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The Guilt Structure of 'Invisible' Disability

Danika's picture

We talked a lot in class about the ironic difficulty in accessing accommodations, but we didn't talk much on how even once they've been acquired they're not always honored or may be difficult to use personally. I know from my own experience that after getting through all of high school without accommodations, regardless of the fact that I needed them, I now have a major imposter syndrome complex when I use them in college. The major cause of that is the heavy stigmatization of mental or invisible disability as laziness, and therefore any accommodations afforded to them are viewed as 'cheats' or a way to get off easier than everyone else and have a leg up. In short, after all of the labor- physical, emotional, financial, etc.- required in order to even access accommodations of any kind and have them implemented properly without them being manipulated, actively discredited, or even denied by professors or peers, you still have a personal hump of stigmatization and social pressure to overcome to allow yourself to use your accommodations guilt-free. Which, honestly, is more labor than it's worth sometimes. So now you've spent all this time, energy, and money to get something you can't even properly utilize because doing so means givihng yourself a break and combatting years or even a lifetime of stigma and deligitimization. All in all, accommodations are a service which is incredibly difficult to actually take advantage of, and overcoming the buereacratic barriers is only one part of that. The socialized personal barriers are often more intimate, particularly if you recieve accommodations only later in life, since yourself and others around you have trained you to think accommodations are a special treatment you don't need, when in actuality you were operating on burnout for all of your childhood.


mayacosh's picture

Danika, I cannot agree more and you put into words something I've definitely been struggling with for years now. In fact, reading this tonight was really helpful since I've been going in circles trying to remind myself that it's okay to use my accommodations after a weekend of migraines. It's wild how easy it is to convince ourselves that we "should" be able to be okay without the accommodations, or one of my favorites is the worry that if I use it now and then need it again soon that it'll be questioned or that professors would think I'm just being "lazy". I've been realizing recently how I've been doing this for such a long time, I've set these ideas in my head that no one will be understanding and will think I'm not capable or that I'm treating. It's completely as you said, I didn't know for so long that accommodations were a thing I could use that I just was running on complete burn out for sooo long. So I just really appreciate you bringing this up because you are right, it is not talked about enough in relation to accommodations and accessibility! Just because the tools are there doesn't mean we know how to use them or that we even can use them...