Sunday, August 16, 2009

A week back home, by Mitch Paschen

My picture this last post is me in front of Ford's theater.

Well, I've been home a week and I already miss DC. Slowly, I have had to get back to my life back in Wisconsin. I have been very busy this last week seeing friends, taking care of business for school, and slowly moving myself into my apartment in Whitewater.

My last week in DC, a few other interns and I went to Ford's theater and the Peterson house. It was a nice way to end the summer. After that, I decided just for the fun of it to go to the Wheaton Metro station, which happens to be the home of the second longest continuous escalator ride in the world and the longest in the US at 230 feet.

As far as a nice welcome home, it was pouring rain when I arrived home. The next day and a half were more humid and hot than most days I had while in DC. Anyway, since then, the weather has been very pleasant. I have gotten used to driving a car again, and I even got to go to the state fair.

I can barely wait until school starts. This fall I am taking a Geography of Europe class, an IT security class, a marketing class, an operations management class, and marching band. I was also chosen to speak at the opening of our new business building. One student from each department was chosen, and I was picked in the Information Technology Business Education department.

I can't wait to be back in DC again next year to work.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Best Summer Ever by Adam Dovens

I can say with absolute certainty that this summer has been by far my favorite summer ever. I have had so much fun and have meet so many new great people. this summer has not only helped me professionally but also personally. I have meet so many different type of people with a very different type of personality. Not to insult Norfolk but the fact of the matter is a lot of people have the same old story. Their is no real variety, but in DC i have been exposed to such a different variety of people with some great and interesting view points. DC has really opened my eyes to whole different political side of the country and how it influences our daily lives. I used to think politics was something that was done at such a high level that it was really hard to see how it effects the common man. Now I see how much the ADA actually helped every person in the disability community. I am really thankful for the opportunity that AAPD has given me this summer. Thank you so much AAPD you have changed my life!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Alright. The summer is almost over. I’m kind of afraid… change is really difficult for me. Really difficult. I always get depressed when I start something new as well as when I end something. In order to cope with this I’ve internalized some ideas that I’d like to share with you guys. I think you can benefit from these ideas whether or not change is difficult for you:

Ok. Things don’t end. Friendships don’t end. Experiences don’t end. Even if I never see or speak to say, Romteen again (I’m just using Romteen as an example) our relationship won’t end. It will just change. It will go from being a relationship defined primarily by physical contact and shared experience to one of memory. I may not see Romteen again (although I fully intend to) but that doesn’t mean he won’t impact my life. It is impossible to know how someone influences you. Even if you think that they haven’t, they have. Something Romteen said in conversation, whether or not I even remember that he said it, may influence the way I look at things. Thinking back to a time that I shared with him will make me smile, make me happy. So while my relationship with Romteen will obviously change (we go to different schools) it can never end. The same goes for everyone. The same goes for DC. For AAPD. Yes, we are leaving the city, ending the program, but for the rest of our lives we will laugh out loud to ourselves in otherwise silent rooms because something funny from the summer of 2009 just popped into our head. For the rest of our lives our experiences, good, bad, and neutral, will help to influence the way we think and act. So, worry not, nothing is ending. Things don’t end. They just change. And it is impossible to say whether DC as a present is better than DC as a memory… so, to all: I look forward to the good that will come from the next stage in our relationship. I look forward to the things that retrospect will teach me, to the lessons that will be illuminated by hindsight, to the purity that comes with romanticizing something that may not have been perfect. Enjoy…


James Dietz: Coming Back Hard Again

This is scattered, but I hope you enjoy it.

Like David I've felt an increased drive to work on personal projects not only because of all

I've been doing, but because of all I haven't been given the chance to do at my current

internship. Working in this type of environment and speaking or hearing from the

knowledgeable speakers at our AAPD events have driven it home: I need to follow my passions.

I'm working on creating a game using the Klango environment ( It's a

simple 2d maze game rendered in audio. The maze is represented by an x,y grid of tiles.

Each tile is a different ground type (metal/wood/concrete, lava - kills you, ice - slippery

so movement doesn't stop immediately etc.). Entities in the game world range from you the

player to simple enemies (which will probably just move in simple paterns if anything) to

walls, doors, sound effects, explosives (death when touched), switches (which send a signal

- read on for more on signals), powerups and more. The goal will be to complete each game

maze by collecting all of the "tokens" scattered through a maze (I haven't decided on the

story yet - computer chips which are needed to complete the mad scientists experiment?

Hostage monkeys held captive for lab experiments? Who knows?!) within a given time limit.

