Episode 178 – Unstoppable Student and Educator with Hawa Allarakhia

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In this episode, I get to introduce you to Hawa Allarakhia. As you will learn, Hawa was born at only 25 weeks, more than three months premature. She lived in an incubator for the first four months of her life but survived and eventually thrived. She has some disabilities, but as you will see, Hawa decided not to let challenges stop her.
She attended college at various campuses of the University of South Florida and has obtained a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. She is now working in a Ph.D. program and plans to have her degree in two or three semesters.
Hawa’s parents always emphasized to her the need for a good education, something she very much takes to heart. She will tell us how she hopes to get involved in a higher education teaching role where she can help to teach students with disabilities that no matter what they can move forward and succeed. Talk about inspirational, that describes Hawa to a T.
About the Guest:
Hi, my name is Hawa Allarakhia. I am of Indian descent but was born and raised in the United States. I have traveled to every continent except Antarctica, and I don’t plan to go there because I am a true Florida girl; I have lived in Manatee County my whole life. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in World Languages (Spanish) in the spring of 2016 from the University of South Florida- Saint Petersburg Campus. Yo soy una persona muy compasiva (I am a very compassionate person). In 2018, I graduated with a Master’s in Education from the University of South Florida- Sarasota-Manatee Campus. I hope to work in a higher education setting to help instructors figure out the best way to teach students with disabilities in an online environment. Right now, I am pursuing a Doctorate of Education in Educational Program Development at the University of South Florida- Tampa Campus. I work part-time on the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus as a graduate assistant in the Office of Research. As an academic consultant, I hope to use my personal experience to show students with disabilities that achieving success in university and obtaining employment is possible with hard work.

Educational Philosophy

I hope to teach students with disabilities online who wish to further their education. I will include elements that all learners find beneficial for optimum understanding of course objectives. To foster the development of cognitive thinking skills, I will help students learn how to make connections between course content and how to apply that content to real-life situations. My role as an instructor is to guide students through the course material and keep them focused on the course’s objectives.
Ways to connect with Hawa:
About the Host:
Michael Hingson is a New York Times best-selling author, international lecturer, and Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. Michael, blind since birth, survived the 9/11 attacks with the help of his guide dog Roselle. This story is the subject of his best-selling book, Thunder Dog.
Michael gives over 100 presentations around the world each year speaking to influential groups such as Exxon Mobile, AT&T, Federal Express, Scripps College, Rutgers University, Children’s Hospital, and the American Red Cross just to name a few. He is Ambassador for the National Braille Literacy Campaign for the National Federation of the Blind and also serves as Ambassador for the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog Awards.
accessiBe Links
https://www.linkedin.com/company/accessibe/mycompany/ https://www.facebook.com/accessibe/
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Transcription Notes

Michael Hingson ** 00:00
Access Cast and accessiBe Initiative presents Unstoppable Mindset. The podcast where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Hi, I’m Michael Hingson, Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe and the author of the number one New York Times bestselling book, Thunder dog, the story of a blind man, his guide dog and the triumph of trust. Thanks for joining me on my podcast as we explore our own blinding fears of inclusion unacceptance and our resistance to change. We will discover the idea that no matter the situation, or the people we encounter, our own fears, and prejudices often are our strongest barriers to moving forward. The unstoppable mindset podcast is sponsored by accessiBe, that’s a c c e s s i  capital B e. Visit www.accessibe.com to learn how you can make your website accessible for persons with disabilities. And to help make the internet fully inclusive by the year 2025. Glad you dropped by we’re happy to meet you and to have you here with us.
Michael Hingson ** 01:21
Well, and a gracious Good day to all of you. Once again, this is Mike Hingson, and your host. And this is unstoppable mindset where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Today we get to chat with Hawa Allarakhia. And Hawa. Hawa has a very interesting story. And I’ve got a really interesting question to ask right up front. I’m going to save it but I will tell you the question, how has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree and she is going after a doctorate? And how you’re doing them all from the University of South Florida. But it’s three different campuses. I’m curious about that. But you can answer that whenever you want to. But for right now, welcome to unstoppable mindset. We’re really glad you’re here.
Hawa Allarakhia ** 02:06
Well, thank you so much for having me. It’s a great pleasure. And I’m really excited about our conversation today.
Michael Hingson ** 02:14
Well tell us a little bit about kind of you growing up the early Hawa and all that and let’s go from there. So
Hawa Allarakhia ** 02:21
I’m growing up, I am a true Fleur radian. I was born in Tampa, Florida. And I’ve had the fortunate experience of living in the area in the Tampa Bay area my entire life. So that’s where my heart lies. And that’s what I call home. In the early years, at birth, I was actually born 45 weeks gestation, weighing one pound and 11 ounces. And at birth, I received the diagnosis of cerebral palsy. What that means is I have a hemiparesis on my left side, which means my the left side of my body is a lot weaker than the right and I can’t really use my arm too much in terms of my mobility as a child, I crawled everywhere. But then as I grew older, those wear and tear on the bones and muscles of my lower body didn’t allow me to do that anymore. So I started using a walker more regularly. And, you know, just grew to do more things independently as I got older. But you know, the early years were filled with a lot of ups and downs when it came to school. You know, trying to figure out how to navigate the world of accommodations and everything like that No, school was a lot different than it is today. So I find that to be a bit of a blessing that I don’t have to deal with those red tape and everything like people do today. But school was always like my light in all the stuff that I had to deal with, whether it was doctor’s appointment, or physical therapy or even occupational therapy after school. You know, my parents taught me that education is literally my key to life and becoming, you know, a good working member of society. So I’ve always thought learning was so important and no matter how hard it was, whether it was staying up half the night to prep for the LSAT or just writing a paper because it took me longer to do than everybody else. I always knew that the end journey, you know, would be worth it. And that’s kind of what led me to, you know, just continually pursuing education. Up until today and probably into the future.
