[nabs-l] Blind man sues Wienerschnitzel over run-in with tree

Marc Workman mworkman.lists at gmail.com
Sat Aug 14 20:24:44 UTC 2010


I'm not very surprised, but nevertheless still disturbed, by a majority of 
the responses to this article.  Based on one reporters account of this 
story, we have rediculous proposals insisting that blind people ought to 
walk around holding one arm in the air, we have unjustified claims about how 
fast the person must have been walking, we have unfounded assumptions about 
what this person may have tried to do before escalating to a law suit, and 
we have highly speculative claims about how this one incident is going to 
set every confident, independent blind person back 20 years.

Jedi wrote the following, and this is not directed at Jedi; she only said 
first, and with brevity and clarity, what many others said afterwards.

However, suing could set a bad precedent as it > would reaify the notion
that obstacles of any kind are hazardous to > blind people because we are
blind; the public may take this incident > and generalize it to all
obstacles whether they're really an > inconvenience to one/all of us or not.

I would raise three objections to this line of thinking.  None of them are 
devastating, but, taken together, I think there is good reason to not be 
completely convinced that people who fight these sorts of battles are doing 
us all harm.

1. We shouldn't be so quick to think that we can predict how any one 
individual, let alone the so called public, is going to react to these sorts 
of stories.  Someone reading the story might respond more to the fact that 
the person was travelling in the community independently, she might focus on 
the person's willingness to stand up for what he believes, she might begin 
to think about her own front yard tree with its low hanging branches, or 
most likely in my opinion, she won't think twice about it, assuming she 
reads it at all.  The point is that there is a lot of speculation involved 
here, and we should be cautious in the face of so much speculation.

2. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that there is this thing called the 
public, and the public generalizes from the experience of one person and 
applies it to all of us blind people.  The public believes that we all need 
help getting around all these obsticles, and eventually this leads to 
discrimination and unemployment.  Should we base our positions on what we 
judge to be right, or should we base them on how the public will react to 
them? Probably the response will be to say that we should base our positions 
on both what we think is right and how the public will react.  Fine, I'm not 
saying we should ignore public reaction, but in the face of so much 
speculation, see objection 1, where public reaction is highly unpredictable, 
it should play only a very minor role in deciding what sort of activities we 
should engage in.

3. Even if the public does develop negative misconceptions based on these 
sorts of stories, this doesn't mean that people can't be educated.  Why 
couldn't it be the case that by fighting to remove these barriers, we suffer 
a short-term increase in negative conceptions for a decrease of such 
conceptions in the long term? Get blind people out in the community, and 
that's how you will change attitudes.  The more people that feel they can 
comfortably and independently travel throughout the community, without 
having first spent 8 months intensively studying the latest 
hand-in-front-of-face technique for detecting over-hanging obsticles, the 
more people you will have out in the community, the more relationships will 
be developed, and the more likely you are to change attitudes.

Many of the comments thus far in this thread illustrate two of the most 
fundamental ways in which I think NFB policies are misguided.  First, the 
failure to promote universal design.  Universal design means creating 
institutions, products, processes, services, and so on that are as 
accessible as possible to the widest number of people, without the user 
having to possess special equipment or training.  If environment A is only 
navigable by some blind person who has been blind for ten years, who has had 
training at an NFB Center, and who has no other disabling physical 
variations, and environment B is navigable by someone recently blind, with 
little training, and with a bad hip, then we should adopt stances towards 
design that bring us closer to environment B.  It might be true that, at 
first, taking these positions causes that foolish public to believe that 
blindness equals incompetence, but this leads me to my second concern with 
NFB policy: there is far too much concern with the variety of ways that the 
public might think less of us.  Of course public perceptions matter, but 
they are highly unpredictable, changeable over time, and should not make us 
afraid to fight for what is right.

I've been preaching this sort of attitude for a while now, and I don't 
really expect to change anyone's mind, but there is another perspective to 
this story that hasn't been aired fully.

Best,

Marc

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jedi" <loneblindjedi at samobile.net>
To: <nabs-l at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Friday, August 13, 2010 7:30 PM
Subject: Re: [nabs-l] Blind man sues Wienerschnitzel over run-in with tree


> The tree could be an annoying obstacle for anyone, particularly tall
> people. And yes, it is true that tall blind people who don't use guide
> dogs or some sort of hand guide device/echolocation are going to miss
> those overhead branches. However, suing could set a bad precedent as it
> would reaify the notion that obstacles of any kind are hazardous to blind
> people because we are blind; the public may take this incident and
> generalize it to all obstacles whether they're really an inconvenience to
> one/all of us or not.
>
> Respectfully,
> Jedi
>
> Original message:
>> I thought this story was interesting. What do you think? Is the
>> lawsuit appropriate?
>
>> Arielle
>> Blind man sues Wienerschnitzel over run-in with tree
>
>> http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/50092926-78/tree-reynolds-wienerschnitzel-suit.html.csp
>> By bob mims
>
>> The Salt Lake Tribune
>
>> Updated Aug 12, 2010 10:59PM
>> All Nathan Reynolds wanted was a hot dog. Instead, as the blind man
>> walked toward a Wienerschnitzel restaurant last year, he got a face
>> full of tree — and severe neck injuries.
>
>> Now, the 36-year-old Utah County man has filed a personal injury
>> lawsuit against the owners of the Wienerschnitzel at the corner of
>> North Temple and 800 West in Salt Lake City.
>
>> The complaint contends that on June 9, 2009, Reynolds — who had been
>> on his way to the Utah School for the Deaf and the Blind — got off a
>> bus near the Wienerschnitzel to get a meal. As the 6-foot-5 man
>> navigated toward the entrance with his cane swinging in front of him,
>> he hit the tree, which the suit contends had encroached on the
>> sidewalk.
>
>> “The tree struck him squarely in the face and knocked him to the
>> ground,” states the suit, filed Tuesday. “The tree was allowed to grow
>> in such a way that it was impossible for Mr. Reynolds to detect its
>> presence by use of his cane.”
>
>> The suit argues that because the tree was “rooted in the ground far to
>> one side of the sidewalk and [had grown] diagonally across the
>> sidewalk,” it had become a “clear hazard.”
>
>> Reynolds seeks unspecified reimbursement for past and future medical
>> expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering stemming from alleged
>> negligence in the maintenance of the tree.
>
>> Along with Grundmann Enterprises of South Jordan, the owner of the
>> eatery, Reynolds’ 3rd District Court suit names Salt Lake City Corp.
>> and five John Does as defendants. Reynolds seeks a jury trial; 3rd
>> District Judge Sandra Peuler has been assigned the case.
>
>> Daniel J. Grundmann of Grundmann Enterprises declined to comment
>> Wednesday, noting he had not yet been served with the suit.
>
>> Tom Amberger, vice president of marketing for Irvine, Calif.-based
>> Galaradi Group Inc., which runs Wienerschnitzel, also declined to
>> discuss the case. “We are unaware of this lawsuit and will look into
>> it,” he said.
>
>> Ed Rutan, city attorney for Salt Lake City, would not comment, either,
>> citing the pending nature of the litigation.
>
>
>> __._,_.___
>
>
>> --
>> Arielle Silverman
>> President, National Association of Blind Students
>> Phone:  602-502-2255
>> Email:
>> nabs.president at gmail.com
>> Website:
>> www.nabslink.org
>
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