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On Choice

  • Posted on January 19, 2015 at 10:00 AM

For some reason, I keep running into these same words, “I didn’t have a choice.” It’s cropped up so many times lately that I just have to comment. My point is simple: There’s always a choice!

Admittedly, we may have few choices, we may have bad choices, but nonetheless we always have a choice. Claiming anything else serves only two purposes: justification and disempowerment.

It started with a line in a book. “Remember this, you don’t have a choice.”

Except, even as that was said, the explanation belied the statement: Basically, the choice was to go along with the powerful but good person or fall into the hands of the powerful bad person. To avoid the latter, the powerful good person was willing to destroy the characters she was trying to save.

We are talking about a life-or-death choice, but it is nonetheless a choice. And, honestly, there are some things we, as human beings, need to be willing to die for. Today is a good day to take a moment and think about that.

Today is the day we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the great American heroes. He became a hero, not be disavowing his choices, but by claiming his right to choose. And Martin Luther King, Jr. did choose and he chose well.

Faced with prejudice, Martin Luther King, Jr. chose open-heartedness. Faced with hatred, Martin Luther King, Jr. chose love. Faced with violence, Martin Luther King, Jr. chose peace. Faced with oppression, Martin Luther King, Jr. chose resistance. Faced with fear, Martin Luther King, Jr. chose compassion. Faced with anger, Martin Luther King, Jr. chose understanding.

These were not easy choices. They were inevitably life-and-death choices and Martin Luther King, Jr. chose what he did, knowing the example he was setting and the risks he was taking. He could have much more easily have said, “I have no choice.” He could have sat down, shut up, and lived long. If he had, he wouldn’t be a hero, because he wouldn’t have made a difference. He would have lived longer, but he would not have lived better.

Every time we say, “I have no choice,” we give our power to choose away to another. When we abdicate our responsibility to choose, we give up our ability to make a difference. Today, of all days, honor your right and your responsibility to choose. Don’t take the easy way. Do something that will make a difference.

Standing Moderate

  • Posted on January 8, 2015 at 10:00 AM

Across the U.S., we’re being inundated with immoderate views. Recently, three men died instead of being taken into police custody. The issues are poignant: racism, police relations, recognition of authority, delegation of authority, and acceptability of subculture, to name a few. None of these issues usually appear on this blog.

I don’t write about racism or racial subcultures. But these events concern everyone, because the results of these events have included riots, public demonstrations, the assassination of police officers, and, of course, a whole lot of public commentary. Much of the latter involves individuals or organizations trying to use these “current events” to bolster their own positions by taking an immoderate stand for or against something pertaining to these tragedies.

I’ll take a stand, too. I believe people shouldn’t die because of their skin color. I believe police have a responsibility to protect themselves and others while on the job, because that is their job. I believe neither stand is the antithesis of the other.

There’s nothing extreme about my position; nonetheless, it’s controversial. One might assume that I believe the three men that died instead of being taken into police custody died because of their race. I don’t. In regards to the first two events, people came to these conclusions before the facts were made publicly available. They did so for two reasons: first, the media incited the public to believe that race was a factor in these events; and, second, people believed the claims purported in the media because they were inclined to believe them. Now that more facts have been made publicly available, the facts don’t seem to support the conclusions so many people reached directly after the incidents; yet, it’s easier for them to continue to believe in some great conspiratorial cover-up than to admit they were wrong. The truly sad and unfortunate part of this is that this country, this supposedly “free nation,” has a history of cover-ups just like the ones they suspect, so their positions aren’t implausible or even irrational. (In regards to the third incident, when you pull a gun on a police officer, you can expect to get shot—that’s what they’re trained to do!)

One might also assume that I think how the police handled these events was above reproach. I don’t. There is always room for reproach. But there is a difference between reproach and threatening their lives. There is a difference between reproach and rioting. There is most definitely a difference between reproach and assassinating random police officers. There is also a difference between reproach for its own sake and effective protests.

