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This Latina Is Debunking Myths Round Blindness

“Incapacity delight is a crucial idea for me. I am pleased with who I’m, and that features all the things about me — together with my incapacity,” says Catarina Rivera, a public speaker, DEI (range, fairness, and inclusion) marketing consultant, and content material creator. Rivera, who was born and raised in Maryland, has been disabled her complete life. However that is not stopping her from residing a purposeful life crammed with pleasure and journey. She was identified as arduous of listening to at a younger age and has been sporting listening to aids since she was a toddler. Then at 17, Rivera was identified with a progressive imaginative and prescient incapacity known as Usher syndrome. “In the present day, I’ve a really small window of central imaginative and prescient, and I take advantage of a white cane to assist me navigate the world,” she says.

Rivera’s situation creates progressive imaginative and prescient loss, which supplies her tunnel imaginative and prescient, and regardless of having a tiny window of visibility, she’s thought of to be legally blind. “So many individuals misunderstand blindness and suppose that each one blind individuals see a pitch-black world, however actually, solely about 15 % of us expertise whole blindness,” she explains. As a way to create optimistic change inside her group, Rivera has been spreading optimistic data about what it means to dwell having tunnel imaginative and prescient and having to make use of a cane.

“I needed to symbolize my story and assist create consciousness amongst nondisabled individuals,” she says. “It is stated that realizing only one particular person of an identification group reduces prejudice and bias. I needed to be that ‘disabled good friend’ on-line for individuals who haven’t got anybody of their life that is disabled.”

To raised reveal, Rivera has taken to her on-line platform, Blindish Latina, to elucidate and demystify some widespread beliefs about blindness, comparable to not with the ability to have an schooling or a profession. Rivera herself debunks these myths, as she earned Grasp of Science in Schooling and Grasp of Public Well being levels and is a Licensed Skilled in Accessibility Core Competencies. “My ‘Blindness is a spectrum’ Reel has over 5 million views, and my ‘Let me let you know why I take advantage of a white cane despite the fact that I can nonetheless see’ Reel has over two million views!” she exclaims. “I need each blind particular person to really feel comfy utilizing a white cane if it helps them. However many blind individuals are afraid of utilizing a white cane after which being accused of faking their blindness or being harassed in the event that they do have some remaining imaginative and prescient.”

Rivera herself has been harassed and questioned with feedback like, “Why does she use a cane although?” or “Blind individuals cannot see — that is silly.” Somebody as soon as even commented, “In the event you can see me, you are not blind,” with fun emoji. However the Latina advocate takes these feedback as a possibility to proceed educating the lots.

“To answer on-line haters or damaging feedback, I’ll share an academic response or allow them to know the place they’ll receive sources. If the remark is wholly damaging or disagreeable, I’ll both ignore it or reply with a agency message that asserts my boundaries ,” she says. Nevertheless, Rivera has realized to acknowledge when it is non-essential for her to personally educate every commenter. “When crucial, I let go and belief that the sources I’ve already created are sufficient. In the end, I’ve to guard my power.”

Rivera’s will and dedication to take pleasure in life and go for a glass-half-full mentality show that taking that route results in a life value residing. “Moreover blindness and deafness each being spectrums, I feel the most important fantasy I’ve debunked is that residing a disabled life is a horrible life,” she says. “In response to incapacity, we frequently hear nondisabled individuals say issues like ‘Oh, I may by no means dwell like that’ or ‘I may by no means take care of being blind. That may be the worst factor.’ All these feedback are rooted in ableism.” Rivera goes on to elucidate, “Ableism is the concept that nondisabled individuals are extra worthy or helpful than disabled individuals.” She’s noticed that there are loads of nondisabled people who do not imagine that disabled individuals can have lives value residing.

“I am residing a phenomenal life, and I share my incapacity pleasure typically in order that others can see my incapacity story and begin altering their mindset about incapacity.”

“My story with deafblindness is that my life is thrilling, full, and helpful,” Rivera says. “I went indoor skydiving, and I shared a put up about that. I went to a salsa brunch in Brooklyn earlier this 12 months, and I confirmed myself dancing — I have been dancing salsa for 19 years. I personal a profitable enterprise. I took the month of August off and traveled round Greece. I have been finding out Italian for 2 years. I am residing a phenomenal life, and I share my incapacity pleasure typically in order that others can see my incapacity story and begin altering their mindset about incapacity .”

Rivera, whose household is Puerto Rican and Cuban, shares she “did not encounter loads of bullying rising up,” in regard to her disabilities. As a substitute, she was teased about one thing many Latina girls may relate to. “I bear in mind being teased for having bushy arms. I’ll always remember that,” she says. Moreover, Rivera is completely relatable to the schemes of rising up Latinx. “I really like my tradition. I really like the meals, the dancing, the dominoes, the best way we will all join despite the fact that we have been from totally different locations . . . I felt challenged by my privilege, particularly when visiting Cuba. I additionally felt challenged by feeling in-between, which loads of Latino individuals talk about. You do not belong to your house nation anymore however you additionally do not fairly belong in America.”

Like with many first or second-generation Latinx households, Rivera’s first language was Spanish, despite the fact that her dad and mom are each English-dominant. She was in highschool when she realized the privilege she held inside her group with having a mother and pa who held greater schooling levels and have been avid English audio system.

“My dad and mom each have grasp’s levels and are English-dominant. I grew up within the suburbs and had a reasonably sheltered life,” she remembers. “In highschool, by means of a nonprofit group, I met different Latine youngsters with very totally different lives. They’d tales of challenges at school, discrimination, violence, and so on.”

However recognizing that privilege is what moved the Latina activist to do one thing worthwhile inside her group. Her need for her to do impactful work has been a guiding star all through her complete profession path for her. Rivera started her profession in schooling earlier than persevering with in public well being and meals justice work. In the present day, she focuses on incapacity inclusion and creating “a greater world for all of us,” she says, including her final aim is to create a world that is inclusive for everybody and the place disabled individuals can thrive.

Along with her work as a content material creator, Rivera is spreading the phrase on incapacity by means of public talking. In 2022 she delivered 4 keynote addresses whereas additionally being named a LinkedIn Prime Voice in Incapacity Advocacy. Moreover, she grew to become a TEDx speaker, was featured in Forbes, was on dwell TV for the primary time on ABC Information Stay, and employed a staff of three.

“Whereas many firms and organizations have DEI plans, lots of them do not embody incapacity,” she says. “Oftentimes, firms and organizations have not understood that disabled individuals symbolize a big group of individuals.”

Based on 2018 knowledge from the CDC, one in 4 adults in the USA reviews being disabled. Rivera makes the legitimate level that disabled individuals are within the workforce, clients, and in addition purchasers. To rectify the present office, her de ella public talking and consulting enterprise helps firms start or proceed their disability-inclusion journeys to create higher workplaces for everybody. The entrepreneur asserts her final aim is to assist create a world that is inclusive for everybody “and the place disabled individuals can thrive.”

And whereas generally individuals might imagine they’re being useful, the advocate mentions it is not at all times that method. “Do not contact white canes or another mobility support. It is an extension of a disabled particular person’s physique,” Rivera says. “If you wish to provide help to a blind particular person, ask them in the event that they need assistance, and don’t contact them or violate their private house. If they are saying no, respect their response. They know what’s greatest for them.” Rivera notes this goes for all disabled individuals and signifies it is solely moral to ask somebody in the event that they require assist earlier than routinely making the idea they do.

Picture Supply: Nikki Rumph of Pictures by Nik

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