ICC 2015 in Zeist, the Netherlands

Before we get to the article, be sure to check these ICC2015-related videos:

Time for another report on ICC, this time at the Bartiméus institute in Zeist, the Netherlands…

This took place from July 27th until August 5th.

Just like last year, I decided to travel by airplane; but this
time, the only thing my parents did was booking the flight tickets,
and I organized the rest by myself, such as booking assistance at the
airport, getting in touch with ICC to arrange things, etc.

As for the flight, there was a little delay, and it somehow appeared
to me like the ground staff was a little bit unorganized, as far as
assistance was concerned. Although they announced that, to simplify
things, handicapped people should board the plane first, they
eventually boarded me somewhat in the middle of the boarding process
with the other passengers. To be honest, as long as I can make it on
the plane I don’t absolutely care whether they board me first or
somewhat later; but as I was used to the fact that they would actually
show up straight away to board handicapped people first, I have to
admit that I was a little afraid that they have forgotten me.

After touch-down in Amsterdam Schiphol, it took us a while to find
the Dutch volunteers standing by at the airport to fetch ICC
delegations. However, we were able to sort it out quickly by giving
them a call. When all the people were found, they took us to the
premises of the Bartiméus institute by bus.

On the campus of Bartiméus, the dormitory was divided into two
so-called pavillons. One pavillon had a rather weird key system, to
make it even funnier, only three people per six-bedroom got a key
attached to their name badge. Well, at least those people had a reason
not to forget their name badges, a thing that obviously happens to a
lot of people on ICC in general. 😉 Furthermore, the key had to be in
a diagonal, upside-down position to insert it into the keyhold.
Eventually, in order to open the door, you had to press against it,
turn the key, then pull the door towards you and pray. Oh dear, I
heard stories of people who spent three quarters of an hour in front
of that door, trying to get it open. There were suggestions for a
workshop especially for this mysterious door.
Getting inside the other pavillon was a piece of cake; just hold your
name badge in front of a scanner, and an electric door will open
automatically. In fact, it was the more modern pavillon, as you mmight
already have guessed.

Besides all that, ICC in Zeist was just awesome as hell! The welcoming
ceremony was more interactive than in Riga, and they straight away
formed groups of people to get to know people quicker, actually
getting away from your own delegations. During the ceremony, we
learned a lot about the Netherlands, their culture and, of course,
their food.
As a special orientation feature, they introduced iBeacons, in combination with their ViaVia app, explicitly developed for the Bartiméus campus. The iBeacon system during the camp worked as follows: After installing the ViaVia app on your smartphone, you could mark locations that ViaVia should notify you about if you are nearby within a range of approximately 10 meters. On special occasions, some iBeacons contained certain messages that were pushed to your phone together with the location notification. The disadvantage there was the battery loss, as your location is constantly tracked and, to interact with the iBeacons, Bluetooth has to be activated all the time.
Instead of labeling certain areas with braille, they completely relied on our smartphone and our orientation skills and therefore just put a QR-code underneath the print label. Thanks to apps like Quickmark, scanning the codes was quite easy; however, it took me a while to actually get the hang of it.

When the welcoming ceremony was over, the ICC café opened just next
door to the assembly hall, where drinks and snacks were sold for a
cheap price. In fact, I can conclude that the ICC café was one of the
best and successful ideas they had, because it gave us the chance to
keep partying outside the dormitories, sitting together with some cool
people and just enjoying the evening. Officially, the ICC café was open
between 21:00 and 23:00, inofficially until 12:00 or 01:00AM.

As for the first day, they showed us around the campus and its
buildings, as well as some of the surroundings and the nearest bus
stop, equipped with a talking info terminal. After configuring our
accounts to access the internal ICC network, it was lunch-time. For
everyday’s lunch we could have sandwiches or typical Dutch snacks,
such as fleeskrokettjes, Frikandeln, etc. Eet Smakkelijk!
At 14:00, as usual, we had an assembly meeting and starter workshops.
This time, we were able to choose from four different starter
workshops, which were CV-Writing, Networking, Presentation and
Advanced Document Creation. Just as usual, there is a coffee break during the workshop phases.
As for the workshops in general, there was a large number of technical workshops about the Raspberry Pi, the Apple watch, the usual app exchange and introductions to Mac OS, iOS and Android, NVDA, Audacity, and more. Of course, there’s no ICC without social workshops concerning cultural exchange, the personal appearance, relaxation, etc. Just like last year, the workshop “How can I help you and how the world looks at me” was also available again, in which we discussed ways how “normal” people can possibly “interact” with us and how to, if necessary, change this. Furthermore, there was a lot of room for sharing our own funny or bad experiences to discuss about how to deal with any of those situations.
The biggest highlight, in my opinion, was the ICC Radio workshop. This workshop had six hours in length and was set up in cooperation with Radio509, a Dutch radiostation for blind and visually impaired people. After an introduction to radio in general, the first part of the workshop was mainly taken by working out the concept and finding people for some interviews. Therefore, we splitted up in two groups: The technical team was responsible for the equipment and sound editing, whereas the creative group was responsible for planning the show.
In the end, we came up with a 45 minute radio show, in which we interviewed participants, staff, and volunteers responsible for different departments and activities on ICC. In between, we played popular songs from different countries.

