Friday, July 31, 2009
This has been a noteworthy week for the disability community. We are celebrating the 19th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the United States of America signing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. (CRPD) The first human rights convention of the 21st Century, this document calls upon States to provide equal protection under the law, condemn all forms of discrimination and fully include people disabilities in society.
I attended an informative conference to learn the history of this document, network with influential leaders and discuss strategies for implementation after ratification. The conference was sponsored by the United States International Council on Disability, the Federal Transit Administration and the American Public Transportation Association and emphasized issues under the transportation umbrella. Other topics included universal design standards, access to accessible healthcare and independent living outcomes.
Interestingly enough, CRPD is the first United Nations document to require availability in accessible formats, which is extremely significant.
A major theme of this conference was the importance of international cooperation with respect to best practices. While the United States is demonstrated global leadership by passing the Americans with Disabilities Act, we also can learn from the policies of other states. Notable examples include floor lowering devices for bus systems modeled after initiatives in the European Union and coalition advocacy between independent living centers and the Japanese legislative body.
As the United States moves to ratify the treaty, multilateral cooperation within the disability community is essential to the implementation of best practices in the promotion of human dignity.
Nathan D Turner
My picture this week is of me and my grandma on the terrace on the top level of the Newseum. I also have a video of a news broadcast which I am a part of in this week's post.
Time to me is very valuable. Great responsibility is shown when one is either early or on time. I am not sure where my obsession with time came from, but I get very uptight and nervous if time is cut close for an event or if something causes me to stay somewhere later than I had originally planned.
Part of my Asperger's is that I get very obsessive compulsive about time. While here in DC, I've had to learn how to deal with this obsession in a fast paced city. I have learned how early to leave for work in order to get there by 9. I have also learned that it is much better to be early here than it is to be late.
Growing up in a small town in Wisconsin, it was very easy to arrive someplace on time because there were never any delays. There was no traffic, no distractions, and no Metro system that could ever slow you down. Traveling on vacation was always a very stressful time for me and my family because I would always constantly be worried that we would be late either for our flight, or for something small such as dinner.
Middle school did not help; in fact, it added to the problem. For lunch, we were given a half hour to eat, and that did not include passing time in the halls. Once we would arrive in the cafeteria we had to sit down and wait to be called. Once we were called to get food, we had to wait in line and get our food. Once we actually sat down to eat, we had about 10 minutes to eat. I had several meltdowns because once lunch was over, you were required to throw away any uneaten food, even though you bought it with your own money. If you were disciplined for some reason such as forgetting a pencil, you would receive a lunch detention and not be allowed to eat lunch until everyone else had.
As middle school passed and I moved on to high school, I became much more relaxed and open to changes in time. Although, even as recently as a few years ago, I could not go somewhere new without getting very stressed or without asking tons of questions about how long in particular something was going to take.
These days, I am able to go somewhere on a whim, a nice characteristic for a college student. College has allowed me to make my own schedule and manage my time in a way that doesn't make me nervous about how every minute will be spent.
On the way to the USDA building from the DHS building, where I work. I actually got to see President Obama! I was walking along Independence Avenue toward the USDA building, bunch of police cars and cops blocked the roads and sidewalks and I’m thinking oh great another shooting at some museum or some sort. But I was happy to be mistaken, I got to see Obama’s motorcade go rushing down Independence Avenue with a bunch of black SUV’s and a truck with big guns mounted on top. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw a black limo surrounded with big black SUV’s, I looked hard into the window of the black limo and there he was, President Obama with his wife. It was pretty cool seeing him going down the avenue with a bunch of black cars and big weapons around him. It’s something you don’t see everyday. OK maybe for the locals around here it’s normal, but I don’t live in this area and it was very amazing seeing that since I probably won’t see this again in my lifetime.
I’m looking forward to this weekend, that’s when I will be going to Richmond, Virginia which is like two hours south of the District. I’m going to Richmond to get a taste of what Kings Dominion has to offer. It also will be my first time in Richmond, so I will actually get to see the capital of Virginia and not only that also what used to be the capital of the Confederate States of America.
Well I better start packing now; my friend will be picking me up at the metro station soon.
I hope everyone has a great weekend! It’s our last weekend in the District before we go home so enjoy it as much as you can!
This brings me to my own disability, High Functioning Autism (HFA.) It is part of a group of conditions called the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD.) Many with ASD never learn how to talk and have significant intellectual impairment. The common stereotype for autism is a little boy flapping his hands and making unintelligible noises. The core features of ASD are impaired communication abilities and repetitive behavior. HFA and a similar diagnose known as Asperger’s Syndrome are signified by a lack of intellectual impairment but still have communication problems. I can talk but it can be hard to for me start or enter a conversation. I also tend to twitch or move a little more than “normal” people especially in social situations where I am not always comfortable. It also does not help that my disability is not immediately obvious those around me which may make me seem weird or strange.
