Structural Ableism Doesn’t Stop at the Firewall

The “formal requests” at the end about employees with disabilities and the “environmental impact of returning to onsite sic in-person work” are such transparent pandering. (I have never once heard of Apple not doing whatever it takes not only to accommodate employees with any disability, but to make them feel welcome.)

Source: Daring Fireball: Internal Letter Circulates at Apple — and Leaks to The Verge — Pushing Back Against Returning to the Office

Structural ableism doesn’t stop at any company’s firewall, including Apple’s. I agree with Gruber most of the time, but here I depart. “I have never once heard of Apple not doing whatever it takes not only to accommodate employees with any disability, but to make them feel welcome” induces heavy eye roll from my neurodivergent and disabled self.

I can’t help but think that the problem for Apple is that they’ve grown so large that they’ve wound up hiring a lot of people who aren’t a good fit for Apple, and that it was a mistake for Apple to ever hook up a company-wide Slack.

Ah, “fit”. The word used to exclude so many of us. This is an exhibit of why I prefer the rule-of-thumb: culture add > culture fit.

Company-wide Slack allows marginalized people to connect and Employee Resource Groups to form.

ERGs are a culture add. Instead of bemoaning them, we should be nurturing and learning from them. They alert us to friction and bad design. Apple should care about bad design. So should Gruber.

We are formally requesting a transparent, clear plan of action to accommodate disabilities via onsite, offsite, remote, hybrid, or otherwise location-flexible work.

Source: Apple employees push back against returning to the office in internal letter – The Verge

Cheers. Thanks for including us. We’ve been warning that the accommodations that suddenly became possible during a pandemic would go away and we’d be back to forced intimacy and the accommodations grind.

We should be foregrounding complexity as the baseline instead of effectively telling marginalized people to shut up and ERGs to go away.

”Multiplicities are an intention: We build the best collaboration, the deepest learning, when we expand the opportunities for complex vision.”

Foregrounding of Complexity as the Baseline

Neurodiversity and the social model for bodyminds are about the “foregrounding of complexity as the baseline.”

I foreground all of this to underscore that there is a neurological difference, or a spectrum of neurology, that must be attended to. The movement for neurodiversity is not interested in homogenizing experience. We are different and we require different accommodations. On the other hand, my interest is not in the neural per se, which I find quickly loses its usefulness in such discussions, particularly in the ways it can be taken up in the humanities and the social sciences as an explanatory category. The neurological is only one point of departure for the question of autistic perception, and of autism more broadly.

So I would say that the concept of the neuropolitical is not particularly interesting to me. I want to support the movement for neurodiversity because I find it exciting and deeply important in its foregrounding of complexity as the baseline. And I want to think about the ways in which an engagement with neurodiversity affects how we think of the political and how we effect change. The political emphasis here is less on neurology than on the question of how normative modes of being subsumed under the unspoken category of the neurotypical organize experience, and how an engagement with neurodiversity changes the questions we ask and the actions we support.

Neurotypicality is a grounding narrative of exclusion. The neurotypical is the category to which our education systems aspire. It is the category to which our ideas of the nuclear family aspire. And, it is the category on which the concept of the citizen (and by extension participation in the nation-state and the wider global economy) is based.

In the context of education, which is the one I am most knowledgeable about, the mechanisms for upholding the neurotypical standard are everywhere in force. Every classroom that penalizes students for distributed modes of attention organizes learning according to a neurotypical norm. Every classroom that sees the moving body as the distracted body is organized according to a neurotypical norm. Every classroom that teaches predominantly for one mode of perception is organizing its learning according to a norm. Every classroom that knows in advance what knowledge looks and sounds like is working to a norm.

Intelligence, understood as the performance of a certain kind of knowledge acquisition and presentation, is built on the scaffold of neurotypicality as the unspoken norm. To speak of the normative tendencies of education is not new. My concern is with what remains largely unspoken in that conversation. Having “special needs” classrooms upholds neurotypicality, for instance, as the dominant model of existence. Drugging our children because of their attention deficit is upholding a neurotypical norm. Sending our black and indigenous children to juvenile detention centers in disproportionate numbers is upholding a neurotypical norm which takes, as neurotypicality always does, whiteness as the standard.

To engage with neurodiversity is to speak up about the extraordinary silence around neurotypicality and to acknowledge that we do not question ourselves enough as regards what kinds of bodies are welcomed and supported in education, and in social life more broadly. It is still far too rare that we discuss neurotypicality as that which frames our ways of knowing, of presenting ourselves, of being bodies in the world.

Source: Histories of Violence: Neurodiversity and the Policing of the Norm – Los Angeles Review of Books

“We’re advancing inclusive design now in Tech — which means that everyone’s individual identity and/or state will compete with each others’. Working collaboratively needs to become the norm.”

Source: John Maeda’s #DesignInTech

Previously: