Tuesday, October 30, 2007


So I received a call at work the other day from a guy who was very upset that I couldn’t help him. He told me he was “visually impaired” and went on about how I was being unfair to him, all the while dropping phrases like “Lawyers” and “Americans with Disabilities Act” whenever I suggested all the alternative ways I could accommodate him. Obviously fed up with my inability to give him exactly what he wanted, he asked to speak to my manager.

NOTE – the reason I couldn’t help this guy had nothing to do with company policy, etc. I tried to do everything in my power to help him. But in order to give him what he wanted, I would’ve had to have taken something from another customer.

My manager essentially told him everything I did and he then reiterated the illegality of our inability to help him, again citing that visual impairment was a disability covered in the “Americans with Disabilities Act.” He then asked to speak to her manager. At which point, I lost track of the conversation.

It struck a chord with me and my co-workers because we see and hear a lot of this: people complaining loudly about not “getting what they pay for” and expecting us to kowtow to their rather loud and angry demands. And, as a rule, I personally don’t approve of people “making a scene” in order to get their way. It sends the message that “if you complain loud enough, you can get anything you want.”

However, I told this story to a co-worker at my other job (who has legal experience) and she sided with the customer.

“You have to give them what they want. It may be ‘unfair,’ but it’s the law.”

Now I’m not posing that we all argue the fairness of the “Americans with Disabilities” Act—let’s not even get that abstract—I’m asking how you would’ve handled a call like that. Do you agree that the man should’ve gotten what he wanted?

FYI - I’m guessing that since I didn’t hear anything from my manager’s manager that the customer got what he wanted.


Fred said...
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Fred said...

No, I do not think the man was entitled to what he got in the situation you described. Laws like the American Disabilities Act are designed to keep you from being discriminated against because of a handicap; they are not designed to provide you privileges and special treatment above the common man. Such laws are designed to ensure the handicapped are treated like anyone else, and it sounds like anyone else screaming their head off in that situation would have been hung up on.

Evan Bacon said...

As somebody who directly works with those who are differently abled, Fred's got it exactly right!

It basically says, in a lot more words, "You need to provide adaquate assistance when necessary."

It's a hard line to cross, what is necessary? What is not? What else can be done?

I think you totally did the right thing, Stuart. This was not something you should have been dealing with, especially since you do not know the law itself. Passing it up the chain was exactly what should have happened.

I know it sucks, but if you ever want to know more about the AwDA or the Assistive Technology Act please let me know.