Sunday, July 31, 2011

It's the Final Countdown!

And so it all comes to an end. As I look forward to the remaining days ahead, I also cannot help but look back in awe of the number of days past and memories kept. The figurative box, in which I will forever keep my memories, would of course be remiss without two fantastic events from this week past: my meeting with Tammy Baldwin and my tour to the White House. –Both of these would be impossible without the kindness and help of my (fabulous) mentor Cheryl Sensenbrenner. On Friday morning I had the huge opportunity of chatting with Rep. Baldwin for about half an hour. While for the first time ALL SUMMER my alarm decided not to go off and I was in a heated frenzy to shower, change, buy donuts, and rush to Rayburn, my meeting with the congresswoman more than made up for it. Rep. Baldwin was extremely down to earth (a quality I’m beginning to associate with Wisconsinites) and incredibly easy to talk to. I asked her all kinds of “hard-hitting” questions like her favorite places to visit in DC, and more seriously, whether or not she felt that her sexual orientation hindered or propelled her political career. She also gave me a lot of things to consider in terms of potentially running for office one day, myself.
The other exciting opportunity I had this week(end) was that of having a guided White House tour by Cheryl. I loved all the quirky facts about painting, furniture, presidents, architecture etc. that Cheryl was so knowledgeable of. My favorite bit was probably learning about how Dolly Madison urgently saved two invaluable items during the White House fire in the early 1800s (the date escapes me): the first being a portrait of George Washington and the second of course, being her own portrait. I also cannot forget to mention the “interesting” if not gaudy, rather vermeil-style décor. Popularized by Jackie Kennedy, vermeil refers to the coating of a once sterling silver object in gold. This was basically what became of numerous candlesticks, chandeliers, plates, mirrors, etc. Probably would not have been my artistic choice, but I suppose it was the thing to do back in the day, much like our hipster skinny jeans and irony.

Before concluding this blog and my week, I would again like to give a tremendous shout out to Cheryl Sensenbrenner for being the best mentor imaginable. Some of my fondest memories here have easily been because of her. ☺

Posted by Nicole Tay

Steph and Emily told me to write about them so ...

This week I did many things, including going to an event at the White House for interns with disabilities, attending AAPD’s ADA celebration on Capitol Hill, visiting the top of the Washington Monument for the first time, and randomly running into Judy Heumann on the street, but by far, the highlight of the week has been socializing with my roommate Emily and fellow intern Steph. Steph and Emily are two of the funniest and most fun-loving people I know and we always have a great time when we are together. Tonight what was supposed to be a quick trip to the SafeWay turned into a humorous adventure followed by laughs and stories in our apartment for several hours. Those two are crazy chicas and they have made my time in DC infinitely more enjoyable.

One of the most valuable things to come out of my time in Washington has been the amazing people I have met. I came to the capitol to gain work experience and disability policy knowledge and to create networks with people in the disability policy field, but I have appreciated my chance to meet so many amazing interns. Once we are done in DC I will miss the chance to socialize and learn from such a great group of people.

The Summer Summary

At the end of an event packed week, full of several ADA celebrations, meetings, and researching, what could be more peaceful than awakening at three AM, catching a cab at four, and heading to the Music City for slightly over twenty-four hours? Well, it was exciting to say the least! One of my best friends had a huge celebration, so I joined her and her family in Nashville, TN. Ironically, her cousin’s ninth birthday coincided with the festivities, and when my friend’s aunt walked in with a few dozens of Gigi’s Cupcakes, the local bakery that apparently specializes in wedding desserts, I knew my trip was meant to be. (Yep, they were amazing. My lemon one rivaled Sprinkles, though its hugeness made it a tinge more intimidating than the others. Eating the mountain of frosting required a fork for sure.)

What was particularly neat, though, was the return trip home. First, I met a phenomenal young lady in the Detroit airport who, when not working at the airport, traveled around the country acting in plays. She had just spent a few weeks on the set for an inspirational movie set to debut late this year or early next year. Additionally, she is going to school to become a councilor. Like I said, she was awesome.

Then, we were landing at Reagan, and our pilot announced our arrival to “our nation’s capital.” A few families of tourists were extremely excited, and I realized how lucky I am to have been able to call this place home for the summer.

As simple as these stories are, I think they summarize my experience. I’ve sure eaten a lot of amazing sweets, and often in wonderful company. I’ve had the opportunity to meet incredible people who daily inspire, challenge, and encourage me, from the South Hall janitorial staff who make each morning just a bit more joyful, to Congressmen and their staff who are more well-known, to amazing coworkers who work hard to protect and advocate. And I’ve had the privilege to experience all of these moments and interactions in the political center of our country, a place I never imagined I’d live. As I enter into my last week, the Metro lines are now familiar, I have inside jokes to share with my fellow interns and coworkers, and I have learned so much and have so much gratitude for all of those who have made this internship a reality.

