Monday, 27 June 2016

A math lesson for disability rights 

I want to give a sermon on the two ways - one good, and one not-so-good - of doing something on a large scale (from the pulpit of a mathematician to `social justice' ministries). So I request your forbearance while I start with a little high school mathematics.

Write C(n,r) for the number of teams of r players that can be made from a population of size n, where r is a whole number no larger than another whole number n. There is a scary/ugly formula which counts this number. For example, C(8,3) is the ratio (8x7x6x5x4x3x2x1)/[(3x2x1)(5x4x3x2x1)]; in general if we write n! (read n factorial) for (nx(n-1)x(n-2)x...x3x2x1), then C(n,r)=(n!)/[(r!){(n-r)!}].) Coming up with clever and elegant ways of solving such potentially horrendous`counting problems' is the delightful area of combinatorics.

Let me begin by discussing the equation:  C(n,r)xr = nxC(n-1,r-1). The right way of seeing this equation is as follows. (and the inelegant way is to use the formula with `factorials' discussed above.) Imagine that the task in hand is to see how many ways there are of choosing a team of r players out of a population of n, and select a captain to lead that team. There are (at least) two ways of finding the answer: on the one hand, you can first pick the team (in one of C(n,r) possible ways), and after that, pick one of the r players of the team you have chosen as captain, hence arriving at C(n,r)r as the desired answer; on the other hand, you can choose one of the n people in the land as captain and then choose the remaining (r-1) players from the available (n-1) people to find that the answer is also given by nC(n-1, r-1). Legend  has it that the English (and the Indians) opted for  the second method of choosing their team, while the Australians adopted the `more democratic' first way of choosing their team.

While I am at it, let me cite one more lesson I have learnt from mathematics. There is a tradition of holding an International Congress of Mathematicians once every four years. For example, ICM 2010 was held in Hyderabad, India. Even then, appropriate committees met to decide on the venue (Seaoul, Korea) for the next ICM from among the cities wsho had `bid' for the honour, and the compositions of all the various working committees decided on by the current committee which comprised only of mathematicians and not a single political appointee - and the new committees started having meetings soon in order to draw up an agenda of tasks to be completed before the next ICM, and a time-line for what tasks must be completed by when.

Now for Indian reality. India periodically reconstitutes her Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE) to look into the tasks to be performed for the betterment of her citizens who have disabilities of some sort. A novel way that our Governmant hs arrived at to handle all such problems is to rename ministries and draw up a pretentious list of tasks. And they keep having their meetings without broad-based consultations or doing their homework first. Let me give a few brilliant decisions taken by our Govt:

(i) They flagged off an `accessible model train' which a wheelchair could not enter.

(ii) They are thinking of a bullet train from Mumbai to Ahmedabad. when there are no elevators in normal train stations.

(iii) The MSJE was suddenly renamed (with a Hindi name) because our brilliant Prime Minister decided that it was better to call a PwD Divyang (a person endowed with with divinity) - how else will they have special abilities to do all they do?

(iv) I have written in the past about our horrific experience with the lack of accesssability of the Chennai Metro.

(v) Disability Activists all around the world have been chanting the slogan `Nothing for us without us'. We have been shouting ourselves hoarse with `No to Divyang' and `Nothing for us without us'; but our relevant ministry is either hearing impaired Divyang or wilfully chooses not to listen!


Now you see why I hate the British thinking which first chooses a captain and then asks him to choose his team!

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Don't get a plumber for a doctor's job

I don't know what it is but so many people are utterly incapable of understanding what it means to say that some place is accessible to a wheelchair - as I have repeatedly found, to my dismay and eventual discomfort. This post is a sort of excuse/explanation to many of my friends/colleagues in the Disbility Rights Alliance (or DRA, as it is better known) as to why I have almost studiously been a non-participant in their efforts to make the coming elections 100% inclusive of people with various sorts of disabilities - locomotor/visual/psychosocial/....

