For The World of Work to be Truly Inclusive, it Must Unpack it’s Systematic Ableism

Featured image description: White text on a pink background that says: “Why the World of Work Must Eradicate Systematic Ableism to be Truly Inclusive”. On the right is the a logo for the blog ,”Trans Autistic Feminist” (a gold neurodiversity helix on a black trans symbol) with the blog name in purple.

Content warning for: systematic ableism, internalised ableism, discrimination, subminimum wage, abuse mention

Hi all,

Over the next few months on this blog, there is going to be a recurring theme. Namely about moving into adulthood as a disabled person, which put it lightly is fraught with barriers. Many of these barriers are unnecessary and put on by society even when they don’t know it. An excellent example of this is the world of work. I’ve blogged in the past quite positively about the world of work – especially as last autumn, I did manage to hold a full-time role for seven weeks before my employer let me go. I was let go due to my circumstances combined with the position being unsuitable for me and resulting concern for my mental health. I should never have been there in the first place. The background info is relevant as my experiences there (alongside hearing other stories from other people) are what has led to a shift in perspective.

While I do believe there are genuine employers out there who try to be as inclusive as possible, the the problem is that the entire model of the world of work as is systematically ableist it needs to be completely dismantled and rebuilt. Because as it stands, genuine inclusivity will not be possible. Also, before I continue, this article is not about disabled people who cannot work at all, even with accommodations. Because those people exist and governments should be supporting those people properly, not forcing them to work when this is not possible. It is about the majority of disabled people who can work, but the world of work makes it inaccessible so are forced out. Here are some examples of this:

It punishes those who cannot work full time

The more hours somebody can work, the more they’re paid. Employers and governments alike place full-time work as an arbitrary requirement for people to earn a living. This usually means eight hours in the workplace with daily commutes five days a week. Anybody who cannot do this for any reason will struggle unless they can claim social security or live with other people who can support or limit living costs. This is what forces vulnerability onto people, putting them at risk of abuse.

All can think as to why is because employers will simply refuse to pay people full-time wages on part-time hours unless they are roles higher up the career ladder. This is because capitalists can frame it as a “reward for your hard work.” The fact there are part-time jobs on full-time pay restricted to senior, more experienced people supports this. It is ableist as it relies on the flawed idea that if people “work hard” to elevate through the ranks, they will be “rewarded” with something that for disabled people is an accessibility need – reduced working hours. Usually, it’s advertised by employers as a fringe benefit so that people can “relax” or “spend time with their family.” But for many disabled people, it is actually “have time for allocated support services” or “recover from a meltdown, flare up and other symptoms.” Said “fringe benefit” in this instance is essential for having an autonomous life.

This reminds me of the time I asked for advice on finding a “work from home graduate job” only to get told about requesting it as an accommodation and other implications that relies on the goodwill of employers. In other words, what many disabled people need to work any level job didn’t exist – even though it should. The same applies to part time hour work that pays a living wage by itself.

We can’t work hard in impossible situations.

It punishes those who need to seek regular support

Many people need to have medical appointments for things like therapy, as well as social care support. It can be a minefield negotiating the time off with an employer, especially when unconscious vbias or insist on people using holiday hours or something similar. It means people Ely on employer goodwill as disclosure can be used by the employer to “manage out” employees.

The solution for many disabled people is to work part time around appointments so they don’t have to tell the employer anything. Additionally, support services mostly only operate on weekdays, implicitly pushing the idea that people who need support do not work full time or at all, so will be available for said appointment. The same also applies to social care. It essentially means we are forced out of the highest paid, influential jobs all because we have additional support needs through no fault of our own. It’s a punishment that makes accessing services even harder. All of the above is compounded by daily commuting, further increasing burnout and restrictions especially in rural areas.

We can’t access support in impossible situations.

It punishes those who can’t network for any reason

The world of work isn’t actually about what skills people have. Sure, training plays a part for specialist roles, but to ableds it comes down to how good people can professional relationships (whatever they are). I can’t define it properly as I don’t understand them properly myself because I’m neurodivergent, which therein lie the root issue with the world of work’s reliance on networking.

If you don’t have the skills, ability or understanding for networking is you will be at a disadvantage. The simplest way I can define networking is “the ability to conform to an arbitrary standard set by the neurotypical, privileged majority in society. This is to build rapport with people to help support each other as colleagues and further each other’s careers.” The world of work subtly discriminates against swathes of groups as a result, but especially towards neurodivergent people.

Neurotypicals do not explain networking adequately. They don’t explain the building blocks so that people who need extra support to understand can do so. It also means anyone who makes social mistakes or good faith approaches outside of the accepted standards risk being glossed over for jobs, or even worse, bullied and blacklisted.

It also applies in jobs too, such as setting unreasonable expectations by not helping the neurodivergent person understand how they should respond to situations. An excellent example of this happened at my last job. I was told I did not “show initiative” when dealing with queries when actually I could not work out the expected solution to very ambiguous situations. I’m autistic so unless I was told what to do, it was impossible. This is the case in a lot of customer service roles where pleasing the neurotypical majority is paramount. This is regardless of what mistake they made (such as not following procedures, or when famous or important people are involved).

Again, we cannot communicate in impossible situations.

It contributes to damaging mental and physical health of workers, even when employers act to try to protect it

The damage the workplace does to disabled people is real. This is even when employers are well-intentioned but ultimately fall short of understanding how the world of work they operate in is exclusionary. For disabled people, the world of work is a lifelong uphill battle as little barriers pop up very day that cannot always be overcome or managed. Eventually, the damage builds up to a point where they have no choice but to stop working. Disabled people notice these things in ways even the most genuinely inclusive employers don’t. That’s why employers need to listen to us.

Employers are so used to the existing system; they want to continue with said system, not knowing what alternatives are out there or fearing what alternatives to put in primarily due to believing myths or not wanting to threaten profits. Even those that do go above and beyond still put said constraints in place mentioned above, meaning there is still a glass ceiling stopping disabled employees from fulfilling their potential. This is one reason why employers routinely denied homeworking until COVID-19 forced employers to put it in place for ableds.

The physical and mental harm is still there and is still done, but employers and politicians alike will often blame the individual, rather than the system they operate in. Yes, some jobs truly aren’t appropriate for some disabled people despite accommodations (such as my previous job), but this isn’t the case for everyone. Thus, it should not be used as a blanket excuse to not address the existing model. Even if they let us go out of genuine concern for our health, the damage is done.

We can’t protect our health in impossible situations.

