Accommodations and the Importance of UPTH!

  • Sep - 21 - 2020
  • Mary Dolan, Executive Director, FDR Memorial Legacy Committee
I think about accommodations a lot in my job.  Over the past year, we have launched a website, brought onboard personnel, hosted online meetings among other seemingly mundane organizational tasks and I always put first the requirement for accessibility and maximum inclusion.  I am not congratulating myself because there is still much I need to learn about what full access and inclusion can and should look like but it is a key value of mine and a must-do for all work. 
As some know, I have ADHD and with that often comes anxiety and I signed up for that one too.  Occasional mild-moderate depression lurks not far behind as it tends to with those diagnoses and some chronic pain from a traumatic injury but who‘s counting.  I don’t usually ask for accommodations but the other day I benefited from an accommodation which is never in the list of accommodations.  It is not something anyone would ask for – at least with a straight face in the workplace.  It would read something like this — Recognize that INSERT NAME will make simple mistakes that can compromise entire projects and as a result make plans for verifying the accuracy of work.  In other words, I make stupid mistakes.  Unforced errors.  
If this was new I would wonder about the early onset of any number of conditions, but this has been happening my entire life truth and worsened over the past 17 years since I had children.   When I was younger, the gift of endless uninterrupted time to work and focus helped with prevention.  Life was also less complicated, less media, less pandemics, and all of the other things of our modern times.  But no such luck now in life.  Or ever again.  
So just a few days ago, I was finishing a grant report.  I saved the first draft in case I wanted to use any of the wording again, and then opened up a second document – cutting and pasting from the first -  and updated the wording and put it in an organized format for ultimately sending to the donor.  It was time to send it to my colleague for a review for typos and any final additions.  We still had a bunch of hours left before the report deadline but I was growing weary and it was time to put this to bed. I was surprised to get back a lukewarm yet supportive response to the draft along with a number of specific edits and suggestions for improvement.   I had sent the wrong version.  Embarrassed and mad at myself    I told my colleague and called it “classic Dolan” as in of course I would make this mistake because that is what I do, who I am, and ultimately what people should expect from me.  Anxiety moved through my body.  
But the response I got from my colleague was so simple.   “LOL. That cracks me up.”  I stopped.  I laughed.  The response neutralized the immediate negativity I felt about myself and my abilities and my lifelong anxiety about whether I can cut it.  My workmate was right, it is LOL.  Maybe not LMAO but at least LOL and certainly not an indicator of my self worth and value. 
This made me think about  – and I am coining a new phrase here - unacknowledged accommodations such as understanding, patience, teamwork, and humor – UPTH!   You don’t find them in all workplaces and there are likely people who may think that I am just careless, inattentive, and incapable and that such errors comprise my ability to be part of a successful team.  But neurodiversity can require a set of accommodations that are less tangible but no less important.  And thankfully I have a team around me that understands that access and inclusion take many forms.  I hope yours does too!