The Camp Abilities Story

The Global Evolution of Sports Camps for Children Who Are Visually Impaired

By Lauren J. Lieberman

Subjects: Special Education, Education, General Interest, New York/regional, Sports And Society
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438491943, 256 pages, February 2023

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

Paul Ponchillia
Prologue: Just over the Horizon

1. Growing Up
Dad, Can I Have a Unicycle?
Introduction to Adapting
Going to Camp
Choosing a Path in Higher Education
More to Learn

2. Perkins School for the Blind
Keeping My Eye on the Goalball
Sometimes We Learn the Hard Way
New Opportunities

3. Becoming a Professor
Usher-Friendly Volleyball
Working with Deaf Children
What’s Your Dream?

4. Birth of Camp Abilities
From Dream to Reality
Camp Begins
Some Early Lessons

5. A Day in the Life of a Camper
Settling In
Breakfast Takes Practice
Believe You Can Achieve!
Sharing Our Accomplishments with Each Other
After Lunch We Put Our Feet on the Bed
Wrapping Things Up at Dinner
Bringing in the Next Generation with Camp Can Do
Giving Campers a Finish Line
Giving Campers a Chance to Show Their Talents

6. Beyond Brockport: Camp Abilities Expands
Camp Abilities Alaska
Camp Abilities Arizona
Camp Abilities Puerto Rico
Camp Abilities Pennsylvania

7. Changing the Game
Thriving by Adapting
Beep Kickball and Judy Byrd
When Campers Change Their Own Game
Bringing Worlds Together
Building Future Leaders

8. We Can Do Hard Things
Hard Hits from the Outside
Never Giving Up
Hard Calls on the Inside
Tragedy Strikes

9. Getting Help
Diving Deeper: Water Activities
Look No Further Than Family

10. Further Expansions
Long Island
Saratoga, New York

11. Extending Our Reach
Winter Camp Abilities
Kosher Camp Abilities
Camp Abilities in the Media
Expanding Camp Abilities in St. Louis

12. Camp Abilities around the World
Costa Rica

13. Fulbright Global Scholar Award
Mission Complete (or Not)

14. Moving Forward and Changing Lives
The Making of a Paralympian
Virtual Camp Abilities
Continuing Virtual in 2021
Kenya Camp Abilities

Epilogue: The Future of Camp Abilities

The uplifting story of how one camp gave children with visual impairment new confidence in their own abilities.


In 1995, Lauren Lieberman was an assistant professor with a dream: to form an educational sports camp for children who are visually impaired. Beginning with a small grant, Lieberman built a local program that grew into a worldwide movement. The Camp Abilities model has now been replicated all over the United States and in ten other countries. The Camp Abilities Story relates Lieberman's journey—from her earliest experiences in sports, to her "aha moment" during college, to her Fulbright scholarship and starting Camp Abilities programs worldwide. With an inspirational yet honest view of how a dream to make a difference in the world was tempered by the reality of the hard work necessary to change lives, the lessons herein are applicable to anyone with a dream to make the world a better place.

Lauren J. Lieberman is Distinguished Service Professor at the State University of New York at Brockport. Her many books include Universal Design for Learning in Physical Education (coauthored with Michelle Grenier, Ali Brian, and Katrina Arndt) and Strategies for Inclusion: Physical Education for All (coauthored with Cathy Houston-Wilson).


