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A WORLD FOR ALL


MARCH 2013


EDITOR’S LETTER


Ana Flecha Marco Welcome to A World for All, RCN’s first accessible magazine.


The format may surprise some of you. Most of us are used to reading much smaller black-on-white fonts. But this issue is not for


most of us only. I advise you to take the time to read this publication from cover to cover. You may be surprised by how nice


and pleasant your reading experience will be (no retina display needed). Open your senses. Feel around you.


Spring is coming!


CONTENT DISABILITY: A TABOO TOPIC HOW MY BLINDNESS WAS CURED


Gianni Colombero MarĂ­a Teresa Julianello


A STUNNING MOMENT BLINDNESS SHE WHO KNOWS WHY SHE LIVES CAN STAND ANY HOW


Vann Ky Marta HanyĹźkiewicz Oliver Andersson Hugemark


SPRING THE TRUE SPIRIT OF LIVING ACCEPTANCE


Liana Valieva Tenzin Tsuendue Angie Toppan


DISABILITY: A TABOO TOPIC


Gianni Colombero The word taboo comes from the Tongan tapu, which meant forbidden.


Tongans used tapu whenever they had to refer to things that in Tongan traditional society were forbidden for religious or


traditional reasons. The fastest way to realize if a topic is a taboo in a certain society is by looking at the way in which


people talk about it. If, like in the Tongan society, talking about a certain issue is perceived as difficult and people are


always trying to avoid referring directly to it or are always looking for other words and euphemisms, that topic is likely


to be a taboo. Disability is a taboo in a lot of countries all over the world, Western countries included. If we


look at Italy for example, the terminology used to refer to it has changed a lot of times in the last forty years. In the 70s people with impairments


were defined as Handicappati, and for ten / fifteen years this word was fine, because it came from abroad,


from the English word handicap and only a few people knew about the meaning. Then, after a while, Handicappati started


to be perceived as offensive, so in the 80s we shifted to Portatori di handicap, which literally means People who are carrying a


handicap. Later on, at the beginning of the 90s, in Italian official documents people with impairments started to be


defined as disabili, which is the direct translation of disabled, and then at the end of the 90s, that definition was definitely


considered wrong and substituted with persone con disabilitĂ , which means people with disability. In 2004 I went to a conference led


by Carlo Imprudente, a quadriplegic writer. In his opinion, the right way to define a person with impairments was


diversamente abile whose English translation is differently abled, and to make it shorter, he had invented the neologism


diversabile, *diversable in English. He actually had a good argument to support his thesis: he said that people with impairments


always develop special abilities in order to cope with their impairments, which people without impairments don’t develop.


I agreed with his ideas, but at the same time, I was wondering if this definition was going to change again or not. When I came to this college, in an


Anglo-American and Norwegian environment, I realized that here the word disabled is not the right word to use at all, and that even


people with disability, people with impairments or people with challenges, are not the best words to use. In fact, I was going to work with


people with special needs. I was a bit confused, but at the same time this was a confirmation of what I had already


observed in my country and I was glad to see that Italy is not the only place that has problems finding the correct


terminology. The reason is only one: disability is a taboo and we are doing as the Tongans did, with the difference that


instead of using the word tapu we have another system. We change words and definitions and we always try to get more


neutral and ambiguous ones, and for this reason it is useful in obscuring the taboo issue that we are talking about.


At the same time, I think that the right word to define the issue of disability simply doesn’t exist and probably won’t exist as long


as this matter remains a taboo. Until that moment, all the official definitions that we are trying to state will need to be changed


periodically, as well as our official documents. The only way to make it less problematic, less taboo, is to increase


contacts and links between people with impairments and people without them, so that the latter will gradually


feel more comfortable talking about this concern. In my opinion, the example of integration and open mindedness given by


this college is the right way to break the invisible mental barrier that generally surrounds this topic. If all


society was like our college, I think we would probably find an easy way to talk about disability without always


wondering if we are using the right or the wrong words.


