Though the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act made it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities, there are still malevolent forces seeking to undermine the hard work activists have been doing for years to neutralize the venomous stigma of discrimination. We have a long way to go. Until then, I can tell you: It’s not easy being a Black man on the autism spectrum.
Like many other systems in the United States, higher education is not designed for the majority of the population. It is not designed for people of color; it is not designed for low-income folks; and it is not designed for people with disabilities. Are there still ways to thrive in these systems as a student with a disability? Sure. But it isn’t easy. It almost always involves a fight. And it often requires that the disabled student advocate for their needs instead of getting help from the institution.
I was 9 years old when the Americans with Disabilities Act [ADA] was passed in July 1990. It did not have an immediate impact on my life because, as a totally blind child, I already had access to a ‘free and appropriate’ public K-12 education through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which was passed before the ADA, in 1973. But in 1998 when I went away to college, I counted on the ADA to allow me access to accommodations like exams in Braille and permission to have my brand-new guide dog come to class with me.
I see a need for individuals 25 and younger to have a say on the decisions that impact them most. Just as experiences vary from person to person, decisions that impact young people should not be made by anyone other than ourselves. We have relevant experience because we are young people.
Compelling personal stories
told by the people living them. In the past few weeks of unprecedented — and sometimes unpredictable — protests fighting for Black lives and against police brutality, I have asked myself about similarities between this movement in the United States and Egypt’s 2011 revolution. I considered parallels between police-community relationships in both — having first moved to Pittsburgh in 2012 as an academic. I spent periods of time in my native Cairo between 2011 and 2016 while completing a seven-year project on Egypt’s counter-revolution. I participated in demonstrations now known as the infamous “Mohammed Mahmoud Street” protests of November 2011 and attended every day of the Michael Rosfeld trial in 2019 for the killing of Antwon Rose II, including the subsequent protests over police violence.
During Egypt’s 2011 revolution, the country experienced an overnight disappearance of police from residential streets and protest sites.
Until a month ago, I was proud of graduating from Fox Chapel Area High School. I was grateful for the enthusiastic faculty as well as the friendships I had made. However, the recent controversy surrounding racism at Fox Chapel has compelled me to revisit my own experience with prejudice at the school – one that I have tried hard to forget. My ethnicity is half-Taiwanese and half-Korean. My heritage is known for its legendary empires, scientific innovation and excellent cuisine.
The world as we know it changed when COVID-19 surfaced and brought with it new ideas about what it means to be safe. I trust in science and appreciate the need to minimize risk, but maximizing the opportunity for my family's happiness is also important.
As we move forward into this new world where social distancing, masks and the constant smell of sanitizer are expected to continue without an end in sight, the future looks brighter with the thought of friends by our side.
So, one night, in the middle of our latest Netflix binge, I asked my husband how he would feel about finding another family to quarantine with us. He stared at me blankly and laughed. "How would that even work? How would we know that another family would follow the same precautions that we're taking?
Has racism by white people against Black people in this country hit a crescendo? Or is it simply a perpetuation — albeit now publicly consumable — of the same white supremacy we have seen in the United States for more than 400 years?
“To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage.” —James Baldwin, author and civil rights activist
This is the perfect quote to describe my reaction to the recent events involving Black men that have taken place during quarantine: a constant state of rage, sadness and hopelessness. Perhaps being able to go out and converse with my friends and peers would help me cope with these events, but unfortunately that wouldn’t help with my healing.
It’s Feb. 28, the Friday before my due date and the last day with the students I have been learning along as a student-teacher. I have grown so attached to the students since I started two and a half months earlier. Even though it has been a process acclimating and learning the gears and grooves of everyday teaching at a charter school, I am thoroughly enjoying the uphill process. My timing is improving, lessons becoming smooth like jazz, and I even have some inside jokes with the students.