Wednesday, January 8, 2014

TOK to me

One of the biggest brands on the Polish radio market, TOK FM will be recording an interview with me this Thursday. The station's name is both a play on the English "talk" and a word meaning "course" and something ongoing and continuous like a "train of thought" or a "stream of conscientiousness", as it primarily deals with news and commentary.When things start to happen, they seem to happen all at once. Earlier this week I reviewed the transcripts of an interview I gave the Polish disability magazine "Integracja" back in October - and they now have my blessing to print it or post it. It's interesting that no major media outlet really wanted to meet me when I stopped in Warsaw for a few days on my way to the Cerebral Palsy related congress in Munich  and I contacted everyone under the sun I could think of to stir up some interest in what we were doing. As I'm back in America now, we must  settle for Skype- although face to face contact would have been so much more personal. I was reading a story about a young man with Cerebral Palsy, very much like me who with his family support was able to educate myself and, like me again became a lawyer. Impressive in it's own right. Unlike me however, he walks. The story was meant to show and rightfully so, how successful a person struggling with this condition can be. Successful against the odds. But it also made me think how big of a difference that additional ounce of mobility makes. What my life would have been like had I been able to walk up these few steps. To get into those court houses and law firms where putting in a ramp was never anyone's priority. To board a regular bus, even with some minimal assistance. So I looked up an the journalist who wrote the young man's story and I wrote her an email. A letter about how when I was picking up an a scholarship granted  by MillerCanfield in Warsaw I had to wait for the attorneys to come down the stairs for me because there was obviously no way for me to get up there. But if only I could have walked a little bit... A little makes a big difference here. I told her about my foreign law clinics, graduating summa cum laude, foreign law programs and international competitions.  And how in the end, given how limited I've been how little would have all these accomplishments meant to a perspective employer. How much trouble it was to find a properly wheelchair accessible court in Warsaw to do my mandatory "practical experience" and how although these limitations had nothing to do with my intellect, my abilities and my wit, they were keeping me from the type of career I always dreamt I have. My ambition and drive aside, you can't wish away stairs, a very real and physical obstacle. And that's why I moved to America. In a way, forced by circumstance and having very little to lose. To my surprise she responded and showed great interest in my story, my book and my life.  Millions of listeners will get to know who I am. And if I can start a debate on the role of people with disabilities in societies like Poland, how many of them are dismissed and never reach their full potential through no fault of their own, how a mind is a terrible thing to waste if I can make someone think  of the architectural barriers and their effect on the future and the present and the self image of people like me, I'd finally get a sense that I accomplished something grand.

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