Dennis Schubert

Real life edge cases

2015-03-07 personal

This post may be a bit depressing, and I want to apologize in advance, but I think this topic is worth the bad mood. I want to write about real life edge cases and how we should deal with them. Originally, I thought about pointing out one specific issue raised by a friend of mine, but after some days of thinking, I realized this could be a more general post.

The friend I was going to talk about is Mihai. Mihai is a Romanian software developer working at Mozilla for the Developer Tools team. Mihai has Epidermolysis Bullosa (sometimes abbreviated as EB): EB is an inherited tissue disease and basically makes your skin really fragile. I will not go into detail here; you can do that on your own if you are interested. Mihai did a great job on raising awareness to EB, and there is no need to duplicate contents; just go ahead and read his article. You should read Joe Walker’s post about Mihai and his work, too, but I want to highlight a very touching paragraph:

When presented with the mountain that just existing presents to EB sufferers, I think many people would be happy to just exist. But that’s not Mihai, who has made developer tools for the web a personal mission. There aren’t many things you can do when the outside is so dangerous, but Mihai found something he could do and did it with a passion.

However, I wrote I will not get stuck on a single point. I tend to call diseases like E.B. “edge cases”, as this pretty much sums it up. Only very few people can reproduce them, fixing them is sometimes almost impossible, and dealing with them can be pretty hard, too. Still, humans are humans, no matter if they have broken components or not.

First, I think we should support all edge cases in some way. Obviously, it is good to raise awareness of certain points to get attention, but we should not forget about all the other edge cases out there. Supporting specific organizations (for example supporting EB research) is not bad, but other organizations need money for research, too!

Are you aware of funds supporting research on Alzheimer’s diseases? Did you know there are organizations researching and fixing (or, at least, trying to fix) speech diseases?

You do not have to donate to such organizations if you do not want to. Nobody will get mad at you. But keep one thing in mind: for each edge case, there are people affected by it. And those people are normal humans, too. Some people have special needs, but we all do have special needs to a certain degree. People with physical or mental problems are not stupid, and you should not treat them as if they are. Because that really hurts.

If you meet personified edge cases, treat them like every other person. If you are unsure about certain things, just ask. Nobody will hurt you if you ask questions, but people will feel hurt if you act weird. You do not have to speak loud and slow to people with paraplegia, and you do not have to complete sentences from people with speech issues. Also, please take all the issues seriously, and do not claim people are just “acting up to get attention”. This also applies to less edge-casy issues, especially mental disorders.

I am serious here. Those points may sound small and negligible to you, but they might really hurt the people affected by edge cases. I found myself in some pretty bad situations where I had to fight with myself, for example, after I finished a job interview with 30 minutes of stuttering and no real talk because of that. Adding triggers for bad mood does not help at all. The world would be a so much better place if everyone would get this.

Last but not least, I would like to give kudos to everyone affected by edge cases and dealing with them. It is hard. I know. But you are awesome. And you do make the world a better place by subliminally sharing your attitude.

I had to get this off my chest. Thank you.

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