Meet Argentine journalist Verónica González Bonet, the only visually impaired television journalist in the Americas

She was born 38 years ago in Argentina and is the mother of 5-year-old twins Ignacio and Nahuel and 7-month-old Lautaro. She lives in the province of San Martín, Buenos Aires.

Verónica González Bonet is the only television journalist in Argentina, and Latin America as a whole, whose visual impairment has not been an impediment to her professional development.

In late September, she was invited by the United Nations (UN) to the Social Forum on Disability and Human Rights held in Geneva, Switzerland. At this event, she talked about her professional experience as a journalist.

"My speech was about the relationship of people with disabilities with information, as consumers, as part of the news and, given my work, as producers," González explained about the forum, in conversation with the Knight Center. She added that it was interesting to tell what happens inside the media, about the challenges of working in TV when you have a disability, and how to approach the topics from a journalistic point of view.

González Bonet has received several national awards recognizing her journalistic work. In 2012, she won the Lola Mora Award for conveying "an image of a woman that defies gender stereotypes" in the column, or special segment, that she presents on the main state television news station.

In 2013, she won the 2013 Isalud award in the Communication and Individual Health category for her reports on disabilities. In 2015, she also received the Mario Bonino Prize of the Union of Buenos Aires Press Workers (UTPBA for its acronym in Spanish).

"Bonino was a journalist who was killed for investigating, so it was an honor to receive an award that bears his name, it also was awarded by fellow journalists. It was very powerful, and in the company of fellow fighters for human rights, my family. Also, the pride of my kids,” said an emotional González.

González has worked since 2009 as a journalist at Channel 7 of Argentina's public television in the capital city, reporting on gender and disability.

Until February of this year, González hosted a live special segment for the program Public Television News on the state channel. However, with new administration at the channel, their reports are broadcast with the rest of the news, without any special schedule.

"I think this is good, because they treat [my reports] like any [other] news, but not doing it on a specific day at a specific time, people with disabilities who may be interested can miss it,” González said.

She graduated in Computer Science from the Universidad Argentina de la Empresa (UADE). She eventually studied journalism in her home country and then specialized in gender issues at the Instituto Internacional José Martí in Havana, Cuba. Currently, she is completing a degree by correspondence in Criminology at Universidad Siglo XXI in Córdoba, Argentina.

She was working in the claims area of telecommunications company Telefónica –in database management and development of statistical tables for management – when González discovered her journalistic vocation.

In 2005, after participating in a training program for young Latin American leaders with disabilities, she led a project financed by Fundación Telefónica, at the request of her bosses. She made a series of mini radio programs, which she also produced, with the objective of raising public awareness on the way that media show people with disabilities.

"I discovered, almost without knowing, that what I liked was to work in media and I began to study the field," González admitted.

When the time came to seek pre-professional work in media, González was faced with many prejudices because of her visual impairment.

"I had worked in systems development companies and did not encounter much resistance as in the media, which many times have a discourse full of works like inclusion, human rights, equal opportunities, etc.”

In that sense, finding employment as a journalist was a challenge for González, who attended public schools despite her blindness. Therefore, she stresses that the possibilities that a person with disabilities can have to develop have a lot to do with their environment, their family, their economic possibilities and stimulation, among other things.

"In my case, I think I would not be as I am if it weren’t for my family: parents very involved in my education, a mother who is a teacher, and two older sisters and brother who always treated me like one of the group,” González said.

Before working in state television, the journalist worked at a private agency that focused on news about children, where she gained a lot of experience in the field that made her feel more secure in her professional abilities.

For González, working in television means "being able to break with many prejudices about people with disabilities.”

One of the main tools used by González in her daily work is the JAWS screen reader. She also uses the screen reading software on the iPhone. To edit the video of her reports, she uses the program VLC.

She writes in Braille with board and stylus, and also works on her computer. The show’s producer, Ambar Rusi, usually assists her and people on the research team help her to locate visual material.

"We also have worked with disability issues in the news for almost seven years and this means that we have varied images for the reports,” she said.

The journalist also manages her own blog where she publishes on social issues from a more personal perspective.

Additionally, González has been an active member of the Network for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Redi, for its acronym in Spanish) since 2011. She also belongs to the Network of Journalists with Vision of Gender in her country, and recently joined the Global Forum on Media and Disability.

The renowned Argentinian journalist also gives talks to colleagues and the general public about communication and disability, gender stereotypes, violence, social inclusion, job search, among others.

In late October, the journalist gave a talk in her workplace on how to address disability issues, a way of standardizing criteria and addressing the issue properly and with respect.

For example, terms like "dwarf", "invalid", "crippled", "suffers from," are not appropriate to refer to people with disabilities, according to the rules for journalists that González presented with the Association for Civil Rights (ADC for its acronym in Spanish) and the Regional Network for Inclusive Education (RREI).

Disability is something dynamic, González explained, because it is always based on an environment that places or removes barriers for people. By the same token, she added, it is not correct to say that a person is disabled, but that they have a disability as a characteristic.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.