HOW MY BLINDNESS WAS CURED


MarĂ­a Teresa Julianello In 1980 I did an interpreting course in the University of California at Santa Barbara,


a campus I applied to because it was actually on the beach—literally (so much for academic considerations). The degree


allowed you to apply for a job at the Los Angeles Supreme Court, which I got. Boy, did I love myself and my life: being a grad student I taught,


too, and had an office overlooking the Pacific Ocean. A few steps down and I was on the beach with friends from the commune


where I lived (no descriptions here). Classes were hard because they involved a lot of practice in booths listening to


tapes you had to do simultaneous translation for and memorizing long vocabulary lists of law terminology, not to speak of


the traffic laws, police procedure and the California civil code. We read all day and wrote, took notes and moved from place to place


enjoying all the amenities in the university and outside. Then one day a new student joined the class and entered in mid lesson:


Alice in denim dungarees, stringy hair and staring ahead; she stumbled a bit, said Hi and sat down with her dog. She


was uncool and definitely not with it, I thought. What the heck is she doing bringing the dog here? Then I realized that she was


blind because she blinked often and tried to focus her head in the direction of the teacher. There was a dead silence and the dynamics of the


room changed. (I apologize for sounding so callous, but this is a true story). That nobody talked to her after class or introduced


themselves, that no one offered to tell her about the book list or practice time or where the lab was is now astonishing to me and fills me


with shame, but then we were young and living the dream and felt the world was just not only us, but that there could be no other world but the one


inhabited by the cool dudes who actually could see. She felt like an intruder, a misfit, somebody who had no right to be there because she


was not going to make it anyway. Somebody mentioned a program to include the disabled being run in the university and


that, of course, concessions would have to be made about marks and assessment. Nice. About two weeks later we had a


huge practice run involving law manuals (criminal code) and if you passed you could access the practice offered in situ at the


Santa Barbara court, a big deal since from there you could apply to the downtown LA building on 6th St. I still don’t know what made me


do it, but I guess I was mad at Alice: she was out of her depth, she had neither done nor said anything in those past two weeks in class that


showed she had a grasp of what we were doing, and she was going to be humiliated even more than she already was by her disability. You


can’t do what we do, girl. Just get a grip. So I went over and said “So what are you gonna do about next week?” in a tone I shudder to


remember. “Study”, she answered simply and with a smile.” Would you like to come and practice some?” My jaw dropped.


I don’t know why I went, but I did not tell anybody—I was embarrassed. But I did go and boy, did I wise up to reality. Alice had trans-


ferred from the program in San Francisco State University, having graduated in languages summa cum laude. Her place


was full of Braille books she dexterously read like a pianist virtuoso. She had a terrific memory and could remember


those damn legal vocabs like a flash. More than that, she remembered every lesson verbatim (of course, she was training to do


simultaneous translation). She was fast, she had great command of grammar, she could switch from one language to the other in no


time and her aural awareness left me in awe. I could NOT keep up with her—her speed was such that I realized she was literally


outrunning any of us in class and would definitely be hired in LA. Which she was, but more on that later. Besides being


tops, she was warm and fun and resilient and we moved to the beach to study almost every day. Being with her gave me not another outlook


on disabilities, but rather another outlook on my own, blind as a bat in my self-centered, navel-gazing, unaware ways. Alice


graduated top of the class and went on to become head translator for the county. Of course she teased me about that day when I


approached her and we still have a good laugh about it, but now with my eyes wide open.


A STUNNING MOMENT


Vann Ky Having the need to concentrate more, I spend most of my time in the library


these days. Seated two meters away is a second year from Poland. I have to admit I didn’t pay much attention to what she was doing


at first, but quite often I heard her calling me “Vann, can you help me, dear?� The first time she called me, I realized she was looking for


some papers and she was asking me to help her find them. She then continued studying in silence. After a while, she


called me again, asking if I could put earrings in her ears. Strange, isn’t it? If you don’t know her, it is. But it isn’t if you know that she can


hardly see anything. She is already living as a blind person. Each time I went helping her with what she needed,


I never saw negative facial expressions. She always smiled and repeatedly said, “Thank you, dear.” I couldn’t believe how a


person with such a disability has a very positive outlook. She would always tell me that it’s such a beautiful day with


the sunshine and it’s not worth sitting inside for so long. One time, she asked me to proofread her essay related


to her improvisation and how it went. She was describing how challenging and fun it was. The actress was herself a blind


woman. She was telling her own story, how difficult it is not being able to see, how she hoped to see the beautiful surroundings,


how she longed to appreciate the nature. She described in the improvisation when a male actor rescued her when she was lost alone in


the forest with a voice unheard. I was stunned. A person who appears to be happy and hopeful all the time is shouting inside


for help. I looked at her; she was still smiling.


