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Oklahoma City residents medal at School for the Blind Cane Quest contest

By Darla Shelden, City Sentinel Reporter —

OKLAHOMA CITY– Three Oklahoma City residents have earned medals at Oklahoma School for the Blind’s (OSB) eighth annual Oklahoma Regional Cane Quest competition, held in Muskogee.

Two sophomores, Elbin Carillo and Julio Valdez, earned medals in the Trailblazers category for competitors in grades 10-12.  Carrillo won a gold medal and Valdez was awarded the silver medal.

Six-grader Quante Sellers earned a Top Scouts award for grades 3-6.

All the medalists are OSB students. They competed to earn points and win prizes with 31 other cane users from across the state.

Cane Quest contestants each received t-shirts, goodie bags, and certificates.  

Effective cane travel is a key to independence and therefore employment, according to OSB, a division of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.

Traditionally, Cane Quest occurs on a single day in Muskogee. This year OSB organizers adapted to safely hold the event in spite of COVID-19.

Students in 7th through 12th grades are judged on their use of appropriate cane skills and travel techniques on downtown routes. Younger contestants in 3rd through 6th grades compete in a variety of travel tasks on the OSB campus.

“This year was markedly different,” said Faye Miller, OSB certified orientation and mobility instructor (COMS) and Cane Quest regional organizer. “Contestants worked one-on-one with an OSB COMS either in person or virtually.”

“The contest took several weeks to complete instead of just one day of fun, and contestants had to wait to see how they fared against their peers,” Miller said.

Scoring criterion was changed to accommodate the virtual format.

“Instead of outdoor routes in the community, contestants competed indoors and were scored on a variety of specialized cane techniques,” Miller said. “They followed multiple-step directions to demonstrate their understanding of spatial concepts and used lateral and cardinal directions to locate targets as well as techniques for traveling with human guides.”

Lateral directions use is an understanding of the left and right sides of competitors’ bodies.

Contestants must also keep track of their spatial relationship to cardinal directions, which represent north, south, east, and west.

“We made the commitment to continue Cane Quest in 2020 because this important competition helps students demonstrate mobility skills and make the connection between efficient cane travel and independence,” OSB Superintendent Rita Echelle said.

Event sponsors are Oklahoma School for the Blind, Braille Institute of America, Liberty Braille, Frank Dirksen, NanoPac, NewView Oklahoma, Oklahoma Association for Education and Rehabilitation and Oklahoma Council of the Blind.

Additional sponsors include Ruth Kelly Studios, OG&E, Reliant Rehabilitation, Sapulpa Lions Club, SERVPRO and OSU Cooperative Extension Services.

The Oklahoma School for the Blind is a fully accredited public school that offers a complete educational program, tuition free, for blind and visually impaired students from pre-school through high school. 

Residential and commuter students meet all state-mandated education requirements and receive specialized instruction in Braille, orientation and mobility, optimum use of low vision, adaptive equipment technology and tactile graphic skills not readily available at other public schools in the state.

As the statewide resource for the education of blind and visually impaired students, OSB also provides thousands of hours of free services each year for students attending local public schools, their families and local school staff.

For more information about OSB or Cane Quest, call toll free 877-229-7136 or visit osb.k12.ok.us

This story first appeared online on Feb. 16, 2021.