Friday, October 4, 2013

The Misery Calculator, Patent Pending

You know how in the film, "Dead Poet's Society", the stodgy, old-fashioned headmaster uses numerical ratings and graphs to teach his students how to "appreciate" poetry? In the movie, that's supposed to dramatize how regimented and soulless the school is before Robin Wiliams' Mr. Keating arrives, but I always thought that graphic system got a bad rap. As long as it is just one of several ways you use to experience a poem, I don't see any harm in it, and it could even reveal things you might miss with a more holistic, emotional approach.

Maybe we can use a similar approach to understand better how we are doing on any given day, or in general, regarding our disabilities. I figure what we need is some kind of spreadsheet that would amount to a calculator where we enter a 1-10 number of each of, say, 10 quality measures … with 1 being the lowest level of difficulty or suffering, and 10 the highest. Then we get the thing to draw us a chart so we can see not only the amount of awfulness we are experiencing, but what kind. You know that "spoons" is going to be one of the measures, and I'm thinking of dividing the ten measures up into 5 that are purely personal or "Medical Model", and 5 that are external or "Social Model". That would allow us to see what percentage of our total misery really is due to social barriers and breakdowns, prejudice and ableism … and how much is, in fact, about our physical or mental impairments.

So, I set up a spreadsheet, plugged in number ratings for myself, and here are my results:

Charts showing results from experimental "Misery Calculator"
This seems about right. For myself specifically, my physical, medical impairments are a somewhat bigger factor in my life than "Social Model" pressures, although they are unmistakably there, too. But I don't use a wheelchair, so accessibility is going to be less of a factor. I have a car. My life at present doesn't involve a whole lot of interaction with the public, and I don't depend much on bureaucracies. My biggest disability-related thing is my lung condition. If I miss out on something or feel incapacitated, it's usually because I'm not breathing very well and don't have enough energy or endurance.

This is my first shot at something like this. I'd appreciate any suggestions to make this more meaningful … a different rating system, different categories, etc. What would your "Misery Calculator" results look like?


Raw data from charts:

Stamina / “Spoons”
Mental & Cognitive
Physical Barriers
Systemic Barriers
Tools & Resources
Prejudice / Ableism

16 (57%)
12 (43%)

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