[nabs-l] waver

Marc Workman mworkman.lists at gmail.com
Tue Jan 11 03:26:39 UTC 2011


Hello Heather,

It would take more time than I have if I were to respond to all of your 
points, but I'll take a few minutes to say a few things.

H said,
However, I'm not convinced that the, I have to do extra work in this course 
and that's discrimination, argument is appropriate in this situation.

M says,
I wouldn't be convinced if I were you either.  It's a good thing that that 
is not my position.  You left out a key caveat, and this omission undermines 
much of what you say afterwards.  What I said was it is a form of 
discrimination to require a blind student to do extra work simply because 
that student is blind.

First, you say it is not extra work, which I think the actual facts would 
show to be false, though neither of us can offer proof here I'm sure, but 
then you admit that it may take a bit more time, which is really all I need 
to make my case.

It may be true that sighted students have to spend a bit more time on one 
course or another, but are they being forced to do this simply because they 
are sighted?  As noted above, it isn't just the extra work, it's the extra 
work that is required of the student solely because she is blind.

H said,
it doesn't appear to me that the blind end up doing more than most students.

M says,
I'm afraid I don't have evidence to back this up, but I would be very 
comfortable betting a large sum of money on the fact that blind students, on 
average, take longer to complete their university degrees than sighted 
students.  I attend a university with several dozen blind students, and this 
is, I believe, the case here.  I don't think it's because the students are 
lazy or stupid, at least not anymore so than the average student, it's 
because the classes are designed to be completed by sighted students using 
visual techniques.

H said,
Given the incredibly large number of options available to creative, blind 
problem-solvers in finding ways to access information and learn skills, it 
is hard to imagine many courses where a waiver is the best answer.

M says,
I'm not sure what you mean when you say best answer.  Best for whom? The 
student? The professor? Blind people generally? Society at large?

I can think of many situations where having a class waved would be better 
for a student.  A course that the student is going to have to put a lot of 
effort in to make accessible, and that she is going to get very little out 
of, and that does not contribute to her future plans in any meaningful way. 
This would obviously be a situation where waving the course would be best 
for the student.  And this would apply to many sighted students as well. 
It's only when the student is being require to put in more effort, and only 
because she is blind, that I think it constitutes discrimination and is thus 
good grounds for not taking that particular course.  Waving the course may 
not do anything to challenge the discrimination, so I'm willing to admit 
that it may not be best for blind people generally, but my point was only 
that wanting to avoid discrimination is a legitimate reason for insisting 
that course requirements be adapted.

I don't dispute what you say about why wavers are often requested.  I only 
say that this is not the only reason to request them.

H said,
the argument that no waivers are given in the working world is a compelling 
one for refusing waivers and taking the opportunity to develop 
problem-solving skills and positive attitudes towards challenging 
situations.

M says,
Here, I'm not sure what you mean by waver.  Joe recently told a story of 
switching tasks with his employer in order to be more efficient.  He was 
assigned one task, and he ended up doing another because the overall 
efficiency was maximized by him taking on the other task.  This sounds to me 
like a waver, and one that was given in the working world.  In fact, I would 
argue that this sort of nagotiating of tasks happens all the time.  It's 
important to remember that waving a course requirement doesn't mean you 
replace it with nothing.  You wave it and replace it with some agreed upon 
alternative.  At least, this is what I would suggest if someone wanted to 
try to have a requirement waved.

Finally, with respect to the NFB on welfare benefits, I was talking about a 
historical position.  And I'm not familiar enough with the details, but you 
yourself made the point for me.

H said,
They are only seeking to have the earnings limit raised to where it matches 
that given to senior citizens receiving government benefits. Thus, the NFB 
is seeking an already existing benefit be extended to blind workers and is 
not requesting a waiver on the earnings limit.

M says,
So the NFB is requesting that a benefit that is normally extended only to 
seniors be given to all blind people, whether or not they are seniors? 
Again, we may be working with different definitions of the word waver, but 
we are talking about having the rules changed so that things will be easier 
for blind people.  How is what you said, receiving benefits normally given 
only to seniors, different than what I said, receiving benefits normally not 
given to anyone.  Besides the obvious, which isn't an important difference 
at all.

