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

Marc Workman mworkman.lists at gmail.com
Sat Aug 14 23:33:58 UTC 2010


Jedi,

I prefaced my comment by saying that it was not directed at you.  I wasn't 
objecting to what you said so much as the idea contained in the couple of 
sentences I quoted from you, and idea that was contained within the comments 
of many others.

Regarding what you say about universal design, that the NFB is "about 
creating a universal design that honors the capacities of blind people while 
meeting our accessibility needs rather than creating a design that assumes 
that we have more needs than we really do", this strikes me as a problematic 
way of understanding universal design.  The question I would ask is: 
capacities and needs of which blind people?

The problem is that blind people, like all people, have a tremendous amount 
of variation in the capacities they possess.  A blind person that is 
otherwise able-bodied, who has been blind for a long period of time, who has 
received a lot of training, who is intelligent, confident, and so on is 
going to have a different set of capacities than the person who is newly 
blind, has had little training, has mobility difficulties, and is hard of 
hearing on top of it, and considering how many lose their vision in old age, 
don't think this picture is that out of the ordinary.

So, who do we look at when we are fighting for universal design that honours 
the capacities of blind people without exaggerating their needs? Do we look 
at the capacities of the members of this list, or do we look at the 
capacities of blind seniors?

The problem I see with your understanding of universal design is that it 
isn't really universal.  For it to be universal, you can't limit its 
application to a group of people that possess a certain set of capacities 
and needs.

Responding to Joe who asked for more specifics on universal design, I 
understand it as a guiding principle, and ideal towards which we struggle 
without actually attaining it, something like equality, freedom, or justice. 
Basically, as I stated, you design institutions, products, processes, 
services and so on so that they are as accessible as possible to the 
greatest number of people with the greatest variation in abilities.  One 
slightly more concrete way of thinking about this is that it involves 
providing access to information in multiple ways.  So at a controlled 
intersection, the changing of the light is information that is only 
presented visually.  Universal design would promote the inclusion of an 
audible and even a tactile signal that conveys the visual information in 
alternative ways.  We obviously will never make everything completely 
accessible to everyone, but that is what makes it an ideal.  It's something 
towards which we ought to strive.

When things are universally designed, they include features that many many 
people will not actually make use of.  A large number of blind people may 
not need an audible signal, but some of course will, at the very least, find 
one very useful.  And the concern seems to be that people will assume that 
because some blind people have difficulty getting around without adapting 
the environment somewhat, then all blind people must need these adaptations, 
and then this leads to negative attitudes, discrimination, unemployment and 
so on.  For my objections to this line of argument, see my last post.

In closing, I want to leave you with a quote from Jacobus tenBroek, a fellow 
Albertan I might add.  It suggests to me that tenBroek would support the 
fight against unnecessary obsticles that prevent us from travelling in the 
manner in which we choose, including the issue that sparked this debate.  I 
also think it's a nod towards universal design, the kind that's actually 
universal.

tenBroek writes: “No courts have held or even darkly hinted that a blind man 
may rise in the morning, help get the children off to school, bid his wife 
goodbye,and proceed along the streets and bus lines to his daily work, 
without dog, cane, or guide, if such is his habit or preference, now and 
then brushing a tree or kicking a curb,but, notwithstanding, proceeding with 
firm step and sure air, knowing that he is part of the public for whom the 
streets are built and maintained in reasonable safety, by the help of his 
taxes, and that he shares with others this part of the world in which he, 
too,has a right to live” (1966, 867–68).

tenBroek, Jacobus. 1966. The right to live in the world: The disabled in the 
law of torts.California Law Review 54: 841–919.

Best,

Marc
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jedi" <loneblindjedi at samobile.net>
To: <nabs-l at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Saturday, August 14, 2010 4:04 PM
Subject: Re: [nabs-l] Blind man sues Wienerschnitzel over run-in with tree


> Marc,
>
> I feel that my comments were taken out of context somewhat. I was trying 
> to give both sides of the issue a fair hearing. It's true that bringing 
> attention to the incident in the way it's being done might in fact 
> solidify negative perceptions of blindness; anyone who has been blind a 
> while shouldn't miss that possibility unless they've been hiding under a 
> rock a while. Whether we like it or not, the public tends to view us 
> through their own speculations of what their lives might be like if they 
> were blinded immediately without realizing that they have considerable 
> gaps in knowledge regarding blindness. What I also said is that the tree 
> could have served as a legitimate obstacle for this particular blind man. 
> Though I didn't say it directly, what I meant is that perhaps he does have 
> a cause to seek remedy even if a lawsuit may not be the best way to handle 
> things. In my opinion, this incident is much like the woman who spilled 
> hot coffee in her lap and sued McDonnald's.
>
> Maybe I'm wrong, but what I hear you saying is that NFB philosophy (or at 
> least your understanding of it) seems to be out of sync with universal 
> design principles for the reason of not wanting blind people to look 
> incompetent. I don't think this is the case. I think the NFB does support 
> (and fights for) universal design, but we're also about creating a 
> universal design that honors the capacities of blind people while meeting 
> our accessibility needs rather than creating a design that assumes that we 
> have more needs than we really do. Does that make sense?
>
> Respectfully,
> Jedi
>
>
> Original message:
>> 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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>
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