Tuesday, June 30, 2009

As promised, the parallels of disability and gaynes. Wait, let me rephrase that....

Shortly before I started college I was looking through a database of research interests of professors at GW when I came across Prof. Robert McRuer, who has written several books and articles on the intersection of disability studies and queer theory.

My two immediate reactions were: parallels

  1. Woah, this guy is studying my life…
  2. I don’t get it, why would there be a similarity between the two…
Over time I have come to realize that there is a surprising amount of overlap in the experiences of LGBT people and people with disabilities.

The shared experience is particularly true for people with disabilities that are not immediately apparent. A couple weeks ago I read a blog post by Andrew about acknowledging Tourette’s Syndrome that left me speechless. As I read about his difficulty saying the words “I have Tourette’s Syndrome” I couldn’t help but flashback to my own long struggle to say the words “I am gay” out loud years ago, and I felt like I knew exactly what he was talking about. While the details were completely different, I felt like the experience was eerily similar.

While this is just one example there are plenty of others. I'll give one more, the awkwardness that often results when some well intentioned person begins uncomfortably asking about your disability ("so, uh… how much can you… uh… see?") is something that practically any lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person can relate to ("so, uh… how did you… uh… know that you are gay?").

Anyways, I’m going to try to avoid the temptation to write a rambling essay, so I’ll leave it there, but hope everyone has a great week!

Rohmteen Mokhtari


Hey blog-o-sphere. So, a few weeks ago I made a big move. I started neuro- therapy. I go two to three times a week. I take the yellow line all the way to Eisenhower. All in all it’s a three hour commitment, most of it in commute. So far the neurotherapy is really working. It’s incredible how I can sit through a half hour of “treatment” without feeling any kind of stimulation and come out a different person. After the first treatment, the second I got home I started cleaning my room, I did my laundry, I wrote e-mails that I had been putting off. There had been a wall in my head. A wall that I couldn’t get pass. I would know that I had to do things, I would want to do them, but I would just be unable to do them. Now, I am much more able to do them.

The treatment wears off though. It’s supposed to though. I have to do it at least twenty times they say in order to get a lasting effect. I’m sure I’ll have to do more than that to get the optimum effect. It’s exciting. Seeing such concrete progress is really exciting. I’ve gone so many years with doctors telling me things like, “Oh, as soon as you get to be a teenager it will get better,” “oh, the teenage years are the worst,” “the Tourette’s leaves most people around 25.” Every time I tried a new treatment, a new drug, a new dosage, therapy, meditation, etc. it was the same story… but this seems like it could work. OK. Now, I know this might sound crazy but every good thing has a bad side. Every change, no matter how positive is scary. I must confess that I am nervous. All my life I’ve told myself that I was capable of great things. The fact that my Tourette’s and OCD and depression etc. has held me back has been really frustrating, of course. But I’m used to it. I’m a little afraid to be without it. What if I can’t do something and I don’t have the Tourette’s to lean on? What if I have no excuse? What if I’m not some superhero in chains just waiting to be freed so he can cure the world of all that plagues it? Yikes. Anyway, I’m willing to take the chance. I’d rather be ordinary and chemically sound than ordinary and messed up!

Goodnight internet.

Andrew Lustig

Monday, June 29, 2009

Slaymaker's Saying 2

Another week, another great opportunity to learn and have fun. My week consisted of great things (it didn’t rain! And no elevators were out!!...though if they did, it would be okay…I have the escalators mastered). At work, I do the tasks that have to be done for the office to function…also known as grunt work, which has to do with phones or mail…answering phones, passing out the newspapers, opening the mail, sorting and delivering the mail, sealing the mail, and even consistently writing some of the letters to be mailed. In between these tasks, I try to find opportunities to get my hands on work that challenges my mind and strengthens my intellect. Sometimes this comes through researching for a response letter, but it happens many times when attending briefings and hearings. I always try to take advantage of the opportunity to learn about legislation or hear from someone serving in the government.

Can I confirmation Safeway is the best place to shop for groceries (well, besides Cosco prolly). If you shop the ad sales and use a Safeway card, you can’t beat the prices. Though, I do have to give a shout out to Trader Joes pasta deals and their specials.

And now time for Slaymaker’s Sayings….where I pass on tips I have come to find beneficial this summer:
1. Be purposeful. Strategize what receptions you want to attend and hearings, briefings etc. Talk to your supervisor in plenty of time and make sure to coordinate with the LA so you can write a memo that is beneficial to someone besides yourself! (For those IT interns, see if you can come to the hill to experience a hearing related to your agency…maybe try to meet your Congressional liaison and coordinate with them).
2. Don’t be afraid to take time to yourself throughout the day. Research shows that if you take 5 minutes to do something that you enjoy doing, you will be more productive getting back to the tasks you have to do for work. So, take a walk, get on facebook, step out and make a phone call!
3. Explore and get lost…you are in a city of history! Many times I walk home and reflect on my day…and you never know what might happen. For instance, you could see a presidential motorcade! I did.
**Shout out to Peter….nice meeting you man. Take care.
Until next time…

Interesting Stuff by Adam Dovens

This is wrong!!!!!!!!!

In other news, I have been having a lot of my friends from out of town come and visit. People are amazed on how close we are all the action in DC. I like this campus, its relatively safe and close to all the fun. The security measures were actually accidentally tested the other night. It turns out these dorms are not really made for cooking because anytime we try to cook something, the whole apartment smokes up and the fire alarms goes off. There would be no harm in this except for the fact that the fire alarms are actually directly connected to the police department. 2 armed police officers showed up to are apartment 5 minutes later. To them this was a routine procedure, but that is some grade A security in my mind. Not only that, but on a Sunday they sent out a repair man to look at our fire alarm for use (15 minutes after the alarm went off). Next time they are designing a dorm where they have a kitchen they should call me the civil engineer first!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now tonight should also be really cool, I am going out to a salsa club. They are giving FREE lessons!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I really don’t know what to expect, good dancer or just beginners. Either way its ballroom!!!!!!!!!!! I have not danced ballroom since Fall of 2008, so I am really excited to go.

The Last Week of June

I can’t believe that the internship program is at the half way point. The world seems to pass you by when you spend your days staring at a computer screen. Entering data into a computer program is a time consuming and tedious tack. There is a benefit in this though as my typing abilities have improved sense I started here.

The most interesting thing that happened this was a conference call with the vender that will be installing the new database system that AAPD purchased. Based on what I heard this installation will be more complicated then setting up a PC. The biggest complication I know we will have to deal with is importing the data into the data sources. These data sources include the JFA listserv, MS excel spread sheets, MS word documents, MS Outlook address books, an MS Access database and a Cardscan database. Getting these different data sources into a standard format and removing the duplicates between them will be tricky tack.

I really enjoyed the pizza party on Friday. It was good to talk to some of you being that I am not living at GW. I hope that your placements are treating you well and that you are enjoying your stay in Washington DC. The 4th of July is coming up and that means that HQ will be closed on Friday. If the same is true for your placement then enjoy your time off. I hope to see you all again before the summer is over.

Have a good and productive week.

Chad Carson

Stop! In the Name of Civil Rights!


Exciting news! The Health and Human Services (HHS) Office on Civil Rights recently began investigating the state of Kentucky's Medicaid system for violation of the ADA, due to their cutting in-home services for people with disabilities. This is an interesting issue that bears discussion - one of the implications of having civil rights that are, at least in part, dependent on government funding streams is that a denial or cutting of those streams represents a violation of those civil rights. This is not how we typically understand rights discourses and is often the cause of political backlash as states face tight times fiscally. At the same time, how can any disability rights advocate deny that the support a person needs to not be relegated to an institution and to be able to meaningfully participate in the community is a civil right?

