So, let's talk about something I've been thinking about. Not to give too many details, but this summer I'm working with a program that helps youth with disabilities attain internships, and learn to advocate for themselves in the workplace. I'm a job coach--meaning I'm the one who goes to work with them in the beginning of the program and helps them figure out what adaptations they need to do their best work at the job. Job coaches also help the program supervisor with materials for the mandatory weekly workshops the interns have to attend. Most of what we're doing is that until Boston Public Schools get out next week.
Yesterday, we were working on the module on disclosure--telling employers/colleagues/friends about one's disability. This is a difficult thing for me, not because I'm hesitant to disclose. In fact, the opposite. I can't think of a time when I didn't readily admit to being disabled, in life or online. In a book I was reading today (one of Lennard J. Davis's tomes on disability studies) he mentions that people with disabilities do not have to identify as disabled online, but it never occurred to me not to. The effect my disability has on my life has always seemed too steady and influential to deny it. I've never been aware of stigmatization, either. For instance, I've always had to sit in the front row thanks to my low vision, but I never felt I was treated differently because of it.
But then, I'm the type of student who would have been in the front row anyway. Would things have been different if I'd have preferred to be in the back, and known that admitting to my visual impairment would mean being told to sit up front? There have been times during my secondary education when I've chosen to compensate in order to sit with my friends. (Often these days I won't be able to see no matter where I sit, thanks to classroom configuration, so I ask a friend to tell me what's written, or trust that the professor will repeat what they've copied onto the powerpoint).
Also, I've never, ever had a chance at "passing" (denying disability), so I don't quite understand doing it. All the literature we've read on disclosure for work implies that the reader will err on the side of hiding disability. In my opinion, that kind of attitude leads to shame and self-sabotaging attempts at compensation.
And maybe I need to think harder about that the next time I think I can deduce what's on the board.