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

Friday, December 31, 2010

Mew Year ... Again?!

Hope all have a wonderful new year - not just the first day of 2011 (that too). Some words of wisdom that nay appear common sense. Don't drink too much and avoid drugs like death. I lost some of my old friends to thee habit. For all of you who, like myself, are sick or unwell, I won't preach to you the things we often here. I've heard so much already! Yes, life is beautiful but it's also unjust. Life isn't simply a question of attitude or self-determination but more to the accessibility, support, equality of opportunity and resources availivility. The truth is that life is full of contradictions and moments of pain and happiness. But don't forget that it's the only thing in life and we owe it to ourselves to build our world together. We can't afford to be passive critics but must do our part. To paraphrase Gandhi, we must be the change we want too see in the new year and beyond...

."All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual"
Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

All Shall Pass

I never thought I was so weak,
The world suddenly turning bleak.

Childhood memories of fun and games,
Lie burning in the archive of the past. All in flames!

I tell you that it's not me but my pain,
That is speaking, this life insane.

All shall pass the wise books says,
Yet the moment you're in agony, each second seems like eternity.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Another Christmas is Coming ...

One month from now, Christmas will be all over and we’re preparing for the New Year. Sadly, we have turned Christmas to a marketing event using Father Christmas to sell gifts to children. Yes, Saint Nick is becoming more and more like Old Nick – making us believe material goods and wealth can make us happy. But, the truth is that they don’t. Not the real happiness of being loved and valued as a person.
I don’t want to thread into sentimentality here. We will have enough of that soon. My point is that whatever we’ll be getting over the upcoming celebrations, it won’t solve our life problems or guarantee our happiness. I recall, as a child, how much I craved for a particular toy – only to discard it after just 2 weeks of use.
I admit, I haven’t really completely stopped craving for things. I also plan to get a few gadgets this Christmas and New Year as wll. So, I might be writing this for myself. It may be also the last post off 2010 since the weeks ahead will be rather hectic. I have to travel to Brussels to attend a conference on Tue 30 November and with the start of International Day of Disabled Persons on 3 December, I am booked for the first weeks of December at least!
I should take it easy. That’s what my doctor advised last time using different words. I wish I could just do that more often. Alas, it won’t be that easy in the coming days. That might be a good new year’s resolution I guess. To find more time for myself. Will I honour it? Ah… better leave it until the new year and take it from there.
Until next time…

."All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual"
Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Comfortably Numb

I realised yesterday how our modern technocentred world, we risk losing our basic ability for human compassion. Are we growing immune to human suffering?

I felt uneasiness as I became aware that while I was eating, in the background they were screaming, crying and shrieking wig pain and despair. Their voices ... Cholera victims were being transmitted In my living room.

And what was I doing? Eating a burger (a thing I do rarely). I felt bad with myself. It's as if I had opened my mind to my own immunity to suffering. It's like I suddenly reflected on what was happening.

These were real people. Actual distress. Yet, it appears that I've become so used to watching and hearing real or fictional war, violence and tragedy; that I tend to be left unmoved. Until yesterday.

Think about it. Are you comfortably numb?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My MaConversion - Part 2

Now, both Window Eyes and Mobile Speak helped me in my life. That I cannot deny. However, as operating systems change or are updated, after some time you also need to upgrade your screen reader. This means forking out hundreds of dollars each one or two years to get an upgrade. It’s because the screen reader must be able to read the screen and tell what the system is doing. Or something like that. Thus, it must adapt to the computer to work. Yet, that was the only solution to the problem of making a mainstream computer accessible. Or so I thought…

Then I dared to consider replacing my HTC with an Apple iPhone… Yes, it took a long time of convincing and reading. It had to be accessible. I listened to pod casts, read articles, visited the Apple site… to read about the new iPhone’s built-in accessibility features. Was it just hype>? But I took the risk and bought the iPhone 3GS. Believe me when I say that I was impressed! Never was so I excited by a mobile phone. And in truth, I am still excited as I discover more things to do. With its voice over screen reader, which is installed on every iPhone, I could do more and more. I also enjoy the feel of being able to use the touch screen and finding my way on different pages, especially when surfing the net on Safari when I’m using WiFi.

That would be impressive enough if it wasn’t for the fact that Apple introduced an innovative solution to providing accessibility to their products. Instead of having to install expensive software to make the system and the apps it runs accessible, the system provided a means users can access it and the installed apps with whatever means they preferred (Voice Over, Zoom, etc). No more running costs of upgrades to screen readers. Apple provided the possibility for disabled people to purchase a phone and be able to use it right away out of the box.

