How to win a battle against bureaucracy

"Be nice, know your shit, but don't take any shit."

That's web producer Hannah Birch's advice for getting what is rightfully your from a government bureaucracy that thinks of you as an annoyance with an number attached to it. She did't use those exact words (they were written by Reason's Anthony L. Fisher), but they sum up her hard fought lesson in getting a driver license from the NY Department of Motor Vehicles.

From Reason:

Birch suffers from oculocutaneous albinism, an eye condition which allows her to see well enough to drive safely but which prevents her from making out the small-printed text of an eye exam. She writes, "even though I can't read those tiny little letters on the sheet of paper they hold up, doctors in three states now have concluded my vision is good enough for me to safely drive."

The NY DMV provides a form which allows a person to submit a doctor's evaluation of their ability to drive. Even though Birch had that form, as well as a doctor's thumb's up, she knew she was in for a long hard slog at the most loathed of state bureaucracies because as she notes, "government workers can still make it difficult for you to get what you're qualified for under the law."

Here's Birch's advice:

  • Know As Much As You Can in Advance
  • Figure Out As Much As You Can Quickly
  • Use Keywords
  • Speak Directly and Stand Your Ground
  • Follow Up With the People Who Helped You Out

ProPublica: My Story as a DMV Edge Case: How to Battle Bureaucracy and Win