Archive for the ‘advocacy’ Category

pregnancy, disability and culture

September 15, 2011

Before you read this next post, know that all is fine with baby. My Ultrasounds have went well and things seem to be going smoothly.
However, this does bring up a subject that I have written many draft posts about and have to consolidate them into one thought provoking post. As if I just can’t get off of these three topics: it is about pregnancy, babies and disability.
During this pregnancy, we have been confronted several times with the possibility of having a disabled child. First, let me say that my blindness is not hereditary (although who would know unless they asked) and DH’s blindness comes from a recessive gene that both parents must carry. [Which means that his two sighted parents both carried the gene that caused their blindness: but I am not blaming, just making a point]. But, everyone wondered what we would do if the child was blind. Or, worse: what if the child had Downs Syndrome?
[Sidenote: t the BBC presented a documentary called “the education of….” (sorry can’t remember his name) which is about a man who has Downs Syndrom and who is going to college. i have conflicting views on this, but it is an interesting documentary, if you are so inclined].
Anyway, After all, I am an older parent and the likelyhood of a child with a disability increases with the parent’s age (specifically the mother’s).
DH and I talked about it several times. Neither of us even considered abortion. What I did not ask him was: “Would you have considered abortion if I was younger and the possibility of me having non-disabled children was likely?” I didn’t think of it then, but it is kind a “what if,” question and he really couldn’t answer it because it would never happen. Already he does not like playing the “What if,” game, especially when there is no way that it will happen. He said that if the child was disabled, he would definitely want to raise it here in the USA.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I would certainly go through the stages that every parent must go through when they are faced with a child that has more challenges than most. I would probably deny, grieve, accept and finally advocate. I don’t know how long i would be in each stage and know that it is certainly an individual experience.
But, When I talked about having the child and then meeting the family for SIL’s wedding, DH felt quite uncomfortable. Although he would want to show off a non-disabled child, he would have a problem feeling the same type of pride toward his disabled child. (my thoughts) He says that it is not a pride issue. He just would not want to deal with everyone’s comments and pity. He also says that other children are not very nice to disabled children. So, I guess you have lots of people who are either afraid of disabilities and/or say stupid things. And, you have unrelenting children whose parents don’t teach them how to behave. Yet, this does not match with the stories about his and his sister’s childhood.
Hearing stories from DH, I find out that he was quite the mischief maker. When they were little, DH and his sister, who is also blind, loved telephones and radios. OK, it was probably more of DH than his sister’s love; but his sister was dragged in by association. DH would not hesitate to scope out a neighbor’s or relative’s house looking for a telephone to call his friends. “permission” and “telephone charges” were not words in his vocabulary. He talks about exploring everyone’s rooftops and jumping/swinging from one house to the next. Before (and even after) he knew about blind cricket, he and his cousins would modify the game so that he could also play. He was fascinated with the light and bright colors surrounding fireworks and on several occasions despite his mother’s protests, burned holes in his clothes because he was not careful while playing with them. Often, he would go out with his cousins or neighborhood friends to the market and with his father to the Mosque. DH felt that many times, his father was more strict on him than on his younger brother. As a result, Dh feels that he is much more disciplined and mature than his brother. His sister, the one who is blind, is the first born. There are family legends about how proud his father was to have a baby girl: so much so that he carried her “everywhere he went.” Their father was not satisfied with the Government run blind schools and continued to search for better educational opportunities for his blind children. And, of course, the two children that received the opportunity to study in America happened to be the two blind children. Yes, there are discrepancies in how his father treats his sighted children, verses how he treats his blind children. Yes, they, his parents, were worried that we would surely pass “blindness” to our child and wondered how we might tackle the challenges of parenthood. And, yes, I agree that society is not very welcoming. But, all in all, his family seemed to rise to the challenge of having blind children. His family did not hide them away in a room or an institution. Yes, there was the many “faqirs,” “healers,” that people would suggest to Abu so that they could heal DH and his sister. yes, blind beggars are not uncommon in Pakistan. I think that there were some family members who blamed the mother for their blindness. (don’t quote me on that one, I am not sure). And, certainly, there is an overwhelming focus on the medicalization of the disability instead of more of an acceptance/independence approach. But, honestly, I see it here, in America, also.
Interesting fact: when I was a child, I was stopped many times on the street and without warning, people (Pastors or preachers or all types of religious folk) would place their hands on my head and/or face and begin to pray for me. They were sure that God would heal me, right then! When a healing was not forthcoming, they either took one of two approaches. 1. Encouraged me to continue to pray for my sight because it would happen in God’s time. Or 2. Chastised myself or a member of my family for having little faith. (what a way to bring souls to God)! Interestingly enough, DH reports that there are times when people have stopped him on the street and asked “HIM” to pray for “THEM” because prayers from a blind person are suppose to be more effective. And Lest we think that America is superior in the disability department, a friend of mine reports that a pastor of a church that she (still miraculously) attends has told her on more than one occasion that she will not regain her sight until she stops sinning and becomes serious about her faith.
Alright, honestly, I admit that many (especially those in smaller villages) Pakistani parents are probably ashamed of their disabled children. Many don’t know about Braille and/or how to teach their blind children. There are not as many services for blind (or other disabled) individuals. There are not that many employment opportunities for blind or disabled people. Remember, Dh still wants to start that Braille library: so obviously, Braille material is not as easy to obtain. Yet, hope still abounds. And, it seems that the challenges center around the lack of information more than anything else. And, honestly, maybe DH wold just have to go through those stages listed above and “right after birth” is just too soon for him to be in the “acceptance” stage. But, we will not really know unless it actually happens.
But, i still ask:
1. Would you/ Did you get any genetic tests to identify an unborn child’s disability? If so, would you have terminated the pregnancy? Do you and your DH have different views on the subject?
2. What are your family’s views about people with disabilities? Is there a hierarchy between physical and mental? Do they differ from your DH’s family’s views?
3. Would you be hesitant to bring your disabled child to your DH’s country?
4. Has your or your DH’s views on disability changed over time? How?