BLINDNESS


Marta HanyĹźkiewicz In the darkness you can see the light of life The light which lifts the darkness


Darkness changes to colourful rainbows Darkness brings light to my heart Darkness is not called darkness


any more Darkness is the beauty of darkness This beauty is blind Blindness is not darkness


Blindness is enlightenment Blindness is not the lack of sight Blindness is a genuine viewing of the world by the heart


In Laski I met blind people who became my friends They taught me that blindness is not fear That darkness is not dark grey


That life is full of rainbow colours After a storm and heavy rain there comes a colourful rainbow Laski is a magical place


You can not see this magic You can feel it It stays in your heart forever The magic of gold of goodness It is a life changing place


where you discover who you are How lucky you are What the meaning is in life In this place there are


a lot of paths When you walk there you feel that this place makes a change in your life There is no fear there There is peace


in nature There are people who make this place special The people are special there People who teach you that the complexity


of life is beautiful The complexity brings joy The joy has power Powerful emotions create happiness


Happiness shapes people Small things make you happy You are happy because you are there You meet people who


see the world with the heart The heart truly accepts who you are Then you start to accept who you are


That beauty is insightful The beauty is invisible People who are there can see the beauty of life It starts from acceptance


of who you are The pain you come with can create something beautiful That pain can open the heart to truly see


the beauty of life There is no pain in blindness because blindness is not darkness Blindness is a rainbow which guides you


to explore the color of your path The path is special It is your path It is my path When you follow the path


You are not afraid of darkness because in darkness you can hear what your heart is saying to you


Be quiet! Don’t say I want to see! Just listen! Pick Pick Pick Pick It’s your heart


It’s not darkness. Pick Pick Beauty is blind


SHE WHO KNOWS WHY SHE LIVES CAN STAND ANY HOW


Oliver Andersson Hugemark When I put my foot on LASKI’s campus, a


school in Warsaw for students with visual impairment, I was shattered. Haunted by lifedoubt, the past and other things


I didn’t think belonged in my mind, I held quite a downhearted idea about life in general. In a sense, my mind was a prison. At that time,


I didn’t understand how this is not like many other places, and I had no clue it would do something with me that even in


my wildest imagination I could never have imagined. It was magical. These kids’ soft voices spoke directly to your heart; they


penetrated your layers and made you feel guilty for not loving life. They were no victims; they were humanized and possessed remarkable


human values. It was the first day and I was slowly walking around with a blind girl some years younger than me. I was acting friendly,


of course, but actually my mind was not with her at all. My head was preoccupied with other businesses that I prioritized over


what she had to tell me about herself. We continued to walk; her with a soft voice of presence and me with a noisy mind. Quite


honestly she didn’t seem to understand that my responses were more habitual than anything else. I stopped with her standing


still by my side. She was looking at me. And I looked back. The girl had said something that had interrupted my self-


absorption. Confused, I looked at her with close attention once more. Excuse me? She repeated herself and the words


“I like you, you are special� echoed in the air around us. I was surprised and about to realize something quite unusual. That human


being was so real and it made her so intense. As we continued to walk I started to look at myself from an odd angle. I felt like a ruthless


criminal because my distorted life view was about to steal my future, my friends and all the rest of it. Surely, my difficulties didn’t


disappear but if she had managed to come to terms with hers, how come I was living in such despair, as lucky as


I was?I don’t exactly know what it was, but for some seconds the feeling that girl gave me when the only thing that mattered


was that I existed, that I was alive, was so different. She didn’t solve anything for me, but she made everything so lucid, just by


being herself. She was blind, I fully sighted. She had lost both her dad and brother, while I still had my family intact back in the Swedish


forests. The list continued, and so did the contrasts. She had overcome all the obstacles life had imposed on her, yet she


proved for me that I was too able to confront my life although my problems were of a different nature. She had seen hope-


lessness in a terrible form, but had come to self-responsibly take herself seriously as few do these days. Stultifying conformist


conceptions of the good life didn’t exist on her radar, and she was a product of will, not social constructionism. Her disability


was an ability that enabled an inner journey instead of compliance with social archetypes. Even if the odds didn’t seem be


particularly on her side, this didn’t seem to mean anything to her. She was one of the strongest and most vibrant human beings I


have ever met. For that I am thankful; for the fact that I could meet someone who believed in every word she said and who embodied what


it truly means to be an individual. In terms of goodness she was indeed limitless. Superficial layers that so often dictate our relationship


with people were absent and sincerity was the moral compass she followed. With her you could feel the human


connection, because she didn’t intend to feed her egoic sense of self. All the people I met that week appealed to me because they


genuinely lived by what it means to be human. I once disregarded people with disabilities, when I was a condescending


fool. If you do the same still, you should know that you have fundamentally misunderstood your place in this world.


SPRING


Liana Valieva

Spring’s supposed to come next week, The sun is shining lightly.


I have felt a little sick, Sneezing, coughing slightly. Why are we a trifle sad When we feel


not good nor bad? And can’t maintain make believe Just stay quiet, still –and breathe.


