Suppose you came to work one morning and discovered they’d given you a three legged desk. In turn everything that should be on the desk is on the floor. The three legged desk leans against the wall awaiting leg number four.
You think “aha, someone will solve this problem” and call the furniture department. “We can’t get four legged desks for everybody,” they tell you. “We’re in a hurry around here,” they say. “Unfortunately some people get the three legged desks, it can’t be helped.”
You say something about equal opportunity but they shrug and offer to send a desk specialist to assist you.
When the DS arrives he’s pushing a wheelbarrow filled with an odd assortment of tattered books.
“I’ve got old dictionaries, yellowed paperbacks, outdated textbooks, even a collected grammar of the Finnish language,” he says proudly.
“What we do is this: we will stack books where your fourth leg should be.”
“Your job is to pretend you’re working and also hold the desk steady as I try out different combinations of books—you know, a tower of discarded editions.”
Now or course they never get the desk right and the solution to your dilemma, the jerry rigged tower of castoff books doesn’t really work, but the desk specialist is satisfied.
The story above illustrates what it’s like to have a disability in the workplace and experience a rather unending series of inaccessible websites, programs, software applications, etc.
When the central administration buys into something that’s the equivalent of the three legged desk in digital domains they send the equivalent of the desk specialist, who asks you to be patient while they fail to rectify the problem.
I work at a great university but the problems of access for me remain almost comedic.
They’re sorry they bought inaccessible software, sorry over and over.
“Eventually he’ll get used to the tripod desk,” someone inevitably says.
ABOUT: Stephen Kuusisto is the author of the memoirs Have Dog, Will Travel; Planet of the Blind (a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”); and Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening and of the poetry collections Only Bread, Only Light and Letters to Borges. A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a Fulbright Scholar, he has taught at the University of Iowa, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and Ohio State University. He currently teaches at Syracuse University where he holds a University Professorship in Disability Studies. He is a frequent speaker in the US and abroad. His website is StephenKuusisto.com.
(Photo picturing the cover of Stephen Kuusisto’s new memoir “Have Dog, Will Travel” along with his former guide dogs Nira (top) and Corky, bottom.) Bottom photo by Marion Ettlinger