Tag Archives | education issues

I Stand With Henry

I’m back to the blog this weekend to talk about a self-advocate that I found out about this week, and to ask you to take five I stand with Henryminutes out of your schedule to let him know, “I stand with Henry!”

Self-Advocacy Rocks

I used to work with teens with intellectual disabilities. Some of them weren’t even aware when they started with my agency that they had any rights. A few from that same group left my program see me on the street now and are excited to tell me about the latest way in which they stood up for their rights.

It’s an amazing privilege, to work with someone on becoming a good self-advocate…to examine with them what that means, and to see it start to sink in. Seeing the person start to apply the skills in their lives – well, that’s a real “this is why I do this work” moment.

It takes courage to stand up for your rights, and practice – it’s a skill. I was always proud of the teens I worked with for trying, no matter how it turned it. I’ve had to do it myself as a person with disabilities, and it can be pretty daunting, even when you’re got support around you. I’m sure that I don’t have to tell many of you this.

Keeping all this is mind, you can understand why I stand with Henry, and why I think you should too.

I Stand With Henry…Do You?

Henry has the makings of an amazing disability self-advocate. A young man with autism, he’s non-verbal and uses a communication device. He wants you to know something:

Personally, I don’t see why he can’t go to his neighbourhood school. I stand with Henry.

If you do too, please show your support by leaving a comment on his video at YouTube, or on the blog that he wrote:

http://ollibean.com/2012/08/23/my-civil-rights/

There’s also a Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/IStandWithHenry

It takes a lot to put yourself out there like this. Let’s let Henry know that there are people who have heard his message and that agree that inclusion is the best way to go!

Have a great weekend…

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Encore Post – Work and ODSP: The Case for Providing Choice

This is a reblog of a post I wrote about working while on ODSP. I have some more things that I’d like to say about it, and wanted people to see this post for context. Back with new content by Monday at the latest. :) – Sarah 

When I first started volunteering with people with intellectual disabilities, long before myODSP brain avm and surgery, I was perplexed as to why the people on ODSP that the agencies supported didn’t work more.

Shouldn’t Everyone, Even Those on ODSP, Work if they Can?

I knew that many of these people were on Ontario’s government support system for people with disabilities: the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). I knew that you could only make a certain amount of money each month before your earnings started to affect how much you got from ODSP each month. And I knew that many people with disabilities were highly motivated to stay on the ODSP program because ODSP provides medical benefits that most jobs that a person with intellectual disabilities would not be able to obtain.

However, being still in my teens at the time and being blessed (cursed?) with an over-developed sense of fairness, I wondered why, if these people couldn’t work for pay, they didn’t volunteer more. There were definitely places in the community that were happy to have them volunteer.

Why did I have to go to school all day, 5 days a week during the school year and then spend 5 days a week working all day, and my parents have to work all day, every day to keep my family going, when the people that I was volunteering with could simply decide that working wasn’t something that they wanted to do, and sit around and collect a cheque?  The question festered in the back of my mind. I know that it festers in the back of many peoples’ minds.

A Change…but Why?

Fast forward years later, after the brain AVM and the surgery, to working with youth with intellectual disabilities. Not very many of the youth with intellectual disabilities that I worked with decided that they didn’t want to work when they were done school, but there were a few who did. I counted them as successes in my program, because, even though they weren’t out and doing something, they truly were doing what they wanted to be doing. I’d have rathered that they be out and working, because I knew they were going to get bored very quickly, but it wasn’t what they wanted. So we planned for them to be home.

I hadn’t resolved for myself why this had become “okay” for me at this point, except that I now strongly believed that people should be allowed to choose what they wanted to do in life – no matter what I, or anyone else, thought they “should” be doing.  It wasn’t until a debate on an internet  message board with somebody who thought that people with intellectual disabilities shouldn’t be getting any help from the government or government agencies at all, that volunteer service would more than provide for their needs if we’d just let it (*that* particular conversation got me right riled up, let me tell you) that I sat down with a pen and paper and worked out for myself exactly why I felt income support for people with intellectual disabilities was necessary and why I thought they had every right to decide exactly how much or how little they wanted to work while they were receiving it. That cemented my change of heart about what people on ODSP should/should not be doing.