Michael Hingson ** 05:03
Wow. But you, you beat me I was born early. Also, I weighed two pounds 13 ounces and was born eight weeks premature. But since you were born so early, did you have any issues with eyesight at all and being given a pure oxygen environment, in an incubator, or any of those kinds of things until you were a little bit more substantial in life as it were? Yes.
Hawa Allarakhia ** 05:31
So being born so prematurely, my parents were told that, you know, there would be a lot of different issues that I would have to deal with whether that was like, physical movement or, but also vision. And, you know, what they told my parents was, she’s either gonna leave here in the incubator at four months, or four pounds, whichever comes first. So it just happened to be a coincidence that four months post birth, I reached four pounds. So let us go home
Michael Hingson ** 06:14
that worked out well. Did you have any eyesight or vision issues? Or I should say, Do you have any today,
Hawa Allarakhia ** 06:21
I do. So I’m, in terms of my vision, my left visual field is a lot weaker than my right, I have trouble focusing on distant objects. And then also, you know, when I hit the teenage years, I tried to learn how to drive like everybody else. And I’m with my homie periapsis. On the left side, what tended to happen was, even if I was looking, let’s say, an object or taking my car to the right, my vision and my, like, the tension in my left side, would help hold me and the vehicle to the left. And, you know, kind of came to the conclusion after that, it probably was a better idea to put the possibility of driving on hold for a while. So I’m really looking forward to the ramping up that comes with autonomous vehicles, cuz I’m hoping that that will give me a lot more independence.
Michael Hingson ** 07:33
You’re not alone, I as well, I’m looking forward to that being perfected, and it and it will, it may take a little while yet, but we’re gonna get good autonomous vehicle operations, is just that we are right now kind of in the nexus of all of it, and on the cusp of it, getting to the point where it will be pretty good, but it’s going to happen. And we’re seeing a lot of examples of it working. So I think the day is gonna come and that we’ll all be able to take advantage of that. And frankly, I’m very happy about that. Because I think that given the way a lot of people drive today, we ought to take driving out of the hands of drivers. Anyway.
Hawa Allarakhia ** 08:13
I definitely agree with you. I just every time I get in the car, I say a little prayer that I get to the destination without any incident.
Michael Hingson ** 08:22
Yes, absolutely. So on the reason I asked about your eyesight, of course, is that being born premature, I also wasn’t an incubator and did become blind because of that. What used to be called retro retro Fibro pleasure, which has now written up Theo prematurity. And I’m not sure that that’s really a whole lot easier to spell, but they changed the words anyway. But so I’ve I’ve driven but under the direction of someone else. And I actually had an opportunity a few years ago to drive a Tesla. And the driver was was next to me, of course, but I actually drove a Tesla for about 15 miles down one of the busier roads going from Up Where We Live down toward San Bernardino, and Ontario. So we were driving down a hill, through a pass and so on, but it was a lot of fun. But I think that it will be good when we can really have autonomous vehicles that people can trust, and that are as safe as we really need them to be. And it’ll happen.
Hawa Allarakhia ** 09:29
I’m definitely I’m like it. I’ll definitely be one of the first people in mind to try that out for
Michael Hingson ** 09:37
sure. And by one it will be interesting to see well so you’ve come by your desires and interests in education very honestly, because your parents really taught you the value of doing that which is really pretty cool. So you started out by getting a bachelor was in in World Languages, specifically in Spanish, I believe
Hawa Allarakhia ** 10:03
I did. And, you know, part of the reason I did that was actually twofold. At the time, during my undergraduate years, I was actually originally an elementary education major. And I got to the first stage of where we are required to do a teaching classroom internship. And, you know, this is one of those situations where even all the requests for accommodations in the world and, you know, all the written proof in the world who doesn’t, you know, put forth the results you would like. So, in that situation, what happened was, I was assigned a first grade classroom with a lot about 20, something six year olds, when I had made a written request, that based on my skills, and experience, I would be more suited to work with older children in either the fourth or fifth grade, and I was requesting this as a type of accommodation so that I could be successful in the internship. And unfortunately, those requests were denied. And without, you know, concrete reason, and I was assigned into this lower level classroom, and, you know, getting little kids to listen to you, whether you’re in a wheelchair or not, is quite a task. And, you know, when I brought my concerns to the college, you know, they were just kind of like, there’s nothing really we can do, you have to pass. And then when I brought up the possibility of transferring to another campus that is affiliated with the university, and that, where I could move home, to do the internship at my local school, that suggestion was denied based on the difficulty that the supervisor would have to come and observe me. And basically, I was left with one choice, redo the internship in their selected setting at the same level, or, you know, just leave the program. So fortunately, I had been minoring in Spanish at the time. And the difference between a minor and a major at that point was only a few more classes, I believe, to at least four. So I switched my major and graduated when I was supposed to, but, you know, that’s just one of life’s challenges. And even though I was disappointed, in the end of how the situation ended, it was probably, you know, a positive thing, because when I went into grad school, and, you know, entered my master’s in education, I felt like it was, you know, a better fit for me and more of my pace for learning, because I always saw myself as to even when I thought it was gonna be in, you know, K through 12, I always pictured myself at some type of administrator, like a guidance counselor or something like that. So, you know, and I just, I think, in the end, you know, I’m sort of on the path that I’m meant to be on. Well,
