Normal Is Overrated

Musings and meanderings on the autistic spectrum

May 1, 2012

Accessibility: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

[This is my admittedly belated post for Blogging Against Disablism Day 2012. Be sure to check out the other posts linked in the master post as well—there’s some great stuff there!]

I’ve noticed quite often lately that when people think about accessibility, it’s often in one particular form: making things usable for people who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices. Now, of course, that’s not a bad thing; any effort toward making things accessible to anyone with disabilities, assuming it’s actually done well, is a much needed improvement.

But as important as this is, it’s not the be-all and end-all of accessibility. And yet, so often, I see people acting as if just making things wheelchair-accessible is enough to be considered accessible. I’ve even seen a number of disability-specific businesses and event planners who, although they took wheelchair access into account, still failed to offer basic accommodations that would’ve benefited actual people with disabilities.

Remember my BADD post from last year, about the disability advocacy conference runners who failed to actually make the planning process accessible to real people with disabilities? The sorts of things I described there are not rare. They’re…all too common, actually.

It’s when this isn’t the case—when people really do consider more than just a single facet of accessibility—that I’m truly surprised. And I can think of a couple of recent experiences that have demonstrated this to me.


Filed under: Blog Carnival,General — codeman38 @ 10:58 pm

November 6, 2011

On employment and accommodations: a belated post for Autistics Speaking Day

This year, I was too busy and stressed to post anything on Autistics Speaking Day, despite desperately wanting to.

But there’s a reason I was too busy: I had just begun my first week of work at a full-time job since leaving graduate school. Yes, even in spite of all the employment challenges I’ve mentioned in the past, I still managed to find work in this economy.

And it’s not just any job; it’s a chance to work on something I’m quite interested in. Though my life-long dream of being a contestant on Jeopardy! still remains unfulfilled, I’ve managed to do something that you could say is functionally equivalent.

I feel safe disclosing it at this point, now that I’ve been on the job for a week, so I’ll go ahead and state it: I’m now a research engineer at Nuance Communications, working on the DeepQA project—the software powering the Watson supercomputer that defeated the two reigning Jeopardy! champs—as part of a joint research agreement between Nuance and IBM. (As an aside, to cover all the legal bases: everything I discuss below is my own personal opinion, and I’m not speaking as a representative of either Nuance or IBM.)

And this opportunity wouldn’t have been available without plenty of reasonable accommodation—which is exactly what I wanted to write about for Autistics Speaking Day.


Filed under: Blog Carnival,General — codeman38 @ 8:57 pm

May 1, 2011

A Guide For Discouraging Self-Advocacy

[This is my post for Blogging Against Disablism Day 2011.]

The following list is based entirely on my own experiences with several recent self-advocacy opportunities that opened themselves up to me. Despite the fact that many of these events may sound like something out of an absurdist comedy, all of the below occurrences are things that actually happened to me in trying to participate in one conference or another.

How Not To Invite Self-Advocates To Your Disability Conference

  • Require physical attendance at the conference. Do not provide any way for a self-advocate to contribute via the internet, despite the fact that many autistic people find conferences to be sensory overload, and despite the fact that many people with disabilities may not be able to afford or access transportation.

  • Mention the date of the conference in only two e-mails— one sent a month before the conference, when attendees still aren’t sure whether they’ll even be attending, and one sent just two days before it. It’s not as if people with neurological disabilities have bad memories.

  • When asked about funding for transportation, give a vague non-answer and let that be all for several weeks. When asked for further details, wait a bit longer, then give a still-inconclusive answer which does not clarify whether reimbursement will occur before or after the conference. People with disabilities can all afford a round-trip bus ride across the state and/or an overnight hotel stay, right?

  • When a potential attendee asks for directions via bus, suggest using a bus system that does not even cover that suburb.

  • Hold all communication with the team via conference telephone calls, with no provision for live captioning and no alternative meetings via text chat. When asked about this, stumble and suggest calling via relay.

    • Continue to suggest that self-advocates contact you via phone for further information even when they have already explained multiple times that they cannot hear well over the phone.

    • When a self-advocate does call in via relay, talk so fast that the relay operators can’t keep up, never identify who’s saying what, and never give the ‘go ahead’ for the relay-using self-advocate to speak his part. Continue talking even when the relay operator says to hold on because another operator has to take his place.

    • Ignore the self-advocate’s other suggestions entirely, such as holding the meeting via Skype (which has better sound quality, avoiding the muffling from regular phone lines) or relaying the important points live via instant messaging.

    • Do all of these things despite the fact that the relay-using caller has explained all of these issues involved with relay via e-mail prior to the call.

    • After the first one goes so badly, and a self-advocate has told you as much, continue to hold meetings via conference call with no alternatives.

  • As another alternative, provide a screencasting feature that allows viewers to see the slideshow and its notes. Make sure it only supports Windows, with dodgy support for Linux and none for Mac OS. Don’t actually test it to see whether it even works in Windows as claimed.

  • Promise to send summaries/minutes of the conferences within several days of the call, to make up for the failure of accessibility during the call. Never actually send these minutes.

  • Assume that all self-advocates who have been recommended by a particular organization are formally affiliated with that organization in a leadership role, and repeatedly ask them unanswerable questions about that role.

    • Assume that every national or international disability organization with members in your state has a branch within your state.

  • Assume that a developmentally disabled person has any sort of remotely comprehensive idea about the extent of disability-related organizations in their state as a whole, and especially about organizational resources such as funding and meeting spaces.

