The Disabilities Services Office hosted “In Our Shoes,” a panel presentation where students shared the challenges they experience with their disabilities and their success as part of Accessibility Awareness Week.
“At the university level we are concerned with ensuring individuals with disabilities and access opportunities for success,” Steve Chamberlain, an education psychology and leadership studies associate professor, said during the event, held Thursday in the Student Union’s Gran Salón. “We know from experience that given enough access and
support, students will thrive in a college environment.”
The panel was composed of five students with disabilities such as dyslexia, anxiety and bipolar disorders, deafness and blindness.
Victoria Bouchot, a senior early childhood through sixth grade bilingual education major, shared her experience with dyslexia and dyscalculia.
Bouchot said she has trouble reading big numbers and counting money.
“I cannot divide or multiply, I need paper and pencil, it takes me a long time to process numbers,” she said.
The problem she has with math was one of the reasons she had to leave high school. She attended a charter school for a few years and later moved to Matamoros, Mexico, to get a teaching degree. Because of the problems across the border, she decided to enroll at UT Brownsville.
“It’s been very hard for me because I don’t like other people pointing fingers at me,” Bouchot said. “The whole acceptance part has been very difficult for me. … I am 32 years old and I barely accepted myself.”
Bouchot said she wants to help others who have the same disabilities.
Janie Camero, a junior English and psychology major, has an anxiety and bipolar disorder.
“I first started [college] 10 years ago and that first semester was actually my last semester,” Camero said. “I ended up being diagnosed at the time. … At around the time of Spring Break and midterms, I ended up having a breakdown. I cried for three or four days, which led my parents to watch me closely. ... My family saw it as a character flaw and they refused to look for help for me.”
Camero said growing up was difficult but she was relieved when she was diagnosed.
“I was able to find acceptance because it wasn’t a flaw, it was an actual illness that I had,” she said.
Camero said she sometimes needs extra time for assignments and exams.
“My conditions are affected by stress and, needless to say, you cannot be a student without experiencing stress,” she said. “My professor couldn’t understand that my experiences with anxiety aren’t necessarily what everyone else’s is because it is amplified.”
Because of her anxiety, Camero said there were days where she thought she couldn’t make it outside her front door, but thanks to the support from her husband, she is able to do so. She also listens to inspirational songs that elevate her mood.
Eric Martinez, who graduated from UT Brownsville with a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems, is deaf due to contracting meningitis when he was 4 years old. His parents enrolled him in a school in Matamoros. The school was not specialized for deaf students and so he had to learn how to read lips and make gestures to communicate with others. At 9 years old, he started learning American Sign Language.
“Then my parents found out that there was a school here in Brownsville for the deaf. … That’s where I started socializing more with the deaf.”
One year into pursuing his master’s degree, Martinez decided to open Louie’s New York Pizzeria.
“I feel accomplished because … now I have a thriving business,” he said.
Two other panelists, Elias Torres, a sophomore communication major, and Ashley Ramos, a freshman business major, shared their stories during the forum.
A question-and-answer session followed the discussion, but students in the audience mainly thanked the panelists for their bravery in opening up about their struggles.
Experiencing the obstacles
Andrea Torres / October 27th, 2014 / The Collegian
Finance junior Ana Victoria De la Garza (left) and senior business major and Disability Services sign language interpreter Maria Cabanillas sign words for Disability Services Administrative Secretary Cassandra Alvarez (right) and biology senior Cesar Posadas during a sign language bingo game Wednesday in the Main Building’s Gran Patio. The game was part of the Accessibility Awareness Fair hosted by Disability Services.
Tracing a pattern on a piece of paper that you can view only from a mirror is tough. That’s what students learned at the “Experiencing Dyslexia” table that was part of the Accessibility Awareness Fair.
Finance freshman Felipe Zamorano said this activity was “pretty tough.”
“To move the pencil across the paper, it wasn’t easy at all,” Zamorano said. “And I had a really hard time; I can only imagine what [people with dyslexia] go through every day.”
The fair, held Wednesday outside the Main Building, was part of UT Brownsville’s observance of Accessibility Awareness Week, (Oct. 20-24).
Students engaged in activities that taught them about different disabilities.
Disability Services Coordinator Steve Wilder said the Accessibility Fair is the “celebration of abilities.”
“We can call it ‘accessibility’ because we want to focus on how school, the university life, can be accessible to students with disabilities,” Wilder said. “… Some people have disabilities but we at the university have the responsibility to make it accessible and so we do that.”
Spanish education senior Paulina Mendoza said she learned that there are many people that one would not know have a disability.
Students also learned how the blind use Braille to communicate and had their names written in Braille, played bingo using American Sign Language and learned to sign their name.
Ana Victoria De La Garza said the bingo game was her favorite activity because she “learned a little bit about the alphabet.”
“I also learned a few signs like ‘want,’ ‘help,’ ‘eat’ [and] ‘lunch,’’’ De La Garza said. “It was really fun, actually; it gives you an idea of how another culture really is about.”
The student organization Active Minds, a support group for students who have psychological disabilities, had an information table. At the Assistive Technology booth, visitors learned how students with disabilities can have alternate format textbooks, computers with speech and Braille output, magnification software and closed-circuittelevisions to magnify print and screen readers and scanners.
Wilder said students who have questions, concerns or would like to know more about the disability services provided at UT Brownsville may visit him in Cortez Hall 129 or call 882-7374.
A Look Into Dyslexia
A student writes a sentence by looking at a mirror held up by senior special education major Fabiola Torres during Wednesday’s Accessibility Awareness Fair. The exercise aims to show participants what it is like to have dyslexia.