Many disabled people reach an impossible choice, that current initiatives do not address

The world of work has a lot of initiatives for disabled people, which have gone some way to improve the conference and employability skills of many typically shut out of work. I have accessed some of this support in the past and they helped me greatly improve my skills and become better able to work. I am grateful to the good support that I accessed and do believe they are valuable and for any disabled person reading this – it is worth engaging suitable schemes. I continue to do this now.

However, most, if not all, omit a major shortcoming. Many schemes I’ve engaged prepare many disabled people towards full-time work even though many like myself will later find out that they cannot do this. There is no support on what to do if you are disabled and want to/have to earn a full-time income but can’t handle the world of work. Anyone in that gap is basically on their own or are told the usual accommodation stuff. It is still about trying to help disabled people adjust to an existing system that for many is impossible. This is one reason many employers struggle to retain disabled employees.

That said, some schemes are in bad faith, such as sheltered workshops, that force disabled people (usually with higher support needs) to work for the subminimum wage where there is no chance of career progression or independent living. I have no personal experience with this, so I will leave links to some further reading about this – one from the United States and another from Germany.

The message the world of work implicitly sends is that of abandonment. It’s telling us that there is support out there, except disability support that emphasises autonomy and getting an sustainable income without being exploited by the employer or the state is tough to find. Additionally, hoping employers agree to accommodate support needs is not acceptable, when in reality they can easily discriminate by claiming the accommodation requests aren’t reasonable and get away with it.

It means many disabled people are put into a position where there is no easy way forward and said support initiatives did not prepare them for, which can further damage mental health. To paraphrase the words of somebody else I spoke to recently who is in an equally tricky situation (which I think sums it up perfectly):

“The world of work forces disabled people to make a choice between their career and their independence.”

We shouldn’t have to sacrifice either under any circumstances.

The following are what many disabled people do

For those who choose independence, this often means going self employed, freelance or only look for remote working jobs. It means that we can curate our environment and schedule to our needs while also working towards an income we can live on. This can take a while so is risky; however, getting passive income in particular can pay off in the long run as it reduces required working hours. For others, this means having to leave work altogether, which puts them at the mercy of governments to actually give them the money they are entitled to live on. Many disabled people cannot work even if the system changed, but so many more could. And we want to.

I imagine a lot of disabled people who choose the career option do it for one of two reasons – the first is internalised ableism like the myth of “overcoming disability.” The other reason is that their circumstances mean they’ve got no choice. One example is that they have no social security, so they have to work, even though they know this is harmful. Usually, people that choose the career option sooner or later have to revert to the independence option after their health declines, or they get let go.

What are the solutions to this?

Firstly, any solution should focus on prioritising the autonomy and human rights of disabled people, as by doing so this physical and mental health damaged is reduced or eliminated. This is to help avoid situations for disabled employees like I described in the last paragraph. It will also indirectly benefit abled as well.

This means many of the fundamental ideas that underpin the world of work need to be demolished entirely and changed on a structural level. Some ways (both on an organisational and legal level) include:

  • A shorter working week so that many disabled people can work said hours without losing pay or having to request accommodations
  • Move to remote working more often, as well as making home working standard or a legal right where possible (and it is possible for the vast majority of office jobs – I wrote a whole article on this)
  • Set out unwritten social rules and expectations – ie. Written down and frequently updated.
  • Change expectations to become more friendly to neurodivergent people. To go back to the ambiguity example, instead of trying to people please neurotypicals who don’t follow proceedures without a good reason, enforce them. Eventually, they will get the message as the customer is not always right and the disorganised, last minute nature of many neurotypicals is detrimental to the welfare of neurodivergent staff
  • Make specific holiday time available for those with specific needs without dipping into the default holiday time. Such as allowing extra holiday for weekly counselling appointments, social care chunks as well as for essential healthcare (like appointments at specialist clinics).
  • Outline alternative pathways to employment to disabled people clearly, to avoid them being having to choose between independence and a career.
  • Emphasising the world of work’s failings to accommodate to prevent internalised ableism
  • Encourage people to financially support disabled people who go self employed like what happens in social justice circles
  • Push for structural change, so more disability-friendly practises are enshrined in law for everyone, not just as an accommodation that has to be requested and can be denied.
  • Abolish sheltered workshops.
  • Universal basic income – this was trailed in Finland with positive results
  • A progressive tax system.
  • Higher corporation tax
  • Read more articles from disabled people like this one

In conclusion

Overall, the world of work needs to go further to be truly inclusive. This is because accessibility benefits everyone regardless of ability – improving the quality of life for everyone while making the impossible possible for a significant chunk of the population.

Even if it means we earn less money in the long run, we have to choose our independence over a fulfilling, high flying career. This is because it is no good having a job if it is slowly destroying somebody’s physical or mental health – thus sabotaging somebody’s autonomy and therefore independence. In that scenario, it is better not to work.

As someone who has hit said independence vs career choice over the last 12 months, what you have just read is what I have taken away from it. I don’t know what I’ll be doing now work-wise but I do know one thing – no matter what happens, I will find a way forward. To any other disabled people reading this, that applies to you too.

Milla xx
P.S. If you enjoyed this post and have the financial means to do so, please consider sending a donation to me on my Ko-fi to help me stabilise my life and start my medical transition. If not, no worries. Thank you so much for reading!

On COVID-19, Home Working and Internalised Ableism

Content warning for: internalised ableism, COVID-19

Hi all,

In this post, I’m gonna talk a bit about the coronavirus and work today. The reason why is that the way employers have handled the coronavirus is both a source of frustration and opportunity for disabled people. I am going to reference my experience with my last employer to help illustrate this point.

My past experience

I had found out a few weeks ago my former employer is now working from home as a response to the coronavirus outbreak. All the team would not be in the office and could only be contacted through written mediums (or Zoom if they needed a meeting).

Yet when I worked there, I was never able to get any regular time out of the office to work privately in a quiet environment. This was an accommodation I needed for my sensory needs. The office is very overstimulating as a lot happens day to day, so even working outside the office elsewhere would have been OK. But I truly needed to be able to work from home at least two days a week.

I was not able to deal with the multitasking of various work and dealing with clients and an overstimulating. Not always being in the office to work would have taken the pressure off me. They felt it was “integral to the role” that I was in the office to answer questions even in an unsuitable environment.

Yet in light of COVID-19, the idea that my presence is “integral” to the role is nonsense. If I still worked for them, I would now be working from home too. My part was very similar to theirs. I would have worked from home in an environment that suited me, and I could regulate when I talk to people on my terms. Yet I wasn’t able to have this when I worked for them as a reasonable adjustment? Even Occupational Health agreed – their report was useless from my perspective. This doesn’t make sense, right? Well actually, it does.