Leisure activities were offered after dinner. Some of them were:

  • Showdown
  • Movie night, where we could watch selected movies with audiodescription
  • Karaoke
  • Sightseeing in Zeist
  • Speed dating
  • The Gadget Lounge: a room with a couple of iMacs, some Apple watches, and other electrical aids useful for the blind and visually impaired, free for testing!
  • And last but not least, the Audio Water Challenge, proudly organized by Libby and Bernie from the US: Here, you equip yourselves with water guns, water bombs and other stuff that holds and sprays enough water when throwing it away. One person gets a long trenchcoat with a buzzer in one of its pockets, notifying the attackers about your current location while running down the track, always clinging on the rope to walk into the right direction. On the track, there are some obstacles to clear and tasks to fulfill, such as picking up some stuff from a bucket hanging down the rope, as well as finding a way to get past the bridge formed by four people who try to prevent you from getting past them, stealing time that you actually need to make it to the finish before the others blast you away with their water supplies.

In addition, the Dutch staff organized special iBeacon activities. Forgive me as I don’t know what it was about exactly, but from what I remember, it was something about visiting certain places on the campus, getting certain messages pushed to the smartphone with letters to form a word they were looking for. In any case, the delegation that won the contest got one round of free drinks in the ICC café.

As always, we had a great excursion day to Utrecht, 8 kilometers away from Zeist. First, we did a dom tower climbing activity at the Utrecht dom. There, we got introduced to some sort of piano the bell tower can be operated with. In addition, the tour guide showed us a place with plenty of bells scattered across the platform, each with a huge ringer. These bells were obviously used as a torturing method back in the middle-age.
On our way from the dom tower to our next activity, Libby and Bernie decided that it was time for a little snack. They bought a huge bag of fries, sharing them with the rest of the group. Hmmm, heel lekker hor! 😉

Next, we were invited to go on a tour through the Spelklok museum, the largest museum for self-playing instruments of the world. We had lots of fun listening to the stories that our tour guide could tell us about the different clocks, their mechanisms to play the music and how and for what purpose they were invented for. The most interesting instruments they showed us were a self-playing piano and a violin; but what impressed me the most was the so-called “Golden Limunaire”, a giant barrel organ from France, which is capable of immitating drums and the human voice (at least it tries to). Operating this thing can be quite a challenge, because it is a little heavy in the beginning and, when spinning the wheel, you have to keep spinning with a constant speed. Don’t mess it up, otherwise it may sound a little weird.
Lunch was served in the museum, after which we splitted up and formed groups to either explore the city, go shopping or, from what I heard as well, joining Libby and Bernie on a cannoo ride. I joined some of the German folks to get a memory stick from an electronics store. Once done, it was time for some soft-ice and a chillout on the market square, before we eventually went back to the good old Spelklok museum for a piano concert by Bert Van Den Brink, who was a former student of Bartiméus and no, the piano was not self-playing in this case, I can assure you that! 😀
And of course, what would a Dutch excursion day be without a boat trip on the so-called grachten??? After three quarters of an hour or so, we stranded in Bunnik for dinner. Before we went back to Bartiméus by bus, we enjoyed the weather outside the restaurant singing songs in different languages.

On Sunday, we got the opportunity to attend a church service nearby, which started at 10AM. Alternatevely, we could stay in bed longer because, as usual, Sunday mornings on ICC are free of workshops. In the evening, I skipped leisure time activities and joined the Belgian delegation for a walk into the city. We ended up at a café and had a nice portion of Bitterballen and some drinks, while enjoying the weather outside, joking, singing, and having a lot of fun.

Tuesday, August 4th, the last day before departure: It’s sad to think about leaving the next day, but fun can’t last for ever…
during the second half of the camp), groups of different delegations (in our case, the German delegation was together with the Austrian delegation) were found to prepare a performance and, if possible, rock the house! We attended our last workshop in the morning, the afternoon was free which we used to pack our stuff and practise our performance.
As for dinner, we had a great barbecue outside before the party and the performances started; same procedure as last year, more or less… well, the barbecue was new, as well as the extremely long opened ICC café for the last chillout or to escape from the dance-floor. 😛

Nothing really imparticular to talk about for the day of departure… together with some Dutch staff and volunteers, we ended up to be the last guys remaining. One great advantage there: We could enjoy one more Dutch lunch and, as a big plus, eat as much as we wanted! After chatting with some of the volunteers who joined us for lunch, it was time to say good bye and board the airport taxi.
The flight was a piece of cake, no delays, no worries, no complaints, just a normal flight back to Germany.
Back in Hamburg, my mother picked me up from the airport and we went home by train.

What else can I say before ending this? Well, our WhatsApp and Skype group expanded, because we decided to open both groups for anyone who so far participated at any past ICC-Camps other than Riga or Zeist. I must admit that I first was a little sceptic, but it was a hell of a good idea. Just because you haven’t met some of the past ICC participants on any of the ICCs you attended doesn’t mean you can’t meet them anyway.
Concerning ICC in Zeist in general, I never regret participating at ICC 2015! I met a lot of people whom I have already met the year before in Latvia, plus I met a lot of new friends in the Netherlands; but on ICC, it doesn’t play a roll how long you already know each other. In any case, your network won’t stop growing!

I would like to give a special thanks shoutout to the following people:

  • Joachim Klaus, our national coordinator until 2016, for having me aboard the German group for a second time!
  • Henk Snetselaar, all the volunteers and Bartiméus for the great organization of this unforgettable ICC-Camp!
  • And last but not least, I would like to thank my parents and my family for, once more, trusting in my abilities and experiences necessary to travel independently. You are totally right, nothing is considered to be impossible in first place!

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