Week 10: From Tourist to Tour Guide

This Saturday I met my Aunt, and cousins from Virginia for dinner in Chinatown near where I work. The last time we had met up in DC was the very first day I had arrived. I was fresh off the plane- with a huge suitcase and no idea what to expect. That day my Aunt was in charge. She picked me up from the airport, explained the metro system, and helped me find my check-in location. We ate at TGI Friday's for lack of insider knowledge

10 weeks later and our experience couldn't have been more different. This time I picked the location- an area I know well. I explained to my family how to get there via metro. I walked around the city with confidence- pointing out now-familiar landmarks. I recommended the restaurant- a hole-in-the-wall with excellent Chinese food and reasonable prices. Afterwards I suggested we walk home- a stroll that takes us past the White House. It was a truly wonderful DC night.

I've changed a lot in the time I've been in DC. I'm not sure when exactly I stopped being a tourist and became a resident- but the transition has definitely happened. I take the metro and walk the streets with confidence- no small feat for someone who relies on her GPS to get to her local grocery store back home. I've seen museums and monuments. Had delicious meals, interesting conversations, lots of laughs. I've met incredible people who have done incredible things. And I've learned more in 10 weeks than I have in years at school.

Don't get me wrong- there is still lots to do and I plan to enjoy every bit of my last week in DC. I have lots of stuff to look forward to still. An AAPD reception at my placement on Tuesday, shadowing a senator on Wednesday, and a tour of the White House Thursday. Just a typical week here in the nation's capitol.

Epic. Week.

If I could put together some of the quintessential “Washington DC” experiences, this week would have checked most of them off. The excitement started on Tuesday when I was invited to an even at the White House that included multiple speakers discussing the disability community finding gainful employment. This event was in celebration of the 21st anniversary of the signing of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). The event was wonderful and had many great speakers including Kareem Dale, associate director for the White House Office of Public Engagement and Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy and Christine Griffin, the Deputy Director for the Office of Personnel Management. The forum brought together a large group of interns, many with disabilities, to discuss what opportunities were available and ways in which individuals with disabilities can find employment within the federal government.

The excitement Tuesday just kept coming when, also in light of the ADA anniversary, I was invited to an event within the Senate auditorium where a veritable who’s who within the disability community was in attendance or speaking about disability rights issues and how the ADA has gotten us so far, but how we must do more. The presentation was put on by the AAPD, and in addition to many high-ranking officials–Congresspersons and advocates within the disability community–giving wonderful speeches, it also served as a graduation ceremony for myself and the 27 other AAPD interns. Never before have I felt so much as a part of a movement. The event was very inspirational and reminded me of the importance of disability advocacy.

The high from Tuesday’s events pulled me through Wednesday and Thursday. Then Friday, myself, and other interns within the US Department of Education were able to have a photo op with Sec. Duncan. This was a great experience and I think it was pretty wonderful thing for him to take the time to make this gesture. Following that, I had to dash across the mall to a meeting within the Department of Labor. The meeting was a training session for Add Us In, a National Diversity Forum where I was asked to facilitate a breakout room discussion this week- wish me luck.

Saturday had some excitement of its own. My mom and I were walking down around the White House when we were met by a swarm of people whom we quickly realize were protesting. Once we are able to get closer to them we realized they were protesting the educational system–from what I deduced standardized testing, teachers pay, and cuts in the arts and sciences. After thousands of these individuals marched down the walkway between the White House and Lafayette Park, we noticed that there was a second protest taking place. Two groups both representing Syria were protesting against each other–one was pro-President Assad and the other equated did him to Hitler. Needless to say things became very heated and tensions were high, eventually escalating into a fight that was quickly quelled by the police in the area.

Did I mention that my mom and I were playing host to my sister and two family friends of ours from Houston Texas all week? And that in addition to all of these events we toured Mount Vernon, the Capital building, and the Library of Congress… yeah, I’m beat.

Women in Politics, 17% and stagnant

This past weekend I was fortunate to attend and participate in the 40th Anniversary Celebration and 20th Biennial Convention of the National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC). NWPC was created at an organizing conference, held on July 10, 1971. Some of the pioneering founders would become influential women that I studied throughout my undergraduate Political Science and Women’s Studies career - Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisolm, Eleanor Norton Holmes, Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan, Dorothy Height, and LaDonna Harris to name just a few.

On Friday night the NWPC hosted a Diversity Reception and presented the 2011 Women of Courage Awards. Among the awardees is Kamala Lopez who is spearheading an in-your-face education campaign on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) for young women. Unfortunately most young women are of the belief that women are “equal of rights under the law.” Not the case.

