Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cane Denied : When a good policy fails.

A public place can make their location accessible to people with disabilities with an accessible building and policies and still fail if employees are not educated properly. This is a lesson I learned today.

Monday the kids went with Chris (their father for those trying to keep up) to a local museum.  He was told at the desk that she couldn't bring her cane into the museum.  He told the woman at the desk that Abby was blind and was told "We have had issues with kids in the past". Chris was shocked but honestly didn't know Abby using her cane is protected by the American with Disabilities Act. (also the state has a White Cane Law) He also didn't want to make a scene.  The kids were excited so he paid the admission and passed over the cane to person beyond the desk.
Its a white cane not a switch blade. (alt text: Abby holding her cane, smiling with a water fountain in teh background)

First.  Perhaps she didn't hear when Chris said Abby was blind. Lets decide for just this argument she didn't hear him. The issue is regardless what did she think it was?  Who are these kids she spoke of?  I envision an ninja army of blind children with white canes trashing the museum.

We have already gotten an apology and I belive it was genuine but I am very concerned it may happen again. No one should ever have to through what happened to my family.

The issue is that it happened and that can never be changed. The experience is now part of our family's story.

It happened to Abby when she was told her independence and safety is not important. That she thought it was legal for someone to be 'mean' to her because she has a disability.  She had to depend on her father for mobility and felt very unsafe on the stairs.  It  happened to Sam (Abby's brother )  It was suppose to be a something special for Sam.  It was his pick to go there.  Instead his sister had to be attached to Dad and it didn't seem so special anymore.  Sam also complained of nausea only few minutes after they entered which resulted in me picking him up. He was 100% better 15 minutes later. I suspect Sam had anxiety over the cane issue and losing his special day.
Canes are cool ! All the cool kids use them. (alt text: Abby with her long white cane wearing sun glasses with a purple shirt that says "star bright starlight" and a pink puffy skirt.)

Its very important that all parents and caregivers understand about their children's rights.  I personally feel I failed my family without educating them enough on this issue.  I am educated I know Abby's rights in this area.  I would have pushed the issue. When I found out I acted right away.   Its a balance to when is the right time to to complain and push an issue or keep quiet and stew. This was a time to act.    I bet some of you are thinking Chris could have pushed the issue more and that he should have known. If you know Chris you will understand he didn't know. He knew it was rude. He felt it wasn't right.  He trusted that the museum can tell his daughter she can't bring her cane in. Its a public place they should know the law.  He is right. They should.

This isn't a common issue,  it happens more often sadly with guide dogs not canes..  I now know it does happen.


Jessica said...

Grrr! Wow. We have never had that happen yet but I'm sure it will at some point. Do they also have problems with people in wheelchairs mowing people down?

I'm sorry that happened to your family and ruined their day out. I guess it was a good lesson to learn. Sometimes Abby will have to fight for her rights. She shouldn't have to, of course.

(Your comment about a bunch of blind ninjas trashing the place was too funny!)

jennohara said...

Oh man!! I can't believe how ignorant people are.
Wow! Sorry the day was ruined...lesson learned I guess!! Darnit!

Trudy Pickrel said...

Chris. As I have said to Penny. Our son Brandon is 10 and my husband is just now getting up to speed on all the things we learn when as a family only one of us can leave for a day or 7 to go to trainings

VBR said...

Just this week I have read two accounts of the ridiculous lengths some in authority seem to go to make life just a little more inconvenient for a deaf child or a blind child.

A little deaf boy's parents were told he would need to change his sign name because the one that was being used since infancy 'looked too much like a gun'. I wonder if one of those school officials would consider it unreasonable to have to change their child's name, because, well, because it doesn't sound nice. Somehow, I don't think it would happen.

And, now this. This is an absolutely ridiculous event to have occurred. The only thing that makes it not even remotely humorous is that your little girl's needs and feelings were involved.

While I understand that people with special needs need to be aware of their rights and learn how to effectively deal with situations like this. She is a little girl. And, a little girl should not need to fight for her rights. She has the same rights as every other little girl or boy at the museum that day.

I am sorry this happened to your little girl. I hope that she knows that she is a magnificent young person who is a very fine role model for younger children who are struggling with vision issues.

Anonymous said...

The irony of this story is that for many years the Historical Society had an employee who was legally blind but she used a dog. My point is simply the institution is not hostile to blind people in any official way. I am sorry you had such a bad experience there as they are basically good people.

Penny said...

I never said they weren't. I at least implied the museum had a strong accessibly policy. I love history and I actually really like the museum and believe in the mission of the NH Historical Society. I didn't include the name in this blog in hopes sharing the story wouldn't hurt the museum. It has a life of its own now.

Maxie01 said...

I was very upset to hear about what happened to Abby at the museum. I am finding that even small accommodations that are made for people with other physical challenges do not take into consideration those that are blind. I am so glad to find your blog though. Abby seems very young to lose her vision from Leber's. My son is 26 years old, started losing his vision in his right eye last September. It then progressed to his left eye & he is now legally blind (20/400) We saw a genetics specialist & he was diagnosed with Leber's. My sister lost her vision at age 24 & my uncle at 18. We are struggling to deal with it since it is still so recent. I will continue to follow your blog. Abby is a wonderful young girl dealing with a difficult life changing diagnosis.

Maxie01 said...

I was appalled to read about what happened to Abby. I am finding that accommodations that apply to people with other disabilities/challenges do not take into consideration those that are blind. However, I was grateful that the story led me to your blog. Abby seems very young to lose her vision from Leber's. She seems like a wonderful young girl dealing with a difficult life challenge. My son is 26 years old & started losing his vision in his right eye last September. It then started to affect his left eye & he is now legally blind (20/400). We saw A genetic specialist who did a mitochondrial DNA & it was found to be Leber's. My sister lost her vision at age 24 & my uncle at age 18. My son is having a difficult time adjusting to the loss of his vision but I am hoping in time that he will accept & whatever help is available. I will continue to follow your blog. Thank you so much.

Holly Kurtzer said...

You are a wonderful example to the families with younger visually impaired children that follow your blog. I am encouraged by your strength and willingness to handle an unfortunate situation with assertiveness and tact.
My best to you and your family.

Holly said...

I hate how this kind of thing happens to people. I haven't experienced it too many times myself however there have been a few incidents where people have questioned why I need my cane and could I please put it away. I also recently got a guide dog and a taxi driver tried to refuse to take me in his car, I checked with him and he wasn't alergic to dogs he just didn't want to take me. I don't know about the US but in the UK that isn't legal. It's a really hard situation to be in and I'm sure it's just as difficult for parents.

As I've gotten older and I do more on my own I've had to learn to deal with it myself. It's a horrible experience each time it happens but I honestly believe it has made me a more confident and independent person. Abby sounds awesome and I hope when she gets older she will be able to stick up for herself, it hurts at first, when you have to deal with a situation like that on your own for the first time you don't know what to do but after a while you realise that it isn't your fault, your disability isn't an inconvenience it's just unfortunate that their are ignorent people out there who see it that way.

I really hope you guys don't have to go through that again. If it had been my parents I know my mum wouldn't have pushed the issue, it sounds like she would have had a similar reaction to Chris which I think is also very normal for parents as again it's hard to know what issues to fight over at least at first.

I hope the place is now more educated and that they never act in this way again.