Reflections on accessibility

I have been in more pain over the last few days, and while I am grateful that this mini-flare seems not to be affecting me cognitively (because I am working on a manuscript while also starting my PhD fieldwork), the increased pain does cause some issues.

The first is that I absolutely cannot sit in an office chair for long periods of time. I do have an adjustable chair in my office as part of my ADA accommodations, and have invested in a fancy chair for my home office, but I simply cannot be spending hours just sitting. Powering through that pain makes it worse later. I tried today, and am currently curled up on the couch typing up this post on my phone. Yay technology.

This pain also makes using my fingers/wrists difficult. I’ve invested in an ergonomic mouse and so I can still get work done, but there are everyday things that I just cant really do anymore. Much like it takes a bad cold to make you realize how much you take regular nose breathing for granted, these things are so mundane that you wouldn’t really think about them – they are using chopsticks and shuffling cards. For some reason the minute movements needed to grasp at and manipulate chopsticks or decks of cards is just too painful to willingly do.

The solution to the first one is to use a fork instead, although that is a cultural faux pas that can be tough to navigate. I’ve seen the judgy stares from some people. I don’t care. Asian food is just as delicious with a fork. And I’d rather use a fork than try to power through and hurt myself.

For the second thing, it’s more complicated. Depending on who I am playing with, I can usually ask them to shuffle my cards for me. My wonderfully partner Marc, for instance, will always shuffle during my turn when we play cribbage together.

You can really only ask something like that from someone who you trust. I know that “I’m in too much pain to shuffle cards” sounds really strange, especially when there is nothing outwardly wrong with me. I don’t wear a splint on my wrist, nor am I in a cast. It’s called an invisible disability for a reason.

Marc also shuffles for me on the rare occasions we play Magic: The Gathering (MtG) together. This card-based game is complex and requires a fair amount of shuffling, which I simply cannot do. I recently (about 6 months ago) started playing MtG through Arena, MtG’s pretty online platform. Playing online has a few advantages for someone with my disabilities. First off, of course, no shuffling! But also, because it’s an online format, it’s easier to read all the card descriptions and figure out what cards I can play during my turn. Some of the nitty gritty is taken out so that I can focus on enjoying the gameplay without having to try to read my opponents cards upside down or do mental math.

When we talk of accessibility, we often think about going places or doing productive tasks. For me, especially over the past few days, I’ve had to try to make the enjoyable things in my life accessible to me.

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