One person was sharing with me their take on the “die in” at the Mall of America. Yes, these people trespassed. Yes, they demonstrated on private property. Yes, it was disruptive. It was supposed to be disruptive. It was supposed to get attention. It was supposed to make the news! That’s what peaceful protest is all about!!! From everything I’ve read and everything I’ve heard, nobody got hurt, nobody was violent. They got their message across in a way we should be able to support.

Black lives matter. There’s nothing extreme about that statement. Police lives matter. There’s nothing extreme about that statement either. All lives matter. (Oddly enough, I’m told that that statement is very extreme. Go figure!)

Liberals, particularly extreme liberals, want to turn this—and have achieved some success in this regard—into a race war. Conservatives, particularly extreme conservatives, want to turn this—and have achieved some success in this regard—into a culture war. In the midst of these extremes, moderates (regardless of the way they lean) are most often silent; but, it’s not because they’re not talking, it because they’re drowned about by the loudness of the extremes.

We could all spend a lot of time pointing fingers and accomplishing nothing. For the most part, that’s what people have been doing. A riot will destroy lives and businesses, but it will go down in history and change nothing. Distorting the views of opponents, as many conservatives seem inclined to do, will create talk, sway the unwary, but will inevitably change nothing. We create change when we sit down, figure out what went wrong, and fix it.

That’s what moderates do. They try to find middle ground. They try to create solutions. They work with people who are different from them. They try to implement solutions. At least, that’s what they do when they have a chance to try.

This society that revolves so much around hits and likes and viewership doesn’t condone “moderacy.” In fact, “moderacy” isn’t even a recognized word. But immoderacy is. And that’s what we get, because that’s what bolsters ratings.

We don’t need ratings. We don’t need pundits. We don’t need riots. What we need are solutions.

Why Must There Be Two?

  • Posted on December 19, 2014 at 10:00 AM

I’m not sure if I’ve revealed the specifics yet, but I know I’ve reported my intention to start a nonprofit organization. In fact, I intend to start two from the very start. So, why, you might ask, must there be two?

The goal of both nonprofit organizations is to seriously improve the quality of life available to and experienced by people with neurological disabilities and/or differences, regardless of the severity of those disabilities and differences.

In order to do this, you have to proactively address two different spheres of influence: advocacy and service delivery.

On the one hand, you must work at the (inter)national level. You must raise understanding, awareness, and acceptance. You must advocate change. You must influence society. You must influence legislation. And you must cooperate with other disability organizations to accomplish all of this. This is the advocacy sphere.

On the other hand, you must work at the local level. You must provide opportunities for enrichment (building daily living skills, building social skills, building work skills, building household management skills, building business management skills, etc.) that meet the specific needs and goals of each individual. You must provide opportunities for employment (career planning, job hunting, business start-up, seed money, and job or business maintenance) that meet the specific needs and goals of each individual. You must also provide opportunities for empowerment (self-advocacy skills, issue advocacy skills, opportunities to advocate in the community, opportunities to advocate at home or with family, opportunities to advocate in the workplace, opportunities to advocate at the regional, national, or international levels) that meet the specific needs and goals of each individual. And you absolutely must have a way to navigate the various programs, services, and opportunities that are available in the local community so that the needs of each individual can be met and their goals can be achieved in a cost effective manner so the maximum number of people can be served with the resources available while still meeting quality standards. This is the service delivery sphere.

If you put these two spheres of activity together under the same organization, you’ll get an ineffective, inefficient organization. If, on the other hand, you have both spheres linked but separate, you can produce a powerful, driven set of organizations that meet the complex needs of people with neurological disabilities/differences in both areas that matter most. The (inter)national organization will actively advocate at the topmost levels of society; the local organization(s) will actively deliver the individualized services that are most desperately needed by people with neurological disabilities/differences. There will, of course, be overlap by design: the national organization will “seed” the local organizations, develop appropriate policies, and distribute the capital necessary to “plant” the organizations, while also holding functional local organizations to the conduct standards set in the organization’s charter; the local organizations will “feed” issues and problems to the national organization, which the national organization is responsible for addressing as the advocacy organization, and they will also develop the skills and provide the opportunities for volunteers/employees to move from the local to the national level.

