This summer, Bernalillo County’s District Court hired a teenage intern who offered employees the opportunity to see the world a little differently.
Feliz Ruiz, 16, of Albuquerque, was born blind with Septo-optic dysplasia (SOD).
“Our job, on a daily basis, is to listen to multiple people speaking at the same time,” Gibson said. “Often times, with ambient noise, you know, papers flipping or shuffling of feet.”
Without people like Diona Gibson, hearings in court would go undocumented.
Gibson, a seasoned court reporter of ten years, said she knew what she wanted to do from a young age — much like her teenage counterpart Ruiz.
“I just never thought that I would be able to do this before,” Ruiz said, reflecting on her internship.
Ruiz said she’s been fascinated with how the court system works since she was 9.
“They know that it’s my dream job,” she said, talking about her family.
In June, her internship began and that dream became a reality.
While most court reporters rely on their sight and hearing abilities in the courtroom, Ruiz relies on one.
“Sometimes she would sit in the back and observe,” Gibson explained. “She could pretty much tell if it was a defense attorney or a prosecuting attorney by the things they were saying.”
As Bernalillo County’s District Court’s first blind intern, Ruiz uses what’s called a BrailleNote to transcribe court hearings.
“She followed me around,” Gibson said. “We did family court, we did criminal court, we did civil court.
“She taught us a lot as far as, things that we’re not aware of every day, such as elevators — how to get around the building. When you hear the elevator ding once is up and twice is down — things that we take for granted.”
Ruiz said it was her mother, a legal assistant in Albuquerque, who challenged her to chase this dream.
One would think her hearing is almost a superpower, but her mother knows that’s nothing compared to her daughter’s willpower.
“I would just say that anything’s possible. That’s all.”
Ruiz is a sophomore at the New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Her internship was the result of a collaboration between the Students in Transition to Employment Program and the Central Region Educational Cooperative.
Gibson said Ruiz is welcome back at court anytime.