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Gordon's D-Zone Arcive (2006-2014)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A CLOSED CHAPTER OF MY LIFE?

I’ve decided to write a last one before I go to Leeds this Tuesday. To be honest, now that I’ll be officially conferred my Masters in Disability Studies I can’t help but look back at all the events that brought me to this point in time.

It was my visual impairment which forced me to stop doing my original Masters in English. Perhaps that was the second awakening moment in my life when I realised that the fact that I had an impairment had an effect on my position in society and on the way people looked at me. If you recall, my first ‘awakening’ moment was when I realised that even if to my friends I was just another boy, to society I was the ‘poor, dependent, special needs’ child.

From then on, I became involved in learning more about myself and, more importantly, about the way society might be creating problems with people having impairments, until I discovered (so to speak) the ‘social model of disability’. The main concept behind the social model is simple, yet powerful:

Disability is created by a society that takes little or no account of people with impairments.

I can’t possibly explain, in so little time, all the things that have happened to lead me to start studying Disability Studies. However, suffice it to say that the social model and its alternative interpretation of my situation renewed my sense of self-worth and of the crucial importance of rising up against the many misconceptions or exclusive policies that are still the cause of social exclusion and oppression.

I will update you on my Leeds graduation possibly in August as when I get back, I’ll be caught up in so many things!!! But, if you want you can still enjoy reading what Namuh is up to in my story at Cosmos Online. Currently, Namuh is learning about Judaism and learning about good and evil…

I can’t believe that on Thursday 10th July at 1345GMT, I’ll be concluding this chapter of my life. On second thoughts, not really. Some say that it’s only the beginning of more work and hard research (uhm). Incidentally, this ceremony will be broadcast as a live web cast on Thu 10th July at 1345 GMT – if you’re interested (!)

That’s all for now! Wish me luck - I’ve got to catch a plane remember – so I’ll need it!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Here I go ... (Part 2)

Last time, I was discussing how disheartening it was to learn that disabled people in Malta are still unequal in society when it comes to education, employment or living conditions according to National Census figures for 2005...

I feel that apart from the disabling barriers that disabled people face, I cannot fail to mention the effects of our recent history. Although inclusive education has started in Malta as far back as 1994, many disabled people were denied a proper education. Consequently, when disabled people of my generation search for a job, they usually have little education or experience and they are given a polite refusal. It's catch-22...

And besides this, workplaces may be inaccessible to disabled people in the first place or employers are reluctant to have a disabled employee. But that's not always their whole fault. After all, the way we are depicted - as helpless or dependent doesn't help us in the least when we search for jobs... And yes, the fact that we are virtually invisible in society only helps the myths to grow till some disabled people may actually start believing that hey cannot do anything...

You may rightly ask me: but you made it, didn't you? Ah, but you're ignoring the fact that I had the support of family and friends plus I found teachers and people in my life who challenged me. Without all of this support, I would probably be doing something very different and believing that my inability to get a job is because of my impairments... And believe me that is the greatest tragic lie you can believe if you are disabled. Been there…

Finally, I am not sure whether I'll be able to write much or at all in the coming week. That's because I'll be flying to Leeds for my graduation! At long last, on Thursday 10th July I'll officially be awarded my MA in Disability Studies. My parents who thought this would be a good opportunity for a long holiday decided that we should spend two weeks rather than the one I planned would be enough.

I'll try NOT to think of the accumulating workload that'll be waiting for me at the office when I get back. But there's still a week to kill I guess…

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Here I go ... (Part 1)

I'm finding myself immersed in work. OK, it's not like I'm running the country or anything but I've spent the past weeks looking through statistics and data. Apart from the fact that it's quite taxing on my ears and eyes - as I try to read the information with my screen reader as much as possible but, at times, prefer to use my magnifying glass to sort out some data. However, this post is not about my research secrets...

As I look at the data collected from our National Statistics Office Census 2005 results, a rather grim picture of the situation of disabled people emerges. I don't mean this morning to start you off with sad news. But I was rather dismayed to discover that:

1. There is significantly low employment amongst disabled people.

2. Many have attained little in terms of education

3. A large amount do not have access to the internet and

4. Lack adequate access to decent living conditions

Of course, I'm looking at these figures together with a colleague of mine. And I cannot as yet make any claims. On the other hand, many of the issues creating these realities can be traced to the fact that disabled people have unequal access to society.

If I take my life as an example, some things I cannot access include:

- Public transport - yes there are some 100 buses that are accessible but I cannot rely on them to get to work or go anywhere.