Michael Hingson ** 13:37
so you, you got your degree in Spanish, but clearly, you still had an interest in education, because you went off then to what the Sarasota campus. If I’m, if I’m remembering, right, and you got your master’s in education? I
Hawa Allarakhia ** 13:56
did. I did. And, you know, my reason for coming to the Sarasota campus was because it was closer to home and I would end the program was online, so I wasn’t really required to live on campus or anything like that. And coming home to Sarasota into the Sarasota campus, kind of afforded me like an opportunity to start working in higher education, as I’m currently doing right now. And you know, it’s, it’s offered me a lot of different experiences. I’ve worked in the field of admissions, academic advising, diversity inclusion, and currently I work as a graduate assistant here on Sarasota campus in the Office of Research. Well, so
Michael Hingson ** 14:49
how do you think that the the sidelining, at least for a little while of what you had planned that is needing to graduated with a degree in Spanish as opposed to being an education. But and then going back to it, of course, but how do you think that, that them not accommodating your needs and so on, really has affected you and your outlook? Well,
Hawa Allarakhia ** 15:17
I really think it affected me in my look, because, you know, besides the fact that my written requests were denied, I couldn’t, you know, I didn’t really feel supported by the, what they call the cooperating teacher who I was, you know, and being administered under and, you know, I couldn’t, I had this feeling at the end of it, that in my gut that, you know, maybe she’d never come across as, even though she’d been teaching for over 35 years, maybe she’d never come across anyone who had any type of disability, and she just didn’t know, like, how to navigate that, and how you know, how to be supportive, and all that kind of stuff. But, and maybe slightly, you know, she had some discriminatory problems with it with me being there. But the problem was, I couldn’t actually, you know, prove any of that, and, like, build myself a case to say, all these factors have contributed to the fact that I couldn’t succeed in this environment. And, you know, I just, I learned, I had to swallow, you know, all the hurt and difficulty and just say, No, I’m still going to finish, it might not be what I started, but I’m still gonna finish. And I can go back to the thing that I care about most in a different way. And I just had to take time to mourn the loss of the path that I thought it was going to be on, so that I could find a new one. And, you know, I just think that, I hope that you know, now, and there have been other students who might have been in my position, and they’ve succeeded. So I know that, you know, things are changing. But again, you know, the best way to make change is change it from the inside. Have
Michael Hingson ** 17:16
you had any interaction with her since now going on and getting a master’s degree and so on? Or have you been able to maybe have any kind of conversation about that with her?
Hawa Allarakhia ** 17:28
No, you know, that the unfortunate thing about it, I don’t, I haven’t had that opportunity to have any type of conversation with any of the parties involved. Because they, for the university asked me not to continue communication with the, with the, with the educator that I was entered, supervising, under. And also those individuals who were involved in this scenario, with the university are no longer here. So, you know, that just that hasn’t afforded me the opportunity to kind of go back and talk to them and say, Well, okay, this is what you did, but look, where I’ve ended up anyway, you know, kind of situation, but you know, who knows what the future holds, they might, they might reconnect with me on some other opportunity. And some point or, or not, I’m just, I’m kind of at the point where, you know, that’s a part of my story, and it made me a stronger person.
Michael Hingson ** 18:36
Well, and you don’t want to take the approach of I told you, so. But rather, you want to progress yourself. And hopefully, the time will come that maybe you can be the teacher to help them better understand, unless they’ve gained along the way a better understanding, I hear what you’re saying about the way it used to be. And now there’s a lot more red tape and a lot of rules and so on. But at the same time, there’s also in some ways, a lot more access than there used to be. I know my wife was in a wheelchair her whole life and you’re using a wheelchair today.
Hawa Allarakhia ** 19:11
So I, I use two types of mobility equipment while I’m here on campus. I use a motorized scooter. And then I also have a manual chair that if I’m with somebody else, then they push that push. I use that when I go out with my parents or when we’re traveling, because it’s easier to lug that around than a bagel scooter on the plane.
Michael Hingson ** 19:41
Oh, yeah, definitely true. My wife’s went to for her undergraduate work to the University of California at Riverside and was very actively involved back in that time when they had the International Year of the disabled and was very involved. advocating for access around the UC Riverside campus where there wasn’t a lot of access upfront. And it was pre Americans with Disabilities Act as well. But but she was involved, I didn’t have the same kinds of involvement. For me it was more access getting, or getting access to materials in Braille and so on. But she had very physical issues to deal with. And that is, she couldn’t get into buildings and so on. And, but she worked through that, and she learned how to negotiate, and to educate, which is something that you’re doing and you that you want to do. And that’s, that’s cool. And now we do have more laws on our side, if you will, than we used to, which does also help. It
Hawa Allarakhia ** 20:48
does. You know, I think, I think the most important lesson that I’ve learned so far in life is that, you know, there’s always room for improvement. I mean, everything has a kid, everything could always be brighter and more improved and more accessible. And, you know, the most important thing is for the people who have the lived experiences to just keep keep sharing their, their stories and their opinions and their voices. Because, you know, no one can stop your voice if unless you let them so that, you know, that’s something I always believe in and carry with me every day.
