Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Margie's First Post!

First blog post….
Hi, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Margie and I am a graduate of Dartmouth College with a degree in Psychology and Spanish. I joined the Peace Corps after that and taught environmental education in Spanish and Guarani to children in Paraguay. I am currently one semester away from graduating with my MS degree in Rehabilitation Counseling with a certificate in psychiatric rehabilitation from Illinois Institute of Technology. I am taking my Certified Rehabilitation Counseling exam here in DC on July 9th! I have done work with veterans with psychiatric disabilities through the Supported Employment program at Hines Veteran Affairs Hospital.

I am currently interning at Rehabilitation Services Administration under the Department of Education. As a soon-to-be rehabilitation counselor, I am very excited about this assignment! We just finished a full week of orientation in which we met many people important to the disability movement.

Today was my first day at work. The day unfolded like many “first days of work” I have had throughout my life. I met many nice people, and I read a lot to get up-to-speed with the new assignment. And boy is the weather here in DC HOT!!!

First Week in DC!

Upon my arrival in Washington, D.C. to partake in the AAPD’s summer internship program, I encountered the same hot and semi-muggy weather I thought I had left behind in Atlanta. However, thank goodness there was air conditioning in the Marvin center where we all congregated. Aside from escaping the thick, heat stroke-inducing air outside, I have learned several things already in D.C. and have arguably never grown (personally and intellectually) so much in the short span of 4 days. To keep this first entry short and sweet—much like an introduction I suppose, I will write a few bullets (for I am quite fond of lists and blurbs) to ensure I cover the most interesting, eye-opening, or quirky things I have taken from my first FOUR days here:

-As a person with ADHD (combined type) I finally feel secure in identifying as a disabled person. Just like being an Asian-American and a part of the LGBTQA community, I have too taken much pride in my disabled identity.

-So, I’ve noticed that ever since my 3rd, I believe, day here I’ve been using my hands and facial expressions significantly more in conversation. I think it might have something to do with my roommate teaching me bits of ASL here and there…. This is just an odd point, but I feel like it’s at least worth noting and it’s at least interesting to me since I already thought I used my hands/ facial expressions too much when I talk! [embarrassed side glance] -Networking, networking, networking!

-The media is probably not the most neutral source to obtain news and develop your perceptions. After speaking with my mentor yesterday, I was shocked to learn that she had long-time friends on both sides of the political sphere. Something the media definitely does not portray: republicans and democrats are actually friends with one another! I will admit that before attending AAPD orientation week I thought republicans and democrats were at each other’s throats and I would hopelessly think “How will we ever get anything done in this hostile uncommunicative political climate!?!” –But now I can actually see that in many areas (and dare I say everywhere) there is at least the potential for successful and collaborative policy work.

Overall, the other interns here have been incredibly friendly and I’m surprised how “tight” I am already with my suitemates (or “Suities”). I absolutely cannot wait to start my internship and see what the rest of the summer has in store!

-Nicole Tay

Monday, May 30, 2011

My First Week

It was with a heightened sense of apprehension that I arrived in Washington DC earlier this week. I was not sure if I was going to be able to fit in, and I did not know if I could adapt to the big city again, despite the fact that I had lived in New York for two years.

However, in the last two and a half days that I have been in Washington DC, I have gained a great deal of certainty about my stay here. I have come to the realization that the big city is what I needed all along, and that Washington DC is where I belong.

I have met many passionate professionals that care about the same issues as I do, and in the last two days of meetings and seminars I have learned important lessons from them.

I have learned about the importance of networking and reaching out to everybody, because you do not know when somebody will be of help to you. I have also learned that it is not about what you know, but who you know, and that you must make sure that you are active, involved and constantly on the lookout for new opportunities.

It has always been my dream to be a Lawyer or a diplomat and come to work in Washington DC or New York in the future, and now I am here. I am both excited and still a bit nervous, not because of what I do not know, but because I hope that I will take full advantage of this great opportunity given to me by the American Association of People for Disabilities and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers office. I am excited to spend the next two months here and in Washington D.C. and I hope to learn as much as possible. Thank you to AAPD and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers and her staff for giving me this excellent opportunity.

Keep on the lookout for some more interesting blog posts in the near future.

Finally here!