Another element of this does come up. For one thing, it is not the mere cutting of services that constitutes a civil rights violation. The landmark Olmstead v. L.C. case highlighted the fact that it is a violation of the ADA's integration mandate to offer services in an institutional setting but not in a community living setting. Thus the issue of context comes up - the civil rights violation is not simply as a result of a failure on the part of the state to provide support. It is as a result of a failure on the part of the state to provide a kind of support in the context of other support it is providing. This reminds me somewhat of the Abbott v. Burke decisions in my home State of New Jersey on school financing equity, which highlighted the need for the state to redirect some of the tax revenue from property taxes in wealthy districts to fund education in districts with low tax revenue from property taxes, in the interests of educational equity. Whether there should be a basic floor as far as minimum school funding was not the issue - it was whether or not there was a need to mandate equality of opportunity as far as district action in the educational context that brought about the civil rights claim.


ALRIGHT what a crazy... um... thing.

--David McKee--

So I'm aware that I didn't do my blog post Saturday... Sorry about this.I keep getting the email and password mixed up, but after some hunting I was able to find it barried in my email.

So lately I've been working on a website within SharePoint that will be hosted on the Intrenet.

It's basically a special events site that shows all the FUN events that will happen or has already happened.

FUN=something NOT involving paper work, desk chairs, or a lengthy spreadsheet.

Well this is truly a learning experience because I've had to learn SharePoint Designer, CSS code (Cascading Style Sheets) and some other things. The site is turning out pretty good.I ended up changing a bunch of the interface.

When I'm not working on the site, I'm toying around with things like Silverlight development, (Microsoft's version of FLASH) graphics programs such as Paint.NET and Microsoft Expressions (Microsoft's version of photoshop which by the way doesn't seem to have very many options).

Well I think that's about it.

If I remember correctly, I promised a post on virtual worlds or something. I withheld that post because it had a video that was not captioned. I found subtitling software but my computer REFUSES to install it so I may just go ahead and post it and describe what the video is talking about myself... Thank you computer for totally failing... AGAIN.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Tour That Makes Me Want To Know More By Fabio Botarelli

In my previous posts I have strongly advocated the notion of getting the most out of the Washington experience by advocating for oneself. This week I have reaped the benefits of this advice when I requested to take part in the CHIP program this week that trains DC interns to give tours of the capital. The Chip program lasted from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm on Tuesday and Thursday. What that meant was less time in the office and more time developing my versatility as an intern, all while acquiring more knowledge of the nation’s capital.
When we toured the Rotunda, the focal point of the capital I was very intrigued and fascinated by not only the artwork but by some of the stories behind the art. One of those paintings was the “Apotheosis of Washington” located in the eye of the Rotunda. The painting was created by the Italian artist Constatino Brumidi; a master of creating the illusion of three dimensional forms and figures on flat walls. While making this painting over a hundred feet from the ground Brumidi at one time almost fell to his death when the scaffolding began to break. Brumidi was hanging for fifteen minutes before someone heard his screams from above. After completing the painting in 1865, Brumidi was rewarded with a staggering $40,000 a copious sum at the time. Seeing George Washington as a cultural icon, he painted him rising to the heavens of glory, flanked by female figures representing Liberty and Victory. Surrounding Washington are six group of figures symbolic of the development of America. The symbols are War, Science, Marine, Commerce, Mechanics and Agriculture and in every one of those figures at least one Greek god is present.
As our tour guide led us from the Rotunda to other locations I found that when I tried to remember the facts I did not feel fatigued. It was as if someone were telling me a story and whenever there is a story you just want to hang on every single word. The capital itself from its original construction to its extension it a building of many stories. When I give tours one of these days I want to be able to not just reiterate what I have been taught but to draw the constituents in. There is just so much to American history that I feel that people need to learn and what better way to learn it than to be present in a location that bleeds it.

Mami Wata

This week I visited the National Museum of African Art. I love staring and gazing into art; I often find myself getting lost in its mystery and beauty. There is no right or wrong answer or black-and-white with art. Everybody sees something different from their cultural lens. Lens that dont come off, they're embedded within all of us. Sometimes we can adjust or shift focus, but nevertheless we still peep through those same lens.

A major highlight for me was the notion of "Mami Wata." Mami Wata is an icon that takes on different identities for various individuals. With her roots founded in African and Caribbean culture, she represents a saint to some and an evil to others. Often symbolized as a mermaid, she is known as a water spirit who is even worshipped by many.

To others, she is viewed to be evil with her wiles and seductions to manipulate men. In my eyes, she merely represents another popular culture icon of women. Women are admired for their beauty and form, yet castigated to be seductive and manipulative if their beauty matches that of society's image. I feel that women are constantly under the watchful eye of the public; picked at when it fits one's purpose and admired when she's left unspoken.

American popular culture doesnt promote the image of beautiful women with brains. Instead, they advocate the notion of beauty in an unspoken silence that is simply cosmetic. And to that cosmetic effect, can be modified to fit society's image of "perfection." There isnt a single channel on television, where girls and women today can watch without being reminded of how they need or must change their looks or beauty. We are always being reminded that there's something "wrong" with us, and that we must work to fix that.

And if we do come to accept a woman's beauty as she is, we still find criticism in her motive. That one cannot be pure in intent and beauty. I think as we continue to breed this notion of corruption, it'll only spread. We must change the image we portray of women in media and inter-personally for little girls with their role models if we really want to be true agents of change. I strive to be a part of this revolution by aspiring to be the very same role model that I speak of... I know change begins with me.

"Cut your chains and you are free, cut your roots and you die."- African Proverb


One Busy Week --Daman

This week was busy and productive, I am sure happy it’s the weekend! I completed a large PDF accessibility project that I have been working on for a couple weeks. I had to convert Macromedia Freehand files to PDFs and then change a lot of the PDF structural elements to make them accessible. I am also almost complete with an 88 page PDF that has to be made accessible. Other than those large projects, this was a week of meetings. On Monday I attended a debate about electronic healthcare records and privacy issues. This was interesting because with electronic healthcare records there’s easier access to a patient’s medical records when he/she goes to different doctors and hospitals, but it’s very hard for a patient to protect their privacy. On Tuesday, David Hale from AAPD came to visit my worksite and we discussed the internship program. Then, I had a tour of the Target Center, the assistive technology lab at USDA where I found a really cool device, the Ergodex DX1 Input System. This device has 25 programmable buttons that can do macros. For example, I set up three buttons, each one will log me into one of my e-mail accounts, and I can now glance at all three of my inboxes in under one minute. On Wednesday, I attended three meetings. The first one was a proposal to create an Office of Innovation Policy at the White House. This office would help federal agencies continue to find new and more productive ways of doing their work. The second meeting was a demonstration of software that allows viewers of your website to have the option of reading the contents of your website aloud. The software was neat, but the only interface you can use is the mouse, which makes it inaccessible to people with somewhat severe physical and vision impairments. I think the software could be designed to be used more universally by using a keyboard interface. The third meeting was a demonstration of Accessaphone, which is a soft phone which allows people to control their phone with their computer. I really liked the software, but the price tag was way too steep for my liking. Thursday, I went to the senate hearing on the CLASS Act, but when I got there, it was postponed to after the 4th of July recess. I am going to the new Transformers movie this afternoon and then out to dinner with one of my fellow interns.

--Daman Wandke

1 Illegal Download = 3⅓ Dead Relatives by Adam Dovens

This is wrong!!!!!!!!!

In other news, I have been having a lot of my friends from out of town come and visit. People are amazed on how close we are all the action in DC. I like this campus, its relatively safe and close to all the fun. The security measures were actually accidentally tested the other night. It turns out these dorms are not really made for cooking because anytime we try to cook something, the whole apartment smokes up and the fire alarms goes off. There would be no harm in this except for the fact that the fire alarms are actually directly connected to the police department. 2 armed police officers showed up to are apartment 5 minutes later. To them this was a routine procedure, but that is some grade A security in my mind. Not only that, but on a Sunday they sent out a repair man to look at our fire alarm for use (15 minutes after the alarm went off). Next time they are designing a dorm where they have a kitchen they should call me the civil engineer first!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now tonight should also be really cool, I am going out to a salsa club. They are giving FREE lessons!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I really don’t know what to expect, good dancer or just beginners. Either way its ballroom!!!!!!!!!!! I have not danced ballroom since Fall of 2008, so I am really excited to go.