I am Generation Y woman. I was first exposed to 1970s women’s liberation through textbooks and college classes, but I have always known women and men experienced life on different terms. Sadly women and girls younger than Generation Y do not have the same exposure to women’s history that has been given to young women like me. We are at a critical point in the history of women and I urge everyone to check out the ERA Education Project and ERA Once and For All.


ERA Education Project

ERA Once and For All

If anyone is interested in learning more about the National Women’s Political Caucus, joining a chapter, or viewing photos of powerful women in politics visit NWPC’s website.

Blog 10-Inching closer to the end

The clock is ticking, and I just can’t believe it. This program has been an incredible experience, and I know there’s still a week left, but the JFA event made it seem all so official. I’ve made so many great memories, met so many awesome people, and learned so much. Life changes so much in a few months, indeed. I think what I’ll take away from this internship experience are the ever changing professionalism, an increased eye for detail, and a greater understanding of when to take a risk and when to take a stop back. I have always struggled with creating a balance in my life, I oscillated between two extremes, either flying around and doing anything and everything or sitting alone and philosophizing. I’m beginning to see what life is like in the world of Washington, and I am eternally grateful to this program for the opportunity to explore and let me develop my own process, I don’t need someone to tell me what to do. Guidance and support are appreciated and necessary, but I need to blaze my own trail, and I got a taste of what I’d like to do, and yes, a return to Washington may be a part of that. Stay tuned for more updates on Hamza Inc. Work is going well, and we’re all reaching critical mass right now for the preparation of the National Diversity Forum, a project our office has been working on for close to three years now. It’s supposed to be a conference examining the intersections of disability, diversity and business, and we’re bringing leaders from everywhere in to help lay the groundwork for a sustainable plan for greater disability employment. I can’t wait to work behind the scenes at this awesome event, and it’ll be fun to see all the work we put in come to fruition.

No Rest for the Weary

It is a Sunday afternoon and I am sitting at my desk in the office and working: yes working on a Sunday: on god’s day of rest. We were supposed to come into the office over the weekend, but later there was an e-mail sent out saying that we did not have to show up. I did not get the e-mail, so here I am. But I am not complaining. It is very quiet here, and the condition is just right to do some work. Now I can write this blog entry and finish up my roundtable plan for Monday.

Today I did some research for my supervisor on the latest debt ceiling plan. It is Sunday July 31st and it looks like there might be an eleventh hour plan out there. We do not know the details, as it is still being negotiated, but there are lot of sound bites, speculations, and roomers out there. So we have been scrambling and trying to piece it all together and figure out what might be the final agreement. The Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell along with the speaker of the House John Boehner, have come to an agreement with President Obama on a debt ceiling plan. It looks like it would include increasing the debt ceiling and cutting spending without generating new revenue. It is a two-step process that would immediately increase the debt ceiling by one trillion dollars, while cutting spending by the same amount. It would also form a bipartisan super-committee of members of Congress that would come up with additional 1.8 trillion dollars in spending cuts and increase the debt ceiling by an additional 1.4-2 trillion dollars by Thanks Giving. The agreement would include a trigger mechanism that would automatically cut spending from Defense and Medicare, if congress could not come up with additional spending cuts. Later congress would pass a Balanced Budget Amendment by a super majority or 38 of the states would adopt a balanced budget amendment. The deal is very complicated and we do not yet know all the details. So do not get too excited, because as they say, the devil is in the details.

This week has been hectic because of the debt ceiling issue, and I have been answering the phones for the first time. That has been the hardest part. Now I can confidently say that I have seen it all. I have been complemented, I have been cursed, I have been hung up on, and I have been told that I should be fired. Never mind the fact that I have no control around here, that I am not paid so that I cannot be fired, and that I cannot respond to people’s complaints with my own thoughts..

As I get near to the end of my internship I am both sad and excited. I am sad that I will have to leave Washington DC and end my internship, but on the other hand, I am excited to go back to my own place in Colorado and start school again. This internship has been a great experience and I am very much thankful for it, and to all the people that made it happen: that includes my supervisor, all the people in my office and all the AAPD staff and sponsors.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

10th Week, 10th Blog

Dear Mom,

For all the conversations I wished to have, washed away in root beer bottles somewhere along the Pacific Rim. Maybe one day a sweet sailor will find my dreams.

We were close when I was a young turtle, but now I am on my own. I swam great distances in foreign waters with enemy creatures.

Take my trophies and awards, they mean nothing to me. Empty shells of praise going out in public, but back home a different set of waves brink.

You used to rock me in your arms with a white cotton blanket while singing children songs that were quick to put me to sleep.

I had to age. I had to grow. Now that you are gone there is so much more I wanted to know: ironing clothes, cooking recipes, wearing makeup and dating advice.

