February 25th, 2010


Privilege is a buzz word, but there's a reason we talk about it.

Totally sick of disability stuff now. It wouldn't feel so bad if I was advocating for someone else or a group of people, but having to go round fighting for non-discriminatory access just for me, me, me feels wrong on so many levels. And it's Every. Single. Day.

Today I got into an argument in the lift. Having gone down to put some heavy things in my locker before going to the bookshop, I got "trapped" in the basement for 10 minutes because neither of the lifts would come down. (This isn't an exaggeration - if anything it's an underestimate because I only looked at my phone the first time after I'd already been there "a while"). There isn't a seat on that floor, meaning that I was tired and in pain from standing (at least until I gave up and sat on the ground), and the lifts are shoved in a corner where the ceiling is pretty low. I don't really have claustrophobia to any significant degree, but I was starting to feel panicky through the sheer length of time I'd been there. When the lift finally came down, it was absolutely full of people who actually wanted to go up, but had got in the lift on the ground floor to block anyone else from getting in. And they wouldn't move to make room for me, even though there was enough room if people got closer together.

I wasn't going to let the only lift in 10 minutes go back up without me in it, so I asked if people could please make room - "You all got in this lift knowing it was coming down, but I've been waiting for it for 10 minutes". This guy - who was middle-aged, upper middle class in voice, wearing an expensive suit, clearly in senior management at his day job - got arsey with me because I wanted to go to the ground floor. "It's only one floor". I said "I'm disabled!". He said "Fine." (dismissively) and "If you bitch at us I'll get bitchy with you." Apparently he had to get in the lift because often when lifts go down to the basement they return full of people, which would stop him being able to get in the lift when it came back.

Well, one floor isn't long enough to have a meaningful conversation, but when I fought my way out of the lift (because no one would let me out either) I wasn't sure whether I should have apologised for my tone and explained that I was tired and in pain, or told him where he could stick his damned privilege. Because in his eyes, he was far more important than I was, so he had a much greater need for the lift than I did. (Did I mention he was also white? And by upper middle class I mean that he sounded like an ex-Etonian Tory politician). Absolutely reeking of privilege and inconsideration for other people's needs.

I can see how someone going to the sixth or seventh floor might feel that they have a "right" to use the lift, but the second or third floors are perfectly walkable for an able-bodied person. With my current level of pain, I honestly had no choice. Supposedly, disabled students and staff have priority over everyone else for the lifts; but there is nothing by them to indicate this.

Sat on one of the highly uncomfortable chairs and almost burst into tears from the sheer embarrassment, exhaustion and pain. But a succession of people I know from the depression and anxiety support group turned up randomly, and some of them decided to come with me to Waterstone's to have hot chocolate and a good moaning session in Costa. Which was, at least, useful.

Reinventing the wheel.

More disability crap! Right now I am in bed and close to tears because I am so sick of dealing with it. I'm starting to feel like I should employ a full time enabler/advocate so I can get on with my work unimpeded by having to sort out access stuff.

Remember I said I needed to talk to Birkbeck Disability Office about the compulsory Symposium and my access requirements therein? Did that yesterday and got up today planning to write a lengthy email to whom it concerns. Only to find that I have an email from the postgraduate administrator in the department who has the wrong end of the wrong stick.
"We received a query from [someone] who is PA to [my DSA Assessor] regarding concerns you have about a biennial symposium. There is a biennial ISMB symposium due to take place on 17-18 June, which all students and staff are invited to attend but there is no assessed component."

No! I am not worried about the non-existent assessed component of the meeting! I've been a postgraduate before, I know what these things entail. I am worried about:Collapse )

Gods. You know, my stomach is actually hurting from the stress of having to write this all out. And I haven't even included 9. The anxiety inherent in attending a large meeting with a lot of people I don't know, any of whom might deliberately or accidentally make a clueless personal remark about my visible disability issues. (Some scientists are not known for their advanced social skills, and sometimes people think they're being friendly.)

Also, I'm mildly annoyed that the livejournal web client automatically updates the time of posting, as I'd like to know for certain how long I've spent writing this. It's at least an hour and a half.


Also, to update an old expression for the 21st century: No emailing about me without me. If you're writing to someone else about my disability issues and access needs, then you should damn well cc me on the email. I'm sure you're trying to save me the hassle of having to read all these emails, but it means that I'm now guessing who's said what to whom.