Dear Honorable President Barack Hussein Obama II and Family,

I felt the need to write you this letter for two reasons, to say thank you and to say I am sorry.

I don’t know how many people have thanked you for being one of the greatest Presidents we have ever had in this country. Through judgement of your legitimacy and unsurmountable opposition, to every move you have tried to make for the betterment of this country, you have served this country with style and grace in a way that no President in my knowledge has ever done. You and your family have done so much, knowing that you will never get the credit you deserve.

I am an army veteran, and throughout your Presidency, regardless of the decisions you have had to make, I have never been more proud to serve this country. You and the First Lady, Michelle Obama will be the examples of who I want my children to desire to emulate. You have inspired me to be a better version of myself every day, and after you leave the Presidency I will continue down that path.

The fight that you have fought does not and will not end with you. You are an inspiration to people the world over.  You have held the world on your shoulders in a way that no one ever believed you could and you did it as a gentleman and a scholar.

To the First Lady, you are the standard of how women across the world should be held to.

To your daughters, be proud in the fact that your parents are heroes in every sense of what a hero is supposed to be. They should be proud of the fact that they have played part in the making of a symbol of greatness for people who have been too far under served by this nation for too long.

I am sorry that too many of us have left you to do this alone. I am sorry that too few of us in this nation took up the mantle of hope that you started this journey with and spread it across this nation. I am sorry that that we abandoned you on the battle field in Washington D.C. as many of us sat back and watched while you were attached from every side imaginable, and then blamed you for not doing enough. You have never let us down; we have forsaken the faith that you had in us. I am sorry that somehow we allowed hate to beat out love.

There is so much more I want to say, but in this moment, my heart is heavy.

However, there is an upside to this dark day. Today is my birthday, and when I woke up this morning I cried, because this is the first time in my life I feel ashamed to have served this country. Then I looked at my son and I reinvigorated in my focus. I was reminded of why you inspire me. My gift to myself on this day is to work harder than ever in everything that I do. I will not let this wave of hatred weaken my stance against animosity in any of its forms. I pray that others will join me in fighting against all the division and distraction that has crawled out of the darkness, by way of the Republican representation and those of like-minded ideologies.

Your victories will stand forever in me and all those who are now can see our current reality.

Lauren Patterson is a single father, student in the Communication and Program program at CUNY SPS, entrepreneur, and a veteran. However, first and foremost Lauren is a student of life. Lauren is a self-proclaimed work in progress, and thrives on his motto: live to be the successful person you already are.

The election is over and we have a new President. Not the one I wanted admittedly (for several reasons), but the election is over and Mr. Trump won.

Now, unlike what President-elect Trump and what some of his supporters said in the run up to the election; I DO recognize the legitimacy of the electoral process. I do NOT advocate for armed rebellion because the candidate I supported did not win. I DO recognize that he is the President–elect and no, I do NOT hope for his “removal” by extrajudicial means.

I DO hope we can come back from all this and at least put on the veneer of civility but I admit that may be difficult because of some “words” that may have been said/typed in the heat of anger. Most importantly, I DO hope that President-Elect Trump means what he says when he says he will be a President for ALL Americans.

I DO hope his definition of Americans will include minorities, immigrants, and people of different faiths, people with disabilities and differing sexual orientations and identities.

Good luck President-elect Trump, we’ll all need it.


Daniel Chan is a belated student who took the 20+ year plan to get his Bachelor’s Degree. He recently received his M.A. in Disability Studies and is working on his M.S. in Disability Services in Higher Education. His proudest academic achievement is still his GED.

A little girl with autism was on a long car ride across many states with her mom and grandma. There were no exits in the area. They could not stop because she might run out into traffic. The girl was tired, hungry, overwhelmed and started to break down. She could not express her frustrations and needs because of language difficulties. Her mom was unable to calm her down. The girl hit and scratched her mom. By the end of the trip her mom’s arm was covered in scratches and bruises.

How would the mom explain the bruises and scratches? What insulting remarks would they endure in regards to the girl’s behavior? What if the mom decided to risk stopping? Would the girl have run out into the street? How would they survive even greater stigma and the repercussions of the girl running out into traffic?