So what do the deaf and autistic have in common? They both face communication problems and they are both trying to change their images my educating people about the special abilities they can bring to an employer. It the case of ASD the traits include an intense focus and increased attention to detail. The real issue is that people see the disability but not their skills. People need to be educated about people with disabilities and what they can bring to an organization. It is encouraging to see people working to improve the public perception of people with disabilities. The message I got out of the presentation was that diversity is the rule, not the exception.
On another note the summer is drawing fast to a close and for me it is time to say good-bye. Tomorrow my family and I are going to Myrtle Beach for our annual summer getaway. I am ready for a vocation as two months of early mornings and long commutes have left me feeling drained and I need some time to rest. I hope that you have all enjoyed your stay here in DC. I hope that you enjoy your last week in DC and what is left of your summer at home. I wish you the best of luck in your studies and in your careers. May whatever modes of transportation you take deliver you to your destinations safely.
Have a good weekend and a productive final week.
Ok so as we all know, the internship is ending and we'll all be going beck to school or work or whatever we were doing. However, I know for me, I'm going to try to go back with a different attitude.
See, because when I was at home, I was a bit lazy. Sure, I want to class and did a decent job. But I never really DID anything extra. Sure I have tons of cool ideas... but that's all they are, ideas. I never really acted on too many of them. Even more so, I never really attended any events unless I KNEW I would have fun... and it turns out that some of the ones I thought I'd have fun at weren't so fun after all.
When I came here, I was still like that, but I soon started to feel a little odd about just sitting there in my room on YouTube and IM. I mean, come on. Out of all the people that applied for the internship, I was one of the people to get picked and I don't want to waste that chance to do something. Even if I didn't attend some of the official events, I wanted to be doing SOMETHING with the other interns. So that's when I started going to a bunch of places with them. Later on, I realized even further how important networking really was. So what if it wasn't at a place I really enjoyed being or if the people there didn't like anime or video games. It's still an important part of doing things. Like everyone has said, it's not just about what you know, it's about who you know as well and as I'm trying to get into the realm of audio and graphic design the same phrase holds true.
Alright so on Tuesday, one of the interns--Leah--held a small seminar on deaf culture where a few people spoke... or signed rather, on the different types of research they were doing on deaf culture and how the deaf in general handled things in different situations. They also talked about different frames of mind and ways of thinking about something. For example saying things like "they CAN'T hear." or "they LOST their sound." or something silly like that. Even saying deafness is a disability is not good because it hints that the person is Disabled in some way.
So then they talked about different ways to think about things so instead of saying they lost hearing, things like "they gained deafness. Changing frames is what they called it. This is important because it's basically a large game of word association. When people usually think deaf or blind, they think "Oh, this person isn't as good and something is really wrong with teem." and then they come up with all these other falsehoods like we're not smart or something.
As a visually impared person, I found this meeting really interesting and I really enjoyed that part about changing frames. So in celebration of that, I would like to announce that I will no longer watch anime ever again. I am growing sick and tired of the loud mouthed girls with pigtails who look like they're all 12-years-old and guys that look like girls that this ridiculous thing called anime is made of.
Instead, I will now be enetertaining myself with accelorated arts; a beautiful and unique artform that has an extremely dynamic range in how it can portray itself. Within this artform, the artist is free to do whatever they wish and express they're true feelings while still giving it a very stylish and classy look and feel.
I had more stuff to say, but I forgot what it was...
Oh right.. work... Um... things have been going kind of slow because I can't get in the main server.
I found a game company called Bethesda softworks who is near here. They make Elder Scrolls and Fallout 3 (and 2 and 1) and I'm trying to go visit them. I hope they didn't find my letter to them annoying or anything. Well that's it.
Bye for now.... OH RIGHT... I think my plan for going to Six Flags is actually working! This is the first big thing involving a lot of people that I've really ever done so I'm really happy that it seems to be working out. I just hope things continue to go well.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
Okay, so time for the last Slaymaker’s Sayings:
1. When networking (just like in dating), make sure to have good breath. It is always a turn off to smell bad breath, or body odor for that matter.
2. Always follow-up within 5 days. In my opinion, you don’t want to appear over eager and e-mail the same night, but you want them to still remember your encounter. Of course, this advice is discretionary depending on who you meet and the connection you made.
3. Don’t be afraid to go out on the limb. If a big name is speaking, write a note to them and try to put yourself in a position to give it to them (with a business card of course). You never know what might happen. Additionally, in the workplace, always be the “I’ll do it” guy. By doing so, you allow your co worker’s the ability to rely upon you…which they will remember the next time something comes around.
Thank you to all the faithful readers of the brilliant lessons I have learned and shared with you.
Saw Harry Potter with Stephanie, Daman, and David. It was great, but much darker than the other movies, both thematically and literally.
There were no bright colors or pretty images like there were in movies in the series. Instead, the director gave us scenes in grey bathrooms, dark caves, potions class, and a depressing Room of Requirement. Not that I didn’t like the change however. The story was much darker than before (all Harry Potter fans know why), so it makes sense that the movie should be literally darker as well. Speaking of Dumbledore, in the cave, why didn’t Potter just create water right over Dumbledore’s mouth instead of in that enchanted cup or ultimately going to the surrounding lake? It’s not like avoiding that attack disrupted any key plot points (Dumbledore is killed by Snape, not by a lack of water or those creatures.
