He raised his hand and his name was called, but he took a few seconds, his face close to the computer screen. There was a couple seconds of silence.
Besides him, a transcriber typed everything said in the class, including the professor words and those of other students. In front of him, his screen received what was said in big text for him to read. He read what the professor was asking, raised his hand, and read that his name was called: “Yes, Erick.”
Erick Gallegos is a deaf and blind student, majoring in English, at CSUN. He was born through a traumatic delivery, which left him stuck for hours, damaging his hearing. At the age of 9, just before turning 10 years old, he lost his vision, the reason for which the doctor could not diagnose. He has tunnel eyes, meaning he can only see objects right front of him, within 3 feet, and has difficulty seeing in the dark.
Gallegos started at CSUN as a business administration major. However, the support the department could give him was limited. He had a hard time participating in his classes due to his not being able to see the board, which resulted in his not being able to keep up with his classes
“It’s not like I am not able to do (the work),” Gallegos said. “It just (depends on) how the class is set up.”
Gallegos changed his major several times. He tried majoring in economy, sociology and, finally, in English. The English department provided the support he needed in order to fully participate in his classes and he felt “included.”
Gallegos hopes to continue on to graduate school and become a lawyer. Despite his disability in listening and seeing, he sees communication as on of his strengths.
“Friends, peers and family, all tell me that I have a talent for structuring an argument and (for) communication and I was told that I am very good (at) convincing or persuading people.”
Jutta Schamp, an English professor who taught Gallegos for two years, said that he would come to her office during her office hours to discuss his assignments in detail. He’d then revise his work and try to present his best effort.
Kathryn Leslie, another English professor who teaches Gallegos, does not call Erick disabled. Instead, she says that he has different abilities.
“This is my first time having a student who has different abilities in my classroom,” Leslie said. “I really feel like Erick is such an asset to my class. I think he would be an ambassador in the field of showing what’s possible with different abilities.”