by Gabriel Lopez Kafati
For any child born in my native Honduras, it was perfectly normal to grow up looking up at the United States of America. The U.S. has always been the role model of a nation. That was not the exception for me. Ever since I started studying U.S. civics as a child, I developed a strong admiration and respect for the legal foundation of this country. I compared the political reality of Honduras to that of the United States. I became fascinated with the history of the American nation and with its principles of liberty and justice for all.
At the beginning of my life, the U.S. meant fun and excitement; wonderful vacations; burgers and fries; shopping for cool stuff. Little did I know that this country would become so much more. As one of our summer vacations turned into the trip in which I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, I knew things were about to change. For one, it was not mandatory for me to play sports at school — not necessarily a bad thing for me. However, as my vision loss progressed, I was faced with new challenges at school. Even though I was blessed to attend a private American school, teachers and staff did not know what to do to help me. I started creating study groups in which my classmates would read while I memorized. I also arranged for my teachers to read tests and quizzes for me.
As I navigated a higher education environment that did not offer the support I needed as a visually impaired student, I had to be innovative and resourceful to develop and secure my own auxiliary aids to guarantee the successful completion of my corporate law degree. I had to develop my own accommodations with the unconditional help of my parents. My mom and dad would take turns recording all my codes, books, and handouts with the use of a portable tape recorder.
Establishing my permanent residency in Florida brought forth monumental changes. I decided that I would venture into the business world, and eventually pursued a master’s degree in business administration (MBA). It was so easy for me to become aware of the differences that existed between my native land and this nation. Here, the system allowed for me as a blind individual to fulfill my personal and professional goals. I also learned that this hadn’t always been the case; I understood that much advocacy and lobbying had to be done by many in order to achieve such opportunities.
While I was making so many strides through my affiliation with the American Council of the Blind, there were still many cultural challenges to address. I had to assist my family in coming to terms with my vision loss. Back in Honduras, blindness was still viewed as some sort of punishment. My parents feared that I would dare use my white cane during my visits back home. The idea of a guide dog terrified them, as they knew that a dog cannot be folded and put out of sight. That was, until they met Posh. My smart and beautiful girl stole everyone’s heart with the first lick or shake of her paw.
Today, as my family and community back in Honduras learn about my accomplishments here in the United States, they share my story with pride. This country gave me the tools I needed to face life with courage and authenticity. Here, I have fought for and found unique opportunities, like being gainfully employed assisting students with disabilities, and being an active player in advocacy through ACB and its affiliates. Most importantly, I have been able to find myself and stand tall as a blind gay man and a proud naturalized citizen of this great nation. Every day, I am fascinated by knowing that now, I can also enjoy and work for those principles of liberty and justice for all. I will conclude by stating that I was not wrong when I resolved to keep “an eye” on the United States of America.