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In February I started my Masters in Disability Studies in SPS. Unlike most of the other programs it’s not as heavily based on the web. All the classes meet in either the Graduate Center or the CUNY Central building. I will disclose that I am a person with a disability at the beginning because it’s relevant to my blog as well as who I am as a person. I was born in Egypt and I started losing my vision at the age of four. I’m also a straight male of the middle class. So that makes me not one of all these qualities, but all at once. I’m a person first, and then I am Egyptian, blind, straight, male, and a middle class member. I’m also an aspiring musician, writer, student and the list goes on. What I’m getting at is that as a person I cannot be defined by one quality. Instead, I am at the point where all these different attributes intersect. And that’s what I learned in my Disability and Diversity class. Each individual person is made up of a complex mixture of characteristics and it doesn’t do them justice to define them as simply “African American,” “queer,” or “disabled.”
This leads me to my next point. Before I started the Disability Studies program I wasn’t really sure who I was. I was definitely sure that I was blind, but I didn’t really identify with any of my other qualities. The more I learned, the more I realized that I wasn’t just a part of the blind community. I’m also a part of the disability community. I wasn’t just a New Yorker. I’m an American. I’m not just Egyptian. I’m Arabic. My studies helped me realize that I was a part of all these bigger communities. This resulted in me understanding myself better and forming a more wholesome identity. It has also improved my ability to relate to others. Because of that, I’ve made a lot of close friendships since I’ve started my graduate degree.
Throughout this semester I will show you the world through “my eyes.” I’ll talk about what it means to be a blind student. Which is mainly the same as being a sighted student. The main difference is that I have to always make sure that I get my books and readings in an accessible format so that I can read them. I’ll talk about exploring my identity as an Egyptian and an Arab. I’m sure there’s more to it than smoking hookah and getting free Halal food. And I’ll also share my insights about the other facets of my identity.
Walei is pursuing a masters in Disability Studies in the School of Professional Studies. He has blogged for the Accessible New York project in the past and continues to do so. Walei is also an aspiring writer, musician, and advocate for people with disabilities.