Tag Archives: accommodations
There’s a common idea I encounter among nondisabled people when it comes to discussing accessibility and making spaces accessible to all users. That idea is that as long as there’s a ramp, a space is accessible. That accessibility is solely about ramps, and nothing else, so once you’ve got a ramp in place, you’re covered.
This is, as we know, not true. Not even for wheelchair users; a ramp is only the beginning of accessibility and it’s useless if, for example, all the doorways in a space are too narrow to allow a chair to pass. It’s not helpful if the front entrance is ramped, but as soon as you get inside, there are steps up or down to another area of a building. Or if the bathroom in a space is too small and cramped to use safely. Or if, hey, someone decided to put all the light switches ridiculously high up on the wall.
The universal symbol of accessibility is our old friend wheelie blue:
This symbol reinforces the idea that accessibility is primarily about wheelchairs. Now, granted, it would be functionally impossible to come up with a symbol representing all disabilities and all accommodation needs. The goal with symbols like this is to keep them simple, clear, and communicative.
But contrast that with this:
This icon shows the familiar wheelchair user, but also hands Signing, representing the d/Deaf community. And Braille. And a brain, which to my mind (ha ha) reads as a representation of neuroatypicality, for people with intellectual disabilities, for people with mental illness. Suddenly, the concept of accessibility is widened and the concept of different bodies and minds is represented here, reminding the viewer that accessibility goes beyond the ramp.
Wiscon’s accessibility policy is something we often point to here as an illustration of expanding the definition of ‘access’ and trying to work with people with many different kinds of disabilities to make a space comfortable and welcoming for them. It addresses issues ranging from wheelchair-accessible hotel rooms to the need for a quiet space to allergies. It also expands the conversation to talk not just about how spaces can be made accessible, but how people in those spaces can contribute to accessibility:
Offer help–don’t assume it’s needed. Most of us are taught to “help the handicapped” but not “does this person want or need help?” If you think someone needs assistance, just ask. If they say yes, don’t make assumptions; instead listen to the details of what the person with disabilities wants. If they say “no thanks” don’t be offended. What might look overly complicated or inefficient can be what that disabled person finds works best.
Wiscon also thinks about how the programming, the structure of the event, can be adjusted to create accommodations. Making more space between panels, for example, and providing information to attendees about which rooms have florescent lighting. Three facets of accessibility are being considered here: The physicalities of the space, the people in it, and how the programming inside that space is organized. That goes far beyond the way most people conceptualise ‘accessibility.’
Getting people to expand their minds when it comes to accessibility is more complicated than just getting them to think about the fact that there are issues beyond wheelchair accessibility. It also requires people to think about, discuss, and acknowledge conflicting accommodations and how to balance the needs of multiple people with disabilities. Some accommodations automatically exclude people from spaces. Conversations about conflicting accommodations are uncomfortable because we want to make spaces welcome to everyone, but sometimes there’s a fundamental conflict; take, for example, people who need to use essential oils to manage their conditions, and people who can’t be around strong odors or alcohol-based compounds.
Wiscon’s policy includes a statement and discussion about conflicting accommodations, something rather unusual. I haven’t encountered many discussions about conflicting accommodations in the mainstream, although one place I do spot them is online, where some sites have options like switching between a light on dark/dark on light theme or have other configurable options designed to address various disabilities.
Making spaces accessible requires thinking about a lot of things; about how people with a variety of disabilities will interact with a space, about how people will interact with each other in that space, and, often, how to manage accessibility with limited budget options. Many people trying to design accessible spaces may also not really know how to go about it, and they’re not sure about who to turn to. As a result, we end up with situations where spaces are not accessible because no one bothered to ask for input, instead trying to anticipate needs and failing. Often, the burden falls on people with disabilities to demand access and to provide education about how to make spaces accessible, even when that information is already available, with a little bit of searching.