I’m so excited to be here with the AAPD internship program. It’s been a great experience so far, the orientation has been draining, but really helpful, and has helped me get prepared for a workplace environment. My fellow interns are pretty amazing, and all have interesting stories to share. That’s the beauty of this internship, we all share remarkable qualities, and all need to help each other succeed in the program, and learn from each other as well as our mentors. I’m proud to be in this beautiful city, and working for our government, but I never could have imagined this as a future. Even two years ago, I would have been astonished at being part of this program. I had never given a public speech before, and didn’t really know anything about disability, as far as identity and especially about history and culture, but it’s been a heck of a year, starting in Pakistan, returning to Wisconsin, hustling to New Mexico, Flying out to Syria; moving to Berkeley, and coming here to end it. I know I’m pretty young (I’ll actually turn 19 on July 6th) compared to everyone else out here, but I can’t wait to learn and affect some major change. On that note, I think that is my main goal here, to learn. I’m coming as a hotblooded young buck, who brings a lot of energy, but needs some more seasoning and patience I want to take my time and listen, as well as learn. One of the most important lessons I have tried to live by is to listen to others, and that we can learn from anyone. I also feel that this lesson ties nicely into my perspective of the disability rights movement. Just like disability itself, the disability rights movement is a composite picture created from the experiences and advocacy of many others of all orientations, ethnicities, races, genders, and political affiliations. I’m here to learn more about how that picture looks, and also add my own contributions to this wonderful, and ever changing picture that is our movement. With that, I’d like to thank AAPD for giving me this opportunity, and also to say: Hey DC! I’m Hamza, and I’m here to learn.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Arriving in DC

YAY! I am finally in Washington, D.C.! After weeks of waiting and planning it feels great to finally be here. Now that I am here, I am exhausted - but in a good way. AAPD has planned a jam-packed orientation during the day, and I have spent the nights getting to know the other interns and figuring out my way around the big city (my hometown in Illinois doesn't have any public transportation so learning to use the Metro was a little overwhelming at first). So far the highlights for me have been getting to know my apartment-mates and meeting my mentor for the summer Pat Wright. In addition to meeting Pat, we have had the chance to meet and learn from some pretty cool and important people in the disability community. Being in D.C. hasn't all been about work though and I plan to take advantage of the three-day weekend and start seeing the sites of the city. I hope to see the National Portrait Gallery and the White House since I missed them when I visited D.C. before. If anyone has any suggestions of places I must go or things I must see, let me know. Until next week...




This first week has been absolutely packed with speakers who not only give of their time, but present incredible messages that inspire, challenge, and call for action. The passion these speakers use to deliver their points is astounding. Their words of wisdom, anecdotes, and simple facts have been both informative and influential, and all of the speakers have helped to make this first week so enjoyable.

Two particular topics that keep emerging are identifying as a person with a disability and having disability pride. For me, the identification aspect has never been a problem, even an option. Being born blind, I never had to go through an adjustment period. Relying on a cane and being unable to make eye contact, hiding my blindness is simply not feasible. Having an older brother who is also blind makes it easy to identify, as I do not face the isolation that being disabled typically causes. Thus, having a disability is part of my life, and it is a part of my life I accept willingly.

Yet, the idea of disability pride still seems foreign to me. I rarely complain about being blind, but I feel no particular pride, either. Furthermore, I am unconvinced I would choose to be blind if I had such an option. Certainly, I feel this pride when people with disabilities enjoy success, but I know a similar pride when my non-disabled friends succeed, too. Whether good or bad, I have learned to regard people as people, not being overly concerned about a person’s disability status.

Perhaps this is because I have rarely associated with a disabled community. Growing up in a neighborhood with no other disabled children aside from my brother, being in classes with “regular” students since pre-school, and building a community in college consisting of no other students or faculty possessing visible disabilities, I seldom have belonged to a concrete community of disabled people. I definitely have pride for the communities to which I belong, such as my high school, college, and Portuguese family. Thus, as I continue to live, work, and learn with my fellow AAPD interns, creating a community of disabled people, I am interested to see if I will begin to understand this disability pride.

I am so grateful to the speakers who have so eloquently presented these ideas of identification and pride, and I am hopeful that my time spent in this new community will be helpful in further understanding the concepts they detailed.
--Steph Fernandes

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Orientation and Arriving in DC

My first week in Washington DC has been cram packed with meeting new friends, learning new information both about DC and disability issues, and trying to survive the metro. Traversing the streets of DC in my wheelchair has also challenged my directional skills and forced me to quickly learn when rush hour is and how the traffic will flow at that time.
Virginia Commonwealth University where I attend college was to me, until Monday, considered to be an urban college. Having spent four days on George Washington University’s campus I now have a true understanding of what a REAL urban college can be; chaotic, loud and vast.
On day one of orientation I started meeting new friends from all across the country that I can quickly see will be friends for many years to come. Through learning about their diverse backgrounds and skills I feel a door has opened allowing me to become a more versed disability advocate who better understands a broader spectrum of disabilities.
I am looking forward to starting work on Tuesday and finding out what the Department of Transportation is all about. I am also looking forward to networking with the many individuals I will meet over the next 10 weeks.