Michael Hingson ** 21:36
Yeah. And that is a wonderful attitude to have, and, and to carry with you. Well for you. So you knew I think instinctively that teaching first graders was probably going to be a challenge for you. My wife did some of that she was a teacher for 10 years. She liked third graders and fourth graders, she wasn’t as excited about teaching much older kids because by that time, too many attitudes were developed. And it was harder to sometimes get the kids to do what she wanted. But she always loved teaching, like third graders, she thought that was really kind of, for her the best age to to teach. But for you. It sounds like you had to a degree, the same kind of attitude. But you ended up really advancing that further and going into higher education, who are what really sort of promoted that in your mind. And what caused you to really do that? Well,
Hawa Allarakhia ** 22:36
that’s a really interesting story. Because like I mentioned earlier, I really, when I started my undergraduate journey, I really pictured myself in sort of a K through 12 administrative role probably to send a guidance counselor, or what they call the ESC specialist. And that’s where I saw myself going. And then when I was in the College of Education at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg campus, I had this advisor, and she, her name was Dr. Ford. And she was like, unlike any advisor I had met before then she was still supportive. She never pressured me into taking more classes than I thought I could handle. She never like felt made me feel bad if I was having a tough semester. And it wasn’t going as well as I had hoped. And she just really stood by me, even after this whole changing majors debacle. She just was like, a big, big support for me. And you know, that, after that whole debacle, I started to think, you know, wait, maybe this is maybe there’s a different path for me, maybe I don’t have to be in, you know, a K through 12 setting. And I started to think about, you know, the other people that support students in higher ed and you know, and so I was like, well, I could be her, you know, for other people, and I could share my challenges that I faced with other students who have difficulties and so, you know, that’s when I started thinking, Okay, I will need to get a master’s degree. And then I said, Okay, well, if I, and then, you know, later on, I said, Well, I know people who have done her job and they have a master’s degree, but the other part of my you know, vision to getting a doctorate degree actually comes back to my dad, because he is a physician and as a child, I didn’t realize the limitations of my disability and I always pictured myself Oh, I’m going to be Just like Daddy, I’m going to be a doctor. And you know, and then obviously, as I got older, I realized that, you know, that path was probably going to be more difficult than I would like. And I found this new path and you know, in in time, I will follow this path and but somewhat, even though in a different field, follow in my dad’s footsteps, and because I have a doctorate of my own, you
Michael Hingson ** 25:29
will become a doctor. Which is fine. That’s fair. And that is that is really cool. So then you’ll have a family with at least two doctors in it. Yes. Which is always good. Now, I will ask the question I started out with earlier, you have now gone to three different University of South Florida campuses, how come switching from one campus to another? Well, what a spiteful question. I know.
Hawa Allarakhia ** 26:00
I mean, it’s all about the journey. When I started college, I actually didn’t start out at the University of Florida. My first college experience happened at a place called Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers. And I spent two years there and due to medical reasons, I had to come home to Sarasota to recover, recover from a shoulder operation. And after that operation, the people of Florida Gulf Coast, another accessibility issue. The people of Florida Gulf Coast would not let me live in the undergraduate housing, underclassmen undergraduate housing, which had the accessible dorms and facilities, they wanted me to move into upper classmen housing, which was apartment style, and didn’t really meet my needs. So instead of getting into this huge argument, and like, you know, fighting a fight, that would probably take more time to win and put education on hold, I kind of reevaluated my situation. And I thought back to all those college tours I’d taken. And I thought where was the other place I thought was really cool. And that’s where I kind of thought about the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg campus because it was not as big as the Tampa campus, which serves almost over 70,000 students. And it kind of gave me the best of both worlds, I could get to know my professors, and I could have a comfortable experience living on campus. So that’s where I finished my undergrad years. And then when it came time for my master’s degree, I looked at staying in St. Pete, but they just didn’t have a program that I felt would meet my needs. So when I found the program at the Sarasota campus, I was like, Okay, well, this will be flexible, and I get to go home for for, you know, for my Masters, and that had led me to getting all these on campus opportunities in my current position. And as far as the Tampa campus goes, you know, even though we’re consolidated into a single institution, we are still kind of in that infancy, where Tampa is the only campus where they have doctoral programs. So that’s kind of how I ended up on all three campuses. And without that experience to say that, you know, I’m, I’m going to be what they call a triple bull, which means you’ve got every degree level on campus, one of the campuses, um, that’s what the people call it around here. So it’s gonna be good when it happens. And I’m excited for that day. Whenever that is going to be I can’t put a pin on it right now. But I know it’s going to be in the near future for sure.
Michael Hingson ** 29:11
It’s good to be a gypsy and be able to wander to different campuses. And in reality, of course, you do get different experiences, which is kind of fun. And I agree with you. I did my undergraduate work at the University of California at Irvine, and the year I became a freshman was the first year that campus had a graduating class. So I think there were like 2700 students on campus. It was a very large campus very open, not very many buildings, but buildings that were being constructed. Now the place is crazy. I was there a few years ago wouldn’t even know how to get around the place. But there’s a lot of value as you said in having an environment where you can really work with professors and meet professors and talk with them and how I have a lot more of a personal experience. And I really value that a lot, too. It’s important to be able to have that. Well, so when you were in college, and you had, you had given me this question, what was the lesson that you learned in your first year of college, there was something that must have happened that really helped shape something.
