by Danielle Trevino
From the Editor: Danielle has until recently been a staff member for the National Federation of the Blind as the director of our social media efforts. She has recently moved to Texas to be with family, and though it goes without saying for those who know her, she remains an active member and leader in the National Federation of the Blind. Danielle uses the term “Latinx” to describe herself. This is a newer term, a nongendered alternative to Latina or Latino that has gained popularity as a way to include transgendered or other nontraditionally-gendered members of the community. Here is what she has to say:
Today is the twenty-sixth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). I am sitting in a very nice hotel room in Orlando, having just spent the last four days attending the National Council of La Raza [the Race] (NCLR) conference. The NCLR is an organization that advocates for the rights of Latinx people. Similar to the mission of the National Federation of the Blind, La Raza strives to empower the Latin community to raise our voices and demand to be treated as equals. On the one hand, I am proud. Proud of being a woman, of being Latinx, and of being blind. I was born and raised in the United States, and I've benefited from the ADA. Even before I had language to explain things like self-advocacy, equality, opportunity, and security, I knew that I always had a leg to stand on. I'm so proud of how far we've come as disabled people while recognizing that the playing field is far from level. It does my heart good to know that organizations such as the National Federation of the Blind have not only fought for a seat at the table, but we've proven that we're capable of setting it and cooking the food to be served on it.
I was raised to be vocal about my rights and needs, but I have to say that growing up I never met someone who looked like me. I met other blind people, I met other Latinx women, but the three never intersected. So on the other hand, my heart hurts. I thought that coming here would mean that I would be able to forge relationships with like-minded people of my culture who would be open to inviting the disabled to the table instead of sitting us in a corner where they can watch us in case we need help. I don't consider myself to be a shy person. I strike up conversations with anyone around me. However, when I tried to do that with other conference attendees (who were not part of my group), most of them responded with "Do you need help?" "Are you lost?" One lady even grabbed my cane and tried steering for me.
I sat in sessions where the presenter said things like, "Read the story on screen, and tell me what you think," and my favorite, "If you look at the girl in the picture, you can tell she's not broken or different." Uh, what? Ironically enough, this was said in a session about social media and telling stories—two topics I may know a thing or two about. I'm saddened by the fact that we as disabled people have so far to go to level that playing field within American society, but in my experience this week, we're not even in the ballpark within the Latinx community.So how do we fix it? How do we start the conversation? How do we shed light on the fact that diabetes is now officially an epidemic within the Latinx community? How do we make people understand that blindness is the number-one side effect of diabetes? How do we make it so that little brown blind girls and their families get connected with the resources they need to get ahead and role models they can truly look up to? What steps need to be taken so that at large conferences such as NCLR or in the day-to-day, we are not othered because we're different? In the last year I've met some amazing Latinas within the NFB: Conchita Hernandez, Roxanne Torres, Lisamaria Martinez, and many more. All of these women are phenomenal powerhouses, who are out there representing the strength and beauty of the blind Latina. They, along with my incredible support system, inspire me to keep showing up, to keep moving in this space to the beat of a good salsa song. Our day is coming. We're hungry and more than ready to take our seats at the table.