The story of Juan José y the program for the blind in Chiquimula
In 2009, Juan José Carrera Gutiérrez, the coordinator of the program for the blind at Adisa Chiquimula, lost his ability to see. Fortunately, shortly thereafter, in 2010, with the support of Pro Ciegos y Sordos de Guatemala, he was rehabilitated. From April through October of 2010, the instructor visited his house twice a month and, during this time, Juan José learned Braille, abacus, orientation and mobility, and how to navigate the activities of daily life.
In 2011, he felt prepared to begin studying and enrolled at the Escuela Normal Bilingüe Intercultural in Camotán Chiquimula to become a preprimary teacher. He graduated in 2013 and, in 2014, he started working, using his personal experience as a foundation for his profession. Even though he does not have a degree in visual disabilities, it is a part of his daily life.
In 2015, Adisa began a community based rehabilitation (CBR) project in Chiquimula. When Juan José started working at Adisa, he had only three blind students. Today, one of them is pursuing a career in early education and the two sisters, who had previously never left their home, at ages 23 and 16, are now studying at the local high school.
Currently, Adisa Chiquimula’s program for the blind provides services to 42 students, offering four primary courses: Braille and abacus, orientation and mobilization, computer studies, and how to navigate the activities of daily life. They also run an early intervention program and provide tutoring-like services to reinforce what low vision students are learning in school.
We have made a lot of advances with the majority. The majority is completely blind and before we met them, they had never left their homes. Never. Now, they participate in artistic activities, or any activity. They are studying in public schools. Others, that are over 18 years old, can no longer enroll in traditional educational establishments. Therefore, we have developed an accelerated primary education program for them. In three years, they complete the six years of primary school. We have made many advances.
For example, a young boy with low vision was diagnosed with retinal detachment when he was 14 years old. They told him that he would completely lose his vision by the time he reached age 18. Upon hearing this news, he became very depressed. He tried to commit suicide several times and did not leave his house. When Juan José introduced himself as a blind man that works, studies, and lives the life he wants to lead, this boy decided to attend Adisa’s programs, eventually learning Braille and returning to high school.
Additionally, Adisa Chiquimula offers workshops for parents to raise awareness about disability and trains teachers in Braille, methods for planning, teaching, and evaluating blind students, and how to best include them in the classroom.
We have had platforms. The schools and establishments have demonstrated interest in working with children with disabilities. Adisa is the institution that has brought awareness to the topic of disability.
Now, Juan José is studying again to earn a degree in clinical psychology.
I do it because one, I like to move forward, and two, so that the blind students see that there are no limits, that even though I cannot see and they also cannot see, we have the same opportunities to move forward.