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Supporting people with disabilities.

Seen in my twitter feed today:
I had to respond, because this is an issue I am passionate about. It’s worth noting that not all equality of access for people with disabilities is about topology (e.g. stairs vs ramps, etc). There are many people whose disabilities are related to temporal factors (when things are on, how long they last) that can be severely lacking.
Consider these examples:
  • A person who has a sleep disregulation issue: Expectations of an 8:30am start time for such individuals might occasionally be manageable, but generally won’t be. Such individuals are no less capable of doing their job than anyone else in their own time.
  • A person who has some form of neurodivergence resulting in problems sustaining attention for long periods: Expecting them to do well in meetings that last several hours is outright cruel. Their contribution is no less valuable than anyone else’s.
  • A person who has an arthritic condition that makes standing still for more than a few moments an issue: Stand-up meetings that don’t honour the kinds of problems that such individuals face and possibly even demonise them for their need to take a seat are outrageous.
  • People with hearing or vision related disabilities needing the support of communication aids (ASL translators, text to speech programs, etc): When such facilities are required for full participation in collaborative spaces by their friends and colleagues they are branded as “a hassle”.

When I see AUSLAN interpreters used in news conferences I get a buzz of satisfaction, then get disappointed again when I realise that it’s exciting because it’s not the norm.

Our feudal culture of supervised work and social natural selection needs to change. We need to stop thinking of things like flexible working hours, support-integrated work and social scenarios and use of outworking technologies and services as economic burdens. Rather, we should view them as investments in unlocking the contributions of people with disabilities.

We also need to understand the intersections of ability privilege and the assumptions they permit us to make about what’s “Normal” and not. Most people wouldn’t see a need to consider whether any of their friends or colleagues have a disability requiring support. So they don’t. One of my pet peeves is when someone claims to have a form of disability, the full ability community more often than not will insist on medical validation of that disability before compromising on their working or social preferences. The simple assertion of a disability should be sufficient to warrant action. PROVING disabilities can be expensive, awkward and time-consuming. Why not just find ways to foster more inclusivity by default? I mean – honestly… If your friends and colleagues aren’t worth a little effort based on trust… perhaps YOU are the problem.

Categories: Compassion Leadership People

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Jemma Hooper

IT Professional, Writer and multimedia producer

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