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how i failed to get accommodations at work (or how work failed me...)

It’s too funny that I recently posted about needing accommodations for accomodations. Turns out that I should’ve figured out some way to ask for accommodations for accommodations since I failed in my attempt to get proper documentation or some such bureaucratic nonsense.

The situation was this:

I dutifully fill out the forms. See my doctor. He writes up a note about how I need a fragrance-free environment (which my supervisor has been really great about and no further action is needed) and ergonomics for my mouse and keyboard.

A week after I turn in my form I get a phone call. The person tells me that my doctor didn’t include enough details.

I responded with: I didn’t think we needed to include a diagnosis.

The reply: I don’t need a diagnosis but if my doctor could include some details about the muscular-skeletal whatever the fuck so that the ergonomist (!) knows what to look for.

Me: Um…..

Person continues: So I’ll call your doctor and get more details. The form you turned in authorizes me to do so.

Now. I’m not sure if I’ve made an explicit blog post about this but ppl who’ve been reading my stuff for a while will recall that I have extraordinarily slow processing speed. I process information s l o w l y. So it took me about a day to realize that, no, I didn’t want mpow to call my doctor. I end up sending an email withdrawing my request for accommodations.

See the thing that gets me about these processes is that there is always some hidden trap designed to discourage you. And, sadly, I always seem to fall into these traps. Which isn’t difficult given how difficult it is to find clear instructions on how to do any of this.

You know what my thesis supervisor once said? That the application process for PhD programs was purposefully difficult as the first round of weeding. As in: An inability to correctly follow the application instructions was a red flag indicating that you’re unsuited. I’ve heard the same thing said about job applications.

Inasmuch as I can stomach those situations, which is not at all, I’m pretty sure this also applies to situations like this. In the past I’ve written about the free-loader problem.

To refresh: the freeloader problem is about we tend to work collectively to benefit not only each member within the group but the group as a whole. Except that there are usually some members in the group who do not contribute but still reap the benefits of collective good.

Now before anyone starts thinking of lazy, good-for-nothing ppl who are scamming the system, there are a lot of reasons why a person may not be able to contribute. Perhaps they are disabled and simply cannot. Maybe they are too young do too much at all. Or too old. That said, yes, there will always be some who are lazy.

Now the crux of the problem here is that it can be difficult (perhaps impossible) to distinguish between those who do not contribute because they can’t and those who don’t because they don’t want to.

You’re probably getting the picture now. The freeloader problem is at the heart of pretty much every debate about social services. You’ll probably also recognize that the usual solution (besides simply cutting the service) is to create ever more checks on the system and/or ever more surveillance. The bureaucratic processes essentially are designed to labourious for the very fact that they are intended to weed out the illegitimate freeloaders from the real.

And I’ve just been weeded. Which is the main reason why the common ‘solution’ isn’t a solution at all. A social service that results in more false-negatives than false-positives is essentially failing its intended purpose.

One other solution (and this is the one I favour) is to simply not care if there are false-positives. In other words: if a person chooses to be lazy and just reap the benefits from everyone else’s labour, that’s okay. Because something like ergonomic keyboards and mice should be available to everyone (at work) without the need for a doctor’s note. The harm that can come from using standard mice and keyboards is well-documented. So if you want them, you should get them (recall I’m speaking in the context of my workplace).

I know a lot of ppl are going “that’s bullshit”. But honestly? Most of the counter-arguments to this position assume a framework of capitalist productivity. As in: every person capable of work must work for ever increasing productivity.

I’m also somewhat basing this off of human behaviour and history. Most people like doing stuff. Pretty much everything we can tell from the sum total of human history is that our existence has never been about survival only or some kind of social darwinism. The existence of art/music/etc basically demonstrates that labour not strictly related to survival was valued. I can’t think of any culture that advocated killing off the elderly because they couldn’t contribute to the survival of the group.

Its really a capitalist notion to think that ‘labour’ that doesn’t contribute to productivity isn’t actually ‘labour’. And that people who can’t labour at all become burdens since they no longer contribute to productivity.

So yeah. I think social services and things like getting accomodation at work should be relatively simple and straightforward processes. Simple enough that ill-intentioned ppl could abuse the system with very little effort.