Hawa Allarakhia ** 30:21
Well, that lets it like most people, I started my college career during a summer session. So when you go to when you go to these orientations, there are so many people, and you actually, you’ve scheduled a meeting with an advisor to, you know, select your courses for this semester, but it’s so crunched for time that they kind of pressure you into making certain decisions that if you had a little more time to think about it, you probably wouldn’t do that. So what happened was, you know, they said, let’s start out with two classes since that summer session. And you know, you want to get those general education requirements out of the way. So I’d signed up for composition one, and I believe it was intermediate algebra class. But I hadn’t really had a lot of experience with this condensed learning environment where, instead of having four months to create a complete curriculum, you only had six weeks. So that put a lot of pressure on me to perform, and which raise my anxiety. And that didn’t help me in the algebra class. So the lesson I would take from that is, whatever you do, no matter what math class it is, don’t take it during the summer, ever.
Michael Hingson ** 31:48
Yeah, it is, it is more of a challenge. And as you said, it is also an issue where you have less time to get things done. I never did take summer courses. But I was in college during Of course, the rest of the year. But I understand exactly what you’re saying. So as you went through college going and getting your undergraduate degree and then getting your master’s degree, what kind of lessons do you think you learned that will help you going forward? Well,
Hawa Allarakhia ** 32:27
I think the one you know, for both of them. And even right now, while I’m pursuing my doctorate, the one lesson that I’ve learned is, you know, I need everybody, whatever your circumstances, you need to like, give yourself a break every once in a while, because there’s all these outside forces that are already putting pressure on you, whether that’s, you know, how much you have to work, and go to school or family obligations, or whatever it may be. But yeah, sometimes, you just need to give yourself a break. If you’re, you know, if you’d rather turn in a good assignment that you’ve done, when you were like, ready and fresh, and you know, have your thoughts as clear as they can be, then one that might not be as good because you did it when you were too tired. So, you know, for those people who think I have to graduate in this certain amount of time. And you know, there’s all this pressure that comes from other places, just, you don’t take a step back and give yourself a break. I know, you know, there’ll be people, whether that’s your counselor, or even your friends who say, Come on, let’s get done quick, and you know, then you’ll get out to the real world. But this is a golden opportunity to learn all sorts of skills, whether they’re inside the classroom or outside, and you need to take the time and opportunity to do that because, you know, going learning having this time to gain knowledge is giving me you’re never have it again, it’s invaluable.
Michael Hingson ** 34:14
Do you do much in the way of extracurricular activities, or did you in your undergraduate and master’s programs?
Hawa Allarakhia ** 34:24
So I’m in undergrad while I was. At Florida Gulf Coast, I did participate in what they call Greek life, I was a part of the surety that a family friend was a member of and suggested that I join the first year was really exciting and I made a lot of friends and you know, it was we had all these campus events and I got you know, more comfortable socializing with people and everything and because we were what they call the first inaugural chapter of this organization on the campus, you know, most of the stuff was on campus. So that was fine. And it was fun. And it got me to meet people and stuff. But then the next year, here’s where, you know, accessibility and kind of, you know, that kind of thing came into play, we started doing stuff off campus. And that’s where I got a little bit uncomfortable with that, because that meant I had to rely on someone to, you know, maybe take me to the event and bring me home. And then I knew there was gonna be drinking involved, or because it was at like a restaurant or bar or something. And I was, I was just not comfortable putting my safety in the hands of somebody else. You know, when I, when I knew we were gonna come home, we and all that, and, you know, I made a conscious decision that, well, because of, for my own good, I kind of need to step away from this situation. And, you know, even if it probably wasn’t the best for my social life, I think at the end of the day, it was probably, you know, a good decision in other aspects of my life, because I focused on school and, you know, doing other things. So, you know, but I do, I do think that, you know, that socialization is really important. And, you know, from what I know, now, from an accessibility standpoint, if I were to go back, I would have tried to be more vocal about, you know, making sure that we had, we continue to have more events on campus instead of off campus, so that, you know, other people who couldn’t just pick up and go could participate. So yeah, yeah,
Michael Hingson ** 36:56
it becomes an issue. What did you do during your masters? years? Did you do anything in terms of other than studying? Or did you just focus on that to get through?
Hawa Allarakhia ** 37:08
Well, during my master’s, because I felt like it was a little bit not easier, but there was not that, you know, you have to be in class in person from this time to this time, what I was able to do, and what I started doing during under during the master’s program, and I continued to do to this day, is work on campus. So that’s when I started working in admissions and advising. And, you know, and those are the experiences that brought me closer to the student and you know, and a different type of interaction, because you’re interacting with people who are already attending the university, but you’re also interacting with people who are thinking about attending the university, and you can share your experiences. And you can kind of be that those eyes and ears for the people who don’t, you know, are thinking about where they want to take their education and career and life. Well,
Michael Hingson ** 38:15
you have talked a lot about the whole issue of persons with disabilities and so on. So I want to really focus on that a little bit. But first, you graduated, you got your master’s degree, and then what did you do? Because that’s now been five years. Yeah,
Hawa Allarakhia ** 38:35
so I graduated with my master’s degree in May 2018. And after taking a short three month hiatus, I jumped right into pursuing my doctorate. So since the fall of 2018, I’ve been pursuing my doctorate right now, I just received permission from the dean to for them to assist me in distributing my instrument. So graduation survey, which is my instrument graduation is going to be shortly I can’t put a date on it right now. But I’m hoping that it’s gonna be, you know, within the next at least two or three semesters, I hope. So. After that, who knows where life takes me, I’m really into doing other things. I love traveling. So I’m hoping that once this school is kind of no longer a permanent part of my life, that you know, my family and I can do more traveling.