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Making some noise about “The silent but deadly!”

January 12, 2011

Today, as usual, imran and I caught the bus for Work. It arrived a little after 6:00. Many times, we can hear the beeping noise (as many industrial vehicles) make when backing up. Lately, we hear nothing as the bus approaches. But, It is winter and the mantra “Let is snow, let it snow, let it snow!” has been chanted by almost everyone from those who wanted a white Christmas to those wanting to experience a respite from school or work to those who want to make a few extra bucks by overcharging an elderly couple to shovel their driveway. Hey, I confess that in my desire to interject the experience of snowball fights, cocoa and snuggling[Where’s the fireplace when you need it?] into my blossoming marriage, I have been known to belt out the all-too-familiar holiday favorite sometimes on an hourly basis. However, transformation is afoot. I have joined the less than 30% of blind people who call themselves “Employed.” Adorning the label and assuming the accompanying responsibilities also means that I am forced to reevaluate my perspective, as well as my willingness to embrace and dare I admit “encourage” such climental occurrences.
blind travelers everywhere are aware of the challenges that snow provides. {if ever I have someone help me with this blog, I will insert a blind person traveling in lots of snow].
I am not saying that blind people can’t or don’t travel well in snow. They certainly can and do. But, they adapt to overcome such challenges as:
1. One of the most annoying difficulties lay right on the ground. There are Blankets of snow that cover sidewalks and make it difficult to distinguish differences between ground surfaces such as pavement, grass, gravel and that manhole that serves as a landmark, or those truncated domes that are present at street corners. We can no longer use these textural changes identified by our feet to give us clues about where we are. Not all, but many blind people have difficulty walking in a straight line. I have my own theory about this one. I think that it has to do with not being able to find our focal point. But, I have not discussed my theory with a certified mobility instructor and have no research to substantiate my claim. Whatever the reason, it is doubly challenging to keep a straight line when you have very few clues from the ground that you are walking on.
2. Many times snow plows and other snow moving equipment relocate the snow from the street to the curbside. Often these mounds of snow cover the indication of the curb. Thus, we have to navigate around the snowdrift at each curb side and through any blockage at the corner walk. . Sometimes, those cane travelers have to attempt to use their cane to clear a path in the snow before moving forward. Many times, guide dogs see these snow banks as obstacles and attempt to guide the blind person around the snow. Yet, sometimes, the best course of action is to plow straight through the snow bank.
3. It amazes me that no matter how much snow falls to the ground, you can barely hear its descent. “White noise,” has a whole new concept when talking about snow. It sounds like you are walking on cotton. Sometimes, it crunches a bit, but it feels as if some of that cotton has been stuffed in your ears and you can only hear the snow. Everything feels … and sounds muted in the snow. It is difficult to hear echoes, your cane tapping on the many ground surfaces and sometimes, you have to strain to hear the traffic. We blind people use the sounds of parallel and perpendicular traffic to A. determine when it is safe to cross the street and B. help guide us on a straight course. “Friends, countrymen, lend me your ear…”

