I make no secret of the fact that during the couple of years prior to this one, I ended up in contact with people who run several different organisations concerned with better access to society at large for various individuals with various disabilities. And I have seen the word accessibility bandied about with such abandon that the Man From Mars would think that Herd Humanity had decided that it was the new “cooool” catchphrase.
But that begs a question, or rather a small mob of big questions, that I do not believe a lot of people have really thought about in a proper sense. Specifically, what is accessibility? How do we define it? And how do we achieve a desirable level of it?
Nowadays, computers and operating systems even come with a string of options or a submenu that is specifically labelled as being for accessibility. Options for users that have difficulties with seeing or hearing have been incorporated into submenus of numerous operating systems’ preferences panes. Some really thoughtful ones even incorporate options for individuals who experience difficulties with operating the keyboard or mouse or trackpad devices. Whilst I cannot comment on how accessible these options really make the operating systems or the computer, I can tell you one thing from a more unusual perspective. The world we live in has a long way to go before it can declare itself to be accessible to all types.
A lot of the problem with accessibility in today’s world has nothing to do with provisions or accomodations. Planners and accomodators can do all the providing and accomodating that they want. But as one disability advocate’s work and accounts thereof have made clear to me, the real barrier to access for a lot of individuals in our world, myself included, has to do with education. It is one thing to have ramps and elevators where one would normally put stairs, or to widen doorways for walking frames and motorised wheelchairs. But making managers understand why these things are needed, and making them make the staff under them understand why these things are needed, is an entirely different matter.
And it is this latter point, making the staff under a manager understand, that brings me to one of the biggest problems with accessibility from an autistic adult’s point of view. “I love people who make things,” Cadaveria sings at the beginning of Atypical Suggestions By A Dead Artist. “I love conversations. I saw people inside a wrapping, like a protective veil for their soul.” Let me tell you something. I love conversations, too, when they are with people who have demonstrable intelligence. Such is not the case with the overwhelming majority of the population of places like Queensland. Not by a long shot. In fact, whether it has been over the telephone or in person, the conversations I have had with Queenslanders have driven me to the point where I not only wish I were dead, but feel an overwhelming need to take everyone around me with me. I could probably fund the colonisation of at least two planets with the proceeds if I were paid a dollar for every time just listening to what came out of a Queenslander’s mouth made me wonder how Humanity has come to this. A classic example of this came today when I misdialled a call to the local medical clinic. Such was my misdial that I managed to reach a private home, little to my realisation at the time (my blood sugar was suboptimal, which did not help). Look, I hate to break this to you, Queenslanders, but when a person confusedly says “hello?” over the ‘phone after you have said same, simply repeating “hello” again and again tends to only piss them off. That is why professional secretaries ask questions that have direct answers, like “how may I help you?” or “how may I direct your call?”. Because it prompts a response from the caller that enables that recipient to help the caller. It is not rocket science, just the simple art of conversation.
Oh, and telling people repeatedly that they are breaking up when they are frequently pausing due to trouble with completing sentences, and interrupting them when they are trying to get words out in the process? Not on. I do not care if most of what is coming out of the ‘phone when I am on the other end is static. Telling me that I am breaking up is fine if you do it once. Telling me four times, each time interrupting me as I am trying to get out something that I feel is important, makes me want to punch you. Especially considering that I have complained to the company that provides my telephony about this multiple times in the past, and am still waiting for a satisfactory solution to the problem.
As a collorary to the above point, I think Queensland infects people who come to live in it with Queenslanderness. Seriously. Whilst I was residing in Melbourne, I was given a Uniden ‘phone that, although it allowed me to take the handset out of the house and speak whilst I was looking at something down the road, left a lot to be desired when the base unit’s hands-free function was being used. Whilst trying to talk to dear old mother on this ‘phone during one of the many times that the handset needed to be recharged, I kept trying to talk whilst no less than six times I was told that I sound like I am coming from far, far away. Yet when I protested that I had heard this once already, heard it twice, and every subsequent time since, and that there was nothing I could do due to the handset being in need of charging, they had the hide to get shirty with me about it. Eventually I discovered the real reason for the problem. You see, that particular Uniden ‘phone’s base module had the microphone for hands-free stuck in a recess in the bottom of the unit, pointing down at the surface that the base unit was sitting on. With a microphone set up like that, it was a wonder that I could be heard at all. But that is a moot point. The real point is this. Remember in Natural Born Killers when Robert Downey junior told one of the other actors “repetition works, David; repetition works, David”? Well, if you mean works in the sense that it makes one want to punch people you normally would not, then yes, it works admirably. When I am in conversation with someone and I ask them a probing question to try and shed more light on what they have just told me, them repeating exactly the same thing they have just told me, word for word, makes me want to thump them until their eyes roll back in their heads. And I generally tell them as much. And guess which part of this shithole country I was in when I encountered the most instances of this? Yup, it has the common noun for a female monarch in its name. So for the edification of those folks: when a person is trying to have a conversation with you about what they need done or need help with, and you are having a problem in terms of communication with them, once is enough in reporting it. It is like elevators. Once will get you the same speed and level of response as fifty times.