I have no personal grief towards my former employer about anything. Even if they did accommodate me in this way, I still would have lost the job as it was unsuitable for me for many other reasons. However, these anti-home working attitudes are the kind of thinking that employers have systematically – even inclusive ones. I’m now going to explain what’s wrong with it and what employers can do to get around it.

Ableist expectations

There is the ableist expectation regarding work that employees must have a physical presence in the workplace period. There is this expectation that workers should be expected to relocated for all roles hence there are countries like the UK where the economy is centralised to a few specific regions. In the UK, the region is mainly London and the surrounding counties.

These expectations are so deep that employers – even genuinely inclusive ones that do try their best – do not realise the true extent. The foundations they use for employee expectations are rooted in ableism that harms disabled people. This is systematic ableism – namely that the design of the capitalist workplace itself discriminates against disabled people.

Abled employers barring disabled people from working – but then changing their minds when it affects them – is a blatant double standard. Yet when you point this out, many people will have no idea and cite the “extraordinary circumstances” of the virus. Yet they do not realise that disabled people have been dealing with these “extraordinary circumstances” for decades. Here’s what I mean:

  • We’ve learnt not to expect public services to help us correctly, and we have to fight for access.
  • We’ve learnt that communicating over the internet is more accessible for us than in-person events because we often can’t attend them.
  • We’ve learnt the importance of self-care and curating our environments, so we don’t force ourselves to tolerate an unhealthy environment that worsens our disabilities.
  • We’ve learnt to take extra steps to look after ourselves medically – whether that be medication, extra caution in daily life or allowing our bodies to rest when it tells us.
  • We’ve learnt to expect to be failed by the world of work repeatedly – bracing for the worst whenever we work for a new employer and being genuinely surprised when we find a genuinely inclusive one.
  • We’ve learnt to deal with a social security system that would rather deprive us of all support than give us what we’re entitled to.
  • We’ve accepted deep down we will have structural societal barriers to overcome, and we have to learn to deal with an inaccessible world that doesn’t value our lives.

Many disabled people accept that reality, but others don’t. Others continue to push their boundaries and force themselves to fit into the mould of broader society, even if deep down, they feel like a burden. And they know that the ableds around them mostly see them as a burden too – especially financially.

This is called internalised ableism – learned ableist messages from broader society. It’s not anyone’s fault for internalising them – whether it be disabled jobseekers or abled employers. Still, it does mean they need to take steps to unlearn it. This is because systematic ableism is underpinned by internalised ableism of most of those that participate in it.

I genuinely believe that there are employers out there that do embrace inclusivity. They do sincerely try to recruit staff from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. However, to be genuinely inclusive, it also means unlearning the ableism that has impacted their thinking towards work. This means unlearning internalised ableism as it benefits everyone.

How to be genuinely inclusive

This means redesigning jobs so that if ableds can suddenly work from home in the event of an emergency, disabled people can do so at all times so we can manage our conditions. For most office-based jobs, this will be possible. This means ditching the expectations of having to relocate staff unless it’s necessary.

In the UK, graduates shouldn’t have to move to London or a select number of other places just to get jobs that are right for their skills. People shouldn’t have to rely on jobs available in person because big employers will not offer home working. This is even when their response to coronavirus proves they can.

In my case, it meant that I didn’t truly need to be in the office the whole time. I knew that from the beginning. I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle it all the time. Yet they saw it as “integral to the role”. Hence, I had to either fit into what the employer wanted or eventually get let go. Quitting wasn’t an option for various reasons.

The results of not accommodating disabled people are apparent to those that pay attention. Alongside disabled people being out of work, many of us are highlighting the hypocritical behaviour of many employers now becoming blatantly clear due to the outbreak. Many of us are at best, annoyed or at worst, angry. Though bitterness is more often than not what people see.

The feeling of seeing yet again how accommodations are only consistently given to employees when ableds need it. However, when disabled people need it, they are denied, even when it’s against the law. That’s why it takes longer for us to get jobs generally and struggle to maintain them. That’s why many of us go self-employed or hide our diagnoses at work. Because it is often safer for us to do so – whether it to manage our quality of life generally or simply make working possible.

For any disabled people out there who can work reading this – take note. You now have a powerful argument to the state to employers to get you the accommodations that you are entitled to.

Good employers should accept this reality and work to further accommodate disabled staff. Whereas bad faith employers have expertly played themselves, and now it will be harder for them to deny accommodations. The evidence will be out there for all to find over an internet search (like this).

The future is homeworking – not just for disabled people can we can actually work, but also for ableds to improve their quality of life too. It benefits everyone – and it starts by learning the lessons from coronavirus. The world of work doesn’t have to be the way it is now. It doesn’t have to go back to old habits once the coronavirus is no longer a threat. Work can be better. It must be.

That’s all,

Milla xx

The Case for Not Giving Unsolicited Advice

Content note: examples of ableism and transphobia used to support arguments

Hi all,

One of the things that have been an issue as of late for me is something that marginalised people typically face when trying to improve a situation. I’m talking about unsolicited advice. Today I’m gonna explain in this blogpost why people really need to lay off with advice when it’s not explicitly sought. To provide supporting examples, I’m going to use my ongoing homelessness situation as it is an example of a situation where unsolicited advice is not helpful.

It’s not helpful

A lot of people who give unsolicited advice often do not understand the complexities of a situation. This comes from two angles. Firstly, the individual. Each person has their own individual circumstances that mean their case is unique in the eyes of professionals. While there are common themes in people’s stories, there are personal stories and access needs that make each case different. For some people, this makes their matters more complicated. For many, this also makes their cases sensitive hence details aren’t disclosed readily. This means that many people who other help do not know these complexities, which means their advice is unhelpful – despite good intentions.

The second angle is that many people do not realise how government policy – especially by capitalist, right-wing governments – has led to services being underfunded and understaffed. Hence demand often outstripping supply. So things are going to take longer because there isn’t enough money or people available to help. Furthermore, a lot of privileged people will not see this reality because they haven’t experienced it. Many people don’t have supportive family or friends nor the money and privilege to buy support quickly. Furthermore, many people get gatekept by professionals for who they are – such as trans people getting barred from single-gender spaces because they are trans.