What If
A young girl with autism goes to the renaissance festival with her family. She was very happy and excited. However, an hour later she became overwhelmed. The crowds and loud noises were causing sensory overload. She struggled to process everything going on. Her stress and anxiety levels shot through the roof. Her dad took her to a quiet, secluded area.

What if things didn’t turn out well? What if she had a meltdown? What would people think? Would the police or social services be called? Would the family suffer injustice stemming from stigma and ignorance?

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.

A Cruel World
The world is cruel in many ways. However, life is about persevering in the face of adversary. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

Three Words
We fought again. You are worthless. I hate you. Love is gone. I lost control. I killed you. A shattered soul. I committed suicide. Life moves on.

Life is horrible. I am lost. I am here. A broken heart. Please help me. You are strong. Love is alive. A life saved. The world remembers.

People say ignorance is bliss but it’s not. Ignorance hurts you and you are ignorant of those damaging effects. It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Just wait until it backfires on you.

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.

On November 20, 2014, President Barack Obama presented the United States, and families watching from their television at home, a chance at hope one more time. This announcement went by the name of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) with the addition of an expansion to the requirements for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The proposition for DAPA provided parents of Lawful Permanent Residents and U.S. citizens, if they fell under the set requirements, a relief from deportation of the United States.

As the announcement went on, various non-profit organizations across the U.S. started preparing for DAPA and expanded DACA by gathering volunteer trainings, conducting informative workshops, and holding community conferences. These programs were expected to assist over 4.4 million people, according to the Department of Homeland Security. As time went by, many individuals on the opposing side of President Obama’s executive action gathered as much force possible to attack and ultimately destroy the preposition.

To our demise, with a policy that would have granted millions of families the opportunity to work with a work authorization and stop fear of deportation, on February 16, 2015 a federal judge in Texas blocked these two programs. In his injunction, he stated that the two programs were against the abilities of the President and thus placed a hold on them so that they can no longer be implemented.

Up to this date, DAPA and expanded DACA supporters have attempted to find some sort of outlet to allow it to go forth but it has not found itself successful. In recent news, as of October 3, 2016, the Supreme Court denied the request to rehear the DAPA and expanded DACA case until after a 9th justice is appointed, which would mean these immigration programs will remain blocked.

While this is disappointing and families are currently in limbo waiting for some sort of relief to keep their families united, we should continue to fight and show our support for DAPA and expanded DACA. This also only means that now more than ever, we need to have our voices be heard and VOTE on November 8 for a new body of government that will stand up for our families, community and our future.

Let your voice be heard, and vote on election day—our ancestors didn’t fight for our right to vote for it to only be put to waste.

Yours truly,

A passionate advocate for immigration reform

P.S.—Please be aware of immigration fraud by understanding that nor expanded DACA or DAPA is active. There are currently no immigration forms available for these two programs. Also, when consulting for immigration relief one should only adhere to accredited organizations and legally authorized attorneys that practice immigration law in the United States. Lastly, “notarios”/notaries are not lawyers or accredited representatives therefore they can not provide you with any sort of assistance or guidance on immigration cases or forms. If you need any legal help contact the New York State Office of New Americans for reliable referrals.

Melissa Portillo is a recent graduate from Baruch College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. She is currently pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Immigration Law with the CUNY School of Professional Studies. In her spare time, Melissa is greatly involved in various volunteer projects that are geared towards assisting immigrants and low-income New Yorkers by informing and empowering families to attain successful integration. As a first generation graduate, Melissa hopes to continue to improve the lives of immigrant families and bring about change.


Hello CUNY SPS Community,

I recently attended orientation for my fall internship at a major news organization.

The internship seems to be really well organized and structured, and one of the things I most enjoyed was the career development sessions. One thing we did was take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This is a personality test that is designed to indicate psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. I was really fascinated by this process and the results, because I felt that they were surprisingly accurate!

I had never taken a personality test before, but was recently encouraged to because I have been doing a lot of soul searching and career development/goal setting in my own life. I think it is important that your passions align with your strengths, and so I was excited to find out what I may be more inclined to doing well and enjoying at the same time.

