Sunday, January 24, 2016

Winterland, Florida

I have a lot of exciting things to write about. I'm doing plenty of work for other people and our Foundation seems to be finally going places. But please- let me use this Monday to talk about the weather. I know, I've used it for sentimental reasons in the past- to talk about missing my home and family, to vent or to just fill the empty space. But the American weather has been making headlines lately. There are snow storms in New York and DC, curfews and travel bans. Nothing that severe in Florida, but there was a tornado warning a few days ago. And it's been cold. Really cold and for a few weeks now. I'm a bit to the north, so we might get a bit cooler up here than Miami, but I've never seen anything that severe. We've had days where (excuse me for using Celsius as Fahrenheit still means nothing to me) where the temperature would be as low as 6 during the day and -3 at night- and it happens now day after day. Usually, we go up into the low/mid 20's during the day (maybe a bit lower in the winter days like 16?) and 13 in the evening is a cold night. At first I was glad.  It's going to kill the mosquitoes, I thought. They're quite a problem in my warm and wet part f the State that is called "Swamp" for a reason. It's been cold every day for a while and I seem to have only a pair of thicker pants and a winter jacket. I know I'm Polish and I'm supposed to not mind the cold, and it's not the temperatures really, but this Arctic wind that chills you to the bone. Snow was spotted in Gainesville this week, not much, just flurries, but for some of my friends it was the first time in their lifetime. It's not a nice winter. It's just not pleasant. The one thing I've always loved about Florida- the bright sunlight that illuminates everything, giving all colors this amazing clarity and hue like a 3D rendering that I never could describe is gone. Trees wither. Leaves turn to shades you don't see here. I've discovered my apartment is not well isolated. It really feels like the end of the world these days. At first it seemed like fun to switch up the routine a bit - stay at home- finish work, give my Tassimo the run for its money, watch some Netflix. Order pizza. But now I'm ready for Spring. It's 21C Monday before it gets cold again.Welcome to Florida, 2016.

Monday, January 18, 2016

A "one page", quick Contract...

Here's what I've been seeing more and more lately: legal work requests popping up on freelancer websites like Upwork and Outsource. A lot of those online "jobs" are picked up by people who are most often not even lawyers, but writers and content editors. Some are legal professionals from remote locations like India or the Middle East who are not licensed and therefore not permitted to give legal advice in American jurisdictions. But they are cheap and they work quickly. In the age of the internet, Clients have their own idea of what a lawyer should provide, what it should look like and how fast. Quality is almost secondary. They order a contract the same way they order a logo and expect results. Of course, the consequences of getting a contact wrong are far more dire than a logo or a website you don't like. At the end of the day it's lawyers like me who deal with contracts where the drafter missed an issue or left an ambiguously phrased term. And that costs a lot more than spending a few more dollars on a properly written document that is clear, thought out, anticipates many of the concerns  that would otherwise have to be figured out in litigation. Not to long ago I saw a contract that used a phrase "arrange for transport". Both parties were happy with it. One thought they have fully performed by presenting the thing in question to the transportation company. The other believed they were contracting to have the thing transported from A to B. But it was short- it was only one page and some people find that appealing.  An issue like this would be resolved by looking at the history of the parties' communication, to figure out what their intention was. And that takes time and money. A better phrased sentence would have taken care of that and everyone would have known where they are. But a lawyer didn't write it. And you know that one will   get involved and have it sorted out eventually.

Let's take the issue of non licensed lawyers or non-lawyers practicing law, which many if not all American jurisdictions criminalize, out of it for a minute. Or that if something goes wrong- they'll be nowhere to be found.   What I find concerning is how those clients make specific requests as to the length and structure of a Contract - because I guess they're used to control anything else. There are ads like "One-page contract in 36 hours" - as if its purpose and function are completely secondary - and a Contract was a completely generic, interchangeable piece of writing- like a form.  I was trained to write clear, easy to follow documents understandable to  a lay person. They need to be well edited and structured, with issues properly grouped. And a contract needs to be reasonably short. But I advise against one page contracts. It needs to be as long as it takes to flesh out all the issues. My rules of construction typically take 3/4 of a page. And those are things you shouldn't really go without. Does your contract have a severability clause? Governing law? Jurisdiction? Attorney's fees? The truth about Contracts is that what you don't put in- can hurt you. You can do it fast and short and pray it will stick or you can do it well and be proud of your work. My law school started a mandatory drafting course because there was so much bad writing in the nation they had to address it. And it made us think about words. How they have power and meaning. Drafting all of the sudden became a responsibility. We live in the age of the internet. Expect a lot more bad drafting and a lot more litigation.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

If I won the PowerBall....