When It’s Not Your Fault that You’re Not Wealthy Enough to Choose…

People who get to the point where they can decide how much they want to work usually do it in one of two ways:  They come into adulthood independently wealthy (or, by some twist of fortune, become independently wealthy), or they work really damn hard to get to the point where they can retire early or at least take a reduced schedule…and you have to have a fairly high-paying job to allow you to do this.

People with intellectual disabilities generally don’t have the option of going to school to get the education required to get a really high-paying job that’s going to allow them to retire early, or have a lot of money to invest. You can’t invest while you’re on ODSP.  In fact, you can’t have more than $6000 in your bank account at a time when you’re on ODSP, or you’re cut off.  The money you get is for survival, not for building a future.

It cuts down the options. No savings. No education. They can’t make the choices we do, because they don’t have the monetary resources to make those dreams a reality, nor the options of going to, say, college or university to get better-paying jobs.

In fact, for some people, meeting their basic needs on their monthly ODSP allotment is a dream that they can’t make a reality.

Once I realized how far behind the eight ball not just people with intellectual disabilities, but people with disabilities in general are in society, it made me look with more patience and compassion on those who chose not to find work while on ODSP. I did choose to work. But I’ve been blessed with a good education and very supportive family and community to help fill in the “gaps” that have made working difficult for me; not everyone is so lucky.

I’m not trying to be negative; I sometimes just need to acknowledge the realities of the world that we live in.

I like to believe in the hope of fabulous things even in disappointing times.  I hope you do too. :)

Have a great weekend…

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Teachers Abusing Students With Disabilities

It seems like more and more stories about teachers abusing students with disabilities are popping up in the news these days. There’s the story of the Cherry Hill, New Jersey father who discovered that his son, a 10-year-old with autism, was being verbally abused by hiteaching abusing students with disabilitiess teacher, and the more recent story about the 14-year-old with brain damage in who was wheeled into a box in his wheelchair and sometimes shut in it to deal with his outbursts. My question, on reading these stories has been: How many untold stories of teachers abusing students with disabilities exist for each one that gets reported?

Teachers Abusing Students with Disabilities: How Big Is the Problem?

The small amount of research into teachers abusing students in general suggests that the (reported) incidence is quite low.  However, students with disabilities are easy targets in educational systems where teachers are overworked and expectations are very high:

  • Students with disabilities who have been mainstreamed into regular classes are often fighting for increasingly fewer Educational Assistant supports
  • As class sizes grow, teachers have to manage learning needs on a wider and wider spectrum within one classroom with less individual support for students.
  •  In Ontario at least, while all teachers are required to take *some* special education courses are part of their training, they’re not required to specialize or stay current in it unless they plan to work in Special Education. The lack of training may mean that teachers don’t know how to deal with a student’s frustrating behaviours and may end up doing something inappropriate out of ignorance, especially if resources like IEPs and behaviour/safety plans aren’t easily accessible at all times.
And, of course, the characteristics of some disabilities make students who have them very vulnerable:
  • A non-verbal student with few ways of communicating is much less likely to report abuse.
  • Some students with disabilities may not understand that they’re being abused, and so may not report it.
  • Power differentials may make students with disabilities afraid to report a teacher abusing them.

I’m in no way suggesting that all teachers abuse students with disabilities. However, it seems telling that once parents started to wire their children with disabilities and send them to school, as the Cherry Hill father did, all sort of report of teachers abusing students with disabilities verbally began to come in. http://www.chron.com/living/article/Parents-wire-kids-to-prove-teachers-verbal-abuse-3509966.php Not that wiring your children is necessarily a good idea, because of potential legal ramifications. But I can see why a parent of a child who doesn’t communicate verbally might take that step. No matter how frustrating a teacher’s job circumstances might be, teachers abusing students with with disabilities (or any student, for that matter) is wrong.

