don't be a jerk

Access straw men

A lot of people are reluctant to change anything for the sake of accessibility, even if the change would be inexpensive and easy. Often, they resist even considering the possibility that there are changes they could make that would enable a broader range of people to participate.

Often, they set up access strawmen as a way to avoid negotiating access. 

Those conversations go like this:

  • The disabled person asks for a modification of some sort.
  • The resistant person ignores the actual request.
  • They instead describe something vaguely related that’s obviously unreasonable.
  • Then they insinuate that the disabled person asked them for the obviously unreasonable thing
  • They implore the disabled person to be more flexible and reasonable
  • The disabled person generally doesn’t get their needs met, and often ends up disoriented and feeling a lot of shame

An example:

  • Douglas: I can’t climb stairs. I need class to be held in a room on the first floor.
  • Roger: It sounds like what you really need is for all the buildings to be rebuilt for you. I can’t rebuild all the buildings; I have to focus on teaching.

Or sometimes:

  • Dawn: I can only read lips if people are looking at me. Can we talk about how to make class discussions work?
  • Robin: I can’t stop other students from talking to each other. Why don’t you take this opportunity to work on your listening skills?

When a person with a disability asks for an accommodation in school, work, a conference, or wherever, don’t set up a straw man to reject. Respond to the actual problem, and try to find a solution. Is there  a way to do the thing they’re asking for? If not, why not? Is there something else you *could* do that would work? Occasionally there is no good solution; more often, there is a way to make things work. When people in positions of responsibility are willing to look for access solutions and put effort into implementing them, a lot of things become possible.

Teasing friends

Submitting anonymously: 

I’m autistic, and I’ve learned to tease my friends as a social skill. I think it’s ok to tease your friends a little bit, but sometimes I think I go just a little bit too far.

My friends don’t say anything, though. The teasing has become sort of mechanical and ingrained at this point, but I want to learn how to not tease my friends so much. 

Do you know how I can cut back on teasing my friends?

realsocialskills said:

I think the most important thing is to make sure that your friends know you care how they feel. And to make sure that you’re paying attention to how they feel.

It’s ok to tease your friends so long as you’re both enjoying it. Making fun of one another in good-natured ways is part of a lot of friendships. What’s bad is to make fun of someone in a way that actually hurts them. If it hurts them, then it’s not friendly anymore, even if you didn’t mean to hurt them.

One rule of thumb is: don’t tease your friends about things they’re actually for-real painfully insecure about. That just ends up hurting. 

It’s also important to pay attention to their reaction. If your friends are enjoying the teasing, they’ll likely respond back. If they’re not, they’ll likely not respond, or look upset. If they’re not actively looking like they’re into it, it’s a sign that you’ve probably crossed a line and hurt them. If that happens, back off and maybe apologize.

That goes double if your friends tell you it hurts them. A lot of people who either like hurting others or don’t care how people feel use fake-friendly teasing as a cover for being mean. When someone expresses hurt, they say things like “I was just kidding, don’t be so sensitive.” Don’t do that. If your friends are hurt by something you said about them, take that seriously and apologize. Everyone makes mistakes that hurt other people sometimes. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a big deal.

It also might help to ask your friends what they think. Eg, by asking one of your friends something like “I think I’ve been going too far when I joke around. Do you think I’m upsetting people?”

Anyone else want to weigh in? How have you found ways to be kinder in your interactions with friends?

Teasing friends

pobody:

realsocialskills:

Submitting anonymously:

I’m autistic, and I’ve learned to tease my friends as a social skill. I think it’s ok to tease your friends a little bit, but sometimes I think I go just a little bit too far.

My friends don’t say anything, though. The teasing has become sort of mechanical and ingrained at this point, but I want to learn how to not tease my friends so much.

Do you know how I can cut back on teasing my friends?

realsocialskills said:

I think the most important thing is to make sure that your friends know you care how they feel. And to make sure that you’re paying attention to how they feel.

It’s ok to tease your friends so long as you’re both enjoying it. Making fun of one another in good-natured ways is part of a lot of friendships. What’s bad is to make fun of someone in a way that actually hurts them. If it hurts them, then it’s not friendly anymore, even if you didn’t mean to hurt them.

