This post is part of Blogging Against Disablism Day:
It started when they moved the faculty lounge to the second floor. The faculty lounge is important for two reasons. Not because anyone lounges there but because our mailboxes, which we are required to check daily, live there. Also, they contain the only bathrooms on campus furnished with the luxury of a spare roll of toilet paper in case the first runs out. When there are only five minutes between classes, I don’t exactly have time to drip dry.
Unfortunately, when there are only five minutes between classes, peeing in the faculty bathroom is nothing but a far-off dream. More to the point, though, on a bad pain day, I can’t really get up the stairs in any meaningful time frame. Additionally, with a bleeding disorder, sometimes getting to the bathroom, any bathroom, launches itself from convenience to immediate necessity. In short, moving the faculty lounge upstairs meant I could no longer handle some facets of my job — checking my mailbox daily, inability to go 3.5 hours between bathroom visits — without accommodation.
And I was scared to ask.
First, in terms of claiming I can’t always do stairs, I fit the standard definition of “but you don’t look sick.” That is, I appear mobile on stationary, level surfaces. In fact, sometimes, I even enjoy — and talk about — being pretty active and athletic on those types of surfaces. (Trufax: On bad pain days, hill running is optional. Changing my cup at work, not so much.) Second, part of my need for accommodation has to do with “wimmin’s things” and also blood. There are all kinds of reasons a supervisor at work could react to my concerns as if they’re fabricated, exaggerated, silly, or plain gross. I was worried about those not only as personal reactions from people, but also as reactions that could result in ungood professional consequences for me.
I’m good at my job. How fast I can climb stairs or how often I end up filling my menstrual cup is unrelated to what makes me a good teacher.
Fortunately, when I asked, the people who responded were understanding, professional, and responsive. I received both key access to the building’s elevator as well as an arranged system with my neighboring teacher, who also happened to be my department chair for how to handle emergency gushing sessions. Dealing with my endo continued to be supremely unfun, but at least I wasn’t worried about work logistics complicating the issue.
But. Time passed. Employee assignments shuffled. I’m in a different department. Both the department chair and the assistant principal I’d originally come to with my concerns have moved on to positions at different schools. (Relatively up the employment ladder for both of them, perhaps as a result of them also being damn good at their own jobs.) The people who had been looking out for me — in fact, the only people who had known about my endo — are gone.
And now I’m moving too. Same school, but a different program and different building. I don’t know where my room will be next year, or what it will mean in relation to my mobility and blood-gushing needs. Part of me thinks I should speak up. My current supervisor is, by my own experience, as fair and understanding as the one who came before. If everyone is open and reasonable, odds are pretty strong that we could come up with a new set of workable accommodations.
Once again, though, I am scared to ask. For all of the same reasons — fear I will be ignored, fear I will be belittled. And most of all, fear that people will think I am somehow incompetent or unable — and a lot of times, people conflate the two — at my job. Regardless of what should happen, what does happen is that I worry that people will confuse “I need help with the logistics” — which are, after all, really arbitrary here — with me being a fundamentally inadequate teacher.
It is, perhaps, ableism at its most efficient. I’ve internalized the anticipated negative responses so well that no one even has to tell me “no.” I’m scared to ask… and so I don’t.