Teachers Abusing Students with Disabilities: I Don’t Know Why This Is So Complicated

Teachers and Principals:

  • Refer to behaviour/safety plans and strategies, and follow them. If something strikes you as “Wow, I wouldn’t want that being done to my kid”, request that the plan be reviewed with your Board’s behaviour specialist or a behaviour specialist from an agency.
  • Keep families in the loop. Review behaviour plans/strategies each year at the IPRC.  Keep a communication book going between the school and home.
  • Keep each other accountable as staff for what sorts of behaviour interventions you use, when, and why.
  • Remember that when students with disabilities do report, they may not be able to do so as eloquently as students without disabilities. Sorting out the details may take more work and may have to involve paraprofessionals. The complaint is still valid, needs to be investigated, and the needed resources should be brought in without hesitation.

If you wouldn’t do it to a student who doesn’t have a disability, don’t do it to a student who has a disability. If you wouldn’t use a method of discipline with the parent in the room, there’s something wrong, and you need to reconsider what you’re doing.

Most special education teachers are in that field because they love it and they want to be there. But the ones that would put a student in a box or call students names don’t belong in the classroom. Let’s stop teachers abusing students with disabilities and keep schools safe for all students.

More on teachers abusing students with disabilities: https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/bitstream/1807/27602/3/Sharpe_Glynn_W_201103_EDD_thesis.pdf

Story on the “box punishment”: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2145965/Mother-distraught-school-puts-wheelchair-bound-son-box-time-out.html#comments

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“Maintenance Effort” and Special Education in America

maintenance effortThe special education budget in Ontario has been cut back further and further over several years, with very real effects of on the education of kids with disabilities. It’s nice to see different special education spending guidelines in America, even if it looked like there were going to be changes this year. It’s all about the obligation to meet “maintenance effort”.

A Change at the Federal Level in “Maintenance Effort”

For non-Americans who don’t know, education in the USA is managed at the federal level (as opposed to, say, Canada, where it’s managed at the provincial/territorial level). Historically, American schools were required to meet maintenance effort when it came to American special education spending. Maintenance effort dictates that schools must maintain or increase what they spend on special education from year to year.

However, Education Departmentwas prepared to release schools from the responsibility to meet maintenance effort this year, without the fines that generally accompany a failure to meet maintenance effort for special education. The amount spent this year in a school would be its new benchmark for special education spending.

And Yet Another Change in Special Education Spending

In response to letter from Kathleen Boundy, a co-director for the Center for Law and Education, the Education Department has changed its mind yet again. Melody Musgrove, director of the Office of Special Education, has rescinded the early decision and declared that schools must go back to meeting maintenance effort. Which makes parent and advocacy groups very happy. But I’d like to let to let them in on a little secret that we’ve known in Developmental Services in Ontario for a long time (and I’m sure a lot of other Ministries in Ontario/Canada know as well).

Meet Me at Camera Three, Advocacy Groups

Maintenance is actually a cut.

I know that we’re all dealing with inflation and rising prices and a bad economy.

Canadians and Americans need to keep on advocating for the funding that’s going to allow us to keep on providing quality education for *all* children, not just children with disabilities.

But you know all that, don’t you?

Giving Credit Where It’s Due

Excellent job, parents and advocacy groups and attorneys and  Kathleen Boundy, on getting the decision on not meeting maintenance effort reversed.  Keep up the great work. It’s a good day for special education in America.

For more information: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/speced/2012/04/feds_back_off_of_letting_distr.html

Have a great long weekend, everyone.

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Cultures of Inclusion

As we move into a society where creating cultures of inclusion for people with disabilitiescultures of inclusion becomes more and more important, administration of social institutions in particular need to remember two words: top-down.  It’s all about creating cultures of inclusion that start from the very top of the organizational hierarchy and pervade the entire organization, touching the person at the very bottom of the hierarchy.

*Your* Part in Creating Cultures of Inclusion

“You set the tone,” Dr. Greene (Anthony Edwards) said to young Dr. Carter (Noah Wyle) in the opening episode of the long-running “ER” series. This is true. We do set an example for others by how we interact with people with disabilities in all areas of life: at work, church, on the street, in the grocery store, at our kids’ hockey games, in PTA meetings…wherever we are. Chances are that if you’re in a group, someone there has some sort of disability, even if it isn’t visible.