I’ve been around enough to know that the way things are done for people in need—in the U.S. at least—has a tendency to function in such a way that creates dependence without really solving problems. A set of services are provided and people who need help can choose among the options that are available. If enough people have unmet needs after those selections are made, then a new service is created to meet those needs. But people aren’t individuals. Decisions are driven by statistics, metrics, and policy goals. The idea isn’t to help people; the idea is to help demographics. The result is that people aren’t really helped in a way that satisfies their needs, facilitates their goals, or solves their problems. This occurs, in part, because these decisions are made far away from the people who are actually in need, by policy makers operating at the national and state levels.

My goal is therefore two-fold. Create a system and processes that work by actually working with individuals with neurological disabilities and differences. The system and processes will be flexible enough to be individualized, but also knowledgeable enough to leverage available resources to provide as help as much as possible, yet independent enough to fill in the gaps as needed. This will transform the quality of life for the people I understand best and am most passionate about; yet, it will also create a model that can be used by other organizations (the national organization would facilitate this) in order to truly meet the needs of populations that my program is not designed to address.

Usually this kind of holistic solution-oriented service delivery is restricted to select localities. A few local areas work together to solve problems. These solutions become case studies that are offered to other communities. The process is replicated, though the same results are not always achieved because the solution-oriented spirit of the process is gutted from the service delivery design. My hope is that by combining the local impact with the national reach, I can change this. So, there has to be two organizations, inextricably linked, but independently functioning. There must be two.

Culture and Consciousness

  • Posted on November 10, 2014 at 11:21 AM

Clearly, it’s taking me longer to recover than one might think. I’m feeling much better than I have been, but if you could hear my voice you’d know first thing that I am still sick. I am still congested and still coughing quite a lot, though no longer so much and so deeply that my sides ache. What’s more obvious than that is that my voice is still recovering from a bout with laryngitis. Still, I have been “off” too long and I’m doing my best to get back to being productive. As I am starting to get back to work, I wanted to take a moment to share some of the thoughts that have been with me these past several weeks.

I’ve wanted to read James Charlton’s “Nothing About Us Without Us” for a while now, and I finally got my own copy. Currently, I’m reading five books at a time—each book covering a different subject. (This count does not include textbooks.) Don’t be too impressed, because I’m reading them all very slowly, because I’m not just reading them, I’m also reflecting upon their contents and studying them as deeply as I can. I like the eclectic nature of it, even if it means my progress is slower than it might otherwise be, because I come away with a much deeper understanding than a cursory reading would provide. Besides, sometimes the things I read from these different books click together in unexpected ways.

I hope you read my confession, because this is directly related to that post. Something that Charlton wrote on page 27 helped trigger the realization I describe in that post:

“Most people with disabilities actually come to believe that they are less normal, less capable than others. Self-pity, self-hate, shame, and other manifestations of this process are devastating for they prevent people with disabilities from knowing their real selves, their real needs, and their real capabilities and from recognizing the options they in fact have. False consciousness and alienation also obscure the source of their oppression.”

Charlton goes on to explore the meaning of consciousness, culminating (on page 29) in this:

“The point is that consciousness cannot be separated from the real world, from politics and culture. There is an important relationship between being and consciousness. Social being informs consciousness and consciousness informs being. There is mutual interplay. Consciousness is not a container that ideas and experiences are poured into. Consciousness is a process of awareness that is influenced by social conditions, chance, and innate cognition.”

