Remembering Leaders
in the Field of Blindness and Visual Impairment

Dr. Jose Rafael Santana

University of Puerto Rico | Passed Away August, 2006

Photo: Dr. Jose Rafael Santana.

In August Dr. Jose Rafael Santana, from the University of Puerto Rico passed away, after a long illness. He was a distinguished scholar and practitioner in the field of special education.Dr. Jose Rafael Santana was born and raised in Santurce, Puerto Rico.   In his youth he acquired a visual disability which he confronted with courage and optimism.Dr. Santana made many contributions to the field. He founded the first school for the Blind in Latin America in the town of Bayamon, Puerto Rico. He was a founding member of the Mental Health hospital, SJ Capestrano. He was also the first director of the Assistive Technology Project and founded the project PR Opportunity Program that offers independent living services to youth with severe disabilities and school drop outs with disabilities. For ten years he was the administrator and of the Vocational Rehabilitation office where he founded ATREVI, a project for assistive technology in rehabilitation teaching and independent living.  For him the University of Puerto Rico was not a career but a destiny.  His love for the academy made him the recipient of the recognition of his coworkers and students.  He represented the University and people with disabilities in many organizations including The International Council for People with Visual Impairments, The World Federation for the Education of Exceptional Individuals, and the State Advisory Council for Rehabilitation.  In 1999 he was selected for the Executive Committee for the Governor’s Immersion to the Workforce State Board.  He was recognized with the Governor’s Medal of Honor for his services, the National Award for distinguished services, the award from the National Society for the Prevention of Blindness, and the award from the Pan-American Committee for People with Blindness. Among his publications there are: The Manual for Teaching the Braille System, The Education of the Exceptional Individual in Latin America, and the Inclusive Educational Administration: Challenges for Educational Systems in the New Millennium (all published in Spanish). It is significant that even with the health difficulties he confronted he was able to finish and make a presentation of this, his last book. 

Many students have gone through his classroom and later went back to thank him for helping them be better teacher and persons.  His memory will live in the hearts of the people who work with and advocate for rights people with disabilities, his friends and coworkers.