I’ve been asked how to succeed in engineering as a disabled person. This answer — which is sarcasm, price by the way — came out during a recent long drive to Kentucky. It’s intended to be spoken-word poetry, and was inspired by an intersectionality conversation last month with Joi-Lynn Mondisa.
(Also, I want to point out that I had wonderful friends in engineering undergrad and grad school; I also wish I could have been in a state of less exhaustion and been able to better appreciate those friendships at that time.)
How to succeed in engineering as a disabled person
If something comes up, don’t get frustrated.
Work the system.
Don’t get angry.
Don’t have feelings.
Don’t realize how tired you are.
Don’t realize that what you’re doing is extra labor.
Stay oblivious. Focus on your classwork.
Don’t ask for help.
Don’t look dumb.
And never show signs that you’re struggling.
That any of this is any harder for you.
That any of this ever hard for you.
Don’t have friends.
Especially disabled friends. You might start comparing notes.
Besides, you’re too tired to hang out with them anyway.
Don’t try to find out what you don’t know.
There are a lot of things you don’t know that you don’t know.
That’s good. Keep it that way. That’ll let you keep working yourself to death.
Oh, and stay away from disability-related things.
Accessibility initiatives. Activism.
They might mess up that delicate balance of ignorance you’ve worked so hard to build.
You might get mad at how unfair it is.
Or how much life is stacked against you.
Or how much you have to fight.
And how little anybody recognizes it.
And that would be distracting from your work.
And besides, you don’t need any of that help, do you?
That’s just for people who aren’t good enough to make it on their own.
You’re good enough to do it, right?
You gotta prove that, you know.
You gotta prove you’re worth it.
Show you’re functional. Always. Constantly.
So don’t think too hard about it.
Just work. That’s what you’re worth as a human.
And that’s how you succeed in engineering as a disabled person.