That is why I decided to switch to Apple. Judging by my experience with the iPhone, the future ahead should be bright. In fact, over the next 2 weeks I should be the proud owner of a Mac Book Air sporting OS X Snow Leopard. Yes, Christmas is almost here…

Friday, November 12, 2010

My MaConversion - Part 1

Finally, I have seen the light! Apple is the path to follow. No more Microsoft Windows and all those Microsoft products. True, I am still typing this on Microsoft Works and that will be the case for some more months. Then, it will be all over, Mr Gates.

No, really, don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate Microsoft or the PC and I have spent many happy times using a PC and experimented with Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs). In fact, I think I have bought four PDAs - the most recent being an HTC Tytn II. This also acted as a mobile phone. PDAs are great, yes, but since I acquired a visual impairment, I realised that it would be now impossible to use my old PDA phone.

I had the same issues with accessing my PC. Fortunately, nowadays text-to-speech software, which reads the screen, allows me to use a computer. I have used Window Eyes for more than 6 years now. I learned to touch type as now it was through the keyboard that I needed to control my computer. In addition, I dare say quicker and more efficiently than before when I relied on the mouse and still was doing ‘finger’ typing. However, much before I got my HTC, and I had an old HP PDA from the days I had good eyesight, screen readers for mobile phones were only being developed. Unless, of course, I didn’t want to buy one of those mobile phones designed for the blind.

I have no real problem with my visual impairment, but when a company is advertising its product for disabled people in particular, it usually means only one thing. Yes, extremely high costs! One of the PDAs ‘for the blind’ I checked out at the time cost over $1,500! No way am I going to spend that money on a PDA - whatever it does…

So, I waited and when the first mobile phone screen readers such as Mobile Speak started appearing, I was one of the first to get a copy. Believe me, the wait was worth it. At last, I got to access most of my PDA and could play music, check email, manage my contacts and calendar, etc. That brings us to the time I used an HTC Tytn II.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembering the Past

Today we remember the fallen soldiers and civilians. The first world, and later, the second world war, saw the loss of millions - the young, idealistic youth and the innocent and defenceless.

The dark realities of war are incomprehensible to most of us today - although some have tasted the fruit of isolation, alienation and inhumanity. I'll stop here and let you reflect on a first world war poem about Flanders fields - a region in Belgium where millions of mostly young men lost their lives. Many of the fallen are unknown and still buried there.

In Flanders Fields by John MacRae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

."All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual"
Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

Monday, November 08, 2010

I'm now 29

Another birthday is almost over. Thank goodness! I am always ill-at-ease when it comes to my birthday. I don't really know why. It's not because I realise I'm getting older. Well, that too. But it's at this time that I look back at my life and ask myself whether I have achieved anything so far.

I did find my facebook wall flooded with messages with some coming in as I type this. That indicates that I am not forgotten. Yet, I just don't know why I can't see the point in celebrating my birthday. After all, today wasn't such a great day. I had to stay home because I sustained an injury during a weekend conference on Saturday.

I did enjoy the conference mind you. It was a training session for disabled people to help in conducting disability equality training (DET). You've probably never heard of DET. In a nutshell, it involves raising awareness about the issues pertinent to disability, such as the barriers and negative attitudes that prevent disabled people from participating in society and which exclude us from society.

I met other disabled people and shared ideas and experiences. Apart from being one of the presenters at the conference, I got to be a participant as well. On the whole, the hotel we stayed in had good food and in my accessible room, I managed on my own. Indeed, after making a risk assessment, I decided that I would attend without a personal assistant. Even if I say so myself, I did fairly well and managed to survive the weekend. The fact I was in my own country helped me in opting for a PA-free conference.

What about the accident? I have to mention that inasmuch as our hotel was great, it had terrible lighting conditions. And long corridors... I was making my way to my room for an afternoon rest and, yes, I took a wrong turn left. How was I to know there was a 20cm step there? In a matter of seconds, me and my electric wheelchair crashed on to the hard floor. That changed my good relationship with gravity. I screamed and shrieked until assistance came to help me.

I am lucky in a way. I was also thrown off my electric wheelchair. That sounds like bad luck. But, believe me, if that heavy thing had fallen over me, I would probably be in hospital right now - or worse! True, I felt excruciating pain in my knees and elbows. I banged my head which confirms that I have a hard head. I had some bleeding too. It was a traumatic experience I admit that. I realised that this wasn't good considering I was just recovering from hospital.

