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

Arielle Silverman nabs.president at gmail.com
Sat Aug 14 21:27:20 UTC 2010


Hi all,

I think I underestimated how evocative this incident is and how many
different things it causes us to think about. I have a few comments:

First, regarding technique, I don't think anyone travels with their
arm up all the time. I will, however, put my arm up briefly if I
suspect an impending head-level obstacle, either because of what I
hear from echolocation or if I am on a familiar route where I remember
their being a head-level obstacle. Also, if this tall man had been
sighted, he probably would have ducked his head to go under the tree
upon seeing it. If he had perceived the tree with echolocation, he
could have ducked under it as well. I think it's possible, although we
don't know for sure, that the man's personal injuries were exaggerated
(i.e. he might have had neck problems to begin with, which were
exacerbated by the crash into the tree).

I don't worry too much about how cases like this will affect attitudes
of the general public or "Joe sightee" because I think most sighted
people's views about blindness are not that easily pushed around, and
the vast majority of random sighted folks don't exert a huge influence
on our lives. I am, however, concerned about how this incident will
play on the fears and misunderstandings that parents of blind children
and blindness professionals (i.e. O&M instructors, TVI's, rehab
counselors, etc.) have about dangers faced by blind travelers. I
originally saw this story posted on another list primarily made up of
mothers (and some fathers) of blind children. In response to the
stories, several listers commented about how worried they were about
their children traveling on routes with overgrown trees, etc. and one
mom who also teaches O&M talked about having to call the city and
complain about bushes obstructing her students' paths. Through my
years in the NFB and as I reflect on my own formative experiences as a
blind person, I am reaching the unfortunate conclusion that misguided
help from well-meaning, but misunderstanding, blindness professionals
is one of the biggest obstacles we face toward integration (not just
employment, but full social integration). I won't go into all the
details now, but when I was in Louisiana I felt like most of what I
was doing was struggling to break bad habits that had been ingrained
in me by my parents and teachers (mainly travel instructors) who
taught me that everyday travel situations, such as parking lots or
parallel traffic, were dangerous and should be avoided. It was only
after un-learning these bad habits and letting go of those fears that
I could become a safe and confident independent traveler, and I am
still not where I could be had I grown up learning to travel without
excessive fear from the beginning. I worry that cases like these will
make parents and travel teachers even more wary about enabling blind
students to acquire and develop solid travel skills.

Arielle

On 8/14/10, Marc Workman <mworkman.lists at gmail.com> wrote:
> 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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-- 
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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