Management’s Part in Creating Cultures of Inclusion

In organizations, though, management has an extra responsibility to “set the tone”. The phrase “culture of inclusion” describes an atmosphere where the staff in organizations and the people that they serve are comfortable with the fact that people are different and where people are treated with respect and dignity, as full community members, despite their differences. Good managers are aware of the legislation surrounding disabilities and hiring practices and know the advantages of having a diverse staff.  When managers embrace the ideals of cultures of inclusion, it filters down in their policies, the day-to-day of the organization, and the way the organization, whether profit or non-profit, serves the community.

Schools and Cultures of Inclusion

School administrations in particular can have a powerful effect by creating cultures of inclusion among students. Special education programs have been hit hard with budget cuts, and many students who would have had classroom Educational Assistant support in the past will not get it now. But perhaps this will spur educators to think outside the box about the nature of supports that students actually need:

  • Given the intensity level, frequency and duration of support that a student needs (not to mention what subjects interest them and what they’d like to do after graduating!), do they really need an EA?
  • If the student has an intellectual disability and is low-functioning (for lack of a better word), are there some classes that might interest them as an observer? A music class? A gym class?
  • Could volunteer students from the school go with some of the students in segregated special education classes to noon hour events?

Everyone can benefit from seeing students with disabilities participate in school events, and students with disabilities, especially those in segregated special education classrooms, often welcome the opportunities to meet other students and make new friends. In some schools, there isn’t much of a chance for anyone to get to know students in segregated classrooms, and that doesn’t promote cultures of inclusion.  Positive relationships with people with disabilities as children and young adults is going to carry over into adulthood for students without disabilities. Also, these relationships enrich the lives of people with disabilities. Particularly for people with intellectual disabilities, they’re an opportunity to try new things and learn valuable interpersonal skills. It’s very important that school administrators create opportunities for these relationships to happen.

Even cultures of inclusion that seems forced at first can develop into something more organic and spontaneous, and can benefit everyone.  Read about the Heads Up for Inclusion project, which focused on developing cultures of inclusion in several Ontario schools:

http://www.headsupforinclusion.ca/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3&Itemid=5

So, managers, remember…top-down! *You* set the tone for your organization when it comes to how people with disabilities are treated.  Set a good one.

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Transition Planning – Wishes and Dreams

This is the second post in a series on assisting young adults with transition planning as they leave high school and enter the adult world.  You can read the first here: http://www.girlwiththecane.com/transition-planning-1/

Community Living Kawartha Lakes developed a transition planning manual several years ago called “Building My Bridges from School to Adult Life – A Transition Planning Manual for My Future”transition planning which includes a page called “Wishes and Dreams”. The idea of people having wishes and dreams sometimes helps students to better understand transition planning.

Everyone has Wishes and Dreams

Many young people with intellectual disabilities haven’t thought about the fact that they could do anything in life other than what they’re directed to do. In fact, they may have been explicitly told that they shouldn’t try something because they won’t be able to do it, or told some activities simply aren’t options for them. It takes a while for some of them to really consider what they’d like to do in life and to start talking about it.

The people that have told them that they shouldn’t try something or out-and-out forbidden it have sometimes done it with the best of intentions. They’ve not wanted to set the young person up for failure, or put them in a position where they could potentially experience disappointment or rejection. Sometimes they have concerns about the student’s safety or well-being, and sometimes those concerns are legitimate. And everyone should be so lucky, to have people who are concerned about their physical and emotional well-being.

But everyone has the right to wishes and dreams, including people with intellectual disabilities. Transition planning is identifying those wishes and dreams, evaluating what’s needed to make them come true, and coming up with a plan to do so.