The most exciting feature of this game on the design end are signals. Every object sends

out a signal when it is created, dies (usually as a result of colliding with the user or an

explosive) and so on. Switches are signaled when pressed by the player. Every object

listens for signals and can respond to any signal sent by any other object. As a result, if

I flip a certain switch, walls will mysteriously open up (releasing robots held behind them)

and alarm sounds will be turned on, creating tention and awesomeness. The collection or

destruction of certain objects can also signal other objects - all monsters can be killed

when the player collects a certain item, or fires may start appearing randomly across the

map (thanks to timers, which can also be signaled) after the player kills a particularly

intimidating boss character.
WARNING: Technobabble ahead.

Klango makes use of the Lua scripting language, so that is what this game will be written

in. Each entity will be represented by a table (basically an associative array - there are

no native object-oriented programming facilities in Lua) with the expected attributes

(standingsound, type, etc). Signals will be placed in a queue when sent from a particular

entity. On each iteration of the game loop (once every 30 milliseconds according to Klango

specifications), the game will
- change the position of each item's sound in 3d space
- Check player's current tile; should it be killed? (lava?) Check entities colliding with

player as well (explosive? Fire?)
- peek at the signal queue and see if the topmost signal applies to the current entity and

if so, performs the designated action (kills the object, wakes up inactive ones, etc). Once

action has been taken (or not), the signal is popped from the queue and the next one is

peeked at. Loops until the queue is emptied... then again I might have the queue checked only once per loop, as there's a potential for tons of signals to stack up slowing down a single loop iteration considerably. Of cousre this would mean a little bit of lag when processing signals (and a potential for starvation as new signals can be continuously queued up). More than likely I'm thinking too much about this, the most exciting feature of the game.
- Checks keyboard input and performs actions as required (move player, use nearest item,


End Technobabble

As you can see (especially if you read the technogarbage) the design isn't completely nailed down, but I'm excited nonetheless. This game was formerly

being written in C++, but I find Klango/lua to be much less temperamental and much easier to

test and prototype with. Check it out at - besides a cool programming environment it's also a neat little community complete with forums and open media catalog (I can spend all day looking through radio stations, podcasts and youtube videos with the speed and efficiency any procrastinator needs to get further behind in today's hectic world).

Here again is the college skit I recorded in late 2005. I've written a little script below for those who can't hear. I'm working on a script for a little something detailing some component of my DC experience (reigniting a passion I've slept on for 4 years).
College Essay

[Street, daytime. The sound of birds and the rumble of many passing vehicles. Footsteps

approach from the left.]
W: Excuse me. Do you need help?
J: I hear a female voice to the left of me on the corner of Cort and Rempsen on my way home

from school. The voice becomes more insistent as I feel a hand close around my arm.
W: Here, let me help you.
j: ... it says before I can respond. I feel a hand begin to pull me across the street.
[I try to explain that I'll be fine and I don't need help while she insists ("come on...

take a step, and another step, and ANOTHER STEP, and... OK you're doing great!")
J: I always wonder how my white cane was able to attract passers-by like it was some kind of

magnet. I get everything from drive-by prayers...
Car: (driving by) [2 brief horn honks] Jesus loves you!
J: ... to women accosting my mother with recipes to cure my condition (one of them involved

pouring hot wax over my eyes... no thanks) and any other type of help you can think of.

Fortunately, I don't usually have to deal with this type of exadurated assistance at home or

[Street scene fades out. Cue cheesy flashback harp and jaunty "movin' around" music.]
My parents, after the shock of my sudden blindness, realized that just because I couldn't

see didn't mean I couldn't experience life the way others did. So instead of sheltering me

from the outside sighted world like some other parents, my parents made sure that I was

placed in a Kindergarten class with other sighted children. I learned to read and write in

Braille while my classmates learned print. Of course later in middle school I replaced the

clunky Perkins brailler with a sleek Dell laptop which ended up being a much quicker method

of completing assignments. [Keys typing] I use a screen reader called JAWS which reads the

text from a computer screen in a synthesized voice to use the computer.
[Music cuts out and is replaced by an ominous low drone]
J: I often forget how lucky I am to have such materials available to me. ... As I approach

the other side of Repmsen, I thought of all the benefits I have and realized that there was

no reason to be so put off by this women. At least I was living in a community where people

are willing to help. Suppose I got lost; I'd be needing that help now.
[Street sounds fade back in. Footsteps to the left.]
J: Uh, excuse me; do you think I could hold onto your elbow instead of you holding me like

this? That way I can follow you instead of you push me.
W: What? Oh yeah, yeah sure here ya go. ... Alright, here's the curbe.
J: Thank you very much ma'am.
W: Oh no problem. Don't mention it. See ya later.
[Fade out to triumphant orchestra epicness, ripped from the famous "elephant" scene of

Moulin Rouge.]

