Obergon challenges ULV diversity
October 9, 1998
Along with more than 440 other new students, Daniel Obergon joined
the diverse University of La Verne student body in the fall. Born in Mexico
City, Obergon spent his last 14 years living in community of San Dimas from
where he commutes to La Verne. Despite his visual impairment the 20-year-old
soccer fan is inspired to became a Spanish translator and hopes to earn
his bachelor's degree from ULV.
He cruises the campus with a visual aid walking stick. Daniel Obergon,
19-year-old freshman, is legally blind.
Being the first in his family to attend college in the United States,
Obergon said he is really excited. He is majoring in Spanish and hopes to
work as a translator upon graduation.
"To my knowledge, ULV has accommodated students with lesser levels
of visual impairment. Daniel is the first student we are accommodating with
special equipment," said Cynthia Denne, director of student health
Obergon does not feel left out because of his disability; in fact, an
observer would not even realize that he is blind if he did not carry his
visual aid walking stick.
"When I got accepted to ULV, my mobility instructor came out here
with me and showed me how to get around," said Obergon.
Vince Fazzi, Obergon's mobility instructor from high school, came out
to ULV and guided him on getting around campus. With the help of his visual
aid walking stick, he walks to his classes and around the campus on his
Obergon was not born blind, but he was born with hydrocephalus, which
is the accumulation of fluid in the brain. Within 24 hours of birth, a shunt
was inserted into his head to help drain out the excess liquid.
When Obergon was 5 years old, he was playing on a brick wall and fell
down, hitting his head. The shunt was knocked out of place. At the time
there were no immediate injuries, because doctors did not realize that the
shunt was out of place. The misplacement of the shunt caused liquid to penetrate
his brain applying too much pressure on his optic nerves. The pressure gradually
contributed to his loss of vision.
By the time his parents and the doctors discovered that Obergon was
going blind, it was too late for treatment. As a result, he was considered
legally blind at the age of 5.
Since there was not much the doctors could do in Mexico City, Obergon's
family moved to America in hopes of getting better treatment for him.
The doctors in America could not help Obergon as well. Despite the advancement
of technology and the new surgical methods, his blindness is irreversible.
However, his blindness is stable and does not progress.
Realizing that there was nothing he could do to see again, his parents
enrolled him in a school for the visually impaired. At the age of 6, Obergon
learned to read in Braille.
Obergon is the eldest of three. He has a younger sister and a brother,
who both have normal vision. He does not consider his blindness as a disadvantage;
in fact, he said that his blindness has made him a much more well-rounded
individual because he is very open-minded toward others.
"I first saw Daniel at freshman camp; at first I didn't even realize
that he was blind. Later on that day I found out that he is in my University
100 class," said Richard Rose, assistant professor of religion and
Dr. Rose said that, in his University 100 class, which is a class geared
to assist freshman and transfer students to help them get acquainted with
the school, Obergon is very enthusiastic and eager to participate in class
discussions and does not seem to feel left out because of his blindness.
According to Dr. Rose, the other students in the classroom do not feel
intimidated or uncomfortable around Obergon.
"I really thought that Daniel would feel left out but he doesn't.
He is very positive," said sophomore Alena Vlna, Orientation Week Leader
and co-facilitator of Obergon's class.
The task of providing Obergon with all the proper accommodations is
challenging for ULV, according to Denne.
Most of Obergon's books are in Braille or on audio tapes. For the few
books that are not available in either of the needed forms, special accommodations
are made at the Learning Enhancement Center, which provides him with a reader.
The University has also budgeted special equipment. On a loan basis,
he has a Braille & Speak, which looks like a small laptop, allowing
him to take notes during class in Braille. He was also loaneed a Braille
printer, which can be attached to the Braille & Speak and print out
Obergon's notes and papers in Braille so that he can review them.
In addition, an adapter printer has been set up at the Student Resource
Center for him which converts Braille into text so that Obergon can turn
in his assignments. There is also an order in place for a Manual Brailler,
a device to help Obergon do math problems.
Denne said that ULV is new at providing special care for a completely
"We are learning as we go. It's really nice that Daniel is committed
to education," said Denne.