Transition Planning in Action

A couple of examples…

  1. A student may want to go on to post-secondary education. Transition planning will include working with the school to sure that the student has all the courses that he or she needs to apply. In Canada, going to community college or doing an apprenticeship is an ambitious (but not impossible) goal for a student with an intellectual disability, and may take some time to achieve. There may be significant setbacks and disappoints along the way. But students need to learn to deal with setbacks and disappoints, too, just as everyone else does. Just because dreams are ambitious and may cause a student disappointment are no reason not to include them in a transition plan.
  2. A student may want to live independently. Many students with intellectual disabilities require skill-building and safety training, and sometimes some support services, to ensure that they will be safe in an independent living setting. Transition planning will include working with the school to see what independent living skills the student can learn there, assisting the family to apply for funding for a life skills worker, educating the family on how they can teach life skills at home, and assisting the student and to apply for supported independent living housing arrangements. Transition plan goals should take into account that the individual can learn new skills before reaching the goal.
  3. A student may have a goal that may be unlikely to reach for anybody.  Not many people are going to be professional ballet dancers, for example. But no one told me when I was ten that I couldn’t take ballet, dream about ballet, and learn about what I needed to do to become one. I was eventually disappointed when I learned that I couldn’t be, yes. But I found ways to continue to keep ballet in my life. Transition planning for the student who wants to be a Hollywood director will include researching ways to indulge his love of film in the community, perhaps through a job at a movie theatre or video store and expanding his social network to find friends to go to the movies with. Transition planning should be creative.

Wishes and Dreams of Friends and Family

Good transition planning is person-centred. People who are important to the student, such as family, friends, teachers and support people should be encouraged to talk about their wishes and dreams for the student’s adult life. Ultimately, however, it’s the student’s life goals that should guide planning. As a transition planner, my first responsibility was to the student.

More about transition planning from the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (American resource):

http://nichcy.org/schoolage/transitionadult

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Election Day in Ontario

Today, Ontario is electing a new Premier. I’m curious as to how Ontario agencies who electionsupport people with intellectual disabilities have assisted the people they support to prepare for voting. I’ve never worked with any people with intellectual disabilities in my career who have been interested in voting in an election, so I’ve never had to go through that process. But I know that people with intellectual disabilities certainly do vote in elections. And why shouldn’t they?

Issues Affecting People with Intellectual Disabilities

The provincial governments administer income support for people who have disabilities that prevent them from working. In Ontario, this program is called the Ontario Disability Support Program, and it also covers medical, dental and eyewear costs. Most people with intellectual disabilities receive at least some support from this program, or have found work to supplement their income support with the help of the ODSP Employment Supports Program. They deserve to know which party is willing commit resources to keeping ODSP income support at its present level (which is only enough to keep people living at a poverty level) and who is committed to raising it. It’s important that the people affected by the issues vote and get their voices heard.

Every Canadian Over 18 Can Vote in an Election

I understand that the concept of an election might be difficult for some people with intellectual disabilities to understand. I’ve tried to explain to people I’ve supported why they should pay their taxes, and that was difficult enough. There’s much more to an election than, “We pay taxes so that the government has money to run our schools and post offices and to pay our doctors to take care of us when we’re sick” (there was more to the conversation than that, but that was the gist). And the thing about taking large amounts of time to prepare people for things like voting in elections is that front-line workers really have too much to do already. Their days are pretty packed.

However, every Canadian over 18, whether or not they’re living with disabilities and regardless of how well they grasp the issues involved, is entitled to vote if they want to. The politicians don’t care if a vote is well-informed or if someone votes because they like the sound of the person’s name; a vote’s a vote. So if a person with intellectual disabilities wants to vote and has had no education about elections at all, we really can’t, as support people, stop them in good conscience. They wouldn’t be the first to go into the voting booth not knowing a thing about any of the names and what they stand for; they won’t be the last.

It would just be much nicer if they had some preparation, some awareness, before going in, to the extent that agencies can manage. For those people supported that indicate prior interest, it’s the right thing to do.

Good luck to all the candidates.

 

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Recruitment Programs: Necessary, or Reverse Discrimination?

Recruitment programs in universities and for some government jobs, along the lines of “affirmative action” programs in America, have always made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I remember writing on a university exam that recruitment programs for racial diversity were a band-aid solution with which we should do away, in favour of focusing on initiatives that truly leveled the playing field for whites and minorities: programs that made it easier for kids from all races to stay in school, and that made higher education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Are Recruitment Programs Reverse Discrimination?

