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Space camp offers blind kids an out-of-world experience

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Eleven-year-old Josh and 14-year-old Matthew are typical brothers. They enjoy throwing the football and beating each other in video games.

Josh and Matthew Lipsy (Photo: Pam Brown)

But they share something that makes them different from most.

By age six, both started going blind. By age nine, their vision was mostly gone. What was once familiar to them, like being the star pitcher, was no longer an option.

But what makes them feel alone in the real world, makes them just like everyone else at space camp.

Matthew started going six years ago - with his little brother not far behind. They operate shuttle simulators, work a NASA-like control room and even swim their way out of a sinking helicopter.

Now even Hollywood is getting in on the action, with a made-for-TV movie about a teacher who broke through barriers to bring the first class of special education kids to space camp.

Two years after that first class, West Virginia native Dan Oates brought the first group of visually impaired kids to the camp in 1990.

Oates is an educational outreach specialist at the West Virginia School for the Blind and has taken 2,400 kids down to Huntsville, Ala. for the past 22 years.

“We were walking into a place we had never been,” he says. “The kids had never been.”

He made sure braille, larger print, screen magnification and audio were available to make it fun and normal for the kids.

As for Matthew and Josh, they can't wait to blast off for another week of camp in September.

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