Blind Mexican Senator fighting for change from within Congress

World Today

As Mexico’s leftist president dominates headlines with his calls for change, the country’s first blind Senator is working on changes of his own.

CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock reports.

When he lost his sight at the age of seventeen, Hugo Ruiz threw himself into sport. His sudden blindness, he said, motivated him to push his physical limits more than ever before.

“As a child I always had weak vision, but when I underwent an experimental treatment as a teenager it accelerated my condition, and I completely lost my sight,” he explained. “But nature provided me with a different form of strength, and physical power greater than my friends.”

Hugo the teenager began running in the dead of night – a safer time, he thought – amid relative quiet and few pedestrians. When he came to the attention of a local athletics club, he joined on the condition that he would be treated equally.

“I never, never, never trained with other blind people. I believed that in doing so I would pick up habits that would cause prejudice. So I sought a place where I could train alongside conventional athletes.”

The athlete went on to compete internationally in the Paralympics, and in 1994 broke a world record for the 200-meter sprint at the Para-Athletics World Championships in Berlin.

After retiring from sports, he turned his considerable energies to political activism and the fight for the equal rights for the disabled.

Advocacy groups said more than 2 million Mexicans have some type of visual impairment. Many blind children don’t get proper education, and getting a job is challenging for adults with any kind of disability, with studies showing fewer than 40% formally employed.

Last July, voters elected Hugo Ruiz to become the first blind deputy to serve in Mexico’s Congress of the Union. He campaigned on being a champion for the disabled in Mexico, and says his fight is only just beginning.

“I’m the only blind person in the congress, and I have to take on that responsibility. By showing ourselves to be productive, we will change our stigma of being dependents on society, into being socially useful.”

 As Hugo Ruiz settles into his role, he said that the energy that took him to the heights of his sport, will now be applied to improving the lives and futures of people like him.