Monday, August 3, 2009


Last Thursday Ari and I went on an adventure to NYC to celebrate the US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, signing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Although Ari and I had a pretty messy time getting to NYC, it was definitely worth it. The stories we have about getting to NYC and celebrating the UNCRPD are amazing and definitely unforgettable.

When we arrived at the UNCRPD reception, Ari and I walked in with our “Community Choice Act NOW!” buttons proudly pinned to our chests. We received a lot of compliments on our buttons, so we started handing them out. Soon many people had bright orange buttons on their chests, some even asking Kareem Dale if the Obama Administration was going to do the right thing by the CCA (His response? “We’re going to try”).

After meeting many powerful disability rights leaders, the room went silent so that Ambassador Rice could speak. Following Ambassador Rice was Valarie Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. Jarrett announced that President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are creating a new senior level position at the State Department. The individual hired will develop a comprehensive strategy to promote the rights of the disabled internationally. This announcement excited the whole crowd. While I am very excited about this new position, I must admit, I was more excited about the announcement of a new position in the Department of Transportation devoted to people with disabilities and their access to public transportation. This excites me because I work as the Transportation Systems Advocate at the Center for Disability Rights in Rochester, NY and it will be nice to have someone in the Department of Transportation on my side.

The whole event was really amazing. Meeting the Ambassador and Valarie Jarrett was very cool, as well as meeting everyone else at the reception. I am very grateful to Ari for taking me with him. I am so happy that I was able to participate in such a historic event!

Stephanie Woodward

James Dietz presents Final Thoughts by James Dietz

It's been fun these past couple of months. I'm preparing to relax and to miss those I've been hanging out with. (That last sentence ended with a preposition) Not sure what else to say. Bye.

Disability Literature? Wait, like those eyedrop brochures my doctor gave me?

So, this will be the first in a series of posts meant to make up for my lack of blog activity over the past few weeks... sorry!

I figured I would tackle the "tell-us-about-your-disability challenge" that Stephanie posted a while back, here goes...

I was born with congenital cataracts and glaucoma. Starting at one month old I had a number of surgeries and currently have 20/80 vision in my better eye with glasses with a somewhat limited field of vision and some light sensitivity (20/80 means that I can see something from 20 feet away that a fully sighted person can see from 80 feet away). Basically, those who are fully sighted consider me blind and those who are visually impaired think I have great vision (by comparison “legally blind” is 20/200 in the better eye).

I think there have been many times throughout my life when I've "forgotten" that I am disabled. After all, I've had about the same vision my whole life so I find it hard to imagine what "good" vision is like. I know that sitting in the front row of a class I can barely make out what is on the board and that a student with "good" vision has little problem reading what is on the board from the back row, but its still hard for me to conceptualize what it is that they see compared to me.

I'm used to all the routine "hardships" associated with being visually impaired: four hour doctors appointments, sitting in the front row in every class, warning friends that I probably won't recognize them if I pass them on the street and that this doesn't mean I'm ignoring them, lacking the required hand-eye coordination skills essential to half the activities in high school gym etc, None of this has ever really bothered me much. But, for most of my life I didn't acknowledged how the disability experience has impacted who I am as a person. How my disability had molded me into a more patient and easy-going person with the ability to laugh at the smaller mishaps of life (like knocking over three wet floor signs in two days!) and the ability to advocate on my own behalf. Many of my strongest personality traits were developed in part as a result of my disability...

Until recently, I was quick to think of myself as a member of the gay community and I was quick to think of myself as a part of the Iranian-American community, and these were both crucial to how I saw myself, but I never really considered myself a part of the disability community, I think I'd just never really experienced it. I grew up speaking Farsi, surrounded by Iranian family members making delicious Iranian foods and going to an endless number of Iranian gatherings. When I was struggling most with my sexuality I immersed myself in everything gay, I read books on gay history, listened (with headphones) to gay-themed programs on a community radio station, and turned to the internet for "coming out stories." While I didn't really know many people who were gay at the time, knowing that there was a community out there who shared my experience made everything so much easier. With the exception of a couple short camps, my main experiences relating to "disability culture" centered around my interactions with my many eye doctors, special ed counselors, and state rehab counselors... and as amazing as they all were they never constituted a disability community, that wasn't their job.