Getting out there! By Leah

This week truly highlights the wonderful world of politics that I am privy to as a lowly red-badge-holder (Read: INTERN!). I originally entered the office naming ADA and Education as my policy interests, but now my interests in certain areas of policy have broadened. I'm now more interested in Foreign Affairs, Health Care, and Environment. Just a natural progress. I'm now dreaming of possibly becoming a legislative aide in the future. The best part of interning in a Congressional office is that you really get to understand and SEE for yourself how things work from behind the scenes.

I've long been a fierce proponent of putting yourself out there, being visible through civil work or volunteering. At the Democratic National Convention in Denver, August 2008, I worked in the “Boiler Room” where I and my classmates from Gallaudet University did various tasks and got to rub shoulders with the greats. I was even responsible for getting one section of the audience's signs out on time on the floor during Hillary Clinton's speech (let me tell you two things: photographers are animals and the crowd went WILD every few seconds!!). It was an amazing experience and I even got to witness history at Invesco, too. The point is that – if you don't volunteer, you never know what you're missing out.

I feel the same about my internship. I'm always asking, “how can I help you more?” to my supervisors and others, always hoping for a bit more of that doggy bone. I can't control the kind of tasks I get but I know that motivation and hard work gets you to places. Because Rep. Steny Hoyer is the Majority Leader, he has a Leadership office in the Capitol and I often go between the two offices in Longworth House Office Building (HOB) and the Capitol. Every time I walk to the Capitol, I always feel like it is a great privilege and honor to be here. I relish every moment of it.

I got to meet with Rep. Steny Hoyer yesterday as a part of intern meeting. There was a lot of us in the room with Rep. Hoyer and all of us had a picture with him. He had a long and busy day because of the Cap and Trade bill so we were all quite understanding and the meeting was sweet and brief. Rep. Hoyer asked all of us what was our name, where we were from, where we went to for school, and how we liked our intern experience. I was the last (because of where I was sitting) and when I signed to him my regards, he smiled warmly. In my words, I made sure to emphasize how meaningful this internship was to me, because he was a great supporter of disability rights so it is really thanks to him that I'm able to be standing here as an intern. An expression of pride and joy crossed his face and he turned to the rest of interns. He actually explained to them what ADA is all about and what “reasonable accommodation” is. Few minutes later, the meeting was over and Rep. Hoyer hurried back to the floor/hallways/meeting rooms.

This is why it is a blessing to be deaf. You always have a unique, visual, hands-on approach in life and it is very hard for people to overlook you. Being deaf sets me apart from other interns in a positive, unique way. When you make the best out of opportunities, sky is the limit!

Until next time, best of wishes to you!


Training Week by Bob

Wow another week has passed by...

My job with the Homeland Security is going pretty well. Still taking lots of training. Thursday and Friday were both training days when I had to go to a training facility in Virginia. That training that I attended to is about software and web testing. The training trains you to understand the standards that are required for software used by the government. The law -- Section 508 -- requires all government agencies to use software that is accessible to everyone. This means that I get to test new softwares that come in and get to say if that software passes or fail.

The second part of training is web standards. The Section 508 law also requires that any web site posted by the government must be accessible to anyone. Which means I will have to check web pages developed by many different government agencies and make sure it complies with Section 508? Some examples are can't have colors that has no meaning. For a sighted person they can tell the difference by color coding when a color blind person can't tell the difference so they're required to write a text or some sort to describe the difference to a color blind person. There are many many more requirements but I don't need to go into detail because I don't want to make you all fall asleep while reading this. :)

But other than that, my summer in Washington DC is going pretty well. I work during the weekdays then go hang out with my college friends over the weekends. I hear they're having this bbq thing going on this weekend at the national mall so I might go check that out :)


Friday, June 26, 2009

Work and Play One Month In, By Mitch Paschen

Can you believe it? I have been here one month already, and only have a month and a half to go. I have done so much, yet have so much more to do.

Work is finally turning from boring grunt work to interesting computer configuration. Instead of just setting up monitors and going around to ask what needs to be done, I am working with the LAN (Local Area Network) team on deploying all the new computers (152 of them) to people who have older machines. Each computer has to be imaged and then brought over to the cubicle. Next, all files on the old computer are backed up to a secure server. After that, the old computer is unplugged while the name from it is written down. The new machine is then plugged in, turned on, and logged into. The name from the old machine is copied onto the new one as we recycle computer names. After that, files that were backed up to the server are copied over to the new machine. Then, the computer is joined to the domain (the office network), and the network printers are added. Finally, the machine is restarted and the user is ready to work on their brand new computer. The whole process takes about 30 minutes not including the imaging. I am the person in charge of recording who gets what machine by serial number.

I have also had a tiny bit of experience today with running cable through the top of the ceiling. It was quite fun, except that I almost fell off the ladder.

Also at work this week was our Tiki barbecue. On Wednesday, I not only got to wear shorts and sandals to work, but I also got to enjoy free cheeseburgers and hotdogs all while listening to some pop music performed by fellow employees. The event was held in the parking garage on the top two levels, with the consuming of food under cover and the cooking of the food on the roof above. A few of us had to come down early that morning and help decorate the garage to make it seem a little livelier with streamers and decorations. On Friday, we got to eat the leftovers for lunch. Delicious!!

Last weekend, my dad came to visit and we had a great time. There was dinner at the Froggy Bottom Pub (yes, it actually is the word “froggy”). After that, we took a walk to the Lincoln Memorial at around 11:30pm. There are still throngs of people there that time of night. On Saturday, we went to the Holocaust Museum and decided in the afternoon to do something to uplift our spirits, so we went to a saloon called The Exchange. After that, we toured the Old Post Office, went over to the Kennedy Center, and had dinner at the Bangkok Bistro in Georgetown. On Sunday after my dad left, a few of us interns went to Arlington Cemetery where we visited General Lee’s house, the Tomb of the Unknowns, and Kennedy’s gravesite.

All in all, I am stoked to not only be working, but also to be enjoying the sights of DC. I will be going to Mount Vernon with some other interns on Sunday, and possibly to a Nationals game next Friday.

For Peter

As many of you already know, Peter Jensen, my fellow intern, roommate, and workmate at the Coast Guard, has left AAPD due to health reasons.

I’m not really sure how I should feel about this other than my current sentiments of surprise. Peter was probably the last intern I would have expected to leave the program. He was extremely mature and maintained exceptional living habits. His side of our room was always cleaner than mine, and he always kept our kitchen well stocked and tidy. Peter was even more impressive at work, where his drawing and technical skills were put to use during the construction of the 5th floor renovation. He was constantly measuring and re-measuring the dimensions of each room to make sure that his blueprints were perfect. Peter was so helpful in fact that within the first three weeks of the internship our supervisor encouraged him to apply for a full-time job at the CIA.

But unfortunately, the circumstances that forced his departure did not stem from a lack of aptitude or character, but rather the arbitrary weather conditions of Washington, which intensified his tics. I normally would be reluctant to discuss this level of personal information in a public blog, but seeing as how Peter already disclosed details about his disability in previous posts, I feel I cannot cause any new damage by sharing it again.

