It is as simple as that.
The implication behind accommodation through diagnosis is that the accommodation is "cheating" or providing some kind of "unfair advantage." And that means that those who need to use those alternate methods are permanently seen as lesser human beings - Children of a Lesser God - in one of my favorite descriptive phrases.
On this Blogging Against Disablism Day that is what I think needs to be said, and said loudly, and said continually, because very few understand this, or want to think about this - hell - very few in the Special Education Department at my university can comprehend this issue - and even fewer are willing to try to do anything about it, and unless the link between diagnosis and accommodation is broken (which is a link between pathology and sympathy, not humans and rights), progress will never get us where we want to go.
Because, obviously, if accommodations were not "cheating," were not offering "unfair advantage," everyone would be able to use them. Just as everyone gets to use all the "assistive technologies" everybody uses: cars (are you "able" to walk to your job 15 miles from your house each day?), elevators (are you able to get to your 27th floor office via the stairs every day?), ladders (can't reach that? must be something wrong with you), power tools (what? you can't saw 50 pieces of lumber accurately by hand this morning? you a cripple or something?), even those books which mean that dumb, lazy "normal readers" don't have to remember everything.
So it is time to say it, and say it every day. There is no normal. There is no normal way to read, or to write, or to listen, or to see, or to get from here to there. There are simply ways of doing things, and the ways which work best for each human individual will vary - based in human capability and human desire and human preference. And it is in individual choice that technique decision making must be based - not the diagnosis that I, or you, or we, are the victims of some pathology which infantilizes us.
This is why I argue every day for Universal Design, and this is why I recently refused accommodations from my university, when they wanted "proof of disability." "I won't," I said, "I know you'll think this is political grandstanding, and it is political grandstanding, but my opposition to this is at the core of why I am here."
Forty years ago this May the students, and eventually, many of the workers of France took on the French government in legendary protests against a state ruled by too many rules and too many norms. They may have been beaten in the streets by the cops, and tear-gassed, and arrested. They may have lost the big battles, that "third Napoleon" - Charles DeGaulle - remained in power, but French society was transformed forever. As one participant in those events put it - responding to French President Sarkozy's claim that the spirit of 1968 "must be liquidated," - '“As a divorced man, Sarkozy couldn’t have been invited to dinner at the Élysée Palace, let alone be elected president of France,” Mr. Geismar said. "Both the vivid personal life and political success of Mr. Sarkozy, with foreign and Jewish roots, “are unimaginable without 1968.”' (That's not unusual, we all know that African-American US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas would have voted to preserve slave owner rights if he had been there for the Dred Scott Decision, and we all know "disabled" leaders who fight hard to preserve the old system because they believe they are somehow special for overcoming it.)
Sometimes a system - even a comfortable one - is stifling, discriminating, destroying. And so even if you now get every accommodation you need, you are being crushed if diagnosis is required to get them. Because the only reason "they" are giving you those accommodations is because they think you are "sick," because they "feel sorry for you," because they know that you are not equal to "them." If they did not think those things - these solutions would not be accommodations - they would be rights and choices.
I'm not saying that you need to follow me and throw things away for a political point. I have some kind of shot at surviving "unaccommodated." I really do. And - if not - I'll just do something else. My risk may be much less than yours.
But perhaps we have to "queer" the experience around us - use "Retard Theory" whenever we can. De-normalize "them." Demand to see the doctor's note from anyone wearing eyeglasses. Ask for a note from the cardiologist every time you see someone in an elevator. Challenge anyone who prints out a copy of a digitally-supplied text - "Did your doctor say you couldn't read a computer screen?"
Make "them" uncomfortable every day. They are willing to do it to us. So it must be "fair."
- Ira Socol