- accessing some buildings or going out where I want - Indeed, last Wednesday I almost fell from a pavement into the road after I was trying to get to the pavement (no, I wasn't on a suicide mission).

- some information is difficult for me to access - Since I've still got my visual impairment (currently unstable), I do still find sites that are difficult for me to access and sometimes I just give up!

Hang on for Part 2!

Friday, June 13, 2008

We're not being fair ... and Friday the 13th?

We're not being fair ...

Well, finally I found some time to write. Remember the last post when I submitted the press release the Maltese Council of Disabled Persons sent? At least one newspaper reported our statement. I did get a bit annoyed that, on commenting, one of the organisers stated that we were being “unjust and unfair”. So, is it fair for us to be portrayed as helpless individuals? Is it just for an NGO claiming to ‘help us’ achieve a better quality of life, to portray us in such a way as to render our life seem less than human? You draw your own conclusions:

“… However, the fundraising event was lambasted by the Maltese Council of Disabled Persons which criticised adverts promoting Charity 12 for giving the impression that having an impairment was a tragedy.

The council said whether disabled people could do things or not did not depend on their impairment, but on the "disabling obstacles and attitudes we face on a daily basis".

Reacting to the statement, Razzett said the criticism was "unfair and unjust". It explained that the organisation's mission was to improve the quality of life of people with physical and learning disabilities by focusing on the individual's abilities and promoting inclusion and independence.

It said the promotional material referred by the council was designed to show the public the challenges faced by people with disabilities and that most of these difficulties were created by society itself. It also served to showcase the hard work undertaken by the organisation, its staff and volunteers to enhance the potential of its clients.

Razzett chief executive Nathan Farrugia said he agreed with the council's views that disabled people were equally capable of achieving high levels of independence and self-worth and that equal opportunities were often restricted by policy and accessibility issues. He said that practical solutions were necessary to ensure that the gap between the present state of affairs and the ideal is bridged.

"Our services are aimed at just that; a means of support for those who need to prepare themselves physically through our leisure facilities, mentally through our self improvement and learning activities and socially through our integrated activities for the reality of today. Services which, thanks to the generosity of the Maltese public, have no financial, physical or psychological barriers," he said.

(extracted from: “The Sunday Times of Malta”, 8 June 2008 : Thousands Raised for Charity).

FRIDAY THE 13TH

Obviously, as today happens to be Friday 13th, I can’t help but share with you some events that cannot be easily explained off.

First, as I was getting ready for a conference, a man using his mobile phone some seats back was talking on his mobile phone. With someone on the other side! He was telling him that he was worried that his children might not see him on TV, as this conference would probably be reported for the evening news. Why? Basically, he told his friend that a ‘handicapped’ person might be blocking him… I wonder whom he was referring to…

Then, a doctor came to me and told me how much he ‘loved’ people like me and assured me that even if I was unfortunate for not being able to walk I was fortunate in other areas which begs the question – was I fortunate in meeting him or not? A definite nope!

So those events convinced me that there is such a thing as bad luck on Friday 13th but only if you happen to be at the bad place with the wrong company…

And I'm sorry to report that

there is nothing supernatural with these events, except that they happened in the same place in a short period of time. But may be it's me ... sigh!

Friday, June 06, 2008

MCoDP PressRelease: Charity Fundraiser

The following press release issued by MCoDP is a reaction to recent charity fund raising by an NGO which gives training and therapy services to disabled people.

In their ad, they encourage viewers or listeners to ask themselves whether they would be able to do things if "they couldn't walk, see or hear". Following this, the public is told that instead of feeling sorry for people like ... err ... me, they should donate something to their charity. However, the irony of it all that in the process, our value as disabled people - especially our competence and worth- is put into question. Here's the press release:






Maltese Council of Disabled Persons
Kunsill Malti tal-Persuni b’Dizabilita



“Xejn Dwarna Minghajrna!” - “Nothing about us without us!"


Top: Full title, slogan and logo of MCoDP - Hexagon divided into six triangles filled with the colours (clockwise) yellow, pink, green, light blue, violet and red respectively - each colour representing the six main impairment groups.




The Maltese Council of Disabled Persons (McoDP) objects to the way the Razzett tal-Hbiberija is undertaking its fundraising campaign. In one advert promoting its Charity 12 campaign, we are given the impression that having an impairment is a tragedy and that our life as disabled people is less than that of others in our society. Our members, who have a wide range of impairments, including physical, sensory and intellectual impairments, feel that this is a distortion of our experience and that such advertising may do more harm than good in the long term.



