Posts by Swati

IDAP Interview Series: Interview XIV with Tomer Rosner

By on Apr 16, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

IDAP Interview Series: Interview XIV with Tomer Rosner

Our next interview in this series features, Tomer Rosner, an Israeli civil servant. He developed an optic nerve condition at the age of 13 which eventually led to complete blindness. As a legal advisor to the Parliament of Israel, Tomer’s position is one of great importance and responsibility. He directly advises three parliamentary committees including the committee on internal affairs. His dedication to the cause and his position in the Israeli government has allowed him to make great contributions to the disability rights movement in Israel. He has played a fundamental role in the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty by the Israeli Parliament and inclusion of the copyright exemption in their domestic law. An advocate by qualification, Tomer pursued a Master’s in Public Administration at the prestigious Harvard Kennedy School. In this interview, among other things, he discusses his experience of studying in a mainstream school and the role that the State played in providing adequate support to him during his formative years. Even though Tomer continues to face some difficulties in his everyday work which stem from his disability, he is positive that change is coming- slowly but steadily. This interview was conducted by Rahul Bajaj and Madhavi Singh. The interview has been edited for clarity by Anusha Reddy. Could you please describe the nature of disability? I am completely blind. I was born full sighted. At the age of 13, my eyesight started to deteriorate due to an optic nerve problem. It deteriorated slowly and I lost my sight completely at the age of 40 which was about seven years ago. Did you study in a mainstream school while growing up? Most of the time, yes. Till the age of 13 I was completely sighted so I had no problem. When my sight began deteriorating in a material way, I was transferred to a regular school with special features for about two years. There were about 20 or 30 children with visual disabilities spread out in regular classes. They have support for children and special hours after the regular curriculum.Thereafter, I moved to high school,which was a regular school near my home. Afterwards, I attended university, etc. which were all mainstream. To what extent did you benefit from studying in a mainstream school, which was targeted to provide support for your special needs as opposed to completely segregated? I cannot do such a comparison because I was never in a special school. But from what I understand and know through my volunteer work with students, it can be said that a mainstream education is definitely much more suitable and preferable for many people with disabilities at large and people with sight disabilities in particular. It benefits both sides and is much better than segregated schools. Regular children are exposed to children with disabilities on one hand and children with disabilities are mainstreamed, so they can regularly participate in school life.  However, I think that mainstreaming is not necessarily suitable for everyone, and in some cases special schooling may be a better way of getting most out of a person. The important thing is to let the child and the child’s parents to make the best choice for the child. Do you agree that mainstream schools are better than segregated schools provided that mainstream schools have appropriate support systems to accommodate the special needs of children with disabilities? Are all mainstream schools in Israel mandated by law to have these kinds of support systems, or is it just the well-resourced ones that have these systems in place? Yes. The model that is now implemented in Israel is that...

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Formal Collaboration between Herbert Smith Freehills and IDIA

By on Mar 27, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

Formal Collaboration between Herbert Smith Freehills and IDIA

We are happy to announce a formal collaboration between Herbert Smith Freehills, a leading global law firm and IDIA. As part of Herbert Smith Freehills India Practice’s wider commitment to “give back” to India, the firm will provide financial, mentoring and pastoral support to a number of IDIA Scholars during the course of their legal education in various law colleges in India. In addition to assistance with fees and ancillary university expenses, Herbert Smith Freehills will also provide practical assistance through other means to the IDIA scholars which it will support, such as providing graduate recruitment support and internship opportunities, which can help the scholars in shaping their legal careers.   “Laudably, the Constitution of India legislates for equality for all in India – equality before the law and non-discrimination against any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. However, as in many other countries, social and economic exclusion remains prevalent. Through supporting the excellent work of IDIA, we very much hope that we can help those most in need and most deserving to join the legal profession and improve its diversity and, through that, to help serve India well and also help to foster an environment in which there can be a permanent change in attitudes towards the underprivileged as they begin to make their marks within the legal profession. As a committed partner, Herbert Smith Freehills looks forward to building a long-term supportive collaboration with IDIA as well as promoting IDIA’s values and goals to Herbert Smith Freehills’ clients and contacts worldwide.“ “It is a matter of great honour for us that Herbert Smith Freehills, one of the leading law firms in the world has chosen to partner with us on this important mission to make the planet a more inclusive one. What better way to do this than through the medium of legal education and the consequent creation of leaders from within underprivileged communities. Herbert Smith Freehills was one of our earliest institutional supporters and had in the past permitted our scholars to partake in their excellent legal training programmes in India. We are truly grateful that they have now proposed to ramp up this support. We are certain that the several IDIA scholars that benefit from this support will make us all proud and help create an ecosystem that is worthy of the best ideals of law and justice.“ HSF also supports various other initiatives with Indian law colleges. For more details about their India Practice, please see here. [The announcement was first made on the website of Herbert Smith Freehills, and is available...