Accommodation should also be provided automatically, without needing to be something that people specifically have to request and ask for. And people need to be provided with information about available accommodations, as this story Anna linked me to recently points out:
One barrier PCR finds is that access officers in universities tend to ask students to tell them what services they require rather than telling the students what is available. The student is at a disadvantage before the first lecture even begins, as they may not know about all the services available.
Considerations about accessibility and accessible spaces should be on the forefront of the mind of anyone tasked with building, arranging, or coordinating a space, not just people who need accommodations, and people need to expand the way they think about accessibility, actively seek out and solicit information to make the spaces they control better. People often seem to think that accessibility is something you add when someone asks for it, which presumes that people with disabilities will always ask for it, when instead, more commonly, we go ‘oh, that space isn’t accessible or there’s not clear information about accessibility, so I won’t bother attending that event.’
Gentle reader, be cautioned: comments sections on mainstream media sites tend to not be safe and we here at FWD/Forward don’t necessarily endorse all the opinions in these pieces. Let’s jump right in, shall we?
Anna linked to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s coverage of this story earlier in the week, now here is Cara’s analysis at The Curvature: Australian Women Report Sexual Abuse in Victoria Psychiatric Wards:
Everyone deserves safety, no matter what their mental health or disability status. But there is an extra responsibility to keep safe those who have been placed in restrictive and vulnerable environments.
stuff to say in class by Amanda Forest Vivian at I’M SOMEWHERE ELSE:
I mean, to me this is common sense and people should already be questioning “non-disabled people>>>>everyone else forever,” but if we really need a study to show that forced normalization in every area of life is really NOT SMART, studying women would be an easy way to do it.
Sorry I’m so inconvenient by Kali at Brilliant Mind Broken Body:
I hate things like this, where it feels like I’m treated as an inconvenience. It’s not like I get some kind of power trip asking for accomodations. I don’t push people around because it’s fun. When I ask for something, it’s because I NEED it, and my health, safety, and ability to continue going to school are jeopardized.
Look, I’m sorry I’m so inconvenient. But if you had to deal with the sheer number of inconveniences I deal with every day because of my disabilities, you’d realize that I’m really asking for very little.
From the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, American Apparel Sued by EEOC for Disability Discrimination:
American Apparel, Inc., a clothing manufacturer which operates what it says is the largest garment factory in the nation, violated federal law when it terminated a disabled garment worker while he was on medical leave for cancer treatment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed last week.
At the New Zealand Herald: Call to rescue IHC providers rejected:
Health Minister Tony Ryall has ruled out a Government bailout of disability services facing hundreds of millions of dollars debt for backpay arising from an Employment Court ruling.
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Reflecting on the extremely thought provoking post by abbyjean earlier, I was walking to breakfast with The Guy (caution, try not to walk while lost in thought, OYD) on a day when I was low on sleep, high on pain, and therefore using my cane. (edit: I just saw my typo! I had a funny visual of me trying to balance on a can! HA!)
Conflicting accommodations do not always mean that the conflict will occur between separate PWDs. For example, on a high pain day, I am in desperate need on my cane due to the intense pain in my hip and legs in general (though, which leg I want to use if for is debatable, even though I favor one hip). When I am that fatigued, however, using the cane is an intense use of my spoons, to the point where if I have too much to do I can’t even bother because it just winds up with me on a chair or bench in tears. Or the cane causes additional pain in my back or shoulders.
There are others that come to mind. My medication provides me with more pain free days, which is a good thing. This is an active choice I made with the advice of my doctor whom I was lucky enough to find at this duty station. The flip of that coin is that I have side effects which means that I can not always drive places, or have the energy (HA!) that I want to do things with my family, to name a few. This might not sound like a huge accommodation, but it makes a great impact on my family life, people who play a huge role in my care.
I know that some people use caffeine to both relieve some pain and migraine effects (I sometimes do) but that this has the crash effect at the end of the day (for me it means my spoons run out faster).
So, gentle readers, what accommodations do you have/use that conflict…uhh…internally? What individual needs to you have that you have to weigh daily?
