Thursday, November 19, 2009


This week I went to one of the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities meeting and I realized a fundemental problem. Well a few actually. One of the people I work with and I were talking about this and really what happens is that the meetings are at least two hours long and people feel like it is torture. No one actually enjoys going to the meeting s Also, because CCD is so big, there are so many different interests that come to the meetings and different member organizations. Next there are about fifteen meetings to decide anything which is really frustrating and from that one of the big systematic problems is that when dealing with an issue they skip what is in my opinion a fundamental step: agreeing on the main objective at the start. They don't come to initial consensus so they go through zillions of iterations where they are nitpicking over details when they don't even all agree on the overall message and how that is being approached. If they only started each issue/initiative by agreeing on the overarching idea, then the details and the rest of the process would go much smoother. Also it seems like the environment is such that different organizations are listened to better or worse than others and this does not create a very engaging atmosphere if some people or organizations simply know they will not be valued equally.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

First Week of November

This week I think I am running into a very typical frustration of an internship. I am lucky, in that I have been given a really cool project, the problem however is that because I am only here for a couple of more weeks, being able to finish this project is highly improbably. Basically what I am doing is continuing something that AFB began a couple of years ago where complaints were filed with the FCC on behalf of consumers experiencing accessibility problems. Currently the only accessible phone off the shelf is the iphone 3gS. Every other phone requires software that costs several hundred dollars to have things like voice over to make a phone accessible for blind people . The constraints of my work is similar to what anyone would experience in a people oriented job. I need to get responses from the people who made complaints in order to write to the FCC to continue work on their behalf which has a whole list of processes that take a long time. Also, I am doing the project primarily wit the Vice President of AFB, who is very busy so in terms of getting necessary direction, there are time parameters on that as well. I completely understand these constraints, but it is frustrating particularly because as an intern, my time with AFB is finite and the end of which is fast approaching which means that with all of these time constraints, as hard as I am trying, the project simply may not be finished. Further, with a project like this, there is never really an ending, simply an unending myriad of possibilities so I am trying to bring it to a point where it could be considered at least in part completed to then be taken on wen someone else at AFB has the time to do so.

I really am enjoying the work I am doing and I realize that it is very reminiscent of work that I did while interning with the constituent office of Senator Kennedy, which I absolutely loved. It is a very people oriented project where I can on behalf of the organization make a difference in these people's lives. In so doing, I am not only f assistance to them, but am learning a great deal about the issues and best approach to solving them. I really would like to continue working in this capacity and am grateful that I can have these kinds of experiences to help me understand what it is I would like to pursue in the future in a more permanent nature.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I had an enlightening experience wednesday morning on the metro. I was standing, annoyed that every time I wear four inch heels somehow turns out to be the time there is no seat open on the metro, when I hear this guy fairly loudly talking to what must have been his colleague about this instance with some people he worked with. The story went something like this: I wanted these people to get something done faster because I had a deadline. So I told them that if they got it done in four hours, I buy them a pizza and if they didn't they would have to buy me a pizza. They said they couldn't do it, but with the motivation of the possible pizza, they would try. Of course as expected, they found a way to get the task done in four hours. That friday, they got a pizza. One intelligent guy realized, wait now that we have shown you we can do it like this you're going to expect it. The boss goes, that's right. The other guys were not happy to hear this. The boss says well doesn't it make you feel great to know you are capable of that? The guys said begrudgingly well yes, but... The boss was the guy talking on the metro and he said to his colleague, I had just had to find what motivated them. They were hungry, so they did the work better than they had before because they had incentive that was personal.

I couldn't believe I heard this story. Even before my coffee, and in four inch heels I was getting an impromptu lesson about motivation. The guy on the train probably did't know it but he was giving me a lot to think about as I am studying motivation and learning about the theories behind it. This boss really got me thinking. Is motivation as simple as fining what people want and giving it to them in a way that is also conducive to the company's interests? That isn't necessarily simple to do but does al the theory we have been reading about in class boil down to this?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