Jackson Lane

Peter, if you are reading this, it was great being your roommate for the few weeks you were here. We really enjoyed the tacos you cooked, and I think I speak for James and Rohmteen when I say that your suitemates are sorry to see you go.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Final Arrival

Nathan D Turner

Hello everyone,

My name is Nathan Turner and I recently joined the MEAF Congressional Internship Program. Here is just a little bit about myself. I am a senior at Wright State University majoring in political science with a concentration in international studies. I aspire to become a civil rights lawyer and intend to pursue doctoral opportunities in public policy. As a brief aside, Wright State University-- despite the inconvenient academic schedule (-: -- is a wonderful school for students with disabilities. I will discuss this further in future posts.

I have served the disability community locally (Mayoral Commission on Disability), statewide (Partners in Policymaking) and nationally (NCD’s Youth Advisory Committee). Currently, I am a Council member for the Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council and serve as Secretary-Treasurer for the National Youth Leadership Network.

As a congressional intern, I have a unique placement in the AAPD’s office. I am coordinating development of the Justice for All newsletters, assisting efforts to nominate Judge Sonia Sotomayor, serving as a representative on conference calls and other duties as assigned. Today, I was supposed to attend a congressional meeting on Capitol Hill, but found out it was postponed after I arrived. The moral of this story is the importance of adaptability.

I want to express my gratitude to the program funders, AAPD, and my fellow interns for a fantastic welcome and look forward to a positive experience.

Warmest regards,

James Dietz with an adorable past project

Instead of writing an inspiring humbling post about my unique challenges as a handsome blind young man in the city (NY or DC) I thought I'd share a little project of mine from a little less than 4 years ago. It's an audio rendering of my college essay. Some of you may've heard this already, but I think you can stand to hear it again. Here's the url:


A Week in the Life of Stephanie

I really wish I had something interesting or insightful to write about this week, but I don’t. So, I guess I’ll just tell everyone about the highlights and lowlights of my week. If you want to stop reading now, I understand, this might be a very mundane post.

Monday was the 10th anniversary of the Olmstead Decision, as I’m sure many of you know. A resolution from Senator Harkin went to the floor with a unanimous consent request. I am excited to say that I helped with the resolution and it was very cool to see it go to the floor. After work, Austin came to my apartment to catch up on some emails, but we really just ended up watching the devastating episode of Jon & Kate + 8 where Jon and Kate announced their separation. Believe me, I was upset! I don’t think Austin was as torn apart as I was.

Tuesday consisted of meetings and reading a recent Supreme Court ruling. Later that night, Peter told us that he would be leaving the program. It is never fun to see a friend go, all of us AAPD interns got Peter a card and signed it for him. Also, a couple of us got together to eat pizza and say goodbye. It was sad, but we all wish Peter the very best of luck. Oddly enough, the same night we were saying goodbye to one AAPD intern, we were welcoming another! I had the pleasure of meeting the newest member of our AAPD family, Nathan, after saying farewell to Peter. It was a bit weird to say “Hello” and “Goodbye” in one night.

Wednesday was actually pretty interesting for me. I was involved in a meeting with the GAO about a study on students with disabilities and their involvement in physical education and sports. This meeting was of particular interest to me because during my high school years, I was barely included in any PE activities and this has had an affect on my life. I strongly believe that being exposed to physical activity early on leads people to live more active and healthy lifestyles. Students with disabilities are found to be overweight or obese more often than non-disabled students. Involvement in PE can improve performance in the classroom, improve self-esteem, and prevent many health issues. Additionally, physical activity reduces the threat of heart disease, helps with weight management, and can prevent osteoporosis. Beyond health issues, playing sports teaches skills such as teamwork and goal-setting which are skills needed later in life. Since IDEA many students with disabilities have been much more involved in the academic classroom, but many are still being excluded from PE. It is my hope that the study the GAO conducts will eventually lead to more school districts realizing the potential and abilities of students with disabilities, thus leading to more of these students being involved in PE.

Moving past my rant on PE, you should know that Wednesday night did not include any reality television.

Today I am doing a lot of reading on the health care reform. There is A LOT to read, so I’d bet I’ll be reading all day.

While I am reading, I am slightly distracted because my mom is visiting this weekend and I am excited to show her around D.C. My mom is not into politics at all, so in order to prepare her for her visit (and to help her understand everything I talk about) I made her a “map” of how our government system works. Maybe it could help someone else too...

Well, I guess that’s all for now. I hope everyone else had a great week and is looking forward to a beautiful weekend!

Stephanie Woodward

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fabio Botarelli 4th Blog (Why Are We Here?)

One of the questions that I have asked myself since getting off that plane from New York is “Why am I in Washington DC.” At first the answer seems obvious, we AAPD interns are here because we want to get involved in the political realm, but after going through the motions of this week’s events I know it is much more than that.

On Monday, we were all invited to the American Restaurant to meet up with the employees of MEAF and the distinguished disability activists Susan Daniels, Ellin Nolan and Jane West. The lunch with these people was a munificent gesture by the staff of AAPD and I want to thank them personally for elevating all the interns to this level of respectability. In the real world we AAPD interns are known as people with disabilities but on this special day we were all treated as the leaders of tomorrow. When I look back at the group picture that was taken I see a bunch of buoyant individuals who are genuinely happy to be where they are. No photographer had to say smile or cheese; we were all smiling the second we walked through the doors of the American restaurant. If this cohesiveness can translate to the other representatives of the disability community I have no doubt that if they saw our picture they would finally understand why it would be best to share resources as opposed to fighting over them. But just when I thought things were about to go back to a level of predictability, Thursday brought its own brand of surprises. I was on my way to a transportation subcommittee hearing in the Rayburn office building when it suddenly started to downpour. Without an umbrella I was literally taking a shower with clothes on as I had to wait in a long line that extended outside. By the time I got in my clothes were wet and when I walked into the conference room I became the center of attention because everyone can see through my shirt. With a wounded dignity, I took my seat in an isolated corner but before I could dwell on my pessimistic disposition a shy and light hearted girl felt sorry for me and decided to start a conversation. She was so beautiful I almost forgot that I had a hearing to take notes on, but thank god I am not the type of guy who wears their heart on their sleeve. And when we both left the building it was sunny outside and my clothes began to dry and I have been in contact with this person since. She is from Ohio and though I would love to give out her name I don’t want any unnecessary competition so sorry guys. By the conclusion of this week I finally understood why I am hear. Like all the other interns we are here because our accomplishments our the accomplishments of AAPD. And if the weather happens to be foul and rainy we don’t have to become foul and rainy because the strangers we see every day will not know that you are sunny inside.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sweet Home Away From Home

So this past Father's Day weekend my roommate's family invited me over to their house in Maryland, not too far off from DC. Naturally, I accepted; they've always been good to me since the day I arrived helping me purchase much-needed items such as bedding and even treating me out to dinner! Her family resembles mine in so many ways. She's the oldest like me with two younger brothers. Her youngest is an artist just like mine.

Even her dad looks like mine with his dark complexion and hair and his face framed with glasses. He's quick to smile always cracking jokes, again much like mine. Her mom seems to be more of the serious one of the two parents and always concerned with housekeeping items, much again like mine. They both have ailments that keep them from standing a lot.

So I feel like they are my "bonus" family, or family away from home. They are very generous and warm to me opening their household and family circle to squeeze me in at the dinner table. They show concern and care when listening and speaking to me. And for that, I feel much at home with them. They are supportive of Leah's (my roommate!) and my individual internships, and her mom especially has encouraged me to seek a federal job following the conclusion of my internship at DOT this summer.

I guess since my family is so scattered within the US and I hardly see them, I find comfort in submerging myself in other people's family. Their warmth and love make it hard to repel them; I always find myself attracted to their sincerity and ingenuity. But I didnt forget about my own Pops. I sent him a card (which I never do!), and it made it to him by Saturday and he was pleased. My moms has been grateful to know that there's still a few good people left in this world when she heard how helpful Leah's family has been to me. They obviously didnt have to do what they did for me.