Best,

Marc

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "H. Field" <missheather at comcast.net>
To: "National Association of Blind Students mailing list" 
<nabs-l at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Monday, January 10, 2011 7:04 PM
Subject: Re: [nabs-l] waver


> Mark, some interesting points.
> However, I'm not convinced that the, I have to do extra work in this
> course and that's discrimination, argument is appropriate in this
> situation.
>
> I don't believe that we are actually discussing a situation in which
> extra work is required. It is not extra work that is required to
> successfully complete many of the courses that are very visual. In
> most cases, the blind person needs to get sighted assistance, such as
> a reader or describer or a diagramer, but this use of assistance is
> not requiring the blind person to do extra work. The same amount of
> work is covered, it is just completed in a different way. The blind
> person may use a bit more time while listening to descriptions and so
> on. However, I don't think there are many sighted students who don't
> have to spend extra time on one course or other during their time at
> college. Very few students are great at everything and usually, most
> of us struggle in one area or other. many average students use extra
> time on particular subjects because they are difficult for them.
>
> By way of a real life example. A sighted friend of mine was required
> to take a language course as part of his undergraduate degree. He
> detests learning a foreign language and he is horrible at it. He spent
> hundreds of hours and hundreds of dollars on a tutor and he barely
> scraped over the pass mark. I don't believe that it was discrimination
> to make him take a language course. The business faculty considered
> that graduates should have a basic knowledge of at least one of the
> languages spoken by the country's largest trading partners. The
> designers of that degree program decided on what program components
> would turn out a well-rounded, competent business student. This same
> friend, who struggled with the language course, actually tutored three
> fellow students who were floundering with one of the accounting
> courses that they were required to take one semester. These three
> students spent hundreds of hours and hundreds of dollars to acquire
> knowledge and skills to pass their accounting courses. So, all of
> these students were required to spend extra time and effort on the
> particular required courses which they found challenging if they
> wanted to graduate with the business degree from that university.
>
> So, even though blind people are often required to spend extra time,
> and sometimes money, though the disability office usually pays for
> assistance, in the grand scheme of college experience, it doesn't
> appear to me that the blind end up doing more than most students.
> Given the incredibly large number of options available to creative,
> blind problem-solvers in finding ways to access information and learn
> skills, it is hard to imagine many courses where a waiver is the best
> answer. Perhaps if a course required portrait and landscape painting,
> a case could be made that the blind person couldn't do this with
> assistance. But, there are no doubt possible substitutions that the
> art professor would accept such as a a relief carving in clay or
> drawing using raised line drawing materials. I cannot imagine a reason
> why a blind person should receive a waiver from a performing arts
> program as there are blind people who perform in just about every
> branch of the performing arts.
>
> In my experience, most blind people request waivers because they don't
> know how they can make accommodations for a particular course. Yet,
> when they actually get into the situation they come up with ideas and
> methods and end up passing the course without undue difficulty or
> hardship. Sadly, and this is an unpleasant truth, many blind students
> also request waivers because they are afraid of going out of their
> comfort zone. Imagine how many students would request waivers if they
> could use discomfort as a reason. But, blind students are often
> working with sighted people who have no idea what abilities and skills
> blind people have, so they allow the blind student to substitute the
> word "blind" for the words uncomfortable and unwilling, and they grant
> them a waiver.
>
> the argument that no waivers are given in the working world is a
> compelling one for refusing waivers and taking the opportunity to
> develop problem-solving skills and positive attitudes towards
> challenging situations. The years spent at college are a
> once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for blind students to learn the skills
> and attitudes that they will need to be successful employees. Whether
> or not an ethical argument for discrimination can be made in this
> context, and I'm not convinced that it can, reality makes it's own
> immutable point. If you don't learn to be a creative problem-solver
