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New Vision Guam tours UOG campus

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - The Americans with Disabilities Act opens its doors to blind students seeking higher education. Members of New Vision Guam toured the University of Guam campus today to kick-start a series of events to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the ADA.

New Vision Guam is a volunteer-based support and advocacy group for those who are blind or with low vision. Tracy Fejeran, a 41-year-old from Sinajana, is married with three children. Five years ago she lost her vision due to diabetes retinaopothy. Joining New Vision Guam has given her a new lease on life and the opportunity of pursue a higher education, as she told KUAM News, "Since being with New Vision Guam, I'm actually going out and trying new things; trying to put some life back into me and one of them is going back to school."

An estimated 500 people on Guam are blind and 2,000 have low vision. According to New Vision Guam, these people deserve their right to a higher education. Fejeran is strongly considering registering for classes this fall in efforts to pursue her dream of becoming a social worker.

She says people will disabilities, especially blindness, should not be discriminated against, noting, "We're all the same. This is just a nuisance. Our blindness is just a nuisance in our lives. It's not a disease. We're all still the same."

Lee Cruz is the president of NVG. She is also considering registering for classes this fall. Cruz hopes that her organization will promote sameness amongst those with disabilities and those without, saying, "This is what we're really striving for is total inclusitivity from the very beginning from when the architect sits down the artist sits down to design a building that they include everybody. So this is the direction we're going and we want to go to university just like everybody else."

Cruz is a UOG graduate and says that the university should be proud to be accessible to those with disabilities because it will attract more students to enroll. Today's events are just the beginning. "We're starting at the University of Guam, I'm proud to be here today because I have tried attending the university as a person who is blind and their doors are open."

According to UOG institutional compliance officer Elaine Faculo-Gogue, there are an average of fifteen to eighteen students that register at her office each semester. Her office's responsibility is to ensure that necessary accommodations are made, such as note takers and sign language interpreters. "We're excited and we'd like to know a bit more on how we can serve them and their needs in terms of academics, as well as being accessible as well as be familiar with their surroundings enough to get a feel of where there at the routes that we do have and the different services we provide most especially," she said.

Since NVG's start in April, Cruz estimates the support group has already helped 100 blind people achieve some kind of independence.

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