Karla Saenz Seeing Beyond Visual Impairment

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Women On The Move | Karla Saenz

Editor’s Note

Karla Saenz, our March Woman On The Move, is the first of several young adults who are featured in a soon-to-be-released book. The author of “See Us,” Jon Marin, was recently interviewed by my fellow blogger and friend Kim Owens of Navigating Blindness. You can check out the interview here: See Us: Overcoming Obstacles to Employment.

Bold Blind Beauty is so honored to introduce you to Karla and to share with you just a small portion of her story.

Beyond Sight Magazine Cover with a photo of Karla standing against a royal blue draped background when she was inducted into the Chi Alpha Epsilon Honor Society at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The text reads Karla Saenz Seeing Beyond Visual Impairment | Women On The Move | Introducing incredible young people who are doing extraordinary things.
Beyond Sight Magazine featuring Karla Saenz
Karla Saenz Seeing Beyond Visual Impairment

Transcription

Meeting Karla Saenz

The third image is a headshot of Karla smiling. She has long dark hair and is wearing eyeglasses.
Headshot of Karla smiling

Many believe that having a disability can hold you back, but that isn’t the case for me.

Hi, my name is Karla Saenz. I am a first-generation college student here at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, and I was born visually impaired.

I was born with a condition known as ROP, which stands for Retinopathy of Prematurity. This condition was caused because I was born premature at six and a half months. This led me to have three retina surgeries but they didn’t really help, and I grew up with my impairment.

I currently am studying English and am minoring in Counseling at John Jay. Even though I don’t have a concise or correct, or even having an idea of what I want to do in the future. But right now, I’m teetering between either becoming an editor, but I’m a huge fan of editing papers, or just reading over essays or proofreading or whatever you want to call it.

[Addon] I mentioned two careers that I’m debating on. The other one that I didn’t mention was becoming a social worker, and working with immigrant women who have suffered from domestic violence.

Internship Opportunity

In 2018 I met Jonathan Marin, the Program Director of the Career Discovery Project at City Access New York. This program allowed visually impaired and blind high school and college students to be given the chance to have an internship and gain experience, just like any other college student. But this was different because these organizations that the students were able to work at they knew about our condition, they understood. And they were on board to bring us on!

Luckily, I was able to be placed with two placements. One was Stuart Cinema & Cafe in Brooklyn. And there I learned to communicate with customers, create PowerPoints, just all around be a very hands-on person. And that’s something I’ve never really had before, up until that point. But later in the following year of June 2019, I was placed in a wonderful organization called Emerald Isle Immigration Center. And there, I felt like I really flourished, where I was able to really see my capabilities as beyond myself being visually impaired.

The fourth picture is a black & white photo of Karla shaking hands with Jonathan Marin, the program director for the Career Discovery Project.
Karla shaking hand with Jonathan Marin

There, I was able to work in different departments like the legal department, social services department, the community, outreach department. And that was just amazing to work just especially working one on one. Because I was able to work with older people, and practicing for their citizenship exams to become a US citizen. And that was just amazing for me, because most of these people needed help because they were older, and you have to be more patient with them.

And basically what I did was I would practice one on one and I would translate both between English and Spanish because I’m both fluent in those languages. And I would read it in English then translate it for them in Spanish, so they can understand. And that was just amazing to me. I loved that so much like seeing the joy in their faces when they would pass the exam.

It was just almost like I see like in my own child, like, I’m so proud of you, you know, it’s just something beautiful. I love working with them. I love just being there. And it was such a great experience. So I have to thank Jonathan for that.

See Us Project

The fifth photo is identical to the header (a black and white photo from the “See Us” book. Karla was reading a book relating to the U.S History portion of the USCIS Citizenship exam.)
Photo credit: “See Us”

After working at the Career Discovery Project for around a little over six months, I was asked by Jonathan Marin, if I would want it to be a part of his book called See Us. Which [the book] would feature six visually impaired/blind students who will navigate their life between work, school, and home. I completely agreed and was thrilled to be given the chance to be a part of this wonderful project.

And this book comes out very soon. So please check it out. It’s a beautiful project that I’ve seen that I’ve been a part of for the past year and a half. And I’m so honored, to be a part of this project with my fellow peers because we’ve all worked so hard in different placements and also like beyond that beyond in our lives. We have to deal with things you know, beyond our impairments, beyond our disability just to navigate our life between you know, balancing our placements, our life and you know our work it’s just, it’s hard but luckily we’ve all managed to make it through and I’m so proud to be a part of this project because I know it was just just a way to highlight beyond being having a disability it’s beyond that. It shows that we are capable to do anything that we can. As long as we put we put our mind to it. I’m honored to be featured as Bold Blind Beauty’s Woman On The Move for the month of March. Thank you, everyone, and take care.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Karla Saenz Bio

Karla is enjoying some time at the beach, in the middle of winter at Fire Island in Long Island, New York.
Karla at the beach

Being visually impaired hasn’t stopped me from achieving my goals in life. If anything, it has pushed me further. To those who are visually impaired, I understand the difficulties that life has thrown at us, but we will persevere. 

When I was born, the doctors told my mother that I would be permanently blind; not being able to see anything but shapes and colors. Fortunately, that was not the case.  I grew up having different support services within school that would often help me. It wasn’t until I arrived at college where I finally felt independent, which is something that I have always strived for. Although I was getting used to this freedom, it felt odd to not have teachers looking out for me. But slowly, I found my way to people that I felt comfortable with and understood me. 

Although I don’t disclose my condition to everyone that I meet, not because I am embarrassed or ashamed, but because they don’t need to know. No one should be ashamed of who they are because their disability does not and should not define them. I am proud of who I am and the obstacles I have overcome in life. 

Beyond the academic (and somewhat personal) aspect of my life; I enjoy writing, reading, spending time with my family and my dog. Because I live within the five boroughs of NYC, I enjoy taking the subway and traveling within the city. One of my favorite places to go is Strand Bookstore. I always have to resist from buying books because I already have so many scattered around my room. I am not only a book lover, but also a coffee lover. I have yet to find the best coffee place in NYC. So I’ll take any suggestions!

Image Descriptions

  • The header is a black and white photo from the “See Us” book. Karla was reading a book relating to the U.S History portion of the USCIS Citizenship exam.
  • Beyond Sight Magazine Cover with a photo of Karla standing against a royal blue draped background when she was inducted into the Chi Alpha Epsilon Honor Society at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The text reads Karla Saenz Seeing Beyond Visual Impairment | Women On The Move | Introducing incredible young people who are doing extraordinary things.
  • The third image is a headshot of Karla smiling. She has long dark hair and is wearing eyeglasses.
  • The fourth picture is a black & white photo of Karla shaking hands with Jonathan Marin, the program director for the Career Discovery Project.
  • The fifth photo is identical to the header (a black and white photo from the “See Us” book. Karla was reading a book relating to the U.S History portion of the USCIS Citizenship exam.)
  • Bio photo is Karla enjoying some time at the beach, in the middle of winter at Fire Island in Long Island, New York.

1 Comment

  1. What an incredible young lady! I love the work Jon is doing and can’t wait for the book!

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