Basic Accommodations – I’m Not Disabled By My Autism, I’m Disabled By Unaccommodating People

In an earlier post titled Autism is Not My Disability I said

“Autism is not the disability, although symptoms of my sensory processing difficulties can leave me crippled and unable to function. The disability is society’s misunderstanding of Autistic people.”

Although I still agree with my previous statement, I’ve been rethinking this title laity and feel a strong urge to elaborate.

First I want to clarify that there are parts of Autism that are disabling.

We can have mental disabilities, epilepsy, IBS, Anxiety attacks, chronic insomnia, extreme sensory sensitivities, and more. In my mind these things are not Autism – because they differ so widely in all of us. I consider these commodities are unfortunate side effects that Autistic people encounter (too often).

These things ARE true disabilities and are often invisible – so when I say Autism is not a disability, I mean Autism as a way of thinking in itself is not a disability. This does not mean many Autistic people are not disabled.

I wish it weren’t true, but many of us are.

Personally, I am not sure if chronic illness will eventually leave me unemployed and unemployable. It is a constant fear as I scramble to get my health under control. Doctors are apathetic and if you’ve learned to act “normal” people doubt your diagnosis every time you mention it.

There are certain things I need help with, some simple accommodations that make my life easier. In work and in my personal life I tend to ask for the following (although people accuse me of being difficult) :

Sit somewhere quiet. At work I may wear headphones with music or ear plugs. Working from home is also a great option. My ears are so sensitive they pick up everything. I can’t focus on one conversation or catch all the words in a loud busy room. I like calm restaurants or off peak times.

Sit somewhere with the gentle lighting. Natural light without glares and certain soft artificial light is something I need. Modern office light is the worst. The wrong lighting or lots of glares makes me feel sick and hurts my eyes and brain. If I can’t escape I may put shades on or wear a hat indoors.

Ask for or make a plan. I like to know what’s happening and am honest about not enjoying surprises. I also need to know when things will end. Sometimes I may stay choose to late, if not, having an end time helps me to relax.

Say no to people. I am not a social person and can’t take a lot of going out. Socializing drains me like nothing else. Now that I work full time I have a hard time going out more than a few times a month. I say no to people more than they are used to but my health is important to me.

Try to get everything in writing. I have a hard time following verbal directions. Autism does impair some of my face to face communication skills. I also have impaired sort term memory and executive functioning.

When I ask for someone to put something in writing for me, it is one of the most important accommodation that I ask for. My reading level is FAR above what I can take in though speech. This helps ensure I don’t skip any important details.

Special treatment. It’s not fair for you to get special treatment.

If I am lucky people oblige me, however I get a lot of push back sometimes.

I feel like these accommodations are reasonable. When I have these things I am able to function at an optimal level. Without them I end up struggling to keep up with the basics. If you give me just a little I can go far.

I think differently and go about things in a different way. On my own this has never been a problem. My problems only appear when other people insist upon me doing things their way, insisting that I do things like everybody else.

They can’t see my disability and think I am asking for an easy way out.

They can’t understand how badly I need to do things my way and don’t see how much I struggle without accommodations. They are hard to get especially in the work place.

All I want is to do my best.

My Autism is not my disability – unaccommodating people are.





35 thoughts on “Basic Accommodations – I’m Not Disabled By My Autism, I’m Disabled By Unaccommodating People”

  1. Reblogged this on ARC Books and commented:

    This is why I prefer to work at home as a writer, even though I don’t yet make a living from it, I can cater my working environment to my needs, even if it means turning off all sound or light so I don’t get a headache or anything.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve had to reblog yet another of your excellent posts. I didn’t understand what my situation was the last time I was in full-time employment, but the above describes me so accurately.
    Soft or natural light, and a reasonable level of noise make it so much easier for me to work. And I definitely prefer to have a known finish time for a project, otherwise I start to feel like something is endless and then I struggle with it.
    Little things can make a huge difference to my ability to do whatever it is I’m working on.

    Thank you for your ongoing work in bringing awareness to the world.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is so relevant to me at the moment, university students and even members of staff are doing and saying horrible things just because I asked for small considerations 😩😭

    Liked by 1 person

  4. God bless you,I wish you so much luck and success in your life and the road you walk down..don’t worry about what people think,do it all “your own way” son is autistic and I would never make him do something to suit me,what makes him happy makes us all happy..we need more people like you in the world who raises the stigma on autism and who can take advice on your reads..well done,loved that wee post x

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “My problems only appear when other people insist upon me doing things their way, insisting that I do things like everybody else.”

    Unfortunately, humans are herd animals by and large, and this holds true for anyone who doesn’t fit the mold — in religion, politics, “different” cultures, etc… It may have had a lot of evolutionary value at one point for the survival of small groups in the wild, but it causes so much misery for so many now.

    On the plus side, once people do “get it” about a particular difference, then it becomes part of what’s within normal variation within the herd and people have no problem with it.