Thankfully, I managed to wash, dress and prepare myself for Sunday. Admittedly, I was on a diet of Panadol that day. That meant I was more tired than usual with my body temperature fluctuating. Today, it's my birthday and I'm still in a little pain. However, my body appears to be reacting well to the medication. I think I need to stay at home for another day.

I think getting all that out of the system changed my gloomy mood. There are a few hours left... I need to start the celebrations!

PS: In spite of all the tempting offers, I regret that I must refuse to become a stunt man for your next movie blockbuster.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Rite: A Poem

It is the death of another day.

As the sun sets far away.

I lay in bed in fear and awe.

Will the sun rise again?

It is the rite -

Of day and night,

Of dawn and dusk.

Of birth and death.

That feeling of not knowing,

The next turn to take.

Will there be a tomorrow.

What if nothing?

I cannot help but wait -

For sleep takes over.

A kind of death.

Inevitable. Necessary.

Will I wake up again?

Will darkness turn into light?

Will I prevail over nothing?

Does it matter?

I trust in the rite. I hope,

That dawn will follow dusk,

Day will replace night,

Life will survive death.

But it is only a hope,

The day after may never be

So now, we must be free.

And hold on to nothing.

Gordon C. Cardona – 17 October 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Body Paradox

Yesterday, I finished my second day at work after a long absence. I was relieved to know that I had got through a second day as the first one was difficult and physically stressful. However, I got to meet my colleagues again ... And my friends. I felt a person again. At the same time, I am changed by my previous experience at hospital. Was it a nightmare?

One may be forgiven to think that my return to work was premature. Don't think I didn't have my own doubts. Yet I knew that I had to get away from the temptation of giving up to self-pity. I had to live again for this life without people was no life at all. It's hard to admit I know but so true.

Going back to work was necessary to remember who I was. Or rather to shift my attention from my body which had been the fixation of those around me. Not that it was inappropriate but perhaps too much.I wasn't my medical condition. Not my impairments. Here comes the paradox. I was a person, yes, but the world knows me through my body and interacts with my face, voice or touch. I won't go as far as taste or smell but those also come with the package.

Thus, in all honesty, deciding to start working was influenced by the fact my place of work was accessible. So, while I am not my body, the body is part of me. It's surprising how often I've met people who profess their commitment to equal opportunity and then drag their feet when it comes to providing things that would really make a difference. Not that there's anything intrinsically wrong with dragging your feet - believe me I've done quite aplenty in my life (literally and not).

Believe me, all the words in favour of inclusion and equality cannot hide the fact that having a lift and a screen reader gave me the choice to work again. Of course, society played a vital part. And so is the mutual respect and support of my friends and colleagues. Yet, in the real world, people - however good or kind - won't be carrying you up the stairs or read to you. Nor do I expect that'd. It's undignified and just unneeded! When there are other options.

In short, I come to a full circle. I am more aware of the influence of society, on the one hand, and thee inescapable presence of my body. However, I refuse to believe I'm determined by any of them. Indeed, it's in our interest to transcend them to make the world a better one for all.

."All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual"
Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Hospital after Shock: Random Reflections

On the 27th September, I was hospitalised at our state hospital Mater Dei where I had to spend nine days until I got better. Yes, the doctors and nurses and others who worked there at the M3 ward where I was consigned as Bed 9 were supportive and treated me well.

This post isn't about that. It's about the sense of helplessness and emptiness that hospital, like any institution, leaves behind. I remain amazed and somewhat shocked at how such an experience affects me on a personal level each time it occurs.

I remember getting into hospital with a job and ideas for my research thesis, only to discover that inasmuch as I pretended to be a significant person so to speak, i was once more a subject requiring a diagnosis and treatment followed by a prognosis. My daily routine dictated by a regiment comprised of blood testing, temperature readings, exercises and the visit of countless medical students who were supposed to discover "what was wrong with me.".

Granted,I did give my consent to these medical interrogations because I understand that these will be future doctors and they need to learn that what they refer to as patients were and are persons first. I also agreed to having my body scrutinised, I confess, because time became almost irrelevant when I knew that the decision on when I could leave was beyond my control.

Thankfully, our hospital has now the facility of offering cable television, a telephone service and Internet to each individual patient at a fee which meant that I wasn't totally cut off from the world. However, the screen needs some work as I found difficulties in using the touch interface given my visual impairment. Not to mention how awkward it was to answer the phone with my physical impairment. Honestly, this technology was partly disabling me which added to my frustration.sometimes I also relied on my iPhone to entertain myself at times I just couldn't sleep.

