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Winter 2003 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

I Love My Life, Swimming, and Texas Longhorns!

By Alberto Gonzales, Austin, TX

Editor's Note: Alberto, a keynote speaker at the Deafblind Symposium held February 7-8, 2003 in Austin, wanted to share some of his thoughts with SEE/HEAR readers as well.

My name is Alberto Gonzales. I was born in San Antonio Texas in 1973. I was born deafblind due to Congenital Rubella Syndrome, but had some useful vision as a child. I can remember seeing leaves falling from trees, grass, and cars going by. I used to love swinging at the playground and running around my mother's yard. By the time I was nineteen, I lost all usable vision.

I attended Japhet Elementary where I began learning sign language, Grade I Braille, and how to use a cane. In the sixth grade, I attended Martin Luther King Middle School and began learning Grade II Braille. As a mainstreamed student at Sam Houston High School, I studied English, P.E., Biology, Homemaking, Health, Math, Computer Skills, and Government. I also benefited from "Vision Class." My teacher, Gail, helped me develop my mobility skills, learn to cook, and oriented me to fun activities that I could participate in. We played Scrabble, Poker, Dominoes, and Uno.

After I graduated from high school in 1995, I came to Austin to get training at the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center. I continued Orientation and Mobility training to improve and maintain my skills, as well as become familiar with a new city. In addition, I received technology training, career guidance, and worked on communication skills. I participated in CCRC's apartment experience to help me with my transition to the Deafblind Apartment Program. I attended training for eight months, then moved to the Deafblind Apartment Program. I was 21 when I moved into my first apartment. My family was scared about me living alone at first, but now they know that I can be independent and safe. My mother still wants to hear from me every week, though.

I really enjoy Austin, living in my own apartment, and all my friends at the Deafblind Apartment Program. In the summer time, I love to go swimming with my friends in the apartment pool. Sometimes we barbecue, too. I know the UT Longhorns are a very good football team. They beat the Aggies 50 to 20. The Aggies are not good, thumbs down.

I can do many things myself. My personal alert system lets me know when someone is at my door, when the telephone rings, or even if my fire alarm sounds. I arrange my own transportation to work, church, and to visit my friends. I can call anyone I want by using my braille-TTY and Relay Texas. Staff is there to assist me with things like reading mail, budgeting, doctor appointments, and employment.

I attended classes at Austin Community College and currently work at Chuy's Mexican Restaurant. It was necessary to continue with O&M training at ACC to become oriented to the campus and at Chuy's so I could find my way around the restaurant with minimal assistance.

I know it is important to maintain good mobility skills to continue an independent life-style. In July, 2001, I flew to Michigan and stayed at the Leader Dog School for one month. My leader dog's name is Kersey. She is a female black lab and is three years old. She knows sign language like sit, laying down, right, left, etc.

I am a very experienced traveler. I have traveled to Dallas, San Antonio, and Seattle by myself. My mobility and communication skills allow me the freedom to take the bus or fly anywhere I want. In the summer of 2000, I went to Mexico with my family. I love deafblind camps like the Deafblind Retreat at Seabeck in Washington and Pineville Louisiana. Also, I am trying to save money for the next AADB (American Association of the Deaf-Blind) Conference in San Diego this July. I have also heard there will be a TBDA (Texas Deaf-Blind Association) meeting soon.

I have a new church. My church is Westover Hills Church of Christ. I was baptized on November 17 and became a new member November 24. It is a very, very pretty church. I go to church every Wednesday and Sunday. I read the Bible and have a deaf interpreter there.

My girlfriend Mary Ellen lives here. We have been together for 4 1/2 years. Mary Ellen is blind. Now she knows sign language, which I taught her a long time ago. Mary Ellen and I went to the Holiday Inn for her prom on May 9, 1998. My dream for the future is to be married, live in a nice house, and to have a good job.


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Last Revision: August 19, 2004