If you have read this far, you will likely have had two reactions. One group will wonder what the hell is the point of all of this. The other will have surmised that I am trying to say that people as well as locations and tools can have varying levels of what we (or I) call accessibility. If you belong to the latter group, then you are my kind of person.
And sadly, the fact that we do so little to address the accessibility of people also lends itself to having a lot of people who think they are accessible for whatever reason, but in reality are not. As I may have indicated, I have contact in varying amounts with people who are involved in securing greater accessibility both for individuals and the general groups that those individuals belong to.
Most of the people within this group. No wait, let me start again. The people I refer to presently are part of an organisation that organises their efforts. They generally come in three tiers. On one tier, we have the people I can have a conversation with and actually be okay with. These first tier souls are, sadly, a very small percentage thereof. Then there are the second tier characters. If I have business with them that I absolutely cannot put off, then I will deal with them as directly, quickly, and surgically as I possibly can. Get in, get what is needed, do what is necessary, get out again. But the third tier are the worst, and I would honestly rather bite my own fingers off on some occasions than so much as hear them speak. Which, of course, makes it logical that one of them happens to be in charge. I am not sure exactly how long I had been in contact with this group and this particular person from it for when this happened, but at one organised event about multiculturalism (in Queensland, that word has no meaning; at least, they have no fukking idea what it really means), as this individual was talking about me to several different people, I overheard her distinctly say “Dean’s from Maryborough”. Livid does not even begin to describe it. This was pretty much the first clue I had that this person was more interested in their idea of me and what I was rather than the actual me. I do not know how I am ever going to make this woman meet the real me, and quite frankly, I am disinclined to bother lately.
The image you see to the left of this paragraph is an aerial view of the place I am really from, and really grew up in. Judging from the absence of any twenty-floor buildings in this shot, it appears to correspond to what Parramatta was at least ten years ago. Yet it looks more developed than every single part of Queensland. If you voluntarily live in what I like to sneeringly call “Cuntborough” out loud to people who think the place is not a walking advertisement of the fact that sometimes genocide is a public service, then you already know the following. Based on the first image I put in this document (the side of a Westfield that is located… oh, guess where?), the chances that an intelligent Human being could mistake Cuntborough for Parramatta are somewhere between nil and the square root of minus one. That Westfield logo on the side of the building in the first image is bigger than Cuntborough.
Ray Price played what the people here call football, for Parramatta. He did so during my childhood, early parts thereof. Journalists and other players called him “Mr. Perpetual Motion”, because the entire opposing team could physically crash into him all at once, and he would still keep moving. Even among historians of the sport today, when you say “tougher than Dwarvish heavy armour”, you mean Ray Price. And let me reiterate: he played for Parramatta. That is the kind of place I am from, Cuntboroughans. Trying to convince me otherwise makes me angry enough that I could give you some idea of what it must have been like to get in Ray Price‘s way.
In other conversations I have attempted to conduct with this individual, she has told me that she dislikes the heroine of True Blood, one Sookie Stackhouse, for being the “stereotypical dumb blonde”. Excuse me, lady, but when you tell people that a person who was born in Parramatta in the same sense that Ozzy Osbourne was born in Birmingham is from Cuntborough, and right in front of them at that, any labelling on your part of anyone as anything dumb blonde is projection on your part. You are not just the picture they put next to dumb blonde in the dictionary. You are the legally retarded blonde. Deal with it.
Hence, if you were to come to me and ask me who the most inaccessible people in the English-speaking world are, my answer would be pretty much the entire populace of Queensland. And the reason that seals the deal for me is that if I said all of the above to what I like to refer to as Cuntslanders (this means pretty much every native of the state minus one), they would defensively cry and yammer about how unfair I am being. As opposed to doing what an educated man from Sydney does when told in very strong terms that what he and his society do is causing a resident great grief. That is, assess the criticism and its merits, and respond accordingly.
But then, stereotypical legally retarded blondes are unlikely to ever recognise that when they disgust a person who has more intelligence in his nose hair than they do in their entire body, it is generally for a reason. Hence, Cuntslanders are the single most inaccessible people I can imagine existing in the entire world.