Friday, July 31, 2009

The PDF is Now Accessible!

My second to the last week in DC and it was a busy one! I finally finished my PDF project, which was quite an accomplishment! Now that it’s complete, I can reflect a little bit on what I learned. This was one of those projects that you have no idea what you are in for. The task: make an 88 page PDF document accessible. Sounds like a big project, maybe it will take a week or two. A month later it is finished, the correct way. First, I used all of the automated tools which proved to not be sufficient. This document had teeth, it was ready to put up a fight, test my boundaries, and see how dedicated I was. My Adobe resources helped me some, but then I received a lot of advice from the USDA Target Center. Soon I found out I had to go through every page, manually, page by page. On most pages, I had to redefine reading orders and define headings and objects. Some pages went smooth, other pages became my enemy, taking literally days to make 508 compliant. The hardest was the graphs and tables. Try to define a graph as an image and it becomes 80 separate images, all wanting alternate text. The undo button doesn’t work. Redefine the image with the same result multiple times, then all of a sudden, it works! You then tip toe around it, fixing the rest of the page, saving after every change. One change could make the image change it’s mind and turn into 80 objects. Then, there was the week when Adobe Acrobat Professional would crash randomly, losing any unsaved work. By the end, I think I went through every page at least three times, checking to make sure everything was correct. There were many days when I made no progress and wanted to give it back to my supervisor. I made sure I kept going and then I would finally have a breakthrough. Never give up! I talk about this document like it was alive because it felt like it was. Computers are not logical. I defeated the monster! The lesson: create documents the correct way. Monday I am presenting my accomplishments and providing a handout on how to create accessible PDFs from Microsoft Word. Hopefully no more PDF monsters are created!

--Daman Wandke

International Perspectives on Disability Rights

International Perspectives on Disability Rights
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

Dealing with Time; a Challenge for Me, By Mitch Paschen

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.

Last Weekend in DC by Bob

Wow, one more week of internship then it’s over! I’ve learned a lot of new things this week and the past week. Last week, I went to the TARGET center at the USDA building to check out their new assistive technology that is being developed and will be on the market soon. Some of the new technology I saw over there is truly AMAZING! They developed new software where you can speak to the computer and have them do things while you don’t need a keyboard or a mouse. The guy, who demonstrated it to me, spoke to a device that’s wirelessly connected to the computer, and the computer would do exactly what he said to the device. For example, when he said open Microsoft Word, it opened up. Then he said type, and then Word was ready to type. As soon as he started talking, Microsoft Word started typing whatever he was saying! It was so amazing seeing how the computer can pick up the words he’s saying and type it correctly or even choose the correct word. I thought there would be some mistakes because there are some words that sounds very similar, for example there, their, and they’re sound almost the same and the computer could mistake it as a different word but I was very impressed how the computer was dead accurate. There are so many new assistive technologies that are almost ready to be launched at the TARGET center and I believe that this will benefit a lot of people who cannot use computers that well, and I’m proud to say that I’m very impressed with the new assistive technologies.

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!


A Different Frame – Closing Thoughts

The Deaf Culture and Philosophy Presentation and Workshop on Tuesday got me thinking about my own disability and how people treat others who are different. When people think about those with disabilities they tend to think what they are unable to do. The problem with this frame is that it does not include what they are able to do be it the same or better than a “normal” person. The speaker brought up the concept of deaf-gain which is about what deaf people can do better. Two advantages the speaker brought up were improved spatial memory and improved peripheral vision. This is similar to how blind people can hear sounds others would not.

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.


Chad Carson

--David McKee-- I'm on the gravy train... and BOY is it messy.

Ok so that really had nothing to do with anything but I'm in the middle of a brainstorm right now so this post might be kind of... blarg.

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

Salsa Club by Adam Dovens

Just recently I have been attending this great salsa club in McPherson square called Lima. They offer free salsa lesson every Monday night and open bar for ladies. I really enjoy myself because their are two different lessons, one basic and one more advanced. The lessons not only give me a refresher of my basics it also teaches me new moves and the best part of all is that it is all free. Some people really feel that it is weird that I do ballroom, i have even had a girl come straight out and ask me if I was gay because of it. Their are a lot of things that I do that are not stereo typical. I am a ballroom dance, play volleyball (primarily a girl sport in a America), and i do a lot of world travelling. All these put together makes one weird person. What this boils down to in conformity. i simply don't like conforming to the American standards. I feel that I want go my own root instead of following what everyone around me is doing. This is very applicable to the entire disability community as we discussed at the presentations yesterday in ivory tower.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Slaymaker - I better not get docked money. "I was busy, okay?"