I live in a culture that systemically devalues people with disabilities. I live in a caretaker culture, in which our government is expected to take care of people with a variety of disadvantages in a variety of ways that further reinforces the notion that they cannot take care of themselves. This culture is being reinforced through my “human resource management” studies, which consistently uses ablist language and caretaker ideas while purporting to support diversity.

It’s left me feeling like I’m getting it from all sides. On the one hand, I firmly believe that the “safety net” the U.S. and other “developed” nations provide is necessary and beneficial to society. Furthermore, I believe the “safety net” should be stronger than it is in the U.S. Simply put, some people fall through no (or little) fault of their own and these people “deserve” to be caught in the net. Other people fall due to their own failings and vices and, though they seem less “deserving,” it is still in the best interests of our society that these people are caught in the net. Finally, there are people who are “pushed” by our society, who have few natural chances to succeed, and need to be caught be the net. Unfortunately, the fact is that this “safety net” we’ve created often fails to catch people. But the true social crime is that we have inadequate means of helping people out of the net and back up into “regular” society.

On the other hand, I reject the paternalistic, caretaker attitude out society projects towards people who get caught by the net. (Note that these condescending attitudes are even stronger to those we’ve failed to catch in the net.) The underlying prejudice is that the people who provide the net are “better than” those who get caught in the net. Many of the existing mechanisms that are put into place to help people out of the net (or to make sure they don’t have to rely on the net at all) are just as paternalistic and condescending as the net itself, including affirmative action and the many other mechanisms that “promote diversity.” The idea here is that these people shouldn’t be treated differently; to ensure that they aren’t treated differently (because we know that they really are treated differently) we help them out of the net using “progressive” initiatives (because we know that they cannot succeed on their own). The whole system is a subtle, but powerful reinforcement of the underlying belief that the people our society casts off really are “less than” those that society embraces.

This is one of the reasons why I just can’t support Democrats. The language they use and the policies they so often create are just so patronizing that their underlying belief in inequality seems blatant to me and it’s offensive. But it’s also one of the reasons why I just can’t support Republicans, either. They’re less patronizing, but they’re also less apt to care enough to create the policies and programs that can actually help people. It’s frustrating, because neither the “safety net” nor the “hands up” need be patronizing or paternalistic. That attitude is not necessary, but it is beneficial if you’re more interested in maintaining a voter base than you are in actually helping people. The more people who are dependent on Democrats’ initiatives for basic survival the more people are likely to vote for them. And our bureaucracy often expresses both the political interests and the patronizing attitudes inherent in the system, when they’re not reinforcing them outright.

So, I’ve been struggling with my own limitations for over a month now. Not only have I been stressed beyond what I can bear, not only have I made myself quite literally ill (thrice over now), but I’ve also been imbibing this ablist garbage, while also reading two books (Charlton’s and a book about revising government) that help me to better envision how things could be. I’ve come away from this mess—rather I’m trying to climb out of this mess—feeling very weak indeed. Physically, I am weakened. More than that, I’m demoralized, because I’ve learned that I am not immune to this culture that I live in. I internalize it. When I’m strong enough, I reject it. Mentally, I reject it outright. But emotionally, when my filters and defenses are shredded, I internalize it and it sticks with me. I spew it back out in the form of self-talk that makes it harder to stand back up and get back to work. Then, I have to go back and clean the garbage out of my system by analyzing it, weighing its merits, and then discarding it once I realize (again) that it really doesn’t have any. Before all of this, I was arrogant enough to think I was immune to this garbage, because I was conscious of it. I know it is garbage, so why would I be susceptible to it! But it doesn’t work that way. Intellectually, perhaps I am immune, but how I feel is something entirely different. Sadly, I hear it, I feel it, and it hurts. When it gets its slimy tentacles tangled up inside me, it hurts more than I can bear.

