Reader’s Forum – November 21, 2011

For your convenience, all Reader’s Forum submissions are separated by the ## symbol.

In response to Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Oregon Uses iPads to Help the Disabled Vote, Abbie wrote:

In response to the article on Oregon’s use of the iPad to help blind voters, although this may be the cheapest solution, I don’t think it’s the best. Here in Sheridan, Wyoming, blind and visually impaired voters use a machine called the Auto Mark. You insert the ballot, and an automated voice talks you through the voting process. The buttons are labeled in Braille, and it’s easy to use. When you’re done voting, the machine prints the ballot, and you place the ballot in the slot just like everybody else. Those of us who have never used a touch screen would have a hard time learning the iPad, and just for the purpose of voting, it’s a ridiculous waste of time. I hope Sheridan County doesn’t start this practice.
Christian wrote in, saying:
I attended Ananda Ashram for two weeks in December 2010. Though they were nervous about hosting someone with no sight, I assured them both before and during my stay that I was no different from any other Ashram attendee. I chopped and cooked in the kitchens, navigated even when they had a two foot blizzard, and made my way independently. I did have to escape the people they had following me, as I prefer to travel alone and did not want to be followed or constantly directed. I had a fabulous time there, and wanted to return for three months this winter. I contacted the office and made plans, and it seemed that everything was going fine. However, I recently received a call from one of their head people saying that they do not want me to come during the winter for the following reasons:

I am too much of a liability, which they also said last year.

Some sighted guy fell and broke his arm last winter, and they are convinced that I will do the same or worse, despite my navigational prowess and extensive rural O&M training. Unlike most sighted people, I actually look where I am going.

They do not have a dedicated staff person to, and I quote, “help you out and follow you around.” I neither require nor desire such a pointless waste of staff, and would not tolerate one if said dedicated staff person was thrust upon me.

What really got to me was the fact that this was all said in a tone that one would use for a sick and/or slow child, and said person repeatedly told me that they are only saying this because they are concerned for my safety. This is, as he put it, all for your own good. I did not say this, but it crossed my mind that this is exactly what Hitler told Nazi Germany as he killed millions of what he perceived to be inferior beings. At any rate, I was not able to make any headway with him or the administrative staff, nor was my father, who is rather nastier than I. This same person told him that blind people are, statistically, far more likely to fall down and get hurt than sighted people. These are his words, not mine. Now I don’t know which professor of blindology he’s consulting for his stats, but I can definitively say that his assumption in the guise of fact is both inaccurate and ludicrous.

The point of my story is this. The ACLU will not get involved, as this is not a constitutional issue. The EEOC will not get involved, as this is not an employment issue. (I wanted to work there in the kitchens and housekeeping, but I am paying to work there, and they are not paying me.) I am having trouble figuring out whether the ADA applies to this specific place, because it is a religious organization but its purpose is commercial. I am wondering, if there are any experts here, to whom I can turn and where I should go from here. I reside in far southern Pennsylvania, but the Ashram is in upstate New York. The place is almost four hours away from where I live, so it is not at all close. Therefore, which state should I focus on? I am seeking any advice I can get my hands on, as this is the first incident of this kind that I have ever dealt with firsthand. I may be reached at or through Reader’s Forum. Thank you for your time and assistance, and have a pleasant day.


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