At the BOEC, the Paralympic Games, the Invictus Games and in many families, “VI” stands for Visually Impaired which can mean many different levels of vision for each person. One of BOEC’s friends and supporters is a woman from Maine who learned about “VI” first-hand. In the 1980s, Sue Bramhall began to lose her eyesight to Retinitis Pigmentosa. In the years since, Sue has slowly progressed from visually impaired to legally blind to nearly completely blind. Rather than retreat, however, Sue has made her mark on the VI world and now on BOEC, too.
Above all else, Sue loves to travel. When her failing vision threatened to keep her at home, she came to a realization: There must be other visually impaired people who also love to travel but who also couldn’t quite, well, see how to do it. Sue decided she would find a way, for herself and for them. And she did. Since 2006, Sue has been creating special tours for the blind and visually impaired individuals all over the world.
We See Things In Our Mind’s Eye
She named her venture Mind’s Eye Travel because, she says, “we see things in our mind’s eye.” Working with cruise lines, hotels, tour companies and guides, Sue puts together itineraries that offer sensory experiences beyond the visual, from a hymn echoing through Notre Dame Cathedral to the roar and spray of an Icelandic waterfall to the swaying of a ropes course 30 feet above the ground.
The ropes course is where the BOEC comes in. Some years ago, Sue’s daughter and son-in-law moved to Breckenridge. Sue and her husband followed them, at first for a week or two each winter and then spending more and more time here. By chance (we like to think it was meant to be), Sue and her husband met Claire DiCola, who joined BOEC as an intern in 2004 and is now our Director of Admissions.
Claire said to Sue’s husband, Silvio, “Oh, you ski, and you know how to work with blind people—we can use you!” Silvio’s first winter as a volunteer with BOEC sold him on the ski program. And then Sue, always in search of new travel experiences, sat down with Claire to design a summer BOEC Wilderness experience to offer her clients.
Mind’s Eye Travel Comes to BOEC For Some Adventure!
The Mind’s Eye Travel group would stay in the Griffith Lodge and every day take on different high-country adventures, from the climbing wall, the ropes course and the zip-line to kayaking on the pond and whitewater rafting on the Colorado River.
“My clients were a little apprehensive about the challenges,” Sue says, “but the week sold out quickly. And then most of us were half-terrified at least half the time, but the BOEC instructors were absolutely wonderful. Everyone went home so proud of what they’d achieved. They all wanted to do it again!”
Mind’s Eye Travel relies on volunteer sighted guides—people Sue has trained in O&M (Orientation and Mobility). For each trip, Sue enlists as many guides as needed, often one per client. The guides receive the trip—and a great sense of having done something worthwhile—as their compensation. Perceptive, empathetic guides are key. “When we came to the BOEC that first time, the staff were so good, so patient and attentive,” Sue says, “that I knew I wanted to have them along on other trips, too.”
Mind’s Eye Travel and BOEC have now created three Colorado adventures; and in their free time members of BOEC’s staff have joined Sue as sighted guides on Mind’s Eye tours in Maine, California, and Wyoming. As you read this, two former BOEC volunteers are assisting Sue’s travelers on a Mekong River cruise in Vietnam and Cambodia.
Positive vibes from these joint ventures have radiated in all directions, says Sue. “A producer from NPR joined our Maine trip, in September, to research a story, and of course she met our Breck guides [Lindsay Riggs, Eddie Nadolny, Gardner Popp and Sarah Sweet] and heard about the BOEC, too. And for us personally, our involvement with BOEC has led to new friendships and made us think of Breckenridge as truly a second home.”
When Will Sue and Mind’s Eye Travel Return to BOEC? Soon We Hope!
“Now my husband is telling me it’s time for Mind’s Eye to offer a winter program in Breckenridge. I think that’s an idea whose time has come. We love our relationship with BOEC.”
We love the work you do as well Sue, which brings the excitement of travel and adventure to those living with visual impairments. We hope that another trip to the BOEC for a winter or summer adventure is on the books soon!
You can learn more about Mind’s Eye Travel and the extraordinary adventures they have coming up from their website at www.mindseyetravel.com.