    What you’re doing is helping people get to the point where they do get it.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I agree with you totally – too many people take for granted the things they are able to do, and when someone else says ‘oh that makes me uncomfortable’, they aren’t believed. It took me about eight years to convince my boss that I’m uncomfortable (painfully) in situations where I need to work a room. I’ve finally stopped getting those assignments (mostly) and it makes my job more tolerable. What people need to remember is that people, in general, don’t ask for the accommodations if they aren’t necessary.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I soooo hear you on this. Unfortunately, the workplace is often competitive and any weakness can be used against you. In general, though, a little accommodation can go a long way in helping people (not just AS folks, either) perform at their best. I wish we lived more in a ‘positive reinforcement’ world instead of what seems to be the norm, which is blaming people for shortcomings and using them against each other. Job descriptions usually include ‘team player’ in their list of qualifications. What constitutes ‘team player’ in most peoples’ minds doesn’t include bullying, but it is every bit a part of the ‘team’ mentality. At least that’s not been your experience. The accommodations you need for your sensory issues sound mild–ear plugs, head phones and soft light don’t sound too hard to manage. I even bet you have NT co-workers who would like softer lighting and more quiet or solitude.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. At least there’s that. 🙂 I forget where I read this, but NT managers who were working with AS employees said that they learned to be better managers in general from working with their AS employees. What percentage of NT employees like working in busy, loud, brightly lit constantly bustling work places? Some folks probably do, but I’ll bet they’re a minority. I’ll bet many people don’t–they’re just better able to cope with it.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Reblogged this on The other side and commented:

    I never reblog but this is exceptional – in it’s clarity about work accommodations and the disabling nature of unaccommodating colleagues or workplaces. I’m working on this issue myself and so the timing is perfect. Huge TY to Anonymously Autistic who wrote this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also have the (crippling, for me) sound sensitivities and was dx’d w/Aspergers. My mom told me often of the story of when she was expecting me (she was 6 months along). My kicking her from inside was visible to both my mom and dad, who confirmed it wasn’t just her. I hope and I pray that across the world, we can all work to make a more inclusive environment for autistic people and those who may not have autism, but have the anxiety and sensory issues.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. ‘…if you’ve learned to act “normal” people doubt your diagnosis every time you mention it.’ ‘get everything in writing.’ These two statements sum up probably more than 3/4 of my life issues. I shut down less than my dad does but maybe he has more triggers, and lived in an era long before any of this was recognized. Two of my nephews demonstrate symptoms and they have been properly diagnosed. But a generation behind better handling, I just had to learn to cope instead of being recognized, and I do the best I can but have moments. Even my wife doubts the diagnoses, to a point. And, the second statement I noticed, had I learned long enough ago, would have saved me a lot of difficulty I’m still working through. Bless you for your thoughtful and insightful article.~DM

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I guess that ‘accommodation’ in some terms for employers I had meant performing remedial tasks as I was ‘Not up to speed’. Though I am much more motivated now and was a tremendous asset to my last employers. Also I improved my sense of initiative from last March’s Lego-building session with Specialisterne.

    Now I am in the list for a program called CR8 which could well get me involved with graphic design. 🙂 (something that would be right up my street)

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Reblogged this on the silent wave and commented:

    Absolutely this. Every word. The Asperger’s/autism spectrum itself wouldn’t be nearly so challenging (for us OR the world at large) if society in general would simply wise up and implement some basic accommodations. But until they do, Anna outlines some solid self-care strategies that may help immensely in the meantime. Great post, Anna! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. It’s funny (read: sad) how many of the autism accommodations can be so simple, yet we should apparently feel guilty asking for them, and just try to hide all the “spectrum” issues, and … somehow not burn out in the long run. All while doing the exhausting small talk with NTs and read their mind too.
    My accommodations are simple too. Colored and dark shades (yes, prescriptions etc, and eye poop issues), with computer that will have huge contrast, huge text, and screenreader and zoom. (don’t count me in being able to recognize people or see their facial expressions in person – unfortunately I’ve also had poop for the lack of that skill in the past, from people who also knew I use screenreaders) – I also sometimes like shades which bring me complete darkness so no clue of what happens visually around me at all — noise canceling headphones (bliss) and environment where empty small talk isn’t a constant backfround noise – other nice onse: braille keyboard stickers (like $20, feels so insanely nice so I’ve got a set both on my laptop and imac’s keyboard)
    Biggest accommodation though: people realizing they need to be more clear. If you get out of the room and have to go back to your desk, tell me and don’t just silently disappear. Tell me your name again until I know you from voice (no facial memory but I try to learn the voices and little details from people as fast I can). Tell me things that are obvious, like if you’re 9 months pregnant or had a nice haircut or something else minor I don’t notice. (that all said, I like to keep a blurry line between my visual and neurology things in the real life, so I don’t usually bother to specify people what part is eyes and what part is autism, as both issues seem very uncomfortable for most NTs)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is so very true. My brain gets absolutely muddled at business meetings in restaurants and it’s hard to focus if there’s music with lyrics competing for attention with what my colleagues are saying. And I also have the short term memory issues. I’ve been able to hide most of it, but it can be super draining. Nice to know I’m in good company!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I think you are asking for many of the things that a lot of people want. You have a real need above just comfort issues, but the things you are asking for would help anyone be more productive. Employers should already be working on providing these accommodations to all employees. I’m saddened to hear that people don’t or won’t understand your needs. The western world is supposed to be progressive and at least in America, equal opportunity. Regular people making these requests will someday bring about change and understanding for all peoples with special needs.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This is an excellent article ma’am. My youngest child is now 24, I got him when he was 6 and he has these same issues of which you speak. I knew nothing of autism before I married his Mom, life has been a learning process for me. I just thank the Lord that he has a great Mom who studied her behind off to learn as much as she could about how to help our son live the best life he possibly could and even though he is disabled via SS he has come way further than we ever even dared to hope for. Websites like yours where the author is being honest with people is a great thing for people who have autism and for the people who love people who have autism and as you pointed out, also for people who have to work with or around people with autism.

    Liked by 1 person

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