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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

How Many Accommodations Can We Ask for as Autistic Adults?

I recently ripped my smoke detector out of the wall. It was an impulsive action when I couldn’t get its horrifically loud beeping to stop as I balanced on a stool and tried unsuccessfully to hit the silent button.

I understand I need to put it back. As a survivor of a house fire, I get the importance. I also live in an apartment and understand the legality and necessity to protect myself and my neighbors. And yet, as I stare at the wires hanging out of the wall, I really don’t want to put it back.

There are five key issues

  • The smoke detector is overly sensitive and goes off whenever I open the oven or cook something on the stove

  • It is so high that I cannot safely reach it

  • I have difficulty shutting it off

  • The high beeping noise is so disorienting for me that it is hard to do the necessary actions to shut it off

  • I avoid any activities (cooking) that could cause the fire alarm to go off

Putting the smoke detector back up means those problems are back in front of my face. My friend was particularly upset about my safety and asked why I don’t just speak to the apartment management about my concerns.

Little did he know, he touched on a soft spot for me as an autistic adult: just how many accommodations am I allowed to ask for?

Truthfully, it boils down to even deeper questions:

  • Will they understand why it is disorienting?

  • Will they dismiss the idea that I have a disability because I can communicate well and live independently?

  • Am I comfortable disclosing that I am autistic?

  • What can they really do about the fire alarm?

In an idea world, I would suggest three things.

  1. Reduce the sensitivity of the card in the smoke detector

  2. Move the smoke detector lower or have an easier way for me to shut it off

  3. I’m open to other ideas they have

All of these ideas take their time and possibly money. While I am happy to pay for it and do it myself (or let’s be serious… recruit someone to help me), I’m not sure if they would be legally ok with me making these changes.

I have no idea how much they are actually required to do to accommodate my needs? And is my reaction to the smoke detector serious enough to merit accommodations. In my eyes yes, but what about in the law or their eyes?

These are the new issues I’m navigating as a late-identified autistic. They’re the issues I don't’ have easy answers to. They’re also not so severe that this is something I need to get on my soap box about.

So, I’ll start with a conversation and see how it goes.


My new smoke detector, installed at my height. You can see the mounting for the previous one by the ceiling

Post Script: I saw the maintenance manager and explained my difficulties to him. It never came up that I am autistic. He told me he could bring me a newer fire alarm that wouldn’t be so sensitive and install it within my reach. He was perfectly nice and understanding about it. It did take him a month and multiple reminders from me, but it is now nicely installed beneath the previous fire detector.


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