One rule of thumb is: don’t tease your friends about things they’re actually for-real painfully insecure about. That just ends up hurting.

It’s also important to pay attention to their reaction. If your friends are enjoying the teasing, they’ll likely respond back. If they’re not, they’ll likely not respond, or look upset. If they’re not actively looking like they’re into it, it’s a sign that you’ve probably crossed a line and hurt them. If that happens, back off and maybe apologize.

That goes double if your friends tell you it hurts them. A lot of people who either like hurting others or don’t care how people feel use fake-friendly teasing as a cover for being mean. When someone expresses hurt, they say things like “I was just kidding, don’t be so sensitive.” Don’t do that. If your friends are hurt by something you said about them, take that seriously and apologize. Everyone makes mistakes that hurt other people sometimes. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a big deal.

It also might help to ask your friends what they think. Eg, by asking one of your friends something like “I think I’ve been going too far when I joke around. Do you think I’m upsetting people?”

Anyone else want to weigh in? How have you found ways to be kinder in your interactions with friends?

pobody said:

Another important thing to keep in mind is everybody’s mood at the time you want to tease them. People are generally more open to teasing when they’re happy and relaxed. If someone is stressed out or having a bad day there’s a bigger risk they won’t take it well. Sometimes you can lighten the mood by cracking a joke, but it can be hard to gauge whether it’s going to go over well. Something you think is innocuous can always be taken the wrong way, but especially if the person is already on edge.

Going hand-in-hand with this is tone. People sometimes think they’re saying something nicely but for whatever reason it either comes out or is received as nasty. The same remark can sound fun and jokey or rude and snarky depending on very small changes in voice, facial expression, and body language. Keep in mind too, even if you say something ostebsibly harmless in a nice-joking way, if the person is in a bad mood they can still take offense.

Sometimes when people are really hurt by your comments they’ll go quiet and act hurt, but sometimes they will lash out and mean-tease you back or even start a full-on argument. If you notice the joking has taken a harsh turn, try to think if you touched a nerve that might have set them off. If you did, and you apologize, it might inspire them to apologize back (it might not. Some people are too proud to apologize. This can lead to bigger problems.) This isnt to say if someone is mean to you that it’s your fault, but in some cases both parties do need to review their actions.

Don't be mean to fat disabled people

Some disabled people are fat.

Some fat disabled people have mobility impairments, and need to use wheelchairs and scooters.

Some fat disabled people need to sit down a lot.

Some fat disabled people need to park in handicapped parking.

Some fat disabled people need to sit in the disabled seating on busses.

Some fat disabled people need to use the bathroom stall that has grab bars.

Some people act like fat people are somehow “not really disabled, just fat” as though the two are somehow mutually exclusive. They’re not. Fat is not a cure for disability. Fat disabled people are as disabled as thin disabled people. Fat people have every right to exist in public and use mobility aids and other adaptations.

Some people act like being mean to disabled fat people will somehow force them to stop being fat and disabled. It won’t. Being mean is not a cure. If you yell at a fat disabled person for needing to park close to the building, it won’t give them the ability to walk further safely. It will just mean that their day got worse because someone decided to be pointlessly cruel to them.

tl;dr Fat disabled people exist, and have a legitimate need for access and accommodations. Being mean to fat disabled people for having access needs doesn’t cure their disability. It just makes the world a crueler place. Don’t be a jerk.

Be nice to phone support people.

People who answer customer service lines have to deal with angry people all day.

If you have to call them when something broke and you’re angry, don’t be mean to them. It’s not their fault the thing broke or that the company did something unreasonable. Being mean to them will not get revenge on the company, and it will not make the company suddenly realize that they have to start being reasonable.

All being mean will accomplish is making someone’s else’s day worse.

Remember that there’s a person there on the other end of the line, and that they’ve been dealing with the brunt of frustrated angry people all day. Don’t be a jerk to them.

Service dogs aren't just for blind people

Not everyone who has a service dog is blind. You may sometimes notice a person with a service dog looking at things. That doesn’t mean that their dog is fake or that they’re not really disabled. It just means that they have a service dog and some usable vision. There are a lot of reasons that peope work with service dogs (or other service animals):


For instance:

Also, they might be with a dog for the same reason as a completely blind person. Some partially sighted people have some usable vision, but still need a guide dog or a cane in order to navigate safely. 