I’m sad that there are only two weeks left to go in this program. It’s been a great summer, and I’ve really had a lot of fun. I hope I’ll be able to keep in touch with all the friends I’ve made here.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Um, I had a really good time at the reception. It was great to see so many people there. I was really surprised actually. It’s really an amazing thing to see so many people rally around one thing… so many interesting, fun, successful people… all of whom have overcome significant setbacks. Anyway, have a great weekend y’all.
Throughout the early part of the week, I waited patiently for this day, expecting excitement and the joy of being with the other AAPD interns, but what occurred that day really blew my mind. Two of our guest speakers were distinguished senators, including Patrick Leahy. If any of you remember watching the Dark Knight, Patrick Leahy had a one minute cameo appearance on the film in which he stood up to the Joker. Today I now know why they included a man of his caliber to be involved in that scene because this is the same man who has stood up intrepidly for the rights of people with disabilities. There were many great speakers who had a lot of insightful words to say, but the one that really stood out was when the senator opposite of Senator Leahy talked openly about how employers use to discriminate against people with disabilities and how because of this discrimination, 60 percent of eligible people with disabilities are currently unemployed. Coupled with the fact that less than 1 percent of federal employees have disabilities and you are given a starch reality of the improvement that needs to take place. But that being said, the disability movement has made marvelous progress, thanks to AAPD and other public officials in support of the movement. Before for example, a person with disabilities could not go to court if an employer discriminated against them, but today people with disabilities have much greater protection from the legal system. A few days later, I received some pictures in the mail and on face book with regards to the ceremony. They are pictures of all of us AAPD interns with smiles on our faces and doing goofy poses. Usually I am not the type to make an asinine of myself on camera but on that very day I broke that golden rule and accidentally made a funny pose in a picture that was supposed to be a serious one. I will hang on to that picture for all eternity on facebook. To all of you AAPD staff out there I want to thank you not only for planning such an astonishing event but for elating my spirits in the process.
I do struggle to "let" myself do things right and be content with it. I used to be a pretty extreme perfectionist and what you see now is a pretty mellowed-out version. I still have remnants of those times... But since I know I will be given a hard time for it if I share those feelings, I choose not to disclose them.
I can be pretty structured in how I prepare for bed and get up in the morning. I've told my roommate a few times, but I dont think she understands. Another reason I choose not to share my feelings; they go unheard. And then my conscience presides to cuss me out for being a fool to think they'd understand. It is for these reasons that my entire stay here I've not had a lot of sleep or rest. Often times, I have to wait for her to go to bed first so I wont be distracted or interrupted. This means going to bed 3AM on a regular basis, because she doesnt crash until 2AM.
In the mornings, I wake up super early for the same reasons and because she doesnt consistently awake at the same time for me to maintain structure. I say structure, because I dont know how else to say it. But I cant keep up the 2-hr daily sleep cycles and now my body bails on me, and of course nobody sees or understands so my conscience just laughs at me all the time. And I fight with it to show that I can still persist. And now that I fall asleep while I get ready, it makes it even harder. I say conscience for you guys... but I call it my alter ego, and it likes to take advantage of opportunity.
Is this everything I go through in one day? Hmmm, no! But there's a glance. I used to be almost like Monk from the television show "Monk." But now nobody would even think to see that in me. And if I bothered to explain, I think I'd get more laughs than understanding. As the big-time joker that I am scoring laughs couldnt hurt anyone, could it?
Friday, July 24, 2009
The African-American community and the Deaf community have been compared to each other in the book “Black and Deaf in America: Are We That Different?” Indeed, I feel that any “minority” culture is capable of identifying with another minority culture. The central concept is that the African-Americans and the Deaf both have a long history of oppression (through racial discrimination and linguistic manipulation/oppression) and resisting back against that.
Henry Louis Gates Jr., reminded me of another fact that links the Deaf culture inexorably with the Black culture: the constant, enduring frustration with police “overreaction.” Let me tell you something – police “overreaction” has another meaning in our communities and it’s a lot more straightforward: POLICE BRUTALITY.
The Deaf almost never have any good experiences with police. It’s not because we’re criminals or because we give them hard time. It’s simply because we can’t hear and they don’t understand that. I mentioned a while back about the “second set of knowledge” that comes from life experiences; there are too many stories of deaf people being treated with excessive force, being beaten up, being shot at, being arrested for the wrong reason and then the situation escalating because the deaf person was angry and confused and the police refused to cooperate. Deaf people have been thrown in jail for days without any interpreter or phone calls or accommodation, not knowing why they’re in there. Many times, when problems arise, the cops think that the Deaf are faking it and step up their “toughness” with disastrous results. And I know this from personal experience: When a deaf person even goes as far as to show an extremely exasperated facial expression or hand gesture, it’s good enough to get you arrested.