The same things are said over and over again

Remember, when I said there are common themes providers find when people are close to getting the support they need? One of them is that they have been failed by services repeatedly. People expect solutions to be simple and happen instantly hence make things sound so easy – and this gets upsetting. I’ve had multiple people tell me to “get [my] housing sorted first” before doing anything else. One person even cited Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

These people do not understand the systematic barriers I’ve faced and the fact I need a lot of support to do this – something which I’ve only started to get after moving halfway across the UK (aka drastic action). It’s very unsettling that people act it is that simple for everyone. Still, for many in complex situations like mine, it merely isn’t, and it feels dismissive to have it oversimplified in this way. This is often done repeatedly, by well-meaning sources who don’t know each other so cannot discuss cases in depth.

Frequently hearing the same advice is demoralising and eventually becomes grating. They are scripts – often used to mock neurodivergent people when they are using them – yet ableds seem to get away with using them. It’s a double standard that impacts neurodivergent people in general, but it’s particularly noticeable here.

People feel an obligation to help, even when they can’t

I’ve found when I’ve talked to people, they do sincerely mean well and want to help. And that is a good thing and they deserve credit for that. But in many cases, they can’t and therefore give advice because they feel a social obligation to be helpful. Hence they provide the information to ease this pressure on themselves.

When people vent, they are often not asking for help. Yes, we’ve likely tried what you think is obvious and for many reasons, we haven’t got anywhere. You don’t have an obligation to help us a lot of the time. And if you do, we will often ask directly. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to listen and let us vent. That is more helpful than any advice nine times out of ten.

Sometimes we are gatekept, other times there are genuine access needs or extra barriers that we can’t overcome. A good example is how many services only offer a telephone contact method which is not accessible for many people. Therefore, a lot of emergency/crisis support is not accessible, like support lines. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been given crisis lines by people trying to support me only for me to explain that I can’t access it. I’ve had to start preemptively telling people not to offer them which has finally got people to back off.

Asserting needs is key for people in complex situations

Marginalised people have to assert their needs preemptively a lot – if it is even safe to do so. We aren’t “typical clients” – we are people dealing with the most challenging periods of our lives and we have additional support needs. So yes, that means telling providers not to contact people via the phone in advance before they suggest it if possible. It means telling providers what our triggers are in advance, so they aren’t likely to set them off by mistake. Sometimes it means not saying anything at all about certain aspects if possible. To give one example, trans people who have passing privilege are usually better off not disclosing to services they are transgender as it risks discrimination.

Good people will accommodate our needs. Good people will respect our boundaries. Good people will understand that unsolicited advice is often counterproductive. Good people that don’t understand any of this yet will take the time to learn and help their staff be better at supporting vulnerable people. If you’ve read this article, that’s an excellent sign. The world needs good people and active support networks. One way to do that is understanding the lived experience of service users. Hopefully, this post has gone a little way towards this goal.

That’s all for today,
Milla xx

As A Marginalised Person, Politics Is Frustrating. Here’s Why.

(Featured image description: A group of anti-Brexit protestors posing for a group selfie. Many of them are white people wearing blue clothing and waving the flag representing the European Union.)

(CN for ableism, ableist slurs, fascism, voter suppression and te*f mentions to support arguments, no detail for last few)

Hi all,

I’m going to start today’s post with a strong assertion – when you are a marginalised person, politics is frustrating. It is definitely the case for me. The reasons why are simple to state, but complex and difficult to elaborate on Many are based on my own personal experiences but also due to recent history. They are:

  • Mainstream political discourse excludes marginalised groups both explicitly and implicitly
  • Most people will not listen to other people’s arguments, even in good faith
  • Most people lack sufficient knowledge to make an informed political decision – which isn’t their fault.

Let’s pick them apart, one at a time:

Mainstream political discourse excludes marginalised groups both explicitly and implicitly

Politics as a whole is largely inaccessible to disabled people because political organisations, by and large, do not make their events accessible for all types of disabilities. This includes debates to voting itself. Yet in-person participation is seen as the only “acceptable” form of political participation according to mainstream discourse. If a disabled person can’t access real-life political discourse, then their views are ignored by the mainstream. This is true even though online activism is sometimes the only way people can participate. Some examples include how disabilities like autism and chronic fatigue can stop people from being able to go to events.

This is, of course, an ableist stance to take but I can understand why online discourse is stigmatised to a point. The discourse is toxic and often the bigoted political extremes can be lured out and appear powerful. For example, this is why it is unsafe to be openly trans on Twitter even though the opinions of TE*Fs are not representative of real life. Offline, the discourse is considerably less toxic presumably because of the increased level of accountability somebody has for their actions. You have a real name and a face attached to somebody’s opinions – not an anime avatar and an obvious pseudonym.

From personal experience, I have found political participation to be quite difficult. I can get overwhelmed with debates easily and find them hard to follow, especially in real life. Online discourse is more accessible for me to understand but the toxicity of others affects my conduct. I do want to participate in real life more because it is the only way I will get taken seriously.

For example, recently I went to a local protest concerning the current constitutional crisis facing the UK. I got overwhelmed quite quickly as it was besides a major road and there was nobody I knew there – mainly older people. I struggled to work out the social aspects of everything and soon my anxiety eventually got so bad I had to leave and go home. It all got too much for me.

It’s also worth noting that many marginalised people are also politically homeless because they don’t feel any political party speaks for them. Any marginalised person supporting the UK Tories is figuratively signing their own suicide note for obvious reasons however other parties each have their own drawbacks that turn people off. TE*Fs are an example as there are TE*Fs in the SNP that haven’t been kicked out for instance. Likewise voter suppression is also a popular tactic used against marginalised groups as they are less likely to be able to meet the requirements to vote (such as having voter ID).

Many people will not listen to other people’s arguments, even in good faith

If there’s one thing I’ve come to realise about people – especially privileged cishet, abled white people – is that many have strong opinions about subjects they know little about. Furthermore, they will take no steps to listen to other people’s arguments especially from those with lived experience.

In other words, they believe that their view is the correct one and not listen to opposing views. This is fine when it applies to harmless personal preferences like hobbies or sports. However, when it applies to politics this is a problem. This is because harmful ideologies like the gender critical movement and curing autism are innately dangerous and will harm minorities in particular. Hence, they cannot be platformed and it’s therefore important that people listen to others as to why these viewpoints are harmful.

Privileged people will also fall back on arguments like “There are two sides” and “free speech” thinking that they apply here when in reality using these arguments gives permission for bigotry to spread. This is why those with lived experience need to be prioritised when it comes to these issues and privileged people need to sit down, listen then boost our voices. This includes not smearing people with strawmen like “SJW” as this proves they are not engaging in good faith. Or even worse – platforming marginalised people who have internalised their bigoted views than using them to discredit the whole communities fight for rights.