This was a conscious decision on my part for various reasons. For one thing, I was teaching a course, and had my weekly meetings with my Ph.D. students, and every expedition with my DRA team-mates involved time and energy. For instance, when we had the first meeting with the CEO, one of his secrtearies had written after months of my colleagues pleading to have an accessible=inclusive election in TN in June, asking us to come and meet the CEO in the Secretariat. Now, I have been to this monstrosity of inaccessibility and rude behaviour by the police many times. So I wrote to the CEO suggesting that if we are going to promote accessibility, we might as well start by meeting in Vidya Sagar or in IMSc which are both truly accessible institutions. To my surprise, the CEO wrote in the eleventh hour accepting my invitation to come to IMSc. We had a promising first meeting when various promises were made. The next meeting was arranged in the Secretariat in the CEO's chamber. It is almost a matter of routine that a meeting is fixed for 9 am, then postponed till 5 pm, and Smitha goes to this `chamber' at 5 but the man does not get there till after 7 pm. This total disregard for other people's time is something you have to learn to live with if you want to work with Govt. bureaucrats, and I don't have time to waste on people who have no respect for other people's time.

I got myself a fancy smart phone so I could have a WhatsApp and be part of the deliberations on plans for this inclusive election 2016. I get over 100 messages everyday in this connection, and almost always, they vindicate the decision I took. Polling booths still typically do not have ramps of accessible gradient, or have problems with enabling people with visual impairment to cast their vote. DRA had ambitious dreams of getting people out of `institutions' (where they have been institutionalised) so they could cast their ballot.

 It has been a revelation to see Vaishnavi marshall/bully/cajole her forces ino trying to achieve the unimaginable. Many of our Govt. servants would do well to sit at her feet and  learn how to run such a campaign. Instead, they just end up antagonising her when she is only too willing to freely offer her services. Did the CEO try, just once, to organise his meeting in an accessible place? Can he find an accessible place in Chennai? His travel to any meeting would be in air-conditioned comfort, while the meetings in his `Chambers' mean  that people like Smitha, Rajiv and Meenakshi pay out of their pocket and travel in auto-rickshaws with their wheelchairs and crutches crammed in alongside them! What a great way to spend the peak of Chennai summer!

In spite of DRA working non-stop since December, and running an amazing programme trying to get the Govt. head-hgonchos in the Election Commission to come to the table and join hands in a serious attempt at making the 2016 the local elections in TN, Kerala, Bengal and Assam totally inclusive, the tragic reality is that while there has been some marginal improvement at a few isolated places, the ground reality has changed little since the 2009 experience. You just have to look at the 150-odd photographs of the general state of (in)accessibility of polling booths that has been compiled by Vaishnavi Jayakumar in Facebook which she calls `Throwback Trauma'.

I'll conclude this sorry narration with a parallel/suggestion:if you want to build a good centre for string theory, leave the decision making to a specialist like Asike Sen rather than an incompetent but probably well-meaning Smriti Irani! If you want to make this country an accessible place for PwD, please leave the planning to a Shivani Gupta/Vaishnavi Jayakumar rather than babus who have screwed up time and time again. I know the Chief Election Officer in TN feels DRA only complains without appreciating the steps he has taken; it is not that I do not appreciate the steps he has taken, but the fact remains that a half-built ramp that does not take a wheelchair user all the way to the top - and at a gradient which will not threaten life or limb - is a job half-done, and which needs to be left next time to somebody who knows what is needed.



Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Self-goal masters

I have been to two events with the purported aim of sensitising people about the need for an inclusive society, both held in studios where I had been invited to be part of a show to talk about disability related matters. The first time, it was for an NDTV News at 7 pm on a friday evening, and I have written about that experience elsewhere in this blog. The second time was yesterday, it was in response to a request from a fellow disability acivist, to say a few words about inclusion for a video that was being prepared for airing at an event later this week. Another thing happened at both events. Before the shooting was to start, I was asked if my crutch which I carry around for the eventuality of having to walk even a few steps somewhere; and both times, I refused, saying I objected to having signs of my assistive devices hidden away. If you want me, I come with whatever my disability entails!

In both cases, I asked the person who was going to be at the studio whether the studio was wheelchair accessible and free of the omnipresent steps that are the bane of wheelchair users. In both cases, I was told there was a small step, but that I would be given all necessary help. And in both cases, there was more than just `a small step', and a bit of walking on one's own feet, which is doable for me but NOT for many wheelchair-using friends of mine. When will people understand what accessibility means for a person with locomotor problems? If the above instances keep repeating even when the event in question is being organised to improve inclusion and sensitise people on matters of concern for PwD, is there any hope for the  much touted `Accessible India Campaign' ever taking off the ground?