Read the rest of this entry »

Do or do not disclose your disability to your employer, a predicament that has haunted people with disabilities to this day. Most advise that you do not disclose except when necessary to perform the job. Sometimes it is not necessary but it would be helpful. How much do you disclose? Do you have to include specifics? It depends on the situation. People are concerned about disability discloser. Yet people don’t think that we are forcing people to hide who they are. A disability is a part of who a person is. They shouldn’t have to hide that for fear of retaliation. A person doesn’t have to worry about disclosing that they are “normal.” They can work without fear of retaliation. Why can’t we accept the “normal” and the disabled as equal partners in the workplace?

No Disclosure
Expectation: normal, meet expected
Reality: don’t meet
Interpretation: incompetent
Reason: slacker, uninterested

Expectation: abnormal, achieve less
Reality: meet or exceed
Interpretation: “competent”
Reason: less than, stupid

Expectation: individual ability
Reality: meet or exceed
Interpretation: competent
Reason: different, not less

Laura MacKenzie loves to learn about the world around her. She adores animals and has a dog and cat. She is always observing, thinking, and analyzing. Her goal is to become a police consultant/instructor on community relations and disability. Laura is enrolled in the Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS.

Hurricane Matthew’s left Haiti devastated once again. More than 800 people died or that is what the U.S. news has been telling you. The truth is yes, people died but the number is not that large. It is maybe 300 people. It happened mainly in Les Cayes and in Jérémie which is located on the tip of Haiti in the south.  The reason they are falsifying the number of deaths is that certain businesses think the more deaths reported, the more donations they will receive. People love to help Haiti, but does the money they have donated in the past done any good? No. I can tell you this as I live in Haiti and I grew up here. I have the best interest of this country at heart.
Do not donate to the Red Cross. The Red Cross is supposed to be an organization that helps, but it has not in Haiti. After the earth shattering earthquake in 2010, half a billion dollars was donated to the Red Cross but did Haiti actually see that money? No, they did not. Only 6 homes were built with half a billion dollars. Where did that money go? The Red Cross has failed in Haiti. People in the capital more than 6 years later are still living in tents. The big charities use the majority of donations on fundraising and administrative costs and don’t work with or listen to the local communities.
What can you do actually help Haiti?
If you do want to donate, donate to local agencies in Haiti such as Jasper’s House Haiti or even Care. Work with people/small organizations on the ground (familiar with the areas in need). Communicate with them and have them tell you what the needs are.
Here are a list of charities where the money will actually help:
Flora Cross is an elementary teacher working at a bilingual school in Haiti. She grew up in Haiti and returned after many years of absence. She has travelled the world with her journalist father so writing has always come extremely naturally. She is currently enrolled in the Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS. Flora hopes to open a school in Haiti for children with disabilities.

Part 5: Perceptible Information, the fourth principle of Universal Design
by Antonia Levy, Christopher Leydon & Chris Kchao

This month we discuss the fourth principle of Universal Design (UD), Perceptible Information, meaning that “the design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.”

Guidelines for adherence to this principle include:

  • Use different modes (pictorial, verbal, tactile) of presentation for essential information.
  • Provide adequate contrast between essential information and its surroundings.
  • Maximize “legibility” of essential information.
  • Differentiate elements in ways that can be described (i.e., make it easy to give instructions or directions).
  • Provide compatibility with a variety of techniques or devices used by people with sensory limitations.

CUNY SPS Universal Design and Learning Accessible KeypadPractical examples for this principle are tactile features on numeric keypads for blind users, which usually include a dot on the 5 key, a tactile circle on the enter/confirm button and a tactile x on the cancel/clear button. Consumer devices such as thermostats or infrastructure such as pedestrian signals now employ a combination of tactile, visual, and audible cues to be accessible to all.

In education, this principle calls for providing essential information in a variety of modes (e.g., written, symbolic, tactile, verbal) thereby ensuring effective communication with all users regardless of their sensory abilities. This includes making all (online) instructional materials accessible to users of screen reading software as demonstrated in this video.

For an expert account of how screen readers, we turned to guest contributor Chris Kchao, who handles assistive technology in the Office of Student Disability Services here at CUNY SPS.