Worst of all, when deaf people get arrested, cops frequently handcuff the hands BEHIND THE BACK. When you do that, it pisses us off very very much. So imagine an upset, distressed, agitated Deaf person being roughly treated and now their voice is being taken away with the handcuffs behind the back. Without their hands, we can NOT COMMUNICATE and hell often breaks loose. And when they DO call in interpreters, I can guarantee you that calling in interpreters with even DC’s Metropolitan Police Department will take HOURS. Even worse beyond DC’s borders, sometimes there are no interpreters at all in rural areas. Sometimes they call in someone who can “sign” but are barely marginally qualified. And you think we the Deaf people are stupid? We’re gonna sit there at the police station and say “Hmm, that’s ok, you don’t understand us the deafies… This is all just a big misunderstanding”? No. The reality is that, we know our legal rights pretty well. We’re not afraid to speak up, to be blunt to the police, to raise our voices and demand our rights being protected. This is often met with more intense antagonism from the police’s side. When it is all over, we are disheartened and frustrated when the police "gets away with it," which is nearly always the case.
We even have our own Rodney King, only the difference was that our tragic icon died. Rodney King was lucky enough to live and become a celebrity. A Deaf man named Carl Dupree died because he was being restrained by four hearing security officials as they handcuffed his hands behind his back while pressing against his neck. He was resisting even harder because he was trying to tell them that he couldn’t breathe and they pressed on him harder. In the end, the autopsy report concluded that his larynx was broken. Carl Dupree left behind a wife and four young children.
Why are cops like that? The fact is that, they do have training. Most of the time, they should be aware of how to deal with Deaf people. But I think the issue runs deeper than just “miscommunication” between cops and Deaf people... and it hits upon the same thing that the African-Americans are constantly dealing with – the police’s inflated sense of superiority and power. They are the AUTHORITY and they are the LAW ENFORCEMENT and their sense of power can very quickly, easily spiral out of control when faced with someone who already has a history of being oppressed (like the African-Americans/Deaf) and not too long ago, that oppression was not only acceptable and legal, it was even encouraged.
That’s why… For the first time in my life, I was deeply disappointed in President Obama’s words today. Racial profiling and police “overreacting” is a SERIOUS problem that NEEDS to be addressed forcefully and unflinchingly. When he apologized to the police department for his earlier comment that they had acted “stupidly,” it was like a slap in the face. Because I understand what Henry Louis Gates Jr. felt like while he was going through his situation.
Professor Gates’ situation warrants an apology from the entire American police department and every single President in the United States’ history.
By Leah Katz-Hernandez
“The Starfish Story
A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.
She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”
The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied,
“Well, I made a difference to that one!”
The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved-- adapted from the Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley”
This story highlights the significance of individual action, or -- in advocacy-- the power of a single voice. Almost 20 years after passing the “Emancipation Proclamation" for the disability community, I am still flabbergasted by stagnant unemployment rates, the emphasis on institutionalized services and inadequate educational supports in restrictive environments among others.
I am grateful to Ed Roberts and his “artichoke heart” perspective to advocacy. Through his and the efforts of many others decades of oppression ended. Before ADA, Roberts’ fought for educational equality in universities. This demonstrates the effectiveness of self advocacy and other actions to positively influence outcomes. In the next 20 years, I have a dream that disability history is integrated with secondary school curriculums. I know the current generation of disability advocates will be up to this task.
Nathan D Turner
This weekend, I might go to Six Flags in Maryland so that way I can compare it to King Dominion in Richmond, Virginia next weekend with my Fairfax friends. They wanted to take me there before I leave to Colorado; they wanted to take me there since they say it’s really good according to them, so there’s only one way for me to find out!
Have a great weekend!
I'm aware that I'm a bit late on things sometimes so I'm sorry about that.
Sadly, I was unable to setup a talk on virtual environment technology and how it can help people communicate and share ideas, but there's still a couple weeks left so ya never know.
As far as work goes, I'm now trying to work on something else in Silverlight and it was ALMOST working.. until the program crashed. So it looked like I did absolutly nothing that entire day because I had nothing to show for it.... And YES I DID SAVE IT THE FILE GOT CORRUPTED!.
Well I believe that's about it fr now.
Happy [insert favorite food here] day!
Wednesday was the day of the JFA ADA event over at the Hart Senate Building. Before the event the AAPD office was akin to a bee hive. All kinds of people were coming in and out of the office in the hours preceding the event. The conference room was converted into a film set were one of the other interns was being interviewed. Outside of the office somewhere the AAPD board members were having a separate breakfast and lunch events. Some of them came over after lunch and brought leftovers to eat. I meet one of the board members who is the president of a consulting firm that AAPD is affiliated with.
I will be in DC this Saturday for the Newseum tour and the dinner with the Immediate Past Chair of AAPD. I hope you are able attend. As this internship program draws to a close I hope that you are able to take advantage of being be Washington, DC while you still can.
Have great weekend and a productive work week.
