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Disability Narratives

Maria has worked at the university for 27 years. Just over ten years ago she started to have problems with her sight and is now registered blind. Maria has a guide dog, Tex, who goes everywhere with her. Maria says the support offered by the Access to Work scheme has been crucial to her continuing to work.

Portrait of Maria and Tex, her guidedog.Background

at the time of the interview – 2016

Maria is admissions secretary for the Latin American Centre. She is married
with one daughter. Ethnic Background/Nationality: White British-Colombian.

Extended biography

at the time of the interview - 2016

Maria has worked at the Latin American centre at the university for 27 years. Her current role is admissions secretary, where she helps all prospective students with enquiries and coming to the university. She said she really enjoys her job as she gets to help the students fulfil their dream of coming to Oxford.

Maria had to wear glasses from a young age. Around 30 years ago her eyesight deteriorated and she was told that she would lose her sight. However, she was able to have surgery in Colombia that corrected her eyesight so she did not need glasses anymore. Around ten years later Maria, who was now living in Oxford, noticed that her eyesight was getting worse. After tests she was told that she would be registered partially sighted and was provided with a white stick. Around five years later Maria's loss of sight was such that she was registered blind.

When she was registered partially sighted Maria did not immediately tell her manager. However, when she did tell them she found them to be very supportive. Maria felt it was important that people show understanding of the difficulties people with disabilities face. Maria said that people shouldn't help simply because of the law, but because they want to help and support her.

That's the bit that I don't like, if people feel sorry for me, and 'oh, poor you'. ... No. I can do the same things as you do. In a different way, but I can do the same things.

Maria's initial contact with the university Disability Office was not as helpful as she hoped. However, she was put in contact with the Government's 'Access to Work' scheme. She was provided with a new computer and software, as well as other gadgets. The person who installed the computer showed Maria the software and helped adapt the settings to suit her. When he had done so Maria said she 'felt normal' at work for the first time since she lost her sight. Maria said it was very important to her that she could carry on going to work and that the Access to Work scheme had really helped with that.

Soon after Maria was registered blind she provided with her guide dog (Tex) by the Guide dogs for the Blind Association. Before getting Tex, Maria said she would hide from going out. At first she was worried about getting a dog as she was frightened of dogs. But within 24 hours she realised how helpful (and handsome!) he was and now Tex is with Maria 24/7. Maria said that Tex had changed her life, helping her to go out and giving her her confidence back.

Biography at the time of the interview - 2016