Yet, in spite of all the possible distractions I could think of, life here was missing something important. Friends and family did visit. Friends on FaceBook also sent their wishes. I was moved and thankful. And it wasn't enough. After a week, it felt a link with the world had been severed. Not forever but the damage had been done.

I'm not sure if you're understanding my position. In truth, I need to understand it myself. The fact is that the days I spent in hospital reminded me how terrible it is to be stripped of an identity and perceived only one dimensionally - in this context as a medical subject and object. The horror of realising that you are vulnerable and really nothing in comparison to nature and the universe. It's both a humbling and humiliating experience. To think that all my life i had tried escape from being reduced to a label or stereotype. To fight for the right to be who I want to be. Only to realise how easy it is to lose, even for a few days, exactly what?

I know that this is an atypical post. It's charged with personal reflections which may appear obscure and random. But there aren't devoid of meaning. I admit that this experience has affected me greatly. I need to put back the pieces. What is sure that it reawakened my awareness of the potential destructive power we have. The threat of an institution based on superficiality and generalisations.I'm referring to the disabling tendency of society to view people with impairment as partially human. Forgetting the fact that we don't want to be special but ourselves. And this isn't just about disabled people. It concerns all of us. As long as we keep living in fear of ourselves preferring the safety of our limited experience and misconceived prejudice, the world will …regress. I think that I will end this post here. For I return to work on Monday.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Killer Ramps

When disability issues started to attract the attention of politicians and policy makers in Malta, the idea of a disabled people was usually that of a wheelchair user. Consequently, physical access tended to be the single most important disability issue for the public. Thankfully, through a combination of awareness campaigns and better information, issues facing other impairment groups. However, in spite of the early emphasis on physical access and the passing of an Equal Opportunities Act (20000, physical access is still a real barrier to disabled people with mobility impairments. While accessible toilets, vertical access to buildings and wide enough doors are all what physical access, a basic requirement in accessing most buildings are ramps.

Believe me; finding accessible venues to access a service, such as a shop, grocer, etc is a headache. Even accessible private health clinics are hard to find. It took me years to find an accessible dental clinic for example, and now that I did, it made my life a little easier. Yet, there are still a significant number of places that are inaccessible while others may impose limits. Fancy watching a movie at the cinema from the back of the last row?

In addition, yes, before you can access a building, you need ramps. However, I shouldn't mention the obvious. I've known shop owners placing an inadequate ramp just for decoration I guess orj because perhaps believe we have super-human strength. I wasn't aware of the situation worldwide (not exactly), so I was a little amused and mostly shocked when I visited a link from David Eaves, which shows pictures of a few 'infuriating ramps'.

The link is:
Infuriating Wheelchair Ramps

And that's all for today!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Rite of Writing

Well, here I am writing another post after a long period of absence. Yes, I have neglected this blog, my pod cast and almost everything else that I used to publish online before. In my defence, I was catching up with my studies and, as usual, working. However, since today is my day off, I decided to write a few lines about my life so far.

I left you with a post on the world cup. I can say that now it’s over, I am back to my former self. I did have some good moments, I admit, especially when I got my predictions about who will win right. Sadly, I got the semi-final between Germany and Spain so wrong while my rival, Paul the eight-legged fortune-teller, got that right. Yes, ok, he got the winning country right as well! But… Let’s not go there… There was also my cousin’s wedding a few weeks ago. Great experience really. She married a guy from Brazil, which meant the wedding ceremony was conducted in Portuguese (I believe), Maltese and English. And when it came time for the marriage vows, she read her vows in Portuguese and he read them in Maltese. I wasn’t ready for that…

Anyway, people from across the globe came for the wedding, so I take the liberty of calling it my first international wedding of my life. During the reception, I got to meet a few cousins of mine from the US who came for the wedding (and a short holiday). I don’t want to brag about it but I will. I was told that I have people following me from across the sea. So, hello to you all! It’s good to know that someone, somewhere and some time, is reading this blog…

In the meantime, I was studying like crazy for my PhD topic during my free time. And writing, writing, and writing some more! Thankfully, after proofreading part of the PhD that was long coming, I submitted it and now will soon start to add another piece. However, once the work I had to do was now complete… well, I felt empty inside. It’s funny really; I guessed that I got to like my study and write routine and I looked forward to it. Although I really enjoy working at the office, over these two weeks my thoughts were on the ‘project’. Thus, I experienced frustrating moments when I got a brilliant idea but could not take a note of it since I was at a meeting… Or thinking about my ’project’ when I should really be having fun.