For the past 3 years my summers have been very boring and mundane. It was the same thing all the time. Move back home, get a job, and work all day. Living in DC has really change the whole dynamic of my summer. It's no longer boring. Living on a college campus really helps me interact with other people. Its more of a social environment where you can have a good time. I am meeting a lot of good people this summer, people that I will stay in contact with even after the summer. This summer was truly exciting, so many things going on at the same time. So far in my 21 year life span, this summer was by far my favorite. Everything fit into place this summer.
I was place in a job I really like, my boss is really awesome, they really like me here at DHS, and I am learning so much!!!!!! Absolutely nothing has gone wrong this summer. With everything looking up, their is no way for me not have a good time. I really am thankfull for the opportunity to stay in DC for the summer and hope that I can return next summer in a different internship.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
The picture this week is of my family eating out on Saturday night with Adam Dovens at Buca Di Beppo on Connecticut Ave. Clockwise from bottom left: my dad Mark, my brother Adam, me, my brother Joel, Adam Dovens, and my mom, Judy.
Last weekend, my family came to visit. It was only their second time to DC within the last few years, and I decided to show them a good time. I was able to get off of work last Thursday to pick up my family at the airport. From there, we rode the Metro to their hotel near DuPont Circle. After a quick lunch at Fuddruckers, we took the Metro to L’Enfant Plaza to go to the Air and Space Museum and look around for awhile. We were going to go to Arlington Cemetery, but the temperature was in the 90s, a little too hot for us Wisconsinites. We later ate dinner in Georgetown with a few friends from back home who also happened to be visiting DC.
The next day, I went to work while my family went to Arlington Cemetery. After I got home, we went to dinner downtown and walked down by the White House. My brother Adam, my dad, and I proceeded to then walk down to the Washington Monument while my other brother Joel and my mom went back to the hotel. We then walked over to the Lincoln Memorial which is a very beautiful place at night. Since it was about 10:30pm by then, I had to rush back to my room and write my blog (last week’s post) before the deadline.
On Saturday, we started out by going on a Capitol tour that our very kind senator, Russ Feingold, had booked for us. During our tour, our tour guide asked me to help out with explaining certain features of the rotunda and participate in a demonstration that mimics the whispering dish effect. Our tour guide also spoke 59 (yes, 59) different languages. After the tour, we walked over to the Library of Congress, ate lunch at Union Station, and went to the zoo. After the zoo, we had dinner with Adam Dovens, at Buca Di Beppo. It was quite a weekend.
On Tuesday at work, I volunteered to stay late and help out in the server room. We needed to replace a few batteries in a universal power supply and reconfigure the server racks to make them look neater. This involved removing internal power strips and replacing them with power strips along the side of the racks, thus freeing up room inside the rack itself. We started at 5pm and ended at 9:30. Not only was this a great learning experience, but it also was a great way to earn hours for school credit. I was at work for 12.5 hours that day.
Another week has come and gone as the summer starts to wind down. I will very much miss DC.
We have grown from being viewed as Mother Nature’s mistakes to being social and economic inconveniences. I refuse to believe that is the best that we can do.
A long time ago, people with disabilities were shameful creatures to be hidden, institutionalized or euthanized. Today, we are humans, but humans to be pitied. If we show an ounce of strength, we are ungrateful people who are asking for too much. So yes, we’ve come a long way from where we used to be, but we are still seen in a negative light for the most part.
I really am usually not this pessimistic, but recent events have really gotten to me.
This week at work, I read a report from Amtrak about their status on becoming 100% ADA compliant. When the ADA was passed 19 years ago it was recognized that the changes that needed to be made to public entities would be expensive. For this reason, Amtrak was given 20 years to make every station 100% ADA compliant. Now, a year before they are required to be 100% compliant, they have decided to submit a report asking for at least five more years. Only 10% of their 481 stations are fully accessible in accordance with the ADA. In 19 years they have only successfully completed 10% of the stops? Really? But by 2015 they will have the other 90% finished? Does anyone else think this is ridiculous?!?
Of course, one of their main excuses for not being able to have every station accessible by the 20 year deadline is that it costs too much money! The Amtrak report continuously requests money from the federal government to cover the costs of making the necessary ADA improvements. The report also boasts that their disabled ridership has increased significantly over the years. In 2008 alone, Amtrak estimates that they had around 185,000 disabled riders.
So Amtrak can accept money from people with disabilities, but Amtrak cannot use their own money to become ADA compliant? Of course not. Disabled people are an economic inconvenience, and as such, the government should have to cover the costs to accommodate us.
Besides being very frustrated by Amtrak, outside of work people have not been too friendly. Last weekend, while in the American History Museum, my sister and I were looking at the Hope Diamond and a woman grabbed her children away from me and announced, “Let’s get out of here before she kills us all!” Obviously I am a danger to society when I am in my wheelchair. Had I been walking through the museum, I doubt the woman would have acted the same way.
Additionally, on my way to work this week, I was getting off the elevator to catch the train at Foggy Bottom when a woman waiting to get on the elevator started screaming at me, “Watch out! Watch out Watch out!” She made it clear to me and everyone around that just because I was using a wheelchair I was clearly going to hit her. This made me very angry. I do not doubt any persons ability to walk without smashing into others, so why does my use of a wheelchair automatically mean I am destined to cause a catastrophe? I was glad to hear another woman snap, “Ma’am, I doubt this is her first day using the wheelchair. She knows what she’s doing, so I think you’re safe.”