Michael Hingson ** 39:45
You’ve been all over I think you said every year, every continent except Antarctica. Yes.
Hawa Allarakhia ** 39:51
So that’s, you know, that’s one of the things we love to do as a family and my parents have been fortunate enough that they Have I let you know, the fact that we have to lug around all this mobility equipment stop us from seeing the world. So it’s definitely one of the things that we do as a family for fun. And, you know, I’m definitely looking forward to doing more of that.
Michael Hingson ** 40:16
Of course, you’ve got, in some senses, the advantage of using a manual chair and somebody pushing you. But obviously, you’ve seen a lot of inaccessible places.
Hawa Allarakhia ** 40:26
Yeah, so um, I have and, you know, I’ve seen a lot of other interesting, I just came back from Norway a couple of weeks ago. And while I was there, I saw this individual, they had this, they turned their manual wheelchair into a motorized one, because he had this attachment, it kind of looks like a bicycle, like a bicycle handle that attach your, the front of your wheelchair, and it’s a little it has a little motor inside. And then once you attach that to the wheelchair, and you use the controls, your, the wheelchair actually becomes motorized, like a little scooter.
Michael Hingson ** 41:14
Yeah, my wife had one of those for a while before she started full time using a power chair.
Hawa Allarakhia ** 41:22
Yeah, so I thought that was really interesting. And, you know, I’m definitely interested in exploring different, different things like that, as we, you know, travel more and all that kind of stuff. So, but it’s always a good time to take a break kind of gives us opportunity to switch off and just spend time together as family,
Michael Hingson ** 41:47
which is also important to be able to do, your family has been very supportive.
Hawa Allarakhia ** 41:52
They have, I wouldn’t be where I am without my parents or the rest of my extended family. They’re always supporting me with whatever I want to do. You know, besides, well, you’re in a doctorate program there. Once you finish the coursework, and you start doing your research. And your there is a lot of waiting, because you’re waiting for feedback from a faculty member. And they might be working with like, at least 15 other students. So what I’ve been doing, since during those waiting periods are is writing lots of articles. And I’m trying to sort of build my, I’m trying to build my freelance portfolio. So I’m always looking for opportunities to write about diversity, inclusion, accessibility, and I’m even in the throes of outlining, ma’am, more based on essays that I’m writing right now, so those are the things I’m doing outside of like my current position at the University and school,
Michael Hingson ** 42:58
what do you do at the university? What’s your job?
Hawa Allarakhia ** 43:00
So right now, I serve as the graduate assistant in the Office of Research, and I’m in charge of all our student programming. So I facilitate and plan and run our annual undergraduate and graduate research conference in the spring, I assist my boss in facilitating a workshop for graduate students about grant writing, and then in the summer, because she also does a workshop for faculty. I help her with that. So I do the some of the course design, I do the group some of the greeting, and I kind of just run and plan all the other events that we have going on in our office on campus.
Michael Hingson ** 43:55
It sounds like you have a pretty supportive environment right now, though.
Hawa Allarakhia ** 43:59
I do. I do. But I’m excited for what the future holds and who knows what other opportunities will come knocking?
Michael Hingson ** 44:08
Well, yeah, that’s gonna be an adventure, isn’t it? What do you in terms of your own thoughts, at least at this point, what do you want to do once you get your your doctorate? So in
Hawa Allarakhia ** 44:20
terms of what I really would, the path I’m seeing myself go on, is really heading back to the heading back to the classroom setting and hopefully, you know, teaching some courses that have to do with accessibility and education. And also, you know, there’s also a lot of, you know, with all the legal stuff going on, there’s also a lot of new contacts to that. So, you know, I’m hoping that in the in the next few searches section of my life, you know, I get to impart My wisdom and knowledge on other on fellow students. And in terms of accessibility and navigating college as a student, you know, I’m because I have a really unique opportunity here at the university, I’m gaining a doctorate in education, which focuses on program development, it means that the courses taught in the program are really kind of where they build their own, you build your own pack. So, you know, there’s always new courses in development with the program. So I’m not really sure what type of courses I’m going to teach right now. But I know that the relationships I’ve built right now are gonna help me figure that out.
Michael Hingson ** 45:49
Well, you are, it sounds like you want to stay in higher education, though, as opposed to going back down and teaching younger teaching to younger students?
Hawa Allarakhia ** 45:58
I do, I do, because I’ve spent a lot of time here. And I think that the lessons that I’ve learned as a student, and in my work positions have just given me a really good per view of the struggles that people face and how they can overcome them, regardless of their disability or any challenge they have on their plate.