***Enter the silent, but deadly hybrid!
[insert image of hybrid car with a poison sticker looming over the top].
There have been many documented (and many more that have yet to achieve such a status) stories of accidents due to these sneaky vehicles. Some people are hosts or carriers (one who possesses the hybrid by surrendering to their materialist tendencies and/or yielding to their addiction of prestige) and there are others who become unwilling victims of the hybrid. Sometimes, someone is putting groceries into their trunks or waiting at a traffic light and without warning, is confronted with the reality that they have experienced an injury by a hybrid. To avoid the risk of contact, one should stay away from the infamous parking lot. This is one of the places that a hybrid can do the most damage. While a parking lot seems harmless and quite conducive to “on the go socializing,”, I feel that it is my civic duty to warn you of the dangers that lurk just out of earshot. hybrid is most dangerous in the stages directly before and after acceleration. It is easiest to detect when it is most active. during this stage, it can be discovered and the proper precautions can be taken. But, between stages of acceleration, it lays dormant and auditorially unidentifiable, which is frequently During the time a host or a carrier that is at a stoplight or navigating a parking situation. In these times, others aren’t aware that a host possesses a hybrid. Thus, the hybrid surges forward and makes a sneak attack on others.
Many have suggested that we should abandon the activity of walking. While once seen as a healthy exercise, research has shown that the life risks might just outweigh the health benefits. For blind people, however, disengaging in such an activity would have devastating economic, social and emotional consequences. The fear of coming in contact with a hybrid would relegate the blind person to exclusion from employment, bill paying, shopping, their spiritual development, banking, maintaining familial bonds and socializing. Certainly some of these things can be performed via telephone or internet. However, hybrid hysteria (some of which is warranted) would exile the blind to become secluded prisoners within their own four walls.
Yet, Hybrids are spreading across the US due to alluring packaging and competent advertising. Car manufacturers exploit the unhealthy prestige addictions of the wealthy by masking the harm done by the hybrid and marketing it as a much needed, environmentally conscious status symbol for the elite class. Most often, the one who possesses the hybrid is unlikely to feel the damaging effects. It is similar to being exposed to TB or being a carrier of a recessive gene of a disease. In the case of Tuberculosis, the one who has been exposed (but has not actually had the disease), is immune to the damage it can cause. In this case, the person who has enough finances to purchase the hybrid in its pretty packaging and loaded with beneficial bells and whistles also becomes a “carrier” or purchases his immunity to the harm that it can do.
Many will remember Senator John Kerry as an embarrassment to the democratic party and a failure. Have no fear, John Kerry, your legacy has been redeemed by the one act of giving your support to the Pedestrian safety Enhancement act of 2010. And, before you think that Kerry had an ulterior motive of “just wanting to stick it to automobile manufacturers,” let it be known that Senator Kerry, himself, is immune to the damage of the hybrid. Apparently, he sees no conflict of interest and I don’t feel compelled to be his beacon. I am bursting with gratitude to learn that his predilection for materialism and prestige has not effected his commitment to social justice.
So, how does this “Pedestrian Safety Enhancement act) effect the common people? Basically, his bill mandates that there be noise generated devices on all electric vehicles, hybrids, and other silent-running vehicles. In this way, the car manufacturers will be removing the Hybrid’s venom and renders the hybrid harmless to all, but one’s pocketbook.
Blind organizations such as the national Federation of the Blind(NFB) has been instrumental in setting a good example by making lots of noise to congress in the hopes that the hybrids will soon follow suit. The strategy of sound worked. The “Voice of the Blind,” will be remembered through the “sound of the hybrid.” “To all who have an ear, let him hear…”

Lest we feel that the Government has been left out of this newest development, Ray LaHood, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, will assume the arduous and most likely long suffering task of developing a range of safety standards for noise reduced vehicles. Such standards will include: ” minimum level of
sound emitted from a motor vehicle that is necessary to provide blind
and other pedestrians with the information needed to reasonably detect
a nearby electric or hybrid vehicle operating at or below the
cross-over speed,” and the tone, volume, and speed at which
the noise-making pedestrian safety systems would be most effective. Hmmm, I think that a panel of “pedestrians,” themselves, would be a good advisory board to the DOT. Might I suggest that there should be some blind individuals on the board.
I wonder if each company will decide on their own tone. That might be interesting. In this way, we can detect the model, make and manufacturer of a car just by its sound. Nissan, either out of an empathetic conscious or a looming suspicion that the bill would pass, has outfitted the new “Leaf” with a noise generator installed. While, rumor has it that Chevrolet is developing a similar system for its hybrid “Volt.”
If I still worked at the animal shelter, I would name all stray dogs and cats Nissan cars, in tribute to this proactive manufacturer.
Those of you who are considering a hybrid should have no fear. “quickly” is not a word that is recognized by government agencies. And, are you now wondering if you will be paying even more for that environmentally superior vehicle? My guess is “yes.” Take heart, though, it is less likely that you will have to pay court costs and damages.
I shout a “WOOHOO” into the snowy silence and know that Imran and I both value John Kerry’s efforts to keep America safe much more than the efforts of the Transportation Security Administration. .

finally working

November 30, 2010

Can someone feel joy and frustration at the same time?
Yes! they certainly can.

I had two interviews within the last month.
the first was for an administrative assistant. the position is with the same company that Imran works for. He, actually, forwarded me the position. I applied. I would not be working in the same building as he would be working. But, it is still within the same company. I went for the interview. but, I honestly did not think that I would get the job. I don’t think that I did that well in the interview and It was clear that I would not be the first choice.
The second interview was just last week. It was with a rival company. The job is either “community Guide,” or the “full time Advocate,” or even the “part time Advocate.” they had three positions available.
I actually want a job with this company more. It appeals to my social work sensibilities and degree. I would be working with blind consumers, finding and referring resources, helping with daily independent living skills and doing all types of “social worky” stuff.
I don’t know any of the specifics of the job, such as pay, benefits, insurance, etc.
They were suppose to call me Tuesday if they wanted me to come in for a second interview.
I have not gotten a call yet. I have left one email and one voice message.
but, I thought that (the interview with company number 2) went quite a bit more smoothly than my first interview.
today, I got an offer from:
the company that Imran works for — interview number 1. the position is “Administrative Assistant,” and they offered me the position.
Hmmmm,
$15 an hour which translates into 30k annually,
free health/dental/vision screenings,
3absent days, 6sick days, holidays.
We do get some bonuses.
And, it says:

Health Benefits eligibility for insurance benefits is contingent upon hours worked.

