Cuquis Robledo

May 26, 2016

DRW2Looking back on the first two days at Disability Rights Washington (DRW) in Seattle, I have learned that life can be short, and that it is important to live everyday like it is your last. I started work this past Tuesday and learned what I was going to be working on this summer. Last summer, I had worked with DRW on a video project about the importance of curb cuts in cities, especially for people with disabilities (PWD) to have accessible access. The video showed that Seattle was not keeping up with these curb cuts, and how other cities need to check theirs as well. The video began a series of videos I created after the summer about different disability issues that were personal to me. As a result, one of my supervisors created the project Community Storytellers to encourage people all over the world to create multiple videos that depicted any type of disability issue that was important to them and that dealt with disability rights.

This summer, I will be in charge of the Storytellers project. I will be researching and recruiting more people with disabilities who have stories they can share with the world through video. In a way, it’s kind of like being a detective finding people who may want to share their voice through media. That means looking at people’s blogs, websites, and stories to see if they would provide perspectives of disability issues as well as represent a diverse population.

While researching, a common theme I came across was each person did not take their life for granted. They acknowledged the challenges they faced, but they realized that their disability was what made them unique and the person they are today. My hope is that since these potential recruits have already shared their life stories online, they will want to be a part of our project and continue to inform the world about disability issues. We have not contacted them yet, but hopefully within the next couple of weeks, our Storyteller group will continue to grow. In addition to recruiting people for our project, I will help out with editing new scripts that are coming in from our other storytellers around the world, and will potentially help my supervisors with the editing process on some these videos to gain further knowledge and hopefully edit my own disability videos.

Picture1Speaking of not taking life for granted, work on Wednesday took an interesting turn. Around 11:30 AM, all of the computers in the office and lights turned off. At first we all thought it was just on this floor, or at least this building. But as we looked across the street at all of the other offices, all the other buildings had no power and everyone was looking out too to see if anyone had power. At first I thought, “Ok. So the power is out, but it should be back on soon.” I had my laptop with me so I could still continue working. But then when the director started sending everyone home I realized, “I have no way to get down and back home.” The elevators were down, I was on the 8th floor, and because of liability reasons no one was going to carry my motorized scooter down all eight flights of stairs. Being in a city that is foreign is scary for anyone. But having a disability, being only 3 ft. 4.5 in. tall where my scooter was my shield and protection to getting around and not getting hurt, I was starting to panic. Also, my roommate who accompanies me to and from work to ensure my safety was not responding to my messages. I later heard that some of my coworkers’ clients who use power-chairs to get around got physically stuck in the elevators on the way to meetings.

DRWThis experience made me realize that there really is no good emergency plan for people with disabilities stuck in buildings who can’t get up or down due to fire or power outages, and cannot be carried due to liability reasons. I was thankful to have one my supervisors wait with me until the elevators were up and running to ensure that I got out of the building safely. This experience, while brief, made me realize how it is important to not take for granted the ability to walk up and down the stairs, and how much I rely on simple devices like elevators to get around independently.

The irony of it all was that a power outage happened last summer when I went to Seattle and worked for DRW, only this time, in the University District where I lived on the 4th floor of an apartment building and could not get up because elevator was not functioning. For both power outages, if it were not for my supervisors this summer and my friend from last summer, I would not have been able to make it home.

So, in these brief 1.5 work days, I learned this one simple thing: Never take life for granted.

Another example from the Community Storyteller Project: Emily Ladau