Many people don't believe it when I say it. I really don't have big dreams for myself. There's no gadget that I really must have, I never wanted a mansion and fast cars don't really impress me. I just want to be comfortable. For me that means being in a place where I don't have to wonder if I see enough clients this month to pay my rent. And quite frankly I'm not there yet. I have my moments of stress and my moments of doubt. But for me life is about being able to make it. And having a life doing what you know well and love. Helping people. Being surrounded by friends. Searching for and finding happiness. Perhaps it's because I devoted so much time and energy to the non profit that I started, Florida Disability Access and Awareness Foundation - but making it work, making a difference in how people see disabilities is my one big dream. And I know that if I can finally   have that rolling, everything else will fall into place. And it just has to happen. If I won a million dollars- I'd donate it back to the Foundation. In my mind I can see all the great programs we could launch with money like that and people that it would have touched. The vision that is so clear to me I can picture my future team and it's office. excited to get started. Sometimes I just don't communicate it well. We can get America to care about disabilities, to notice, we can push, we can inspire and listen. For me it starts in Florida, but that's just the beginning. Yes, if I won the billion plus this coming Wednesday I'd take care of my family a little more ( my dad does have a heart condition) but the closest I've come to thinking about spending money on myself is moving to a bigger apartment, only across the street.  My fantasy is not retiring by 40 or a cruise on the Nile, but leaving this world a little better than it was when I found it. Perhaps it's because  being in a wheelchair all my life meant that proving my worth was always a goal in the back of my mind- but what I want to do can help a lot of people. A lot of people like me. And you can help to, by visiting. and donating what you can. And I did win Saturday, and not metaphorically. I got 8 dollars!  And I get to tell the tale how I participated in this historic lottery with the biggest jackpot ever. I was there even if I don't win the 1.3 billion. And hey, it's for education.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Disability, safety, wheelchairs and guns

Here's one aspect of the gun laws debate I admit I never thought of. After the San Bernardino shooting, one of my directors pointed out that the place that the terrorist couple opened fire was a center for people with disabilities. I don't remember this fact being particularly advertised in the media. "They're like sitting ducks"- she said, pointing out that nobody there had any means to defend themselves and everyone was at the mercy of the killers. Wow, I thought- if there was ever a better illustration of how powerless your disability can render you. I've said time and time again that people should have guns if it makes them feel safer, that I feel safer if a trained and qualified gun user is around me, but that I would personally never get a gun because I'd fear I hurt myself. I tense up easily and I practically have only one functioning hand. I know guns are not a popular subject for a lot of people and I debated even bringing this topic up in my writings.   My Board Member then told me that she would take me to a shooting range and that I needed to learn. I don't need to buy a gun- or have one she said, but I need to learn how to use it. In an emergency, if a gun or a clip fell to the ground would I know how to pick it up and use it, reload it if I needed to, switch the safety off. This is a touchy subject for a lot of people, but I do see the value of knowing how to handle something that people use and handle for their safety, that is broadly available even if I don't have one myself. Educating myself can save my life and ignorance can surely kill me.

 So I did try to contact someone at the NRA with only one question: Do they offer any training courses for people with physical disabilities or know someone who does. Not to promote gun use, but to promote knowledge. And the more we talked about it - with that co-worker of mine, the more I realized that people with disabilities would not only require special holsters or other ways to carry it, but a host of specialized accessories. I thought about whether it would be appropriate to approach this problem as a the Foundation. I'm sure such work would alienate a lot of potential donors. But I really want to know what is out there. And what is being done to keep people with disabilities  safe.  I know I might take some heat for this, but I can even see some therapeutic value to owning and having a gun. We're talking about people who often feel deprived of something or limited. Getting the power to defend themselves back seems like confidence booster, reclaiming some control and normalcy. But it's not for everyone. Most likely it's not for me. But I'd like to now more. And everyone likes to have options. But that's the point: I created the Florida Disability Access and Awareness Foundation to talk about issues and aspects relating to mobility and disability perception that no one has before. And I look forward to work with a broad rage of partners, varying from issue to issue to push the discussions further. For now visit and get to know our vision.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Come Volunteer with us!

It's a New Year and for us at the Florida Disability Access and Awareness Foundation- an anniversary. We formed the nonprofit in January 2013. And it feels like every January we come back from the Christmas celebration with a new vision and a renewed sense of mission. Last year around this time we got our 501(c)(3) determination. This time we have a clearer idea of where we are and we deal with better articulated projects. We want to work with businesses. We have an idea for a one-stop disability resource portal and we want to pursue our wheelchaired for a day video project and develop inspiring tales of regular people dealing with inaccessible cities into a full fledged documentary series. But it's also time to start over. To regroup.   To recruit new blood. This time we're reaching out to journalism, computer science, marketing and architecture students, all majors relevant to what we're trying to build. We are able to satisfy a community service requirement or a volunteer coursework credit. We'll even consider structuring an internship. Because we need help to move our matters along while students could really benefit from working with a living breathing nonprofit and interacting with disability issues, up  close. Santa Fe? UF? No problem. Please review the following postings: Videographer    PR Coordinator Marketing  Copywriter and join us!