Have you noticed human nature? People pretend to be better. But when they have a simple flu The real soul


comes out –and true. People who can’t see –they hear. The voice of nature –is it fear?


You may know what is around Without hearing a clear sound. Can you stop and close your eyes? Many things


you’ll realise. Do you know birds cannot fly If they do not even try?


THE TRUE SPIRIT OF LIVING


Tenzin Tsuendue I’ve always perceived my world as very different from that of others. All the


suffering I have been through and all the struggles I have had in the past seemed to be happening to only me.


My thoughts and way of thinking were so narrow that I couldn’t think beyond the fact of what was happening to me. I don’t think it was my fault,


but rather I was a child who spent his whole childhood life in the darkness without parental love, without any family. My mom died when


I was two and my father left then. I grew up with an aunt who is crippled by polio, but who was always my greatest strength and inspiration.


Through her I learned to respect all people with disabilities. But there were hardly any students with disabilities


in our school. Then came a turning point of my life. My fate took me to UWC Red Cross Nordic. I got inspired so


quickly that I didn’t recognize the changes in me. I saw Edwin, who is now my friend. Both his hands were missing. I was


shocked for a moment when I first saw him. I imagined myself in his shoes and realised how lucky I was. I was then


carried away by thoughts which made me feel guilty about the time I had wasted. I told myself that if he can do something huge,


then I must do my level best to develop my abilities. People always think that disabled people are incapable of doing what normal people


can do, like exercising or studying for example, and to those I want to say “You’re wrong!” I want to ask them how much they do


according to their ability and how much they are doing. Honestly, these people with disabilities are truly and unbelievably


strong and courageous. I also know a person to whom I am really grateful. His name is Tesfahunegn Hailu and he is


incredibly good at computers such as getting rid of viruses, programming, uploading new software and a lot more beyond my knowledge.


He lost one of his legs and one hand in an accident but is still very dedicated to his dream. I still remember him saying “Hey


Tenzin, I want to become a software engineer.� He always helps people, even sacrificing his own sleep inorder to fix others’


computers. Back home, people with disabilities are seriously underestimated by the society. In terms of jobs and special


opportunities, their options are limited. People are becoming more selfish these days. They only care about themselves, and


people with disabilities are left behind. Our thoughts about them are narrow. Here at the college we are inspired by people like


Tesfa and Edwin, but there are also people with disabilities who are afraid of getting out and facing the challenges. We should en-


courage them and establish projects which will give them better opportunities to realise their potential. People still care


for their fellow human beings. We should be more compassionate. Let’s create a bridge, a positive mentality that will promote better


understanding which will enable people with disabilities to thrive.


ACCEPTANCE


Angie Toppan

I was 14, graduating from the cosy, safe environment of my small village primary school


and entering the scary world of “the big kids�. It was a tough year. I was bored and bullied in middle school, where a


desire to learn was frowned upon by my peers and I felt that I didn’t belong. But one day we were given the opportunity to


sign up for a social service within the confines of the school, and everything changed. Along the corridor from


my homeroom, where we met with an advisor group every morning, there was a Special Ed classroom. Special Ed?


What was that? I had no idea, but whenever I passed the room it looked cheerful and friendly, lively and active with students of


different ages and sizes cooking and sewing, reading and engaged in creative activities. A list appeared on a board,


and I signed up to visit this mysterious class for an hour a week, to help in any way needed. As soon as I entered the


Special Education classroom, I felt that I had come home; a sense of belonging took my breath away. The children approached me


without hesitation or awkwardness, asking questions, tugging at my hands, eagerly demanding my attention.


Someone needed help threading a needle, and a little girl with Down’s Syndrome wanted someone to help her


practice reading. Students went shopping, prepared and sold food –learning to plan meals, wash dishes, and manage


money and numbers in the process. The students learned life skills, which seemed far more meaningful and “real� than


the lessons which were taking place just down the hall. Enchanted by this parallel universe which existed within our


conventional middle school, I started spending more and more time with this group of children. Weekly visits became daily,


and the teachers started giving me more responsibility, entrusting me with more details of the children’s lives. The children


were “special” in that they couldn’t follow the standard curriculum, but they had a curriculum and they worked hard


and learned, achieved goals and celebrated victories and cried over defeats in frustration. And what struck


me day after day was the way these “special” kids made me feel OK to be me. They took me as I was. They didn’t try to fit me into a


box or force me to change. They didn’t bully me. They didn’t judge me. They accepted me. And this changed everything.


A World for All  

UWC RCN's first accessible magazine!

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