In closing over the past few years I have begun to discover a disability community, and I think this summer has been a HUGE part of that process which is why I am so grateful for everyone who has made this program possible...

Until my next overdue post, take care!

Rohmteen Mokhtari

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Making a Difference - True Biz! By Leah

A while ago, I was honored to be chosen as one of the “Faces of Gallaudet” for the Undergraduate Admissions office at my university and I was interviewed in a Vlog about my education and experiences. The first point I made in my interview was the emphasis on making a difference. The reason why I was attracted to politics, why it drew me into its folds and embraced me, and why I ultimately decided to fully embrace political ambitions as my career choice is simply because I wanted to make the biggest difference I can for this world.

At the beginning of this internship, I was so eager about meeting other interns because I was really curious to learn about different disabilities and their experiences. I also wanted to give them a greater understanding of the deaf perspective and I eventually realized that a presentation/workshop would probably hit all the nails at the same time. So I worked on it, pulling together Dr. Dirksen Bauman, Ryan Commerson, and Robert Sirvage to give a presentation about their respective studies on Deaf Culture. On Tuesday, I was truly emboldened and inspired to see that my original venture had such a great turnout with plenty of interns attending and quite a number of people from the general community attending. The audience was so diverse, varying from students from other universities to interns with high variety of disabilities to professionals. I was really grateful and deeply pleased that there was such an interest in the subject to ensure a positive turnout.

I also really felt that the impact from the topics presented and discussed was very strongly apparent afterwards and that really delighted me. I had already been familiar with the ideas the speakers presented but I always learn new things, new perspectives, from discussion – and to hear about the Autistic’s perspective, the Blind’s perspective, and so many other perspectives was really constructive. I saw that the particular subject of “Disability” definition and “Re-framing” negative perspectives had intense response. As members of the general community who are accustomed to being unique due to our disabilities, I think we’ve all had our fair share of stereotypes and negative perspectives in our life experiences – we’re tired of it and we want things to CHANGE! That workshop really hammered it home that being different is not just “okay” – it is valued! And we can re-frame our issues to show that our values fit in with the mainstream.

Last night, it was a sort of bittersweet moment at the final AAPD pizza party because it suddenly hit me that this program is going to be over soon. It has been one of the best summers I ever had. I had such an intense human education that no words can ever do justice, not to mention my professional experience got a major boost thanks to AAPD’s opportunities and networking. Last night, there was a panel composed of people working in a variety of fields (Federal departments, private sector, and nonprofit advocacy) giving their nuggets of wisdom to us. My question: “In which area – the private sector, the government, or nonprofit advocacy – can an individual with disabilities make the biggest difference?”

The summary of the answers I got: Find what you love to do, be the best at it, and reach for the skies wherever you go.

Thus, I’d like to end this entry with a word taken from ASL that has no exact English translation: True Biz. It's ASL slang loosely meaning, "Real Business" “I really mean it!” “Seriously!” “For real!” “No kidding!”

I want to make a difference in my lifetime. Together, WE are going to do it. TRUE BIZ!!!!

Thank you

I’m sorry to see my summer ending. I really had a lot of fun. I loved working at the Coast Guard and programming the project management dashboard. I learned a lot about Flash, Actionscript and Java, and my supervisors, Wes Wallace and Tom Estes, both seem impressed with my work. I really got into this project and continued to work outside of office hours and into the night. I feel it has ignited in me a new passion for programming, and I hope that I will be able to integrate this passion into my future career.

It was also a great learning experience to just be around my fellow interns, who posses such a diverse array of disabilities. Despite our differences, we all got along very well and shared our lives with each other as young people with disabilities. I’ve learned to appreciate not just the different challenges we all face, but also the unique cultures that revolve around and stem from each disability. I heard that Leah gave a great presentation on deaf culture, although I am sorry that I had to miss it to have dinner with my mentor. But living and exploring Washington with my fellow interns has taught me a lot about our differences and commonalities.

