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Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Making and Breaking of Relationships

I interviewed two psychology professors at UC Berkeley for my latest article in The Daily Californian. "The Making and Breaking of Relationships"

The strategies in the article are powerful tools at our disposal, no matter the nature of the relationship (romantic, friendship, any type of association) or situation. Neurodiverse disabilities like AUTISM mean we need as big a toolkit as possible to navigate life and societal norms designed for a narrower set of the population.

I personally found a lot of irony in the "self-distancing" strategy discussed in the article. When I first started learning to communicate via typing as a teen, I used to always refer to myself in the 3rd person - I was, "the kid with autism," "the noble youth with autism." I was told every time to rephrase it in "first person" mode and use the words "I" and "Me".

At that time I grappled with the conundrum of reconciling the "We to Me."
Now I feel like I've come back a full circle, - "Me to We" was actually a good thing all along.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Holi @Cal

Holi 2019 @ Cal

Another March Holi at Cal that was a total Blast

Holi 2018 @ Cal

Holi March 2018 at Cal in the Foothill Parking Lot was loud and crazy.
I loved it.

Here's a video of Holi at Cal from a previous year

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

DeCal Midterm Student Presentations

Listening to Student Presentations for the Midterm Paper in my 1:68 Autism DeCal Class. 

Pretty good!!!

Have already read a bunch of the papers and will upload grades and comments as soon as my midterms are done next Wed!!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Friday, February 1, 2019

Disability in Society

A presentation for my Community Planning and Public Policy for Disabilities Class in Wurster Hall.

Reflection: The Role of Disability in Society by Jaeger

The author emphasizes that disability is a social construct, which makes its impact all the more significant. This social construct can be seen in terminology that reflects societal attitudes and changes. Disability is often the master status that defines the individual. I am uniquely Hari who also happens to have Autism. Autism should not be the sum total of who I am.

This master status impacts the way the disabled are treated. It reinforces stereotypes, exclusion, oppression, hostility, feigned concern, over-romanticism, sentimentality, indifference, and marginalization. It presumes incompetence in the workplace or some kind of economic burden on the employer. Even with laws like ADA in place, only 25% of the disabled are employed. The unemployment rate is 70% compared to 5% in the non-disabled population.

An irony is that many typical people are willing to support equal rights for minority groups based on race, gender, sexual orientation etc. Yet there is social distancing when it comes to disability. Disability is seen as distressing with varying levels of reactions depending on the nature of the disability.  

When enough people in a society try to classify a set of people they come up with ways to exclude them socially and legally. Even the founding fathers thought we disabled just needed to be taken care of. The supreme court has time and again, taken a narrow interpretation of disability protection laws even as they have allowed for a broad interpretation in other laws.

The disabled need to be part of the decisions made about them, both individually and as a group. Historically this has not been so. Even media images are guided by non-disabled people. The 7 negative stereotypes about the disabled that continue to perpetuate in the media are -  pitiful and pathetic; supercrip; sinister, evil, and criminal; better off dead; maladjusted and their own worst enemy; burden; and unable to live a successful life.

The world is built to cater to the needs of the abled perspective. They have no idea of the everyday challenges of the disabled in trying to navigate this environment. The social perspective sees disability as the result of an unsuitable environment, a kind of Disablism. Hence the need for social justice. If the environment is changed through laws and social norms, the disability lessens.

The idea of access is both physical and intellectual. Physical access is the architectural access along with a dose of dignity. A wheelchair user should not have to use a separate ramp or elevator at the back of the building. The spatial aspects of enablement in Pineda’s article could well be fulfilled by the planned cities envisioned by Le Corbusier which Alexander is so critical of in his article. On the flip side, the compartmentalized nature of a tree city could end up with some inadvertent segregation as well.

Intellectual access requires clarity and organization in the way information is presented. Education and Information is power in a democracy and the disabled need equal access to it. They need equal opportunity to understand the content.  Technology itself is both a blessing and a problem. It’s hard to keep up with changing technology and the smaller screen sizes do make things more challenging.

Disability is growing and a worldwide issue. The author cites the number at 550 million, only 15% disabled at birth. Ironically the US is the country that provides most rights. Some countries even restrict access. Australia has turned away immigrant families who have disabled kids. The parents were welcome but not the disabled kid.

Though we have made progress in disability laws, the implementation is lax. For example,  a core principle of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is that a student should be removed from general education only if his disability is so severe as to impact his educational needs. Yet time and again my school district refused to mainstream me. Their nod to compliance with the law was to allow me in the same playground as other children during recess. Somehow by magical osmosis, I was supposed to pick up skills from them.

As a disabled individual, I am thrilled that we have laws. But unless social attitudes shift, we are not going to see meaningful change. At the end of the day, all of us, whether abled or disabled, have a common goal, to be a meaningful and productive member of society.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Planning a DeCal takes work

The DeCal team has been meeting and planning our lectures for some time now. I was able to suggest a few topics too.

We have a number of guest speakers lined up for this semester. Lots of emails to sent and dates to be coordinated.

I think this is going to be a most interesting experience for both the students and me.