    • Assume that a self-advocate who has lived his entire life downstate has any clue about organizations and resources that are nearly all upstate, especially when inter-city transportation is so lacking.

  • Ask an autistic person vague questions like “What has worked in your state?” and “What are the challenges in your state?” with no further context whatsoever.

    • When a self-advocate e-mails to ask for clarification of these questions, be equally vague in your reply.

  • And, after a self-advocate has gone through this entire rigmarole, proudly state in an e-mail to all attendees that “if allies are to be part of the movement, they need to be held accountable. Information must be accessible.” (Actual quote, folks. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.)

Filed under: Blog Carnival,General — codeman38 @ 12:00 am

May 1, 2010

Of privilege and auditory processing

Today is Blogging Against Disablism Day. And for today, I wanted to write about a sort of ableism (as we call it here in North America) that’s rather subtle and largely unconscious, but no less problematic.

An important concept in social justice circles is the idea of privilege. For those unacquainted with the concept, perhaps the easiest way to describe it is that by being born into a certain group (race, gender, economic class, etc.), you’ve automatically, even unconsciously, been given an advantage in certain matters as a part of that group. This, of course, even applies to disability: if you’re not disabled, you’re automatically granted advantages that many disabled people will have to work for at best, or may never attain at worst.

I’d write about neurotypical privilege here, since that’s the most obvious case that’d be relevant to my own disabilities, but Bev from Square 8 has already created a neurotypical privilege checklist that’s so good, I don’t think I could ever manage to outdo it. (And besides, I contributed a couple items to it myself!)

However, along with Asperger’s syndrome, I also have auditory processing disorder. It affects pretty much every act of spoken communication I participate in, so it’s not something that can be easily ignored. And I’ve noticed that many people don’t even consider how certain activities can be discriminatory to those of us with abnormal hearing or auditory processing.

I wish I could provide an outright hearing privilege checklist, but that’d be problematic given that I have at least some privilege in that respect myself. My hearing itself is OK; I’m overly sensitive to noises, and I have perfect pitch that’s a blessing for solving the Selenitic Age in Myst but a curse when I’m asked to play on a piano that’s horribly out of tune. 😛 At the same time, because of my auditory processing disorder, I do share many of the same difficulties understanding speech that someone who’s deaf or hard of hearing would have. Nonetheless, it’d be best to refer to this as an auditory processing privilege checklist, not a hearing one.

So, without further ado:

The Normal Auditory Processing Privilege Checklist


Filed under: Auditory Processing,Blog Carnival — codeman38 @ 12:35 pm

February 20, 2010

Autistic Thoughts on Autistic Relationships

(This is my post for Disability Blog Carnival #63: Relationships. See also the companion post from my girlfriend.)

Greetings. I’m Cody, I’m autistic, I have a girlfriend, and I love her.

Yeah. I hear you saying it right now. There are autistics who actually want friendships? Autistics can actually feel love for others? Autistics can be in romantic relationships?

And to answer those questions: Yes, yes, and oh so definitely yes.

On one hand, it amazes me that these tropes continue to persist in the face of all manner of evidence to the contrary. And yet, on the other hand, it really shouldn’t amaze me.


Filed under: Blog Carnival,General — codeman38 @ 12:39 pm

Guest Post: Misinformed Autism Awareness Doesn’t Just Hurt Autistics

(This is my post for Disability Blog Carnival #63: Relationships. See also the companion post from codeman38.)

April is coming.

It’s only just nearing the end of February. I know that. I also know that there are many things I need to get done in my life before April Fools Day comes around again.

But still, April is looming. I can almost feel myself bracing for it.

April Fools Day. The day it always starts.

Justifying The Existence Of My Boyfriend Month.

Justifying The Existence Of Our Relationship Month.

Justifying The Fact That No, I Am NOT Going To Try To Change Him Month.

Hi, I’m codeman38’s girlfriend.

The one the “My autistic child is never going to have a girlfriend!” moans during Autism Awareness Month claim doesn’t exist.

(Then again, every year a number of people usually manage to claim adult autistics don’t exist, so codeman38 and I are likely somewhat even on that. Not that either of us is keeping score.)


Filed under: Blog Carnival,General,Guest Posts — sarahgirl @ 12:39 pm

October 25, 2009

The spaces in my résumé

(This is my post for Disability Blog Carnival 59: Disability and Work.)

I’ve never applied for a job in the traditional manner.

Sure, I’ve done some work for my father’s office, and I’ve done some freelance work for organizations owned by his friends and associates. But this has all been through connections, through friends, family, and friends of family; I’ve never actively sought out a job on my own in the traditional way.

But it’s not that I don’t want to— in fact, I would absolutely love to find a job that suits me well. It’s just that the process is… a difficult one for people with the issues I have, to say the least.


Filed under: Blog Carnival,General — codeman38 @ 11:36 am

May 1, 2009

Assumptions, Assumptions

So it’s Blogging Against Disablism Day once again. I’d been thinking for the past couple days about what precisely I want to blog about today… and then it hit me yesterday.


People tend to make assumptions of a person’s abilities and general nature based on that person’s appearance. But sometimes these assumptions turn out to be incorrect. Some people adjust their personal stereotypes to adjust for their errors; others cling to their assumptions and classify these cases as exceptions to the rule.

You’re all probably familiar with this sort of dynamic as it applies to such matters as race and gender… but yes, it applies to disability as well. And in fact, I’ve seen it happen in two different directions in just my own experience.


Filed under: Blog Carnival,General — codeman38 @ 1:35 pm

Powered by WordPress