Ok, it was like an obsession. Or, yes, like being madly in love. There, I said it! I’m not sure if you can relate to my experience. However, I always end up with this feeling of emptiness when I finish writing a piece of work that’s been occupying me for weeks, or months. Once you’ve given birth to it, so to speak, you’re relieved, yes, but also sad. Sad because you know that you don’t have a purpose to write any more. It’s over! And you must accept that you need to move on.

I admit, writing can be a painful process. So, you ask, why do I persist? Some have suggested that I do it as a form of therapy. No, honestly, please. Others might suspect I’m a masochist who likes to torture himself with words. Original but no. I guess that I’ve been fascinated by words from an early age. Their power to create new realities and, sadly, their power to destroy. To think that such a simple alphabet could produce so many works of art and science. How much words have influenced religion and the way we look at the world and ourselves. I could go on forever. But I won’t.

After writing all that, I think I need a break. Inasmuch as I love writing, and exploring new forms of expression, I have learned that it’s often necessary for me to take a break and reflect on the past, the present and the future. Besides, I need to do more good reading and studying before I can start to draft another part of my thesis…. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

World Cup Fever

It's almost over! Finally, in about 14 days' time I'll be free from being bombarded with football mania ... Ok, I've got a bit interested in this peculiar game involving a number of grown men pursuing a leather ball and all the fervor associated with the sport.

I admit that i have never been really a sport person or had much interest in football or soccer [if you are American]. And that is not because i had a mobility impairment as someone once suggested but i don't find sports that exciting - although lately i have been making predictions on recently played games with getting 3 out of 3 right but i don't dare say if My guessing luck will continue.

So it is unusual for me to ask for the score and engage in a conversation where football is the main topic. Strange how you sometimes discover a new facet to your personality. Still, i am sure that this 'fever' will die out as soon as it came!!!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

An Apple a day ...

Well not quite ... As I slowly recover from a period of poor health which left me unable to do much writing, let alone blogging, I return gradually to reality Mot that vlogging represents any such leap vut this means that I am ready to look forward!

While a dental issue has been at the root of my recent health crisis, the apple in the subject line isn't related Indeed, it refers to my new gadget: an Apple iPhone 3GS... No not the latest version... But I have been blown away by all its features. Those who own one probably know what I'm talking about.

Besides this isn't a tech blog. What impressed me most, however is the fact I could access it out of the box as it comes with a screen reader as part of the package! Coupled by its gestures, I found the experience fun - although I should be using it more for studying.

I'm in for work tomorrow, so I'll wrap it up here. And I really can't afford an apple a day ... At least not this kind of apple!

Hope to be posting more on the iPhone 3GS experience in my ZoneCast. When I have the time, that is ...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Keep Going...

I've decided to cut off on using my social networks lately - Facebook, Twitter, etc. This isn't because I wwant to be a recluse or to withdraw from the world... or the cyber-world... but because I found that these were fast becoming a waste of my time and energy. especially given my current lifestyle where I need to balance work and study with the potential of burnout... so let me just say I need to identify my priorities. And updating my profile or tweet don't really help in completing my workload!

Perhaps I need to feel more in control lately. I already have to plan my transport schedule, my work hours and my tasks because if I don't - let's just say I'll be in trouble! One thing I've learned since acquiring my impairments is that one way to be effective is to plan ahead or as the Boy Scouts put it "Be Prepared!". Ok, I'm not always on top of things and there are a couple of areas where I slip and fail to reach my targets. Thankfully, I donn't slip literally since if I did slip, I probably would end up carpeted to the floor until someone passes by and helps me up.


Inasmuch as I hope to be in charge of my life, recently I have become more aware of the limits we have. And this applies to both disabled and non-disabled people. Well, if you listen to the news ... earthquakes in Haiti, Chile and China... and now volcanic ash has been causing problems to air travel in Europe - although things are now better and flights are almost back to normal. Although this also means the massive pollution caused by jet engines has resumed.

Life is unpredictable - more so because the volcana erupting is in Iceland... not a place I would have associated with lava and heat. But then, it's said that snow falls in parts of the desert. Anyway, my point is that this world is uncertain and any pretense that we can control it is but wishful thinking. But we're doing a 'great' job destroying it I'm afraid...

No, I'm not about to worry myself to dead about whether these events are the signs of the end. Indeed, I will go on with my life and help where I can to minimise the damage we've done to the environment. But, not to sound, fatalistic, the end - if it has to come - will come. Of course, it will come sooner if politicians, world leaders and owners of petroleum industries continue downplaying the seriousness of ecological human impact.