Benefits will begin the first day of the month following 90 days from date of hire.

Health Insurance

PPO Plan or High Deductable Plan See Human Resources for costs.

PPO Plan Rx Drug Program

$10.00 Generic $30.00 Brand Formulary
$60.00 Non-Formulary Generic or Brand

Life Insurance

Equal to annual earnings or $15,000 (whichever is greater). Maximum benefit $100,000.
(All company paid)

Dental Insurance

Company pays for employee/See Human Resources for dependent costs

VSP Vision Plan

Company pays for employee/See Human Resources for dependent costs
Long Term Disability
All company paid.
403(b) Plan (Pre-Tax Retirement Savings)
All employees are eligible for the voluntary 403(b) plan.
Company match is currently 25% of employee contribution after one year (minimum of 1000 hours) of service.”
(I know that the insurance is through Anthem).
So, do I take it?

Hubby says “yes.”
I had my reservations: ones which seemed quite foreign to him.

1. I did want to work more in a social work field – this is in office and sales
2. I did not think that it was a good idea to say “yes,” and then, if the other job came through, I would have to quit the first.
But, Imran was almost amazed that I did not just take the offer on the spot. “with the current economy…..”
“You know how hard it is for blind people to get a job…..”
“You have been praying for a job…..”

“You act ungreatful….”

I just wanted someone to understand.
sometimes, I think that my desire to volunteer and serve the community in a positive way eludes him. and, I won’t be teaching English anymore, either because that was on Tuesday afternoons.
I don’t think that he sees the value of volunteer work, anyway.
“If they are not paying you, you shouldn’t do it!”
(but, that last comment might be just me writing while I am in a place of frustration).

maybe he just has no concept of my deep desire to assist those who are in need. I mean, I don’t have sympathy, I try for empathy and I believe that it is a good purpose: what we are all called to do in some way. and, I feel that it is a job where I can “connect” with people. I am more interested in making a difference in the lives of others than making the all mighty buck.
Money is great! But, there is something more.
I can’t imagine a person who doesn’t feel that pull to give of themselves by sharing their knowledge, resources, wisdom, etc.

Of course, he is right. I should take the job. After all, why would I apply for a job that I am not willing to take.
and, they have not called me for the second interview, yet. and, in my last discussion (at my interview last week) they said that they were looking to fill the positions quickly: which perplexed me because I could have taken any of the three openings and been glad. and, if they were looking to fill them quickly…. … and i had the right qualifications…. … and the right experiences…… ????

Granted, the company is going through changes and that could be good or bad.
It was not the general decision that I had a problem with.
I am quite nervous (office duties is not my fortay and I’ll have to work a bit to understand all of the software, filing, etc).
and, I actually asked my daughter and family because I did want their opinion and wanted them to feel as if they could talk with me about this decision.

It wasn’t that I was not going to take the job… …
it was just…. ….
I wanted to talk about it. I wanted to have my feelings and thoughts understood.
Again, it was not the final decision. It was the fear of starting a new job, the desire for the other position, the swirl of thoughts and feelings that I wanted him to understand.
i was more astonished at the fact that he didn’t understand my heart.
Maybe it was speaking a language that he just doesn’t understand.
I wonder what language we will be speaking when we discuss money matters?
We have discussed it before:
but, it seems that reality is much different than hypothetical discussions!
Wish me luck!

