November Men In Motion | Arturo Soto

a photo of Arturo Soto on a sandy beach kneeling next to his guide dog, Vangie (a 2-year-old yellow Labrador retriever), with a big smile on his face and his arm around the Vangie's neck. He's wearing a white tee, light-colored shorts, sneakers and his shades are atop his head.

Men In Motion | Arturo Soto

Contents

Editor’s Note

November’s Man In Motion, Arturo Soto is Empowering Youth To Dream Big & To Aim For Their Goals. What an amazing purpose that came about from his sight loss experience. As a matter of fact this summer he was featured in a local article about his program which you can check out HERE.

As with all of our featured guests you this piece contains both Arturo’s YouTube video along with the transcript for those who prefer to read. Enjoy! ~Steph

Beyond Sight Magazine Cover

Beyond Sight Magazine Cover features a photo of Arturo Soto on a sandy beach kneeling next to his guide dog, Vangie (a 2-year-old yellow Labrador retriever), with a big smile on his face and his arm around the Vangie's neck. He's wearing a white tee, light-colored shorts, sneakers and his shades are atop his head. The text reads: “Arturo Soto | Empowering Youth To Dream Big & To Aim For Their Goals | Men In Motion.”

YouTube Video

Introduction

A selfie of Arturo and Vangie. Arturo in a dark shirt with white stripes is sitting at an outdoor table smiling at the camera and Vangie is sitting on the ground.
Arturo & Vangie

Hi, my name is Arturo Soto, I am 18 years old. I am from Queens, New York and I am legally blind.

Trouble Begins Brewing

My story began not too long ago, about two years ago now, in January of 2020, a week before my 17th birthday, I told my mom, that there was something wrong with my left eye. She asked me what it was. And the best way I could describe it to her was by telling her that I was seeing cloudy and foggy and my central vision.

So we proceeded to go to my optometrist who ran every possible scan and test on me. And afterwards she told me that my eye was completely healthy, it was normal. She said that it was probably due to headaches and migraines. And for the following weeks, and even months, we didn’t really think too much about it.

It wasn’t until three months later, in March, when the pandemic was spreading like wildfire throughout the country, and quarantine on lockdown had started. When I told my mom, that my right eye had started to go bad as well. Same thing as my left eye, it started with seeing the cloud foggy, and my central vision.

So we went on to call doctors, and every doctor my mom called, would give her the same answer: “mam, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, we don’t have any in-office appointments at the moment.”

It wasn’t until my mom called the office of Dr. Robert Rothstein. And explain to them the emergency that was going on that they said, “Okay, come in right away.” We were in, I believe it was the very next day.

A Promise To Find Answers

And as soon as I went in, Dr. Rothstein began talking to me, ran tests on me, wanted the whole background, wanted to know what was going on. And after running every possible test, he told me that he wasn’t sure what was going on. He didn’t know what it was. He thought there was something off or wrong, or something to do with the optic nerve but he couldn’t tell me why or what, or how it even happened. But he told me, we are not going to stop until we get to the bottom of this. And let me tell you all that he was not playing.

Dr. Rothstein did not stop running test after test talking to doctors and colleagues of his until he got to the bottom of what was going on. A couple blood tests later, a spinal tap later, and Dr. Rothstein decided to run a genetic test. This was the last test that was on the list. And the last test that was left run, everything else had to come back negative. This test took two months to get back to us. Those were two months full of agony and anguish, full of frustration, full of confusion.

In that time, I became depressed and sad, extremely upset. Because I didn’t know what was going to happen with my life. I didn’t know what was going to come of me. I didn’t know what my life had to offer anymore. And I thought that my dreams and goals that I had one once dreamed of accomplishing were gone and had slipped from my fingers. For me, life as I knew it was over.

LHON Diagnosis

It was July of 2020 when I was diagnosed with Leber hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) a genetic condition that affects mostly males. And bottom line was that I had finally gotten the answer to what was going on. It wasn’t the answer I was hoping for or even looking. But it was the answer that would change life as I knew it.

