August 30th, 2007

introspection

a rant about so-called "accessible" workplaces

I'm in a bad mood. A friend of mine is having disability "issues" at work. Of course, I can't talk about the details in my own journal, let alone in an unprotected entry - but I want this to be public so other people can see it. So I won't say anything specific, but I do want to rant generally about so-called "accessible" workplaces.

This is the crux of my rant: Disability accommodation is not pretending the disability doesn't exist!

Yes, it's downright rude for a person to assume that if a person has disability X, they can't do Y. No two people with the same medical diagnosis experience the exact same collection of symptoms. Moreover, a person's ability to adjust to their impairment varies from individual to individual. For example, most of my physical issues bother me not at all, because I have them on a daily basis and I'm used to living in this body by now. But one of the things I find most disabling is having to take (and remember to take, and remember to carry) so many damn meds.

Yes, there are ways to remember whether you've taken a med or not (e.g. put things into pill dispensers, have alarms on your PDA to go off when you need to take something), thank you for that Geek Answer Syndrome. These technological advances don't disguise the fact that I need to take the meds, and that I get ill very quickly if I don't. They don't magically fix the wiring in my brain that says I must be weak if I need to take pills that other people manage perfectly fine without. And no system is infallible - only last month I was preparing to go to another continent, went to the doctor's to get everything I'd need, took the prescription to the pharmacist, carefully counted everything out to go away with me... and somehow a box got left behind, necessitating a Sunday trip to a walk-in clinic and inconvenience to 5 other people. Yes, it was "only" an asthma inhaler - but tell me that isn't disabling!

So while it's rude for a person to assume that a person with disability X can't do Y, it's not rude for them to ask if you have problems doing Y, and if so, what they can do to make it easier? This applies doubly if you are in a place of employment, and the person you're speaking to is specifically employed to deal with accessibility issues! Pretending the disability isn't there doesn't magically give you the ability you're lacking! Reasonable adjustments or equipment might go some way to help, but they don't just appear from nowhere - the company has to order them and pay for them and chase the order up when they don't turn up. Collapse )