blind flight: reaching for integrity: descent into anxiety

July 14, 2010

July 9:
This was the last day that we would be in texas. I hoped that Kyler had a good time in Dallas.
We had seen a prototype of the car that blind people would drive, heard about a blind doctor, understood innovations in technology to help blind people read probes and become scientists and tried to get a handle on global accessibility when it comes to reading materials for blind people.
I will write more about the nfb, but today I want to talk about our flight home.
Ok, the flight was at 6:15 in the morning. Everytime I have flown in the past, I have had to wait at the gate for an amazing amount of time. I despise the “hurry up and wait,” concept. We must hurry so that we can wait. Basically, this says that someone’S time is more important than yours. The airlines and the pilot’s time is much more valuable than yours. I had planned to be there an hour early and thought that this would be enough.
So, we checked out at 5:00 in the morning. But, the first challenge was finding a taxi. I thought that there would be a plethora of taxi cabs waiting for us when we emerged from the hotel. I was wrong. It took us fifteen minutes jus to get a taxi. .
We got to Lovefield airport at about 5:40. Then, Delta does not have a keyosk out of Love Field Airport, so we had to go inside. We found this out after about five minutes. The agent had already left to board the passengers. We were stuck. There was nothing that we could do.
There were two other customers who had also missed their flights. One was quite vocal about his disappointment.
At about 6:15 (when the plane was suppose to leave) The agent pulled me aside and said that he would find another flight for us and wave the $50 fee for both Kyler and I.
Frankly, I didn’t have the extra money. The hotel had not reimbursed me (yet) for the $250 for incidentals that I had not used. I did not have any extra money. I was already trying to save as much money as possible when I went to dallas by buying food at Kroger’s instead of eating in those expensive restaurants. I did not buy one keepsake for any of my family members. I would have liked to buy DJ, Dominika, LaTroi, my mother and father something. I avoided technology exhibits altogether so I would not be tempted to get Imran something. And, I wanted to find Kyler a Dallas hoody. But, I knew that I did not have that type of money. It was a blessing just to be able to come to Dallas: spend money for the hotel and eat.
I already paid for the taxi over after the paratransit would not get me to the airport in time.
The taxi was $22 while public transit would have been $3.
I knew that we still had our luggage to check.
And, I don’t have any credit cards. I had seriously thought about taking one out especially for this trip, but I didn’t.
I had to watch my money.
We had also packed snacks in our bulging carry-ons. My luggage was much more full than when I came; but that was because I had stuffed as much NFB free literature into my luggage. I tried to get at least one of each Braille and print kernel book.
So, when the agent offered to wave our fees: my first feeling was gratitude.
Then, I felt a stab of injustice. After all, weren’t these two guys in my same position? Was I so deserving of such a favor? Why did I receive such a favor and not them? Was I cheating them by taking this favor? Most people would have said: “Go ahead and take it! Don’t have a second thought.” But, what if I was the guy behind me? … or in front of me, for that matter. What if he was going to see his family (whom he had been apart from for quite sometime). What if he had tried to make it to Lovefield on time, but traffic (possibly even my very own taxi) had prevented him from getting here on time? Was I being fair to take the waved fee when he could not? Furthermore, we all had committed the same mistake. We all did not adhere to the 90-minute rule.
I tried discussing this with my seventeen year old son and he thought that I was crazy.
Later, as I told friends, I could hear their amazement when I said that I had misgivings about accepting the help.
What if the agent just waved the fee because I was blind? What if there was a bit of pity for me which drove him to act? Does this matter? Well, it does to me, even if many of my friends and family do not share the same feelings.
They say: “I don’t care.” “I’d take it with no second thoughts.”
I did take it.
But, I did so because frankly, I don’t have a job and I don’t have the money to exercise my ethics. Or, do I?
Should I have stood by my values despite my circumstances. Although pride does play a part in my discomfort; a bigger part was the fact that I was endowed with a privilege that the other passengers did not have.
Imran and I were discussing it while I was waiting and Kyler was listening to music on his I-pod.
“you seem ungreatful.” He says.
That is not it at all. I certainly am greatful! I realize that the agent might get penalized for this. I don’t know what is all involved in his waving of the fee. I don’t know how he will justify this decision. I don’t know what consequences that it will have for others. I just know that I am receiving a favor/privilege/assistance that others do not have and will not get.
And, honestly, although the agent was not there when we came to register, the point is that the E:ticket says to be at the airport 90minutes before boarding and I neglected to follow their advice. As a result, it was my mistake and should have to suffer the consequences; just like everyone else.
Imran made a good point later .
although I did not experience monitary consequences, I certainly did face them in regards to time.
I did not get to the Indianapolis airport until 10:30 that night. I knew some NFB members from Indiana who left at 4:00 A.M. and arrived in Indianapolis at 12:00 midnight. It took them about three hours longer to get to Indianapolis. We waited around in the Memphis airport for the longest time. We even got on a plane that was to take us to Cincinnati and had to exit the plane do to navigational complications.
So, in reality, I did suffer consequences and have learned my lesson about being late.
After Imran and I argued about it for sometime (in which case, I was regretting even bringing it up because no one really understood my ethical dilemma with accepting the agent’s offer), he did make some good points.
Maybe this was God’s blessing and I was over analyzing it.
Would God give me a blessing that would be unfair to others?
But, only God knows the situations of those other two customers.
Maybe I was getting a blessing. After all, I had already felt bad enough about my privilege and maybe my lesson is better learned this way than any other way.
Good point..
I really feel uncomfortable receiving privileges that others do not receive. I want to be treated justly: no more, no less.
But, is justice really “equal” or “equitable?” And, when God gives me blessings that he does not give others, should I shun them because others do not have them? Am I really turning away God’s equitable justice in favor of my supposed equal (but humanly flawed) justice?
I feel that no one will understand my desire for equality. Afterall, I don’t know how to equitably distribute justice, so it must be equal across the board.
But, maybe this is God’s job and not mine.
Imran suggested that if I felt that bad about such a situation,
I should go to the two men and share my gift: giving them some money to assist them in their fees. But, there are two problems with this.
1. The agent spoke with me confidentially and I could not do such a thing without letting them know what he had suggested. In fact, I would be putting his job at risk for his kindness.
2. They probably would not take my money – money which, actually, I only hyave in my mind and not in my bank account.
So, when all is said and done: I accept the help, respond with emmense gratitude and resolve to try to make the trip home a good one. This last commitment would not be easy. I had a grumpy teen who hates to fly and retreats into his music. He would not eat until we arrived in Indianap;olis. And, on one of our flights, we had an even more grumpy child who did not mind expressing his distaste for flying quite vocally, I might add. thus, my efforts at helping him adjust to the boring and frustrating hours ahead will be of no consequence and only serve to annoy him and compel him to withdraw even further.
3. I make several attempts to make the best of the situation by offering some options of exploration, food, providing stimulating conversation and redirecting his thoughts. In the end, we both sit in silence: him in his world of hip hop and me visiting the selections of “The Time Traveler’s wife,” (which I am still not thrilled with), “The Church of Facebook,” (which is interesting in a business kind of way), “The Things that we do for love” (A bbc production which I view with disappointment – yet a bit of interest) and songs from Atif Aslam and Sonu Nigam
After missing our plane, sitting in a cold airport (Texas seems to keep their buildings extremely cold for some reason), a screaming child, two planes that needed repairs, an overbooked flight which almost made us stay in Memphis for another night, we finally made it home. We certainly did not forsee those events happening. But, we finally emerged with a lesson learned.

