MIAMI (CBSMiami) -The Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired has been devoted to changing the lives of the visually impaired since it opened in 1931.
Jorge Hernandez is leading a class on technology, giving his eager students some pro tips on using a handheld device.
“You can play with contrast, you can play with magnification, it has speech output and it’s a portable tablet,” Hernandez said.
As technology manager at Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Hernandez leads by example, knowing all too well what his students are going through to stay connected to the world they cannot see.
“I was diagnosed for retinitis pigmentosa at the age of nine, never fully develop. I still had with corrective eye-wear, pretty good eyesight,” said Hernandez. “Then, I was involved in a cycling accident. After the accident, I noticed that my vision was deteriorating a little bit.”
Eighteen months later, he was blind at the age of 20.
He was devastated.
He struggled to find motivation and was unable to find a job.
It wasn’t until he got some tough love from his dad that got him up on his feet.
Hernandez decided to go back to college, despite the obstacles.
“As difficult as it is for a sighted person with a full course load, textbooks, reading, exams. It’s tough for a typical student, but try to do that blind,” said Hernandez.
He graduated with a bachelor’s in Information Technology and doors started opening up.
“Now I can sit at a computer and the playing field is leveled,” he said. “I can do anything that any sighted peer of mine can do.
Now, teaching classes to students of all ages, Hernandez is more than an instructor, he is their inspiration.
“Now that you have hope, let’s give you confidence. We teach them techniques as a blind person, how to operate a computer, mobile device, a tablet. Braille, anything that will make them competitive,” said Hernandez.
For Alan Buffer, who is now partially blind, Hernandez’s expert guidance is a lifesaver.
“I was really in a funk and with his direction now I can navigate the phone. I’m a newbie, I am learning and always asking questions, but he just amazes me,” said Buffer. “The Lighthouse has really given me a second chance because I was really ready to just give up.”
Hernandez also works to ensure that business and government websites are fully accessible to the visually impaired. He’s an advocate for the importance of information technology for the blind.
In his downtime, he loves the outdoors, especially being out on the water.
“Nobody knows how much you can enjoy a beautiful sunset, especially here in South Florida,” Hernandez said. “Now I can’t see it, but you can still feel the sun sensation on your skin, you can tell when it is going down and that is the most relaxing thing you can do.”
For more information on Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired visit their website.