But now back to my life...

Monday, March 01, 2010

My Holy Talk

Before you think I joined some holy order or turned into an inspirational speaker, a little background is called for. Today I had to give a talk to a group of cadettes training to join Malta's police force. The Police Academy, as it is, is located at Fort St Elmo (Name not to be confused with that of the Sesame Street muppet Elmo!).

Now, as you can imagine, the fort was built by knights, of the Order of St John to be precise. There is much to be said about this period of Maltese history, and the knights did rule of Malta from 1530 to 1798. But this isn't really a history lesson. If you want more info about the Knights of Saint John, also known as the Knights of Malta, refer to the links at the end of this post.

Back to my account. As you know, the knights lived in a time where there were no access regulations for buildings, and people with severe mobility impairments were unlikely to be travelling around the island. Strangely enough, it seems horses had a better deal as they needed to be given access to the city with knights coming in and out with their stallions and stallionettes.

Fortunately, providence delivered yet again! The organisers identified an old chapel within the quarters of the police academy. This permitted me to deliver my 'sermon'... err, presentation on disability issues! OK, I confess, I realised it was a chapel only after my eyes adjusted to the new environment. I started seeing the light ...

What I first thought was an oddly decorated table was in fact an altar... and...

What I thought looked like church pews were, well, in fact... church pews!

Forgetting the darkness and rather spooky atmosphere, the acoustics were great... the architects of the time appear to have known one thing or two about that. In fact, I didn't even have to use a microphone! My voice could be heard so well, it could be heard miles and miles awayNo, not really. But it sounded great.

Given that I gave my talk in a chapel, in front of a group of police cadettes, ccan't I call the talk a 'sermon' and the cadettes my 'flock'. And given all the circumstances, can't I call this talk, 'holy'? Alright, you can't. But being disabled and having to face limited access can expose you to interesting experiences. And make you do things that non-disabled people would never dare consider, let alone do, for fear of breaking some social norms. But then isn't the spirit of thae law more important than the letter of the law?

Better stop there before this post really starts sounding like a sermon! Until next tine...

PS: My ZoneCast has been updated.
Visit Gordon's ZoneCast to download the most recent episode.

More info on the knights:

Knights of Malta site

Sovereign Military Order of Malta - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Easy Come, Easy Go...

Since my last entry, I had planned to get many jobs done...But due to my habit of procrastination and the urgency of work and study related tasks that had to be finished presto, I realise that I lost touch with what's happening in the disability scene around the world. I know, it may have happened before but I still feel bad when this happens...

Especially now that I find the terrible news that the UK has issued its assisted suicide guidelines, a story I got from Claire Lewis' blog in a post aptly entitled Getting Away With Murder: Discriminatory how-to guide is a national disgrace.

These guidelines will provide an easy way for those taking care or giving support to their 'dependent' love ones to kill them off as long as their act was one of mercy. The guidelines, as reported by “The Guardian:

"... Made clear that someone acting out of compassion, to help a terminally ill patient with a 'clear, settled and informed wish to die' was unlikely to face the courts. But persuading or pressuring the victim to kill themselves, or benefiting from their death, would encourage prosecution..." (The  Guardian Online, 25-02-2010)

Now I could be so naive and reassure myself that the condition stating that if my kind killer does not pressure me to ask for suicide, I should be safe. Wrong!

First, this is giving the word of the killer unprecedented power. After all, can the dead body defend him/herself? I think not.

Second, who will determine whether the person's wishes to die were not due to the fact I feel isolated. Thanks to the poor support systems, lack of access to society, or few choices of health assistance, for example? And I'm assuming that they were there in the first place... which can't be determined either.

Third, can you really prove that no kind of pressure from family members to end a person's life existed? Again, highly unlikely...,

Yes, I still shiver when I recall the nightmare I talked about last time. Of being half-conscious between here and there while a team of doctors decided whether I was worth the trouble to save.

Now, my loved ones can be a 'threat'. OK, these scenarios are slightly dramatic  but considering the 'hero status' some mercy killers attain in the media after they tell their story. Gives you good reason to mistrust the media...

The value of who we are, as people with impairments, is often set against economic or medical considerations, without stopping to look at our faces and listen to what we are trying to communicate.

Ironically, all this movement in favour of assistive suicide is framed in a world that preaches equality and non-discrimination. Apparently, the right-to-life of disabled people does not feature in the list of rights we should possess. I admit that my impairments seem unbearable even a reason to die to those who think they are 'more fortunate' because they happen to be non-disabled (for now).

