Inchoate Thoughts on Disability, Access, and Cost

So I’m writing a thing for a client that repeatedly posits alternate forms of contacting their business (phone vs. email vs. online form that sends an SMS message) as “conveniences.” And I find it odd, because for me, text-based communication options aren’t “convenient,” they’re an access need.

To cast them as “convenience” in all cases elides the ways in which we set, without interrogating, a “normal” against which disability is measured. Could I call this business? Yes, in the sense that I’m not physically incapable of communicating by phone – the only sense by which I was allowed, for my entire upbringing, to think of being “disabled.” I was thus expected to understand my difficulties with phone communication as a “preference” for the “convenience” of text-based communication, not as a disability-related access need.

I was never allowed to ask what the cost of things like phone calls *should* be. Imagine my shock when I got to my early 30s and discovered that, no, it’s not normal to work so hard to do things like phone calls that you burn out, nearly die, and have to be hospitalized for an extended stay. Twice. Before you hit 35.

If “the norm” had been made explicit, my access need in relation to it would have been apparent as the *need* it was. Because the relevant question, not just for me but I think for disability in general, is not “are you physically capable of doing the thing?” It’s “are you capable of doing the thing at a cost relatively similar to the expected average human cost of doing the thing?” If not, it’s time to address your access in order to get your cost closer to the expected average.

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About Dani Alexis

Dani Alexis is the Legal Coordinator at Autonomous Press as well as a freelance writer. When she's not working, she coaches winterguard and waits on the whims of two spoiled cats. Check out her most recent work by subscribing to her Patreon: http://www.patreon.com/noncompliantspace.
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