Everyday I journey out to see you. Anxiously waving my white banner into the darkness while mosquitoes snipped at my skin. I wait, but you never come.

Here are my dog tags and uniforms in a brown beaten up cardboard box. I left you to fight in war. You never understood or agreed, but I respect that.

Here are my journals. If you would like to feel how I view the world read my collection of poems, plays, stories and songs.

“A Poem’s Worth”

Penny a poem
penny a play
penny a story
penny a song.

One day I’ll be rich-
holes in my socks and
pants pockets.

Ching, chang

I don’t hear them fall or
see them sprinkling the ground.

I’ll just stay on this corner
working my hands
with my figure eight
shaped guitar and
black ink
playing with words.

Penny the poet
penny the writer
penny us all.

-Krista Dora

Dear Sarah,

I remember waking up in the middle of the night fetching you a warm bottle of milk. Bringing it to your crib I snugged you in blankets and played the music so the ballerina would dance in the pink box.

I fed you cheerios one by one with my fingers, also with a spoon entering your tiny mouth I made train and car sounds. You had a pink and white bib with the words “Double Trouble.”

I read you different books of adventure with animals and people. Amazed at the colorful pictures that popped off the page grabbed your attention.

Blowing bubbles on your belly button and in chocolate milk were some of our favorite times. Laughter graced the air and happiness filled the room.

So much I left behind, but never forgotten. I don’t know where we are now, but at least I have these few memories to keep.

Love always your sister,

One Week Left!

Alright, so this is my second to last week - I wanted to take this time to thank everyone so much for the opportunity to be up here in The District to lear the ways of the American government and bureaucracy. Simply being up here to get a feel of the culture, would have been enought - but I got so much more... I was able to make new friends, grow in my faith, and exchange ideas with people around me!

As this second to last week comes to a close, the spending crisis is coming to a deadline - so this coming week should be interesting to see if they will not come up with a plan before the deadline. Knowing how we operate in America, it will be at the last minute of the final day. But, it will be ever-so-interesting to watch come down to the second!

This week, we also got the chance to be recognized in fron the our community for being esteemed students and set-apart leaders. I'm so grateful to be blessed with such a great vision for not only myself but for those around me - for my country! To see our country get back on track and continue to move forward in the ways which make American exceptional. I was a little bit taken-a-back by the comencement speech given at the ADA Celebration by AAPD; when The Obama Administration came to not only tout healthcare legislation and "community living," but to campaign for the 2012 elections. There were a few things that raised red flags and made questions run through my mind... but all-in-all each person is entitled to their own opinion, be that your opinion falls within the majority of a group or you are the sole supporter on the opposite side.

I am very thankful for the bi-partisanship that AAPD has put up, me being a disabled person allows some experiences to be relateable but as a conservative Evangelical Christian who is a farmer from The Dixie Southland created a gap of understanding between some of the interns and I (even the certain staff members of AAPD), in the wake of such a polarized society. While we have not always seen eye-to-eye on all the issues... everyone has been fairly civil for the majority of this summer. I am glad of that! :)

I'll report back on next week to let everyone know how the spending crisis was settled and how my last week during the internship was.

Single Digits and Counting

This was a week for celebrating people with disabilities. Tuesday was the 21st anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act and it was celebrated all across the district. The day started out with an event at the White House where a number of individuals spoke with us about the federal government and their desire to include more people with disabilities in their ranks. Later in the day the Justice for All event wrapped up the day by recognizing individuals who have made significant strides in the disability community over the past year. The event was also quite beneficial in that it gave the interns the chance to network with many within the DC disability community. It also gave me the opportunity to put a face to many names I’d heard throughout my internship. Wednesday I met with Sara Mahoney and she gave me some information on getting into the WRP and some great leads for possible placements next summer. Work at the DOT is winding down. I am looking forward to shooting the multimedia footage that I will be participating in. Next week will most likely be bittersweet as I’ll be glad to finally be going home for more than a few days but very sad at leaving my newfound friends here in DC.

Posted by Matthew Shapiro

Margie's Last Blog??

Could this be it? The last blog of my AAPD/DC adventures? Maybe….

I am going to the Library of Congress with my friend and fellow intern Krista this morning. I am looking forward to spending some time with her before we part ways.

I do plan on staying in touch with a number of people both personally and professionally. Those who know me from back home know that keeping in touch is something I do well! A phone call, a hand-written note, a homemade card are just a few of the mediums I work in.

I had my site visit with Dr. Tom Finch, director of training and service programs division of the Rehabilitation Services Administration and Dana Fink, American Association of People with Disabilities Program Assistant. Dr. Finch spoke highly of me and the projects that I was executing. RSA wants another intern for the summer of 2012 and Dr. Finch said, “I set the bar high.” He also stated that he would provide a written testimony to the quality of RSA’s experience with me as an AAPD intern.