The fact that many of us can live a happy life because of our impairments. Yes, we have to live in a society, which is disabling us, which we seek to change, but our lives are worth living! Most of us have gone through physical pain but the greatest pain is that of having the door of opportunity slammed in our faces!

Now, amidst the disablist practice already in place (late abortion, prenatal screening, inadequate support, etc) ... we are adding the murder of people like myself, and countless others who because of their sensory, physical, intellectual, mental health... related impairments risk being earmarked for destruction.

There is only one modern state I know which instituted regulations not dissimilar to the assisted suicide guidelines and that was Nazi Germany with its euthanasia programme. It all started with disabled people and then - I need not say what happened, do I?

So, please give us a second chance.... On second thoughts - give us all the chances that we have the right to enjoy!

PS: A peak at my profile would quickly reveal that I'm not a UK resident. However, I believe that what happens in the world will, some day, affect me and other disabled people. We cannot stay silent when there's injustice - even if it happens miles away or may never affect us.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Shall I kill myself off, then?

I hope I shocked you with that heading. It's the conclusion that comes to mind when you read stories of so-called 'mercy killers'. You know, those people who kill off someone close to them or someone they know because they're convinced that they would be 'better off' dead. The worrying fact is that, in mostt cases, the victims tend to have impairments, or chronic conditions. People just like me...

The  worse thing of all is that mainstream society appears to sympathise with the killer, without even considering the value of the person killed. On the contrary, people who kill off their loved ones or, if doctors, their patients are even applauded for this heinous deed. The fact is that the life of those having impairments or chronic conditions is misconstrued to a life of continuous suffering and thus an unbearable existence which leads people to justify our extermination.

Hard words, I know, but the reality today calls for hard terms. If you look at our lives by only considering ourr impairments, then you might conclude that our life is really unberable if you had to live it. Of course, I'm assuming that you don't have an impairment... The fact is that my life, with all its impairments and chronic conditions, is good and I'm not about to kick the bucket, meet my maker or pass away, any time soon.

On the other hand, I can't deny that I'm concerned by the increased support for euthanasia. I am afraid to consider the eventuality of being unconscious on the verge of death with a team of doctors who do not know a single thing about who I am having to decide on whether I should live or die. A team of doctors that can only see a man with a mobility impairment and who has a visual impairment. I shiver at the prospect of being regarded as a life not worth living.

Unfortunately, with all our technological progress, the eugenic idea is still with us and growing. This idea, that we should 'improve' the human race - thus implying people with impairments should go - is manifested through abortion legislation permitting fetuses with impairments to be killed off at a later stage than non-impaired ones, and growing support for more lax euthanasia.

Worse still, the justification for these actions is framed as 'doing what is good for us'... to relieve us from an unbearable existence... but have you considered what may be causing the greatest pain? It is the fact that mainstream society fails to acknowledge our value or our place within it. Buildings with steps are still unchanged, information and communication systems are improving but can still be exclusive, what about attitudes? I am not sure...

I believe the factor that leads disabled people or their family members to choose death is the lack of support that is available. This is not just the support in terms of personal assistance and the like, but also includes the understanding of society that is ready to be sentimental and 'caring' when they read a story of a desperate father who kills his 18-year old son with epilepsy (a case which happened in Toronto a few years back) but, yet, this same society that pretends to believe in equality and human rights sometimes avoids recognising us when we're alive - thus creating our disabilities.

I ask then, what are we doing now to improve on the lives of those at risk? Will we accept the fact that disabled people's lives are unbearable and the only solution is to end them? Are we considering the real problem? And those of us who are disabled by society, do we really have to kill ourselves off?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

DAILY MAIL: Patient in a vegetative state 'talks to scientists

This is really great news and it should make those who have claimed people who do not appear to react to stiumulus as 'dead' to think again!

SOURCE: Hope, Jenny (4-2-2010) "Patient in a vegetative state 'talks  to scientists" in:  Daily Mail Online, health section. Available from: Patient in a vegetative state 'talks  to scientists (Accessed: 4-2-2010)

British scientists are hailing a world-first ' conversation' with a man diagnosed as being in a permanent vegetative state.

They say the breakthrough has enormous implications for the care and treatment of vegetative patients.

With the ability to communicate, patients could request pain relief, or even indicate if they wanted to end their life.
Brain scans

The answers that proved a road accident victim was not in a 'vegetative state'

Dr Adrian Owen, who led the Medical Research Council team in Cambridge, said: 'They can now have some involvement in their destiny.'