.

DINING IN THE DARK

June 25, 2010

An organization in our area is putting on this fund raiser called:
“Dining in the dark.”
The patrons are blindfolded in an attempt to demonstrate what it might be like to be blind. They are blindfolded for the entire meal.
I must admit that I am not “all up in arms” about it like some of my friends.
They are angry because they feel that it does promote a negative picture about what it must be like to be blind.
they have a point.

Sure, we all want sighted people to know what it is like to be blind. We certainly want some empathy. But, mroe than that, we want some understanding that (with the right training and modifications) we can excel just as our sighted peers.
Most sighted people won’t get past the fear and anxiety of being without sight. The cost is $150 a plate.
Here are some opinions from my friends in the nfb.
I’ll try to condense.

From T & H:
We (myself and my wife T) have been a member for around 1 ½ years and not seen a comparable blind awareness opportunity proposed by the NFB. So, I think it is great that Bosma is doing this (even if only in that regard). You may think this is a great way for people ridicule and make fun of the blind. You need to remember that these people are paying $125 a plate; they are paying to help support a cause that is important to them and to have an experience. These people are more likely to enjoy the experience (and take home something positive from it) than to poke fun. People pay good money to swim with sharks; it is easy to point and criticize while you are in the boat. So, let them try it.
It seems like a lot of people think that Dining In The Dark would provide negative perceptions of the blind to attendees as well as people they come into contact with afterward. My theory is those [negative perceptions] are, more often than not, brought upon us by our own:

… … (T Says) I think what is most poignant to me is that this dinner could be a very positive opportunity. I know that many in the NFB are vehemently opposed to such endeavors, however, I think that you have to start somewhere. I am saddened to think that some ideas I or anyone else may have proposed for future awareness opportunities would fall on deaf and prejudiced ears (for instance: setting up an obstacle coarse and providing sleepshades at a fair or providing blind simulation via pictures or tactile objects;

… … I think it is also important to remember that no one is putting on this dinner with the intent to invoke ridicule or to bring about negative afterthoughts. I believe it would be best to reserve judgement of the fundraiser until it is completed lest we jump the gun… …

From D:
[was upset at the media’s portrayal of those who opposed this dining event]
So, let’s fight fire with fire. Let’s conduct some high profile public awareness activities of our own.
Though It would be a humongous undertaking, and I don’t even pretend that I know what would go into getting a training center started, I would love to see us start an NFB training center in Indiana. Does the national organization provide funding for such undertakings? Let’s take some of that money away from Bosma, and provide blind hoosiers with some real training and hilosophy. Let’s give them some training that is going to mean something.

From K:
the very training center used by Indiana’s blind/visually impaired residents raising funds through fear, and miss conception. Seems to me this just promotes the same old blind person as walking in Darkness, and no matter what the intention, that is exactly how the guests will see this(for themselves.)
Maybe we could have a Video montage made of the collective days in the life of a Blind worker, cook, parent, and any number of other things, if not strictly for sail, than at least presented via the media, at a big event such as a big dinner served in the normal style, of course. I can tell you I’d be more than willing to help with any segment of such a presentation.
Walking in Darkness has not been my state, and I have never seen a day in my life I can remember! Walking in Darkness simply doesn’t exist for those who’re willing to change what it means to be blind!! 🙂

From S:
I reject Bosma’s efforts to make something sensational about dining blind.
Just think for a moment: Suppose one of the guests spills her steak and
potatoes into her lap.
That person will be sure she could not accomplish the simple task of eating
a meal; so how could she go out and work if she became blind?
She would have experienced a totally embarrassing, humiliating situation,
and that is what she would carry away.
We all know these embarrassing, humiliating events can and do happen; but
they are not the norm, and we pick up our flattened pride and move on.