My point is, just because we are now “allowed” in society doesn’t mean people necessarily want us here. Nevertheless, I am not going anywhere.
Now that I think about it, we have come far enough. It’s the rest of the world, and their attitudes, that need to catch up to us.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
It’s hard to believe summer has almost passed by….that the weeks go by so quickly and the weekends even more so. This past week has been good. Inundated with the broadcast of the Sotomayor hearings, I busied myself with the ordinary office routine and have a firm foundation of Staff Assistant work: Constituent Correspondence, Flags, and Tours. My work this summer has been much about doing what needs to be done for an office to run smoothly i.e. grunt work. I have gotten to undertake some assignments that challenge my mind and foster a greater understanding of how our government works. I try to take advantage of the opportunity of attending hearings, briefings, and markups, and the many after hour receptions as well. I feel my tie in DC this summer has produced some great real life professional experiences that I am very happy about. I am disappointed that it is almost over, but will pursue on till the end. There a few things left I have to do...
Taking place at the
On Friday it was a different day. All of us Schumer interns, were taken on a bus and directed to the Pentagon. Our tour leader was an ex colonel and by his countenance you could tell that this man was not going to tolerate and small talk interrupting his rhetoric. For the duration of our tour we were shown the graveyard of the people who died on the flight that crashed into the Pentagon on September 11th. The graveyard took place on the exact location where the plan landed before crashing. Had that plane not landed prior to its target, many more people would have died because the landing stopped a lot of momentum and released a “fire ball” of jet fuel. I could feel nothing but sorrow for the victims on that harrowing flight, but the bulk of that sorrow took place during a parade of injured soldiers. For thirty minutes us interns, along with hundreds of other people, created two files that opened up a path for these soldiers to walk through. One of these soldiers was missing both of his legs, while others were missing either a leg or arm or suffered some severe physical deformity. But instead of lamenting over their loss, every one of these soldiers had a smile on their face as they shook our hands and waved to us. In my eyes they are heroes because they are not ashamed of their physical disabilities and remain positive in spite of their condition. They are our countries protectors and with my mind and heart I salute them.
Martin walked so Barack could run,
Barack ran so our children could fly.
And it doesn't stop there. The progress of civil rights is all around us. The air is vibrating and beating with the pulse of advancement and opportunity. Every time a historical moment passes us by, I never fail to recognize how important it is.
The faces of America are changing. I am a proud mutt like Obama. In the case if you were wondering why I'm such a diminutive person, I'm part Japanese as well as part Mexican along with my Jewish heritage. I am deeply proud of my roots and I always root for the advancement of diverse people everywhere - from Asians to Afro-Caribbeans to Hispanics to religious diversity to people with disability. Being able to watch Sonia Sotomayor's hearing had powerful impact on me not only because I was able to sit in the hearing room and reflect on how far Hispanic women have come in our opportunities in America the Beautiful, but also because I was awed that ADA had afforded me the opportunity to listen to the hearing through my eyes in my own natural language, the sign language.
Some of you have started to share your experiences with your disability over the course of your life. For me, it’s hard because sometimes I don’t even view myself as disabled. I count myself blessed to use such a beautiful, visual language that is also very hard to fully explain in English. There’s a Wall Street Journal story that faintly scratches the surface of ASL vibrancy (NOTE: this link leads to a YouTube video that also has voice interpretation and is HIGHLY recommended to watch). Try to imagine it like this. You’re deaf, and learning speech is like trying to learn Russian through the glass window in a soundproof booth. But the person through the window gets up and starts to move around the hands, creating words out of thin air, shaping syntax and grammar with ease to the eye. You understand what is going on. Better than understanding, it is enhanced. The sign for “murder” simulates the stabbing motion; combined with a malevolent expression, the delicate balance of complexity and creativity with the language of signs is powerful.
Now, imagine this with Sotomayor’s hearing! I was absolutely riveted watching the Senators question Sotomayor, with a wide-eyed appreciation for the world of law. Using interpreters to convey meaning, tone, and expressions of spoken words are vastly more fascinating than static English translation. Don’t get me wrong – as a bilingual person, I love English equally through literature. However, great sign language interpreting beats captions on TV any day. American Sign Language is something that is so beautiful it is incomprehensible at times and almost impossible to explain. Sen. Sessions' thinly restrained and starkly ominous questioning of Sotomayor was magnified to me with the power of sign language and when he finally said to her, "I'm concerned" - it was as if he had said it to me (with that professional yet negative and provoking tone). I'm concerned about you and your qualifications, miss. I recoiled in my seat.