It’s a Matter of Trust

  • Posted on September 10, 2014 at 10:00 AM

There are those who believe that people with autism, i.e. adults with autism who have the resources to self-advocate, should lead the discussions and decisions related to autism. Many of them have expressed it this belief as a matter of logic; others have expressed it as a matter of justice; and others have demanded it as their right. Those outside of these circles sometimes see this demand as self-advocates wanting to wrest the decision-making powers from parents and researchers and practitioners.

There is some truth to their claims on these powers, but there is also some untruth to these claims. With regards to researchers and practitioners, it’s a matter of scientific practice and scientific integrity. They want to control their own efforts, and they have a point in that regard; a scientist should not be forced to study something that does not interest him or her. Fortunately, the public doesn’t have to fund the objectionable research particular scientists may wish to engage in, but that doesn’t mean they won’t find funds elsewhere. But, for the moment, I’m not concerned with researchers or practitioners.

As a parent, I empathize with the position of parents. That position can easily be summarized: You don’t represent our children. Whether we’re talking about adults with autism or researchers and practitioners, the truth is that you do not represent our children, no matter how much you might want to do so. If our children are of age and have the necessary resources to self-advocate, then they can self-advocate and then we have to accept their rights to do so. If our children are not of age or cannot advocate for themselves, then we have the right and responsibility to advocate for them.

For some parents, it truly is a matter of power. Some parents continue to exercise excessive power over their children long after their children are able to engage in self-determination, self-advocacy, and self-fulfillment. They actively seek to deny their children the necessary resources to self-advocate in an attempt to maintain control of their children; they may also actively discourage self-advocacy. For the moment, I’m not concerned with them.

I’m concerned with the parents who advocate for their children because life has taught them that no one else will do so. I’m concerned with the parents who have been burned by school systems, medical facilities, and governing bodies. I’m concerned with the parents who know that their children’s interests are threatened and who stand up to speak out against those threats.

We will not let you advocate in the names of our children, because we don’t trust you. Our ability to trust has been damaged, assaulted, and betrayed. We’ve learned the hard way that “the system” doesn’t really protect our children’s interests unless we advocate for them. We recognize that you may be well-intentioned, but that doesn’t mean that you know what our children need. Furthermore, we recognize that you may not be well-intentioned; you may be self-serving and we know what serves you does not necessarily serve our children.

If you earn our trust, then we can cooperate with you and even collaborate with you. But we cannot step aside. We cannot leave the work for you to do. Our children need us to speak up. We cannot trust you to do so.

Is Peace Possible?

  • Posted on September 8, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Peace is an elusive concept in contemporary society. On the one hand, we fight wars abroad and we’re so comfortable in our lives that many seem to forget that we’ve been continuously at war for over a decade. On the other hand, we fight different kinds of wars on our streets—wars against immigrants, against drugs, against gangs, and against each other. If we had yet a third hand, we could count the verbal wars that take place in our political bodies, in our dialogues about significant matters, and even in our dialogues about trivial matters. And if we had yet a forth hand, we could count the wars that rage within each of us between what our conscience dictates and the weakness of our flesh—wars for our very souls. So, it seems self-evident that peace really isn’t possible.

There are powers within this world that would have us believe that is true, that peace isn’t possible; if we give up on peace, then we give those who want war power over us. Yet peace is a choice. We can make peace with ourselves, both between our spiritual potential and our earthly present. We can make peace with those we disagree with and even cooperate and collaborate with them. We can bridge the divides that separate us and make peace on our streets. We can even make peace in the world. So, contrary to the obvious, peace is possible.

The autism community is fractured. There is a side—a loud, squeaky-wheel, powerful side—that wants to do anything and everything to cure autism. There is a side—a loud, squeaky-wheel, growing side—that wants to do anything and everything to protect people with autism. There are various factions interspersed among these two sides that prove that our reality cannot be defined and delimited as a dichotomy. The autism community is at war.

