Tuesday, November 28, 2017

UBER disappointment

Imagine the frustration on my associate's face when she tried to get me a wheelchair accessible Lyft. After all, there's a dedicated section to riders with special needs and everything. Shouldn't be a problem, right?  It's Las Vegas. Can't imagine more visitor friendly, tourism driven place. Wrong. It ended up being a list of taxi companies I can call to come and get me. After all these years of being on my own I got used to the set truth that my transportation options are limited. I also- instead of complaining left and right try to relish whatever little I can do by myself. It's always interesting to see someone else, who never had to deal with something like this, learn what it must have been for me, as they try to find a solution. And for a minute or two we are in the same boat. Surely Uber must have something, right? Here's a funny story. I was trying to get a front desk receptionist at an extended stay establishment at which I was checked in for sixteen days to get me a cab in the morning. Apparently they don't do that, why would life be so simple, but her colleague remembered there was a wheelchair option in his Uber app. I installed it, and by golly, he was right- There was a choice called Uber WAV and it cost $0.00! I quickly assumed this was something that connects you with the local paratransit service using Uber's infrastructure or even some pilot service launched using governmental grants. But at least in Las Vegas, arguably the most touristy place in the world, that wasn't the case. I chose my destination, I chose my ride (WAV) and the price and all it gave me again was a list of taxi companies to call. No data I've put in or selected was given to a taxi company in any way. I call, I describe my location (instead of sharing my GPS) and then I call again to see where the cab is, is it on it's way, does he know where to find me. The retro aspect of it all would have been funny if the situation wasn't as tragic. None of the things which make Uber so attractive were available to me: price, convenience, ability to figure out arrival time, tracking your ride, paying and tipping via app. Instead I was teleported back to the 80's.

I understand that individuals with disabilities are not a huge segment of Uber's client base (although if they ever tried it they might be surprised with the response, but with their revenue I would assume they can come up with something more modern and evolved. Perhaps, if they have to reroute me to a taxi company, they can still offer them a system that puts in the order for me, gives me a price and a time estimate. Who in the XXI century calls to order  a ride? Why isn't there an app that taps into the data of Uber, Lyft, Curb and whoever else to give riders with wheelchair choices and complex solutions.

To Lyft's credit, they're not even pretending they're doing something for people with disabilities. Another interesting encounter I had was with an app called Curb. You can pay for your taxi ride with it and even order one to come get you. A lot of cabs in Vegas seem to be on that system and it seems to pull information from across multiple companies. Very convenient, so now I have it on my phone. There seems to be a lot of handivan taxis in the city. Yet, when it came to ordering one, the only option again was calling the dispatcher. Not booking via app, not tweeting, calling... All this technology, why can't we use it to help people with disabilities. Why can't it make life easier?

And it reminds me why I started the Florida Disability Access and Awareness Foundation to do precisely that- promote accessibility and inclusion using media, software and technology. Perhaps one day I can sit down with the good folks from Uber, Lyft and Curb to see how we can leverage all that to make people with disabilities more mobile.  Until then, it will be easier for me to order food than get a ride.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A year in my life.

So many things happened over the past twelve  months. Hugs and compassionate words came and went and life somehow  moved on. February marked the first anniversary of my father's death. Professionally, I've never been busier. As a lawyer, I was thrown into high stakes litigation. I do trials in places like Connecticut and  Las Vegas. You guessed it. I'll be flying out again next week. This isn't something I've planned for myself, but it is what I ended up and like doing. Planes, airports and connections are somewhat a routine now, and I don't mind it as much as I used to. Who knew that when you step away from the safety of your computer  there's a whole world of challenges waiting. Life is strange. Hours after I've learnt of my dad's passing, I've landed my first continuous client. And met a fellow attorney I'd end up having a lot of these crazy adventures with. I remember asking him to give me until the end of the week to get myself together. The work kept me motivated, focused and organized but also allowed me for something I've strove for all these years- financial independence. I never ended up working at somebody's law firm, I think my physical condition would be too much of an obstacle to many of them- and I never claimed to be that amazing anyway- but I feel valued for my skill or knowledge. Doing things for myself lets me find my own groove. I never thought I'd enjoy Court appearances as much as I do. And although I get stressed before I get there, all that goes away when I enter the room.  I'm not there yet, but I'm  on my way.