Most people lack sufficient knowledge to make an informed political decision – which isn’t their fault.

This is a reason where I am a bit more sympathetic to others. Most people, at least in the UK, do not undergo formal political education in school. This means they lack the skills to see through far-right bullshit and are more likely to become radicalised. This varies from being an “anti-SJW/anti-feminist” to being a full-on Nazi. To a lesser extent, this also applies to being brainwashed by right-wing media to believe false narratives about the political situations in their own or other countries.

This means they have to educate themselves about politics which is where the risks of being radicalised or brainwashed. Many people, especially social media savvy young people, are fortunately seeing through much of it as corporate media is becoming less popular. Many young people go on to study politics courses at school or university whereas other people educate themselves through self-study as I have over the years. Overall, there as hope, especially as young people in particular are becoming more aware of marginalised identities as those people became able to express themselves over the internet.

However, there is still a risk of others, especially older people, remaining attached to harmful beliefs, as well as kids brought up in conservative households or consume fascist media (like with the videos platformed on YouTube’s algorithm). It is these people that primarily push harmful beliefs like gender critical feminism – and on a more political scale – Brexit.

Brexit is a good example to support this example because in 2016 almost nobody in the UK knew enough about the European Union to make an informed vote on whether we should stay or leave. This isn’t a dig at Leavers or Remainers because this applies to everyone. The issue was too complex to be put to a binary referendum in part because it wasn’t well understood how Brexit would affect marginalised groups (which is a result of the first two reasons outlined here). I raise my hand and admit I knew little about the EU back then – even though I did study it as part of a business course in high school.

A lot of people also will not accept that they lack this knowledge. Whenever I’ve said this to people many have said I am calling them stupid when this is not the case. Putting aside why ableist slurs like stupid are harmful and should be eliminated, even people that are considered “smart” can be radicalised. Intelligence doesn’t come into this. It has taken me a long time to process this and understand why this is the case and I am worried that people will read this and think I am talking down to them. So I’m going to try to explain better.

If anything, there are likely two reasons – the first is that people don’t like to admit their opinions and facts are wrong. It’s human nature. Humans like to be right and we hate to have to admit we aren’t. Secondly, this could partially be a result of autistic/NT communication mismatch, where NTs read between the lines and apply their own meanings to what is said even when such meanings aren’t there. This is human nature too and this is before considering cultural differences.

If somebody isn’t a person of colour, disabled, trans, closely involved in certain companies/systems being discussed etc. they won’t have the lived experience to truly understand – which isn’t their fault. None of the reasons why people generally have inaccurate knowledge on politics are the fault of the people unless it’s willful ignorance (ie. “I don’t do politics”) or having to protect themselves for the sake of their mental health. We can’t all be experts at everything – it’s simply not possible.

There is no easy solution to this other than to take the time to explain to people gently why political participation and engagement is so important. This is so most people will become a politics expert by choice and avoid things like the UK’s current Brexit crisis. Hence, people will make more informed political decisions. This is something I am still working on in real life because sometimes being direct is not appropriate for these kinds of conversations.

In conclusion

With all this said in mind, this is why politics is frustrating. Change can and must happen, but there are a lot of barriers in the way. There is no easy solution to this other than to take the time to explain to people gently why political participation and engagement is so important so everybody can become a politics expert and avoid things like the UK’s current Brexit crisis. This is something I am still working on in real life because sometimes being direct and/or blunt is not always appropriate for these kinds of conversations.

There isn’t an easy solution to this and sometimes it feels hopeless and despairing. However, one thing that people can do to help to believe the lived experiences of others and boost our views during discussions – as well as share other correct, credible information. On the whole, though, the world is slowly becoming more inclusive and accepting on a variety of fronts especially in Western territories. Hopefully, as time goes by this trend will continue and the far right will lose again.

That’s all for today,

Milla x

Featured image source

Yes, Games Are For Everyone

Featured image description: Image is of a samurai in front of a burning Japanese-style temple. Text at top says “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” whereas the text on the bottom says “Take revenge. Restore your honour. Kill ingeniously.”

(CN for ableism)

Hi all,

There has been some recent discourse in the gaming and disability communities that I would like to offer my perspective – namely how all games should add in difficulty levels. This is a feature notably absent from the recently released Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice developed by From Software, a company known for their challenging games.

I am going to preface this by stating that my autism/ADHD affects a lot of how I approach video games these days alongside my time as a games journalist which included me reviewing games to embargos. Both of these formulate why I believe that games are for everyone and arguing otherwise are being elitist and ableist, knowingly or not.

First, I’m going to talk a bit about my playstyle as a background. I’m mostly a portable gamer and this formulates my playstyle for so many genres. Rhythm games are a good stimming aid (assuming the music is good) which is a great way to zone out and boost my immersion. My poor attention span means I find it very difficult to immerse myself on a home console game especially for Japanese RPGs where the portability factor helps me stick with them. I also find large screens visually overwhelming to process at times so having a small screen can help deal with this input better. This is also why I prefer turn based games to action games because I have time to think about my actions.

On the other hand, I am not able to play any PC games nowadays. This is because I can’t stay focused long enough to play them hence it’s a genuine accessibility issue for me. This is unfortunate as it means I am closed off from the vast majority of localised visual novels, a genre I really enjoy. This is despite me trying repeatedly to play through a small handful of Steam releases that will likely never get English console equivalents (like Higurashi When They Cry).

I also have to deal with executive dysfunction which in the simplest possible way means I find it difficult to juggle my day to day life. This especially applies as I’ve gotten older and have become more self-reliant for many things. It means I have less time and energy for games. If I am in a state of burnout, I will find it very difficult to play any video game.

So if I have to deal with a really steep difficulty curve, bad design, lots of grinding or other monotonous content it will become hard for me to continue playing. I do eventually burn out on many games I play and have to take a break so I can pick it up again later otherwise the burnout affects other areas of my life. This is how I got around to completing Dragon Quest VIII on the 3DS after a yearlong break.

I have come to appreciate developers adding in accessibility features in their games that weren’t there before. For instance, modern Falcom games have the ability to lower the difficulty of battles if they prove too difficult after each time the player dies (such as in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel). Additionally, the Utawarerumono Mask of Deception/Truth duology also feature a turn rewind feature which is a godsend for somebody like me whom has an iffy attention span and is prone to making careless mistakes due to burnout and zoning out.

Many modern remakes of Japanese RPGs such as Dragon Quest VIII (as mentioned earlier) reduced the amount of grinding required to complete the game which reduces playtime and boosts engagement which I really appreciate. Then there is also the easy mode in the difficult platformer Celeste, a title I cannot wait to play in part because it’s accessible. While I am aware that difficulty and accessibility aren’t the same things, difficulty settings are an essential accessibility aid for some disabled people like me.

