Nine-year-old Taylor Adolph can tell if a room is dark or not, but mainly he just sees shadows.
Yesterday, with the help of a pair of white gloves and employees at the Toledo Museum of Art, he saw and felt much more.
Taylor rubbed his hands against the carved stone image on one of the pillars in the Cloisters section of the museum trying to figure out what it looked like.
When someone asked Taylor, a Hawkins Elementary School student, what a gargoyle was, he blurted out without hesitation: "A manlike creature that flies."
Taylor was one of five students who traveled to the museum as part of a weeklong camp for visually impaired students. It was just one of several new experiences for the campers.
The camp was created last year through a grant to assist visually impaired students with life skills, said Lori Board, children's specialist with the Sight Center of Northwest Ohio, which operates the camp.
Ms. Board said the learning process Taylor experienced through touch means a lot to the sight-impaired students, who often struggle to find acceptance in their schools and later in the working world.
"There is a very low rate of visually impaired people who can find work after graduation because they can't live independently and can't get from one place to another," Ms. Board said. "These kids will always use public transportation because they can't drive. In this camp, these kids planned their own route [to get to the museum]. They had to call TARTA and had to figure out what bus to catch. We're merely facilitators; the kids are doing all of the work."
Between learning to appreciate the art museum and cooking double-crust pizzas, tacos, and cookies, Ms. Board said the students are on their way to growing up and living successfully with their visual impairment.
Upon arriving at the museum, the students gathered in Libbey Court and then moved to the Cloisters area, where they put on the white gloves and examined the pillars and other objects. They later examined sculptures from the Middle East and toured the Peristyle Theater.
Candace Roper, 17, a senior at Waite High School, said she found the camp and the trip to the museum reassuring. She said the museum is a place where she didn't have to worry about being accepted.
"I think [the museum] was pretty cool because we never got a chance to touch stuff before," Candace said with a laugh. "This is my second year at the camp. It's fun and I can be with people my own age without worrying about being made fun of."
Brianna Snyder, 16, a sophomore at Toledo Early College High School, said she has attended special classes at the Sight Center before, but it was unique to touch different sculptures at the museum and learn about them.
"I like ancient Greece and ancient Roman [sculptures] because I'm into ancient stuff," Brianna said. "It was fun being here with [other visually impaired students] because they're nice, and it was cool to talk to some of them."
Before the trip to the museum, the students spent part of the day cooking their lunch and learning bus routes, things those with sight take for granted. Ms. Board said developing those skills will help the students lead independent lives later.
The students will visit the University of Toledo recreation center today and the Levis Commons development in Perrysburg tomorrow.
Contact Clyde Hughes