There are some among us that will never choose peace. This is not due to their convictions that they are 100% right and the others are 100% wrong, as it may seem. It is because they want war, because they thrive on controversy, because they choose to grasp for power, to exert their control, to have their say, and to get their way. For some, war is a way of life, but these people are only a small percentage of the autism community. They succeed only because we let them.

Most of us want peace. We want cooperation. We want collaboration. We want things to get better. And we’re willing to work for it. But we feel overwhelmed and overwrought. It can be so hard simply getting through the day that we leave ourselves little energy for peacemaking. It seems easier to fight for the specific things we believe in and want than to make a peace that will provide those things. Besides, we have few contemporary examples on how to bridge such divisive issues into workable, cooperative, collaborative solutions. Is peace possible? Perhaps, perhaps not. The answer lies within us. We have to choose.

No Title

  • Posted on January 31, 2014 at 10:00 AM

As I start my second semester of public administration studies, I embark on a study of administrative ethics. Ethics has always been of great interest to me, because I feel it is very important, even essential, to do what is right as much as possible. If I am to increase the opportunities for me to do what is right, then I have to better understand what the right thing to do is. Ethics helps in that goal by helping me construct a framework to use when making decisions.

In my recent reading, I learned something new, something rather unexpected, and I’d like to share it with you. The text I’m reading now is The Responsible Administrator by Terry L. Cooper. According to Cooper, responsibility is a relatively new term coined after the American and French revolutions in response to the need of a new way to define “a common set of values among people of divergent cultures and traditions.”

Apparently, the change of political and governing structures did so much damage to our ideas of roles, structures, and obligations that we had to create a new framework for understanding and expressing our expectations for ethical behavior. Responsibility asserts obligations on individuals in order to describe and attribute obligations for achieving what is right.

In this sense, the idea of responsibility is evolving and adaptable as we learn more and more about what the consequences of behaviors and values can be, thereby bringing us—as a society and as individuals—closer to what is right.

Cooper asks, “What does it mean to be a responsible parent in the first decade of the twenty-first century? Or a responsible spouse, responsible citizen, responsible politician, or responsible public administrator?”

As a partial answer to this question, Cooper proposes, “Responsible administrators must be ethically sophisticated enough to reason with others about the ways in which their conduct serves the public interest and have sufficient clarity about their own professional ethical commitments to maintain integrity and a sense of self-esteem.”

Remembering that I am studying public administration with the intention of learning what I need to know to found my own nonprofit organization, which will serve people with neurological differences, I cannot help but apply these questions and this answer to my own areas of interest.

What does it mean to be a responsible parent of a child with autism? What does it mean to be a responsible citizen in a society with people with neurological differences? What does it mean to be a responsible founder of an organization intending to serve the needs and interests of people with neurological differences?

It is not enough to simply do what you believe is right. You need to be able to explain, articulate, and justify why it is right, because then you can apply the ethical standard more generally. For example, a responsible parent of a child with autism will not pursue treatments that endanger the life of their child, because the life of their child is more important than the outcome of the treatment. Projecting this value further, a responsible parent of a child with autism will not kill their child because the child’s autism is incurable, because the life of their child is more important than whether or not the child is autistic. By understanding and articulating our reasons and our justifications, we clarify our ethical standards and reveal lapses in ethical judgment.

Disability Employment: The Chronic Crisis

  • Posted on December 16, 2013 at 10:00 AM

In November 2013, 68.6% of Americans without disabilities participated in the workforce. Only 19.6% of Americans with disabilities participated in the workforce. Of the 68.6% of Americans without disabilities who participated in the workforce, 6.4% of them were unemployed. Of the 19.6% of Americans with disabilities who participated in the workforce, 12.3% of them were unemployed. This isn’t a lingering effect of the recession. This is a chronic problem that has gone on for years.