If this person were to experience blindness for a longer time, say three
weeks or a month, by that time, she would have gained some proficiency, and
had enough positive experiences to carry the day.
Then she would have enough respect for the process of learning that is
required of all of us, and she might be more likely to consider a blind
person as a candidate for the next job opening in her company.
But with all due respect, this understanding would be very hard to come by
in one evening.
I totally understand those who are deeply offended.
I see the hypocrisy of this organization not using sleepshades for teaching those (who are going blind) learning blindness skills, but being perfectly willing to use them to raise funds.
However, I do also believe that we who are blind are often blind-sided by
what we do not see, and cannot observe; and I do think we need to have an
open, understanding mind.
I don’t necessarily believe that people will come out of this experience
with a negative view of blind people, if it is framed properly.
There has to be a balance, and I’m not sure Bosma is close enough to the
right balance to suit me.

From R:
As to the Dining in the Dark concept; let me give you some background on it. and set tables cook meals, ect.

It became a novel concept when it came to America and we changed the whole concept. We now have sighted customers dining in the dark and dawning sleepshades.This is suppose to give them an experience of what it is like to be blind.
We in the National Federation of the Blind have always opposed the use of sleep shades on a short term bases. The reason is because it promotes in the user fear, anxiety, and amazement at being able to accomplish this task. The NFB has worked hard over the years to dispel the misunderstandings and misconceptions people have about blindness and blind people. We have worked hard to show the general public that we are the average person doing the average job. We don’t want to be looked upon as being amazing people for completing the simplest task.
When well meaning sighted people sell our disability instead of our abilities to the general public they do a dis-service to all blind people. This negative impact promotes hopelessness and helplessness. We as blind people are conditioned to believe in this concept of learned helplessness and we in turn become that in which we believe.
The National Federation of the Blind believes in high expectations for blind people. Therefore it is not out of our realm of thinking that “a blind person will one day go to the moon” because we have members of our organization aspiring to be an astronaut.

From P:
I agree with V, They could have showed blind people working. They could
have had blind people talk about how they are living their lives just like
anyone else. The truth is they just want to make money and they don’t care
what it does to the image of the blind.

My thoughts:
I must concur with R, P, S and K. While the intentions might be to show people what it is like to be blind, their methods will not yield any result except loads of pity and money.
One of my biggest problems with this event is that although they serve the blind community:
they teach them life skills, how to cook, clean, make a meal, balance a check book, make a resume, get a job, etc.
Why couldn’t blind people plan the entire event?
They could have had blind people doing the cooking, serving, cleaning, planning, speaking, public relations, fund raising, etc.
But, after talking to some blind people who work there;
the blind aren’t even involved. They knew nothing about this fund raising event.

After talking to Imran, he was not as upset over this issue. He did agree that they were probably doing this whole dining experience only to make money. And, he did agree that there should be more blind people involved… … ahem, (one blind person would be an accurate description of “more”). But, he thought that we should debate with them quietly.
From what I know, R., our state president has tried and it has not resulted in any changes.
Imran does note that this money will go to help blind people. It will benefit blind people and this is a good thing.
I agree, but at what cost to blind people: their dignity?
And, how much will it benefit blind people? Certainly, it will help them receive some services that are useful. But, will it insure that they will be equal to their sighted peers socially, financially, physically and emotionally?
I know that Imran thinks that the pursuit for dignity is sometimes a pursuit for those who don’t have to worry about “surviving.” Such thoughts and actions are luxuries for those who don’t have to worry about food/shelter/etc.
He feels that such growth will come after the most basic needs are met.
And, in Pakistan, many times, these needs are not met.
Let’s talk about blind people in Pakistan.
Many don’t know braille. Many parents don’t think that there children can do much of anything.
It is not uncommon to see a blind beggar.
Many blind people in Pakistan don’t have jobs. They just don’t have many opportunities.
Yet, I see Imran’s friends.
Now, maybe he has the richest most posh blind friends.
(I guess that I can say this because Ali, Farhan, Salman, Azghar or Naeem) won’t be reading this. (smile) I mean, maybe his friends are those who can afford a computer and learn to use it.
After all, he did go to a private school for the blind.
He and his sister did get an education. Their father thought that it was necessary. I am proud of his father for not writing his children off when he learned of their disability. Their father had faith, determination and wanted something better for his blind children! They went to a private blind school in Lahore. (I should ask him before posting the name of the school, although this article would give it positive press).
From what we hear, this is rare in Pakistan because many of the schools are not as fervent in their desires or expansive in their equipment or financially able to provide their blind children with such an education.
Some obstacles are due to culture, some to economics and some to public and familial attitudes. But, Imran and his sister did receive such an education. They went to regular university and received a degree in economics in Pakistan.
They excelled.
But, not all do.
And, I am quite proud of his friends — the ones who have little to no opportunities, yet still strive for success…. those who continue to look for a job, even when prejudice attitudes are high … … those who learn the computer and programming on their own because there is no agency to teach them… … those who find resources and learn to network just so that they can access information, just as their sighted siblings and friends — (Way to go Ali, Azghar, Naeem, Salman and Farhan). ?There are even a couple of women who also have the desire to excel! (WOOHOO). and Imran, who has done all of this and continues to assist others in this endeavor. I am proud of what he has achieved and what he continues to do for his friends and any other blind person who he comes in contact with. He always tries to find them resources and ways for accessing information and reading.
I love and admire his dedication to assist other blind people in their struggles for knowledge!
That speaks to the servant in me.
And, this makes me think about the library that we talk about starting. We want to start a library for the blind.
This library would provide braille books for blind people to read.
Well, the fire is once again ignited.