I will keep in touch with RSA formally through work in a workgroup assigned to promote hiring of people with disabilities, a topic I feel very passionately about!

I will be attending a Project Director’s Conference in Crystal City, Virginia for two and a half days this week, and then wrapping up some final projects and meetings. I have to say goodbye to so many great people that the end is bittersweet, but overall, it was a life-changing and successful summer. I am happy to say that I feel proud to be an AAPD intern.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Almost Done!

Once again another week has flown by; I can’t believe that I only have two weeks left in my internship! The end of the internship is bittersweet. I am sad to finish my work at the Bazelon Center, I have learned so much here. I know what I have learned here will make me an infinitely better attorney. At the same time I am excited about starting my fellowship with Mental Disability Advocacy Center. Because I will be moving abroad in September, I spent part of my week searching for apartments in Hungary. It has been such a challenge to get a good apartment, in a safe location, for a decent price!
The best part of my week was watching Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice with some of my fellow AAPD interns. What was really cool about this staging of the Merchant of Venice was that it was sign interpreted. I have never seen a play with sign performers, it was truly amazing! The play was also interesting because it was staged in the 1920’s. At first it was challenging to follow what was being said, however, after the first few acts I was able to wrap my brain around what was being said. Overall, it was a lot of fun to spend time with my fellow interns, do something cultural, and learn more about sign language.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Week 9: Golden :)

There is something special about the being first of something. First man to walk on the moon. First solo transatlantic flight. First player to hit 60 home runs in one season. First under 25 wheelchair basketball world champion. I'm no Neil Armstrong, Charles Lindbergh, or Babe Ruth but as of last Friday I am one of 12 people who can lay claim to that last accomplishment. I'm still pinching myself.

I'm often asked about how wheelchair basketball differs from its standup counterpart. I usually emphasize their similarities- in theory they are almost the same game. 10 foot hoop, regulation sized court and ball, etc. The only actual difference is you are allowed 2 pushes for every dribble and there is no double-dribble. But in actuality they are completely different games.

Wheelchair basketball is extremely defensive- due to the fact that you can physically stop someone from moving. Thus a full court press is ten times more effective. This adds a whole layer of strategy to the game. It also means you must work together even more. Pic and rolls are extremely effective. It is much harder for one player to simply dominate without working together as a team.

Since our hands are otherwise occupied- wheelchair basketball features a lot more talking than standup. No hand gestures or motions for us.

Lastly, there is no equivalent of the NBA for wheelchair basketball. No promise of fame, money, glory. My gold medal game was the most people I've ever played in front of and it featured a crowd of maybe 150 people. You don't play wheelchair basketball to become a superstar- you play because you truly love the game. And that I do. There is no sport I'd rather play. If you offered me the chance to walk tomorrow- I'd turn it down. It would mean giving up the sport I love. I hope to continue as long as I can- maybe someday if I keep working hard all the way to the Paralympics. But if not- I'll still always be part of a team that made history. The USA is the first team to win an Under 25 Women's Wheelchair Basketball World Championship. It might not have made headlines at ESPN, but I'll take it.

Also, I want to end this post by thanking my awesome roommates. They made my return to DC decidedly less gloomy by surprising me with a little welcome back/congratulations party. Could my summer get any sweeter?

Still alive... but tired

This past week was yet another jampacked week of work and play. Wednesday is when the craziness really started as we conducted another Let's Read Let's Move event. In attendance at this event was Deputy Chief of Staff for the Department of Education Eric Waldo (as that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was meeting with Pres. Obama), Maya Soetoro – children's author, college professor and President Obama’s half-sister, as well as famous chef Spike Mendelsohn and NFL free-agent Chris Draft! So it was wonderful not only to have all of the star presence in the room but having them interact with the children and be great mentors.

Another project that I've been working on is an initiative put forth by the federal government called Feds Feed Families. This program calls for varying federal agencies to collect food donations to donate to a local food charities. To gain attention to this program the Department of Education launched spirit week. During this week they held numerous events including a cute pet photo contest, a best dessert contest, as well as others. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to MC the best dessert contest! It was a fun experience; there wasn't a huge turnout but overall I think it was a great success and we were able to raise awareness and more money/food for the individuals that struggle to get through the summer, whether it be the shortages being experienced by the food banks or the children who lack the nutrition they get from school lunches. The prize was not only the respect, but also an apron that was embroidered "Ed's Best Baker" and was signed by Secretary Duncan.

Friday, I transferred over to a different education building that houses the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS). It was somewhat a difficult transition getting all of my electronic equipment over into my new cubicle, but now all is well. I'm working on a new project for the last two weeks and I am excited about it. I'll let you know more about it as it progresses!