Okay, I have come to the realization I am never going to accomplish all that I had planned for the summer. The time has just flown by too quickly…which is frustrating. I mean, if 2 and a half months flying by this fast, I can’t imagine how fast life must go. Anyhow, this week was a good one. With the JFA celebration, it was easy to have a good week. I was very impressed with the turn out of the event and what the award winners/speakers had to say. Hearing from Senators Leahy, Harkin, & Brownback and Secretary Duncan was a very nice thing. Also, the networking after the event was good. I met Dick Thornburgh and Ted Kennedy Jr., and connected with a few people I hope to work with on some issues. I realize though, that my last two weeks are going to be incredible hectic. I have meetings with many people and hope to make a strong sprint to the finish. I have sincerely enjoyed this internship and recommend it to anyone interested in a government.
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.

Feeling good

Things have been great this week. Had fun at the Justice for All Meeting celebrating the 19th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. They gave out awards to many high profile people who have furthered the cause of disability civil rights. One was the author, Karin Slaughter, who wrote a book in which the main character has Dyslexia and another was Russ Owen, president of the Computer Science Corporation, a company that hires many people with disabilities, showing how they can be just as capable as anyone else. Most of the honorees, however, were politicians, such as Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator Sam Brownback, who helped pass the disabilities rights legislation that we were celebrating. It was inspiring to hear them speak about how they had fought to pass many of the civil rights laws that I now take for granted. They gave speeches about what it was like before the ADA, and it was unsettling to think what my life would’ve been like without these people. I’m extremely grateful for all they have done to better my life and the disability community, and it was an honor to see them at this celebration.

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.


James James James Dietz

I don’t have much to say this time around. Work is work. The internship is winding down and I’m a little burnt out. Time off becomes remarkably valuable when you’ve a full work week. Working everyday is a blessing and a curse – it’s long and occasionally tedious but it gives me something to focus on, putting my mind to work on something besides worrying. Last week’s AAPD events were worthwhile. I want to say something about how meaningful and important this summer has been to me, but I already have and there’s not much to add on that front. I really wish I had more to write if only to be more interesting and use it as a device to get to know readers better through shared experiences. Lots has been going on this summer in my head. We’re all traveling through life alone whether we like it or not. Friends can cushion things sometimes but in the end we have to deal with everything by ourselves. I know that I don’t learn the full weight of something until I find myself the business end of whatever it is which is about to hit me. I’ve never had a ton of friends, but my family and those around me are usually willing to convince me that everything’s alright. How we all deal with life – whether it’s someone grabbing you to turn you in the direction they think you want to go or having your attempt at success be crushed by a rainstorm or something equally uncontrollable really defines us as a person. Some people are better at finding quick social acceptance and it’s hard not to envy them because in my mind they have an easier time dealing with life (I’m also realizing that life is about you’re being a likeable person; if no one likes you enough to appreciate what you do, you are essentially worthless). Of course people are the least predictable part of life, and building your life around others can’t be safe or pleasant all the time. This weekend was fun – events, free dinner and the repair of my laptop. Almost time to go home and then school.


Saturday, July 25, 2009


So I’m feeling good right now. I’m excited about the weather. I had a good week. So, random story. It was 6:10 and I was walking towards Union Station with 500 other people from the Senate Office Buildings. Anyway, all of a sudden it starts to rain. Now this was one of those 0-60 rains. The rains that aren’t preceded by a drizzle. In fact this wasn’t even rain. This was liquid hail. Baseballs of wet. So in an instant 500 people in suits and ties and high heels, briefcases and blackberries begin a 50 yard dash to the awning at Union Station. It was really incredible. As wet as I was, as ruined as my newspaper was and as disgusting as my suit smelled, it was beautiful. Girls had it the worst. They were just walking, cursing their heels. Grown men were all but sliding over the hoods of cars on their way across the busy streets… I loved it. It was awesome. Anyway, I’m not really sure why I enjoyed that so much.
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.


A Joining Of Kindred Souls By Fabio Botarelli

On July 22nd, AAPD hosted its major awards ceremony. Prior to this event, I was in the Congressional library, completing my action memo on our countries monetary policy, while remaining cognizant of the 4:20 pm mandatory meeting time. With the help of an employee I discovered that there was a ninth floor in the Hart building after 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.