I hope I can return the love my bonus family has shown me. Maybe they will come visit me in Southern California one day and I can extend the same generosity and courtesy they've done for me. They've been encouraging me to stay in DC for at least a year... never in my wildest dreams would I have even thought or considered that before. But my job, co-workers, and the people have me re-considering...

I'm not so sure my family back home in LA will be too fond of that idea though.


Monday, June 22, 2009

First Week on the Hill by Rohmteen Mokhtari

A somewhat more conventional post...

This was my first week working for Del. Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa. So far I've been enjoying myself. I was very happy to learn on the first day that I did not have to wear a coat every day, and on days when the house in not in session... jeans!

Its been fun walking down the halls of the Rayburn House Office Building and seeing a flurry of important people in suits as well as people who think they are important, also in suits. I am fascinated by the work that these people do and its impact. Its also interesting that there are so many people behind one person. By this I mean that it takes so many staffers to make an office run, and they are all extensions of one person. Everything they do is done on behalf of a congressperson. In some ways a congressperson is like Target, when someone puts on their red uniform they become an extension of the company. If you do well your congressperson get the credit, if you mess up s/he pays the price. To be clear, I'm not saying theres anything wrong this, I just think its interesting since most people would like to think of their congressman as a super-person who does it all as opposed to the director and manager of a much larger operation.

Anyways, I'm actually beginning to see some DC sites that I haven't seen before. I've realized that going to GW you tend to exist in a Foggy Bottom bubble, so its been fun to go see some of the museums and other stuff. Did you know there exist cool places to hang out in Virginia besides Pentagon City Mall? But yeah, here's a statue that looks impressive/important...


Slaymaker's Weekly Posting

Wow, the days just seem to pass by so quickly!  I have been given a tremendous amount of opportunity this summer, as we all have.  My short time in the office has produced many great experiences for me.  My work is mostly entry-level work, but I have worked very hard to learn it inside and out and believe I have performed well.   Moreover, I have gotten some great assignments that I have thoroughly enjoyed.  I have learned that sometimes substantive work only comes when you are proactive about obtaining it.  My goals are slowly continuing to develop and progress.  And my level of activism is rising.  As previous posts have stated, this summer is the first I have used a wheelchair for an extended amount of time.  Because of that, I have developed a greater understanding and empathy for those who use wheelchairs full time.  My understanding is breeding activism.  Too many times, I have to use the escalators in the metro because the elevator is out (legitimately at least 1-2 times a week).  Too many times, do I feel discriminated against (when people think I can’t do something for myself).  Never before have I had this desire to see things change.  I have always been able to do everything everyone else can, with my disability not affecting me.  But being in a wheelchair changes that significantly.  And I think the understanding I am getting is a beneficial thing. I wish more people could come to this understanding.

p.s. I have decided Slaymaker’s Sayings will occur every other post.  So stay tuned for next week 

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Person-second language

Two weeks ago, I posted on this blog an analysis on why many prefer person first language when talking about disabilities.  At that time, I assumed that person first language was the de facto linguistic standard in the disability community, but I’ve talked with several of my fellow interns, and it turns out that many of them actually do not like being referred to in terms of person first language (i.e. they prefer being called “disabled” over “persons with disabilities”) because, to my surprise, they consider their disabilities to be parts of their identities. 


I thought about why one would choose to directly identify with his or her disability. For me personally, I often see my disability as an impediment to my goals and life, and I feel that I have had to constantly fight with it to determine whether my future will be dictated by my strengths or my weaknesses.  There have been times in my life where I felt that I was losing that fight and succumbing to a fate of unfulfilled potential as well as times where I felt that I was triumphing over my weaknesses that result from my condition.  I would like others to acknowledge the extra effort I have had to and will continue to exert in this constant struggle, and person first language does just that. So, I can appreciate why many insist on its use. 


But I now understand how I had wrongly assumed the ubiquity of my experience and negative perceptions. In reality, to live with a disability is simply an experience, and that experience is only a negative when it is perceived as such.  While I may have an almost antagonistic relationship with my disability, I can see how others might actually embrace their conditions as parts of their identities.  This is not to say that people who refrain from using person first language enjoy being disabled, but I would guess that they probably are much more accepting of them.  For example, a person who cannot walk may not enjoy using a wheel chair, but she accepts it much like a person who is short accepts that he may never be able to play professional basketball.  These consequences are not shattered dreams but rather natural realities, and their pride, not their shame, ultimately justifies their endurance through any perceived hardships.  Those who contribute to the disability rights movement fight not to mitigate the challenges of their disabilities, but to integrate their unique and unchangeable selves into society.  Their conditions, for better or for worse, become parts of their own identity and self-image, and person first language would thus seem to tear apart that image.


Of course the next logical question is how one could be so accepting of his or her seeming flaws and limitations?  Not to end on a cliché, but I do remember that my mother once told me that love between two people is the mutual embrace of each of their entireties, the perceived good as well as the perceived bad.  It may thus be a similar love of the self that enables the identification with a disability. 



Friday, June 19, 2009

"Our Romantic Purpose" by Leah

Hi everybody! This week was great for me. I started training to give Capitol Hill tours and I REALLY loved the historical aspect of it. I absolutely love giving tours and I cannot wait until I start giving tours on my own! Next week, I will be meeting with Rep. Steny Hoyer and I'm STILL mulling over what to compose for the elevator speech. Comment if you have any ideas. I'd like to say that this internship has been a period of not only professional experience but also philosophizing. Thus, I'd like to share my thoughts in this entry.

I'm also an English minor in addition to majoring in Government. I absolutely love reading and devouring literature is my special little hobby (sadly, it seems that my time is more consumed reading policy stuff and news pieces these days...). I'd like to talk about perspectives of disability via literature. Traditionally, people with disabilities have been viewed as either “abject” or “romantic.”

Because of their unique nature, people who are deaf or blind or otherwise sometimes are seen as having special purpose in the story. More often than not, that special purpose is to serve as the symbol for morality. In the older texts, you'll see some stories about people with readily identifiable disabilities – frequently about blindness, deafness, or regarding mobility. Those with “invisible” disabilities were often not identified as disabled people but rather identified and analyzed through the psychological lens, such as Bertha in Jane Eyre (Bertha's disability is still debatable, but her symbolic power is evident). Through the romanticizing of people with disabilities, their abilities in other areas are enhanced and the characters in the story sometimes will learn something meaningful from them. However, with this perspective it is also frequently easier for the authors to cast tragedy upon them. People with disabilities are portrayed as having some kind of ultimate wisdom and special insight, perhaps because of both their disability and the difficulties they had to endure in an inaccessible world.
EXAMPLE: Gerasim from "Mumu" by Ivan Turgenev

Abject: One of my favorite courses at Gallaudet University was titled “Gothic American Literature” and it was in this class that I got my intense education in nearly all themes regarding the spooky genre. Basically, to understand how something may scare the reader so effectively – one of the techniques is to turn a familiar thing into the “abject.” For example, a teddy bear is “cozy, cute, cuddly, warm” but when you turn it into animated bloodthirsty serial killer, it is decidedly more grotesque and horrifying than say – a real grizzly bear whose inherent nature is already to maul people when hungry. Some authors would go so far to portray people with disabilities as demonic. “Possessed” is one way of putting it. Turning the characters with disabilities into evil characters, such as one-legged or one-eyed pirates, is an effective way of twisting around the concept of what is “normal” into something that is “abject.” The idea of disability is not accepted and characters with disabilities are viewed as grotesque, inhumane, and as something to be pitied, beaten, or eliminated.
EXAMPLE: King Richard III from "Richard III" by William Shakespeare

What can literature teach us about humanity? Literature does not serve the same purpose as historical documents, almost never explicit in its nature. Through literature, we take effective snapshots of worldwide culture, perspectives, and opinions - everything can be analyzed and interpreted.