New Project

This week, I began working with my boss on a project- something that was my idea. Basically what I want to do is put a resource together for people to sue to gain a better sense of policies, regulations, topics, books and organizations that directly impact and are related to blind and disabled people. Throughout my internship, I have been trying to grasp all of these things for myself. There are so many things that I can put into this- some are obvious, others are lesser known. The area of disability policy studies touches so many different people and ares of focus. When I go to meetings with industry and policy makers, one of the biggest things that I have been taking note of is the organizations involved, major topics concerned and related regulations/statues. A lot of these are inter-related so it is interesting to get a sense of each individually and know enough to begin to piece them together.
I feel really lucky that I am in a position where I can pose new ideas to my boss and he just tells me to go for it and offers encouragement and assistance. Most likely, the resource I create will be published on the policy center AFB website which is really cool. There are already some pieces there that touch on what I want to create, but nothing that is all encompassing. That is very emblematic I think of what my boss' overall leadership style is like. If one of his employee's discovers something they want to work on, as long as it is pertinent he sees it as a benefit to the organization and encourages us to explore the possibilities the endeavor will involve. I know some boss' are more hands on and may have a difficult time with this, but the fact that this is a possibility, means a few things. First, there will be a lot more creativity in the organization. Second, tere will be a lot more ownership and by in of employees in the organization. Finally, there will be a lot more contributions to the organization that otherwise may not happen. While, there is a role for the hands on style, I like the idea personally of an exploratory non-static employe-boss relationship. I think this also increases motivation because people are working on things that they personally are interested in and will be held directly accountable for. It also creates a really great sense of overall group dynamics based on mutual trust, creativity, loose boundaries, and shared power.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

This week at AFB

This week I had a really cool experience. I am the Vice President for the Disability Alliance and we had a speaker come in who is a blind lawyer working in the federal government. She was able to give us a lot insight about generally getting into the federal government and doing it with a disability. We talked about how hard it can be to walk a fine line between explaining your disability to people and the needs that are associated, while still maintaining a level of respect and not feeling like you are a burden to people. She did not know a lot about technology for blind people though and just kind of used whatever was available, particularly with cell phones. One of my projects at my internship is revisiting a whole list of complainants to the FCC about cell phone use and another is working on some things like a facebook group, going to hill meetings, etc., for the Coalitions of Organizations for Assistive Technology. So cellphones is actually something I know about for blind people and I was able to talk to her about some of this. It was so cool! She was really impressed that I was interning and how much I had learned and was able to share with her.

This to me is an example of leadership. This sort of exchange of ideas is so key and being able to share resources. I thought it was so cool though that I am learning enough in my internship that I could tell someone else about it. This really speaks to the nature of the leaders I work with at AFB because if they weren't doing such a great job training me, then I may not be as well informed about the issues and solution efforts tat are currently happening. The ultimate form of compliment, people say, is imitation so tat I can imitate and even expand upon what I have been tough I think is the ultimate compliment to the organization I am working for.

That experience really taught me a lot and the personal connections sort of reinvigorated my interest in the legislation and the efforts because I could talk to someone who it really helped. She was really excited abotu what I was telling her and that in turn made me really excited.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

This Week

This week I learned a lot organizationally. What happened was, the new administrative assistant/policy coordinator started full time this week and that shed light on tendencies in the office. Before this, I would get projects but more working with the Director or VP, but once this person started I have begun to notice that the Director and VP get used to delegating or asking others to work on things. Because they now have both myself and the admin, there is a lot more room for work to get done, so projects that had been forgotten or neglected now can be renewed. For example, they asked me to work on a project sort of following up on something that they did a couple of years ago and then building on it. It was funny because they literally hadn't looked at the files since then, so I could tell that they were thrilled to now have the man power to work on these kinds of things. ORganizationally , though what does that signal? If having more people means more gets done, does that change the leadership style of the managers? In this case I think it may but should that happen? When so much responsibility is put on a couple of people they get used to not asking the other one or two people in the office for help, but once that number grows, they start asking. Did they just not need the help before or feel that they couldn't ask? Or maybe hey just didn't think to but that is still really interesting. Are they then delegating to us intentionally? I would have described their leadership style much more influence, but not it seems to be more directly proportional and processing projects that are then followed up on more regularly. Does the delegation of power change the kind of leader someone is? To what extent should it? I hope to continue to examine this in the weeks to come to see whether the changes I have noticed are circumstantial or will have continuity.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Yesterday, I went to the unveiling of the Helen Keller statue in the US Capitol Rotunda. The ceremony was wonderful with speeches by the entire Congressional Leadership including Senator Harry Reid, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. They spoke of Helen Keller's leadership, perseverance, and of the role model she continues to be for millions of blind and deaf people around the world. Her statue depicts the first time she really learned to communicate at her family's water pump. If you ever get a chance to see it, it really is lovely. It is very textured and all the words are in braille so that it is accessible to blind people. She taught so much about leadership and showed how pouring your heart into something can be so much of what you need to inspire those around you to help and believe that things they thought to be impossible, really could happen. She fought for the passion and freedom that stemmed from her disabilities but her leadership transcends these. Her ability to bring people together and develop methods to achieve a common goal is really the true nature of her leadership.

