International Institute of Biochemical and
An Inspirational story of Judy – a speech and hearing impaired individual with some thoughts on the existence of learning disabilities
to me almost 20 years ago. She was hearing impaired and mute who had just a
year ago graduated from high school. The State subsequently enrolled her in a
janitorial training program figuring being deaf and mute what else she could
ever become. The terms of the training program were that she will receive a
six months training for a certain fee and then upon completion she will be
placed in a job and training agency would receive the balance the training,
i.e., the placement fee. . She completed the first part of the training
earning a title of “Janitorial Technician” but when it came to finding her a
job, they could not. So to complete the second part i.e., the placement part
of the program and get paid for it, they sent her to work in a restaurant
where, as I understand, she was put to wash dishes.
initial reaction to Judy was of dismay wondering what I would be able to do
with her especially since she is speech and hearing impaired. If nothing else
we would run into communication problems, I surmised. But then I realized, she is not blind or physically impaired. Up till now she
has been living her life, even graduating from high school, a feat not many
people endowed with speech and hearing accomplish? Plus who am I to judge her
before giving her a try. Instinctively then I created an apprenticeship
position on the spot and told Judy that I have an apprenticeship opening and
if she is interested to try it out, she needs to come to the lab the next
morning at 9.00 A.M. Not having any funds, I also told her that I am not able
to pay her anything and she will not have to pay me anything either.
All I did
was to show her what we do and how we do it writing some of the directions
and “whys” as we went along. This was remarkable to say the least (well to us
not to her). As funds became available I put Judy on a nominal stipend.
To us it was thus important that somehow the wet labs be re-opened and if funds are the limiting factor, providing generic “classroom quality” supplies at less of a cost could facilitate re-opening of the labs thus re-invigorating the quality of science education.
Judy had learned to prepare the needed supplies and test them that they met our quality control guidelines. Slowly but surely she then took over this part of our educational activity.
the time as she got better and better at what she was learning and doing with
us, she also used to go to Chicago Health Club or a similar workout facility.
There, they made videos for a commercial and when they edited the videos,
Judy ended up in a commercial which aired I believe on the Spanish TV
The bottom line is, and what Judy demonstrated, that we need to bring a paradigm shift in our own thinking and the two words we need to remove from our vocabulary and from our judging scale are “disabled” and “handicapped”. True, that is how they look to us and we judge and treat them accordingly but they are living and functioning in their own reality and doing so remarkably well.
Another case in point is my own grandson who is legally blind with a 20/200 visual acuity and suffers from Achromatopsia which is basically a severe sensitivity to light and does not see colors. Yet he behaves in more than a normal way. What I learned from him and his behavior is that he is living in a different reality and is quite adjusted to it.
He is only eight years old but his wealth of knowledge is
formidable. He knows all about birds, perhaps more than an ornithologist. He
also guides me with our fish tank we have at the
This happened a year or so ago when he was between 6 and 7. He came to my lab asking me for an incubator as a Christmas present. When asked why, he said he has these fertile eggs and he want to hatch them. But for that, I told him that the lab incubator won’t do because the eggs frequently need to turn during incubation. So we bought him a regular poultry incubator.
Now he has thirty or so hens and he gathers eggs from those hens which he sells for $3.00 a dozen and donates the proceeds to Heifer International. I understand that the amount he donates is matched dollar for dollar by the “Dannon” Yogurt people. Go figure disability! He has none but a different reality that he is adjusted to and living within that reality.
Here is the link to his story which appeared in the Saratoga Newspaper and also the link to his video about his “eggs of hope” project.
The remarkable thing about him also is that he draws beautifully. See his drawings :
How he does it is beyond me. My only guess is that his fingers not his eyes are somehow connected to his brain and they know where the pen is and where he wants it to go next. It is similar to the blind people who can navigate through a furnished room as long as you do not disturb the set up.
He also plays Djembe. See his videos playing Djembe at:
And the last thing that comes to my mind is “how a mole does live in its burrow without eyes?
We with the eyes and with our full faculties are the limited ones and are acting as judges and juries limiting those we think are limited while creating charitable programs aimed at caring for them. Are we caring for them or for ourselves? Because the funds we so generate often become our financial bread and butter!
Riaz-ul Haque, Ph.D.,
Center for integrative learning
International Foundation of Microbiology
And the International Institute of Biochemical and Biomedical Techno logy – iibbt.