Thought Wheel

From the mind of Ann Chiappetta

Shame, Shame On Them

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I’m certain my sighted friends and family have wondered how I deal with disability discrimination when it occurs. For the most part, situations present themselves and then rectify themselves without much effort on my part once I call attention to it. Occasionally, however, a situation presents an ongoing and frustrating set of circumstances, like the one I will describe below.

Last month, after starting a new job counseling in a community based mental health clinic, it was recommended that I read a specific book. This book was provided free of charge to our clients, their families and mental health professionals at the clinic. Since I couldn’t read the book in the current format available, (printed material), I contacted the publisher and the author asking for a reasonable accommodation. Specifically, I asked if there was a chance a recorded version could be made and in the interim, perhaps I could be sent the text files of the book so I could read it with my equipment.

In short, the foundation who funded the publication of the book said no and they would not consider a recorded version due to the fact that only one other person asked for it to be recorded. The co-authors asserted that they would not agree to offer the text files as an alternative, stating “…We will not release our text files for individual use.”, which is a form of discrimination if the person asking for an alternative format can prove he/she cannot access the primary materials in the current format. A publisher must, under ADA policy, offer an alternative if one is requested

As it stands, I’ve sent the letter and don’t really know what to do next. I could let it go, but these folks need to know that refusing my request is unacceptable.
Anyway, read on and remember the last line whenever you’re faced with an uncompromising attitude.

To All Concerned;

Let me preface this by stating that I am also a writer and would not allow unauthorized individuals to exploit any of my own work. But I am not attempting to do that with my request. I’m only trying to obtain “equal” access to this particular book. I hope you can appreciate my perspective as I’ve acknowledged yours. I respect and admire the sacrifices undertaken to create and distribute this book and that is why I’m writing this letter. Your book is an essential and valuable tool for ****s, their families, and the general public and should be available to everyone, not just those with vision.

Going forward, what follows this introduction typifies the struggles I face living in a sighted world. I would ask you all to put yourself in my shoes. I am a mental health professional who happens to be blind, assisting combat ****s and their families, some of these ***s may also be blind or visually impaired. I require access to this book in order to help them. I have reached out; put my disability in the forefront in hopes of achieving the goal of finding a cooperative attitude regarding my legitimate request. Imagine my surprise when I’m informed that my request is not going to be granted even though it is the law.

But, let’s go back to my original suggestion, that providing the computer generated text files would be more accessible and most likely cost little or nothing but a few clicks on a mouse in a word processing program and one or two compact discs. If I am wrong, please tell me.
What cost or copyright risk would it be to just send a text file via email? Or burn the text based files onto a disc? I’d pay for the disc and mailing costs just like a regular print book and it would not infringe on the author’s copyright because it’s for my personal use. For proof of this, go to Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com and look at the eBooks just waiting for distribution. Publishers and authors alike seem to have no trouble with releasing books in alternative formats. Additionally, you would be in control of what goes on the disc, including your copyright and the ISBN number, which is your protection from unauthorized distribution of the disc. It is the same as a hard copy book, just in an electronic format.

Incidentally, what would stop a person with your hard copy book from scanning it and making copies for others? Isn’t that what you mean by limiting access to your files?
Going one step further, the entire book could be scanned saved and distributed electronically for people with print disabilities without being a copyright infringement. Just go to www.bookshare.com. What would that cost?

My next thought was, do I need to quote ADA Code and access Laws to obtain equal access to your book? Would you turn away a **** requesting the same consideration?
I think you need to think about your decisions and what they mean to someone like me.
What if I was a disabled **** who could no longer see print? Would I be unable to access your book, which, by the way, was meant for ****s and professionals assisting them? Is the fact that I am blind the single remaining factor in not being able to read your book? If the answer is yes, then that is against ADA policy and a form of discrimination.

“Sorry, we can’t do that.” Just isn’t good enough.

You see, from my line of thought, I don’t believe, even without quoting ADA law, that you can remain a barrier to my request. It would be really disappointing to know that something I know is available to only those with sight is not available to me just because I’m blind.

It’s been 20 years since the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act and yet there is a barrier where one would least expect it. I hope you reconsider your hesitation, and, I will send you the internet links to whatever ADA documents you request about literature for the blind and physically handicapped, once I gather the information.

Sometimes the most difficult barrier isn’t a curb or a set of stairs, it’s an attitude.

