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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