This past weekend, my sister as well as some friends from Texas were able to fly in and will be visiting for the week so words can’t describe how excited I am to have them here and to share experiences with them! On Saturday my sister and I were able to visit the Newseum with the other AAPD interns and have supper at the Capital Grille. It was an excellent museum and the food at the restaurant was spectacular. We were lucky enough to experience this because of the efforts of Cheryl Sensenbrenner, wife of Sen. Jim Sensenbrenner. It was wonderful visiting with her and hearing about her advocacy for those with disabilities. On Sunday, my now growing entourage and myself were able to take a cruise to Mount Vernon and tour the estate – it was awesome, but incredibly hot! Well I probably have went on too long already so I'll let you get back to whatever you are doing… Take care and have a great week!

Kids these days… -- by Alec Frazier

The Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture in the Old Patent Office Building
This week, my workplace was home to a camp for children with visual impairments. There was a lot of activity and noise as they learned how to use screen-reading software, were taught internet safety, and generally socialized. During this time I was known more formally as "Mr. Alec!"
The Kogod Courtyard of the Old Patent Office Building, designed by Lord Norman Foster, Baron of Thames Bank
On Wednesday we went to the International Spy Museum. Unfortunately, it was overwhelming for us all. The folks there did not do a good job of making the museum accessible, and there were loud sounds, almost shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, and tight spaces. Many of the kids couldn't comprehend what was going on, neither could a person with Sensory Integration Disorder, such as myself.
The Former Patent Display Halls of the Old Patent Office Building
On Friday, we went to the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture. Built as the Patent Office Building, it is now home to the National Portrait Gallery and the Museum of American Art, both of which are branches of the Smithsonian Institute.
The Newseum
On Saturday, our internship went to the Newseum, the News Museum. It's amazing how much they had: the pen used to sign over the U.S.S.R.'s nuclear arsenal to Russia; a package sent by "Patches the Clown", otherwise known as serial killer John Wayne Gacy; a section of the Berlin Wall and a corresponding Watch Tower; and the death mask of John Dillinger, America's most notorious bank robber. What will knock your socks off is that this is all just on one floor of a seven-story museum!
Alec Poses on the Newseum's Sixth Floor Pennsylvania Avenue Terrace, with the U.S. Capitol View Behind Him
Afterwards, we went out to eat at the Capitol Grille and a good time was had by all!
AAPD Interns and Staffers Finish Dessert at the Capitol Grille

Week 9

After working here in the office at the Department of Homeland Security, I am getting used to meetings as well as chaos and confusions among my colleagues. However, the experience is teaching me a lot of things and to be a good employee. On Thursday, I went to an résumé workshop hosted by AAPD and all the interns attended there. We did learned some new information, but we did ask a lot of questions. It was pretty good that we finally wrapped up the workshop one hour after the scheduled end time. On Saturday, thanks to Cheryl Sensenbrenner, we did go to the Newseum. The Newseum was amazing that I considered it as one of my favorite museums. My two favorite sections of the Newseum is Hurricane Katrina and 9/11; it is really touching while reading and seeing so many horrific images and descriptions about these two sad events. My three friends from Long Island was visiting, and I showed them what is it like in D.C. I took them to the U.S. Capitol, the White House, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and many other places such as DuPont Circle, Columbia Heights, Foggy Bottom, H Street, and Gallaudet. We had good times together.

Consistency and Sustainability

When I was a baby I cried for no reason and did things without knowing the major consequences of my actions. In elementary school I was diagnosed with cancer that demanded a lot of attention and financial responsibility. As I continued to grow I went through numerous teenage stages that I know, at times, left me unbearable to be around. However, through all those situations my family never left me. My two best friends stuck by my side. How important is consistency and sustainability in your life? For me, it’s high priority. I take it very seriously because I know there will be times I will be the most annoying unbearable person to be around. Yet, I still need people in my life to help guide me through these phases, as I would for them. We just have to decide as individuals how much we are wiling to tolerate and for who do we raise our tolerance for?

Based off my last blog you know that I have been a little bit of an emotional rollercoaster however, my family represents stability and consistency in my life. They have put up with all the things I have put them through, and I have done the same for them because we’re worth it for each other. This past weekend was definitely a fulfilling and exciting time. My family was in town! It was a blessing to see my dad, mom, twin brother and older sister drive all the way from Texas and Kentucky to spend time with me. Texas is home for me, but I was born in Salisbury, Maryland about 3 hours outside of DC. It’s been years since we’ve been back, but being so close we took advantage of the opportunity to visit my old neighborhood. Driving down Salisbury roads I began reminiscing of my childhood memories. Rows and rows of corn, a pond, Ben, Brittany, Kevin, school buses, and 28260 Canterbury came to mind. I saw most of those memories and smiled knowing how they have deeply impacted my life.