Sincerely,

Ann Chiappetta

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Short Fiction

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Surprise Visitor
© 2007 By Ann Chiappetta

I helped Linda in with the last bag of clothing, placing it beside the others in the small bedroom of her new apartment. I looked around at what we’d brought in; all she had was a bed, a table, a computer, and a few boxes of personal things. I wished I had enough money to start her out the right way but I didn’t and even if I did, she probably wouldn’t want it anyway. Linda was proud and didn’t accept charity, not even from her own brother.
“Well, I got my work out for the day.” I said, wiping the sweat off with the arm of my tee shirt. The apartment was on the second floor of an eight unit brownstone in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, close to her new job. A long way from Katonah, I thought, but it was a nice enough area. Linda made the decision to move from up county because she wanted to be independent. Mom and Dad, however, tried to talk her out of it but she moved anyway, saying,
“How can I live my life when I can’t even get to work on my own?”
The truth was that our parents didn’t know how to let go, to deal with Linda’s disability. She and I talked about our parents facing the truth, that they both struggled with what it meant to have a blind daughter. Despite mom and dad’s difficulty accepting her vision loss, Linda wanted to get out on her own, just like any other college grad. She met her blindness head-on, with courage and perseverance. I wished mom and dad could do it, too, but they weren’t ready.
Linda rummaged through a box marked KITCHEN and found two cups. She rinsed them off, filled them with water,and handed one to me.
“I hear it’s the best water in New York state.” She said. Grinning.
“”Here’s to your new place, Cheers.” I replied, touching her cup with mine toasting the occasion.
“Thanks, Danny.” She said, “I couldn’t have done this all without you.”
“I would be insulted if you didn’t ask, baby sister.” I said, hugging her. “I’m so proud of you.”
I drank another cup of water, watching Linda unpack the rest of the items from the box thinking about how much she had overcome. She started losing her vision in high school, the retinal disease progressing until she was left with only a small portion of her sight. It was a long, hard road for Linda, but she walked it and now stood in her own apartment, sparsely furnished but all her own nonetheless.
I went to the nearest pizza place and brought back dinner, then went home.
I was opening the door to my apartment when my cell rang. It was Linda
“Hello?’
“Danny, you’re not going to believe this but I think there’s a bat in my bedroom.”
“A what?”
I suppressed a laugh but she must’ve heard the little bit that escaped into the phone
“Stop laughing, Danny, it’s not funny. You know how I feel about those disgusting furry things.’
I closed and locked my apartment door and headed back to my car.
“I’ll be there as soon as I can, just stay out of the room and call the super.”
An hour later, we stood at the bedroom door listening to the bat flapping around, its leathery wings fluttering against the walls as if desperate to find a way out.
“Okay, Linda, I’m going to turn the light back on and hope it lands somewhere where we can find it.” I cracked the door open reached in and switched on the light.
Linda crossed her arms and shivered,
“Yuck, I will never understand your attraction to all those furry, slimy animals.”
“I got them just to torture you with them.” I teased, “Besides, I don’t see what’s so slimy about hamsters or bats. They have fur, not scales.”
“Danny, just get the darned thing out of here, okay? I’m going to make some coffee.” She went back into the kitchen, shaking her head in disgust.
I searched the room for twenty minutes but all I could find was a small hole near the radiator. It was big enough for a bat or rodent to squeeze through. I stuffed the hole with a couple of steel wool pads held in place by duct tape. The super would have to plaster the hole but my temporary seal would suffice until then. I tried looking for the bat again and finally found it in the back of the closet. I missed it before because it was only about four inches long and its grey fur blended in with the shadows. I got a towel and threw it over the bat, then I put it in an old shoe box Linda gave me earlier. I carefully poked a few holes in it for air and carried it out to the living area.
Linda was on the phone,
“… I said I’m being chased around by a bat. B-A-T. Okay, thanks, good bye.” She put away her cell phone and turned to me, “Is it in the box?”
I nodded, “Did you call someone to come get it?” I asked.
“Yes, they’re sending a patrol car.”
I almost dropped the box when the banging at the door began,
“Police, open the door.” Came a muffled bellow.
Linda froze. I went to the door and looked through the peephole. Sure enough, there was not one but four officers waiting to be let in and they looked like they meant business.
I opened the door and they rushed in, two of them covering me, one of them covering Linda and one checking the other rooms.
, “We got a call there was someone being chased with a bat.” Said the lead officer, eyeing me.
Linda and I burst out laughing. I held up the box.
“The bat’s in here.” I said, then began laughing again. The officer took the box from me and peeked inside, then he handed it back,
“Holy cow, the sergeant isn’t going to believe this.” He put away his baton and nodded to his fellow officers,
“Hay boys, you’d better come look at this.”
Ten minutes later, officer Halaran shook my hand and grinned,
“Danny, we’re going to be telling this story for months. The other three officers were still chuckling as they left.
Linda thanked them and closed the door but there was another knock. She opened it, finding the super standing there, a confused look on his face,
“Did the cops get the guy with the bat?”

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