  • Some people who can’t see well enough to navigate can read
  • Some people who can’t see well enough to detect swift-moving hazards can see well enough to tell the difference between still objects they’re looking at
  • Some partially sighted people enjoy looking at things like lights and flowers, but need to rely on senses other than vision for most things
  • People who have partial vision have the right to use it 
  • They also have the right to work with service animals or use assistive devices they need
  • It’s not either/or; people should never be forced into the position of choosing between using their vision and doing what they need to do to have full mobility 


tl;dr Don’t assume someone is faking their need for a service dog if you see them reading or looking at things. They might be partially sighted, or they might have a dog to help them for reasons related to a different disability. Disability is complicated, and you shouldn’t be judging the adaptative choices made by random strangers.

Don't be a jerk to people working on Thanksgiving

So, I’ve seen a variantion on this a lot:

  • It’s Thanksgiving.
  • Bob wants some delicious ice cream to put on his pie.
  • He forgot to buy it before Thanksgiving 
  • So he goes to the grocery store to get some.
  • He sees some people working in the store
  • Bob feels guilty because those people don’t get to be home with their families like he does. Or offended that people are dishonoring the holiday by working on it.
  • So he says something like “Working on Thanksgiving! That’s terrible.” Or “Wow, they have you working today? On a holiday?!”

This is obnoxious. If you buy stuff in a store on Thanksgiving, don’t do this to the people working there. The store is open because people, including you, want to shop in the store. The people who are working on Thanksgiving are making it possible for you to buy things on Thanksgiving. It’s important to be respectful about that.

If you have a problem with stores being open on Thanksgiving, consider not shopping on Thanksgiving. And consider taking it up with the owners or corporate office. Don’t take it out on the people who have to work on Thanksgiving. It’s not their fault, and they’re very likely not doing it willingly. 

If you want to say something to acknowledge the situation, say thank you. Don’t dump your feelings of guilt on someone who is working on Thanksgiving - that won’t do them any good. Instead, either just buy the stuff normally, or say something like “Thank you for opening. I really appreciate being able to buy these things.”

tl;dr Be respectful towards people who work in stores on Thanksgiving. Don’t judge them and don’t dump guilty feelings on them. 

Some people don't celebrate Thanksgiving

In the United States, some people think of Thanksgiving as “the holiday everyone celebrates”, in part because it is celebrated by many people who don’t celebrate Christmas. But not everyone in the US celebrates Thanksgiving, and it’s important to acknowledge this. 

Some reasons some people don’t celebrate;

  • Thanksgiving has racist origins and is still used to teach racist ideas about Pilgrims and Indians.
  • (United American Indians of New England holds an annual Day of Mourning protest against Thanksgiving)
  • Some people follow religions that prohibit celebrating holidays, or that prohibit celebrating non-religious holidays
  • Some people have eating disorders that make food-based holidays triggering or unpleasant
  • Some people are alienated from family and find celebrating holidays unbearable
  • Some people just don’t like it, or don’t want to
  • Or any number of other reasons

If you celebrate Thanksgiving, don’t be a jerk to people who don’t. They have their reasons, which are their business and not yours. Don’t try to insist to them that everyone celebrates Thanksgiving, and don’t complain to others about their practices.

And especially, don’t suggest that not celebrating Thanksgiving means that they are somehow opposing broad values like gratitude, togetherness, delicious food, love, or peace. It just means they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving for whatever reason.

Some people don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, and that’s ok. You can connect with them at other times. Don’t be a jerk about the fact that there’s one day of the year where your practices are different than theirs.

Dwarfism awareness - thoughts on doing right by adult little people

I wrote this post for Dwarfism Awareness Month (which was in October) in collaboration with a friend who is a little person. It wasn’t ready until now, so I am posting it now.

Here are some things worth knowing:

Adult little people are adults, but people often treat them like children. You might be doing this too, and it’s important to get over that. Many people strongly associate being a certain size with being a young child. It’s important to be aware that not everyone that size is actually a child, and to act to mitigate any reactions you might be having that lead you to see an adult little person as a young child.

