Thursday, 2 September 2021

Autistic people and phone calls


A picture of a mobile phone being held in someone's hand

There's a lot of misunderstanding about autistic people, and phone calls.

Many autistic people are not always able to speak, or may not be able to speak at all.

Unfortunately, not a lot of people know this.  So there can be major difficulties with people misunderstanding what's happening.

A poll result from Twitter, asking autistic people if they can speak.  A large number said 'not always'. Some said 'no'.

Equally unfortunately, people expect us to use phones reliably.

I can sometimes use phones.  It depends if I'm in a good enough state to speak.  It depends if I have rested enough to prepare for a known phone call.  It depends if I know and trust the person who is calling me.  It depends if I can calculate how long it will take for the call, since my ability to speak is time-limited, much of the time.  A short call may be OK.  A long call, holding on for a call centre, completely terrifying and impossible a lot of the time.

Lots of autistic people can only sometimes use phones.  It's a major barrier to healthcare, to job success, to getting basic services and basic human rights.  It's great when companies and organisations know the law, want to work with us, and create different ways to interact.  Text.  Email.  Webchat.  Timed called with a known person.  Anything that works for us as individuals.   

But, too often, what we get is a sort of a 'gotcha!' from people who don't understand.  "Ha, you could phone yesterday - you're a liar!".  Same principle as the ones who follow wheelchair users round a store to see if they can stand for a while (most can...the chair is to save energy, extend the range of where people can go. and help with balance, for many health conditions including heart situations, connective tissue conditions and joint problems). If they're seen standing or taking a couple of steps, some arguably unwell or ignorant people get a thrill out of saying that 'gotcha!'

Disabled people have to work very very hard to get the same things as everyone else.  And explain, endlessly, to everyone around us.  Exhausting.  Hour after hour.  Day after day.

Even if we pay for services ourselves, we're often expected to put up with shoddy service and appalling treatment.  Even if it could lead to injury or other danger for us.

And, if we complain, we're accused of Taking Services Away From People That Really Need Them.

It's just extraordinary.

Let's do better, together.  Be knowledgeable about how many autistic people may struggle to speak, sometimes or always.  Be aware how many will struggle with phone calls, and being able to say what we need during them.  Be willing to help make changes so that we can survive, and thrive, the same as other people.

Thank you for reading.