It's always important to re-frame your disability in the real life. When I grew up, it was always drilled into our minds “that we're the ambassadors of our deaf community to the hearing world.” Nothing could be truer for every member of the disability community. Every single one of us, we are a character in an epic story.

What AAPD is fighting for, what AAPD is giving us the opportunity for – is for us to display loudly and proudly that people with disabilities are not abject in the human society. Through political and technological means, there is an even greater window of opportunity for us to seize this summer. Don't waste it, but also don't forget that we have the rest of our lives to influence the world to see people with disabilities in a different light.

We have the ABILITY to advance ourselves in policy and technology. Don't let people with disabilities fall victim to political stigmatization or technological ambitions to “normalize” us. It is our life's never-ending crusade to ensure that policy is always FOR us, not AGAINST us... And that technology is being created for accessibility, not eugenics.

Until next time, best of wishes to you!

- Leah

I Am Disabled, Not a Person with a Disability

After reading Jackson’s post about person-first language, I decided to steal his topic and throw in a new perspective.

You may or may not have noticed that I used the term “disabled people” and “people with disabilities” interchangeably. This is because I realize that different people prefer different terms depending upon how they identify themselves.

For me, I am a disabled young woman. I am not a young woman with a disability. I understand that the way I see myself is not politically correct, but I’ve never been politically correct, so I’m not worried. To me, if I were to say I am a young woman with a disability, it would make my disability seem like an accessory and I won’t undermine my disability like that.

I will never know if my loud, strong-willed, stubborn, and “disturbingly friendly” (thanks Ari) personality would be the same if I was not disabled. It is impossible to tell how much affect my disability has had on my personality, but I’d be willing to bet it’s had a huge affect.

Although I will never know how much affect my disability has had on my personality, I know for a fact my disability has had an amazing affect on my education and career. For starters, I have been an overachiever for a very long time so that I could prove to the rest of the world that sitting in a wheelchair does not make me stupid. Being ahead of everyone else academically was just one way for me to prove that although my walking skills are not that great, my other skills surpass the average. Additionally, I am currently a member of the Higher Education Opportunity Program, which basically means the majority of my $34,000 college costs are covered. To get into this program a person must come from a low-income family and be a minority. Thank God I’m disabled because simply being a poor white girl would not have covered $34,000! Because I am covered by this program, I was also able to study abroad in Ireland for a semester. This amazing opportunity would have never been possible if I wasn’t disabled.

Beyond my education, my career pretty much revolves on how cool being disabled is. First, as I’ve mentioned before, I work for the Center for Disability Rights as the Transportation Systems Advocate. My whole job revolves around making public transportation better for people with disabilities. I would have never been hired for the position if I didn’t have the experience of being a disabled person who has encountered both good and bad transportation systems. Second, I have been invited to present with Mobility International USA many times to talk about my experience studying abroad as a disabled student and encourage other disabled students to study abroad too. Third, I’m an AAPD intern! I am getting an experience of a lifetime working in Senator Harkin’s office. I never would have had the chance to be an AAPD intern without my disability.

Being disabled has never held me back; on the contrary, it has opened so many doors and propelled me forward. I am so proud to be a strong disabled young woman. I would not be the same girl without my disability.

For these reasons, and a million more, I cannot identify myself as a person with a disability. I cannot pretend my disability is just an accessory separate from me.

My disability is part of me and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Stephanie Woodward

Week Three by Bob

Well, I finally started working with the Department of Homeland Security.Their security can be a hassle sometimes! But anyways, I've gone through a lot of training with them on using their softwares and laws that applies to the workforce. After all of these training, I'm sure my brain is all mush now! I really need the weekend break this weekend :) every weekend I go down to Virginia or up to Maryland to hang out with couple buddies of mine from college.

So far this week, all is going pretty well. I actually found a grocery store that is MUCH closer to where I live than me walking further than I normally do. I think its a big pain in the @$$ (pardon my French) when you have to carry couple of heavy bags for a 10 minute walk or maybe more. Thank god I found this place because it only takes me 2 to 4 minutes!

Well, I guess this pretty much sums up my week. I better go take a shower now and head down to Fairfax for a fun weekend!


Social Networking and the World

On Tuesday of this week I attended the first of three brown bag lunch seminars about social networking websites. The ones that we talked about were Facebook and LinkedIn. Facebook is the fastest growing of these social networking sites. It allows you share information specifically with whomever you choose to be a friend with or you may share information to the public. It can also used to form groups to share information. LinkedIn is build more for professionals to share information. It can be useful for creating new connections between organizations and finding employment opportunities.

Social networking as a whole can be used to inform people about relevant issues. It can even be used to mobilize people to action. This was demonstrated in Iran this week in response to their supposedly rigged election. Twitter among other social networking services were used to spread information about where rallies and protests were held. These sites have been pivotal in organizing this movement in a county that government has been trying to suppress information regarding it.

I also attended the AAPD Board Meeting. It was very informative and I realized that AAPD is more then just the people in the office. It is a collaboration between people in different places and organizations that make AAPD and the things it does possible. It is truly a team effort.

The coming week has two brown bag lunches. The one on Tuesday is a seminar on how to use Twitter. The other on Thursday is the Careers in IT lunch. Also the Intern Pizza Party is on Friday. I look foreword to seeing all of you there.

Chad Carson

Juggling tennis balls and the occasional chainsaw

I won't be discussing the details of my work for my internship, as I'm not sure what is and is not available for public consumption. At the same time, one thing that continues to astound me is the variability of what I do. My activities range from the mundate, normal intern-related tasks to things that are interesting, intellectually stimulating and actually enjoyable. One of the unique attributes of being in a committee office, or so I'm told, is that I report to several different supervisors and have to seek out my own work from the poilcy advisers and Legislative Assistants in the office. This is very much the case.

As a result of that, I am constantly in the process of handling multiple projects at once over a long period of time. A research project here, a one pager to construct there - tempered by the occasional foray into filing and so on and such forth. Every so often, however, we get something truly interesting, that needs to be completed on a tight time frame. Working in a committee office as an intern is like juggling multiple long term projects, but every so often a chainsaw gets thrown in. Nonetheless, I enjoy this work and have found it very educational and rewarding.


A Little Less Exicted Weekk --Daman

This week was slow because my supervisor was on vacation. She left me with a bunch of PDF projects, but my computer was having issues, therefore I spent over a day troubleshooting until I finally was able to get my PDF conversion tools to work. My week started out a little rough, the Foggy Bottom Metro elevator was out on Monday morning, so I traveled about 10 blocks to another station to get to work. Going up the elevator from the subway, one of the Metro staff accidently lost control of his mop, which hit me in the head. I finally made it to work and I took my accounting final exam and then ran off to two meetings at the AAPD Office. On Tuesday, I went and found the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Island because it was a beautiful day and not to hot or humid. My only complaint is that the main area in the center of the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial is inaccessible. Last night, I am had dinner with Ollie Cantos who works at the US Department of Justice. We met while I was on the Youth Advisory Committee of the National Council on Disability. Today, I am attending the AAPD Board of Directors meeting, which should be an amazing networking opportunity.

--Daman Wandke

David M's recap from last week

Ok since I basically wrote this week's blog yesterday, I'm going to go ahead and write the blog for the week before... and the wonderful news about this one is that it has pictures... YAY!!!... Ok so myabe that was a bit TOO happy but whatever.

So here it is.

Interns Episode (insert number here): Who took our cart. (Name inspired by Mitch)

So basically when we got to work last Monday, they had gotten all these computers (152 to be exact.) and they needed unpacking and some needed to be hooked up... So us being the intern newbs that we are, it doesn't take a brilliant mind to figure out who ended up unpacking them.

... No, it wasn't Peter Griffin...
No, it wasn't Mr. T.
... Yes, that's correct! It was that guy in the mask from all the Burger King comercials... right.

