Tameka Diaz is fighting for her daughter and other children in the Upstate and beyond.

Diaz and her husband Jonathan are the parents of three children, including 2 1/2-year-old Evely, who is blind. Evely’s eyes did not develop in utero.

“Her diagnosis is very rare, and she was born with the absence of eyes,” Diaz said. “We unfortunately didn’t find out about it until the day she was born. It’s usually not detected by ultrasound unless they are looking for it.”

Evely wears prosthetic eyes which were fitted using new technology that expanded as she grew. But that was just the first of many challenges that Diaz is determined to help her daughter conquer.

Diaz started a Facebook page called Advocate Like a Mother, which chronicles her family’s journey to help Evely reach her full potential and overcome barriers. Diaz is finding ways to meet each challenge head on, including giving her daughter the same early literacy experiences that her other children have.

“We’re learning a lot about Braille and the accessibility of Braille – or the lack thereof,” she said.

The family usually visits the library once a week.

“For a while, there weren’t any early childhood Braille books,” Diaz said.

Diaz sought to change that with the help of the Greenville Library System. Because families move to the Upstate to be near the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind in Spartanburg, Diaz knew there must be a need. She met with library staff and showed them some of her family’s books in both print and Braille, which allow families to read with their children. Soon, Braille/print children’s books were a part of the library’s catalog.

“Before the books are hitting the shelves, families are putting them on hold and checking them out, which shows there is a need for it,” Diaz said.

Next, Diaz is turning her attention to local restaurants.

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“I have yet to sit down at a restaurant in this area that has a Braille menu,” she said. “I feel like the accessibility isn’t there. It would be disappointing anyway, but since the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind is in Spartanburg, I thought there would be more accessibility. I want Evely to be a part of that experience. I want to go to a restaurant and give her a menu so she can decide. I want her to have as much independence as possible moving forward. That’s my goal – to know that she doesn’t always have to rely on someone else to make simple decisions.”

Diaz said buildings often only have Braille signs at elevators and restrooms. She is hoping to see that expanded as well, so Evely has something to touch to let her know where she is.

“We have so many families with children who are blind or visually impaired,” she said. “I would love to be able to give more independence. It would mean everything to our family. The blind and visually impaired rely on their hands.”

The challenges keep coming, but Diaz is facing them head on, knowing the outcome is worth it.

“The odds are already against her in so many ways,” she said. “If they are against her because of diagnosis, that can’t be helped. If they are against her because of accessibility or resources, that’s something that can change – education first and showing the need, then providing the resources. If we can get them resources, they can be independent and they can be successful.”

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