On the nonprofit front: Have you seen our Foundation's new website? http://fdaaf.org?  We've decided to create the world's first video game where the main character is in a wheelchair. We have a dedicated team of professionals, interns an volunteers. Our concept allows players to experience the disability perspective in the context of a spectrum of social issues that people in his life face. The creative juices really are flowing. It's amazing to see how people who believe in this idea can really build something from nothing.  It's been my life philosophy that everybody has something they deal with in their life, and this is a good way to channel that thought. I also want to use this project as a template that would allows us to train people with disabilities and veterans giving them skills to succeed developing software projects. To me, a game is a mean and not a goal. Undoubtedly, there are greater things coming. Now, I will not say that there are no days when I'm not sad, melancholic, lack energy and motivation, or feel lost. But I am getting on. The one casualty of this was my blog and Linked In posting. I don't find as much use of it as I used to. Truthfully, three other things need my attention more as I think of writing something. Dear internet: I do think I'm doing well. I only wish my dad was around to see what's becoming of me.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


I rarely talk about what brought me to America, because it's not something I like to dwell on. Living in a country where I felt so limited, by my physicality, by everything that surrounded me it seemed like nothing really brought me joy. The days kind of blended together. There was no future that I could imagine for myself, nothing I had to look forward to. There was no purpose, no grand idea. I would always be there, in that nation of stairs and I was lucky that I could get out of the house. And I thought I should be grateful that I had this much. It wasn't anybody's fault. And I had a family who loved me. So I felt extremely selfish for feeling this way. But I was profoundly unhappy. And I just couldn't get myself to be any different. Sure, you reason with yourself, and you think, there's a lot of people who are much worse off than you are. And you have your support system here. Count your blessing. This is what you know, but on some level you think, maybe there's a different life you deserve. Not that anybody really deserves anything, but you owe yourself an effort to try something different. This to me is what hopelessness was like. I wasn't simply depressed- although no doubt I may have been in addition. I felt stuck in reality that I didn't create for myself, that was not only unwelcoming, it didn't really allow me to participate. Because what your able to do and how you interact with your surroundings can change your entire outlook and I felt useless. It's extremely personal and deeply intimate. It's how I felt about me. So I moved to America, got all those law degrees and my green card- and the rest you pretty much know. I didn't want to feel like that ever again, so I didn't something about it. It wasn't fast, it wasn't easy or cheap. And I don't think I'm some type of an inspiring folk hero as a result of it- I know it was hard on my family, but it was something I needed to try.

 So when Michelle Obama said after the election of Donald Trump, "This is what having no hope feels like" in her Oprah interview I was really surprised. Hopelessness is not the same as being sad or disappointed or angry. It's dark and cold and unapologetically final. It's how you feel when nothing will ever be OK again and there is nothing to look forward to. What do you have if you don't have hope? I understand that we live in times when people love to make grand gestures and overblown statements. It's a generation that uses "literally" to mean "figuratively" and it's literally in the dictionary. The dramatic sense of finality. I come from a nation where countless generations gave their lives for freedom in wars and uprisings. Because they didn't have freedom but they always had hope. I feel as if the sense of perspective was completely lost during this presidential elections. Big words have lost their meaning. The bigger the better.

 Regardless of your politics, I think everyone should take a step back. This isn't hopelessness and you don't always get your way in life. Get used to it. To my liberal friends I say this: I reject the idea that any politician can give you hope. Obama didn't give it, Trump isn't taking it away. Hope is something that comes from within you and from your own life - not a perfect stranger on TV. I've been concerned about Ms Obama for a while now. Over the years I've seen her looking stressed and tired with a joyless expression on her face. In 2008, she said she was never proud of her country before. I always thought that was strange. In all of her adult life she never was happy to be where she was? That's a lot of years and that's a lot of moments. Not a single moment of pride to reflect on? It did cross my mind multiple times, that maybe she is battling with depression.

Because I for one love this country. And I chose it for myself. Obama, Trump or Clinton - whoever it is doesn't make a difference about how I feel. Because it's my choice and it's about my life and where I wanna be. I'm not like the people who say that if you don't like it here you should move. I do think however, that if you're that unhappy to live in America - if you have the resources to do so- try to find a place where you can be happy again. If being here makes you miserable- go out there and explore. You really don't do anybody any favors by forcing yourself to be somewhere you don't like. There 's no virtue in your sacrifice and you really owe it to yourself to be happy. When I say consider moving, I'm not saying it to be mean- I'm saying I did. And it was probably harder for me than most other people. But also I must say I'm disappointed with her- as someone who arrived on message of "hope change and faith" at the very least I expected her to be the unifying, calming presence.