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IDAP Interview Series: Interview XIII with David Shannon

By on Mar 21, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

IDAP Interview Series: Interview XIII with David Shannon

This interview features Mr. David Shannon, whose spinal cord injury led to quadriplegia, but never stopped him from achieving his dreams. He’s had an illustrious career as an author, activist, lawyer, policy-maker, human rights commissioner, accessibility advisory council founder, first quadriplegic to the North Pole (and accessible parking sign planter!) — and so much more. In recognition of his lifelong work, David was inducted into the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame, and granted some of the highest citizen honours – the Order of Ontario and Canada. In this interview, David shares that he believes there is a very thin line between people with disabilities, and those without; and that the solutions are often extremely simple. The biggest barriers are often attitudinal — the insidious, subtle lowered expectations of people with disabilities, and the resultant social exclusions. These ultimately lead to what David terms as ‘learned subordination’, thus resulting in people with disabilities internalising these messages and not meeting their full potential. While David has sat on countless committees and boards to advise on policy, he emphasises that laws and legislation are not change unto themselves, but vehicles of awareness and education which can ultimately lead to socio-structural changes that can be, but need not necessarily be, accompanied by law. A common theme throughout the interview was David’s emphasis on the importance of love, relationships, and recognising the common humanity that exists across individuals — hence his humble self-professed identity as not just an advocate for disability rights, but the preservation of dignity and the goodness of the human condition! This interview was conducted on January 11th, 2018 by Maggie Huang and Anusha Reddy. The interview was transcribed by Aditi Ladha, with question development assistance by Rahul Bajaj. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. You’ve had such an illustrious career as an author, activist, lawyer, policy-maker, board member Order of Ontario and Canada, Human Rights Commissioner, first quadriplegic to get to North Pole. There’s just so much that we can say about you. So we didn’t really know where to begin and we were hoping that you could introduce yourself and how you would like to portray your own identity. Well, thank you so much and thank you for starting with the most difficult and largest question. Maybe you’re trying to stump me, eh? Right off the bat? (laughs) I would’ve hoped if it was boiled into a short statement, that I am an advocate for not just disability rights but, preservation of dignity and the goodness of the human condition. In your question, you outlined my curriculum vitae to be honest, and that theme has driven the work I’ve done till date. I’ve seen my work through the prism of disability due to a spinal cord injury, now nearly 37 years ago. Through this prism, I’ve seen that the answers, and solutions are truly much easier than we allow ourselves to socially construct. The solutions are extremely simple if they are boiled down to their essence. And I’ve felt that very strongly ever since my accident because the day before my accident, I was no different than the day after, you know- my compulsions, my passions, my interests, my dreams. My accident was shortly after my 18th birthday and everything I wanted to do the day before my accident remained the same the day after, and a year after. That never changed. I had a very strong sense that pursuing those dreams should be just as easy as at any time in my life, and truly, so many of the barriers were either too complicated, or socially...

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IDAP Interview Series: Interview XII with Judge David Szumowski

