Chris Gonzalez stands in the middle of a large conference room holding a microphone. In front of him sits representatives from the Department of Transportation.  All around the conference room are tables with DBCA mentors, mentees, interpreters, and captioners. One thing I’d like to share upfront with everyone here is that I am a firm believer of everything that happens during its time period for a reason. We go through the best and the worst thing life has to offer, and we use these experiences as a tool. We learn and grow from everything life has thrown at us. I think it’s safe to say everyone knows what I’m talking about here. Everything we go through in life itself is a lesson in one form or another, but it is up to us to figure them out and embrace them to the fullest. These lessons are what make us who we are as individuals: a human, an advocate, and a person who is always looking for something better out of life! If there is one thing these lessons have taught me that is to embrace my disabilities because they now become my abilities.
For a long time, I had been undecided with what I want to do in life due to challenges that I had faced in life: the divorce of my parents, my health, my disabilities and my manipulative father. I had been battling depression and food addiction for many years. Food has always been a big one for me because I used it for everything especially as a way to cope with my depression and life in general. During this time, I was also diagnosed with Chronic Kidney disorder (CKD) and the meds I was put on affected me even more emotionally and physically making it impossible for me to keep up with school and my social life. I also grew up as a musician, taking all the classes and performing. I loved music, but didn’t like the pressure and the need to compete with others just to prove to myself and others over and over again that I deserved to take that spot in the band, orchestra, or as a soloist. Ultimately, I realized that in pursuing a musical career I was accommodating my father’s dream and not mine.
Last year, I attended the Hellen Keller National Center as a student for 6 months and towards the end of my training, I fell in love with teaching. At this point, I realized I loved helping and teaching individuals like myself in any way I could, so we could all have a better quality of life: through advocacy, living independently and finding happiness in our lives. At this time, I decided to come back as an intern for the independent living department at HKNC and fell even more in love with working with people of different backgrounds, diversities, family dynamics, and cultures. This experience allowed me to grow in ways I never expected to experience. My life had started to change.
Since my internship ended and I came back home to my old life, I started to feel depressed again. I had no job, no friends, and no opportunity for me here in San Diego. I began feeling bored and started turning back to the comfort of food again. I then heard about DBCA and decided to seize this opportunity and it lit a fire inside me: confirming my meaning of existence in this lifetime. For the first time in my life I actually felt hungry to succeed. I wanted something better in life, I began to to dream big dreams. I began advocating for myself and for my peers and my community. I also waned to begin traveling, giving speeches and presentations on what it’s like to live as a deaf-blind individual who dares to dream big like everyone else. I began raising awareness of the deaf-blind community just like everyone else, do things differently in life in order to achieve the same result. One thing I tell everyone is that I embrace my disabilities because they become my abilities. One of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned from advocating with DBCA is developing a good working relationship with everyone because alone we can only do so much but together we go far: keeping track of our priorities and keeping the personal conflicts out of the picture. DBCA gave me the opportunity to practice these skills effectively by addressing the department of Transportation and the Federal Communications Commission. I can already tell you how effective these tools are because currently even after the DBCA conference, I am still in contact with the FCC regarding the issue I’m advocating on behalf of the deaf-blind community. I also have Microsoft interested and currently trying to encourage Apple and Google to participate in working together to create a more effective Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) in order to increase public safety for everyone.
I will continue to use these experiences to pursue my degree in social work and vocational rehabilitation therapy working with deaf blind individuals. This is where I feel I belong. This is where I feel I will fulfill my life with happiness and thanks to DBC for giving me a greater opportunity to embrace my disabilities, because now they become my abilities.

By: Chris Gonzalez