If we repeatedly score `same-side goals' before the game even starts, how can we ever hope to win? 

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Fit any steps design

Throughout the past few `music seasons' in Chennai, I did not go to a single music concert although I am a `patron member' of the Music Academy and get sent a season ticket - for the simple reason of access problems. This year, my sister-in-law was bent on making a change in this self-denial programme. What she did was to find one venue which was accessible to me and my wheelchair. When we drove into the parking lot, I saw the inevitable two steps at the entrance. Even as I started getting hot under the collar, I saw her come with a couple of guys carrying this brilliantly crafted and ingeniously designed ramp,  yet so elementary an idea and easily and economically made. I thought this is the solution India has been waiting for.
The answer to our problems?
You will know why I am getting so excited by something looking so common and simple only when you realise the staggering number of people in India who think an inaccessible place becomes accessible if one puts a plank of wood on a flight of steps - even if it means a gradient of 1:1! I have been stupid enough once to go down down such an incline, and I thought that was curtains for me. Even last week, a colleague (one without any disabilities) told me of such an impossible ramp at a premier research institute in Chennai (not mine, but one I have referred to as a `sister institute' in an old post in this blog. Maybe Pramath, Sundar or Alok can teach some basics of access to the administrators? The internationally accepted standard for ramps is a minimum of 1:12!) While this may not work in an auditorium with a long flight of steps, it is certainly what the doctor ordered for a majority of commercial establishments which typically have anywhere between one and five steps from the pavement to the entrance.

What is attractive about this design is that it allows for custom-made ramps for just about every conceivable design. Even if a place has three steps of respective heights 4,6 and 2 inches, and width 4, 5 and 2 inches, the design allows for a make-shift ramp with a gradient of 1:12 (thus the base can be (4+6+2)x12 = 144 inches, i.e., 12 ft. wide) and removed immediately after use - rather than a base of 4+5+2 = 11 inches, whisch would not stick out much but could result in broken bones and expensive lawsuits!

On a recent visit to IIT Kanpur where I had been invited to give a talk, I had told my host and friend of more than 30 years now that when I had stayed,  long ago, in their Visitors House (or VH, as it is called by IIT-K folk), I had had a painful fall (fortunately without any long term ill-effects) which could have been avoided if there had been a few shrewdly placed grab-bars; and in response to my request, she arranged for the installing of such bars! But the ramp at the entrance to the VH was of the plank-on-step kind of design. I noticed and pointed out a couple of other places (such as in their auditorium) where there were a few steps which hindered smooth passage of my - indeed any - wheelchair. In response to her query on possible solutions, I showed her this design, and she immediately saw the merits and got a copy of the above photograph and sent it to the person in charge of the appropriate department, who promptly came up to me at breakfast next day to say these shortcomings would be remedied before my next visit to IIT-K.

If only our sister institutes in Chennai would respond as pro-actively!

PS: Can i be so impudent as to suggest to the MSJE that this be considered as (a) a possibility of creating employment for PwD who have some carpentry skills, and (b) make it mandatory on public private buildings to make their frontages measured and a job entrusted with qualified carpenters, preferably as in (a) above, and make themselves accessible at fairly minimal costs?

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

A beautiful place with ugly values

I am going to indulge in yet another bout of New Zealand bashing. Earlier, I had posted two accounts of how, flying completely against all available evidence, the medical assessors of that country had denied me a visitor visa for two weeks solely on the grounds that I had multiple sclerosis and was likely to be a strain on their medical services and finances - in spite of my assuring them that I would have insurance and even if the insurance company refused to foot the bill for pre-existing conditions, I had provided them enough evidence of solvency to show that I could pay for whatever damages were incurred!

And today, I find (on facebook) that the medical assessors have been up to their tricks yet again - this time to deny a residency status to a young son of a mathematician, who has already been on the faculty of the University of Auckland for some four years, because the son had autism! Never mind that the father was a respected member of the math dept there and had even been recipient of a handsome grant! The Vice- Chancellor of the university is quoted by The Guardian as saying he was was “an example of the outstanding young academics we must have at the University of Auckland if we are to maintain our premier world ranking”. Meanwhile, this mathematician reportedly had the good sense to say “I do not see myself raising my children in a country that does not respect the UN convention on human rights.” According to the president of the New Zealand Mathematics Society,  the departure of “an outstanding mathematician”  would be “a great loss for us and New Zealand”.

