Growing up in Durango, Mexico with a visual
impairment, Patricia Quiñonez, or 'Pati,' had
to challenge the stereotypes of what society thought people with
disabilities could and couldn't do.
She attended a school for the blind through
sixth grade, and then transferred to a mainstream school, because
there were no secondary schools for the blind in Mexico. Pati was
happy because she wanted to attend mainstream school, and she excelled
at her coursework. As a girl, Pati's parents took her to see
optometrists. Neither the doctors nor Pati's parents understood
her impairment. Doctors kept diagnosing her as being near-sighted.
Pati thought the reason she didn't see colors was because
she just wasn't paying attention. She would study items of
different colors and try to memorize what the colors were like.
Pati came to the United States when she was
15 years old. Her father decided to move the family of 12 to the
U.S. in the search for opportunity and a better life. He also hoped
she'd be able to see doctors in the States who might be able
to better understand and treat Pati's impairment. The Quiñonez
family settled in the San Francisco Bay Area and has been there
Pati completed her secondary education in a
mainstream high school in San Francisco and went on to earn her
bachelor's degree in psychology at San Francisco State University
(SFSU). "The hardest part about moving to the United States
was that I had to try to be more visually-oriented because I didn't
understand the language," said Pati. "In Mexico I was
used to being an audio person...here I had to rely more on visual
clues, so it was very challenging," she added.
After graduation Pati went back to San Francisco
State University to be certified through the Rehabilitation Engineer
Program. She knew she wanted to do adaptive technology training
and equipment evaluation...and that's exactly what she
Pati started her career as a volunteer in the
technology center at the Rose Resnick Lighthouse for the Blind &
Visually Impaired, an organization that helps people of all ages
overcome vision impairment through leadership in rehabilitation
services, education, research, prevention and advocacy. (www.Lighthouse-sf.org).
After a stint at a company called Accessibility doing adaptive technology
training, Pati was back on board with the Lighthouse in a paid position
as a vision loss specialist.
In her position, Pati assists seniors who are
losing their sight. She works with instructors who teach people
how to use canes, help individuals become reoriented with their
home environments and public places they frequent, and assist them
with skills such as learning how to operate appliances. Pati screens
about 15-20 clients per month, pairing them with instructors, and
providing them with referrals and resources for additional services.
Lighthouse is doing special outreach in this area to Latinos and
Pati is a very successful person who enjoys
hiking and biking in addition to her love for her work. When asked
about her idea of success she said, "Each step is a challenge,
but each step also is a little success."