Firstly, I’d like to address an elephant in the room aka those that attack games journalists for talking about accessibility. Firstly, I understand the pressures that games journalists are under when they play games to embargos. They don’t have a get-out clause like consumers do hence it is the ultimate hard mode. If they accept a code or a review kit from a publisher they are obliged to provide coverage of the game in return. This includes beating the game to ensure they know what you’re talking about. Yes, this does include playing through bad games as well as forcing themselves to play through games on a non-preferred platform (such as a handful of games I reviewed on PC). However, it also includes playing games that are inaccessible. So, if there is no easy mode or other accessibility features they need to play, they’re out of luck.

I endured this for two years before I had to quit. I had to learn to enjoy my hobby again and reviewing inaccessible and overly difficult games in rapid succession sucked the passion out of me. It is one of many reasons why I decided that working in the games industry is not for me. Reviewing games burnt me out and alongside my changing support needs means that nowadays I need easy modes in games to ensure I can prevent burnout and enjoy game in balance with other parts of my life. This doesn’t apply to all genres as I can handle difficult platformers and rhythm game stages as well as some turn based RPGs.

Internalising toxic gamer narratives without realising didn’t help either. I thought I’d have to live up to these standards that I could never consistently meet because of my disabilities. Hence most detractors that complain about accessibility in games in reality are privileged. This is because they have it easier than disabled gamers as well as the very journalists that inform them that the game is difficult. These narratives do mean that other disabled people contribute to ableist narratives knowingly or otherwise. One example is the quadraplegic gamer that beat Sekiro on the default difficulty setting which spawned a widely cited news article (CN for inspiration porn in article).

These cases will then be used by the anti-accessibility crowd to go “But look, this person is disabled and they beat it fine! Therefore, it’s a non-issue!” which is ableist. One gamer’s hard mode is a disabled gamer’s impossible mode. One gamer’s easy mode may be a disabled gamer’s hard mode however it would then be playable. It is subjective across the individual as all our needs are different however that does mean that easy modes are a necessary accessibility feature for some hence should become industry standard. This includes games that are praised for their difficulty such as the Dark Souls series.

Can a developer make their games accessible without sacrificing their vision? In short, the developers should always attempt to do this if they have the resources and money. All developers would aim to design their games for different audiences from the outset so that their “vision” isn’t compromised. If they cannot do this in-house, then the option of hiring disabled consultants and playtesters exists. I am aware there are exceptions to this such as visual novels (the genre is far too niche for accessibility aids to become standard period) and small indie developers (where it is not technically or financially possible for accessibility aids to be implemented).

The publishers that have published the Souls like games by From Software (including Sekiro) almost certainly have the resources to acquire this expertise. From Software also are a large enough developer that they can almost certainly allocate time to implement difficulty settings (as they have done for some quality of life aids). I am aware that From Software have been adding quality of life improvements with each new Souls game they make which they deserve credit for, however they still have ways they can further improve on making their games playable to more people.

I am definitely aware that there is still some way to go in video games before they become truly accessible. Subtitles aren’t an industry standard for instance and gamer culture is largely toxic as it features memes including the “git gud” mentality. Microsoft has launched new peripherals specifically aimed at disabled gamers to boost accessibility for the Xbox One and Windows PC platforms. It is not perfect but is an important step. There is still a way to go as those that want to play games on Nintendo/PlayStation formats do not have official peripheral support like the Xbox One has.

In short, games are for everyone. Please listen to disabled gamers when we talk about our access needs and not dismiss us. These can include so many things and vary by player (ie. Additional option settings, easy mode, adaptative controller, quality-of-life improvements) hence it is best for developers to cater to as many playstyles as possible during development.

That’s all for today.

Milla x

Featured image source

Assessment Centres and Initial Thoughts

(Image is of a person in a suit holding a handbag leaping towards a hill with the word “JOB” on it at sunset.)

(CN discrimination, ableism, masking)

Hello everyone,

As part of my preparation for life after I graduate, I have been spending some time throughout my last year at university learning about the graduate recruitment system that I would have to deal with to get a job at a major employer. The workshop I attended recently was about assessment centres and what I would have to deal with. This is a long post hence it’s split into two pages however I hope there is something here that could help autistic jobseekers.

Please bear in mind that while I have not actually been to an assessment centre, I but I left the session in a meltdown. I felt that trying to engage with the typical graduate recruitment system isn’t feasible for me period. The very thought of it fills me with anxiety. When I have to deal with how inaccessible it is, I enter meltdowns. I already had this before when I attended a previous workshop on video interviews (and how some recruiters are starting to use AI to assess candidates) as well as another workshops on when I was asked to discuss my strengths and weaknesses.

I am going to discuss some of the major points brought up in this session, my thoughts on it and how they make the recruitment process inaccessible for those diagnosed as autistic and/or ADHD. Note that some of these thoughts will apply to other neurotypes as well as mental illnesses.

The importance of the telephone

This is a major accessibility issue as employers place great importance on the telephone to communicate with potential candidates which of course causes problems if someone is unable to use the telephone in any way. Allow me to elaborate further.

Employer expect candidates to call them to let them know if they running late for interviews/assessments.

A lot of autistic people have huge anxiety calling strangers which includes unexpected phone calls. If an unexpected event happens and the autistic person needs to cancel this demand may be impossible for them to do. This is especially important as employers will expect candidates to ask if it is still ok that they can arrive at the assessment centre at a later time. They may start the assessment without them especially if most other candidates have already arrived. If they are too anxious to use the phone, it is very unlikely that any other form of contact would be accepted. I would assume this includes texts and email as well.

Do not use mobile phones in the waiting rooms for interviews/assessments.

This also relates to issues with how telephones are often used for fidgeting, dealing with nerves or communicating with others. Alternatives for this could work like a fidget cube, but that doesn’t mean misunderstandings won’t happen. The expectations that employers have will include reading various materials in the lobby, watching videos playing on TV as well as talking to other candidates in the area (which can actually add stress for neurodiverse people).

Should phone numbers always be disclosed in applications?

This is something I wondered as a result of the workshop. Although it is expected that phone numbers are given on all applications as a way of being contacted, if somebody won’t answer the call due to anxiety (or another reason), what is the point of giving the prospective employer their number? On the other hand, if a phone number isn’t disclosed on the application would an employer disqualify them immediately for that? I don’t know the answer to that. Either way, this is a huge accessibility issue.

