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

Dennis Clark dennisgclark at sbcglobal.net
Sun Aug 15 23:52:47 UTC 2010


Hello Jedi,

Like Mark I am not addressing you specifically, but your post articulated 
some issues very clearly which were also voiced by others, so I am 
responding to your post generally.  It appears to me that universal design 
is being proposed on one hand and then argued against on the other hand.  In 
almost all cities in the United States public walkways by law are an 
excellent example of the concept of universal design, and the laws 
specifying safety precautions for public walkways demonstrate how this 
principle should work.  Public walkways are required by law to be kept clear 
of obstacles to prevent injury to all those using the walkways, and this 
includes objects placed on the walkways and objects hanging into and 
obstructing the walkways.  Even though the walkway is usually a sidewalk 
owned by the city, The store owner, landlord, or the city itself is 
responsible for keeping the walkway clear of obstacles, and if they fail in 
this duty they are responsible for the damages resulting from their failure. 
The universal design of a public walkway should clearly mandate that people 
of any height be able to walk along the sidewalk without injury, and this is 
what the safety laws are attempting to accomplish. In the late 1970's it 
became clear that public walkways were not as universal as needed, because 
people in wheelchairs could not navigate curbs, so this defect was 
corrected.  The governing design principle is that everyone must be able to 
safely and easily use the public walkway.  Clearly an obstacle at head 
height for some portion of the population is not safe, it has not been 
permitted for a long time, and it is contrary to the notion of universal 
design.

Some have stated directly or indirectly that a law suit is not the correct 
way to handle such a case.  What do people believe would be the correct way 
to handle it?

The message I am taking from most of the respondents of this post is that 
the sighted world should be permitted to do whatever they choose to do, and 
it is our responsibility as blind people to find a way to accommodate those 
decisions.  That is certainly a legitimate position and it would be embraced 
by those who label themselves libertarians, but it is not a position that I 
personally agree with.  In fact my position is the opposite.  My goal is to 
persuade the legislatures and courts to recognize our rights as blind 
people, and then to force everyone to comply with those laws, voluntarily if 
possible and if they move quickly, but if not then by suing them in court. 
That is what all businesses do, and it is the only language they understand, 
and it is what they immediately do when they themselves have a problem with 
another business.  This is how our system works today and it is how it has 
always worked.  Judges are the referees or umpires of the free enterprise 
system.  The courts are not filled with individuals suing businesses or 
suing one another as the newspapers would have you believe. The courts are 
actually filled with businesses suing other businesses.  Litigation is 
expensive, and individuals for the most part cannot afford it.  The idea 
that a lawyer is going to take a small case like the one being discussed 
here on a contingent fee arrangement is a fantasy.

Best,
Dennis



----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jedi" <loneblindjedi at samobile.net>
To: <nabs-l at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Saturday, August 14, 2010 3:04 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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