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19 July 2016

Really, part 3?

Really, part 3? Yes, really. Sigh.

Previously: https://stillinthedesert.blogspot.com/2016/07/accommodations-and-respect.html and then https://stillinthedesert.blogspot.com/2016/07/accommodations-and-respect-part-2.html.

A quick summary: one of the ADA accommodations I was granted where I work is having a particular workstation reserved for me when I'm doing software development. (I work in an open office.) A couple of weeks ago now, that workstation had a person in (at?) it when I arrived for work and I raised a fuss about it. It's still unresolved. My suggestion to management is that they assign a student lead (or someone) who's here in the office during the afternoon to check and make sure that if anyone is sitting at that workstation and ask them to move before I arrive at 1700.

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The latest response was that having someone assigned to make sure that this particular approved ADA accommodation (emphasis added on purpose) is available is a work in process that affects the entire office. So a meeting was proposed for this afternoon (Monday). Except that I have a different approved ADA accommodation that makes it so I'm not asked to task switch on the days I do software development work-- on those days, no switching back and forth between jobs and no meetings. So that meeting today didn't happen.

My argument here is that it doesn't really take any extra effort on anyone's part to look over, or walk over to, a workstation that's in the corner of the room at the end of the afternoon and make sure that there's no one sitting there. It's sort of the whole point of accommodations that an employer makes sure that whatever the accommodation is, it's available for the employee. In this case, it's about a two minute long task-- shorter if there's no one sitting at the workstation that needs to be chased out. There's really no legitimate reason that this can't happen.

I've tried to put myself in the position of a supervisor, who has to "deal with" a veteran with PTSD that has requested ADA accommodations and had them approved. In the first place, what's the value in arguing against accommodations (as my employer did for me having a reserved workstation when it was first requested)? Spending money from the budget is one-- if providing the accommodation is beyond the reach of an organization's budget, that's a reason it can't be done. If it's physically impossible-- let's say a person has immobilizing vertigo, there's not much you can do with accommodations to make a person able to be a high-rise crane operator. There are likely other reasons depending on where you are. "Here" is an open office in a campus building. It's a big open room with all new furniture. No money needs to be spent. Nothing needs to physically change in the office. Other than posting a sign in a visible place and having someone check to make sure no one else is sitting at that workstation when said employee is working, I don't see anything extra as a supervisor I'd need to do.

Which is my point. As a veteran with PTSD-- or, an employee with a disability-- all I really want from accommodations is to be left alone in a calm environment so I can concentrate on my work and get shit done. It's not a game that I'm trying to "win". 

My previous employer thought it was a game to win. I didn't have accommodations there, because I didn't know at the time that there was such a thing as the ADA or accommodations. This was right after I was first diagnosed with PTSD. I was in the 12-week cognitive processing therapy program at the VA hospital, which required an appointment every week. I had sick leave there, but I still had to invoke the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to get time off for my appointments. Then they changed the rules so that to take paid sick leave, you had to be sick for three consecutive work days and see a doctor. So for most of those 12 weeks, while I was allowed time off (only) because of FMLA it was unpaid time off.

I'm including this because I've slowly been realizing that where I work now (where I mostly like working) is gradually becoming the suck in much the same way that my last job was. It's funny-- when I mention the company where I worked before I worked here, if it's someone that's worked there the universal response is "damn, didn't that place suck?" If it's someone that didn't work there, the universal response is "damn, I heard that place sucks!"


And it sucks here that weeks after an incident where an approved accommodation wasn't available, and after I let the appropriate people know about it, that this is still a problem. Okay, fine, don't accept my suggested solution-- but at least do something.

The alternative, if as a supervisor or as an employer someone chooses (and it is certainly a choice) to fight ADA accommodations, or to just simply ignore them, is that as a company or an organization they end up losing good people. I'm not saying that my disability makes me a better programmer than someone else, but I've put a lot of work into learning what parts of PTSD can be good things when writing software. I've learned ways to cope and actually be productive in an environment that's not at all suited to being a software developer with PTSD.

One can only imagine if I had a quiet place to work and didn't need accommodations in the first place.

There is a point (which is very rapidly approaching) where this fight isn't going to be worth it any longer-- I'm leaving soon, which has been the plan for a good long while now-- but even if I were staying at this university, I'd be leaving this job soon. It's been a very good thing in terms of me being able to take time to figure out how programming for money intertwines with PTSD, and I'm convinced that if I'd been at a traditional internship over the past year it wouldn't have gone altogether smoothly either.

This job has also not turned out to be as much experience, or as much challenge, as I'm looking for. I really don't know what to do with having finished a months long project and having no one ask anything about it. The amount of work (the number of paid hours) available here isn't what I thought it was going to be over the summer, so there are other projects that I wanted to work on that I just don't have time for. Once fall semester starts, there will be even less paid hours available that I'm working now. All things considered, is working here worth the fight?

No, it isn't. kthxbye.

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More on what's next coming soon.

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