“Your Expectations Are Disabling”

It’s exhausting to seek accommodations. Here’s how to make it smoother.

Emma Barnes

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“I am disabled” and “I have X disability” don’t mean what you think they mean. To you they reference ableist norms and practices — the very stuff of late-bootstrap grind culture. But to your interlocutor, they mean something very different. They hear, “something is wrong with me”; and they’re invited to the level-up their ableism. Cue paternalism, discrimination and stigma. Don’t let it happen. You can’t crash-course them in disability studies, but you can realign their gaze.

Name the culprit, not yourself

Instead of “I am disabled”, shift to “These stairs disable me” or “this audio format disables me” or, sharpest of all, “YOUR EXPECTATIONS are disabling me”. Name the disabler. Not the person. The thing.

It’s worth mentioning the rock

Suppose you’re AuDHD including audio processing ecentricities, as I am, and work shoots you a rendez-vous, like mine just did:

Hi everyone, let’s meet at Nico’s Trattoria at 1 to discuss the plan…

And like me, you won’t stay with the conversation in that clatter. It might feel best to ask for accommodation in the following way:

I am Autistic and I have audio-processing difficulties. Can we meet somewhere quieter?

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Emma Barnes

Autistic, trans, survivor, abolitionist @friedkrill on Twitstagram