First Post from Policastro

Week of 22nd of May, 2011
AAPD Internship Class
Steven Policastro

This week during the AAPD Internship Orientation, has been a great time to do so many various things, and has been such a tremendously great and exciting learning curve. In that past week I have had to learn more about the big city, remember people’s names and their short biographies, and acquire a new language skill in learning the alphabet in American Sign Language.

Overall this week has been one that I will never forget, I have had the opportunity to make lifelong friends, and learn lifelong lessons – especially about living in a big city! The culture shock of coming from a town of 11,000 people the nation’s capitol was a bit overwhelming at first; having to learn the various ways in which the streets where ordered, how to use The Metro (which I still do not understand completely), and how to interact with the people – which is much different than the smiles and conversations in The South... here it is usually just a brush of shoulders, and maybe every one in one hundred people someone will say “I don’t have time.” But, that is for the every-day person who live in The District, I would have to say for every single person in the 2011 AAPD internship class, it is a great group of people who are so willing to just sit and talk.

I am very thankful that this past week I have been able to learn a little bit more about how people with disabilities, like myself, see themselves – I find it most interesting in the community that people identify with their disability, as this is something completely foreign to me. Whilst I do see myself as someone with a disability, legally blind/visually impaired, I have never let such a trait be my identity – yet coming here, everyone embrace their disability as their identity which I believe is a very interesting way of seeing one’s self; and important to many people’s advocacy efforts. As I am one to recognize I have a disability and do not identify with it or claim it as my identity, this may be foreign to some... therefore I would like to explain just for a moment.

Being raised in The Deep South, first off we do not have all the governmental services in which many people throughout The North do; therefore, where the government fails or there may be mistrust from officials, the church (Christian) pickup the shortcomings of the government – in everything from schooling to healthcare. The cultures are totally different, at least in the less urban city-centers. I was raised in a the Lutheran school system in Mid-Florida, having the chance to take advantage of what the church offered from four years of age in Pre-School to twelfth grade, from whence I attended Stetson University (a private post-Baptist/current-agnostic university). While I am a conservative Christian, attending Stetson, was my choice of universities... not because of it’s Christian affiliation, but due to the fact I felt led, by The Lord, to attend and it has opened up to be an enormous mission field – as well as having me meet the people who I know attend church with. Thus, I identify as a Christian alone – not any other identity, but that of my Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.

To myself, it is just so interesting to see the contrasts of The South and The North; I had thought of them only to be religious – but as I see now, religion crosses so many lines... even into the disability community. I am very excited to share my own stories and listen to others, as we learn from one another’s cultural upbringings.

For The Lord Alone,
Steven Policastro

Friday, May 27, 2011

How I Got Here: The Road to the 2011 AAPD Summer Internship -- by Alec Frazier

2011 AAPD Summer Intern Alec Frazier in Front of the White House

My name is Alec Frazier, 24 at the moment, from Ithaca, New York. I am a person with disabilities and I am very proud of that, as I am proud of all facets of my character. On a day-to-day basis I live with Asperger's syndrome, a high functioning form of autism that comes coupled with, in my case, bipolar disorder, ADD, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), dysgraphia, digital atonia, and facial atonia among other disorders.

When I was young I spoke before politicians, to raise funding for children in special education. My first job however, was in a library. Throughout my career I have balanced interests in library sciences and politics. On a trip to the Massachusetts State House and the historic collections library it contained, I realized that I could mix the two and go for a dream job in archiving.

The next few years of my life were focused on improving my academic standing, which paid off when I was admitted to the State University of New York's University at Buffalo. I am currently obtaining my bachelor's degree in political science, and if all goes well I will pursue a Masters in Library science/archiving.

It was at the University at Buffalo that the assistant director of disability services informed me of this internship opportunity. I love Washington, DC architecturally, culturally, historically, and politically, so I jumped at the chance. There are an infinite number of positions at which the AAPD could have placed me, and none could have suited me better than the DC Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. I have already met my supervisor, as well as gotten a general overview of what I will be doing there. I shall go more into depth about that in next week's blog.

Well, I'm beat. I have had a long day of orientation and will now prepare myself some supper. Make haste to the pizza rolls!