Disability bitesize: "You're stating a need, not asking for a favour!"
Published: 23 November 2022
In our first "disability bitesize" feature, recently-appointed SHW Disability Champion Stefanie Krauth discusses the ways in which, if we are disabled or neurodivergent, we can advocate for ourselves effectively, and help colleagues to understand our issues and needs
In our first "disability bitesize" feature, recently-appointed SHW Disability Champion Stefanie Krauth discusses the ways in which, if we are disabled or neurodivergent, we can advocate for ourselves effectively and help colleagues to understand our issues and needs.
If you struggle to advocate for yourself as a disabled or neurodivergent person, it might help to shift the way you talk about and request accommodations.
Often, when we encounter a barrier to participation such as being asked to meet at a loud, busy place or a place too far away from any parking space for us to walk, we may either decide to not participate or advocate for ourselves in the style of:
My ADHD makes audio-processing difficult in places like that. Can we meet somewhere quieter?
My walking issue makes it difficult to get there when parking options are too far.
Ideally, that should already help your colleagues and friends to understand and agree to a change of plan. However, that isn’t always the case or, they might even perceive the issue as less severe than it is "ah it’s only a 5-minute walk".
However, with a slight shift in language, advocating for yourself could become easier and reduce the feeling/perception that you are the reason for the needed change which you’re requesting (hint: the problem is the place/activity/disabling circumstance, not you!).
Instead of talking about you/your condition being the reason for a needed change, try highlighting the conditions in the proposed activity that are disabling, instead.
"The audioscape in that place disables me. I need less clatter to hear what’s being communicated. How about this place instead?"1
"The off-street location of this place disables my participation. I need somewhere closer to a parking space to be able to walk there. Can we go somewhere else e.g. this place?"
This slight change in language has several distinct advantages:
- The conditions of the place or activity is highlighted as the issue, not you, the person with needs
(see: social model of disability for more details on that). Not “I am disabled” but “these stairs/ this inaccessible location/ this audio format/ your expectations is/are disabling me!”
- Using active, transitive verbs highlights that “one thing is [actively] disabling another”1, rather than the disability being an intrinsic feature of the disabled person (this is an important shift we all need to make in our language and understanding).
- You state a need that needs to be met to enable you to participate, you aren’t asking for a favour! (And you have all the rights to ask for these needs to be met! In fact, everyone should consider possible disabling conditions when organising activities or events).
You also state clearly which ability is disabled in the situation - your hearing/audio processing, your mobility, etc. which enables your colleagues & friends to understand the problem and help find a solution/accommodation.
Finally, by suggesting an alternative, you make it easier for your colleagues/friends to find an alternative solution (Although it is perfectly fine, to not know a possible solution/alternative already and find one together).
So here’s a summary of the program (in Emma Barnes’ words [direct quote]):
- IMPLICATE the disabling technology/expectation by naming it and what it does.
- State your need.
- Make a suggestion.
(Shoutout to @catieosaurus for highlighting this on TikTok!)
SHW Disability Champion
- The suggestions made here are heavily based on the article "Your Expectations Are Disabling" by Emma Barnes and are not my own insights
First published: 23 November 2022