Sight impaired take to the ice in Portsmouth

By KIMBERLEY HAAS
Union Leader Correspondent
February 02. 2017 12:58AM
Jean Shiner of Exeter learns some new ice skating moves at Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth Wednesday afternoon. Volunteers Kenan Slevira and Erik Nylund showed Shiner how to turn. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

PORTSMOUTH — Half a dozen members of the Seacoast community with sight impairment learned some ice skating skills at Strawbery Banke’s Puddle Dock Pond Wednesday afternoon.

Stephanie Hurd, who works as a community relations coordinator for the New Hampshire Association for the Blind, said they organized the event so their members could get out and explore the joy of skating.

Hurd, who was born blind, said she had never had formal ice skating lessons before, and was thrilled to be paired up with Douglas Webster, who is the founding artistic director of Ice Dance International.

“(Webster) is already teaching me stuff I never knew. I don’t know how to officially ice skate. I would always just wing it, so it’s really neat to actually learn how to use your edges and then you get the motion going and it’s just incredible,” Hurd said.

Webster said Hurd has good balance, and he is confident she could visit the busy rink on her own in the future.

Hurd described what it is like to ice skate when you can’t see.

“You’re not looking around and, you know, distracted by other people, because you can’t see them anyway. So, you’re hearing the blade hit on the ice, and you’re feeling the movement and the flow,” Hurd said.

Jean Shiner of Exeter was assisted by volunteers Kenan Slevira, 13, and Erik Nylund, 29. They taught Shiner how to turn during the second part of her lesson.

“They’ve been great teachers; they’ve taught me a lot of techniques,” Shiner said. The most important thing Shiner picked up is the skill of stopping.

“I never knew how to stop on ice skates, so they taught me how to stop,” Shiner said.

VIDEO -- Skating at Strawbery Banke:



Strawbery Banke is partnering with the New Hampshire Association for the Blind on a multi-phase project to interpret the campus for people who are blind and visually impaired. 

According to Strawbery Banke president and CEO Lawrence Yerdon, the museum has worked hard in the past few years to ensure it is accessible to people with all types of disabilities.

“The collaboration with the New Hampshire Associaition for the Blind enables all of us to see the campus in a different way, and helps us appreciate how to create unique hands-on experiences that, in Ms. Hurd’s words, ‘allow for time to truly grasp the fully rich opportunities here,’” Yerdon said.

Strawbery Banke is a 10-acre outdoor history museum dedicated to bringing the history of the state’s first settlers to life. 

Every year, 95,000 people visit the museum in downtown Portsmouth.


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