Andy Imparato told me his story regarding the long odyssey of getting accessibility for me. It just reinforces to me even stronger how important it really is to push for mainstream disability accommodation. Signs of progress are all around us; yet we still have our work cut out for us. BOTTOM LINE: If accessibility was ALREADY mandatory and uniform, there would have been NO PROBLEM AT ALL and much less hours would have been wasted on "trying to get accessibility" for the Sotomayor confirmation hearing. Doesn't that sound like a much less inconvenience than spending hours trying to work out interpreters and seating arrangements? We see curb cuts, Braille on public buildings, and flashing lights around us today. We need to push for uniform and mandatory provision of interpreters at public events (Not "only when upon request"), not only to provide basic accessibility rights to deaf people but it would also simply be less of a headache for the organizers and create larger niches for positive economic opportunities. I am deeply grateful to Andy Imparato and AAPD for all their opportunities but I also want to say that it has become increasingly obvious to me that it is important to not be lax about disability advocacy.
We also must never forget how important it is to value diversity - Should the deaf design a building for the blind? Is it always the best when a person in a wheelchair plans accessibility options for an Autistic person? They CAN, but the results may sometimes be different than intended. Even the best intentions can result in gaffes and mistakes. We all are inherently diverse and when we are separated, we view the world mostly only in our own terms. But when we come together and share our experiences with each other, we start to view things in a different light. You begin to think about the experiences of other people and learn to value their insight. The nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court added the first Hispanic and the third woman into the mix. Perhaps the Supreme Court could do well to learn from Sonia Sotomayor and the AAPD interns - that the value of life experiences are indeed important and impossible to remove from ourselves but ultimately in the end, it is our own professional temperament that defines us.
2nd blog on Sonia Sotomayor by Leah Katz-Hernandez
My birthday was last week, and it was quite special even though I wasnt in the company of my friends and family back home. My roommate offered the idea of peeping a captioned outdoor 80's movie. I liked it; I never had such an experience other than the drive-in movies I had gone to when I was younger. It was spontaneous and different, and for fun we were suppose to dress up 80's style as we sat in the grass munching on our dinners.
I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by the company of several of my fellow AAPD interns. So I want to do a special shout-out to: Stephanie, Rohmteen, David, James, Leah, Bob, and Arisa. They all made it out to help me celebrate my birthday; thank you all for being there! I truly appreciated it, and thanks to Leah and David for their gifts. They both gave me chocolate gifts.
A fellow co-worker had also given me a card and gift at work. It seems he was the only one who had remembered my birthday at work. As a joke, he gave me a "Happy 21st" card. Everybody always thinks I'm younger than I look, and even my fellow interns thought I was turning 21. Unfortunately, I'm a quarter century old now!
Anyways, so I dressed up with leggings, a skirt, and legwarmers. Haha, after all I really dont have my full closet with me here in DC. I tried to bring only what was necessary, not too much of what I wanted. Most of that being work apparel! Oh well, an intern's gotta do what an intern's gotta do.
It was good times, as we peeped "The Breakfast Club." I had never seen it, so it was a first for me. I did like how it reflected and exposed people from different walks of life and how they interacted with each other. But I thought the ending was sad and impractical. While we can respect people from other cultures and walks of life, I dont think most people go out of their way to reach out to them. To stay in contact and make that effort to keep them in their social circle. I know this, because I'm one of the few that I know that aspires to do this. In high school, I never hung with the same group every day. Instead of being close to anyone, I'm friends with everyone. So while I know everyone, I guess nohbdy really knows me. The same goes for my disability; I guess I'll have to take up Stephanie's request on divulging our issues and experiences to enlighten you all. Stay tuned, my alter ego will be sure to sign in and drop some science.
Friday, July 17, 2009
The picture is of me with my two brothers on the rooftop terrace of the Kennedy Center.
With July starting to wind down, it is very hard for me to grasp that I only have a few weeks left here in DC. I do wish that I could stay longer, but at the same time I am anxious to get home and continue my education at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
I have already seen almost all of the DC attractions that I have wanted to see while here, and I am beginning to feel like a true Washingtonian. Almost every day on the Metro, people will come up to me and ask where something is, whether it is how many stops to a certain station, or how to get to a certain museum on the National Mall. The last few weeks, I have been checking out the local culture more than I have been going to tourist attractions. I have had dinner with my mentor twice already at very nice restaurants, with a third dinner scheduled for a week from Monday. I have also visited with some locals including another intern's family (see last week's entry) and some friends of my aunt and uncle. I have also met up with a few people from my summer camp past that now live in DC. I learn what it is like to live here and how it is different from home.
This weekend is very special because my parents are in town. I have gotten to show them the Metro system, several museums, and a few restaurants so far. This weekend, we are going to be taking a capitol tour, and visit the Old Post Office. This is my chance to show them what a true Washingtonian I have become.
At work, several of my coworkers are going on vacation. I have also had to move to a different cubicle today. Other than that, it is business as usual. There hasn't been much in the way of new developments this week, so look forward to my next post.
Oh well. Nobody to blame but myself for refusing to use Java because I thought it would be easier to make visual displays in Flash. This is the first time I’ve programmed in an office context, so I have a lot to learn about compatibility and how things will actually work for others. But that's one of the great things about this internship; learning how to apply skills to the real world. So, I’ll make it work somehow. If the Coast Guard computers don’t have Adobe Flash Player, then I’ll covert the dashboard to a HTML file and run it in the Internet browser. And next time I will use Java.
