Thursday, February 21, 2008

All Fired Up

I am, to borrow a phrase from Barak Obama, all fired up. Now, you might wonder, what is it that has Sunkist Miss fired up today? The election? No, I’m fascinated by but not worked up about the election. Kosovo? The arms trade? Minyan politics? No, no, no. What I’m talking about today is the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and the right for people with disabilities to obtain accommodations. In another life I think this would have been my calling. As is, it is what you might call a hobby. In any case, it is something that I am passionate about. And this week, I had the opportunity to help out a friend, in a small way. It reminded me about how frustrating it can be to deal with the system. And how important it is to be able to advocate for your needs.

The friend in question was asking for reconsideration of a request for accommodation on a standardized test that had been denied. I helped edit the letter. This required a certain touch that goes beyond knowing how to write. And as she noted, I am quite good at this. My response: I learned from the best. And it’s true. Along with how to write a cover letter, and what else happened in 1492, my mother taught me everything I know about advocating for accommodations. I know what to say and how to say it so that you hit the right buzz words. And much as I was frustrated by the fact that the letter was needed, I was excited to realize that this is something I now know how to do. I’ve come a long way. It’s really nice to be able to use that to help someone else. It makes me feel like there was some net gain from my own experiences with this.

Perhaps some other time I will write more about disabilities issues. But for now I’m just thinking about how much I care about this issue, how far I’ve come, how much I’ve learned, and how much I would like to find a way to help other people beyond the friends/acquaintances who occasionally come my way. Maybe when I’m done with grad school I’ll make that a real hobby.

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