Michael Hingson ** 46:26
What do you see is maybe some some critical issues that need to be addressed or challenges that exists today, in the whole field of higher education? You
Hawa Allarakhia ** 46:37
know, I think our biggest challenge that we face right now is the stifling of diverse opinions and voices. Because especially here in this state, we are, we’re if you don’t, so here’s what I don’t understand about the context of how people view diversity. So if certain people view diversity as a positive thing that, you know, all, there are aspects of a person’s personality and culture and everything that makes them them is so important to, to realize and recognize, while other people view highlighting those diverse aspects of a person as not positive, because it puts down what they consider the, you know, the status quo of how society should view people. So I think, you know, I think our major issue across higher ed, is to make sure that the, you know, all those diverse communities and even minority groups is to support their voice and make sure that, you know, they are they continue to be heard and grow and not to stifle that and kind of, you know, put them in a box and lock them away. We’ve already been through all that kind of stuff. And right now, I kind of feel like we’re cycled, circling back to a time where I don’t think anyone would be comfortable with where, you know, and back into the 50s, and the 60s, and all that kind of stuff. So I’m really doing my absolute best to raise voice when it comes to accessibility and all sorts of issues, because it is feeling kind of stifled at times.
Michael Hingson ** 48:35
We’ve been watching on the news, I know out here, we have certainly seen on the news about all the things going on in Florida and the governor talking about not funding diversity and so on, does that affect persons with disabilities as much as it appears to be affecting other groups as well?
Hawa Allarakhia ** 48:55
I think it does, because, you know, I think it does, because people, you know, people see that. So people see that, as you know, as a part of that. It’s not officially a part of diversity, but it is in in a lot of contexts. And you know, I think where because it’s not just it’s not just stifling about diversity, but when it comes to accessibility, it’s like, Well, it sounds services or, you know, some buildings are are already accessible, why do we have to make them better? So, that’s where I think, you know, that’s where I think this is, like less, that’s where I think people are kind of taking advantage of the situation where they’re saying that people it’s already good enough, it doesn’t need to be better. So and in some cases, you know, kind of take Your way those services and stuff like that. So I just think, you know, it is, it is a continuous battle that’s happening here. And you know, there are people fighting for those rights every day. And you know, there are people who, but eventually, I hope that you know, the people who are in charge, you’re gonna see that it’s there. I think, honestly, they’re only some of the people who are trying to stifle these voices, they’re just doing it for their own benefit and out of fear. So that’s where I think, you know, all this is coming from, from a place of fear.
Michael Hingson ** 50:41
I think there’s a lot of truth to that, that it’s fear, it’s not having a good education about it. And I would hope that with voices like yours, there, there will, we will be able to start to see some change, because it is an is an issue. And you said something just now that was very interesting, I gather that accessibility is not considered part of diversity in Florida. So
Hawa Allarakhia ** 51:07
it’s not that it’s not considered but, um, you know, it’s not, it’s not it’s all it’s not an official part of the P i acronym. It’s a it’s an official part of the acronym, if you know what I mean.
Michael Hingson ** 51:24
Yeah, well, the acronym of diversity, equity and inclusion. I’ve talked to a number of people on this podcast and and when I asked them to define diversity, they do provide definitions, and very rarely do they include disabilities at all. And I point that out, and they say, oh, it’s, well, it’s an equity or, or something like that? I think
Hawa Allarakhia ** 51:48
they can. So I think a lot of people are of the opinion that it’s, um, you know, it’s kind of it’s there without it having to be stated. But the thing is, I think that people who I think that’s part of the problem, where because it’s not officially embedded within that acronym, I think it kind of it kind of, it kind of acts as it acts almost invisibly, and it’s only brought up when you say, but what about accessibility? And they’re like, oh, yeah, okay. We know so well, now that you mentioned it. Yeah, yeah, exactly. Now that you mention it, yeah. But
Michael Hingson ** 52:35
they didn’t think about it before, which is really part of the issue. And that’s what makes it so frustrating. Do you think that that also plays into what you talked about before the whole fear concept? It
Hawa Allarakhia ** 52:47
does? It does. I do, I do think it plays into the fear concept. But here’s the thing that I think also plays into the here concept, because I feel like it still in today’s society, we are still, we’re still, you know, tucking away, or we’re still T people are still teaching their children that, you know, if they, they, they shouldn’t, you know, pursue interactions with individuals with disabilities. And you know, that people with disabilities are should sort you know, could should sort of be in the shadows, I think that is something that still deeply ingrained within society, that the only thing that’s going to change that is people just keep talking about it and raising awareness and that kind of thing. I don’t, that’s the only thing that’s going to change that because I think, you know, ableism is still deeply deeply involved in the culture of society, across the world, and across the nation, I think it’s still deeply embedded in society. And the only way it’s going to change is that people just keep talking about it, and your podcasts are doing one of those things. Well,
Michael Hingson ** 54:15
thank you. I do believe that it’s all about the conversation. And we we don’t get included in the conversation very much, even though the whole category, if you will, of persons with disabilities, according to the CDC is somewhere close to 25% of our population. Now, it’s a fractured community because there are so many different disabilities and there isn’t necessarily a lot of have a point of view of commonality, which maybe needs to be a little bit more brought to the forefront. But still, the bottom line is that it’s a very large minority, and we don’t see people Dealing with it, we don’t see people, including us in the conversation. And it becomes very unfortunate when that occurs.