Accommodations can be difficult. Not only for an individual with a disability to identify what accommodation would be relevant or helpful for them, not only convincing whoever to implement the desired accommodation, and not only ensuring that the accommodation continues over time and doesn’t lead to resentment or punishment for the person with a disability. Here is an additional wrinkle – sometimes desired or needed accommodations conflict. What one PWD needs to accommodate her disability could not only not help another PWD, but might actually exacerbate their disability.
Let’s take an example: smoking. For some PWDs, especially those with mental illness, smoking can help ameliorate their symptoms, calm their anxiety, even help some with restoring neurochemical imbalances. The rates of smoking among people with mental illness tend to be much higher than the general population, in which about 20% of people smoke. Here is a chart of smoking rates among PWDs with mental illness:
|MENTAL ILLNESS:||PERCENTAGE WHO ARE SMOKERS|
|Post Traumatic Stress Disorder||60%|
There are lots of theories why people with mental illness smoke. At a recent meditation seminar, the instructor was modeling deep breathing techniques for relaxation and stress reduction. He pointed out that the deep breaths, with an exhale longer than the inhale, breathing from the abdomen, exactly mimicked the breathing of a smoker while inhaling from a cigarette and exhaling smoke. I know people who took up smoking intentionally and specifically in order to help regulate breathing during panic attacks – they report that the 5-7 minutes of regulated breathing during one cigarette is enough to get them through a panic or anxiety attack.
Nicotine, the active ingredient in cigarettes, also acts as a stimulant on the brain. Some report enhanced attention, focus, and concentration, which can be helpful for people with attention or focus problems caused either by their disorders or the medications that treat them. As one study reports: “Certain thinking patterns are affected in schizophrenia including sustained attention, focused attention, working memory, short-term memory, recognition memory and even processes that are preattentive (eg reflexes). Some studies have suggested that there may be improvements in these areas after treatment with nicotine.” Those authors theorize, as have many others, that “it may be that patients “self medicate” to remediate the chemical imbalance in the brain (dopamine hypofunction in the pre-frontal cortex) which may help with certain difficulties with thinking tasks involving this PFC area and might explain why there is smoking persistence in schizophrenia.”
On the flip side, of course, there are many PWD for whom being around smokers or smoke will exacerbate their disabilities and a necessary accommodation is an atmosphere free from smoke. People with asthma and other respiratory problems or people with allergies and chemical sensitivities could be seriously harmed by being around smoke or people who are smoking, and could require an accommodation to be free from smoke exposure.
This sets up the possibility that there could be two PWDs – let’s say one with schizophrenia and one with severe smoke allergies – who require accommodations that are directly conflicting with each other. These situations are much trickier for me than when a PWD is requesting an accommodation that an employer, business, government, or other entity is saying is too difficult or expensive to implement. In those situations, I believe the accommodation rights of the PWD should trump that concern in the vast majority of cases. But handling issues of conflicting accommodations can be much more complicated, because the rule of “you must accommodate PWDs” doesn’t give us any guidance on how to proceed.
This is just one example of desired or needed accommodations that can directly conflict, but there are many others. How do you think these situations should be handled? Have you run into conflicts like this in your own life?
Note: discussions of conflicting accommodations – including the example discussed above – can become very charged and very personal, as readers and commenters may have personal preferences or needs on which accommodation to implement. Please be respectful of the needs of other PWDs in this comment thread. Specifically, comments that imply or state that smokers are inherently evil or people who don’t smoke are inherently intolerant (or similarly bright line rules) will be deleted.
if you are nondisabled and working in the disability community…if you are white and working with people of color…if you are an adult working with youth…or, quite often, if you are a nondisabled white adult working with disabled youth, many who have been abandoned by our education system because of racism/classism/ableism…basically if you are a person who has authority and privilege and are working with people who traditionally have not…
think hard as hell before you leverage “professionalism.”
