On not discrimniating, and on overheating an iBot

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2009/10/21 07:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2009/10/21/9910388.aspx

Horrendously, stupendously, tremendously off-topic!!!

I do not believe in discrimination.

It is I think fairly important to point out this simple fact today. You'll see why in a moment. And you might want to take me to task by the time you're done reading so I just wanted to put that out there.

Now this is true regardless (and irregardless!) of gender, race, religion, creed, sexual preference, height, sexual orientation, disability, political beliefs, philosophical beliefs, weight, opinions about Microsoft, opinions about me -- really beliefs or opinions about anything.

I do not believe in discrimination.

With that said, there are some things that simply can't work.

I, for example, as someone in a wheelchair (albeit a cool one, an iBot!) would not make a good fireman. And Bob help the family that would be relying on a gimp like me to save your home from burning to the ground as this is just something that I would not be able to do effectively.

I haven't actively wanted to be a fireman in (as far as I can recall) a good 34 years, so clearly I have made my peace with this.

But even if I had not, and somehow still dreamed of passing that exam and riding in a hook-and-ladder, in my humble opinion it would not be an act of discrimination if whatever reasonable tests for job fitness proved me to be inadequate for the job. It would be an act of responsibility for the ones testing and an act of mercy toward that family, the one that might now live through the fire at their place.

Now why do I mention this?

Well, because the other day I took a shuttle.

A shuttle from building 80-something-or-other (I forget where I was, it isn't relevant anyway) to building 9. A wheelchair-accessible shuttle, since I am in the iBot and all. And the driver was simply unable to fit comfortably in the spaces between the iBot and the walls of the shuttle, yet insisted on getting all four tie-downs in place.

I did not overly criticize this, but I did point out that the chair can balance itself whether it is tied down or not but was scolded down off this point quickly because of the rules.

Fair enough.

Soon enough the destination is reached; I remove the one tie-down that I can reach and wait for the other three that I cannot to be removed. Two of them are removed with minor struggle, but the last one cannot be reached.

I am directed by the driver to try and move the chair in all kinds of directions to try and make the tie-down reachable by someone who is literally unable to fit within the space in question, to the point that it is struggle against a tether that causes it to start emitting warnings of overheating - fiorst yellow lights, then the dreaded red light. I have to turn it off and back on to reset it, and now I have warnings to clear after I am free and back on the ground.

Finally, I stay stop. STOP.

I unbuckle, I slither to the floor of the shuttle, I stretch with my unslender frame which nevertheless is able to reach the tie-down release, and release it.

Then I struggle back into the chair.

I say nothing as I am then lowered via the lift down to the curb. I bite my fucking tongue on the thank you that I know will quickly descend to a brutal tongue lashing about the entire experience. And I simply do not feel like putting that out into the universe. At least not to the driver.

Well, I am doing it now. But not for consequences to the driver. I am not going to complain to the shuttle folks -- I am going to vent about it here in my unofficial, personal blog.

I won't even say it is necessarily the overweight driver at fault; perhaps if they had sent one of the other shuttles with more space on each side, it would have worked out better.

I refuse to put myself in the uncomfortable position of requesting a driver who can fit in the space to take care of the tie-downs, or refusing a shuttle with such a person who shows up.

But I am not going to really want to be required to refuse to get in a shuttle that I do not like the configuration of, either.

And if I can help it, I am never, ever going to take one of the shuttles again for the rest of my time at Microsoft.

Because I'd rather rely on myself than risk another incident of potentially damaging the chair due to either personnel or equipment (both beyond my control) not being able to handle the situation.

Maybe I am just refusing to trust anyone who isn't me, and some may believe this indicates that I am discriminating against people who are not me in certain situations. But it actually just a strong desire to avoid being in a situation where I might feel uncomfortable enough to discriminate against someone else.

Maybe this makes me a villain. A situational misogynist, even.

Or maybe it is just that I am unwilling to be put in a situation where I might discriminate against someone....

(for those who are curious, I was able to clear the warnings -- there were two -- and the iBot is fine now)

Kevin Stevens on 21 Oct 2009 9:51 AM:

Although you didn't say so specifically, I'm guessing that you were discriminated against. Is that correct?

John Cowan on 21 Oct 2009 10:23 AM:

It seems to me that the Right Thing in this case is (after calming down) to contact the powers that be at Microsoft and urge on them the argument that a working iBOT is not a wheelchair and no more needs to be tied down than a standing person does.  (My experience with transport for this disabled here in NYC as a guest, BTW, is that they throw everybody around the bus with superb equality.)

Michael S. Kaplan on 21 Oct 2009 12:45 PM:

Kevin, I don't know that I would say I was discriminated against really, I mean other than poor service due to the personnel/equipment issues, which generally I don't jump to the "d" word on just because there was bad staffing/planning.

Though I doubt I will try to get them to change their process here, John -- I really don't want to use the service anymore, as this just left a bad taste in my mouth that I'd like to wash out and not deal with again....

Larry on 21 Oct 2009 5:48 PM:

I guess tolerance for people with restricted mobility is limited to those with socially acceptable limitations.

The guy was just trying to do his job, to pay the rent. I'm sure at the end of the 5 min training they gave him they stressed that tying down chairs was safety (and liability) critical.

I'm equally sure they didn't have a bling chair like yours to practice on. Not that I'm unsympathetic, those things are expensive, even the basic ones. And you get awfully attached to the freedom it represents.

But I imagine him going home that evening, feeling like crap, thinking about quitting his job, or perhaps quitting life. I mean, damn, a cripple having to do his job for him.

Then of course he can go read about his failure on this blog. But obese people don't read, do they? Even if they did, they certainly don't having feeling like we do!

So he thinks about taking that gun and blowing his brains all over the wall. His hands shake as he raises the barrel. Then he drops the gun on the floor. He can't reach it. So he just sits in quiet desperation.

Larry on 22 Oct 2009 11:38 AM:

I really need to apologize. I went right off the deep end posting last night. It was written out of anger and wasn't fair. Sorry. I guess you happened to push my buttons.

Michael S. Kaplan on 22 Oct 2009 12:09 PM:

S'ok, Larry - the whole thing pushed my buttons too....

Paul Litwin on 25 Nov 2009 12:54 PM:

Don't have anything to add except thanks for making the posts on your disability and your frustrations. Okay, and the fact, that sometimes we encounter difficult situations that aren't easy to resolve or blame on one individual. I think you handled it rather well. Hopefully, at some later date the shuttle service will change to accomodate you better.

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