Hawa Allarakhia ** 55:08
Yeah, I just think that, you know, include being included in the conversation is first step, and then, you know, bring, bring brought to the table to be part of the discussion and the building of solutions is really, and content is really the forefront of, you know, where people who were voices for accessibility and disability aren’t need to put, continue to push and go. Because, you know, being having the opportunity to turn those voices into action is really the key to true change.
Michael Hingson ** 55:53
Yeah, absolutely. So, as we move toward wrapping this up, when I really appreciate all your time, but what kind of advice do you have for people, both people who have disabilities and people who, who don’t happen to be themselves as having disabilities?
Hawa Allarakhia ** 56:14
Honestly, my number one piece of advice to anybody, whether you have a disability or not, is just just keep going. If you have a goal in mind, and, you know, you want to achieve it, keep going. All the people in the world can tell you, it’s not possible, or you know, you can’t do it, but you’re the only person who can know what you can what you’re capable of. So just don’t sell yourself. Sure, you know, that’s something that’s something that I’ve struggled with, and I continue to strive to do. But at the same time, when if you’re striving person, per opportunity, and you just keep hitting roadblocks, you know, try to find new parts and avenues. But, but at the same time, be willing to listen, and you know, sometimes you have to your circumstances are out of your control and sound. And it’s important to realize that you can’t, you can only do so much to change people’s perception of you. And if they do, if they don’t change that perception, that’s not your fault. That’s their fault.
Michael Hingson ** 57:42
There’s only so much you can do. Yeah, and you’re right, you don’t necessarily have control over what happened to you or some of the circumstances that you face. But you always have control over how you deal with it.
Hawa Allarakhia ** 57:55
Exactly. Exactly. 100%. And
Michael Hingson ** 57:59
that’s what’s really important. Well, I want to thank you for being here with us today. If people want to reach out to you and maybe talk with you or learn more from you, how might they do that? So
Hawa Allarakhia ** 58:12
everyone, um, you can reach me on LinkedIn. And I’m, you know, I’m trying to build a base of communication. So I’m happy to chat with anybody about anything related to di accessibility. If you’ve got some opportunity, you think my fit my area, I’m happy to talk anytime. And you know, LinkedIn right now, I’m really heavy into LinkedIn. So that’s my best form of communication.
Michael Hingson ** 58:44
How do people reach out to you on LinkedIn,
Hawa Allarakhia ** 58:47
so they can send me a private message, or they can also send me a connection request? And that usually, those are the two forms that I’m aware of people getting in touch via LinkedIn. So
Michael Hingson ** 59:03
what’s your LinkedIn name? Or how do they reach you? They just spell it.
Hawa Allarakhia ** 59:08
Yeah, if they search for me, my first name is H A W A. And my last name is A L L A R A K H I A. Just
Michael Hingson ** 59:22
like it sounds Hawa Allarakhia. And so it is easy to find her. And it is, as I said, just like it sounds. Well, I hope people will reach out and we really wish you a lot of success. I would like it a great deal. If you would, please stay in touch. I would like to do that as well. We want to hear more about adventures that you have and as you progress, how things go and you’re always welcome to come back here to unstoppable mindset and chat some more. So I hope we can do that. Absolutely.
Hawa Allarakhia ** 59:55
It was my pleasure. Thank you so much for this opportunity. I hope you have a good afternoon. and well
Michael Hingson ** 1:00:00
and I hope all of you out there listening will reach out to Hawa I would also appreciate if you’d reach out to me I’d love to hear from you. Love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to email me at Michaelhi m i c h a e l h i at accessiBe A C C E S S I B E.com. Or go to our podcast page, which is www dot Michaelhingson.com/podcast. That’s Michael Hingson m i c h a e l h i n g s o n. Also, as I asked every week and will continue to do so please give us a five star rating for our episode and our discussion with Hawa today. I think it’s been great. I learned a lot and I really appreciate and value the insights that she’s given us. So please give us a five star rating. I’m sure that how I would appreciate it as well. And again, reach out to her. And again one last time Hawa really we very much really appreciate you being here with us today and hope that we get a chance to chat some more in the future. Absolutely.
Hawa Allarakhia ** 1:01:02
You have a good afternoon
Michael Hingson ** 1:01:10
You have been listening to the Unstoppable Mindset podcast. Thanks for dropping by. I hope that you’ll join us again next week, and in future weeks for upcoming episodes. To subscribe to our podcast and to learn about upcoming episodes, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com slash podcast. Michael Hingson is spelled m i c h a e l h i n g s o n. While you’re on the site., please use the form there to recommend people who we ought to interview in upcoming editions of the show. And also, we ask you and urge you to invite your friends to join us in the future. If you know of any one or any organization needing a speaker for an event, please email me at speaker at Michael hingson.com. I appreciate it very much. To learn more about the concept of blinded by fear, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com forward slash blinded by fear and while you’re there, feel free to pick up a copy of my free eBook entitled blinded by fear. The unstoppable mindset podcast is provided by access cast an initiative of accessiBe and is sponsored by accessiBe. Please visit www.accessibe.com. accessiBe is spelled a c c e s s i b e. There you can learn all about how you can make your website inclusive for all persons with disabilities and how you can help make the internet fully inclusive by 2025. Thanks again for listening. Please come back and visit us again next week.

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