What do you do when you’re a disabled individual who can manage to meet some kinds of Very High Standards that aren’t accessible in nature?
In thinking more critically about my Quest to hit the dean’s list every semester of my undergrad career to help me with my attempt to get into grad school for psychology (something VERY difficult in Canada), I started thinking about numbers. For example, looking at the past numbers of honours list people in different semesters, and wondering how many of those individuals have disabilities, and how many of those went through a formal accommodation process–another very inaccessible and prohibitive process.
The minimal requirements for inclusion on the University of Regina Dean’s list in Arts are split into full time status students (12 hours or more) and part time students. A term grade point average of 85% must be held by the end of the term to qualify. If the process of accommodations were less medically based and more inclusive and accessible, would that make the Dean’s list more accessible? Or is this a doomed endeavour because post- secondary is just inherently ableist (and sexist and racist and classist) and nothing can truly address the actual issues?
As a disabled person who wants to work on the system’s inherent problems and who works within the systems presented to try and make changes and advocate for marginalized populations that I belong to, I feel at odds with myself. I cannot do the level of work I want to do without succeeding in a traditional way. I need the traditional labels of success to legitimize my lived experience and prove in the most influential (and likely exclusionary) of spheres that I know my stuff. This often involves not just doing the work that any normal, non- disabled individual must do to reach that level, but managing physical and mental health symptoms, and the continued, constant workload of maintaining the accommodations that enable me to have the opportunity to even attempt the work expected.
There is a weird feeling I get through all of this. I’m proud of being validated as “good enough” to be counted among the “normal” hard working people. That I can “pass”, in a sense. But this feeling makes me feel weirdly shameful and guilty at the same time. The point isn’t to pass, or to minimize or hide my disabilities or issues. How exactly should I feel and how does that dictate my identity?
I’ve never really been the type of person to fit in to any group. I’m much more likely to be alone and apart from everyone or to create and assemble my own group. There is too much contradiction in what I am for me to fit into an identity that makes a strong stance one way or another. So, I drift between identities, never feeling quite like a settled, complete person, and never quite feeling like I can ‘own’ my successes or failures because I feel like I’m missing a crucial kind of lens or context there.