December 3rd is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. On this day, which is celebrated worldwide, our consultant Laura talks about her autism. She shows that, contrary to popular belief, it is the situation that is actually disabling, not the autism itself. Explanations.
Some words are easier to take on than others. “Autistic”, for example. Between the moment I realised that this word could apply to me and the moment I accepted it, it took a year. A year to assimilate before going for a diagnosis, to be sure. So imagine what it would have been like with the word ‘disability’. Disabled, me? No, never! I’ve always tried to be Super Woman, to be able to handle everything on my own (very bad way to live your life, I know. Am I getting better?). It’s enough for someone to say to me “you’re not capable of…” for me to find myself harnessed to a height of 90m… In short, no, I don’t feel handicapped.
However, sometimes I have a disability. The nuance is important. Confined, teleworking, at home? I am Super Woman. I’m super productive, I don’t need to see my colleagues more than during the few scheduled Visio meetings. I’m like a fish in water, everything is fine (and the coffee is good). However, if I have 15 people chatting around the coffee machine, then yes. I am in a handicap situation. Concentrating on the four different discussions, trying to answer while staying on topic, ignoring the noise of the machines, the people coming in and out… Some people call it a break, for me it’s a sporting event. I’m exhausted after that. Or after an hour on public transport, a party or a meeting.
But no matter what we are labelled with, it is certain things that make us disabled. But there are some things we are much more efficient or resourceful at than so-called ‘normal’ people. Don’t believe me? Ask the blind people who serve in the restaurant “In the dark” … Ask a sighted person to do the same to see. Can’t they? But it is. This is the kind of gymnastics we do every day, sometimes without even thinking about it. You see a disabled person, I see a person who manages to live in a society that is not made for him. You wish you had those coping skills!
So yes, today I was able to ask for my environment to be adapted so that I feel good in it. Because I have adapted my personal life to avoid situations that handicap me, but I can’t do that in my work. At first I felt like I was cheating, taking advantage of a privilege I shouldn’t have had, but I soon realised the impact it was having on me, on my fatigue, on my life. And I came to understand that it’s not a privilege but just a way of putting myself back on an equal footing with the others. And after 16 years in the business, I’m finally starting to discover that you can have fun at work.
Finally, disability is a matter of perspective. It comes back to that Einstein quote: “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life thinking it is stupid.” So yes, in today’s society, we little disabled fish, whether we are autistic, deaf, blind, physically disabled or all the rest, often find ourselves in front of trees. Forests, even. But if you push the trees a bit and make some room for rivers, you will see several things:
- Rivers are beautiful.
- You can make as much or more progress swimming in a river than jumping from tree to tree.
- Rivers help trees to grow.
Just make room for us and you will see the change. Not just for people with autism, but make room for all those who are different. Whether the disability is visible or invisible, embrace the difference. Embrace it! Of course, everyone can never be equal, that’s obvious. But let’s all make an effort to make sure that everyone has a place, feels like they belong and feel included. It’s possible if we just adapt a little bit to make it easier for all those who don’t fit in the mould for one reason or another, I’m sure that would change everything. Because if you make it just a little bit easier for people, there are situations where the disability can disappear, where the real potential of everyone can be released. And it’s so relaxing to do things without having to think about being different!
Isn’t this a good time?
Laura, IT consultant at auticonsult
Want to know more about the atypical auticonsult model? How we reduce these disabling situations in companies and enable people with autism to express their full potential?
Then check out our “About auticonsult” section