This is really interesting to me because when you have a disability, you are praised for the simplest of things that to others would simply be part of every day life. Is the sheer ability to live through adversity something to celebrate? Of course there are things that are harder for some people than others but should we hold all people accountable for the same standards? For example if a sighted person learns to read at the age of five, this is seen as a normal step in the progression of development. However if a blind person learns to read jsut as easily, many will say that the blind person could be more greatly commended. The thing is that when you live with these barriers on a daily basis and the become part of your routine, even if they seem like horrific barriers to others, is it really a measure of leadership or just living?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

This Week

This week the coolest part was getting to go to a lot of fairly important meetings. I went to a meeting of all of the major blind policy organizations, several key congressional meetings for the bill we are working on, the Department of Labor and more.
I also got to conduct research on WIPO which is the World Intellectual PRoperty Organization. What is most interesting here is that DAISY is a form of accessible materials that has world wide usage and copyright acceptance, yet for anything else, including large print, there is no international copyright exchange which means that numerous countries have no accessible format even though it exists a,d further it puts an advantage towards the wealthy countries who are able to produce the accessible materials.
We also had two new staff members begin working this week as well as a visit from the organization president which taught me alot about how the organization runs. The President is a very nice and incredibly smart man who sets a precedence in the office for openness, comfort, high caliber work, etc. I think the kind of leadership where you are encouraging the peopel you work for, genuinely getting to know them and informing their decisions.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

This Week

This past week was a bit interesting. I think I learned about both leadership in the workplace and about legislation.
In regards to legislation, I started working through the Health Care bill. Basically I went through the 564 amendments and the bill to find any reference to disability, blind and vision. That was interesting because it was in very few cases that any of these words were mentioned and any time it was there was a frequent association with aging. This was frustrating because so little of the bill or amendments were actually focused on disabled people at all when millions of people are in that demographic.
About leadership in the workforce, there were a lot of changes going on because next week there will be one person leaving the office and two starting. The person leaving is a bit older and except for myself the only sighted person in the office. What we had to do was maneuver furniture and switch two whole offices. The Director, basically tried to help but the woman leaving was very insistent on what to do. He seemed to just let it go rather than trying to finesse it. Although they had a few conversations that could have been constructive, it ended up not working out at all and she simply seemed insistent and overwhelmed. I feel like they both could have handled this situation better. The Director is a very good policy advocate but seems not to be very focused on managerial aspects.
One wonderful thing I experienced was how both he and the VP are so people oriented. They both talk to me a lot and not just about policy. They genuinely seem to want to get to know me and that creates a very open and great environment. The VP, even while he was out, called to talk to me to ask me to call a couple people in other offices so that I could better get visual adaptations. That kind of personal attention changes things a lot and is a very strong individual, indirect organizational tool in leading an organization.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

COAT Access

One of the coolest things I have been doing is going to the hill. We are advocating for an assistive technology bill. This is the COAT Bill which basically calls for better assistive technology for blind and deaf people primarily though others as well. It has been a great experience in learning what are the essential things to say to a staff member on the Hill and what isn't.

Also this week, I have been getting to know our VP and Director who are both wonderful people. I am the only intern so establishing an office rapore is a lot of fun. They are both really nice and approachable which is helpful. For example, they asked me to go to the Hill and told me to take a taxi and that was kind of expensive. At first I was nervous about asking for reimbursement but I basically phrased it such that either way was fine with me and I was just inquiring but it turned out they did and their openness made the question a lot easier to ask. Also, they are very open about talking about blindness and as well as assistive methods. I find this helpful because I am visually impaired and have a degenerative disease. I will never go totally blind-just really bad eyesight but still their openness is really helpful and maintains an open and supportive environment.

I have been doing this like working on survey processing about access technology, and contacting respondents when questions or further information was needed. This I know is a really important policy tool so I am thrilled to be working on it. In policy research, people's input is important so as a tool for opinion gathering it is really interesting.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


As I begin my internship, I am struck with how nice the people I work with are. I am immediately welcomed into the office and am given an orientation. Having only ever worked on the Hill, it is definitely different-and wonderful- to be in a small public policy office as the only intern. In addition to special projects, some of the things I will be working on are:
duties other than special projects will include: meeting with key congressional and federal agency staff, scheduling hill and other appointment, spreparing correspondence and briefing materials, drafting short newsletter articles and fact sheets for distribution via the organization, website, participating in coalition meeting within and outside the field of vision loss and using tools and mehtods for conducting policy research.
I'm vrey excited to get started!