A couple of the youth with intellectual disabilities with whom I’ve worked have chosen not to use some social advantages that their status offers them, rather than admit that they have disabilities. I’m not sure whether it was out of a desire not to be lumped in with people with disabilities, or whether they were bothered by what’s arguably reverse discrimination. I know that when I considered applying for teacher’s college several years ago, I was put off by assertions that the universities I considered welcomed applicants representing different races, religions, sexual orientations, and people with disabilities, to encourage diversity within the student body.

“What, do you want a medal?” I thought, irritated. “You should be doing that anyway, without feeling the need to congratulate yourselves over it!”

I knew it meant that I stood a better chance chance of getting into the teaching school than someone with my academic and extracurricular record who didn’t have disabilities. This annoyed me too. I wanted to get in on my own steam, not because of my left side.

A Different Way of Viewing the Issue

I talked to a family friend about it, who said that I shouldn’t feel badly about taking my disabilities be a consideration. She pointed out that that having disabilities meant that I’d had to overcome some unique challenges to get to the point where I could get into teacher’s college and would mean that I’d have to overcome others to finish it. And, of course, it *is* good for students to be exposed to people in all areas of their lives who have disabilities. When I worked in schools, students were curious about my cane and my arm/hand and how it affected my life, and it actually gave me a common frame of reference that came in handy with some students with disabilities.

I never did end up applying for teacher’s college. Ultimately, I believe I’m in now in favour of recruitment programs in principle, despite my answer on the university exam (that was over 10 years ago, after all) but I still really wish that we lived in a world where everyone had equal access to resources, was regarded equally by hiring committees, and gave us no need for recruitment programs. I’ll stop there before I get into politics, because I know I said I’d let up on that for a while.

Is a Win-Win Situation A Good Enough Reason?

However, now, two months into unemployment and my only prospect potentially coming from a position perhaps coming from government funding specifically earmarked for creating employment opportunities for people with disabilities, I’m not feeling at all badly about taking advantage of that funding if it becomes available. I live in a very small town where the jobs for which I’m trained require a full driver’s license and usually your own vehicle, both of which are at least a year away for me now that my seizures are medically under control.  Many of those jobs also require two functioning hands, as do retail and food service. I’m trying to break into writing, but that may take a while.

There’s not a lot in my geographical area, in my line of work, that I can do, given my disabilities. So if there’s some government money out there earmarked for creating work for people with disabilities, bring it on. This time I do feel I’ve got a legitimate claim to it, because it’s either use it to compensate for legitimate challenges to obtaining work, or move somewhere else. And I like my where I live. It’s good for me. And I like to think that I contribute to my community (and that I could even more, someday).

It’s government money for a win-win.

That’s a good thing, isn’t it?

I’d be interested to hear other peoples’ opinions on this.

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Living with Spinal Muscular Atrophy in India – Guest Blogger


Today we have a guest post by Pratyush Nalam. Pratyush lives in India, where attitudes toward integrating people with disabilities into society are much different than they are in Canada and the United States. Thank you, Pratyush, for sharing your story with us,

Being differently abled – An Indian Point of View

Hello everyone!! I am Pratyush Nalam, an 18-year old guy living in Mumbai, India. I have just finished high school and entered college for my undergrad. It is wonderful of Sarah to allow me to share my story on this blog.

I suffer from a disability called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) which is a neuro-muscular and genetic disorder. It essentially means that I cannot walk due to the general weakness of my muscles. I also cannot lift any weight heavier than a one litre bottle. I am confined to a wheelchair and cannot move on my own. This disorder has no cure so I will never be able to walk.

Nonetheless, this hasn’t stopped me from doing anything and I always live life to the fullest.
My parents have been a pillar of support for me and have ensured that I don’t miss out on anything in spite of my disability. They have fought for me to get admission into normal schools. You might find this surprising being in the West, but it is a different story here in India and other developing countries. Schools are reluctant to give admission to students like me because an additional responsibility is placed on their head. This is in contrary to Europe and America where schools are positive about admitting any type of students and go to great lengths to ensure the child is taken care of even if he has special needs. Nevertheless, I must add that I am grateful to the schools I have studied in. They have taken good care of me and I am really indebted to them.

