Of can and should.

A difficult thing for those without chronic illness or disability to grasp about me is something I can sum up in a single sentence: That I can doesn’t mean I should.

By which, I mean: My disability and chronic illness are such that the consequences of overextending myself, exposing myself to triggers, or otherwise endangering my mental and physical health are not always immediate. They’re often delayed by hours or days and rarely even weeks. The effects of overload, for example, don’t become apparent until the situation is over or until I run out of my supply of adrenaline and exhaustion sets in, whichever comes first. The effects of exposing myself to an asthma trigger sometimes bother me immediately, but sometimes, they pop up at around 3AM. Sometimes they just quietly destabilize my control so that something else that normally wouldn’t bug me (cold morning air, for example) puts me over the edge to flareup land. The effects of over training on my loose joints doesn’t become apparent for weeks. And so on. 

So occasionally, there is a situation where I know that if I force myself, I can tough it out. But I shouldn’t because the consequences will be severe and unpleasant. Hypothetical case in point: A cat-owner friend who smokes hosts a party. I can go to the party and tough out the cat dander and cigarette smoke and noise and environment and change to my routine. Should I? Depends on how bad my asthma is doing and how stressed I am. Today? Hellll no. My asthma is threatening a flare-up with morning tight-chest and poor sleep and has been for the past week and a half or so. Cat dander and cigarette smoke would put me over the edge. Going would be dangerous.

If there is a takeaway for the currently able in this post, I’d like it to be this: Accessibility isn’t just making sure that can access is satisfied, it’s also making sure that should access is satisfied as much as possible, too.


4 thoughts on “Of can and should.

  1. Well said. Tiredness and over exertion definitely have a cumulative effect on my health. To keep in best shape, (and not pay the price), I need to keep my activity levels on a even keel, and at a level balanced between best health and best life functioning..

  2. Oh, this raised an interesting question for me. Do you think that can access is about other people/society accommodating a disability and should access is up to the individual? I guess that could mean that other people accommodate the individual’s decision on the matter and don’t impose a should when the individual decides that they shouldn’t.

    Uh, does this even make sense outside of my head?

    • ischemgeek says:

      I would hazard a guess that “can access” should be 100% service provider responsibility for stuff like ramps, quiet retreat spaces, alt-text, captioning, etc, while “should access” is more like 50-50 – providers should make stuff as accessible as possible, but there will be stuff completely out of their control that make “should access” a no-go in spite of their best efforts.

      If, say, the hypothetical smoker/cat-owner vacuumed their place and stuck the cat inside a bedroom and smoked outdoors for me, “can access” is satisfied, and “should access” is satisfied as much as possible within their power (barring obtaining industrial-strength steam-cleaning supplies, which isn’t within the price range of most people I know). I might still decide that third-hand smoke from furniture, clothing, etc., isn’t something I want to risk (and if I was having a day like today, I probably would, especially if their apartment has carpet because carpet absorbs and releases asthma triggers like a sponge does water. Perhaps the only way to prevent it is to run a carpet cleaner weekly, and I have yet to meet anybody that does that. Most people I know, even the self-professed clean freaks, don’t run carpet cleaners until their carpet has absorbed so much crap that it’s noticeably greyer than its original color – if they run a carpet cleaner at all), but that’s not something within their control. They’ve done their part, mine is now to take care of me, and if I decide to go anyway, establish appropriate safety measures (like, say, leaving if I have an asthma flareup, bringing my inhalers, and taking my ER supplies as a “almost certainly won’t happen but just in case” contingency plan).

      Does that sound reasonable?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s