Busy Networking --Daman

How busy can DC life get? Last night was my only free night for the next week. Let me tell you, the sleep felt good. I have been to events around the city this week from the Hart Senate Building on Capitol Hill to the National Press Club using my networking skills like crazy. At work I am making a lot of progress on my projects! The PDF is now 508 compliant or very cclose. I sent it to the Target Center so they can test it with JAWS. On my database project, I ran into some issues compiling the data in Excel, so I figured out a way to import the data into Access. We are now simplifying the data process and I am waiting on the new template and user testing results from my co-worker. On Tuesday, I attended the American Association of Advancement’s Entrypoint reception. Tuesday was also my birthday and a bunch of the interns went out to T.G.I. Friday’s to celebrate that I am no longer a teenager. The big celebration was Wednesday night at the Justice for All event where we celebrated the 19th anniversary of the ADA and the 14th anniversary of AAPD on Capitol Hill. Then on Friday, I attended the national launch of a disability history media project, “It’s Our Story,” which took place at the National Press Club.

--Daman Wandke

Beneath the Surface

Last weekend, Rohmteen and I were discussing some of Andrew's posts because it seems everyone is intrigued by them. Initially, I didnt get the hype because I often feel the exact same way he was depicting in his writing. Rohmteen explained that it was more profound for Andrew than perhaps me. But really, I do the counting thing and I do fight with my conscience more often than not. I just dont talk about it... not really. Sometimes when I share it, people think it's funny or entertaining. I could care less, but I do have many of the same thoughts and feelings as I read from his posts on a daily basis.

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

Police Brutality: The FACTS by Leah

I was at work this week when the controversy erupted over Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. It immediately caught my eye as well as millions other people across America because it shone a light on an intense moment that still happens even with our first African-American president: Racial Profiling. Race relations in America have always been a sensitive and touchy subject, largely because early America had structured its culture and social hierarchy to ensure that whites had all the power. As barriers were broken, some issues still lingered around. We all know about ugly stuff underneath the surface - like racial profiling, police brutality, stereotypes, and socio-economical boundaries. All these factors charge race relations in America to such sensitive levels that sometimes it boiled over and riots broke out (Rodney King, Crown Heights, etc). BUT there were also amazing moments where strong feelings and passion prevailed through the form of civil rights rally and politics – energies that fueled Martin Luther King Jr, Cesar Chavez, and Barack Obama.

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

My Reflections on the ADA Anniversary

Reflecting upon the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I reread one of my favorite inspirational stories: The Starfish Story. This story was presented to me on a plaque when I graduated from Partners in Policymaking in 2006. To reiterate from an earlier post, the Partners curriculum teaches self advocacy and disability determination to people with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities. The adapted text is below.

“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.

Lead on,

Nathan D Turner

A Nice Upcoming Weekend by Bob

Wow! I can’t believe summer is coming to a near end already! Over the summer, I can say that I’ve learned a lot of things here in DC. Not just new software and technologies that are out there. I actually got to feel how it feels like to work in the real world and being able to communicate with hearing people who cannot understand me very well. Back in school, I’m always used to having an interpreter around so they can voice for me but in the workforce, if someone can’t understand me, then I’d have to speak slower so that way they can get a better understanding. It was a good experience for me.

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!

PILE UP!! ARGH--David McKee--

When I say pile up, I'm refurring to all the things that are going on now. As everyone knows, we're reaching the end of the internship and I'm just now realizing that I need to do more things but now the issue is WHAT things? There are lots of events going on and on top of those, I have some projects I'm trying to finish as well. Back in Cleveland, I wasn't really doing much. I had time to just sit back and well... just do nothing or watch TV. But here, it's a different story; always on the go, always on the move. It's kind of cool and makes me feel important. ... Yeah, I know that sounds kinda snobbish to say but I just mean that it feels like I'm doing something. Now I can't just sit down and do nothing becaus I don't feel I'm being productive. When I get back home, I may start looking fr other things I can do (like a job for starters), but while here, I'm trying to get some things done.

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!

A Crazy Week at HQ

This week the office was abnormally busy due to the JFA ADA event. It is interesting to see and hear all the activity around you as you work.

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.

Chad Carson

The summer to remember

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

A Weekend and a Week Not Forgotten, by Mitch Paschen

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.

The Rest of the World

Although I was pretty much born into the ADA, I know that life has not always been so great for people with disabilities and that we have come a long way. But have we come far enough? For me, the answer is no. Maybe I’m asking too much. Maybe I’ll never be satisfied. But maybe I’m right.