denied access

May 3, 2010

No, this post is not how my guide dog and I were denied access at a restaurant and made some type of scene before threatening to get the Civil Rights commission involved.
It is about the web!
Ok, have I said — “I’m unemployed?”
Anyway, I have always been a supporter of volunteering. In fact, until I made my big move on the first of March, I tried to volunteer wherever I could.
I feel that it is my responsibility:
both commanded by God to serve the community and
it does appeal to my social sensibilities.
Oh, wait, I have blogged about that before.
Now, I am in a larger city and it is taking me a while to become acclimated with public transportation.
So, volunteering is not readily accessible.
But, it seems that “nothing is.”
I continue to use my computer to make a positive contribution, however, it is getting more challenging.
I have been constantly looking for a language learning website.
I have blogged about this before, also and if I knew how, I would post the link
[here]
But, I am not technically savvy, yet.
Needless to say, the “learning language,” department is rarely accessible, either and the sites (for the most part) are filled with people who might have
honorable intentions, but little else.
So, I decided to try and learn Urdu, as well as critique the English exercises of others on livemocha. The site came highly recommended. .
Now, the
www.livemocha.com
website is not very accessible. I can’t drag and drop, identify or click on the picture or “connect” anything.
I can, however, view or make flashcards. I can quiz myself on these flashcards. I can also make an attempt (all be it pathetic) to submit a writing exercise.
My computer is not new or fast enough for me to listen to and/or record speaking exercises. So, I content myself with reviewing written work and writing
my own.
that is until now!
Now Livemocha has decided that no reviewer can post a review to someone’s work unless they rate the work. I can’t find the rating buttons.
I have given many people constructive criticism on their work. But, now I can’t even do that because I can’t find the “rating button.” Sighted people can
push the “rating button,” and write a trite “Good job,” or “needs work.” But, my three lined critique (and you know how much I write, so three lines is
an under statement) is not accepted.
You get “Mocha points,” and a “teacher score,” for reviewing the work of others. Of course, none of these “points,” result in real “money — (what a shame) .” But, it was something that I could do. It was a way for me to use my native language to assist others. And, I would often give examples as well as my livemocha email
if they had further questions concerning the exercise.
No more!
That volunteering opportunity has gone down the tubes until either:
1. they make the website more accessible
or
2. I get a new computer.
And, did I mention that my Urdu learning has stopped as well?
Well, a big “thumbs down,” for Livemocha.
Businesses should employ disabled people to review their websites and give them a summary of their accessibility status. And, if ever a business or **anyone
wants to “update,” their site, they should employ a disabled person to advise them on the propper way to do this so that the disabled population (and,
when I say disabled, I mean someone who is using alternative software such as a screenreader and who can’t read the print on the screen) is not left out
in the dark — literally and not so literally.
Note: I don’t just say “Blind,” because there are those with dyslexia who also need the assistance of a screenreader, however, those who are dyslexic and actually need&use
a screenreader are far less in number than the blind population.

Trip to our state capital

February 9, 2010

This is actually close to the date posted.
On January 31 of 2010 to February 4, 2010, I went on a trip to DC. Yes, that is Washington DC (District of Columbia) our nation’s capital. I am a member of the NFB (National Federation of the Blind). We were there to talk about legislation that would effect the blind.
http://www.nfb.org
We discuss
1. a technology bill of rights which will mandate that businesses make their electronics and appliances accessible. This is not difficult, Apple already does it. But, keyosks, self check outs, scanners, ATMs and appliances are not accessible.
2. desiring a sound (small engine sound) on the quiet hybrid cars so that we can hear the parallel or perpendicular traffic.
3. phasing out the SSDI (social security that some blind people receive) instead of a abrupt end after the person makes more than $1,640 monthly. It is a three-to-one phase out, but will ease blind people off of Disability income.

First, I attended a leadership seminar for parents of blind children and learned how to start, maintain and expand a group. I learned how to plan a seminar and hope to do so in the future.
I have some pics of myself and a few others on capital hill. I will post them, if someone helps me.
One of the blogs that I visit often is owned by someone who lives in DC and I tried to connect with her, but it did not work out.
Imran and I have decided that one of the things that we will do as a couple is to frequent Indian restaurants and rate them. Of course, it is according to his Pakistani taste buds and if there is a specific “Pakistani restaurant” in the area, we will go there instead. But, we will travel to different states and try to get a feel for the various restaurants. I wished that he had gone on that trip with me, so we could start critiquing.
We did not get a tour of the whitehouse. We spoke mostly to aids. My dog hated the escalators (Atlanta holds the record for the longest amount of time that one spends on one escalator), talked with many taxi drivers (Hey, one was even a woman) and met many interesting people. I thoroughly enjoyed DC., even if we did get stuck in Atlanta because of the snow. I would have enjoyed it even more, however, if he had been traveling with me.