> and a proactive and flexible blind person, willing and able to adapt
> to the challenges of living in a sighted world, then you will not
> succeed in obtaining and maintaining employment in your career of
> choice.
>
> YES! There is absolutely a place for collective action to work to
> improve the overall accessibility of the sighted world for the blind.
> But, total accessibility to the sighted world requires sight. In the
> meantime blind people have ethical decisions to make daily about what
> is a reasonable accommodation and what is an unnecessary waiver.
>
> On the question of the NFB asking for waivers, I submit the following.
> I don't believe that the NFB has asked for blind people to be allowed
> to work while not losing their welfare payments. I am by no means an
> expert on this topic so please correct me those who know about such
> things. However, as I understand it, There are two kinds of disability
> payments that blind people may receive. SSi, and SSDI.
> In the case of the first, if a blind recipient starts to work, they
> will lose government payment dollars at the same rate as sighted
> recipients though, given the unique equipment needs of blind workers
> in many situations, There is a provision where blind workers may
> retain benefits if they are putting their job earnings toward certain
> essential, job-related equipment, transportation etc.
>
> In the case of SSDI, blind recipients also start to lose benefits at
> the same rate as sighted recipients. The NFB has been trying to have
> the earnings limit raised so that the disincentive not to work and
> loose benefits is not so large. They are only seeking to have the
> earnings limit raised to where it matches that given to senior
> citizens receiving government benefits. Thus, the NFB is seeking an
> already existing benefit be extended to blind workers and is not
> requesting a waiver on the earnings limit.
>
> Regards,
>
> Heather
>
>
> 'm not sure,
>
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Marc Workman" <mworkman.lists at gmail.com>
> To: "National Association of Blind Students mailing list"
> <nabs-l at nfbnet.org>
> Sent: Monday, January 10, 2011 4:08 PM
> Subject: Re: [nabs-l] waver
>
>
> I wasn't going to say anything, but Sean has motivated me.
>
> SW,
> Being blind, this class would present me with additional challenges
> and
> extra work not required of other students.
> Therefore, I shouldn't have to take it.
>
> Short argument, I know. Seems there must be a missing premise there
> somewhere, no? Maybe something like:
>
> People shouldn't have to do things that aren't fair.
>
> MW,
> Not sure you've presented the argument as strongly as you could have.
> How
> about:
>
> Being blind, this class would present me with additional challenges
> and
> extra work not required of other students.
> Being require to complete extra work not required of other students,
> solely
> because I'm blind, is a form of discrimination.
> Students should not have to take classes that discriminate.
> Therefore, I shouldn't have to take this particular class.
>
> Now, you'll probably disagree, but don't disagree with the above
> version.
> Instead, show me why the following one is wrong, or why the two cases
> are
> not the same.
>
> Being a woman, this class would present me with additional challenges
> and
> extra work not required of other students.
> Being require to complete extra work not required of other students,
> solely
> because I'm a woman, is a form of discrimination.
> Students should not have to take classes that discriminate.
> Therefore, I shouldn't have to take this particular class.
>
> Besides, of course we shouldn't have to do things that are unfair.
> I'm not
> sure exactly what you mean by fair/unfair, but I have in mind
> something like
> just/unjust.  Saying we should have to do things that are unfair is
> like
> saying we should have to do things that are unjust.  We certainly do
> have to
> do things that are unfair/unjust, particularly because we live in an
> unjust
> world, but this doesn't mean we should have to do these things.
>
> The point I would make is that a college that requires all students to
> take
> very visually oriented classes as part of completion of a degree has
> been
> badly designed.  It has been designed on the assumption that only
> sighted
> students will be attending the university.  And that is unfair, it's
> unjust,
> and it should be challenged.  Do you think it is common to require a
> music
> appreciation class at Gallaudet University? Imagine there were a
> university
> for the blind, would it make sense to require these highly visual
> courses?
> My guess is you will say yes because a lot can be learned from taking
> courses like this, math, biology, art history, etc.  I agree, but I'm
> also
> sure that if Gallaudet required a music appreciation course, and if
> this
> blind university required an art history course, the courses would be
> designed in such a way that the deaf and blind students wouldn't be
> forced
> to work harder simply to make up for the ignorance of the people who