And this country is supposed to have been a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability since early 2007! Do such grandiose commitments to a better tomorrow have no meaning? Should there not be a penalty levied on such obvious defaulters? The Guardian article cited above goes on, by the way, to say `In the year 2014/2015, Immigration New Zealand declined 116 residency applications solely on medical grounds. 
The disability rights commissioner, Paul Gibson, was not available for comment.' (I wonder how many of those 116 were persons with some manner of disability!)

This country seems to be blessed with a natural beauty that makes you go `Ooh' and `Aah'; but cursed with a Government whose human values make you go `sick' and `yecch'.

The Indian Government, also a signatory to the UNCRPD, is also threatening to go the Kiwi way by removing diseases like MS and Autism from the ambit of the `India-specific' clone of the UNCRPD Bill (called the RPDB) about which, also, I have bored to death the long suffering reader of this blog. I can only pray that my country, which claims centuries of a humanitarian civilisation, retains its humanity!

Saturday, 30 January 2016

We can work

New developments are on to bring into law the contentious `Right of Persons with Disabilities Bill of 2014' (henceforth RPDB), which is an attempted India-specific re-formulation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). In 2014 (the dying days of the Congress rule under Manmohan Singh), these efforts took various forms (some even resulting in a lathi-charge on peacefully protesting group of blind people). Fortunately many groups in the `sector' spotted and pointed out various potential pitfalls in the proposed RPDB, and more importantly, unacceptable deviations from and incompatibility with the UNCRPD, and the bill was forwarded to a Standing Committee. This latter committee made several recommendations, many laudable, while some fell short of the UNCRPD vision. Notable among these were the thorny question of legal capacity of people with severe disabilities, and the definition of persons with disabilities.

And now efforts are seemingly afoot once again to streamline and pass the RPDB.

While the UNCRPD is a model of inclusivity, the RPDB is a horror of exclusion. The former crisply says Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others while the latter has found some inexplicable way of concluding that there are precisely 19 kinds of disabilities. So if you are an Indian with a disability that is not in this shortlist, you cannot hope for any government subsidies, aids, etc.

It is against the backdrop of these shenanigans that one should try to understand the Pandora's box opened a few days ago by Ms. Maneka Gandhi.  To start with, the press apparently tried to report on Ms. Maneka Gandhi's comments on `the bill not laying criteria for determination of mentally disabled people'. Ms. Gandhi was reported to have said The bill does not differentiate between mentally ill and mentally disturbed peron. But there is a difference between the two. If a person is mentally ill like schezophrenic, how can he be given a job?

And that naturally got various groups `in the disability sector' up in arms. One hard-hitting response in the social media was called #wecanwork, where numerous PwDs (mostly mentally ill) sent in photgraphs of themselves carrying a paper/placard addresseing Mrs. Maneka Gandhi, mentioning their name, the nature of their disability, and details of the work they did. This literally blew up in her face and she made a clarification. She said: The newspaper article is entirely untrue. I do not make silly, loose comments specially when I have been minister for the disabled for 5 years and have made Acts that are in place today as well as having started Alimco etc. What I suggested at a closed door meeting of the ministries was that , instead of a gross mix-up of physically disabled, mentally ill. mentally challenged and diseased - all being lumped under the same category for the 3% reservation, we refine the list so that everyone knows the category in which they can get pensions / jobs. For instance , there is no point putting leprosy with autism. Leprosy is a disease and autism at its extreme level is a disablement. If we put leprosy in the list carelessly then we leave the door open to cancer , liver/kidney failure etc and make the 3% reservation a mockery. Regarding mental illness, I asked them to grade the different forms and see which can be employable and which needs a pension.

Our politicians should read the UN Charter on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (to which we have been signatory for many years now), which unambiguously states:

 (In the section on `Definitions'): “Discrimination on the basis of disability” means any distinction, exclusion or restriction on the basis of disability which has the purpose or effect of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal basis with others, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. It includes all forms of discrimination, including denial of reasonable accommodation.

(In the section on General Obligations):  Appropriate authorities shall undertake to ensure and promote the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons with disabilities without discrimination of any kind on the basis of disability.