Body language

This is an area where many autistic struggle and employers assess how often you use eye contact as a way to help them assess candidates for their roles. The problem with this is that it negatively discriminates against those that don’t present in a neurotypical way. This of course ties into masking and is one reason why many autistic people learn to do it. However, there are many that can’t or refuse to mask and thus are prone to having their chance taken from them because employers judge them by fixed NT standards. In other words, the very process of recruitment encourages masking.

You can click the the page number below to proceed to the next page.

 

Why We Need Autism Acceptance, Not Autism Awareness

(cn: bullying, abuse, ableism)

Note: This article is commentary inspired by this article.

Hi all,

At the very end of Autism Awareness Month 2018, there was an incident in London where 25 year old Tamsin Parker, an autistic woman, got thrown out of a British Film Incident screening of her favourite film for essentially NTs taking offense for her laughing too loud at the film. There was ableism involved including a man using sexist language, another person using the R-word towards her and others laughing and jeering to give some detail. Although there were some people in the screening who walked out in solidarity, the environment (from what I could tell through reading up on it) was toxic. With these events serving as a starting point for today’s post, I would like to discuss why we need autism acceptance and not autism awareness.

Firstly, I would like to say that I’m not going to speak for Tamsin or anyone else involved in the incident because I don’t know them so I can only speak for myself. However, like many autistic people I have had experiences of social rejection like this and some aspects of this incident has resonated with me. I am writing these thoughts based on the reported facts and my own experiences.

Firstly, the fact that she was laughing so loud is noteworthy it is was considered socially unacceptable to many NTs in the room around her. That could happen to any autistic person especially those whom are in other vulnerable groups too. However, when an autistic person is behaving like this it is possible that they have a happy state of mind, often because it involves something they enjoy. Expressions and mannerisms are exaggerated compared to NTs but it is their authentic autistic self that is showing in their behaviour.

There are people out there who don’t want to see that. Why don’t they want to see someone who wears their heart on their sleeve (as many autistics do) and expresses their emotions so vividly? Presumably this is because they feel uncomfortable with seeing something they don’t consider “normal?” These people are mostly non-disabled allistics.

If an autistic person shows their truest self, then they are indirectly trusting you. They are trusting you not to negate their feelings. They are trusting you not to take advantage of them. Many autistic people have had their willingness to show their true autistic self beaten out of them over the years due to NTs not accepting them or abusing them when they do. Thus, this leads to masking and repressing their true selves just to pass and be accepted by the NTs around them. This has consequences for the mental health of autistic people including developing comorbid physical and mental illnesses, losing their sense of self and developing autistic burnout.

However, there was one thing that the autistic woman reportedly did that stuck out to me. She said, as she was being taken out, “I’m autistic.” I have a few thoughts on this.

There are many assumptions that arise when you say “I’m autistic.” I used to think that saying “I’m autistic” to people would lead to them accepting me and have that “Aha! That’s why Subtle is different!” moment. Also, saying “I’m autistic” is a hope that people will be able to accommodate you in the best way possible. Finally, saying “I’m autistic” relies on the hope that the other person is knowledgeable about autism and they can help you as best as they can. It leads to inclusion, right?

Sadly, this is not often the case. In my experience people had no idea how best to help me and this still lead to bullying and social isolation. In their eyes, saying “I’m autistic” is an excuse and an attempt to deflect from what they see as bad behaviour. Hence, for now at least, these positive hopes when you say “I’m autistic” are idealistic at best (with some very rare exceptions).

Something else that also doesn’t help when someone says “I’m autistic” is that many autistic people aren’t able to elaborate what their individual needs are for various reasons. As autism is a spectrum, it affects everybody differently. Therefore the autistic person (or a credible advocate for them) needs to convey their specific needs across to the people around them. This can be done orally or written down by the autistic person themselves or the credible advocate. I believe this is one reason why organisations often make autism cards for autistic people to give to authority figures to help with self-advocacy when autistic people become temporarily non-verbal during meltdowns.

In my experience, people were aware that I am autistic but didn’t really understand how it affects autistic people broadly, yet alone specifically. This applies to many people in the lives of every autistic person there is. Broad knowledge is required to understand the deeper, more intimate knowledge of how being autistic affects each individual differently. Hence we reach the main point of this post.

Allistics (and even some autistic people) have their own preconceived ideas about autism, brought on by misinformation and stereotypes like “Autistic people are like Rain Man” and “Autistic people are more likely to be violent and become school shooters.” Not to mention negative connotations like puzzle pieces and “light it up blue.” Some people with these beliefs aren’t even bigoted rather genuinely nice people that are misinformed. This is what autism awareness does. Much of the campaigns that surround autism awareness are not managed by autistic people for the benefit of autistic people therefore the wrong messages are being sent out.

Autistic people know the most about autism. They live it every day. If autism acceptance became the main discourse there would be far less BFI-esque incidents. This is because more people will know and understand and will try their best to help as the basic general knowledge is there. Autism acceptance puts autistic people at the centre of everything and helps autistic people get their needs met through campaigns like Red Instead and Light it up Gold.

Hopefully Tamsin is doing well now. She didn’t deserve this. Nobody deserves this. Hopefully this is the start of change.

That’s all for today.

Best wishes,

Subtle

(@subtlykawaii)

Image sources:
Featured image

Learning Your Limitations As An Autistic Person

(cn: discussion of ableism)

Hi all,
Today’s post will talk a bit about learning limitations in relation to autism as this is something that I had come to realise quite recently and would like to share some thoughts. One of the things that I was hoping to achieve this year was to possibly travel solo as a tourist in a foreign country for a few days as traveling is something that I have been really wanting to do for years. I had thought this was possible for me to do however I later realised that it was not something I am ready to handle yet. It had disappointed me however it was something that I needed to come to terms with as traveling is quite common for young people today and there is the expectation that young people like me will do quite a lot of it.

Life experience is often the best way to find out things for yourself. For an autistic person, this can include attempting unfamiliar situations or experiences new or with other people. The more life experience you have, the wiser you are and more self-aware you are of your own strengths and weaknesses (as I have previously talked about here). Knowing your limitations helps you assess what situations that you’d be able to handle and what would be best avoided. This helps avoid unnecessary meltdowns, drama and other possible serious incidents.

For example, many autistic people have sensory sensitivity meaning certain places like pubs, clubs and crowded cityscapes are best avoided otherwise a sensory overload could happen. For others, certain forms of communication may not be possible for them to do due to anxiety. For example, many autistic people cannot use the phone or hold unstructured face to face conversations so may seek to avoid them as much as possible. For those that require additional support, this knowledge is essential.

