A Walk and a Talk: Allan Goldstein's essay featured in award-winning magazine on disability

Allan Goldstein

Kaleidoscope Magazine recently featured a personal essay by Allan Goldstein, senior lecturer in Technology, Culture, and Society at NYU Tandon, in their winter/spring 2017 issue. The award-winning magazine, which highlights the experiences of disability through poetry, fiction, art and essays, selected Goldstein’s piece “A Walk and a Talk – Brothers Defeat Willowbrook” out of 350 submissions. Centering on the issue’s theme of the “evolution of inclusion,” the essay follows Goldstein and his younger brother Fred, who has a moderate intellectual disability, as they navigate the crowded chaos of New York streets towards Fred’s first-ever job placement interview.

After both their parents passed away, Goldstein became Fred’s guardian and rapidly realized the effects of living for 16 years at the Willowbrook State School had upon Fred, such as the hindrance of his abilities and artistic talents, and a perpetuated dependency upon caregivers. Since then, Goldstein has become a fervent advocate for disability rights and accessibility, and the brothers aspire to share Fred’s journey, from his childhood in Brooklyn, to his youth spent in Willowbrook, to his life now as a self-advocate and artist, with the world. Goldstein acknowledged that his brother was “lost in the system set up to serve him,” but as the essay relates, Fred has gained more freedom and more responsibility with the support and encouragement of his brother and his new group home.

“Fred and I are both pleased to be represented in Kaleidoscope, which enables us to reach others living through similar life experiences,” Goldstein said of his first publication with the magazine. “‘Inclusion’ is evolving, but only because self-advocates are out there demanding their civil rights — we are all people first, just living differently.”

Inspired by his relationship with Fred, Goldstein designed his Disabilities Studies course to bring together students from all NYU disciplines and consultants from Adapt Community Network (formerly United Cerebral Palsy of New York City) and HeartShare Human Services. Both his students and consultants learn from each other throughout the semester — many have gone on to develop assistive technology products and promote disability rights — and the course was even featured in the 2016 documentary, “The Ability Exchange.” NYU honored Goldstein in February with the prestigious 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. Faculty Award, which celebrated Goldstein — the first faculty member from Tandon to receive the award — and other NYU professors in their embodiment of the teachings and social justice of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Kaleidoscope aims to “challenge and overcome stereotypical, patronizing and sentimental attitudes about disability,” a mission reminiscent of Goldstein’s educational projects, such as the interdisciplinary research space NYU Ability Project and the recently established Disabilities Studies minor, which focus on sharing the stories of people with disabilities and encourage students to understand how engineering, technology, or art can be in service to society.

Goldstein’s work will be featured in upcoming issues of Kaleidoscope, and the brothers’ forthcoming memoir, Finding Fred, will continue to share their story of family and advocacy.

Camila Ryder
Graduate School of Arts and Science
Master of Arts in English Literature, Class of 2018