"Lauren Lieberman's The Camp Abilities Story serves as an essential reminder of the importance of physical activity as confidence builder for young people who are blind—confidence not only in moving through space in an orientation and mobility training sense, but perhaps even more so in everyday living. Reading Lauren's book reminded me personally of learning these lessons as a first-, second- and third-grader at the Oregon State School for the Blind, from backpacking through the Three Sisters Wilderness area to running on the beach. Lauren's story of how Camp Abilities made the leap from idea to reality is an inspirational journey of affecting positive change in the lives of thousands, and illustrating what we are all truly capable of." — Kirk Adams President and CEO, American Foundation for the Blind

"Once you read Lauren's story, your expectation of human potential will expand accordingly. The Camp Abilities Story is an endearing and honest memoir of Lauren's passion and calling for the world to see the potential in every child." — Marla Runyan, Olympian and Paralympic medal winner

"Dr. Lieberman's book not only offers incredible insight into the running and development of Camp Abilities, but also shows an even deeper, more personal look into her commitment to improving the lives of blind and visually impaired children around the world. Not only does the book discuss the growth of Camp Abilities, it also tackles the issue of improving expectations in both children and parents by showing both parties what the child is fully capable of. With personal testimony and a detailed account of the camp's development, The Camp Abilities Story is an inspirational and motivating read." — Martha Reuther, Paralympian and former Camp Abilities camper

"I began my career as an adapted physical education teacher and athletic coach fifty-two years ago. From that vantage point, I deeply appreciate Lauren's unique and transformative contributions. With her 'can do' clear vision, passion, and perseverance, she built a successful model that has grown internationally. What is impressive is how she—the teacher—learned from her students and, in response to them and their needs, designed a program that I call a 'smorgasbord of sports.' The participants can sample a wide and rich 'spread,' ultimately finding one or two tasty and enjoyable entries that become lifelong favorites. The book would be of value to any one in any human service field or commercial enterprise. It spells out how a pioneer with vision, passion and perseverance—that is one who listens to the end-user or customer can build a successful franchise, scale it, and reach the 'tipping point' where there is no stopping it. The book is a great read, one from which the reader will learn and become motivated. Thanks for the insight on how your wonderful Camp Abilities came about. Thanks especially for providing a meaningful skill development opportunity and confidence boost to our youngster who, in turn, demonstrate to the general public first-hand that disability doesn't mean inability." — Dr. Michael Bina, Chairman Board of Directors United States Association of Blind Athletes

"Lauren Lieberman's memoir on changing what it means to be blind through empowering sports experiences for children who are visual impaired or deafblind, is honest, thought provoking, and bursts with courageous energy! As a leader in the field of Adapted Physical Activity, Lieberman invites us to look into the development of her passion for equal opportunity for children with visual impairments in the area of physical activity and sports, and learn who has inspired and helped her on this journey of creating world-wide sports programs called 'Camp Abilities'. If you are a parent, teacher, student, consumer, therapist, or just want to be inspired to help change the world for others, you must read Lauren Lieberman's book. You will understand how Lieberman has created an atmosphere of 'Believe You Can Achieve' for children who others have told them they can't." — Monica Lepore, B.S., M.S., M.Ed., Ed.D., Certified Adapted Physical Educator

"Thanks for giving me the privilege to read your inspiring book … wow … what an amazing story!! You have created a safe, motivating, and loving space for the campers to achieve, excel and build life skills. Lauren you have forever changed their world indeed. You are making the world a better place by showcasing the potential of people who are visually impaired or blind. This book is a gift." — Julie Schreck, Fish Biologist with The National Forest Service and longtime friend

"Lauren Lieberman shares her journey as the founder and director of Camp Abilities, a one-week developmental sport camp for children with visual impairments. This book depicts the ups and downs of how Dr. Lieberman made her dream of teaching children with visual impairments what they are capable of into a worldwide reality. If your dream is to change the lives of children, read this book and learn from someone who has been doing it for over twenty-five years." — Justin A. Haegele, Assistant Professor, Old Dominion University

"Lauren's perspective is educating both visually impaired and sighted communities on the importance of inspiring these youth to get involved with sports. Being a visually impaired athlete myself, I have WITNESSED the power of Camp Abilities and the effect it has had on my life and others. The Camp Abilities Story is an insightful and inspiring memoir." — Griffin Pinkow, elite blind cyclist and founder of The Foreseeable Future Foundation