republic. That had been the first year that a full Belgian team had taken part in the camp; before that, the Belgians wanting to attend had always been joined to the Dutch team. And that is exactly how ICC Belgium came to life: with the desire to make the ICC camp more popular in Belgium.

Since then, the organization has always managed to send a full team to the camp, and will surely celebrate its successes this summer, hosting the first ICC in Belgium, and in the very city where it regularly gathers. Though its staff is still mostly from Flanders, the organization is taking serious steps to reach out to Wallony as well.

Sponsoring ICC

Preparations for the upcoming camp are far from over: ICC Belgium is training volunteers to guide participants, managing practical problems related to transport and meals, and, above all, looking for sponsors. The Lions Club has been sponsoring the project for a long while, and financial support also comes from the dinners in the dark, that ICC Belgium organizes on a regular basis. People who want to help with a donation can do so either through the crowd funding platform GoFundMe or with a bank transfer on ICC Belgium's account (BE96 0017 1193 4105). However, material support and helping hands are also extremely welcomed.

Two national events are planned for the upcoming months, organized in collaboration with the Catholic Association for the Handicapped (Katholieke Vereniging Gehandicapten, KVG): an ICC day, to simulate the ICC-camp and welcome anyone interested, and a dinner in the dark, to show sighted people what it's really like, to eat in complete darkness. The dinner in the dark will take place on 10th and 11th March in Kasteel van Hoen (Geetbets), whereas the ICC day will be held on 1st April in the Royal Institute of Woluwe.

FOr more information on all the above, you can visit ICC's website or ICC Belgium's website. Should you have questions, you can e-mail them at info@iccbelgium.org.