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.

Stephanie Woodward

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Slaymaker Blog 7

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...

SO... yeah.

Honestly, I’m struggling to think of something to write. I guess I’ll just say Hey. So, Hey! Things have been relatively good this week. Five of my friends at the office ended their internships on Friday so I’m kind of… blah. But it’s the small price you pay for making good friends. Um, the Sotomayor hearings were really exciting. I was actually on the front page of! Yeah, there was a picture of me standing next to some guy as he was being hauled out of the hearing in handcuffs. So I’m excited about that. Um, I made an anagram for all the cabinet positions if anyone is interested. CATTLE DIVES J (HHH). Yeah, the J kind of doesn’t fit but that’s it. So, um I went to the NEWSeum. If you haven’t gone you may like to. It’s a fun place. There’s a lot to do. Anyway, sorry my post was so boring. Hopefully I will have more to say next week. Have a good weekend y’all.

A Meaningful Conference & A Heartwarming Experience By Fabio Botarelli

Taking place at the Capitol Visitors Center, Room HVC 215, was an imperative discussion about making use of the unprecedented 12 billion dollars of additional investment in IDEA. Directed by the likes of Rayna Aylward, the event was laden with four distinguished speakers at the top of their education fields. The call for revolutionizing the practices of ARRA and IDEA originates from a list of disturbing facts that have marked the mediocrity of our nation’s progress with educating people with disabilities. Based on research conducted in 2007, approximately one in four students with disabilities drop out of school, with some states having drop-out rates as high as 50 percent. In some states, more Black students with disabilities drop out than graduate. Come high school graduation, the national high school graduation rate for students with disabilities is only 56 percent. According to a source dating in the year 2000, The National Council on Disability’s evaluation of nearly two and a half decades of federal enforcement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, found every state and the District of Columbia out of compliance with IDEA requirements to some degree. Coupled with the fact that one in ten special education teachers are not qualified as required by IDEA and you have a recipe for disaster. As someone with a learning disability, these figures reinforce why as AAPD interns, we need to step up to the plate and initiate change.

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.

"Sotomayor and Signs of Progress" by Leah

Rosa sat so Martin could walk,
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

It's My Party, and I'll Cry If I Want to...

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

Random Thoughts, by Mitch Paschen

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.

PDF Gone Crazy, Excel on the Horizon --Daman

This week I continued working on my PDF project and Excel projects. I am trying to complete my PDF project soon, I made a lot of progress and solved one issue that would have been hours of work if my solution did not work. The images are fixed and they all have alternative text tags. Now it’s time to fix the tables. This document has it in for me with surprises around every corner. One table will not copy correctly and is twisting my mind when it throws logic out the window. And who says computers are logical? I would differ. On the other hand, the Excel project is moving along without any trouble at the moment and is cooperating with me. It’s a nice change from the PDF. I am waiting for a co-worker to provide me with test data to continue onto the next step. In the meantime, I am working on all of the paperwork for the project. I attended several events this week which were interesting. The first one was an assistive technology event at the Pentagon. I can now say that I have been to the Pentagon. I also went to a brownbag lunch with AAPD and IBM and learned more about an IT careers and technology policy. This weekend is going to be busy because I have a friend coming down from Boston. I better stop writing and take the Metro to go meet her at the airport.

--Daman Wandke

More Flash Dashboard

Work is fun. I’m almost finished with the project management dashboard in Flash, and I’m really excited to see what my supervisors, Tom and Wes, think about it. It’s great that they gave me so much freedom in designing it, and it gave me the opportunity to learn more about Java components. I hope that the computers at the Coast Guard will be able to open and run applications made in Flash. For those who don’t know, Flash wasn’t developed to be used in a professional management context. Rather, it’s typically used for graphic intensive applications like games and those online ads where you shoot a duck and “win” an IPod. The functions that I’m using to save data to the project management server were actually intended to save gamers’ high scores. The name “Flash” alone implies something that just appears and disappears in an instant. Not really a concept that most successful businesses and especially governments want to embrace in the long term.

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.


Baseball Game Weekend by Bob

Another typical week of work. Up to this point, I don’t have anything special on my mind to say. All I can say is that I’ve been working from 9 AM to 5 PM everyday. There are some up and downs when I work. Some days when I work, its so slow and boring but some days it goes by fast and its exciting to do.

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!


It's James Dietz Again

Two in a day.

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.