Accessibility Awareness Fair at UTB gives students firsthand experience - Brownsville Herald: Valley

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Accessibility Awareness Fair at UTB gives students firsthand experience

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Posted: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 9:59 pm

A lot of people think Daniel Martinez can’t read.

But that’s not the case for the 23-year-old special education major, who happens to be blind.

Martinez, a senior at the University of Texas at Brownsville, plans to one day teach other sight-impaired students to maneuver many of the gizmos and gadgets that facilitate his learning experiences.

That’s what he did Wednesday during the Accessibility Awareness Fair at UTB, where students were invited to experience life with a disability.

One station showed students what it’s like to have dyslexia, a reading disability, with a puzzle that required participants to connect dots to make a silhouette of a turtle by looking at a reflection instead of the actual diagram.

The fair is meant to make these disabilities more understandable to the general public. But one student with dysgraphia, a writing disability, also learned he could seek accommodations at the university’s Office of Disability Services, said Hsuying Ward, an assistant professor who teaches special education services.

Sometimes students do not seek those kinds of services because they don’t want to identify themselves as someone with a disability, Ward said.

“It’s a matter of feeling like if I say something, are people going to laugh at me,” Ward said. “Those feelings make it fearful for them to address it.”

Students entering college are responsible for registering with the disability center, said Steve Wilder, coordinator of disability services at UTB. This is different from their previous schools, where no self-disclosure was required, he said.

“In high school,” Wilder said, “counselors tell them that in college people are not going to go looking for you.”

He said 250 students have registered with the center. UTB’s enrollment is approximately 8,420. Ward said about 11 percent to 13 percent of the general student population needs some sort of disability education services.

Wilder said fairs like these help bring awareness to others on campus.

Ward agrees.

“Most of them (students) walk away with more understanding,” she said.

Martinez, the UTB student that wants to teach in the future, takes his time and is very patient when he explains to others how to use a Braille notebook that he uses for note taking during classes.

An accident at age 11 cost him his sight, Martinez said.

Though he had very good teachers, all could see. It was up to Martinez to learn how to use equipment like the Braille notebook for school.

“Because teachers are sighted they don’t know the technology,” he said.

Though Martinez is literate, he acknowledges that not all people who are blind can read because, according to him, there aren’t enough teachers who can teach others to read Braille.

“I’m hoping to one day teach it,” he said.

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