To the outside world, the 29-year-old patient  -  who suffered a severe head injury in a road accident in 2003  -  appeared unconscious and incapable of communicating.

But Dr Owen's team used a brain scanner to tap into his thoughts and monitor how he reacted to questions.

The man answered 'yes' or 'no' by conjuring up imaginary scenes that signalled a response.

Experts say the breakthrough 'changes everything' about classifying consciousness disorders.

The man was among 23 patients a control group of healthy volunteers recruited for a three-year study by Medical Research Council scientists and colleagues from the University of Liege in Belgium.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to measure activity in two different brain regions registering motor and spatial responses while the patients imagined specific scenes.
The patient was in a permanent vegetative state (posed by model)

Closed world: The patient was in a permanent vegetative state (posed by model)

Magnetic fields and radio waves detected blood-flow surges in each area which 'lit up' the scans.

For the 'motor' task, patients were asked to imagine standing on a tennis court and swinging an arm to return balls from an instructor.

To activate the 'spatial' region, they had to imagine walking from room to room in their home.

In four patients, the scans detected activity in the appropriate brain region as they carried out the scientists' verbal instructions.

But the 29-year-old man, who had produced reliable responses, was singled out for an even more remarkable test, says the New England Journal of Medicine.

Told to use 'motor' or 'spatial' imagery as 'yes' and 'no' answers, he correctly answered the first five of six autobiographical questions.

He was asked 'is your father's name Alexander?' and correctly answered 'yes' by imagining the tennis scene. When he was asked 'is your father's name Thomas?' he answered 'no' by thinking about walking around the house.

When the sixth question was asked, virtually no activity was seen. Scientists believe the patient had fallen asleep or simply failed to hear the question.

Dr Owen said: 'We were astonished when we saw the results of the patient's scan.

'Not only did these scans tell us that the patient was not in a vegetative state, but, more importantly, for the first time in years it provided the patient with a way of communicating his thoughts to the outside world.'

He said fMRI scanning was an expensive tool but in future, computer devices might help patients to communicate whether they needed pain relief or would like to try new drugs.

He said: 'Just for patients to exercise some autonomy is a massive step forward.'

Dr Nicholas Schiff, a neuroscientist at the Weill Cornell College in New York, said the work 'changes everything'. He said: 'These findings have extremely broad implications for concerns about the accurate assessment of patients in custodial care situations.'

Chris Frith, Emeritus Professor of Neuropsychology, University College London, said: 'It is difficult to imagine a worse experience than to be a functioning mind trapped in a body over which you have absolutely no control.

'We have the distinct possibility that, in the future, we will be able to detect cases of other patients who are conscious and what's more, we will be able to communicate with them.'

There are normally fewer than 100 patients in the UK in a permanent vegetative state (PVS) at any time. PVS is diagnosed in patients who have been in a coma for three years without being able to communicate or have any understanding of what is being said.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Here comes the ZoneCast ...

I have started podcasting.. Finally! To be honest, I did want to try my hand at producing my own radio show. Although my preferrd mediumremains writing, I admit that I have been excited by this new adventure. It's not just because podcasting seems to be less formal than writing and you can get a feel of the podcaster/s personality, I've found an enormous number of podcasters out there.

Naturally, the downside of having so many channels and podcasts means that you have to choose what you listen and the choice can be difficult.. From my short experience with podcasting, I also realised how complicated it can be to make a podcast available for others to access. Applying to be listed  in the Apple's iTunes store was also a challenge in itself and I have to wait until my podcast passes the test.

I found a large number of podcasters who are blind or visually impaired as well. I haven't had the time to check them out myself but ithe podcast world seems to be quite a diverse one. Of course, there are what are called videocasts - like podcasts but containing video. I know that I tried doing two videocast-like productions on You Tube but I gave it up as it was becoming tiresome - especially with a visual impairment. However, I think this form would be ideal for a videocast in sign language.

I had a chance of playing around with podcasting. One thing that I still have to get used to is the sound of my voice. Ironic really but I think it's a normal reaction as we do not actually have to live with our voice. In other words, we only realise how we sound in real life when we hear a recording. Well, this was meant as an announcement so I'll stop here. Those who wish to listen to the first episode of my podcast go to this link:

Gordon's ZoneCast

You should also find a link to my RSS feed there, so if you want to subscribe via your preferred reader, please do so. Now  I admit that this is free publicity. And it's really my first attempt at podcasting but I had to start somewhere. Enjoy!