By on Mar 12, 2018 in Blog | 1 comment

IDAP Interview Series: Interview XII with Judge David Szumowski

In this IDAP interview, we interview Judge David Szumowski. A war veteran, Judge Szumowski lost his eyesight at age 23 when shrapnel from a grenade hit his face during the Vietnam War. Instead of lamenting over this accident, Judge Szumowski displayed tremendous grit and perseverance to overcome the odds stacked against him. After becoming blind, Judge Szumowski studied law and spent 12 years in the office of the District Attorney in trial advocacy. Thereafter, he was appointed to the Superior Court of San Diego County in California in the year 1998 and served on the court for 18 years until his retirement. In this interview, Judge Szumowski shatters the myth that a blind lawyer cannot successfully partake in a jury trial as he cannot see the faces of the jurors. While doing so, he provides detailed insights of how he discharged his functions effectively as an advocate and later on, as a judge on the criminal side. Judge Szumowski also shares with us many life lessons on overcoming adversity, in order to lead a meaningful and productive life. This interview was conducted by Rahul Bajaj and Anusha Reddy on 29 December 2017. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity. You lost your eyesight in 1969 while serving in Vietnam. Could you please describe to us the circumstances that led to your blindness and the precise extent of your visual impairment? Sure. I was in the US army after graduating from college – the University of Richmond in the state of Virginia. I was the platoon leader of a tank platoon of an army unit in South Vietnam. We were battling some North Vietnamese soldiers. We were fired upon by some rocket-propelled grenades. My face was exposed, so the shrapnel from the grenade hit my face and blinded me at that time. I am totally blind and have prosthetic eyes. This consists of a substance in my eye sockets – something like contacts. I have been this way for 45 years now. We understand that you enrolled in law school in 1970 with several other blind students. In an interview, you said it was like an experiment, inasmuch as the law school lacked the infrastructure to facilitate the meaningful inclusion of the visually impaired, braille law books, etc. Could you shed some light on your life in law school and the steps you took to overcome challenges flowing from your disability? I went to the Denvar University School of Law in Colorado. I was one of five blind students there. We were not asked to take the LSAT at that time which by itself was a huge accommodation. It would have been interesting to see how that would have worked out if I had been asked to give the exam. In light of the fact that I was blinded at the age of 23, I had to learn how to use braille then which I did as part of the Veteran Administration Rehabilitation Programme. It was not possible for me to be a fast braille reader, so I could only use it for taking notes using contractions and other shorthand techniques that I developed. There was a recording service for the blind who would record books by sections on a reel to reel tape recorder. For the first year I was provided books in this manner.  I did also tape my lectures on a cassette tape recorder in class. My professors were very accommodative in that they allowed me to record my lectures. I don’t know how the other blind students managed – some of them were born blind,...

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Creative Destruction at it’s Best: The Death of Manual Scavenging?

By on Mar 9, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

Creative Destruction at it’s Best: The Death of Manual Scavenging?

IDIA had the opportunity to welcome Dr. Bezwada Wilson at its Annual Conference 2017, where he delivered a powerful keynote address on “Creative Leadership and Social Change”. He had rightly pointed out that with creativity and willingness, it is possible to eradicate manual scavenging with technological solutions. And now, Genrobotics, a Kerala based firm, has come up with ingenious solutions for this problem. Creativity is one of the most important attributes that IDIA attempts to inculcate among our IDIA Scholars, and volunteers. Dr. Shamnad Basheer writes about this creative advancement that will change potentially the law and practice relating to manual scavenging. [This post was originally published on SpicyIP here] In a provocative address last year at IDIA’s annual conference, Magsaysay Award winner, Dr Bezwada Wilson rhetorically asked: How is it that we managed to send a mission (Mangalyaan) to Mars? And yet, for all our technological prowess, we still have not figured out a way to end manual scavenging! A dastardly practice with deep roots in India’s caste hierarchy and one that continues to haunt us to this day…with lower caste communities inflicted with this bountiful burden of cleaning society’s shit (pardon the French). So much for the promise of equality after more than 65 years of our Constitution coming into force! Little did Dr Wilson know that at the very moment when he spoke at IDIA’s conference, a bunch of bright boys were working on “Bandicoot”—a robot to replace manual scavenging. Unleashed with much fanfare in Kerala a couple of days ago, this invention proves yet again that the best of change comes from a small group of committed people. As the noted anthropologist, Margaret Mead once said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Here is an excerpt from the Quartz on Bandicoot and the boys behind it: “An Indian startup has found a way to get rid of a centuries-old social problem in India that has only turned deadly in recent times, killing more people in a year than even terrorism does in Kashmir. Genrobotics, a firm based in Thiruvananthapuram in the southern state of Kerala, has created a robot that cleans sewers—a degrading and dangerous task otherwise performed by thousands of manual scavengers across the country. On Feb. 26, the startup deployed the first such robot, Bandicoot, in Thiruvananthapuram, in partnership with the Kerala state government. The spider-like machine, with an arm that drops into the manhole, unclogs it, and pulls out the sludge. Bandicoot does in 45 minutes what three workers take two hours to do, one of Genrobotics’ founders said. The company is now in talks with the Indian government’s Swachh Bharat Mission (Clean India Mission) to take the four-legged Bandicoot countrywide, said Arun George, a co-founder of the firm.” As we speak about IP/innovation rankings and indices (speaking of which, the notoriously noxious US Chamber of Commerce rankings is once again doing the rounds), we must find a way to capture and reward inventions with significant social impact…even those, that from a pure IP perspective, may not match up to our higher ideals of “inventiveness”. We might have got to the Bandicoot before, if only we’d put out a bounty (prize) for anyone who came up with a bright idea to end the menace of manual scavenging. For those interested, here is a piece of mine reflecting on prizes and other non IP incentives. Bandicoot is not just a clever idea; it is a game changer, and dare I say a life saver! Putting some teeth back into India’s constitutional promise of “equality” for Dalits and other marginalized sections who’ve had to clean our...

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