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.