Mar 18, 2019
Video description link: https://tinyurl.com/492e2uwa
Felix relates his experiences at DeafBlind camp in Washington and how they helped him cultivate a sense of pride in his identity.
The NDC logo appears in the bottom right corner and the screen is framed with a thick teal line. White text reads “Felix’s Story Summer Camp.”
A young bald-headed Mexican man named Felix sits in a room full of armchairs and couches. He wears a navy blue t-shirt and wristwatch. He uses sign language to communicate. On his left, we see a person’s arm reaching out to his leg, providing ProTactile feedback as he signs.
Hello, I’m Felix Gonzalez and I’m DeafBlind. I was born in California and have lived there my entire life. My family is from Mexico; both my mother and my father are Mexican. Like I said, I was born here in the US, in California.I have one brother. He is hearing and sighted. And one sister, who is DeafBlind. There are three of us siblings. That’s my family.
When I was four years old, I went to a public school with a deaf program. They used total communication, so that’s what I learned. I learned Signing Exact English, speech, and listening with hearing aids. That sums up Total Communication…In high school, I went to California School for the Deaf Fremont. That is the year I realized that I was DeafBlind…
CSDR has a rich sign language environment. I begin to recognize that I missed out on a lot of visual cues. You know how it is in deaf culture, people wave at each other to get attention and I wasn’t seeing all of those cues, so other people began to ask me if I had limited field of vision. Students, staff, and teachers would all make the same comment, so I began to recognize that I did have limited vision.
I realized I was not seeing in the same way everyone else saw. It also became very difficult for me to see at night. Even though I was recognizing these things, I was in complete denial. I completely denied my identity and was certainly not proud of who I was. I had learned to embrace my identity as a deaf person, because I was just like all of the other deaf kids at my high school.
But DeafBlind? I had no role models; no one to look up to….only other deaf people. So I had a tough time navigating high school. I often found myself overwhelmed, frustrated, and just trying to get through. I got to my senior year and graduated.
About one or two years later, I accepted who I was as a DeafBlind person. I came to that acceptance through church and spirituality, where I was taught to accept myself for who I am. And I did. I remember my experience of discovering I was DeafBlind. My boss approached me and asked if I had tunnel vision. I was in complete denial. In a perfect world, I would have had role models.
If, upon being identified as DeafBlind, resources had been offered to me, guiding me to a role model, it would have been beneficial. It’s impactful to know another DeafBlind person, someone else further down the path than me, allowing me to get comfortable with my identity. It’s someone I can be transparent with, leading to pride and acceptance rather than shame.
Time went on and I met a person who was also DeafBlind. I was fascinated. They talked about the DeafBlind community in terms of its diversity in terms of communication, culture, work, travel and just everyday life. As they shared, they told me about a DeafBlind camp in Washington state. I was immediately drawn in and knew I had to go.
My friend encouraged me to attend.I went for half a week and saw so many DeafBlind people. Roughly 75 to 100 people. There were also about 200 volunteers called support service providers, or SSPs who would support the attendees by staying with them and being guides. There were so many people! It was impossible to meet everyone…
They had so many different activities and things to do. For example there was dancing, bowling, art, and so much more. I really enjoyed it. It was a good time…I remember on the last day, as I was leaving, I noticed a new, growing sense of pride in who I was. Remember I used to feel like I was missing something. But after this experience I felt like I was enough. I accepted who I was and I thought “Wow I am the same as all of these people, I’m not alone.” It was a very positive happy experience, something I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.
NDC Logo appears above text, black lettering on a white background: nationaldeafcenter.org
“This video was developed under a jointly-funded grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) #HD326D160001. However, the contents do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the federal government.”
Next to it, three logos appear. The first reads “IDEAs that Work” with an arrow drawing a circle from “IDEAs” to “Work” and the words “U.S. Office of Special Education Programs”. The second logo shows a red-and-blue star with text next to it that reads “TA&D”. The third logo shows a blue circle around a tree. In the blue circle are the words “U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION.”