Monday, July 23, 2012

The Real World...

I wasn't completely straightforward in my previous blog. In fact, further reflection revealed a personal revelation that perhaps I wasn't completely honest in the majority of my blogs. Amidst all the positivity and seriousness of my writing, I forgot to point out the challenges of being an intern with a disability. In my attempt to maintain an professional image, I had forgotten about reality. After all, isn't the purpose of this blog to share our experiences with others/future interns? Well, knowing how reality works, this may not even be the true purpose of all these blogs, though the "glass half full" in me would like to pretend so. The rational economist in me however, knows that people respond to incentives and what's the biggest incentive there is?...Money. So in reality, while we would love to live in a world where everyone has equal access, this is not the case.

I've faced several challenges as an AAPD intern since I arrived in D.C. Perhaps my biggest challenge was being sent emails (even from AAPD) about events and opportunities offered in D.C. that weren't accessible. The brown bag sessions I mentioned previously are case in point. I found some of these sessions to be inaccessible for the DHH (Deaf and Hard of Hearing). The first brown bag was scheduled to show a video and the second, a speaker so naturally, I emailed the coordinators in advance asking if the video would be closed captioned and to request an interpreter. The first organization reassured me the morning of the event that the video would indeed be closed captioned. However, upon my arrival I discovered the video was not captioned at all. They provided each of the participants with a copy of the video, yet this copy was not captioned either. I was informed that I would be able, however, to watch the captioned version on YouTube. The second organization informed me that they didn't have the "capacity" for an interpreter. Despite these challenges however, I still went. I never let barriers stop me before, why should I start now? While I still missed a lot of information, at least I can still say I benefited in some shape or form just by attending, however little that benefit may be.

The brown bag lunch I attended this week had a much better outcome as they were willing to meet my accommodations, but this experience has opened my eyes to the reality of being a person with a disability. No matter where you go there will always be challenges. Here I am a city with a large Deaf population, yet I am still experiencing the same challenges as I did back home. While it is much easier to see a movie in theaters with closed captioning than it is back home and interpreters are sometimes provided without having to request (i.e. congressional hearings), I still find myself constantly being faced with new challenges. My experiences here have thus been both positive and negative; I have become a better advocate for myself but at the expense of facing reality.

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