> designed the course/curriculum.
>
> SW,
> If we say we want to be treated like anybody else, we have to mean it.
> The
> "when it suits me" Caveat undermines the whole stance.
>
> MW,
> If we say discrimination is wrong, we have to fight against it, in all
> its
> forms, including those cases where blind students are forced to do
> extra
> work simply because they are blind.
>
> SW,
> Wouldn't it be easier, and maybe more fair, to just have you skip the
> optional trip?"
>
> MW,
> Don't see how this would be more fair.  Perhaps if there were an
> argument
> showing that this really would be more fair, then you'd have
> something, but
> without this, I think the analogy fails.
>
> SW,
> Fortunately, we in the NFB are working together to make things less
> difficult, and through our collective work we have built, and continue
> to
> build, a brighter future for all blind people. I will, however, assure
> you
> that none of our progress was ever attained by requesting a waiver.
>
> MW,
> It sort of depends on what you mean by a waver.  The NFB has asked for
> things to be altered for the benefit of the blind.  I read Walking
> Alone and
> Marching Together not that long ago, and if I recall, one of the early
> goals
> of the organization was to make it so that blind people could earn
> money in
> the market place without having welfare benefits cut back.  Is this
> not a
> kind of a waver? Everyone else gets their benefits cut when they earn
> a
> certain income, but this shouldn't happen for blind people? This is
> one
> example that readily comes to mind.  I think pretty much any time a
> change
> has been requested that is designed to make things easier for blind
> people
> and will lead to differential treatment, this can be construed as a
> kind of
> a waver.
>
> I think it is too commonly thought that equality requires equal
> treatment,
> or that equal treatment requires treating people the same.  This is a
> simplistic understanding of equality.  If someone has good reasons for
> wanting to be treated differently, and I include the fact that
> treating her
> the same would result in discrimination among good reasons, then there
> is
> nothing wrong with treating her differently.  If someone sees that
> differential treatment and makes mistaken assumptions about the
> abilities of
> blind people, and then discriminates against me in the future, I will
> hold
> him responsible for making those false assumptions, not her for
> insisting on
> her right to be free from discrimination.
>
> I think if more energy were spent fighting the discriminatory design
> of
> products, services, and institutions, and less time spent coming up
> with
> clever ways of getting along within these badly designed systems, all
> blind
> people would be a lot better off, not just the clever ones.
>
> Best,
>
> Marc
>
>
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Sean Whalen" <smwhalenpsp at gmail.com>
> To: <nabs-l at nfbnet.org>
> Sent: Monday, January 10, 2011 1:50 PM
> Subject: Re: [nabs-l] waver
>
>
>> Good afternoon,
>>
>> I don't necessarily think that it is the purpose of NABS or the NFB
>> to
>> prescribe rigid stances on issues like class waivers, paratransit
>> use,
>> reduced price tickets for transport, when to accept or not accept
>> assistance, etc. In fact, I think that is not our purpose at all.
>> People,
>> both inside and outside of the organization, seem to get the
>> impression
>> that
>> we are some monolith that holds clear positions on such issues. If
>> you
>> want
>> to know what the NFB thinks, go look at our resolutions and the
>> programs
>> we
>> implement. Those are the policies of the organization. And, while we
>> all
>> work to further them, the policy objectives of the organization may
>> or may
>> not be in line with the thinking of any particular member of the
>> group. I,
>> for instance, certainly have my points of disagreement with the
>> NFB's
>> policies in certain areas, and just because I have chosen to be a
>> member
>> does not mean that I have forfeited the right to my own opinions.
>> Like
>> anything, you take the good with the bad. If I tell you I'm a
>> Democrat,
>> would you automatically assume that I hold a specific set of views?
>> Would
>> your knowing that I am a democrat entail your knowing how I feel
>> about
>> every
>> issue, abortion, economy, education, etc.? Of course it wouldn't.
>> So, why
>> does your knowing that I am an NFB member entail your knowing how I
>> feel
>> about all issues related to blindness? Obviously, it doesn't.
>>
>> This said, when it comes to the question of whether one should take
>> a
>> waiver
>> for a class, there isn't even an official NFB stance. Nor should
>> there be.
>> Certainly you are likely to find a prevailing opinion among our
>> membership,
>> but that doesn't make it "what the NFB thinks."
>>
>> My personal opinion on the matter is that it is lazy,
>> counterproductive,
>> and
>> absolutely the wrong thing to do. I'm sure somebody can show me a
>> case
>> where
>> a waiver was the right decision, but there are counterexamples to