If one wants to know the difference between inclusivity and exclusivity, one only needs to compare the vision enshrined in the previous two paragraphs and the Statements attributed above to Ms. Gandhi. (By the way, Ms. Gandhi, one of your experience should not use politically unacceptable language like minister for the disabled, and persistently refer to a person with schizophrenia as a schizophrenic or a person with a physical disability as physically disabled, etc.

I had also put in my two bits' worth in the `wecanwork' onslaught (even though I was one of the few people whose impairment was not a mental one), and I received a phone call at 16.45 hrs from NDTV asking if I could come to their studio at 1900 hrs for a live recording for NDTV 24x7. As I did not want to let down the sector by missing this opportunity to air our views, I hurriedly got my act together and rushed to the studio (after going in Friday evening peak hour traffic for more than an hour). I tried to find out if the studio was wheelchair accessible. After two people assured me on the phone that this was the case, I went there and reached the building at 18.50. There was a step to enter the building and another step to get to the elevator; and the elevator was too small to take me in my wheelchair. So I had to walk to the elevator and go up, and wait till other people brought up my wheelchair! Why do people always assume everybody can go up just two steps and that this qualifies as `accessible'? I had half a mind to say I can't come up because it is not accessible. Many of my good friends CANNOT CLIMB ONLY TWO STEPS.

Anyway, I go up, and am the only person in front of a camera although the screen shows four or five boxes of pople. The compere of the show starts by saying `the sector' vigorously objected to Ms. Maneka Gandhi's statement on unemployability of schizophrenics (sic), that Ms. Gandhi had denied having said that but had only said something along the lines of the italicised paragraph above, and the compere sought the reactions of `the sector' to this re-formulation; and  she began by soliciting my opinion on this. All I could think of saying then was that the trouble was with the definition of PwD; it could be inclusive as in the UNCRPD, or exclusive as in the RPDB, that the quota system had rules such as  individuals with xyz disability (people with x fingers, y toes and z feet) being only entitled to apply only for pre-determined jobs. I tried to say such ad hoc rules would disallow existence of more than competent contributors to their work such as cosmologist Stephen Hawking or game theorist John Nash (Nobel Laureate with schizophrenia).

But NDTV was true to form. The compere never came back for a second opinion to anybody  other than Javed Abidi, who concluded with the statement that the important thing was that now the job reservation quota had gone up from 3 to 5%. Almost like nobody else said anything else of import to the sector! This wretched quota system, which was `the important final point' commented on by Mr. Abidi, only serves to create schisms in `the sector' making people fight for the peanuts that are being thrown their way, rather than demanding that they be shown the entire menu and choose what they feel confident they can do justice to. Once again, a reading of the UNCRPD, in word and spirit, is called for.

A final note to our media friends: there is more than one respectable disability activist in Delhi; I do not mean any disrespect or offence to Mr. Abidi, but the press might consider occasionally inviting views from `a menu that also includes such wonderful choices as' Dr. Satendra Singh, Abba Khetarpal, Anjlee Agarwal, Shivani Gupta, ... - as well as many more if they care to look beyond Delhi to Bhopal, Mumbai, Bengaluru....! A change of diet never hurt anybody!

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Indeed Msed out, and with absolutely no attempt at making it look otherwise

I feel almost naked baring all these details of my personal life to the world. But I am so livid at this moment, probably not unlike a woman who has just been raped! On the one hand, it is not too pleasant having  people coming to me to say they feel bad for you when they can have no conception of what leading a life fighting all the unpleasant consequences of your state (being a woman in the wrong place at the wrong time, or battling all the daily implications that a disease like MS imposes on a victim) without the further recent insult that has been added to the injury faced daily, by a totally inhuman attitude. On the other hand, I feel like screaming WTF from the rooftops and shaming the rapist. So let me give a blow-by-blow description of the things leading up to this latest insult - rejection of my application for a visa only because I have MS.

In an earlier blogpost http://differentstrokes-vss.blogspot.in/2015/11/will-it-be-msed-opportunity.html I had said my application for a visa to visit our daughter in New Zealand on our 25th wedding anniversary (in mid-December) was stalled by a statement that the medical assessors normally take 12 weeks to make an assessment of the medical records, which had incidentally been sent to them in late October/early November. Then I was informed on Nov 21st that the medical assessor had sent his initial comments (Applicant has multiple sclerosis with very limited mobility and requires significant carer support), with his reason (The applicant has a physical, intellectual, cognitive and/or sensory incapacity which requires full time care, including care in the community) and opinion (Likely NOT ASH), with ASH standing for acceptable standard of health! I was told, nevertheless, that my application had not been turned down, and I could make counter-comments and give an alternate medical opinion from a reputable doctor.

