Hadley learning opens new opportunities to dream
In 2003, at the age of 26, Natalia Martinez had surgery to remove a brain tumor. The procedure damaged her optic nerve, resulting in a complete loss of vision in her left eye, and the loss of half her vision in the right.
Now, with 20/150 visual acuity, Natalia is extremely sensitive to light and is most comfortable in dimly lit places. She also has poor peripheral vision and color vision in her right eye. Adjusting to this new normal was difficult for Natalia who felt frustrated and depressed for the first couple of years. It was challenging to live as she had before—especially because she didn’t have access to needed services or useful resources, "I tried to live as independently as possible, however, without any sort of counseling from a professional, it was really hard," Natalia explains.
Natalia had to develop her own strategies for daily chores, personal care, reading and writing, and travelling. She also had to give up hobbies she previously enjoyed, while others—such as baking—were much more difficult and dangerous. However, "the greatest challenge was travelling. It was so frustrating," she remembers. No longer able to drive, or even take an escalator, Natalia had to find new ways to navigate the world.
Finally, Nadia found the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, where they provided her with a white cane, trained her how to use it—and told her about Hadley.
Since then, Natalia has completed 22 Hadley courses in less than three years. Her first, and still one of her favorite classes, was Container Gardening which allowed her to reclaim a hobby she had loved before losing her sight. Other favorites include a psychology class that "ignited [her] passion for psychology." As someone who struggled with her own self-esteem following vision loss she also found great value in the Self-esteem and Adjusting with Blindness course explaining, "It is full of real experiences that, on several occasions, made me cry. I identified with so many testimonies of people who have gone through my very same situations."
Hadley has also helped Natalia regain her self-confidence. "There was a time when I thought I would never be able to accomplish my goals but when I heard about Hadley, I saw a light of hope. My Hadley learning has opened new opportunities for me to dream. I would describe my experience as part of the Hadley community as one of the greatest opportunities I have had after my vision loss to regain control of my life, set new goals, and fulfill my dreams."
Natalia recognizes that she had help from the Hadley community along the way. Hadley instructors "were so supportive, made themselves available even outside working hours and are great role models." She is also grateful to Hadley’s supporters for helping "real people, like me, who are struggling to be competitive and productive in their communities. Thanks to their donations we are able to pursue our dreams. You bring hope and purpose to our lives."