Friday, April 15, 2005

Disabled Overlooked in Crisis

MSNBC.COM -- This was an interesting article. Basically, it suggests that more needs to be done to communicate with, and provide disaster preparedness for those who are disabled. In some cases, the shortcomings were obvious and solutions simple.

But in some cases, it raises a very difficult question. We tell people that they can do anything, you know, the American way. Dream it and you can be it.

But, is that really fair to a disabled person, or to the rest of us? It seems like to tell someone they cannot do something is grounds for a lawsuit for discrimination, or at least bad form and that you're being a biggot. Here's a bad example... we don't let blind people be bus drivers. But there are plenty of other cases where people with disabilities have sued because they haven't been hired for certain jobs, or certain work environments weren't conducive to their disability. In some cases, the courts have sided with the company, who argued that it would be impossible or wildly cost-prohibitive for the company to make the necessary changes. And in some cases, the courts have sided with the disabled person, even though at a quick glance, it hasn't really made sense.

The article tells of a 300 pound man in a wheelchair. He declined help evacuating the World Trade Center because he knew that it would take several people to carry him. Instead, a friend and colleague stayed with him and they both ultimately perished. It's an awesome gesture by the friend who stayed with him, so that he didn't die alone. (His friend sent an assistant out of the building to tell rescuers where they were, but the rescuers were unable to get to them in time.)

But can you tell a 300-pound man in a wheelchair that he can only work on the ground floor of a building because if the building were hit by an airplane, he might need to be able to get out? You certainly can't tell him to lose weight, because it could very well be that it's a medical condition that's caused his weight to be what it is.

I guess I'm just wondering if there will ever be a good balance of common sense when it comes to treating the disabled with respect, making necessary changes to allow them to participate in society to the fullest, and when you just have to draw the line or if we will always be overly sensitive and lawsuit happy even when it doesn't make sense.

Of course, who ever thinks that someone dumbf*** is gonna crash an airplane into a building?
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