Screen readers, sometimes referred to by the general term screen access programs, allow blind or visually impaired users to gain access to written information on electronic devices. Text is typically either read aloud by a synthetic voice or output to a refreshable Braille display. The function of a screen reader is not simply to render any text available on screen, but to facilitate interaction between the person and the user interface. In practical terms, the screen reader doesn’t just voice the text, but also provides contextual information about the item being read (whether it’s a menu, button, checkbox, link, etc). For instance, here’s the output from the NVDA screen reader when a user presses the Windows start key:

Windows 7 Start MenuStart menu, Search Box, edit: Search programs and files.

By way of these prompts, a user is informed not only of what the screen says, but also how to proceed. Among other things, we’re told that a menu is present, and that we’re focused on an edit field in which we may begin entering text.

When a screen reader encounters a document embedded on a website or posted in a Blackboard course site and the user opens it, that document also needs to be accessible to the screen reading software in order for a visually impaired person to access the content. PDF documents, for example, are only accessible when text contained in them is searchable. They should include other “hidden” features, called tags that are added for accessibility purposes only and have no visible effect on the PDF. Such tags include descriptive text for images (called Alt Text) or structure tags (called headings) added to titles, subtitles, etc.

Note that most PDFs created using a scanner are considered inaccessible because they are simply images of the page, which means that a screen reader cannot recognize any of the text. For various ways to make PDF documents accessible to all, see our quick guide or video tutorial with detailed instructions.

PDFs may also be created by conversion from another type of file, such as Word or PowerPoint. If you follow accessibility guidelines when creating those source documents, and then “save  as” a PDF, the accessibility features such as headings or Alt Text for images will carry over into your PDF document. See our Accessibility Resources Site for additional tutorials explaining how to create accessible Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents as well adding captions to your YouTube videos.

Classroom Accessibility (Crippin)

This article is part of an ongoing series introducing the concept of Universal Design (UD) as it applies to the context of higher education and to our work at CUNY SPS. Each installment covers one of the seven principles of UD with practical examples for both faculty and staff, including things you might not immediately associate with accessibility—or inaccessibility. Catch you next time!

Questions or feedback? Email Antonia Levy or Christopher Leydon.

There is a cliché about teachers. They say “those who can’t do, teach.” I am currently working as a Pre-k and Kindergarten teacher in a bilingual school in a small town in Haiti. Haiti is not even a third world country, but a fourth world country, so you imagine how poor it is. I am sure everyone has heard lies such as it is dangerous. Please do not believe the media.

Being a teacher is not something you do because your dreams fail. It is a dream. It was mine. I knew I wanted to become a teacher since before my junior year of high school. I love it and I would not trade it for any other job. Sometimes, I want to rip my hair out when my kids are a little out of control, but I love them. I work in an amazing community. A couple days ago, I came in to the first and second grade class, and this little girl comes up to me and hugs me and looks at me and tells me, “Miss Flora, you are beautiful.” At that moment my heart broke and I told her I loved her and she was so beautiful. These kids do not hear that enough.

Every weekday morning, I wake up at 6am to try to change the lives of my kids. We need more teachers in the world who care and are dedicated, but especially in Haiti. The school I work for is the only bilingual school in the town I live in, as we are a small town and not the capital. I became a teacher to impact these kids and change their lives. I want them to be able to learn English and French and get any job they want. I want to see these kids succeed, that is why I am a teacher. When I see that one of my students knows the material, I am proud of all of my students. This is why I work hard. Teaching is one of the hardest jobs out there, and you have to have the heart, skill, knowledge, and desire to do it.

I am also currently also back at school to get my degree in disability studies because one day I hope to open a school for children with disabilities in Haiti, as there are no real resources for that. Try being a teacher and being a full time student. I get up at 6am, review lesson plans, print out extra materials I may need for the day, work through my lunch period, bring work home, and do my own school work, lesson planning, and so much more. It is exhausting, but I love my job more than anything in this world. It is who I am.

People ask what I do when they meet me? I am a teacher because I want to change children’s lives. I get to make a difference. I may not be a doctor who is saving lives, but I am developing the brains and character of future doctors, lawyers, politicians, and more.

Flora Cross is an elementary teacher working at a bilingual school in Haiti. She grew up in Haiti and returned after many years of absence. She has travelled the world with her journalist father so writing has always come extremely naturally. She is currently enrolled in the Disability Studies here at CUNY SPS. Flora hopes to open a school in Haiti for children with disabilities.