On Disabled Autonomy

So, there’s a couple of things that got left out of my epic, long post about being denied adequate disability accommodations by both Safeway and the State of Oregon, or maybe one thing that got left out and one thing I wanted to elaborate.

First, though, if you haven’t read the post since it originally went up, know that there are a couple of addenda based upon my having simply missed two pages of the file that got sent to me in response to me public records request.

Let me start by quoting what I said about the dynamic that exists at Safeway, one that’s sort of a catch-22 of competing disablements.

It cannot reasonably be considered an equal benefit, or an equivalent level of convenience, if to access one disability accommodation I must subject myself to further, if different, disablement. My sensory processing disorder doesn’t exist in a vacuum. I tend toward self-checkout over staffed checkout precisely because of other of my disabilities. Self-checkout itself is an accommodation of that disability. As it stands, I’m already subjecting myself to one kind of disablement in order to avoid another.

As my therapist pointed out today, part of the problem here is that I’d been using self-checkout as a way to avoid the “social/performance distress” that comes from what first was identified as anxiety features secondary to autism and later as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which I can experience in the regular, staffed checkout lines. Self-checkout, in essence, was the disability accommodation. That only worked as well as it did, of course, because I could mute the incessant chatter of the machine.

The position of Albertson’s/Safeway is that in order to accommodate my possible social/performance distress from using staffed checkout, I now need to inflict upon myself the social/performance distress of tracking down the person staffing self-checkout or their manager in order to claim the disability accommodation of muting the machine in order to avoid the sensory distress of the incessant chatter.

What this mostly says to me, other than the fact that of course the corporation is engaged in the calculus that lets them abide by the law as minimally as possible, is that at least at the level of legal counsel, Alberton’s/Safeway doesn’t understand that people can be multiply disabled in intersecting ways that can make navigating the world a series of terrible choices.

It’s clear in the original post how ridiculous I find this, and anyone who doesn’t find it ridiculous is someone who simply doesn’t know anything about it, and doesn’t care to.

What didn’t make it into the original post was that whatever the case might or might not be about the technical bare minimum a public accommodation must do under the law, philosophically the provision of disability accommodations should prioritize an expensive view of disabled autonomy. If an accommodation can be had without a disabled person having to ask someone for it, then that’s the path to accessing the accommodation that should be in place.

As I said in December when I received word that the State of Oregon had administratively closed my case without reaching a decision (a claim which itself seems contrary to the BOLI investigator basically just accepting the position statement sent to them by the Albertson’s/Safeway legal counsel):

If doorways were barely wide enough for a person we wouldn’t have a wider door for wheelchairs that require the disabled to hit a button to call an attendant to open it.

Sort of just like the answer to sidewalks wasn’t having beefy attendants stationed nearby to come running when a wheelchair user rang a bell, to help get their wheelchair out of the street and onto the sidewalk. The answer wasn’t requiring the disabled person to inconvenience the people around them by wasting their time waiting in the crosswalk or a parking space for the sidewalk attendant. The answer was curb cuts.

The answer to sidewalks was a rule and a tool that prioritized an expansive view of disabled autonomy.

Albertson’s/Safeway, rather, believes that the answer here is to increase the burden placed upon the disabled person, leaving me in precisely the same catch-22 I was in before I filed my complaint: having to choose between disablements. This is “an equal benefit”, or “an equivalent level of convenience”, for absolutely no one.


  1. Also, I should note that I sent the original post to the legal counsel for Albertson’s/Safeway, and sent both it and this one to the managerial email address for my local store. The latter included the following note: “For what it’s worth, as Albertson’s and BOLI agreed to an accommodation that is insufficient, I thought I’d share with you the story. Understand that I understand this is all way above you own pay grade, or that or any staffer at the store, and in no way any of your fault.”

Referring posts