Sonia Rivera-García was only 19 years old
when she was involved in a car accident that resulted in paraplegia.
Originally from Elsa, Texas, she now lives in Edinburg, Texas. Rivera-García
met her husband, Ray, in college. Both majored in rehabilitative services
and graduated at the same time. Together they have a one-year-old
son, Aaron Ray García.
"I will teach my son to be sensitive
to people with disabilities," said Rivera-García. "I
will also teach him not to judge people based on their physical
appearance, but to look at who they are inside as individuals."
Adjusting to a New Disability
Rivera-García's life may seem "picture-perfect"
today, but this has not always been the case. "The hardest
time in my life was when I first became disabled," said Rivera-García.
"I was still in the process of developing as a person when
my life changed completely from one minute to the next. I was in
college when I became disabled and I was very determined to go back
to school after my accident."
Rivera-García returned to college eight months
after her accident and faced numerous physical obstacles at the
university. Her priority at the time became adapting to doing things
"I lost my independence," Rivera-García
said. "Before my accident, I was working and going to school
and was used to going and coming as I pleased. After I became disabled,
I had to rely on others to drive me where I needed to go and I sometimes
had to ask for help when I was not able to do something which I
used to be able to do."
Becoming Independent, with Support
After being injured, she had to face people she knew
prior to her injury. This was difficult because Rivera-García
thought people felt sorry for her, or that they pitied her. With
the help of her parents and her husband, Rivera-García was
encouraged to become more independent and reach the goals she set
for herself. Rivera-García's parents, especially her
mother, were very supportive of her efforts.
"My mother was a very strong woman and
taught me to be persistent and resilient. She went through a great
deal in her life and always kept the faith and never gave up,"
Helping Others like Herself
Today Rivera-García is an ADA Counselor at
South Texas Community College in McAllen, Texas. "My employer
is very accommodating to my needs," said Rivera-García.
Rivera-García also said that it took a lot
of hard work to get where she is today. "I earned a bachelor
of science degree with a major in rehabilitative services in 1993,
a masters of education degree with a major in counseling and guidance
in 1998, and I became a licensed professional counselor last year."
This allows Rivera-García to help other people
with disabilities. She counsels students who have emotional disabilities
or who are having trouble coping with their problems, advises students
with disabilities about which classes they should take, helps them
with registration, and makes sure students with disabilities receive
needed accommodations in the classroom.
Rivera-García's position also allows
her the opportunity to help plan and coordinate Americans with Disabilities
events throughout the college. "Students, staff members, and
administrators participate in an 'obstacle course,'
which requires they move around the campus to experience some of
the barriers students with disabilities face every day."