Whn they led us into this little cubicle with a door, there were about 50 or so computers in boxes on shelves. It took us most of the day to get them done. Sometimes we had a bit of help, but we FINALLY got them done... wow what hard work that was.

The next day we started setting some of them up. That wasn't so hard because we had a lot more help. However, the main idea here is that we finally finished.
So then we were directed to the 5th floor where we were happily greeted by thejolly fellows in image 1.

After about two days or so we finally finished ALL the boxes!

However, we weren't always working on those; We also were able to get intouch with our innerselves with a communitive arts and crafts hour seen in image 2.

But as I said, we finished and the anticipation could be cut with a... a... very sharp cutting type thing. The FINAL BOX can be seen in image 3.

Well that's about all that happened last week in a nutshell.

Oh yeah, and did I mention that all the computers came with monitors...

[image description]

Image 1 shows rows and rows of boxes stacked up very neatly at a very daunting camera angle.

Image 2 shows the wonderful artwork of Mitch and I on the whitebored in the cubicle where the first set of computers were.

Image 3 shows a lone box, sitting on the floor, waiting to be sliced open and promptly disemboweled..

BONUS IMAGE WOOT! The epic line up of all the computers unboxed makes for a really cool space station look... Ok so it's really just one long row of computers without their boxes. Don't you just LOVE Dell machines?

James Dietz presents: his first work week

This week has been busier than most. For one thing, I started work. On Monday I was given the news that I had finally been granted temporary clearance and could head to work the next day. Aside from the standard first-couple-day introductions and account-creation/computer-acquisition processes (some of which are still in process), I've been re-acquainting myself both to waking up at a fixed time every day and working in a professional environment. Yesterday I started bouncing around a new ticket management system my office will use to replace their old Access-based one to give them the lowdown on it's problems with the JAWS screen reader. Basically... Quality Assessment work. A small thing for sure, but it was very pleasant to hear a coworker's agreement with some of my suggestions. Y'see, us interns fulfill an important function: we do the work no one else has time for. The new database system can be fixed to be more accessible without another member of the team (whose plate has a lot more on it than mine) spending his or her time putting its developers in the know.. Climbing the ladder to success, this has been James Dietz with another weekly news-nugget.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Disability and DC, by Mitch Paschen

I am an introvert, and it is very hard for me to meet people and make friends. On my first day at the office, I was very nervous. I only knew one other person working there, and I had met that person only a week and a half before. A good impression had to be made, but I wasn’t sure quite how to do that. One thing that my Asperger’s Syndrome prevents me from doing is perceiving social cues that most people are able to pick up. I have a very hard time telling if someone is being funny or serious. I have run into trouble several times already here in DC thinking someone was funny when they were serious and vice versa. I also take things very literally, such as when I was told that the blog has to be between 200 and 500 words, I usually try to do that.

One of the first people I met at the office was a former AAPD intern. This turned out to be a relief, because he was able to show me around and introduce me to some people I would be working with. Everyone at the office wanted to meet the new interns, and they were very helpful in showing me not only how to get in, but also where to go for lunch.

People in Washington are very nice. If I have a question about anything, I can usually go up to anyone (I feel very uncomfortable doing this though) and ask. If they do not know the answer, they will usually point me in the direction of someone who does. Living in DC has not been a problem for the most part because I have been living by myself at college for three years. I have a single room there, so I have gotten along just fine.

One thing that I did not expect to happen is to take on a sort of leadership role. There are many sights that I want to see while here, and I even have a list to make sure I can see all of them. On every one of my free days, I have been seeing the sights. Some of the other interns want to see the sights too, but aren’t sure where to start. I try to invite as many people as I can each time I go out sightseeing. At least one person can go, and many times, several people go and we make it a group outing. In fact, I am trying to organize a trip to Baltimore via the Amtrak train for June 27.

I have enjoyed my time here, and will continue to enjoy it for as long as I am here. When I told some of my employees at work today what my disability was, they said that they did not even notice it at all. I am glad that people know me for me and not for my disability.

Wow LAG on my part... and then... not so much lag.

--David McKee--

So I'm aware that I missed last week. (sorry.)And then I'm aware I told David I'd post yesterday evening... (sorry again)... But I'm finally back on top and will try to stay on top of things... or at least very near the top.

I don't have tons of time right now, but I've finally started doing some things at work. Microsoft SharePoint is pretty cool. They gave me a virtual machine with Windows Server 2008 on it. A virtual Machine (VM) runs inside a real computer. However it's not quite the same. If the VM messes up, all I have to do is shut the file because that's all the entire operating system is... one file that runs in Windows XP... or whatever.
I can go over it more if you wish later. It's called Virtual PC and it's free from Microsoft.

Anyhow, SharePoint is something that I thought would be EPICALLY BORING because from what I read in the book and things it was just a bunch of graphs and spreadsheets and...; just not very fun stuff. But they let me loose on my own site and one of the guys showed me how to do all this cool stuff... well it wasn't that cool, mainly making sites and pages and things. But I was able to customize the page and themes so now I'm going to make it all nice and shiny because that's how I believe things should be, very nice and visually attractive. Otherwise it gets boring to look at sooner than later.

I've got pics and things to post here later. I'll post them when I get back to GW.

Ok, good bye for now people!

Do You Want to be Disabled?

The word “disability” can mean many different things to different people.

In the AAPD office and among AAPD interns the word is void of its usual stigma or awkwardness. Disability is a life experience to be recognized and accommodated. Outside of the disability community bubble, disability is a condition, something that happens to people. This is what has made the past three weeks so memorable and interesting.

Last week I was researching the intersection of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and the disability community (a topic I’m sure I’ll write a separate post about soon enough), when I began to wonder whether someone who is transgender would be considered disabled. This eventually led me to a much more fundamental question about the meaning of disability.

To back up for a bit (I promise this will all make sense eventually… I hope) the word “transgender” is a broad term that encompasses everyone from those who enjoy occasionally wearing clothing associated with the opposite sex, to those who don’t match gender roles traditionally associated with their biological sex, to those who identify with a gender that is different from their biological sex (or identify as neither masculine nor feminine). Some who identify as transgender (or “trans”) choose to medically alter their bodies to match the gender that they feel best represents them.

From the perspective of most trans people there is no good reason why someone who is biologically male must act masculine, and there is nothing wrong with someone who is biologically female acting masculine or wearing men’s clothing or wanting to be called John instead of Jane. The reason everyone is so uncomfortable with people transgressing gender roles (the argument goes) is because society tells us its not right, for example boys must be “real men,” wear manly cloths and play with “action figures” as opposed to “dolls;” if they don’t they can face severe social consequences.

Anyways, many trans people believe there is nothing wrong with them psychologically (and reject the American Psychiatric Association’s “Gender identity Disorder” diagnosis… though this gets murky as the diagnosis is sometimes necessary for insurance purposes), however some feel that they have a medical problem in that their body doesn’t represent their true gender(just to be clear "transgender" is broad descriptive term and only some people who identify as trans have a desire to alter their body). In other words the problem is not with the mind not matching the body but with the body not matching the mind.

Here’s where things get interesting... under a broad and affirming definition of disability used by groups like AAPD I would say that of course transgender individuals who feel their bodies do not represent their true gender would be considered disabled. Having worked at AAPD, I have come to understand the term “disability” as an empowering term indicating a shared experience (that of not fitting the mold). But outside of the disability community the word “disability” still caries a great amount of stigma, it is not the symbol of a shared experience but simply a flaw, a limitation which negatively effects one’s life trajectory. So why would members of the trans community, who already face so much stigma and discrimination, want to self-identify with yet another label that brings with it the promise of additional stigma.

Ultimately, I think it is more a question of what it means to be disabled than of what it means to be transgender. Would someone want to self-identify as disabled if they have not been “marked” as disabled by society? Obviously, the trans community is not a monolithic community and the answer depends on who you ask, but I think it says a lot about the state of people with disabilities in America and the work that’s left to be done.

