Mar 14, 2012 3 Share

A View of Accommodations

Illustration of two figures on see-saw.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) involve what Bill Goodyear, who has taught and coached Aspies and autists for over 30 years, has called the Triad of Impairments—difficulty with communication, with social relationships and with flexible thinking. 

As William Stillman, an Aspie speaker, has pointed out, a high percentage of Aspies are unemployed or underemployed. Sherry Moyer, Executive and Research Director of the University of Toledo Center for Excellence in Autism, tells of Aspies just 25 or 30 years old who have already held 20 or 30 different jobs. Many, if not a majority of,  Aspies have literally no friends. We also have a very hard time finding and keeping romantic partners. 

The impairments we have cause these problems for us. Some people feel that we shouldn't have to change; the rest of the world simply needs to accept our differences and accommodate us by, for example, not taking offense at our staring, stimming or standing too close. People should accommodate our inability to change plans on short notice, and should let us do things one at a time, etc. While we do need some accommodations in order to contribute to society, we need to remember that acceptance and accommodation need to go both ways. Imagine, for instance, substituting another disability for autism. We might end up with something like this modest proposal:

Glaucoma patients...ummm, people with glaucoma...errr, people on the vision-challenged spectrum (PVCS), unite! 

Why do people keep trying to find a cure for glaucoma? That's eliminating PVCS—a form of genocide! 

Why can't people accept us as we are? Why do they keep trying to change us—“for our own good,” no less? 

Society is ableist! It's currently built around people who can see wide angles. They miss our unique strengths ... after all, when your vision is limited to a small circle, you don't get distracted easily, right? We PVCS can focus our vision much better. 

Also, our sense of hearing can get stronger than average to compensate—another unique strength! 

Why does society discriminate against us? For example, why do we need any kind of peripheral vision to drive a car? Isn't it all too easy to be distracted—say, by a pretty young woman walking on the sidewalk, or a billboard, or a bumper sticker? 

Instead, we should have cars with telescopic windshields. Maybe also roads with only one lane each way, so that we don't accidentally get hit by some car we can't see changing lanes. (And can't people hear other cars, anyway?) Society can accommodate us if it really wants to! 

Meanwhile, if you have to directly face someone to see and talk to them that makes eye contact much easier. So glaucoma actually improves social interaction. 

Not to mention so-called “tunnel vision” means we don't need really big flat-screen TVs or monitors or other expensive stuff ... any old screen will do. 

And it helps us hunt—in fact, it's just like Thom Hartmann points out when he uses the model of "a hunter in a farmer's world" in talking about ADHD! We can focus on the prize, just like (other) predators with their eyes in front of their heads instead of off to the side like prey. 

We need to focus on the beauty of glaucoma—being able to shut out more and more of life's visual annoyances, better exercise for your neck as you turn to look at everything—even being less likely to accidentally look at a solar eclipse! 

Maybe it's not “normal” to look out at the world as if through a tube. So what? Normal is a city in Illinois. Normal is a dryer setting. Normal is not for people! Visual diversity is the way to go. 

Comment Options


Actually, the proposal should

Actually, the proposal should be "why do we need to drive a car to get around? not having a licence should not exclude you from so many jobs, reduce social/recreation opportunities, or - in some places - even make basic shopping etc extremely difficult." An issue for some people on the autism spectrum too, of course (including me - epilepsy + processing issues).

You're absolutely right!

Hello, Subject line says it all. You're absolutely right - we need a lot more tolerance and accommodation in the world, much of it coming from NTs. Not all of it, and so I write things like the above. One thing I've learned the hard way is that one of the best ways to get the accommodations we need is to extend a little ourselves. As the saying goes, be the change we want to see. Let's hope we see progress on all fronts soon. Meanwhile, please give my regards to your Aspie loved one - and please feel free to drop me a line anytime.Cheers!Jeff Deutsch


All good points, but...

Totally get your point about meeting half-way, AND totally want to help my ASD loved one to reach his optimal social and daily-living functioning.  BUT I would feel like I could get off my soapbox ranting to other NTs and society at large, if "they" showed more signs of being willing to move toward that half-way place.  Tiny, grudging, baby steps are happening in NTs, BUT we are a long way from cooperation in this arena.  I'm just saying.