Indeed, Asking the public whether they would be able to do the things they did today if they had a physical, visual or hearing impairment does not help in the cause of disabled people. Admittedly, Razzett offers some disabled people with services and training that may assist in developing their potential, but these services do not replace the real changes that we need to have in society to achieve equality. Moreover, given the proper means and support, disabled people are not ‘limited’ by their impairments as this advert Implies.



In fact, Our experience as disabled people reveals that whether we can do things or not does not depend on whether we have an impairment but is often hampered by the disabling obstacles and attitudes we face on a daily basis. In addition, such advertising has negative effects on our entry into the labor market as many young disabled people are finding themselves being rejected for employment.



We strongly urge all organizations of and for disabled people to avoid portraying us in a negative manner, thereby undermining our legitimate claims to be part of our society and communities and to adopt positive fundraising imagery developed through direct consultation with established disabled activists who are also themselves disabled persons.



Gordon C. Cardona (President)

Maltese Council of Disabled Persons (McoDP)

Monday, June 02, 2008

A DARK CHAPTER OF MY PAST (PART 2)

In my last post, wasn’t implying that IQ tests aren’t measuring something. But I don’t believe it’s intelligence as such but is only gauging into a very limited definition of intelligence. After all, these tests emerge out of a set of criteria established by a culturally-influenced science. It also assumes that intelligence depends on the ability to write or read – and generally assumes that people who are taking the test are able to see or hear.


Of course, this doesn’t mean that we should disregard any differences or qualities in each person. Indeed, I’m not advocating that everyone is the ‘same' but that everyone should be equal. Obviously, there are people with which I may feel more comfortable expressing parts of me. After all, I have my tastes and dislikes! Yet, it is in valuing our diversity and in giving everyone the opportunity to grow at his/her own pace that humanity would really be said to have improved. And the fact that some differences are regarded as ‘good’ and others as ‘bad’ doesn’t mean that those making such claims are right or that their opinion should set limits to the rights of others – as is happening today – in spite of arguments that favour diversity and human rights!


Indeed, it is very dangerous for people to be defined in terms of their perceived intelligence. On the other hand, I believe that as far as education is concerned, the information and teaching presented should be compatible with the way the student learns best. However, tailor-made education is not always practiced in education as well as it should be. In addition, IQ tests’ use in education should be reassessed as such tests only risk to place children or adults into boxes (whether it be ‘gifted’ or ‘intellectually impaired’) that do nothing but create fertile ground for expectations about the person whilst ignoring the person as a whole.

Well, that’s my confession! I tried taking an IQ test lately for fun but, as expected, I scored lower than average! I’m really not surprised since my vision isn’t that great right now. And perhaps it’s also a form of poetic justice that should teach me to look beyond what science might say about me. And believe me, I’ve been told that my medical history alone can fill in for the first volume ..

Sunday, June 01, 2008

A DARK CHAPTER OF MY PAST (PART 1)

I spent the best of this week sick with high fever. I barely had enough energy to write or do anything ‘constructive’ – perhaps may be doing an odd job or two on my other blog . However, since I launched this project, I cannot help but reflect on the past and how I’ve changed since. On the other hand, I have realised that some of the things that I believed then and liked to do then are still important to me. Of course, there are things (like my writing) that I’m proud of but others that I feel rather ashamed of.


For instance, in my attempt to feel part of ‘something’ bigger than myself, I joined societies that you might term ‘elitist’. In fact, as recent as 2001, I was part of the International High IQ Society – it was still known as the New York High IQ Society when I joined. I got in after successfully completing an IQ test and was formally accepted as a member. On their records, I'm still a member but, ironically, their site is inaccessible to visually impaired people!


Now that I think about this part of my past, I recognize that joining this society was a way by which I could feel better about myself – and yes, ‘superior’ than other people! More importantly, it was a sure move to embracing the view of science (or the medical model) – that ‘impairment was the cause of all my problems’. To compensate for my perceived lack, I resorted to clinging to a scientific test that validated me as a person. Then, it must be said, I had a lot of faith in 'scientific truth'..


Its hard for me to write about this dark chapter of my past. Today, I am aware of the history of IQ tests and how they were used to sterilise, or even exterminate, various groups of people, including disabled people (especially people with an intellectual impairment), racial/ethnic minorities and groups that didn’t score well on the test. In fact, IQ tests cannot be separated from the eugenic movement - which purportedly sought out to ‘purify the human stock’. Sadly, this subtle implication of an IQ test is still lost on schools and is generally held to be an ‘objective’ measure of intelligence (for a good background of IQ test’s origins read the article Rethinking Schools).