The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

NW student continues moving forward after car accident leaves him sightless

NW+student+continues+moving+forward+after+car+accident+leaves+him+sightless

By Dylan Bradley/editor-in-chief

Joel Hernandez enjoys thrilling things, but he likes normal things too.

He wakes up, eats breakfast and studies before taking a taxi to NW Campus.

Some days, he takes a break from classes to enjoy rides in twin-engine planes. Other days, he discovers he hates roller coasters.

Most days, he’s just glad when he doesn’t trip anyone with his cane.

Hernandez suffered grievous injuries from a car accident several years ago. The crash put him into a coma for a couple of months, inflicted a broken nose, some head trauma, brain injury, broken bones around his eye and retina detachment in his right eye.

“It’s not gonna come back, my vision,” he said. “I wish I could see, though.”

Hernandez still lives as normal and full a life as possible despite the setbacks he has faced.

The accident left him with light perception, which means he knows when a light is on or off in a room.

He spent nine months in a sight rehabilitation center in Austin and decided to live each day as normally as possible.

“I was mad I had to learn the alphabet again,” he said. “But Austin was a very blind-friendly city.”

At the crosswalks, signs talk to people, and there are areas for them to walk.

Hernandez returned to Fort Worth and began going to TCC in the 2011-2012 school year.

He said he couldn’t just stay home and do nothing. So he began working on his associate degree with a focus on business or accounting, moved out of his parents’ house and moved in with roommates.

Even though Hernandez is independent, he is definitely not alone.

Fellow NW student Linda Watson first saw Hernandez while eating lunch.

Linda Watson, left, with Joel Hernandez, center, and Linda Prindle, right, have taken rides in a twin-engine plane, gone to symphonies and heard the Dallas Jazz Orchestra. Audrey Werth/The Collegian
Linda Watson, left, with Joel Hernandez, center, and Linda Prindle, right, have taken rides in a twin-engine plane, gone to symphonies and heard the Dallas Jazz Orchestra. Audrey Werth/The Collegian

“I saw him walking through the hallway, and I just sat and watched the people pass by while he found his way, patiently, to the next classroom,” she said. “I just went over and introduced myself, and the friendship has just grown from there.”

A few months later, NW student Linda Prindle also witnessed a similar scene of Hernandez making his way down a hall.

“I looked at him and I thought, ‘Somehow or another, I think I’m gonna get to know him,’” she said.

She saw him again in the hall two weeks later and introduced herself.

“I was curious. ‘Were you born blind?’ ‘Did you have an accident?’ Things you don’t usually ask when you first meet someone, but boy, did I need to know,” she said.

Prindle’s friendly, inquisitive nature contributed more than just a friendship to Hernandez.

“My strength is relationships,” she said. “Well, I was in a PetSmart one day, and a lady had a dog, a little dog just like mine.”

This led to a conversation, which led to Prindle learning the woman was taking flying lessons, owned a plane and had a husband who was a pilot.

“So my brain started clicking, and before I could even control what came out of my mouth, I said, ‘I know this is completely far-fetched.You don’t even know me. But I have a blind college-student friend who has never been flying in an airplane at all. Do you think it would be possible for him to go up in an airplane with you guys?’” she said.

Hernandez said he loved the experience of flying.

The trio ended up meeting with the woman and her husband, Monica and Blake. After breakfast, Blake took Hernandez up in his plane.

“He did tricks in the air,” Hernandez said. “He leaned and he dropped the plane like you’re floating. It was fun.”

Prindle said she wondered what it would be like not only to get into a plane with a stranger, but to do it blind.

“It didn’t strike me till several weeks later — how brave was that,” she said.

Hernandez said that he’s had a lot of fun with Watson and Prindle.

“I’d never been flying before. Went to the symphony a few times, which was fun, and the Dallas Jazz Orchestra,” he said.

When not out thrill-seeking, Hernandez focuses on where he’s going next. One of his main concerns is choosing a four-year school that can accommodate his lack of sight.

“I talked to some schools,” he said. “I’m pretty sure they’ll get the equipment, but even with that, I run into roadblocks.”

One university representative told him they wouldn’t have anyone to help him with his homework or issues. He would have to hire someone to help.

“That’s like $20 an hour for someone to work with you for a couple semesters,” he said. “I can’t afford that. I just have to find the right school.”

Hernandez doesn’t plan on letting anything stop him. He stays focused on his business and accounting classes and the end goal of getting a job.

“I’m real easygoing,” he said. “If the wage is good, I’ll take the opportunity and stick to it.”

Joel Hernandez explores the plane with the pilot who took him on his first excursion in an airplane. He admitted after the flight that he isn’t completely comfortable with heights. Photo courtesy Joel Hernandez
Joel Hernandez explores the plane with the pilot who took him on his first excursion in an airplane. He admitted after the flight that he isn’t completely comfortable with heights. Photo courtesy Joel Hernandez
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