Through Her Eyes
The first day of university is usually filled with positive memories—sitting in your first lecture hall, meeting people from different places, and making new friends.
For Paulina Diaz, a music major, it was a nightmare.
“The first day [of school] I had an audition and I'm not gonna lie, I was petrified... I was not only out here on my own for the first time and out here getting around by myself, but I was also not able to find anything,” Diaz said.
Diaz was born with a visual impairment that leaves her with only ten percent of her eyesight. Her ability to find anything was nearly impossible due to the lack of proper braille signs in the College of Music. To date, a majority of the signs are structured incorrectly or have no braille at all—a message Diaz is all but familiar with.
“When you're not expected to go to college, get a job, live your own life, do your own things, make friends, you start to believe that. And I'm guilty of this myself. You start to believe that ‘yep, maybe I am incapable of doing these things, maybe I'm not worthy of the same friendships and the same experiences’,” Diaz said.
Luckily, her concerns have not gone unnoticed. By a chance conversation with a mutual friend, the issue came across Senator Beige Cowell of the Student Government Association.
Well, I think we are all we owe a duty to each other to, you know, make every space equally accessible. Somebody who has some disability shouldn't be at a disadvantage, in addition to how their lives are so much different… I want all facilities to have equal access to all events to have equal access and for people to be able to enjoy going to college. It's stressful enough, we don't need to make it more difficult.
To honor and spread the word about Diaz’s struggle, Senator Cowell created legislation titled ‘The Paulina Diaz Resolution’ which outlines the problems within UNT regarding accessibility for visually impaired individuals as well as a plan to amend these issues. Now, the progress of this project lies in the hands of the facilities department.
“The Braille [is] located in the wrong spot. So we're going to remedy that, and then we're going to start looking at other buildings on campus, trying to figure out, you know, buildings that weren't recently built, so those will be more likely to have signage issues. So we'll just kind of methodically go through campus and start replacing signs,” Senior Design Coordinator Becca Icossipentarhos said.
This change will impact the lives of those like Diaz as they go through their years at the University of North Texas.
“I believe there's about 80 total students registered that have a visual impairment here. [So] there's a lot of lives changed, there's a lot of people impacted,” Diaz said.