It’s okay if you cannot do certain things on your own. It’s okay if you cannot do it at all without help. It is not easy to ask for help as there is a stigma surrounding asking for help as society (in the West at least) places emphasis on individuality and autonomy. Society can be very ableist and quite hostile towards disabled people due to misunderstandings and stigma hence it is even harder for them to speak out. However, asking for help is also a form of strength as it shows acknowledgement of your own limitations and may be able to help you improve your overall quality of life. In the case of an autistic person, pushing yourself too hard risks leading to burnout or meltdowns afterwards often due to having to mask in order to be accepted by the NTs around you.

The right people will understand if you aren’t always able to do everything on your own and will support you. You may have to change your life goals so that they better align with what you are able to do. There is no shame in admitting that either. In my case I’ve had to re-evaluate what I would like to do with regards to traveling. There is no time limit for travelling or experiencing anything new aside from when your life ends and keeping that in mind helps me look at it from a new perspective. That in itself may prove useful for helping people come to terms with limitations.

That’s all for today.

Best wishes,
Subtle

(@subtle_writes)

No, “Biting the Bullet” Does Not Help With Social Anxiety

(Content warning: descriptions of anxiety attacks and autistic meltdowns)

Hi all,

This is only the second post here on Subtle Writes, but it is going to be a venting post I’m afraid as I need to compile my thoughts based on an event that happened recently that is really stressing me out. It’s themed around social anxiety and the telephone.

Social anxiety is one of those things that many people, especially those on the autistic spectrum, will carry with them during their lives. For me, I’m one of the lucky ones whom has had their confidence/skill blossom throughout the last five years. It still is bad in some aspects, but one area that I still seriously struggle in is using the telephone. I am fine with people I know like my family and the doctors (and even then, that took a LOT of work on the part of my mum helping me get the confidence I needed to phone them) however for total strangers the anxiety can be debilitating. I can stress out, freeze in place, panic and begin to overthink the situation. Badly.

Let’s take a step back to explain some background. I need to acquire an important document and I need to fill in an application form in order to acquire it. I have some enquiries I need to ask to ensure that I am on the right track, as there are a few things I needed to clarify. If I fill in the application wrong, they will reject the forms but not give me a specific reason for the rejection. There are four general reasons as to the rejection given on their website but that is all the information that is available to the general public.

The only options that I am able to contact them with enquiries is over the phone or via fax, but not over email. In fact, even on the website it states in bold red letters that they will not accept enquiries about this certain document over email. Why would any organisation in a developed country not accept enquiries over email? Email is (especially for my generation) the dominant method for formal written communication with pretty much everything else being done over SMS and social media. Fax is simply irrelvant.

What made it worse is that I had judgemental people around me saying things like “[Subtle], you need to bite the bullet and just do it.” and “If you don’t do this, you can’t go.” With regards to this – I thank you from the bottom of my heart for stating the obvious. It was if I needed some kind of reminder as to how important obtaining this document is, as without it I literally cannot do what I need this document for.  You don’t seem to understand how I feel or appreciate how hard it is for me to do something that for you is likely so simple, maybe even second nature. Telling me to just “bite the bullet” or “feel the fear and do it anyway” – those metaphors are illogical nonsense that do not serve to make me feel any better or act as any motivator for me to do what I know I need to do any faster.

Furthermore, there is the question “how are you going to cope with this in the future?” Why thank you for worrying me unnecessarily, this is exactly what I need! If you are going to state the elephant in the room at least try to offer some kind of solution that is more than just “bite the bullet.” A solution to help with the anxiety (aka the actual problem) would help give me something to think about at least even if it was backhandedly conveyed alongside unhelpful nonsense. Failing that, don’t say anything at all.

social-anxiety

Making a phone call like this requires preparation for me – usually a whole day. I can feel happy, confident and optimistic at the start of the day but then when I am getting myself in the position to make the call I am frozen while panicking inside. It serious threatens to undo my hard work mentally preparing myself to make the call in the first place. I become more sensitive to sensory input, volatile and grumpy. The perfect concoction for a meltdown. If you talk to me, I might flip. I may be rude. I’ll need to be left alone, maybe even power nap like I did that day. The last thing I need is ignorant unsupportive drivel that doesn’t add anything meaningful to the discussion.

There is also the alternative route of getting somebody else to ask the questions for me. It eases the anxiety, but that also hinges on them knowing what I need to know and getting this information adequately. I asked the person that said “If you don’t do this, you can’t go” for help and I got brushed away before they said that. I had everything written down so it was a case of asking them and making notes. I haven’t asked the person who would ask me to “feel the fear and do it anyway” yet, but I have a feeling I may have to and they would likely do it for me. Not everyone whom is saying these things are ignorant but alas it goes to show the lack of understanding in this world.

As for other alternatives, I could go down to their office in person myself and asking my questions, but is it really worth a day trip to London just for that? I’d have to come back again to hand the application form in and possibly a third time to pick up the document (unless they mail it to me, I don’t know). That will cost hundreds of pounds in train tickets, so I will not be doing that especially as I have money to save.

In the end, I am just going to go the faxing route. Turns out you only need a PC, a phone cable and a fax modem to send faxes over a PC without the need for a fax machine if you can’t find one in person. in fact, acquiring a fax modem is fairly easy so that is what I will do. If anything, if I can pull this off I will be proud of myself for learning how to fax which may even help me land a job when I graduate. Ideally, I would prefer to use email but I’m doubtful they would make (what would be) a rare exception for somebody like me which in itself shows how society is disablist to the point where I am thinking that I wouldn’t get granted an exception to the protocol. I hope this changes in the future.

I also have to give one of the employees there some credit. I reached out to their inquiry  over email and he offered to call me. They weren’t able to keep to the time we originally planned (which I think is typical of big businesses, even though that causes a lot of stress on my end) however he replied later saying that I was welcome to phone him directly, rather than go through the route of being directed around to people via reception. Thank you for trying to help me – though sadly it was not enough for me to overcome my anxiety. Not yet. But in the future, I will overcome this. Eventually I will be able to use the phone and carry out conversations like these without any problems. I will need some more help and support, and hopefully some other practical solutions will come to fruition.

Either way, that is me done for today. I hope this lengthy post has somehow helped you understand a bit better how social anxiety can debilitate people in some ways. There are other ways in which anxiety can show and this varies from person to person (and autism to other different neurotypes as well) so it’s worth reading other viewpoints as well to get a broader understanding.

Best wishes,

-Subtle (@subtle_writes)