So I totally didn't mean for this post to be this long...

-Rohmteen Mohtari

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Hobby of Mine by Adam Dovens

I really like editing photos and manipulating photos. One of my favorite techniques is combining pictures and making panoramic photos. This is one I created from nationals stadium.

Different Type of Post by Adam Dovens

I am not the kind of guy who does long drawn out blogs, I prefer short and sweet. I think that pictures and videos are a much easier and more effective way of getting you message accross.

In our exploration of Georgetown we found the steps where the exorcist was originally filmed. The actual location where real the exorcist occured is in Maryland lol!!!!

Better late then never, Second day of orientation by Adam Dovens

History Speaks to Us (Ari Ne'eman)

I sometimes wonder what Ed Roberts felt like, fighting for access to the campus of the University of California Berkeley. It was 1962 - Nelson Mandela had been arrested, the US and USSR would face off in the Cuban Missile Crisis, Federal Marshalls escorted James Meredith to the University of Mississippi and Ed Roberts decided that disabled students should not be kept out of college. Did he have any inclination of what was to come? Did he dream of something different? Did he realize what a big step he was taking, not simply for himself, but for disabled people everywhere? Did he know that what he was doing would lead to something so much bigger? A movement, a culture, a community - vibrant, growing, strong.
Maybe he did. If there is ever an Ed Roberts movie - and G-dwilling, if such a thing should occur, Hollywood will get over its more maudlin instincts in respect to disabled people first - I imagine that is how it will be portrayed. Yet, isn't it just as likely that he acted like so many of us do - not out of some broad vision for a movement yet to come, some brilliant flash of inspiration that will inevitably lead to chanting and organizing and marching in the streets, but instead out of a simple desire to assert control over his own life? In some ways, this is less inspiring. In other ways, it is far more so.

When I was a teenager and had recently been placed in a segregated “special” school an hour and a half away from my home, I read about Ed Roberts. I read about the disability rights movement. Given the fact that the school I rode to in a small white van to every day treated academic education as an afterthought, reading was one of the only ways I had to learn. So I read - and I wondered what motivated people like Ed Roberts or Judy Heumann or any of the other disability rights leaders I had been introduced to through books and journal articles. This was relevant to me, because I saw in their success stories – rising from being considered as too disabled to go to college to founding the independent living movement or going from being denied teacher certification by reason of disability to becoming Assistant Secretary of Education – a chance for my own life.

When I did advocate to return to an inclusive setting, I left behind not just the special education school tucked atop a hill in North Jersey where it rented space from a convent and not just the two special education case managers I had arranged to be dismissed when they tried to tell me what I should do with my life, but also any remaining delusions about what my life would be like if I just went along with the system. I carried that newfound sense of clarity with me when I embarked on my first experiences in advocacy work. It continues to guide me as I work to advance the rights of Autistic people to control our own futures and that of our community in the national conversation about us. Despite the importance of that concept to my work, however, I stumbled upon it by accident – when all I wanted was a chance to get an education that might make the future I desired possible. I’m not Ed Roberts. I’m not a great hero of the disability rights movement. The path I moved on to get to where I am now was, while rocky, uncertain and often treacherous, blazed before me by great men and women whose work made my struggle easier before I had ever heard of them. Yet, I like to think that at some level I understand why they started doing what they did – not because of some grand vision or dream, but because of a simple and abiding desire to take control over their own lives. This is the essence of our movement. Basic. Simple. Essential.

Nothing About Us, Without Us!

-Ari Ne'eman

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

It's ok. 1,2,3,4

It’s ok. 1, 2, 3 4. Let’s go. 1,2,3,4.(turn neck all around to the left and stretch upper vertebre). It’s ok. 1,2,3,4. Let’s go. 1,2,3,4. (crack lower back from side to side while cracking knuckles) This 1,2,3,4. Olympian. CIA. You have everything to be happy for and nothing to be upset about. 1,2,3,4. Ok. 1,2,3,4. Just do it. (crack neck forward).

It makes no sense, I know. But that (and variations of it) is what I feel ‘compelled’ to say hundreds of times every day. Compelled is the important word. People always ask me, “Well, what happens if you just refuse to do it?” Well, I don’t detonate or anything. I just feel incredibly uncomfortable. It’s like an itch. A horrible itch that doesn’t go away. For some unknown reason, my body feels uncomfortable. Most itches are on the skin but my itches are in my mind. While most itches get soothed with fingernails mine get soothed by saying “It’s ok. 1,2,3,4 etc.” So what would happen if I didn’t say it? Well, what would happen if you had horrible poison ivy all over your body and you refused to scratch it or put anything on it? You would be incredibly uncomfortable, you would be unproductive and unable to take your mind off of it, and you would feel like screaming. Same thing for me. So, I scratch my itch. And I feel better… for a few seconds.

It’s not that simple though. Everything has to be done perfectly… or it doesn’t count. My mind makes up these rules… “if I’m not focused when I say my phrases then it doesn’t count,” “If I stutter or mess up a word, it doesn’t count,” “if I don’t say it out loud it doesn’t count,” “if I rush through it, it doesn’t count,” etc. So, what happens when “it doesn’t count?” Well, I have to say it all again. BUT WAIT! My mind has a policy for these things… NO EVEN NUMBERS! I can’t succeed on my second try. So… I have to do it twice more. And there’s no fooling my mind. If you rush through the second one because you want to get to the third and final one quickly… my mind will know and you’ll be doing 5.

This process is incredibly stressful. It requires intense focus. And I hate it. I resent it. I don’t like doing it. But I have to do it before everything. Before I eat a meal (or my mind tells me I can’t enjoy the meal), before a test or before writing any kind of paper (or my mind tells me I will do poorly and I actually feel like I can’t focus), before I go out for the night, before I begin a movie, or a book, or a newspaper article, or a day at work. Before I go to sleep, before I clean my room, before I do anything and everything. Sometimes I just can’t get the energy to do it and so… I don’t. Often, when faced with the simplest task, I will simply become paralyzed, mentally paralyzed. This blog, for example, is late, in part because I just couldn’t get myself to do it. I’ve sat at my computer a dozen times this week but haven’t been able and/or willing to get myself to do it. One night this week dinner was too stressful, but I was really hungry, so I just went to sleep at 8:00. Cleaning my desk or doing laundry are monumental tasks. I went a week charging everything to my credit card because for some reason I was unable to get myself to go to the ATM.

This is a good place to write about how the OCD impacts me too. OCD and Tourette’s are interchangeable to me. I can’t really articulate which is which but it doesn’t matter. The ATM. Why couldn’t I just put my card in? I obsessed. Every day to a debilitating extent. The 2 dollar service charge. Why do I care about a 2 dollar service charge? I don’t. My mind does. I feel like I’m being inefficient. I’m wasting money. My mind chastises me. Yells at me. Tells my I’m a failure. For the most ridiculous things. Every time I buy something, I overpaid or I wasted money. Every time I go out, I went to the wrong place or I should be doing something else. My mind judges me like the stereotypical 1950s war veteran father. Everything I do is wrong. To make it worse I obsess over it. While most people can push these things out of their mind, I can’t. I spend hours worrying, stressing, feeling WRONG. Every decision becomes the most important one of my life. Which restaurant to go to? If I’m spending too much at the grocery store? If I’m getting the most out of my summer? And the consequences, oh my God. I don’t have the ability to say ‘so what?’ The smallest thing has the worst consequences. I feel like I am ruining my life. This leads to depression. Irrational depression. Yes. But depression none the less. In order to talk myself out of my depression I would have to go through an extensive version of one of the rituals that I listed above but those take too much energy so… I just go to sleep.

OK, MTV, thanks for visiting now get out of my head. I hope you all found my thought process interesting. Please, if you found my thought process interesting take it with you. I don’t like it. Take it for free. Peace.

Andrew Lustig