We grew up about 45minutes from the ocean if we traveled to Ocean City, Md. I couldn’t wait to jump in and let the waters have me. As a young child I loved absolutely loved the water. However, as I got older and let vanity sink into me as I convinced myself I didn’t like swimming, public pools anything to that nature that gave me an excuse to keep my prosthesis on and scars covered. Yet, I no longer want to live in that fear and anxiety, I want to be free!! I had to start somewhere, so when I went to the ocean I walked with my head held high and my mind in the zone of happiness instead of fear.

People stared hard as I striped more than the clothes off my back but a body part so I could freely jump in the ocean, but I felt okay with their stares. They stared at a type of person they have never seen before, or even if they have because I look different than an average person they are used to. Yet, I can handle their stares because I have parents who look at me with the same love they do their other children. I am strong enough to handle excruciating looks that would cause others to live a life of self doubt because those close to me consistently showed me through their actions they can love and stay with me regardless of my disabilities or any faults I’ve possessed. Now that is not the only reason I’m strong, nor should it be others foundation of strength. It has to be a foundation of spiritual and intrinsic value you gain. However, the point of this blog is to express the difference consistency can make in one’s life. I strive to always be a person who stands by those I love through ups and downs because that’s what true character is. What about you?

Week 9

As the weeks wind down here in D.C. time is starting to go quicker and I feel like I’m accomplishing less and less. This week, I was able to try a few different restaurants, mainly Ollie’s Trolley and Elephant and Castle, Pitango, and Red Velvet and revisited a few classics like RFD and Redline. At work this past week was the last in my series of planned intern luncheons. This week was Dan Ashe, the new director of the Fish and Wildlife Service at the Department of the interior. The stories and experiences that he told seemed incredible and interesting. Later in the same day however was the SES and POWER representative training /discussion. This meeting consisted of a return to work and disability implementation plan folks. It was great to see them all in one room talking about how to hire and retain people with disabilities. This past week I was also able to go to Philly where I went to school for the Phillies game. I did this with several of the other interns and I must say tat we had a blast even though the seats were outside. While I just relaxed most of Sunday I hope this week will be jame packed with lots of fun stuff to do around the 21st Anniversary of the ADA.


Hello everybody,

As the end of the internship nears, I find myself doing many important things at work. One which had to do with creating a directory of law schools that provided clinics in disability law for those who are interested in working in the disabilities field and want more resources to immerse oneself in to enhance the law school experience when it comes to disability law. The directory also included pro bono organizations that focus on disability law and this will be a great resource for those who cannot afford to advocate on their own. Another project that I am currently working on is in its beginning stages, it has to do with a online web seminar Continuing Learning Education (CLE) for the lawyers regarding representing claimants seeking Social Security benefits who have disabilities. This new project introduces a bit of writing which I am excited about, data collecting can be exciting for some, but for me my true passion is writing. I hope what I unearth in my research as I develop this webinar will go towards helping lawyers develop and master a Social Security practice for clients with mental and physical disabilities. Well, enough about work, now on to the fun!

On Wednesday morning, all the ABA interns were treated to a private tour of the United States Supreme Court, and man, was that an experience. Learning quite a lot on the tour has piqued my interest in the history behind the place and its impact on the laws of America. It was a very interesting tour, and I must confess, I got chills when I walked into the actual courtroom. Seeing it in documentaries and pictures does not do justice to the power and the beauty the court espouses. I felt quite, quite intimated to walk into the courtroom. The second part of the tour was a private meeting with Mr. Souter, the current Deputy Clerk of the Supreme Court. He talked for 45 minutes at length about an array of topics, and we all asked many questions that he was happy to answer. We had to be kicked out because we were asking so many questions and taking up his time haha. It was great while it lasted, I feel blessed to have gotten this chance to tour the Supreme Court and talk with a important figure in the Supreme Court.

Another fun thing I got to do was the Phillies game on Saturday up in Philadelphia. I have to say I have not done anything this random in a long time- meaning taking a 3 hour bus ride to a different state altogether for a ballgame, and making it back home all in one day. Now the game itself, was so full of momentum swings, and provided for a lot of fireworks and buzz nevermind the scorching hot 100 degrees weather at first pitch. The game was a high scoring affair, and I am on the side of baseball fans that favor great hitting over great defense any day of the week, a 1-0 game is so boring, and this one, 8-6 in the favor of the Phillies was the polar opposite. It was just my luck that I didn’t get any of the 7 homerun balls. Ha!

All in all, a very wonderful week with many memories made. Stay tuned for the last two upcoming weeks of my wonderful internship experience here in this wonderful city of Washington, D.C.