If it were any other American minority group, there would be public outcry and a demand for action. Unfortunately, people with disabilities don’t warrant that much attention from the general public. Despite the persistent prejudice against people with disabilities:

  • People with disabilities are employable.
  • People with disabilities can make substantial contributions as part of our workforce.
  • There is no excuse for these discrepancies.

I’m not going to dwell on this. The numbers speak for themselves. But I will return later this week with more information.

Embracing Differences

  • Posted on August 23, 2013 at 10:00 AM

It can be done.
I’ve seen it.
I’ve lived it.
It can be done!

Open your mind.
See who he is.
See what she brings.
Open your mind!

We can contribute.
We add value.
We add vision.
We can contribute!

We are here.
We live.
We love.
We are here!

It can be done.
Open the door.
Make the room.
It can be done!

Barriers

  • Posted on August 9, 2013 at 10:00 AM

When we first bought our house, we chose it in part because we loved the lay-out and we loved the woodwork. Enter the front door and go straight to go upstairs or turn left to enter the living room. But right there, between the living room and the front door, is a heavy wooden door tucked away in a pocket in the wall. Slide that door out and put a barrier between the upstairs and the downstairs, which can be very handy for our family.

A lot of people think that because we have three children with autism we have three children with the same needs. They don’t realize that the boys’ needs often conflict. For example, there are times when Ben needs quiet and Alex needs to make noise. We put barriers between them so both boys can have their needs met. Otherwise, fighting ensues. At times like these, that door is a blessing.

Other times, however, the door just seems like a barrier. Like when I come home with my arms full of groceries and I manage to enter the front door, only to be blocked further by the sliding door. Or when I’m coming downstairs, still more asleep than awake, and (almost) walk in to the sliding door, because I don’t quite see that it’s closed to me.

We have another sliding door on the main level. This one is between the playroom and the bigger boys’ new room (formerly the den). To keep his younger brothers out, Willy often shuts the door at night during those rare times when he goes to bed first. The problem is that we only have one bathroom on the main floor and it’s on the bedroom side of that sliding door. And that door has gotten rather noisy and uncooperative after Brandon and Willy roughed it up. So, when I have to go to the bathroom, I have to disturb Willy getting through that barrier.

It occurred to me that there’s a metaphor in these doors. Disability advocates are concerned with barriers. As advocates, we talk about how barriers most people in society can navigate easily can become overly limiting or even hazardous to people with disabilities. As advocates, we talk about tearing down barriers.

Once again annoyed that I had to navigate the sliding door with an armful of groceries, I resented the barrier. Once again annoyed that I had to navigate the sliding door when I needed to use the bathroom rather urgently, I resented the barrier. But after a day of resenting these barriers, I remembered that they serve a purpose. Not only that, but we bought this house because these sliding doors—these barriers—serve a purpose, a very important and valued purpose in our family.

Maybe it’s because I’m reading Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, which is a strangely enlightening look at neurotypical thinking. Maybe it’s because I’ve been thinking so much about what I’d like my future non-profit organization to do for people. Whatever the reason, it occurred to me that all these things we advocates refer to as barriers are also sliding doors. They serve a purpose. They are navigable to the people who designed them.

The barriers are a problem, because they are not inclusive and because they do keep people out. Our society is full of such barriers/sliding doors and the sum total is more disabling than the disabilities of those people who are kept out. But keeping people out is not their function. It’s not their purpose. Navigating barriers like these asserts a level of control over events and puts that control in the hands of the people who designed and used these barriers. So, when we talk about tearing down barriers we are rejecting not only the barrier, but the purpose the barrier was designed to serve and the people who designed what is from their own perspective a sliding door.

In short, it’s an attack. We’re saying they are wrong, selfish, thoughtless, and exclusive. Whether that’s true or not, from our perspective, it’s not true from their perspective. Even if they recognize that there is truth to the attack from our perspective, they’ll have trouble admitting it because we’ve put them on the defensive.

Instead of tearing down barriers, maybe what we need to do is work together to build better sliding doors.