Now, you or I might speculate that for a woman to press charges against her husband and the father of her children, she has to be quite upset with him. Therefore we should 1) presume that this was a really scary or upsetting experience for her, and 2) acknowledge the likelihood that this is not the only disturbing, upsetting, controlling, or frightening thing her husband has done.
But at least one of these radio hosts, and the callers, wers less inclined to that view. Oh yes. One of the radio hosts did indeed say that it was not okay to drug someone without their consent, but I also got to hear people talking about how it’s okay to drug someone if you mean well by it. I also heard that it was okay to do if he wanted to watch the Superbowl and she wouldn’t calm down. I also heard that it was okay because it was just such a tiny little pill. I also heard that it was okay to do if he just really wanted her to stop fighting and relax.
Are lap dances an effective therapy for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or drug addiction? It doesn’t seem like a question that should require a serious answer—but a state investigation of Oregon’s Mount Bachelor Academy (MBA) has substantiated allegations made by students and staff that such “therapy” was part of the school’s “emotional growth” curriculum and forced an emergency shutdown of the campus.
Today the VA sent me a letter, with my name and address and social on it, detailing the reasons why the special transportation they have been providing to me was being terminated. They offered a generic list of alternative options, which included ‘asking for help from family and friends’ and ‘taking public transportation.’ In order to send this letter, of course, they would have to collect this information from me, from a file which might have detailed that my family is dead, and that the reason I do not take public transportation is because I have such bad panic attacks that I black out. Nevertheless, they forged on, much like the cheerful nurse I dealt with on the phone who commented on my tone of voice, “You sure don’t seem too happy about it!”
“I’m being treated for suicidal thoughts and depression after several suicide attempts.”
She transferred me without comment after that. Again, a moment’s notice would have provided her with that information. She didn’t bother.
In the news:
David Allen, who has muscular dystrophy, took action after Royal Bank of Scotland failed to put in wheelchair access at its branch in Sheffield.
The company was ordered to pay £6,500 in damages and given until the end of September this year to install a lift.
Richard Lissack QC, for RBS, told the Court of Appeal that the judge in the earlier ruling had got it wrong.
At a hearing at Sheffield County Court in January, Judge John Dowse ruled the bank had breached the Disability Discrimination Act.
Picture Post: Organs of Pills – pills carved up to look like the organs they’re supposed to help. No descriptions.
However, even in this environment there is one area that has always troubled me and that revolves around the concept of promiscuity as diagnositic criteria.
My first and biggest problem with this is that I have NEVER heard this brought up as a symptom of mental illness when discussing a male. It is always something that is brought up about a female. I can’t help but assume that this is linked to the belief that “excessive” sexual activity is normal for a man and not a symptom of mental illness while no “healthy” woman would engage in or enjoy casual or alternative styles of sex. I also think it is linked to the belief that women are the only ones that have sex with other people due to low self esteem or possibly in a reckless manner because they have some self-destruct tendencies. See, sex is damaging to women, they can’t just enjoy casual encounters or engage in sex purely for self-satisfaction: they must be wounded in some way or they must be wrongly searching for the intimacy they so desire.
I find myself caught between disabilities.
One of my most promising paths forward health-wise right now is finding a low-impact, non-repetitive form of exercise. Since I have done yoga in the past, I have been searching for a yoga studio. But since I’m in the western suburbs of St. Louis… there just isn’t much here. The most promising place, that offers classes that fit into my schedule, that is likely to be understanding and accomodating of my back issues, is Bikram.
Now I did Bikram a few years ago and loved it – unfortunately, over the course of a couple of months the humidity in the room (Bikram is “hot” yoga, done in a room that’s about 90 degrees) started making my hearing aids go wonky, so I stopped.
The character was dressed in a blue latex suit that covered his head, and he was constantly babbling like an idiot and drooling on himself. I admit that I found the Handiman skits to be hilarious when when they first premiered. The disabled community had been non-existent in Hollywood up until then, and it continues to be non-existent today, so it was good to see some representation, and me not knowing how much of a negative image it was at the time, appreciated the recognition.
