Being privileged is not something you associate with being disabled. Nevertheless, it exists, if only in a vague roundabout way. And it starts with a piece of legislation designed to eliminate privilege – the Disability Discrimination Act.
This piece of legislation ensures that people with disabilities are given an equal chance to those without when it comes to things like applying for jobs and higher education. It requires that reasonable adjustment be made by the potential employer etc, so that the disabled person has the same opportunity as the non-disabled person for success. In a job situation, this might require the employer to ensure that there are ramps and/or lifts available throughout the job site, or that there is a quiet area where someone can go if they need to decompress. In an education setting, this might require making extra tuition available, or arranging for extra time in which to take the exam.
I am currently on an evening class for the Level 3 Award in Education and Training. It’s a new qualification replacing PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector), and it’s a continuous assessment course, with three assignments to complete. The first assignment was some weeks ago, and I handed it in on time. Had a tutorial afterwards where I got feedback about my submission, and I went away with a fairly good idea of what needed changing. I made the changes as best as I could interpret them, but apparently that wasn’t sufficient – I needed to include every single specific keyword in the assessment criteria, not simply describe the process of what that keyword actually means. So I was required to hand in another edited version of the assignment.
Hello Asperger’s! (Which is categorised as a learning disability, and includes in its’ characteristics a great difficulty in interpreting non-verbal communication and a consequent reluctance to do without 80% of comunication bandwidth (ie. use the telephone), social anxiety, and an abhorrence of paperwork) I mentioned my concerns to the course tutors without handing in another edited submission, and as everyone else on the course was frustrated by the pedantry of the external assessors, I was allowed to retain my existing submission, and the internal assessor agreed that it was enough for to pass with reasonable adjustment.
This wasn’t my first choice. I have never wanted to use my disability as a crutch, or as a way to get things made easier for me. I was quite prepared to re-submit my assignment if certain conditions were met (such as the exact words they wanted being flagged up), and pass on the same basis as the rest of the group, and considered fifteen minutes of the tutor’s time to be reasonable adjustment. Instead, things were made easier for me, and for the first time I have accessed disabled privilege.
I don’t like it.