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.”

Google, Autism Speaks, and NAUWU

Even Google fails to Google Autism Speaks (or show the slightest awareness of the neurodiversity and disability right movements) before partnering with them in eugenics and abuse against a neurominority.

https://www.newsweek.com/autism-speaks-partnering-google-cure-autism-sparks-backlash-1580272

Last time I wrote about Google, they were silencing marginalized voices and disrespecting NAUWU principles (Nothing About Us Without Us). Partnering with Autism Speaks is a move to be expected of such an organization.

If Google had autistic employees advising on this, it wouldn’t have happened. Do they not have a Neurodiversity ERG to consult? Did they fire all the ethicists who can see eugenics when it’s right there in their face?

That Twitter thread is full of resources on the problems with Autism Speaks and examples of the rhetoric we autistic people face when warning about Autism Speaks.

Strategic Essentialism and Employee Resource Groups

However, antisubordination activists have engaged in a form of strategic essentialism as a means of resistance (Spivak, 1989). Mimicking conventional strategies of nonsubordinated power holders, strategic essentialism is a move by members of a subordinated category to simplify group identity and counter normative expectations.

Source: DisCrit—Disability Studies and Critical Race Theory in Education (Disability, Culture, and Equity Series) (p. 205). Teachers College Press. Kindle Edition.

Strategic Essentialism “…refers to a political tactic in which minority groups, nationalities, or ethnic groups mobilize on the basis of shared gendered, cultural, or political identity to represent themselves. While strong differences may exist between members of these groups, and amongst themselves they engage in continuous debates, it is sometimes advantageous for them to temporarily “essentialize” themselves and to bring forward their group identity in a simplified way to achieve certain goals…

Strategic essentialism is new vocabulary for me. I picked it up recently in my disability studies reading and am still learning how to apply it. I’m particularly interested in how it applies to running an Employee Resource Group.

This first thing that came to mind as I read the paragraph above from DisCrit is John Elder Robison’s piece that talks about using “neurodivergent” instead of diagnostic labels to build coalition.

When schools and workplaces move from autism programs to neurodiversity programs, they include every person with a cognitive difference, not just autistic people. The tent gets bigger, and it has room for all.

Whether your goal is competitive advantage or human service, you should be able to meet your goals better under a Neurodiversity at Work banner, as opposed to an Autism at Work one. In both cases the supports needed are similar, but the neurodivergent population is substantially larger than the “only autistic” population so your chances of success are magnified.

While labels like ADHD, autism, dyslexia, or PDD-NOS may be useful for therapists and childhood educators, the community-sourced alternative “neurodivergent” is probably better suited for colleges and workplaces. In those spaces, medical labels carry stigma that leads to conscious and unconscious marginalization. Expectations are always lower for people with disability diagnoses.

Neurodiversity is a new concept but the underlying reality has been part of human society forever. In the modern era work and school programs designed for the average person have excluded those whose cognitive styles fall outside that narrow midrange. Despite that, workplaces – including colleges – already contain plenty of neurodiversity so a primary program goal should be the better support of those people. Neurodiversity at School and at Work is not just about bringing new people into the fold.

The newest Neurodiversity initiatives recognize this fact.

By embracing the neurodiversity model instead of autism, employers can move toward a more inclusive welcoming environment.

Source: The Next Step for Neurodiversity | Psychology Today

I like to solve for the infinity, foreground complexity as the baseline, design for the edges, and design for pluralism. Sometimes, doing that requires coalition built on strategic essentialism.

…creating coalitions can subvert dominant hierarchies and transform the status quo.

Source: DisCrit—Disability Studies and Critical Race Theory in Education (Disability, Culture, and Equity Series) (p. 205). Teachers College Press. Kindle Edition.

Individuals, however, do not experience identity as a fractured reality. If we start instead with this understanding of intersectionality informed by DisCrit, the multivariant nature of experience may be a place for coalition.

Source: DisCrit—Disability Studies and Critical Race Theory in Education (Disability, Culture, and Equity Series) (p. 212). Teachers College Press. Kindle Edition.

I’m very glad to see the neurodiversity and queer ERGs at my workplace addressing gatekeeping, being broadly inclusive, and working together. This seems like healthy essentialism on which coalition and community can grow.

Community is magic.

Community is power.

Community is resistance.

Source: Disability Visibility: First Person Stories from the 21st Century