Leber’s or Leber’s, as many people call it would change my life and will become a part of me. However, it will not become the defining part of me. It will just become a slice of a big piece of pie. What do I mean by that? Is that now looking back I was so depressed because I kept seeing myself as this disabled, blind man. I was seeing myself through society’s eyes as someone who would now be dependent on everyone else, on a system, that will become dependent on others. And could not live an independent life.

Now looking back at this, I laugh because I was really being irrational. Back then I thought of all the things that I wasn’t going to be able to do anymore, like drive a car, or become an airline pilot. And let me tell you, I had never wanted to become an airline pilot. It had never even crossed my mind. But here I was 17 year old me frustrated that he was never going to become an airline pilot, simply because he was being told that he couldn’t.

The Path To Independence

Graduation: Arturo's high school graduation photo of him in a blue cap and gown standing with his white cane.
Graduation

And now I laugh, because it’s amazing what meeting people and getting the proper training can do. After I met several people, who are also legally blind, and visually impaired. I learned that there was more that I can offer to the world, that there’s more that I can still give, I can still be an active independent part of society and life.

I learned to become independent through VRT (vocational rehabilitation training), and O&M (orientation and mobility) training. Eventually, I got a guide dog. My cane skills are so impeccable, that when I applied for a guide dog, they thought I was a right candidate. It has now been six months that I have been a guide dog user, and the experience has been wonderful.

And that is not all. One year ago, I would have never thought that I would be attending college. College was out of the picture for me. But thanks to all the training I received, thanks to my VRT and O&M instructor and my TVI (teacher of the visually impaired) Mrs. Jill Fraticelli, I applied to colleges. And I am now midway through my first semester at Queens College. And not just that another thing that I thought impossible a year ago was being a part of the workforce,working. And I even conquered that.

I have been working now since I believe August at Commonpoint Queens a wonderful place. I work closely with the community doing things I love, which is helping others.

Purpose Borne In Sight Loss

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Arturo & Vangie at the beach

I found my place in the world, I found my spot where I can still give back in spite of my condition because blindness is not a it’s not an obstacle to success. Blindness is not a roadblock, to where you want to go. Blindness is not a limitation. Blindness is just a concept that we put on ourselves. The space is the limit and even that limit is being broken nowadays.

People are going into space like it’s nothing. The space isn’t the limit for us anymore. We have to go beyond that and we can. Blind folks and visually impaired people can do just as many things as sighted people can and we can change the world too.

I have started, I have started a group, an organization for students in the Department of Education in New York City. And my goal for this group is to empower the younger generations of independent, blind and visually impaired people. I want to empower them to dream big and to strive to accomplish their goals. I want to empower them to become the best possible version of themselves without limiting themselves because of their disability.

Your disability does not define you. It is a part of you. It is a slice of your big whole pie. But it is not what defines your identity and your being.

And lastly, I want to end with a quote that resonated with me. When I lost my vision. Helen Keller once said that “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, but must be felt with the heart.” And so I encourage all of you, blind folks and sighted folks alike to close off your senses for a bit, not just your sight, but the rest of your senses and try to experience the world through a different set of lenses. And let me tell you, that it is a whole other experience. I want to thank all of you who listen to my story. Thank you, and I appreciate it. Take care, everyone.

Connecting With Arturo

  • Email arturosv01@gmail.com

Connecting With Bold Blind Beauty

Image Descriptions:

  • The header photo is identical to the one indentified in the second bullet.
  • Beyond Sight Magazine Cover features a photo of Arturo Soto on a sandy beach kneeling next to his guide dog, Vangie (a 2-year-old yellow Labrador retriever), with a big smile on his face and his arm around the Vangie’s neck. He’s wearing a white tee, light-colored shorts, sneakers and his shades are atop his head. The text reads: “Arturo Soto | Empowering Youth To Dream Big & To Aim For Their Goals | Men In Motion.”
  • Arturo & Vangie: A selfie of Arturo and Vangie. Arturo in a dark shirt with white stripes is sitting at an outdoor table smiling at the camera and Vangie is sitting on the ground.
  • Graduation: Arturo’s high school graduation photo of him in a blue cap and gown standing with his white cane.
  • Arturo & Vangie at the beach. In this photo, Arturo is standing next to Vangie as she sits near the water’s edge.

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