I was in my junior year in high school when Handiman made his debut. Ever since I was mainstreamed back in the fifth grade, I have always caught hell because of my disability. I remember being teased many a-day throughout grade school, high school and even college. Handiman perpetuated the stereotypes that people had about people with disabilities. Even to this day, the techniques have changed, but I pretty much know when people are trying to belittle me. Children aren’t as cunning or crafty to hide their emotions, so they would usually laugh or make “retarded-stupid” comments about me.
Sometimes you can maintain a career from your own home, such as on the computer or as a consultant on the phone. Sometimes you just need to stop and re-think the whole idea of being useful. The question of “why am I here?” seems to become magnified when you become confined to a small physical space with others doing all the things you used to do for yourself.
But that does not mean you have become useless. It is very easy to fall into the trap of believing that, especially when people say things like, “it must be so nice to be home all the time and do nothing!” It is not particularly nice to have no impressive answer when people ask what you do all day, but if you are able to ignore that and realize that everyone is on this earth for a reason, you are on your way to finding a new sense of purpose. Maybe not a financial one, but perhaps a spiritual one, which is even more important.
In the news:
Francesca Martinez: A Wobbly Girl Battles Against The Last Taboo [Although I disagree with the idea that disability is the “last taboo”]
Francesca Martinez’s victim is squirming. Trapped under the scrutiny of the comedian and fellow members of the audience at her show in Edinburgh, he is clearly wishing for the proverbial hole to open up. “What are you bad at?” asks Martinez. “Football,” comes the sheepish reply. “Were you born like that?” she enquires, head tilted in sympathy, “Couldn’t your mum have had a test when she was pregnant?” Turning to the man’s girlfriend, she simpers: “You are so brave. Well done… Does it mean he can’t have sex?”
Martinez’s humour bears a political sting. As one of a tiny number of disabled performers who have made it into the mainstream, she is not about to waste opportunities to ram home a message. Born with cerebral palsy, the 31-year-old refuses to accept the label of her condition, preferring to describe herself as “wobbly”.
I’ve been reading about the Spoon Theory and kinda going, yeah, that doesn’t apply to me. (Basically, we all have a number of spoons that represent what we can do that day. Healthy, temporarily able bodied people (age will get us all!! Run!!) have an unlimited amount. Those not so able-bodied do not.)
Thinking about the Spoon Theory and applying it to my life is scary because dammit, if I write down that it hurts, then it really happened and it just won’t go away. If I don’t classify it, it’s not there. Denial is awesome unless WILL YOU STOP STABBING ME. See?
But I do use it, I realized today.
It brings up some interesting thoughts for me about “what actually is disability?” That’s medical vs social model stuff, but its not just that. Its about the labels we as people with impairments use to define and describe ourselves. What boxes we put ourselves in and how easily or not we communicate with those in the other boxes of disability.
You know you a monster when almost all the depictions of your condition in the media show you as either a joke or a jerkass. It gets to you. You begin to wonder if those you call your friends see you the same way. Are they keeping you around for the crazy antics? Do they like the real you, who ever that may be?
I had some really positive experiences today with some disability activism that I would really like to share. The first two were at work and the third at an after-work conference for language development in the Middle Swan area.
In the news:
Student files suit against U. [Princeton]
Metcalf-Leggette’s complaint asserted that she has four learning disabilities, which were diagnosed in 2003: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mixed-receptive-expressive language disorder, disorder of written expression and developmental coordination disorder. The conditions, according to the complaint, hinder her ability to focus, process information and communicate in writing.
The suit comes after a series of meetings with school officials during which Metcalf-Leggette sought accommodation for her disabilities. The University currently accommodates Metcalf-Leggette’s disabilities by offering her a “reduced distraction testing environment,” a limit of one exam per day and a 10-minute break each hour, the law journal reported.