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Living with a disability

Four students share how they manage
By Brenda Lopez - THE COLLEGIAN
October 28, 2013

Daniel Martinez
Arlene Laboy
Glenn Grissom
Ramiro Espinoza

Last Tuesday, about 50 people attended “In Our Shoes,” a panel presentation  in which four UT-Brownsville students spoke about how they manage their disability.

The event, which took place in the Main  Building’s Salón Cassia, was part of the university’s observance of Accessibility Awareness Week.

The panelists struggle with visual and hearing impairments, sleep apnea and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Daniel Martinez, a senior education major, was injured in an accident, resulting in the loss of his vision. “Can you imagine yourself being a teacher, standing in front of the class and… the first thing you see is me. I’m a blind student … and you have no idea what to do.” Martinez said that professors get nervous because their perception of blind students is usually not a positive one. “They think because someone is blind they cannot read,”

Martinez said. “They think because someone is blind they cannot collaborate in the classroom, and that’s not always the fact.”

He said that because of the Office of Disability Services, he is able to participate in class. The department provides a document for Martinez to give professors which states that he is blind and needs accommodations to help him get through a course.

“I have access to the technology inside the classroom,” he said. “I have the textbook in an accessible format, either in Braille or in audio, or because I have a digital recorder that will allow me to take notes. All this and more help me be productive in the classroom.”

Martinez said that sometimes he struggles with the work in class because there are images on the board or the professor sometimes posts things on Blackboard, and he can’t see it.

Senior psychology major Arlene Laboy is a veteran who has post-traumatic stress disorder due a military experience that happened in 2005.

“I started school here in fall and [there were] very large classes,” Laboy said. “I started experiencing difficulties, especially during testing. So, that’s how I first contacted the testing center. I contacted Mr. [Steve] Wilder, and he let me know about some services that I could benefit from which I use today.”

She said these services have helped her with note-taking and during tests, she goes to a testing area so she can concentrate better. “I believe these services are great for us because it prevents us from getting discouraged and reaching our goals, just like anybody else,” Laboy said.

Laboy is the president of Veteran Females United and is trying to get additional services for veterans.

Glenn Grissom, a graduate student in biophysics, suffers from sleep apnea and narcolepsy. He is also satisfied with the program that is offered by Disability Services.

“I’m very thankful to the program that’s here,” Grissom said. “I think without it, school would be much more difficult for me. When I first got to UTB, I wasn’t aware of the program, and testing in some class situations were difficult. It was hard.”

Grissom, who suffers from migraines recently had surgery and has noticed some improvement.

“The migraines are mostly what causes my difficulties in school,” Grissom said. “Sometimes, I have to come to class. I can’t miss the presentations that the teachers are doing, and I might be on some medication that can help me to be able to deal with the migraine at the time or I might be in such pain that is just so difficult for me to pay attention.”

Grissom said that Disability Services informs his professors about his disability, so they can collaborate and help him. “Most of the responses that I’ve gotten from my professors have been pretty good,” Grissom said. “Most [of them] are more than willing to cooperate.”

He said that he’s had situations in which he wants to videotape professors, but some professors don’t feel comfortable being tape recorded, and he has to respect that. “I didn’t do the video recording, but I was still able to make it through the class,” Grissom said. “[The professors] helped me a lot.”

Ramiro Espinoza, a computer science graduate student, has a hearing impairment. “I had an interpreter, I had a note-taker, and I was able to get some captioning applied to videos I had to watch,” Espinoza signed. “Even if they didn’t have captioning on movies or videos, the interpreter was there. Sometimes, it was hard for me because when the instructor is lecturing and the interpreter is there, I was thinking ‘OK, how am I going to take notes?’ I figured I need somebody to take notes for me because looking at the interpreter and trying to pay attention to the instructor and write things down is quite difficult.”

Steve Wilder, coordinator of Disability Services, said about 250 students with disabilities attend UTB.


​Click below to watch any or all of the 2012 “In Our Shoes” panel presentation.  Listen to the interesting stories of adult students with learning disabilities and with visual, psychological, cognitive and hearing impairments.  The program is moderated by Dr. Steve Chamberlain.  ASL interpretation provided.

Accessibility Awareness Fair at UTB gives students firsthand experience

The “In Our Shoes” panel presentation was moderated by Dr. William C. Davis, Master Technical Instructor in the Dept. of Behavioral Sciences. ASL interpretation provided. See full story at left.
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