10 February, 2010

Unnecessary things

Dave Hingsburger made a really good post about how he wanted a book that he couldn't reach from his wheelchair, and the bookstore employee got annoyed because he was picky about which edition of the book he wanted her to reach for him. I feel like it's good not to feel that you only deserve things that are necessary. Especially because it's hard to tell what's necessary.

I have ASD. I also probably have some not-worth-diagnosing condition that makes me feel faint and on a few occasions has led to me losing the ability to see. I guess this is called "chronic low blood pressure" or something. This summer, my vision almost completely took its leave of me while I was in line at a grocery store. I felt confident explaining to the people around me that I had to leave my food on the counter, go outside, and sit down. (It didn't hurt that on my way outside I tried to walk through a glass door.)

Mostly this doesn't affect me, because I leave situations where I am getting faint, or avoid getting into them in the first place. ASD doesn't always affect me badly either. But the other day, at work, I was told to do a different job than the one I had been hired to do, one which was very taxing for me in terms of sensory issues and Feeling Faint. Although I've never thought about Feeling Faint, or thought much about ASD, when applying for part-time jobs in the dining hall, it would never have occurred to me to apply to do this other job. It's not something I have a word for, I just find several aspects of it to be very difficult over long periods of time.

Anyway, I didn't lose any vision while I was working there, and my Feeling Faint is not really a severe or chronic enough problem for me to be able to explain. I doubt the Disability Services office or anyone would advocate for my right to have a job that isn't upsetting to me for sensory reasons. However, I'll be very upset if I'm pressured into doing that job again, and I will make an effort to insist that I be allowed to do the job I was hired to do.

The problem is that it isn't a necessity for me to avoid anything that might be difficult for me on a sensory level, or a Feeling Faint level. So I don't feel that I deserve respect and help, objectively, the way I did when my vision went out. But the truth is that if I'm forced to remain in a difficult situation for hours, it is really bad--so in the long run, I think it becomes a necessity that my impairments be acknowledged and accommodated.

Also, I don't think it's even going far enough to just admit that some apparently unnecessary things can actually be necessary or become necessary. What about things that aren't necessary like Dave Hingsburger's book? Nothing horrible will happen to him if he has to have an ugly cover instead of the cover he likes--but shouldn't disabled people be able to ask for help that will give us the same range of opportunities as a nondisabled person?

To continue pelting you with examples, I'm afraid to meet with professors when I'm having trouble in class, because I'm concerned that my communication and body language might cause them to resent me and give me a worse grade. Not meeting with professors isn't a huge deal; I always get by. But if I could meet with professors, I could do better. If I was as smart as I am, but didn't have ASD, I could do better in school. I'm going to try to meet with professors and advocate for myself if they make up stories about who I am. I deserve to do as well in school as a regular person can.

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