For instance, at work:

  • If you’re in a professional setting and someone is wearing professional clothing and acting like a professional adult, they’re not ten years old.
  • If you keep viscerally responding as though they are a child, it’s important to realize that it’s not ok and get over it. Don’t express that reaction, and don’t try to justify it.
  • Treat them as an adult
  • Respect their professional competence
  • If they are above you in the hierarchy, do not treat them as junior
  • If they are at your level in the hierarchy, do not treat them as junior
  • If they are actually junior, do not treat them like a visiting child or a teenager getting work experience. Respect them as an adult professional.

Another example: bars:

  • If you are in a bar, and someone is wearing adult clothing, acting like an adult, and drinking beer, they are not ten years old
  • They are an adult drinking beer in a bar
  • This is not a problem. This is something that many adults choose to do.
  • Do not look around for a caregiver. Adults do not have to bring minders to bars.
  • Do not ask them if they are ok unless you have an actual reason to think they might not be. Being a little person in a bar is not cause for concern in itself
  • If they are flirting with someone, this is not cause for concern either
  • Many adults flirt with people in bars. This is a thing that people do.
  • (Also, do not make jokes about tossing them, ask to toss them, or in any other way treat them as a toy. Adults have the right to drink beer in bars without being treated as a novelty attraction.)

And when you’re setting up an environment, remember that some adults are less than 4'10" and some are much shorter than that. Adult little people need access to anything that other adults need access to.

More specifically:

Adult little people need to be able to get through doors:

  • If you use a latch high on the door to prevent children from entering or exiting, you’re also making it impossible for adults of the same height to enter or exist
  • Latches need to be in places that adult little people can reach
  • Adults with disabilities should not be locked in like little children
  • If for some reason this kind of safety system is unavoidable, there needs to be an alternative way in and out that is reliably available
  • And you need to make it clear what that is

Keep this in mind when you put things on shelves:

  • If you’re putting things on shelves that a four foot tall person could not reach, you need an alternative way of reaching the thing
  • Or to put the thing in a lower place.
  • Keep in mind that if you put something on a high shelf in order to prevent children from reaching it, you’re also preventing adult little people from reaching it
  • Consider alternatives such as using child locks or supervising children more closely
  • (Or reconsidering whether the thing actually needs to be restricted. Eg: It might not actually be so terrible if your 7 year old students can reach the copier paper. You might not actually need an adults-only candy jar (and if you do, it’s not so nice to keep it where kids can see it anyway.))
  • If putting things on high shelves for safety reasons is truly unavoidable, make sure that there is an alternative way for adult little people to access them *and that you make it known what that way is*.

More generally:

  • Do not simplify your language the way you might when talking to a young child.
  • Do not assume that an adult little person is unemployed or only employed in a sheltered workshop or in jobs that can be done by children and teenagers.
  • Do treat adult little people as the age they actually are. (Eg: if they are elderly, don’t treat them as though they’re 20).
  • Do not ask invasive medical questions.

tl;dr Adult little people are adults. Since many of them are the same height as young children, a lot of people treat them like children. Don’t do that. Also, make sure that you’re configuring things so that short adults can do the things that adults need to do.

Are any of y'all reading this adult or teenage little people who would like to weigh in? Is this post correct? Is there anything you’d like to add or contradict?

Blackface Halloween costumes hurt people

If you are white (or not black), it’s very important that your Halloween costume not incorporate blackface. Blackface means painting your face brown or black as part of a costume of a black character.

Blackface is racist because it is part of a long tradition of white people dehumanizing black people. White people put on shows where they would paint their faces black and act out extremely racist stereotypes for their entertainment.

This was an extremely popular form of entertainment among white people, not limited to particularly horrible people. Blackface as a form of intentionally racist entertainment has become a lot less socially acceptable since the 60s, but it has not died out completely. (And many people are old enough to remember it being extremely popular, and many more people are old enough to have parents who remember that.)

On Halloween, some white people continue the blackface tradition. They paint their faces black or brown and dress up as racial stereotypes. (Eg: calling themselves thug or ghetto). That’s wrong.

But even if you’re not doing it on purpose, even if you don’t mean to dress up like a stereotype, if you paint your face as part of dressing up as someone who is black or a character who is black, you will end up dressed as a racial stereotype. You will end up participating in the same tradition of mocking black people, together with the people who are doing it on purpose.