Of course, I am eternally grateful to David, Alana, and the rest of AAPD. Before this summer, I have often felt alone, as though I were the only one who was different and needed extra help and accommodations. But it’s great to now know how large the disabled community really is and how such a powerful lobbying group represents us in Washington. Thank you so much.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Doffing My Work Suit By Fabio Botarelli

I am going to be frank when I say this but I am not going to miss donning a suit every morning in 80 plus degree weather while being squashed into a confined subway car like a canned sardine during my trips to the Hart Senate building. But what I am going to miss is the cerebral experience of my work and the supervisor who brought out the best in me. This Thursday, July 30th I attended a hearing on gang violence in native American reservations. It was to be my last hearing though because my last work day was on July 31st and there were no hearings that Friday. Indian affairs are among the most underrated issues in the political arena, but sometimes it is the underrated issues that can emerge as the major issues if they are not addressed immediately. It has been estimated that the average age of an Indian gang member is 15 years old and getting younger. Gang members are young as eight are being trained to sell drugs. As part of their daily activities gangs partake in sexual assault, gang rape, drive bys and disrespectful behavior towards elders. To help uncover the harrowing and disruptive influence of gang violence, Hermis John Mousseau of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council released a youth survey in April and May of this year. Exactly 1137 students of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation schools were participants of this survey. Out of all these students, 55% surveyed reported to being a victim of gang related activity and 72% reported to having been personally threatened by a gang or gang member. Only 65% reported that they felt safe from gang activity at school and a shocking 35% felt safe from gang related activity in their own immediate community. In the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, police have identified at least 39 gangs, which in total consist of 5,000 members; a sufficient number considering that the total population of this reservation is 50,000. After finishing this memo the following day, I had a terse conversation with the supervisor Anna Fodor. I thanked her for giving me a lot of autonomy over my work, such as permission to work in the library of Congress in which I was given no supervision. One of the most important lessons that I learned from working in DC was that you had to earn people’s “trust.” Had Anna Fodor thought that I was going to dilly dally in that library, she would have not sent me there in the first place. When people enter the workforce they usually find themselves under the supervision of a domineering boss of dogmatic attitudes who watches over their employees like a hungry vulture. But Anna Fodor was no such person. Although we were merely interns, she saw each of us as competent individuals and to show my appreciation I promise to be just as lenient and respectful to my employees when I secure a position of power one day

Falling on Deaf Ears

My alter ego has decided to sign in today to enlighten some folks. As a deaf individual, I often find myself struggling with this identity because I cope very well for my "loss." Loss, you say? Well as Leah's workshop shedded light, my deafness might be perceived as a loss in the eyes of the general public. After all society defines deafness as "hearing loss." They dont define deafness as the heightened characteristic of my remaining four senses. With that said, we are often judged by how we function in society. How we cope day-to-day, how we interact with others, and how we express ourselves.

If there is any deviation from the norm, it is defined as a loss or perhaps as political figures would say: disability. We evaluate an individual's capabilities based on social measures of their assimilation to popular culture. In other words, "do they act like us?" Us, being the majority population. So far, so good? With that in mind, I have always been scrutinized and criticized on my actions under the watchful eye of both hearing and deaf populations. I've been told by both equally that I'm not "deaf."

Baffled yet? Yes, I am too. Because who is anyone to tell me what I am or am not? But since I can speak and articulate without the distinction that I'm deaf, hearing people laugh at me when I say I'm deaf; they think I'm joking. And if a deaf person views me chatting away with my voice among others, they also dismiss me to be hearing despite my claims otherwise. So while most people tell me what a gift my voice is... to be able to speak so clearly without any hint that I'm deaf, I consider it a curse in disguise. Why, you ask? Hearing people dont believe I'm deaf and deaf people claim I'm hearing... so where does that leave me? In the gray somewhere.

I spend so much energy struggling to claim my identity as being deaf that no one believes me and therefore, I'm always missing out. I miss out on verbal communications, because no one has the patience or insight to realize I do miss a lot of what is said since I'm deaf. And deaf people shun me if I utilize my "gift," claiming that I'm hearing or trying to be. So I'm not exactly welcomed into their community or social circles.

And if you think this is limited to "abled" people, meaning non-disabled people, you'd stand corrected. Because even my fellow AAPD interns have chosen to ignore or neglect the fact that I'm deaf when I ask them to repeat themselves or if I miss something. They tell me what I can and cannot hear... again, who is anybody to tell me what I can and cannot do? But I guess everybody is an expert these days. And maybe I'm tired of fighting... seeing as I'm damned if I do, and damned if I dont. Pardon my French... but can anybody hear me? Yeah, that was a pun coming from a deaf person. I do that sometimes, joke I mean. Well, maybe more often than not. Because how else can I cope as the outcast I've been branded. When you score enough laughs no matter what you say, you learn to take them as compliments and assume your new role as the joker. An incognito joker, I say. But nevertheless, that's me. Sheiba, the funny chick who's always cracking jokes. Aight, that's my cue to sign off before my alter ego charismatically presumes to lash out.