Blind World Magazine

Blindness is no obstacle, it's a blessing.

September 13, 2005.
Nogales International, Arizona.

Juan Pablo Guzman, 26, public information officer at the City of Nogales, said, "I thank God for making me a blind individual."

Guzman has been working for the City of Nogales since January 2001.

Tool of the trade

He provides information about city business to local, state, national and international media outlets.

He said it is "a unique place to work," noting the different ways news outlets work in the United States and Mexico. "It's been wonderful exposure for me."

His main tool of the trade is his personal computer which is equipped with one of the latest versions of the software "Jaws." The system has a screen reader. "It reads everything on the screen back to me through the speakers," Guzman explained, adding that it also includes a Braille display by the keyboard.

"Jaws" works with most commonly used computer programs. Most importantly, it allows him to generate his press releases, and communicate via e-mail.

Beating statistics

It's not a cheap program he said, "but the independence it provides me is worth every cent. It's beautiful," he said.

Guzman is grateful for his job at City Hall. The unemployment rate among handicapped persons is about 70 percent. It's hard. And here I am, working in this environment, close to my family. I'm blessed."

Supportive team

His long-term career goal is to attend law school and strive for unity in his family. Guzman added that he appreciates the support received from co-workers and administrators.

"I have a team of people who have believed in me," he said, acknowledging former Mayor Marco López Jr., Mayor Albert Kramer, the city council and City Manager Jaime Fontes.

Before working for the city, Guzman graduated with honors from the University of Arizona in 2001 with a degree in political science. He was valedictorian of the 1997 class at the Arizona School for the Deaf and the Blind (ASDB) in Tucson.

He was born in Nogales, Sonora, with Leber's Congenital Amaurosis, a genetic disorder that left him blind.

Guzman says he's just like any other person and that being blind hasn't stopped him from achieving success.

It's "just a normal situation, like everyone else. I just do things a little different," he said, adding that he has problems to resolve "just like anyone else."

He credits his success to the unity of his family and his mother's "tenacity," along with the support of co-workers and friends.

He is a self-proclaimed "family-oriented person."

His father has been his "friend and adviser." He is someone who "gives advice at the perfect time," Guzman said.

Guzman and his sister, who is also blind, have been successful because their mother "envisioned her kids as normal kids."

"My family has taught me there is a solution for everything. If there is an obstacle or a detour in the street, there's a way around it. It may cost you more effort and time, but you can get around the barricade," he said.

In 2003, he was appointed by Gov. Janet Napolitano to serve on the Governor's Council of Blind and Visually Impaired People. A long-term goal of his is to "continue to pave the way for other people who have disabilities."

Guzman says he enjoys serving on the governor's council because it is a way of "being involved" with policies that affect the visually impaired.

His success stared early. He began attending the ASDB in 1991 in seventh grade. Guzman was a wrestler, president of the student council twice and participated in Tucson youth organizations while in high school.

His sister, who is two years older, was valedictorian for her ASDB class in 1995. The Guzmans had the top two grade-point averages in the two years they attended the school, he said.

He was "just as nervous as any young person" beginning a college education, he said of attending the UA.

"I was very excited to be more independent," he added.

Guzman said that he talked to his UA professors before the start of the semester to let them know he was blind and that he might need to ask questions to clarify things he might miss during lectures.

The professors were "always so helpful," and "they went beyond anything to help me," Guzman said.

He worked at his family's radio station every weekend in Nogales, Sonora, as well as attending the UA.

Ten months after starting to work for the city, he married Alma Christina, "a wonderful lady," he had been dating since 1996.

In April 2004, their first son was born.

He acknowledges that things have changed a lot since baby Juan Pablo Jr. came into their lives, but that his "passion in life is to have a happy family." He added that the baby brings the couple "together more."

"My life has been a very beautiful life. I've enjoyed my 26 years. I've done whatever I've desired to do," he said, acknowledging, "There are a lot of things that are still coming.

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