For instance, if you admire President Obama greatly and want to dress up as him for Halloween, you would still be invoking a racist trope and hurting people if you painted your face brown as part of the costume. If you want to dress up as the President, dress as the President, not a racial stereotype.

Some other forms of face painting are different. For instance, it’s ok to paint your face white and dress up like a clown. That’s because clowns are just clowns; they’re not part of a tradition of dehumanizing others for entertainment. History and symbolism matter, and they’re about how they’re perceived as much as your intentions.

If you use blackface in your costume, regardless of what you intend to dress up as, you will inevitably actually be dressed a racist symbol, and that will hurt people.

If you need ideas about other things to dress up as, this post on costumes might be a starting place.

This Halloween, don't be a jerk

On Halloween, some people end up being really mean to other people, sometimes unintentionally and sometimes on purpose.

Some considerations for avoiding being a jerk:

Not everyone likes to be startled or scared:

  • Scaring people is a major part of Halloween tradition, and it’s ok to like it
  • But it’s also ok not to like it
  • And it’s wrong to scare or startle people who don’t like to be scared
  • Being scared when you don’t want to be is really, really unpleasant
  • It can also be physically or psychologically dangerous for a lot of people.
  • If you know someone doesn’t like to be scared, don’t scare them
  • If you don’t know whether someone likes to be scared, don’t scare them
  • If you think someone likes to be scared and it turns out they don’t, apologize and don’t do it again
  • If scaring people is really really important to you, consider working or volunteering at a haunted house, or making your own haunted house.
  • Scaring is ok, but it needs to be consensual

Don’t wreck people’s stuff:

  • Some people like to smash jack-o-lanterns or other decorations, sometimes at the end of the night
  • This is a mean thing to do, especially because some people, particularly children, get really emotionally attached to their decorations
  • (Especially if they have put a lot of work into creating them)
  • Some people might try to convince you that it’s just the done thing and that it doesn’t really upset anyone, but they’re wrong
  • Breaking people’s stuff is mean
  • If you want to smash pumpkins, get your own pumpkins to smash

Don’t be a jerk to people who don’t participate in trick or treating:

  • Most adults who live in areas in which kids trick or treat are happy to participate
  • It’s a good thing to do, but it’s not something anyone is obligated to do
  • Some adults don’t participate, and that’s ok
  • They might not be able to afford to buy candy
  • They might not be able to get up so much or tolerate constant interaction/doorbell ringing.
  • Halloween might be against their religion
  • They might not want to participate for any number of other reasons
  • That’s a legitimate choice, no matter why they don’t do it
  • Some people punish people who don’t participate by egging or tping their house, or banging out the door over and over.
  • Those are really mean things to do. Don’t do it.
  • Trick or treating requires consent, and it’s not ok to be mean to people who don’t participate

Just, generally speaking - if something would normally be mean, it’s mean on Halloween. If something would normally require consent, it requires consent on Halloween. Don’t be a jerk.

delcat:

Respecting wheelchair users who can walk

realsocialskills:

People use wheelchairs for a lot of different reasons.

Some people use wheelchairs because they are paralyzed and completely unable to walk. That is not the only reason people use wheelchairs, and many wheelchair users have some ability to walk.

Here are some reasons some…

delcat said:

Also respectful: Not making comments like “Look at you go!” unless they’re like popping mad wheelies and half-pipes and whatever the kids are doing these days I don’t even know, but seriously don’t express marvel that someone can locomote that is a douche thing

deliciousdannydevito:

Black Friday is coming up, so here’s a reminder to everyone to be kind to retail workers. They do not control the stock, so don’t yell at them if that doorbuster you were after sold out before you got there. A lot of them had to come into work right after Thanksgiving dinner (especially now that stores are opening on Thanksgiving evening/midnight Black Friday). A lot of them also have anxiety issues, but can’t avoid the crowd and the stress that comes with working/attending Black Friday without risking the loss of their job. And a whole lot of them have to do this for minimum wage.

Every year there are injuries and even fatalities that result from the mob-mentality of Black Friday shoppers. Please do not make it any harder on the employees or your fellow shoppers. A person’s life and well-being is far more valuable than a widescreen tv.