Ernestina Saldaña knows Santa Cruz can do better

Ernestina Saldaña thinks Santa Cruz County needs to do more for people with disabilities. Here, in Lookout’s inaugural opinion video piece, she invites us to join her in her wheelchair for a five-minute experience navigating her Live Oak neighborhood.

In the video, Ernestina Saldaña shows us the perils of streets without proper sidewalks or curb cuts, railroad tracks and crosswalk buttons that are located too far for her to reach. She has been hit by cars three times crossing streets in Santa Cruz. She has lived in 12 affordable housing units in Santa Cruz and only one — her current home — has been fully accessible, meaning she can get through the front door and use the bathroom with ease. To get her son to school, she used to crawl up a set of stairs and then pull her wheelchair to the top behind her.

As a community, she insists we can do better. She challenges us to look at our community through her eyes and consider how accommodating and inclusive we are.

Please come along with us into her world.

Ernestina Saldaña was the first Latina to serve on the Santa Cruz Commission on Disabilities and the first female Latina to serve as chair of the commission. She has been in a wheelchair since 1986, when a car accident in Mexico left her paralyzed. She is a civil engineer with master’s degrees in public health and environmental engineering. She has three children and has lived in Santa Cruz 31 years.

Shot and edited by Kevin Painchaud.