Challenges in Society

Living with a disability here in India (or any developing country for that matter) presents its own set of challenges. The first and foremost is accessibility. This has been the single biggest problem for me right throughout my life. You have steps everywhere but ramps will be present only in a few places. It is a great headache every time I go out. I have to think twice before going out whether it is for a movie, for shopping or just to have dinner at a restaurant. This is the reason I have always used a manual wheelchair instead of a motorised one. Life is much simpler because manual ones are lighter and it is easier for people to life when there are steps.

Another major issue is the attitude of the people themselves. People look at you in a different light whenever they see you in a wheelchair. They show unnecessary sympathy but no empathy. Moreover, you get all sorts of stares when you go out. You get the why-is-this-guy-in-a-wheelchair look as if it is a sin to be in a wheelchair and not be able to walk. There are even people who think that there is something mentally wrong with me. I have had persons asking my parents if I can hear and talk! I mean what nonsense is this! It is a Herculean task to make people understand that I only have a physical disability and my mental facilities are in perfect, working condition.

The Importance of Attitude

These challenges are faced on a day-to-day basis not just by me but anyone who faces a physical disability. Awareness among the common man is extremely low in such issues. Anyway, now I have entered college. I study at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay in the field of Computer Science Engineering. The field of technology has been my passion since childhood and hence, I have chosen the aforementioned branch. The institute has been very kind to me and they have been provided me with a motorised wheelchair to travel within the campus as distances on campus are very large. Ramps are present at most places and they have promised to build the remaining ones so that I don’t face any difficulty.

Living with a disability has not stopped me from living life just like anyone else but with some modifications. Life has been generally good and I am grateful to God for whatever I have. I also thank Sarah for allowing me to contribute to her blog. I also blog at  http://reflectionspn.wordpress.com/. It is a more general blog and I blog on all topics. You are free to contribute to my blog too. You can contact me at reflectionspn@gmail.com  or follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/pratnala.

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Again…time for something completely different…

I went to see “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” over the week-end.

A Bit of a Review

brain avmI really liked this installment of the “Potter” series (the final one in the series). I’ve been avoiding the films since the third one; there was something about that one that made me really sad. But this one I liked. The performances were very strong, the special effects were well-done, the 3D really enhances it…and, even though I haven’t seen the first part of “The Deathly Hallows”, having read the book several years ago was just enough to keep me from being totally lost in the plot. I missed the significance of a couple of small things, but I never felt absolutely clueless.

It’s not a movie for children who are easily frightened. Lots of snake footage and  and character deaths and things jumping seemingly right at you because of the 3-D.

(Funny story about being startled in movies: For the first year or so after having my stroke, anything that startled me would make my weak arm literally “jump” from wherever it was resting, sometimes right up in the air.  And everyone had to sit on my left in movie theatres because of the way the wheelchair seating is set up. My family must have thought I was either trying to smack someone or going into a seizure.)

Where Are the Wizards With Disabilities?

Back to Harry Potter. It occurred to me as I watched that no one in the wizarding world uses any sort of mobility aid: no wheelchairs, canes, or prosthetic limbs, not even among the Muggle children at Hogwarts. And nothing set up so that a Muggle child with physical disabilities could attend if he or she wanted to:

  • Have to *run* through the wall at the train station to get through
  • Stairs, stairs, stairs galore at Hogwarts
  • No way to participate in Qidditch (presumably a student with disabilities could earn points for the house other ways, though)
I guess that there could be wizarding spells  that might help one overcome the effects of disabilities, even if it’s just for a short time…

Not The Point, Really

The point of integration in schools has always been teaching students without disabilities that the students with disabilities really aren’t that different than they are…about learning to see the person before the disability…about building a community that includes all people, not “fixing” the ones that have something “wrong” with them.
CNN recently calculated (and I have no idea where they came up with this figure) that it would cost $42 000 just in tuition per year to send a child to Hogwarts. Well, if  I’m spending that kind of money to send my kid to a wizarding school, I want he/she to come out a well-rounded wizard, including having access to wizards from other countries, faiths and lifestyles. And I definitely object to keeping otherwise eligible students out of the school just because they have disabilities.
So what say you, J.K. Rowling? Let’s have the answer.

 

 

 

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