In this post, I’d like to examine some of the things people say about disabilities and the attitudes behind them. I may ramble a bit, so bear with me…
In my previous post, one of the things I wrote is that I need my friends to believe me when I say I can’t do something. That seems to bother some people. They view such statements as defeatist. I’m not afraid of challenges. My left arm is paralyzed. Sure, I can ride a motorcycle, but if you tell me to clap my hands, I’m going to have to say “I can’t.” I’m not a defeatist; I’m a realist. Please understand that an ability in one area does not imply a lack of impairment in another.
Upon learning that my arm is paralyzed, people often say something like, “I don’t see a disability; I see a person,” or “You seem quite normal to me.” I understand that this is usually in an effort to be polite, but I argue that not seeing the disability means not seeing the whole person. Experience shapes us; we change as we adapt. My disability affects my life experiences, so it has had a significant role in forming the person I have become. Another thing to consider is that these statements rely on the assumption that disability makes one less. This is called “ableism.”
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “ableism” as “Discrimination in favour of able-bodied people; prejudice against or disregard of the needs of disabled people.” Fiona Campbell provides a more academic definition: “A network of beliefs, processes and practices that produces a particular kind of self and body (the corporeal standard) that is projected as the perfect, species-typical, and therefore essential and fully human. Disability is then cast as a diminished state of being human.”
A supervisor once said to me, “Disabled people don’t ride motorcycles.” He was well aware of my disability. He continued on to make his point, which was that, since I don’t “act disabled,” I can’t ask for the accommodation I was asking him for. This stems from the same kind of thinking as the more polite comments I mentioned earlier. In essence, he was saying that disabled people look and act differently from “normal” people, and because I look and act in ways that fit his standard of “normal,” I can’t be disabled. It seems pretty silly when I put it that way, doesn’t it?
I am fully human AND I have a disability. Let’s start with that…
Continued from part 2…
I’m moving on to part C of Attwood and Gray’s aspie criteria, which I’ve listed below. I encourage you to read the full article, The Discovery of “Aspie” Criteria.
C. Cognitive skills characterized by at least four of the following:
- strong preference for detail over gestalt
- original, often unique perspective in problem solving
- exceptional memory and/or recall of details often forgotten or disregarded by others, for example: names, dates, schedules, routines
- avid perseverance in gathering and cataloguing information on a topic of interest
- persistence of thought
- encyclopaedic or “CD ROM” knowledge of one or more topics
- knowledge of routines and a focused desire to maintain order and accuracy
- clarity of values/decision making unaltered by political or financial factor
I hope those of you in human resources or in a position to make hiring decisions are taking notes, because this is why you want an aspie in your organization. Aspiritech has demonstrated these strengths in aspies on the job, as you will see in its FAQs, and it is not the first company to do so. For me personally, this is what these skills look like in my work…
I manage a learning management system for a university. I support thousands of users from around the world. I’ve told my supervisor that I may not always see the forest for the trees, but I’m very good at seeing the trees. I have a tendency to bring up details that might otherwise be missed and that could be costly if overlooked. When problem solving, I tend to see what is missing or what doesn’t belong. I tend to remember users by their identities in the system (usernames and ID numbers), and I recognize patterns involving groups of users or courses with similar characteristics even though the connection might not be readily apparent. I have a tendency to become very focused on a problem and will pursue it until I understand it completely and can develop a permanent fix. I read technical manuals for fun, and my daily routine includes a number of system checks so that I can proactively respond to upcoming problems.
Perhaps most important of all, technical work is genuinely fun for me. I don’t get stressed over technical issues. I enjoy them like others might enjoy a good puzzle or game. I feel driven to solve them and I am greatly satisfied when I can show my colleagues how I fixed them. Who wouldn’t want to employ someone like me?
To be continued…