This weekend I’m going to watch the Chicago Cubs play the Washington Nationals since my family is Chicago based. My moms side of the family grew up in the South Side so they are White Sox fans while my dads side of the family grew up in the North Side of Chicago, which makes them Cubs fans. I’ve been to Chicago so many times since my relatives live there and I’ve gone to Wrigley Field so many times to watch the Cubs. I’m excited about that to watch the Cubs in the District other than in Chicago.
I can’t believe in 3 weeks I will be going back to Colorado! I sure hope the weeks fly by!
Stephanie mentioned further back that she'd like to see more of us open up, so I thought I'd try it myself.
I've been blind for my entire life minus 6 months (those proceeding my being physically shaken by my babysitter at the time). I don't remember having sight. As a child I was interested in the sounds around me - mainly those of video game consoles (which at the time actually had a uniquely low-fi sound; today everything sounds epic and movie-like... boring) and machines (pencil-sharpeners, photocopiers etc). I did what I was told; always filled in extra credit sections on spelling tests, cried when I got in trouble for complaining about homework etc. I didn't have too much use for socializing, mainly because the other kids on my block would run around and I would only slow them down (or so I thought). It didn't matter too much though - so long as I had the basement with the TV, my Super Nintendo and Street Fighter 2 I was in business.
Rohmteen mentioned that others who may seem smothering or unwelcome only want to help you. This can be a little more insidious; parents can do it to. Mine were far from sheltering, though it's difficult for any sighted person to explain what a blind person has to do in order to cross the street (hint: listen for traffic running parallel to your path across the street, or ask for assistance). People will also unconsciously make "accommodations" for you - cutting your meat, putting pasta in its own separate little bowl, etc. The world didn't matter too much so long as I could return home at the end of the day and talk with my family who understood me. Of course I didn't realize this until I had to leave. I only used cutting meat as an example; I had cut things on my own with a knife, but clumsily with my hands rather than a fork or some other socially-acceptable companion utensil. Living on one's own you begin to realize how hard it is to make a mark. I get a lot less feedback in social situations; my little jab at eye contact before is an example. Apparently the conversation can pass from person to person through their eyes. I only surmise this, as I often find myself beginning to speak only to be run over by someone else. It also makes talking in large groups (5 or more to a crowded college house party) very difficult. I like to have control of a situation and know all that I can, and when someone suddenly leaves you talking to thin air while they run to greet a friend who just waved to them from the other side of the room you can't help but feel a little affronted. Someone I consider a friend was explaining to me that sighted people can adapt quicker. If you're at a baseball game and don't know anything about baseball, you can look down when someone cheers and see that the man is running triumphantly towards the plate, or if you see someone else smiling you can go right on and smile along with them. People are also more attractive; physical attractiveness is apparently quite crucial motivation to meet new and interesting people. I pass by tons of people every day at school, and occasionally one will say that s/he has seen me walking around and wanted to talk but "didn't know how."
The hardest part for me is keeping my head above water - not growing bitter and jaded from being an outsider. I've got to flaunt what I have so that people find me intriguing because of something I can do well and which makes me feel good about myself. I'd like to do everything perfectly - not just stuff related to sight but everything; be witty and charming (usually by using lots of multi-sylabic words), great and knowledgable. Of course my crazy plans result in failure (when you spend time constructing th eperfect plan, you will only find more and more flaws... and since the world is a crazy place where actions have unforeseen circumstances, they are more likely to break leaving you entirely in the dust). This often results in very visible and isolating behavior, for which I only beat myself up later. I will probably never be able to instantly navigate a new area well enough to impress a potential date, but maybe I can take them to a location I'm more familiar with, or show them my appreciation for sound effects and music by combining them to create audio stories (I posted one a couple weeks back in a rush - I don't think it actually worked. It definitely wasn't captioned. I intend to fix this as I really want you all to hear it.) I can't really buy all of what I just wrote. I'm still bitter, and still angry I can't do everything as well as I imagine I could if I could see (or was perfect at everything), but if I write it down enough times and socialize more I'll learn how to be pleasant, happy and successful.
That ended on such a lame, downward note. This doesn't mean that everything is miserable and I have a hard time. It hasn't been easy adapting to an office environment and other similar things, but I'm learning a ton about how to be more socially acceptable and enjoyable to work with. By focusing on work in front of me, it becomes a little easier to forget about whatever it is that is annoying you at the current time. I've experienced lots of highs and lows over the course of this summer (even over the course of these past two weeks), and as annoying and painful as it is to learn things I end up becoming a better person for doing so. I've made a couple of friends who feel the same way I do and with whom I can identify and even *gasp* share mutual interests. I would definitely rank this summer in DC as one of the most meaningful experiences of my life, and I am not being at all sarcastic or hyperbolic. It's not all about the job or the program, but they definitely do force me to confront some personal issues which can slide by at school or home.