Note: this took place in Spring of 2016

American Sign Language (ASL) is my natural mode of communicating as a deaf person so imagine my horror when one day, I found my hands “handcuffed” with clothes tied around them and unable to move at all. I was terrified and tried to scream before realizing it had to be some type of dream.

At some point later, I woke up seeing my parents and cousins standing at the end of my hospital bed in a bright room with the sun coming through the window. My last memory was going to the ER with severe back pain and strange lung sounds that were audible to my parents. The sign language interpreter came alongside me and asked how I was feeling. I asked how long I was there — “3 weeks” — it turns out that I was heavily sedated and in/out of consciousness with the interpreter asking me questions conveyed by the doctors whenever I could answer. …

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Isla Vista Cliffs — Santa Barbara, CA

On my journey along the west coast, I met up with a friend, a former Venture Capitalist and a serial entrepreneur who remarked that I am now wandering into mindfulness or rather heartfulness. He joyfully said that my deafness was a blessing — driving along the California highways, not hearing the honking or sounds but just using my eyes to take in the beautiful ocean beach landscape. …

As a follow up to my previous post, I have been reading “Design meets Disability” by Graham Pullin which is an exploration of how disabilities have changed the field of design and to some extent, created products/services designed for people with disabilities but also benefits everyone else. I feel that many folks do agree with this assessment but do not delve deeper or fully understand the implications behind this philosophy.

“People with disabilities are natural problem-solvers” — Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer for Microsoft. At the CSUN Assistive Technology conference, several sessions covered part/all of the concept of “Design meets Disability”. The eye-tracking software developed by Microsoft for Steve Gleason has potential applications for people with autism, improving reading abilities, and possibly diagnosing concussions. Another Microsoft session detailed how their artificial intelligence could visualize sounds. …

This is a prelude to my thoughts about the CSUN Assistive Technology conference this week. I find myself thinking about “assistive” vs “mainstreamed” — a point brought up by a friend who works at a VRS (Video Relay Service) company. A quick google search revealed many results but this editorial seems spot on.

As a deaf person, I use several “mainstreamed” technologies. When I was a kid, I had to use a TTY device to make phone calls to other people directly or use a Text Relay Service. To me, that was an “assistive” device. Later on, Wyndtell came out with a product where other people can exchange text messages. This was meant for the general population but to their surprise, we deaf people were the early/fast-growing adopters. That continues with the proliferation of text messaging nowadays. The same is true for video technologies. Facetime, Skype, and Google Hangouts are a boon for us.

So — indeed — I did quit my job on Inauguration Day and in the past month, read books, created my website, watched TV, and spent time with my family. Such a nice extended vacation but …

What the FORK am I supposed to do next? During the summer 2015: I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Colon Cancer, underwent surgery to remove the tumor, and then went through chemo ending in February of 2016 with all the “ughs” in between. …


Alok Doshi

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