-Colt J

The DOMA Hearing! - Week 8

This week I attended the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the repeal of DOMA (aka the Defense of Marriage Act). Specifically, they were discussing the effects of DOMA on the lives of same-sex couples and S.B. 598, the Respect for Marriage Act. As the panelists spoke, sometimes I thought I was going to cry, gasp in shock, or jump out of my seat in outrage. Needless to say, one of the most important things I took from the lesbian and gay panelists were the huge financial an symbolic consequences of DOMA, which denies recognition of legal same-sex marriages on the federal level. As a result, same-sex couples can not be eligible to file joint tax returns, receive social security survivor benefits, or receive adequate health care. Just because of whom they love, lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals are treated as second-class citizens. DOMA reinforces discrimination on the federal level just as "separate but equal" did during the Civil Rights movement.

At one point, I remember how utterly speechless I was when one of the speakers in support of DOMA claimed that legalizing same-sex marriage would pave the way for polygamous relationships and for a "father to marry his daughter". He also added that "to protect the best interests of the child," he or she should be raised by a mother and a father specifically.

Considering this argument, is it then not fair to disallow the same financial benefits to children of same-sex couples as children of heterosexual couples? To disadvantage these children inherently robs them of basic protections and highlights some of the hypocrisy of aforementioned arguments against DOMAs repeal.

Anyways, I would like to close by congradulating all the happy same-sex couples in New York that were married this weekend! :)

~posted by Nicole Tay

Sunday, July 24, 2011

D.C. Almost done!

This past week was very interesting. I started the week off by doing faxes on the balanced budget amendment. There were so many faxes on that particular issue. Later on during the week I went on a capitol tour with my supervisor and a couple of other interns. Then I learned how to sign a bunch of letters with a new signing machine. I also put the letters together in the envelopes.

Saturday was a great day. On Saturday, I got to go to the Newseum off of Pennsylvania Avenue. It was really cool because I got to learn about a whole lot of things that I did not know about over the past 50 years. I did not know that there was a lot of famine going on in Africa and other parts of the World where the government was not helping the people obtain food. I knew there was some poverty but not that it was extreme starvation in some countries. I also got to see funny photos of the Presidents and the different things they did during the time at the White House. I also got to see a video about the September 11, 2001 attacks. That was extremely emotional to see the documentary of what actually happened on that day. Then I got to see more photos of historical things such as the vietnam war and cool photos of the first dogs of the first families. Then I got to eat at the Capitol Grille. It was a great experience. I love that restaurant. Overall, my week went very well.

Week 9

The AAPD interns were treated to quite the experience this weekend thanks to the generosity of Ms. Cheryl Sensenbrenner. She treated us to a day at the Newseum which is an amazing museum that looks at First Amendment issues, the history of the news, and the role of the news in covering contemporary events. The highlights were the exhibits on news reporting following Hurricane Katrina and of September 11th. Afterwards she took us to The Capital Grille which is without a doubt, the fanciest restaurant I have ever been to. Usually for me an extravagant dinner out would be going to McDonald’s and ordering something not on the dollar menu. We were treated to a four course meal of crab and lobster cakes and calamari for appetizers, salad, entrée (I got the filet mignon), and dessert. The food was delicious and the company was great. I was really nice to be able to spend time with all the interns in a social environment. The only time we usually all get together is at workshops so it was nice to be able to relax and socialize.

In other news, my roommate and fellow AAPD intern Emily is a world champion. She is a member of the US under-25 women’s basketball team and they won the world championship in Canada last week. Congrats to her. We made her some brownies and had a little party in her honor upon her return tonight.

Word Search “Disability” and what do you get?

Open a search engine, type the word “disability” in the search box, and hit enter. What do you get? Without fail the first five results will include several links to government program websites, i.e. Social Security Administration, and Wikipedia. There might be one variation among the different search engines but they are all pretty much the same.

As I was scrolling through one of the searches I came across an archived newspaper article from the March 27, 1957 edition of the St. Petersburg Times entitled, “Ike Drafts Plan on Disability Problem.” Of course I click on the link, and suddenly find myself transported to a moment in time that, ironically, remains reality for some in the disabled community.

In this article President Eisenhower advocated for a clear plan that would assist carrying out the Office of the President should a President become disabled. He wanted three questions to be clarified by Congress: 1) who determines when a President is unable to carry out his duties? 2) How makes that decision? 3) Does the Vice-President take the “office” or only the “duties” of the President should he become disabled? In one suggestion a panel would be convened to determine the disability status of a President and would include Supreme Court justices, Cabinet members, and the majority and minority leaders of both houses of Congress.

Take away the titles and you have a panel of people making a determination that will affect a person for the rest of their life, the experience of almost every person with a disability. But what are the implications of this decision? In the case of a sitting President, and arguably any person with a disability, they will lose power. This is not a reference to the power gained through the Office of the President, but rather the power to exercise personal control.

This is our next great moment.