So I sent a long email accepting the offer to rebut on all three counts (comments, reason and opinion of the medical assessor) as well as providing alternative medical assessment from a reputed doctor. I quote the relevant parts of that email:

As for the MA's opinion regarding shortcomings in my intellectual or cognitive capacity, I should inform you that I am a mathematician of some international repute, as may be seen from my home-page at http://www.imsc.res.in/~sunder/ (maybe you should look up V.S. Sunder in Wikipedia; but that entry is old: I have now written 2 more books and more than 10 more papers since the date of the wiki entry). In fact, since my condition was diagnosed as MS in 2002, I have written four books and thirty-odd papers in research journals, as well as receiveing (one of only 120) Distinguished Alumnus Awards of IIT(Madras) from a total of some 40,000 alumni. Not bad for an intellectually and cognitively impaired dude, eh!

Regarding the comment `very limited mobility and requiring significant carer support', you can see from my passports (and from my home-page) that I have, on invitation, lectured and/or attended conferences in UBC, Vancouver, Canada in 2006, Max Planck Institut, Bonn, Germany in 2007, BIRS, Banff, Canada in 2008, Vanderbilt Univ, USA in 2010, Aberystwyth, Wales, UK in 2012, Berkeley, Calif, USA and The Fields Institute, Toronto, Canada in 2013; inside India, I have been doing almost monthly work-related travel to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Bangalore, ... , always with my wife and care-giver, and have never had any health-related incidents in the past ten years and more that my wife and I could not handle, ourselves, as can be seen from copies of the MRI reports that I gave during my medical tests. In fact, in spite of my planned two-week trip to NZ, I have committed to attending conferences/meetings in (i) Bangalore in the first week of December, (ii) Chandigarh in the first week of January, and (iii) back in Chennai in the second two weeks of January.
Very limited mobility?

 As for the `likely NOT ASH' comment, I had certainly anticipated no trouble with a two-week visit to New Zealand, until I was hit by the reality that being an Indian with MS has necessitated my filling visa application forms and stating that I have MS, and facing this mountain of a bureaucratic hurdle. If I was an American with MS, then I would not have needed to fill a visa form, and no one would have  known that I had MS and was potentially `NOT ASH' until I strolled (or rather wheeled) into NZ!

An attached  scanned and attested copy of a letter from my neurologist  certifies in his concluding paragraph that  I `can travel to New Zealand or any other place'. My doctor is Dr. Krishnamoortthy Srinivas, who's letterhead shows that he is:

(a) an Honorary Member of the American Neurological Association;
(b) an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Neurology;
(c) an Honorary Member of the International  Neuropsychiatry Association; and
(d) Regional Advisor to the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Scotland (Tamil Nadu), among other things.

This should certainly qualify as a `medical opinion from a suitably qualified professional' which disputes your original assessment that I am not of an acceptable standard of health', and should go some way towards overriding your MA's verdict. Let me end by saying that I will be very disappointed if this email, with its attachment, do not suffice to let me be issued a visa. In that case, I would be forced to conclude that nobody from India with a condition like MS (not even if he were a Stephen Hawking) would ever be permitted to enter NZ - which would incidentally contravene at least five of the principles (listed below) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, to  which NZ became a signatory on 30th March, 2007!

I ended the email by quoting the UNCRPD exactly as in the earlier bloodspot referred to above.

December came and went, and we consoled our daughter saying that we would, instead, try to come for her graduation. Then I received  a letter saying bluntly that my application for a visa was being turned down because the medical assessor had decided that I was definitely NOT ASH.

The medical assessors of kiwi-land are apparently far more accomplished and decorated than my doctor to see things in the future that he cannot!

Does being signatory to the UNCRPD carry no obligations? I urge the reader (and the Prime Minister and other dignitaries in the NZ Govt) to review the major principles (also listed out in the earlier blogspot) of the UNCRPD and form an opinion.