Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Home for the Holidays

Sitting at home, with our cats, is where we will be this holiday season. It beats being out and about this week, as Christmas approaches. I have no desire to be among crowds of people or driving in heavy traffic. Peace and quiet are what my wife and I both want.

Books, movies, the fireplace, the cats. That's a good holiday week.

There are people who love the holidays, the lights, the sounds, the shopping, the large gatherings and parties. Not us.

A new year approaches. There's no optimism, or pessimism, only acceptance that the year will be whatever it will be. As you get older, the holidays are memories of the past and recollections of what we once dreamed the future might be. What is doesn't quite match the what we hoped would be.

What I do like about the holidays: cookies. Okay, I like cookies all the time. Still, the holidays are a reason to bake extra cookies and try new recipes.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Jerks are Jerks

Your disability does not give you the right to be a jerk.

This isn't going to please some advocates, but I am tired of people willing to exploit their challenges to get their way and push others around in the workplace, in school, or in public settings. Jerks exist, with and without special needs, and I am convinced that a jerk is a jerk, period, but one willing to use a challenge to gain leverage does harm to the cause of advocates and other disabled people.

I'll be the first to admit that some people will judge those of us asking for any accommodations as jerks. I've been told that it isn't fair or isn't reasonable if I ask for a trackball instead of a mouse or if I ask for an office lamp (or bring my own) so I can dim the overhead fluorescent bulbs. I get that asking for anything different leads some coworkers to feel you're getting special treatment. That's also why I believe workspaces should be flexible, so everyone can create whatever space works best for them as individuals. But, I get that asking for anything and receiving anything can be perceived as favoritism.

That's not the same as being a total, complete jerk.

Jerks don't take the time to consider others. They don't pause and ask how an accommodation might affect others. They get adamant and pushy, when patience and educating others should be the first route toward coexisting in a space.

I appreciate that many of us with special needs are tired. We're exhausted by the perception (or reality) that we must constantly ask for and defend accommodations. We get frustrated, and sometimes with good reason.

But, your new teacher, your new coworker, your new boss doesn't know the past. He or she isn't the enemy by default. How you approach people that first time matters, because it sets a lasting tone. If you are jerk, rude and demanding, it will affect the workplace, the classroom, or any other space.

I get that some people are just jerks, too. Disabled or not, they are rude and self-important. They threaten and bully their way into positions and don't care about other people enough.

When you encounter new people and new situations, step back. Make a list of what the new people might not know, but need to know. Decide how to explain your special needs. Do explain your needs, within some personal boundaries, in a simple and clear manner. Maybe show your list to a friend, family member, or support expert to get some feedback before you discuss needs in the workplace or at school.

Pausing, thinking, reflecting. These are steps towards not being a jerk.