My disabilities are not obvious at first glance. I can usually walk OK, and I do not wear a cast on an injured body part, nor do I use a mobility device like a cane, walker, or scooter. I also work hard to mask my disabilities from students and coworkers, because years of university ableism have worn me down. So please bear in mind that when you look at me, you are likely to miss or repeatedly
forget the fact that I am disabled. I, on the other hand, get constant reminders. Multiple well-regarded medical specialists in Toronto and elsewhere have told me that my chronic pain originating in sporting traumas after the age of 30 (mostly this skiing accident) has every likelihood of being permanent. So it would be unrealistic to expect a resolution anytime soon, and you should not treat my disability as temporary.
How do you
wrangle a professor, PhD thesis supervisor, or collaborator with chronic pain disabilities? The best answer is to treat me with the same care as you would treat Stephen Hawking. You are no doubt aware that typing and talking are difficult for him; his colleagues deploy extra patience when awaiting replies. My question to you is this: if you would be willing to accommodate Stephen for his very profound disabilities, why would you deny me more moderate consideration for my more moderate disabilities? I have suffered from life- and career-altering chronic pain for a decade and a half as an academic. I deserve to be treated with dignity by all of you, regardless of your level of physics talent.
The most famous string theorist on the planet treats me with dignity, and so should you.
I never ask for unnecessary disability accommodations, so if I do ask for some, you should deliver. (In the province of Ontario, the relevant law is the AODA, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.) Please carry out the accommodations I request, on the timescales I specify -- logistical planning is a lot more complicated when managing disabilities and thus requires longer lead time. Please also remember that you have zero experience of living in my body, so you naturally understand very little about how to organize my workflow. Do not try to impose your own sense of what accommodations I deserve. I can be much more productive when everyone around me is being actively anti-ableist rather than shitty.
The following information on my difficulty metric is intended to help you learn how to be more decent to me. Honouring my chronic pain constraints will result in a greater probability of you getting what you want out of our professional interactions, so it is in your interest to do so.
|computer use||none||all day|
|sitting||my specific office chair||any normal chair|
|supporting students||talking live||typing asynchronously|
|task allocation||steady workload||variable, peaky workload|
|deadline management||extra advance notice||sudden short-notice work|
|classroom modes||lecturing via iPad + projector||lecturing only on the blackboard|
|decibels||quiet environments||noisy environments|
|physical loads||carrying nothing||carrying over 1kg|