Barriers to Relationships, Part 3

Previously in this series, I talked about how abuse and finances affect our ability to form romantic relationships, completely unrelated to any social differences caused by our autism.  There are two other areas I want to discuss – transportation and daily living assistance in today’s post, and, in the last post, the idea that we aren’t romantic or sexual beings – and that may be the cause of a lot of these issues.

Our living environments and daily living supports – the very things that are supposed to allow us to take part in the community (assuming we’re outside of a locked institution, which is another significant issue when we’re not) are barriers to our participation in the community.

The first problem with services was alluded to in part 2 of this series, when I talked about living accommodations not always allowing a boyfriend or girlfriend from “benefiting” from someone else’s subsidized living situation.  With housing, even getting married in some cases will not allow the spouses to legally live with each other in a house that one spouse owns (at least owns in the same sense as most other American’s “own” their home: with their mortgage).  But it extends beyond housing.

For instance, if someone needs a personal attendant to cook and shop, what happens when they want that personal attendant to cook and shop for them and their girlfriend, for a special meal?  I suspect many personal attendants would so so without concern, but I also suspect most people’s funding sources for their attendants don’t recognize “feed the girlfriend during a special meal” as something intended to be funded.  Yet why shouldn’t a disabled man be able to have a special home-cooked meal with his girlfriend at home?  Isn’t this part of being in the community (in this case, a small, intimate community)?

Transportation is equally an issue.  “Visiting the girlfriend for an evening” is not a task that is typically funded.  Sure, going to work, school, therapy, or medical appointments is acceptable – that’s what is funded.  For many disabled people in the US, some form of public transit is their primary transit.  Assuming that their house is well served by local bus service (transit agencies don’t need to offer accessible transit if someone doesn’t live near a bus stop), their significant other better also live near a bus stop!  And, not only that, it better be served by local buses during the hours that the disabled rider would like to visit (transit agencies also don’t need to provide accessible transit outside of the hours they serve the local bus stops).  Of course the local transit agency typically plans stops and schedules for ridership numbers – that means commuters are well served, but someone visiting from one suburb to another late on a Saturday night is not a significant concern for the transit agency to plan routes to accommodate these needs.

Sure, there’s taxis.  But going back to someone on SSI making slightly more than $8,000 a year, a $40 taxi ride is asking a lot (in fact, 20 of those rides and the person has used 10% of their entire yearly income).

A lot of the problems above come down to funding and our society’s desire to prevent “freeloading” even when such measures keep people from living their lives fully.  That also speaks to the value of disabled people’s’ lives in the eyes of society.  It’s more important to ensure nobody claims disability benefits who isn’t disabled than it is to ensure that a disabled person can have a life!

Yet if I’m disabled and have staff to help me with daily living, it should be for my full daily living.  I’m not asking for special rights or any of that nonsense – I’m asking for us to have the right to take our S.O. home for a nice meal and movie.  I’m asking for the right to visit our S.O. in her home, even if it takes place after the commuters have already returned home.

Sadly, I see a lot of the battle for funding based only on what is necessary for education, work, health care, and therapy.  Nobody seems to actually care about personal relationships – despite the fact that most people would rate their personal relationships as the most important things in their lives.  Our relationships just aren’t worth as much I suppose.

Barriers to Relationships, Part 2

There are many reasons autistic people have difficulty having a romantic relationship.  Some are due, in part, to being autistic.  But others are not – they are barriers placed in front of people by influence outside of them.  In the first part of this series of posts, I talked about how sexual abuse has hindered many of us from seeking relationships.  In future posts, I’ll be talking about independent living services, transportation, and society’s ideas (and the “ick” factor in most people’s eyes) about disabled people in sexual relationships.

In some relationship, the government doesn’t just not place barriers in front of the relationship, they actually give incentives for the relationship.  The US government (and likely others) is in the business of promoting relationship.  Well, rather, the business of promoting some relationships – those considered good for society.

For instance, heterosexual married couples can get a substantial tax break by being married (assuming the two spouses have significantly different incomes – the government rewards relationships with a stay-at-home spouse but penalizes relationships with two equal wage earners), can inherit property from their spouse without tax penalty, get to make health care decisions for incapacitated spouses (barring other legal directives), are automatically presumed to be legitimate parents of any offspring, have unique immigration law benefits, often have legal protections that allow them to not testify against a spouse, and typically get a large share of inheritance in the absence of a will.  Most of these can’t be written into contracts or achieved through non-marital means (contrary to some of the statements made by people against gay marriage – a US citizen can’t, by contract, allow their same-sex partner to become a citizen, for instance).

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Barriers to Relationships, Part 1

It amazes me how little time and research has been spent by professionals on autistic people’s desire for relationships and the barriers that exist to keep us from relationships.  Oh, there’s “research” on how awful we are for people who are close to us, but not a lot on what makes a good romantic relationship where one or both partners are autistic.  There’s little training or education for autistic people (other than “appropriate vs. inappropriate” touch, and, sadly, even that’s lacking too often) on relationships, sexuality,  avoiding abuse, marriage, child raising, and similar topics.

Yet if you ask autistic people what things would make their lives better, “a partner” or “a spouse” is pretty high on the list, as are things like raising a child.  These are often above things like employment and independent living skills, yet we see the focus primarily on employment and independent living skills: things others want us to do.  By extension, I’m guessing relationships, sex, marriage, and child-rearing are not things others want us to do.

When barriers to relationships are brought up, it’s almost always in the context of how autism makes it difficult or impossible to be in a true partnership with another person.  In other words, the focus is usually on the autistic person’s autism – typically with a whole lot of false assumptions about autism.  But those aren’t the only things that give us trouble in relationships.  I’m going to write about three things that have nothing to do with autism itself, but rather deal with the society we live in, that make it hard for many of us to have successful relationships: sexual abuse, money, transportation, and misconceptions about autism.  Today, I want to talk about sexual abuse.  I’ll talk money, transportation, and misconceptions later. Continue reading

JTalk Software

This is old software, no longer supported unfortunately.  I no longer have a development environment to work on the software, sadly, and I don’t even know if I could dig up the source code.

That said, some people found it handy.  If you have a Windows machine (I’m not sure if it will work on anything newer than XP), and are tech-savvy enough to figure out how to install this, I’m placing it here for the community.

What is JTalk?

JTalk is a free communication software package. It allows a user to use their computer to communicate verbally with others.

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