Friday, June 12, 2009

Why not make it the norm? by Leah

I was finding this week as “the week that settled me down.” Last week, everything was new! I tried my best to avoid being the stereotypical intern around the Hill. This week, I really put in the effort to familiarize myself around the hill and with the tasks assigned to me.

One event this week had a particular impact on me. I'll talk about the event for Senator Patrick Leahy that I went to on Wednesday evening.

Because I was invited to the event by my mentor, Yoshiko Dart, I was greatly appreciative and I felt that it would be inconvenient for me to request an interpreter. Hence, out of politeness, I tried to look for a volunteer interpreter. That didn't exactly work out and I was fine with paper/pen communications. But what really impacted me was that AAPD put emphasis on being a "self-advocate" and standing up to ask for accessibility whenever necessary. The rationale is that if we do not request accessibility, then people will have less understanding of people with disabilities. Thus, requesting accessibility is one way of educating others that PWD (People with Disabilities) are able to be on equal footing, given the chance.

Normally, I would be casual about the whole thing. But AAPD made me think. The reason why I was reluctant to request interpreters in the first place was because of cost associated with it. It is true that interpreters ARE costly and the ADA mandates the providers to pay for interpreters. Understanding this, it might be easier to see the reason why I sometimes feel cautious about requesting interpreters - because they might look at the cost as a big inconvenience and possibly look at deaf people as a “financial burden." That is not my objective - I wanted to show that I am perfectly fine as a human being, deaf or not.

After the event for Sen. Patrick Leahy, I started to understand better the sheer importance of requesting interpreters versus self-consciousness. I started to think - why do the citizens of America have to deal with providing for each other's accessibility on individual/event basis? Shouldn't accessibility be the NORM and the "inconvenience" removed?

The current concept and reality of accessibility in America is “given the chance or option.” Why does it have to be an option? Why not make it mandatory in the most literal way?

I know some countries in Europe have a sort of interpreter fund made available by the government. In America, we subsidize farms, transportation, and many other things. Why not create federal subsidization specifically for accessibility for the disabled, too? That way, accessibility would become widespread, the costs could go down, and it would become the NORM.

Just a thought... By the way, I had a GREAT time at the event!! Smile!

- Leah Katz-Hernandez

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