Future Reflections Summer 2013
by Ana Martinez Larumbe
From the Editor: Ana Martinez is fifteen and is mainstreamed at a high school in Mexico City. In this article she writes about her life as a blind student in Mexico and describes her experience in a summer program at the Colorado Center for the Blind.
My name is Ana Martinez Larumbe. I live in Mexico City. My twin sister, Cecilia, and I have both been blind since birth. We have always attended school with sighted students.
In Mexico the resources for the blind in mainstream schools are not very good. First of all, there is no such thing as an itinerant teacher of the visually impaired (TVI). Also, the school does not provide any books in Braille. If you want to have a school book in Braille, first you have to ask for a copy of the book in print. Then you have to scan it and send it to the rehabilitation center for the blind. There they emboss the book in Braille for you.
At my school none of the computers has a screen reader. Blind students cannot take technology class because the computers are not accessible.
Now I'm going to talk about the rehabilitation center. The resources of the center are not very good either. The teachers that work there just teach very basic blindness skills. For example, they just teach you uncontracted Braille. They don't teach contracted Braille, orientation and mobility, home management, or technology.
Now I'm going to talk about the products for the blind that are sold in Mexico. The products here are very good except for the cane. The canes here are very short. I mean, the longest cane they sell here is only forty-eight inches. I think that is not good. If an adult wants to buy a cane, it will be useless because it is too short.
In Mexico most people think that if you are blind you can't do much of anything. They treat you as if you are helpless. Some of the mothers of blind children think that their kid cannot do anything by themselves. For example, one day when I was nine years old I was at the rehabilitation center. I asked another blind girl, who was two years older than I was, if she wanted to go to the playground with me. She said yes, but when her mother saw us she told us that if we wanted to go to the playground, she had to go with us because it was dangerous to go by ourselves.
At my school some of the teachers talk to me as if I were a five-year-old child. My classmates think that I cannot do anything. I do not get the chance to participate in any extracurricular activities.
I have met many blind adults in Mexico City. A lot of them work as teachers at the rehabilitation center. I haven't met blind people here who have any other kind of job.
One day Cecelia and I were having lunch with our mother. Our mother suggested that we look for a summer camp for the blind where we could learn some blindness life skills. We got excited about the idea and started to search online. The first program we found was at the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, Massachusetts. We thought it looked like a very cool program, but for some reason we decided to keep looking, in case there might be something even better out there.
Then we found the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB), sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind. As soon as we read about the CCB, Cecelia said, "I'm going to go to that center!" But I said that even though the CCB was very cool, we should still keep looking. There might be something out there that was better yet.
I got maps of the United States and Canada, and we searched for summer programs for the blind in every state and province. We found a lot of programs, but the CCB was the coolest of all. Cecelia and I spent three weeks there in the summer of 2012.
I had studied English at school, but at first when I was in Colorado I had a hard time with the language, and I didn't talk much. I think my English got a lot better while I was at the center. My favorite activity in the program was cane travel. I learned about the long white cane and how it could help me travel independently. I learned how to listen for traffic when I crossed the street. In Mexico I don't feel safe traveling by myself because people don't respect the driving rules. In every street the traffic is different. I mean, it is not like in the US, where there is a pattern with parallel and perpendicular traffic.
Besides cane travel, we studied home management, technology, and Braille. I really liked hanging out with my friends at the apartments. They told me a lot about how things work in the States, such as having a TVI at school.
The time I spent at the CCB was the best three weeks of my life! I would love to go back for the summer program they have for high school students. That program costs more than seven thousand dollars, and I need to find a way to pay for it.
After I finish high school, I hope to attend a university in the United States. Someday I would like to become an orientation and mobility instructor and teach at a school or center in the US I want to learn enough so I can teach other blind people to be independent.