>> everything.
>>
>> Ok, so you don't want to take the visual arts class that is required
>> for a
>> BA. It would present certain challenges, and surely is not essential
>> for
>> your history major. It would be way easier to just pick up 3 other
>> credits
>> somewhere else. The argument goes:
>>
>> Being blind, this class would present me with additional challenges
>> and
>> extra work not required of other students.
>> Therefore, I shouldn't have to take it.
>>
>> Short argument, I know. Seems there must be a missing premise there
>> somewhere, no? Maybe something like:
>>
>> People shouldn't have to do things that aren't fair.
>>
>> That's about what you'd have to believe to make the "I'm blind,
>> please
>> don't
>> make me." Argument hold water. Jeez, is it fair that math takes me
>> so much
>> longer than my classmates. I'm an English major, and who really
>> needs math
>> anyway? Wouldn't it be more fair if I could pick up some additional
>> English
>> credits to replace that pesky college algebra? More fair, maybe.
>> Better,
>> no
>> chance in hell.
>>
>> Universities have these requirements for a reason. You may agree or
>> disagree
>> with the reason, but there is an objective, namely graduating
>> reasonably
>> well-rounded students, behind them. And please do not come with the
>> line
>> about how blind students simply won't take anything away from
>> certain
>> classes. I, a Political Science and Philosophy major by the way,
>> took
>> calculus, statistics, and economics courses which were heavily
>> visual in
>> many respects. Through work with classmates, instructors and readers
>> I was
>> able to master the concepts at play in each without ever having any
>> of the
>> information represented to me visually. So, can I draw or examine
>> economic
>> or mathematical graphs? Nope, but I can sure understand what
>> economists
>> are
>> talking about when they refer to them, and I can absolutely ask the
>> right
>> questions of a lay person to glean the information I need from the
>> graph.
>> So
>> often people get caught up in and intimidated by graphs, when all
>> they are
>> are tools to represent data and illustrate concepts. Mastery of the
>> underlying concept is what is important.
>>
>> So what about a visual arts class. Fortunately, I never was required
>> to
>> take
>> one. I say fortunately, because I have no inclination to take such a
>> class,
>> and don't think I would enjoy it, though one can never know. But
>> what if I
>> had been required to take a class on art history or something of the
>> sort.
>> What if I had to have a reader come in and describe paintings to me?
>> Would
>> that be a pain in the ass? Yes, probably. In an entire semester of
>> learning
>> about different styles of painting would I ever have the pleasure of
>> enjoying the aesthetic beauty of any of these works? No, I would
>> not,
>> which,
>> incidentally is just another one of those things in life that isn't
>> fair.
>> But, at the end of the class, would I know something about the
>> progression
>> of artistic expression that I didn't know at the start? Yes,
>> hopefully I
>> would. That is the point. I likely won't enjoy it, but neither will
>> any of
>> the other students in the class who were forced to take it to
>> graduate. So
>> I
>> had to work a little harder to not enjoy something. Such is life. If
>> we
>> say
>> we want to be treated like anybody else, we have to mean it. The
>> "when it
>> suits me" Caveat undermines the whole stance.
>>
>> Imagine you get a waiver and don't have to take that bothersome art
>> class
>> or
>> science lab, but some time later you wish to go on a student trip
>> abroad,
>> and the school doesn't want to allow you to come along. "Why do you
>> need
>> to
>> come with us to Egypt?" they ask, "It isn't required for your major,
>> and
>> besides, it would really present us with some logistical problems."
>> Wouldn't
>> it be easier, and maybe more fair, to just have you skip the
>> optional
>> trip?"
>>
>> I'll leave it to you to draw the parallel.
>>
>> If you think you can compete, compete. If you think it's just too
>> hard,
>> then
>> either just cash it in now, or take a real close look at what you
>> believe
>> and ask yourself whether it is consistent with your ending up where
>> you
>> want
>> to be in life.
>>
>> Sorry for the length, but this thread has been driving me up the
>> wall. All
>> the bellyaching: "This is hard because I'm blind." "That sucks
>> because I'm
>> blind." A lot of things suck about being blind. A lot of things also
>> suck
>> about being stupid, disorganized, or lazy; having cancer or having
>> one
>> leg;
>> or growing old and dying. That. is. life!
>>
>> Fortunately, we in the NFB are working together to make things less
>> difficult, and through our collective work we have built, and
>> continue to
>> build, a brighter future for all blind people. I will, however,
>> assure you
>> that none of our progress was ever attained by requesting a waiver.
>>
>> Sean
>>
>>
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